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Article: Story of a Dress

Story of a Dress

Story of a Dress

As you may have already seen we've just launched our NEW Angelic Kisses Duchess Dress! She's one of our favourite silhouettes possibly EVER, and we thought it would be fun to share with you the story of creating a dress like this - from initial inspiration through to the finished product you see on our website! It's a time consuming process and takes many months to really nail a design! Here's how it goes....

STEP 1 - Inspiration Here at Fanciful Doll we have a slight obsession with taking historical fashion influences and updating them for true modern romance effect! The new Duchess silhouette was inspired by watching the film 'The Duchess' with Keira Knightley, which explores the life of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire. An English aristocrat, Georgiana was famed for indulging in her love for fashion, inspiring the Georgian era’s trend for elaborate, tall hairstyles. She became known for her fashionable style, beauty and hostess skills, loving nothing better than throwing fabulous parties and balls. In the film she often wears 'curtain-front' gowns, and we simply felt we must create a modern day version to honour this strong, and controversial woman!

STEP 2 - The Details

Once a general concept for a dress is decided on we start looking closer at historical details that might be nice to accentuate different parts of a dress. I have 2 main go-tos when I want to look at historical details

1. 18th century paintings

These are INCREDIBLE for seeing really flamboyant detailing, that we probably wouldn't wear today as an all-together ensembles. But separately, the details can be breathtaking!! Like these...

2. Reconstructions of historical garments

To look at these in detail I either use Pinterest, research from costume exhibitions I've visited in the past, or movies/tv that I love, like Marie Antoinette, The Borgias, Gone With the Wind, Jane Austin amongst many others.

Some of my current faves...

STEP 3 - The Sketch

Once I have all my ideas in my head I usually sleep on it for several nights and put together different ideas for compositions in my head! This can cause sleepless nights!!! Then eventually I start sketching!

Sometimes I like the bodice of one sketch, mixed with the skirt of another, and then I change a sleeve, and so it goes on... it's a real work in progress until I have something that I think is beautiful, unique, and will also flatter different body shapes equally.

I'm an absolute perfectionist, and it often takes me days, sometimes weeks to feel like a sketch is perfect!

STEP 4 - Design Spec This bit is my least favourite, as it's not so creative, but very necessary. I basically measure out every detail of the design against my mannequin, deciding on lengths and measurements. You wouldn't believe how long it can sometimes take me to decide on whether I should make a ruffle 3cm or 4cm!!

STEP 5 - Initial Sample Our tailors are so exceptionally talented, and usually understand the vision I have for a dress very well! They know for example that I like skirts VERY puffy, and I like the hem on gowns to be EXTREMELY WIDE. We never skimp on fabrics, or time, as like to produce the most premium looking heirloom pieces you could find. ALTHOUGH, the first sample often looks a million miles from what we actually produce, I get a good idea of a shape, and whether I like it or not from seeing the first sample. We often make these in random fabrics for speed, and they don't contain all the layers of the finished dresses.

STEP 6 - Fit and Confirmation

Once we have an initial sample we work as a team to fit it to perfection. And there are often many details that get changed.

For example the sleeve of this sample was too floppy. So we amended the structure and added a second organza layer to support the extreme puffed shape.

I also wanted the ruffle around the front edges to be bigger and more flamboyant, so we increased gradually until it looked fluffy enough!

Then there are also technical questions like, how many layers of organza do we need to put into the skirt to make it puff! Usually it's 3-4 layers, maybe some tulle as well. We choose a lining that we think will feel lovely against the skin also, and do wearer trials to make sure it's comfortable.

I actually LOVE this part of perfecting a design ready to be made, it's really exciting, and I start to visualise what I want from the presentation of the dress and the photoshoot.

STEP 7 - Print or Colour Choice

This part is also a favourite of mine, as I LOVE working with prints!

If I want the dress to be in a plain colour then it's easier. I source a fabric, make sure it has the right hold for the shape and opacity, then pick the colour I like.

With prints there is another long process involved of designing a print. But I will save that for another email, as print design definitely needs a full email to explain the process properly!

STEP 8 - Production

As you all know we produce in very small batches, usually we make only 10-20 garments at a time of a certain style. And EVERYTHING is handmade! Garments like this with boning and intricate details literally can't be made on a machine. And I much prefer the specialness of handmade dresses anyway! They're made with love, and aren't just part of a big run of garments that have been churned out by machines - yuck!

Our production team is super small, and they all specialise in different parts of the handmade process! We have a pattern maker, a tailor, a cutter, and several seamstresses. One of our team even specialises in making sleeves for example, so she is our go to when we need beautiful sleeves making!!

Then, the best moment of all for me, the FINISHED DRESS!!!!

STEP 9 - Packing and Shipping

Self explanatory, I think! But we have to pack everything really well to protect it on it's journey to the UK!!

And then the waiting begins...

STEP 10 - Prep and Photoshoot

Whilst the dresses are being transported over to me I spend lots and lots of time scouting for shoot locations and buying props for the photoshoots. Also thinking about the general concept for the collection and how best to present that to you all.

Usually I handmake accessories like flower crowns or bows to pair with the dresses (and we are working super hard to expand our accessories range right now). I made the gorgeous Angelic Kisses Velveteen Set to pair with this dress!! But sometimes I also want extra props like a parasol, frilly socks, new heels to wear with the dresses... and this takes time to source the right ones!

Once this is all ready we steam the dresses (long process!!), travel to the shoot location, and then create the magic for you!!!

We hope you love our new Duchess Gown as much as we do!!!

Take a look at the shoot!!

Much Love

Fanciful Doll xo

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