It is said that J-Lo lit up the internet after she appeared at the 2000 Grammy Awards wearing this gravity defying bare almost all little number because so many people were searching for her image in the dress.
I’ve been asked to recreate it on a small scale for a 17 inch tall Tonner Antoinette doll. This dress is what I like to call a “fabric dependent” piece. The fabric is a unique printed silk chiffon, that even if I could find the real fabric somehow, would be in the wrong scale for the doll and wouldn’t look right anyway. Without a suitable fabric to work in, the project will ultimately fail. So I’m careful what I promise when agreeing to this kind of project. I certainly don’t want to disappoint my commissioner!
Here’s the dress (in case you’ve had your eyes closed for 15 to 20…)
Apparently, there was a little double sided tape involved, but I digress!
It’s a beautiful Versace dress that helped launch Donatella’s career after the death of her brother Gianni.
The search was on for fabric. It took a while of scouring the web and my local fabric stores and anyway else I could think of. Buying pieces like this online is problematic. Many stores/sellers don’t give you an accurate representation of scale which is so important when working small and you often can’t tell what kind of hand, or drape the piece will have. Sometimes I take the risk that the piece will be wrong and sometimes it is. I try to be mindful of that, otherwise I wind up storing a lot of fabric that’s wrong for me.
But, joy of joys I found two that were plausible, not perfect mind you, but one of them was pretty close in feel. It was a tropical abstract leaf pattern in a chiffon. A little less blue than the original, but I knew I could help that along by strategically overpainting the material.
I draped the two over a doll – my Sybarite rescue, as it happens 🙂 In this first example, the colour is pretty good, but the abstract dots are wrong. There’s nothing really tropical about this, but did I say the colour’s good?
The second example is the abstract tropical. In this example, the print is better, but the colour is a little washed out and it’s not blue enough. Since I can’t do anything about the print of the first example, but I can help the colour of the second example, this is the better choice IMHO. My savvy commissioner picked the second fabric.
With a fabric found and decided upon, I set to drafting the pattern for this dress. It remarkably tricky to achieve a tight fitting dress with so few places on the body where it actually comes together! Not to mention, the skirt has to be flowy 🙂
With the fabric being scarce and this being a new pattern, I made a muslin first, to test fit.
It has some merit. It’s a reasonable start point. The neckline is altogether too high of course, but more importantly, the hang at the front is wrong. The hips need more space. Also, the skirt is too short at the back and doesn’t quite have enough sweep either. So back to the pattern paper for refinements!
When I was happy with the pattern, it was time to work with the final fabric. I decided that the easiest way to over paint successfully would be to cut the pieces out and overpaint before I sew. That way, I don’t waste a lot of time painting parts that won’t be used and presew keeps my doll clean and paint free, and it keeps the pieces flat, making them easier to paint.
I tested three different products to overpaint. Drawing ink, fabric paint and artist acrylic. The drawing ink bled quite a bit, so no, probably not. On to the fabric paint which by the name one would think it would be the best choice, but this particular type is quite thick, it wants to be 3D (it’s probably quite good at that) but it doesn’t thin well, and I don’t want 3D here… So last test, artist acrylic: it thins, it can be built up, mixed almost infinitely. It doesn’t bleed, will never transfer to the doll. Yup, this is the one 🙂
The differences are pretty subtle, especially in photos, but, I’m happy with the shift towards blue of the overall look. So much so that I punchd up the greens in many places too. I spent about three days just painting the various bits. I’d get into a zone and think, just a little more here, just a bit more blue there…
The piece on the left is overpainted and the bit on the right is not. It needs more, you can see how it would be tough to stop, lol!
Now it’s looking more pleasing 🙂
After it’s all painted it’s time to sew. Construction mapping on this piece was fun! There is an order of operations at play for best results. This order of operations type stuff tends to run through my mind as I’m waking up. In that hazy pre-awake state where all the great ideas come from. When I’m working on something, that’s where the answers lie. If I’m in between projects, it’s where the best ideas for the next one make themselves known…..
Anyway, back to J-Lo
It’s coming along. Some refinements and tidying need to happen and it needs another pressing. You’ll notice that she’s wearing a blue panty underneath. When I researched the dress, it seems that Vercsace designed this gown to have a nude panty with a jewelled crotch underneath as well as the jewelled brooch fastener. J-Lo apparently opted not to wear the nude panty with the jewelled crotch. Good call J-Lo! I like the blue panty better too 🙂
After much hand work, the dress is finished. Here are some final studio pics for you.
Don’t want to forget to mention the should sparkle and of course the strategically placed jewelled brooch 🙂
Well, that’s it for now! The J-Lo dress is on it’s way to it’s owner and I’m on to another project,
Watch this space 🙂
Thanks for reading,