Six Napoleon dress – painting the fabric

The original inspiration for this dress is black, and grey, and somewhat grungy. It is dark and dramatic.

Napoleon Six challenge
Napoleon Six Dogstar dress

I wanted mine to be a summer dress, not evening wear.

I decided to make it white rather than black, but realised this might be a bit wedding-y. In fact when I was cutting out the bodice I reached for some white guipure lace I have, thinking of creating some of the panels with a lace overlay. And then I realised that this was a wedding idea too.

So to subvert the wedding dress idea I decided to add some colour – through painting it with fabric paints. It is a challenge as while the bodice is a solid cotton fabric the skirt is diaphanous and takes the colour completely differently. Here are a couple of samples. In order to create a harmonious look the colours need to work together, but as you can already see one looks a bit like oils/acrylic, and the other like water colour.

I have two ideas that I keep coming back to, in terms of colour. The first is the Burberry/Bloomsbury collection. And actually Burberry do such amazing things with colour.

Burberry summer coats
Burberry summer coat inspiration

The other idea is from Schiaparelli. This 1946 dinner dress is held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is printed rayon crepe. The print is known as Les Vieux Beaux (The Old Beauties). The fabric was designed by Sache in Paris (Accession Number: 1969-232-28) The Museum writes:

The fabric print, by the master silk designer Sache, features fin-de-siècle boulevardiers twirling canes and wearing derbies, top hats, or straw boaters. Sache provided designs to all the great haute-couture houses, from Balenciaga to Worth, and was responsible for translating Dalí’s design for a lobster onto silk organza for Schiaparelli in 1937.

I like the idea here of drawing some little figures and then colouring them in.

Schiaparelli Summer dress
Schiaparelli Summer dress

I know I can’t get my colours as vibrant with the equipment I have at home. But all these ideas are swirling in my head as I carry out the construction of the dress.

With it having a white background I want to let it breathe so I am inching towards the Schiaparelli idea. Both I and my son Gus love doing little drawings when we are sitting in meetings (listening intently). Doodling was what we all did before the days of fiddling with a phone.

Here are some of his doodles that I love. Maybe a collaboration is possible.

Gus Davies sketches
Sketches by Gus

In terms of actual colours I always come back to the same themes. I wonder if I can break away this time?

If I take the Schiaparelli as my inspiration I would use:

  • bright blue
  • rose pink
  • dark green
  • red
  • mint
  • red
  • mauve

I would leave out the orange and the peachy pink. And I would get a marker pen in navy or dark brown instead of black. This because I find black too harsh, and the orangey reds and peaches are not my best colours. But I still like the idea of having lots of colour on the dress.  I have been painting little faces on cloth with a fabric felt tip and colouring them in. I am not sure if this is going to work. Tune in next week for Napoleon Six progress.


22 Responses

  1. Elle

    What a beautiful idea! And I like your samples a well as the inspiration garments. Re the different effects of wanting the solid and the diaphanous, do both the bodice and the skirt need to be painted? Can one or the other be a solid color?

  2. thedementedfairy

    Fascinating, and I love that Schiaparelli fabric…I’d not seen that particular frock before. How about little Napoleons? [Or Josephines…or both?]
    I’ve decided I need some additional layers to my skirt, so need to find a harmonious shade on my market jaunt tomorrow. I’m also slightly torn by colour choice, so will have to wear my dress that’s made in the same silk for easy comparisons. I must get a move on now!

  3. Joyce Latham

    Terrfic! Love the little doodles idea…gesture drawings would be fun too…fun fun fun. Looking forward to th next update. Very cool!

  4. Mary

    I love this idea so much Kate! A collaboration with Gus is a splendid plan. Perhaps you can apply the back color first and then pen the face doodles in navy lines. In screen printing that is how I would do it and I think the idea transfers to painting on silk. This is such an exciting garment you are planning, thanks for sharing.

  5. SJ Kurtz

    This is an excellent idea. Furthermore, your sketches are spot on. Starching the fabric will make it easier to draw on (that and taping it out to cardboard or the like). Any variations caused by pen drag on textile will be stylistic choices.

  6. sew2pro

    My mum and I also doodle faces, always female ones though (I don’t know if I copied this habit of hers or if it’s genetic). Flowers or faces or beetles, your printing and fabric painting is always wonderful – good luck with the pens!

  7. kouliche goldman

    The fabric “les vieux beaux” was printed by Sache who was my great uncle. I have a lot samples created for Schiaparelli, Dior etc.
    In June 2017 an exibition of Sache work from 1930 till 1975 will be organise. If you want more details about this event it is easy for me to answer.

    • fabrickated

      Hello Kouliche – thank you so much for your comment. How wonderful that the work of Sache will be on display next year. Will it be in Paris? If so I would love to come to see it. I will email you directly.

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