Going to the Prom – an English version

Prom-commission-topEarlier this year I was asked to paint some silk that was to be made up into a Prom dress. Now commissions are great, but I’m always slightly nervous about creating the look and feel that a client is expecting. Good communication is essential.

From the outset I endeavour to get a firm handle on what specific colours are required. The kind of tonal range, bright or muted, in a calm or busy design with small or large motifs, are all considered. And, to this end, and being the 21st century, the young client sent me a digital mood board.

lilac orange mood board
A 21st century mood board!

Before I started on the five metres of chiffon I painted a few sample pieces and finally a chiffon scarf as examples of my interpretations for the brief. And, this scarf design and colours, Valeria lilac, was chosen, but with the note – ‘I like it all except the green, please.’

When I’m painting several metres of silk I try to keep the motif sizes consistent but for this piece I still wanted them loose enough to give the impression of the design flowing across the surface.

There is no true repeat, but the finished five metres still has coherence.

Phew - five metres finished and now for the steamer.
Phew – five metres finished and now for the steamer.

Once the silk chiffon has been steamed the colours are fixed and now their actual slightly brighter colours can be seen. This is the point where the dress lining colour is chosen. I think the unique beauty of chiffon, is the way the colours change subtly as they float over different backgrounds.

The richness of the plum in the chiffon was brought out by the darkest burgundy silk lining. I dyed the white habotai lining using an acid dye in a hot dye bath with a vinegar mordant. The lining was rinsed, dried and along with the finished chiffon parcelled up and sent off to the dressmaker. My part done!



Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

23 thoughts on “Going to the Prom – an English version”

  1. Fascinating following the process. The finished fabric is absolutely beautiful – I love the colours – and the finished dress looked lovely on the client. So obviously a bespoke dress; so obviously worth it!

    1. Thank you – it is always a relief when the client is happy with your interpretation of their brief. I also think that the dressmaker made it up beautifully showing the chiffon at its best.

  2. It looks really good. I guess the kids these days have a lot of cash to splash as, all in, it must have cost a fortune!

    1. Well, it is great for me to see my work made up into a dress. Prom strikes me as a rather expensive affair all round. Apparently some chaps turned up in a vintage fire engine! The local paper was there taking pictures and they used a group of girls (including the one wearing my silk) to lead off a gallery of photos of the event. All I can say is it is a long way from my Sixth Form Leavers’ disco held in the school hall!!

      1. We did have a leavers’ meal, at a place the school booked out, which also had a disco, so it may be what I imagine a modern “prom” to be. The word “prom” grates though as it’s too American. For mine I had my first suit bought which I chose to be green. In retrospect it really wasn’t a good choice, even if I did want to be different, as I was stuck with it for years to come.

      2. A green suit – mmm, that’s quite out there – personally I love the idea of 21st century chaps wearing colours instead of endless ‘charcoal grey’, but I suppose these days you can’t afford to frighten the horses!

  3. My goodness! As I read, it kept striking me that she had a very clear idea of what she wanted. And the wherewithal to boot! What a challenge for you! but of course, you rose to it wonderfully.

    1. Thank you, actually I think it was brighter than expected, but it worked out in the end. Of course, she had seen my colourful and ornate scarves so I think she had a good idea of my style.

      1. Never too bright for me. As long as they are “clear” – autumn mutings don’t suit me well. Just as well I don’t live in Paris permanently. By the second week there I was toning it down, but I did miss my purple and reds! (not necessarily together, I hasten to add)

  4. Ah you know – life’s too short not to be colourful. I find all the sombre greys and black so miserable and we don’t need more misery, do we?

    1. I think the dressmaker should get loads of credit too for crafting such an excellent finish. I really love to see my work made up into clothing – it kind of validates my efforts!! I’m also lucky that this younger generation are happy to share their photographs, previous work of mine has simply disappeared off to the client and that’s that. Once a few years ago I did get a report from a friend of a friend who had seen a client wearing a dress and jacket made from my painted silk at Royal Ascot – sadly, no photos!

    1. Thanks for the positive comments. It is the one thing that is difficult to show that silk is so much more beautiful in real life and especially with the added movement when being worn.

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