Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tango, Tango, Tango

Well, I'm just back from the Tango Conference! I gave a presentation on the history of the relationship between tango and fashion, followed by a small fashion "show", using music from the early part of the 20th century (the tango music of Erik Satie and Igor Stravinsky) as a background. I presented two outfits, a black dress based on the one shown in the July 1916 Vanity Fair cover from my previous post, and a harem outfit loosely based on the one shown in the January 1915 Vanity Fair cover (I shall show photos of the fashions in a couple of weeks, once I have organized a photo shoot). The fashion show was a huge success, despite its brevity! The clothes were stunning in presentation, and my young model was perfect. I added a scarf ("├ęcharpe" - the French word is more interesting here) to each outfit to complete the aesthetics.

It took, however, one "measurement" session and two "fitting" sessions to get the clothes adjusted to fit, and the final fit wasn't verified until the show itself, for lack of time! I prepared muslin shells of all the garments, but in retrospect, this was perhaps not necessary. Either I misunderstand how to take the right lessons from the muslin fitting session, or the clothes fit close enough anyway that they need to be adjusted directly in the final fabric on the person, I'm not sure. I've been using Aldritch's blocks to develop garments now for more than a dozen people, and although there are usually small adjustments to be made to get the fit right for each person, overall her blocks seem to work extremely well at getting the fit more or less right to begin with. I'm beginning to think that I could skip the "muslin shell preparation" and work with the fabric right away for many of the garments - this would knock about 25% off the preparation time and reduce the need for so many fitting sessions.

I am extraordinarily pleased with this production. Up until now, I've been producing one garment, on average, every three weeks, although not completely finalized in terms of adjustments. For this project, I produced four garments, completely fitted and adjusted, including drafting and layout as well as doing the muslin shell and sewing and finishing the final garment, in one month. I still did this working weekends - in the week, I am busy with my "day job". So almost a fourfold increase in production capacity. In addition, I believe these two outfits are the first garments of "high quality" I have produced - the beginnings of what could become a real offering, a portfolio collection.

For my next major fashion project, I plan to continue to develop clothes for dancing tango (and perhaps other styles of dance - I have a request to develop clothes for belly dancing), based on or inspired by historic fashions (1910s, 1920s, 1940s) and do a more sustained fashion show, in collaboration with the tango community, later this year.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tango Collection

I am working on a collection "under contract" - there's no money involved, but a commitment nonetheless. I am taking part in a Tango Conference at the end of May - this is the second year I'm doing this. Last year, I presented on tango as practiced in a range of communities, including among gay couples, people with disability and in online virtual worlds (in particular, Second Life). This year, I decided to do a paper on the relationship between fashion and tango, with a particular focus on the beginning of the 20th century when tango arrived in Europe, and the end of the 20th century, when it re-emerged as a worldwide pastime.

In addition to giving the conference, however, I have agreed to design and make a couple of outfits that will be presented at the meeting! For the event, I am drawing on documents dating to the early part of the century in support of this effort. This Vanity Fair cover, dating from January 1915, shows off some "harem pants" that were modelled on an earlier pair introduced by the ground-breaking fashions of Paul Poiret in about 1908-1909. In this version, close to what I am preparing, the pant legs stop partway down the calf - in my version, they will taper at the bottom so that they won't get in the way of dancing movements. In addition, I am making the overskirt shown - I have adopted a design based on a circular skirt.

In this second Vanity Fair cover, dating from July of 1916, a dress is shown that could be a dress worn today. I am reproducing the design of this address more or less as shown, although I shall be using a somewhat different fabric.

Finally, I am working on a blouse with sheer sleeves, loosely based on the image shown in this cover dating from October 1915, which, however, does not portray sheer sleeves. Nonetheless, sheer sleeves were a feature of clothes from this time period. This blouse is also interesting in that it could have been sold today as easily as then - unlike most other garments from that period.

The whole exercise is a challenge, albeit both stimulating and creative. I have engaged a model and developed some "muslin shells" or trial garments so as to validate fitting and overall look before developing the final garments.