What exactly is a fabric sketch? Well, it’s exactly that – a ‘drawing’ that is done with fabric instead of pencil and paper – a sculpture, if you will. I used to do these all the time when playing and pinning – creating ideas from color and texture. Many of them are simply fabrics pinned to a doll – still others are fully lined and semi-finished to achieve more constructed looks. In my earlier days sewing for dolls, I used to take to fabric frequently, playing and draping – to achieve a dream in textile – a sculptural persona embodied by silk, cotton, you name it…
I’m certainly not the only designer who has done this, nor is it new. But what it really represents is an expression of couture in miniature – and some have actually moved forward to more finished realizations. I went through this whole period of hating closures (either snaps or zippers) – largely because they are a great deal of fussy work. When done properly, they are a marvel. Snaps always seemed so bulky to me, but much more practical than a zipper. I’ve since grown to love zippers when installed by hand using invisible monofilament – sure, in some fabrics like tissue taffeta, you’ll still see the prick stitch marks, but it’s still an unimposing way to cleanly finish the back of a garment.
So here is one of my favorite fabric sketches – you may have seen it before and thought it was a fully constructed garment – believe me, there is no intention to fool anyone – but rather to create an almost tromp l’œil effect in three dimensions using fabric. I love to sketch, and do it often – but these little treasures speak to a method that can still be found amongst dreamers today – inside is a world of manipulated wovens and knits, ushering in something so much more.
I love great stories about finding fabrics – you can read one such tale here. And so it would come to pass around 2006, after a long, but wonderful trip to Barcelona, and then London – I came across this gem of a fabric. Ivory silk shantung, hand-painted, then embroidered and beaded to enhance the painting. It was a truly inspired fabric that seemed to echo the voice of its unknown artist – how I would have loved to have seen it used in human scale apparel!
The tumor…she grows…
As many of you know – I love big, scary gowns – and this baby is no different. I knew it needed to be sculptural – ethereal – unreal. And the muslin ‘sketching’ proved no less…
What you see are images of the progress, using some machine sewing, but mostly hand technique – all stitched permanently to the doll as I worked. This was my old office at Tonner, before we moved to the bank in downtown Kingston – with the exception of my immediate supervisor (she shall remain nameless), they were the happiest days of my life.
I spent much of my weekends in that office – working, playing, dreaming – and in this particular project, I had no one to fuss or sass as I created, with the sounds of Queen roaring for no one else to hear except me. For such a social person as I was by nature, this was where I learned solitude, shut out by the gay community at large, because I didn’t conform to their Hudson Valley norms. Odd how many of them I can find now on Manhunt, Grindr and Scruff – not even changing their profile pics from years ago – odd, Indeed (if not telling). Fuck that shit – I was content to play and be me, regardless of others’ views as to how I should live my life.
And it’s funny, really – all those that would have me be something I was not, if only to satisfy their need to control those around them. Well, that was then…and this is now.
That final shot was taken in my house in Stone Ridge…my sweet, beautiful little house and garden that was all mine. I had just purged myself of all remaining memories from my old life, ready to embrace this future. The doll shown above was Tonner’s Antoinette – a pretty doll, but one I never could warm up to – she was just no Tyler Wentworth to me. And as time and tastes have evolved, I revisited this doll (and a new future, again – there’s a pattern here, I just know it). A change of head and hands (it was not a good fit, so don’t try this at home), and voila!
Today, I’m walking a new path…putting alot behind me, and moving forward. Some would tell me I should have done this a long time ago, but it’s just not that easy for me. Nevertheless, goals are a bit clearer these days, hope springs eternal – and the anger is passing. Have you ever had a rash from poison ivy and scratched at it, despite this countering the healing process? Yeah…me, too…but it felt soooooooo good. It didn’t really matter that it slowed the healing process…it was an instant relief that is ordinarily unimaginable unless you’ve suffered from a like malady. Anger is like that, too…trust me, I speak from experience.