I recently read an article about Olivier Saillard’s sensational fashion show, where he took cheap cotton T-shirts and transformed them – with twisting and draping, pleating and stitching – to create a new sensation.
Saillard has only come to designing relatively late in life (he is 51), having worked as a museum director. He is famous for curating the 2011 Madame Gres exhibition, and the following year creating performance art of sorts combining priceless items of dress with runway shows featuring Tilda Swinton in The Impossible Wardrobe.
Vogue explains that he was not only inspired by Madame Gres; he also located one of her old seamstresses to help him learn how to create some of her original techniques.
I felt suddenly very excited.
Madame Gres (in a turban, first picture) created Grecian inspired costumes with lots of draping and pleating. I learnt some of these techniques when I attended a course on bias drape at Morley college, mainly using very light weight fabrics.
Obviously working with silk chiffon, or creating full length evening dresses is an expensive hobby with limited value in today’s society (for most of us). What appealed to me was the idea of taking a very simple, ubiquitous item like a cotton T-shirt and transforming it into a unique and lovely item that could be worn with jeans or slim cut trousers and boots. Or of course wear your T as part of your uniform (I am still head to toe in navy corduroy!)
So here is a possible challenge you might to consider. I am going to find a couple of T-shirts (or acquire from the charity shop or cheap vendor) and see if I can create something similar but also unique.
Here are some more inspiration pictures.
The issues I am considering are
- How to use pleating, tucking, slashing, gathering and possibly other techniques like smocking to transform a T-shirt
- How the transformation might be temporary and dynamic – possibly using safety pins, elastic bands or zips – for example
- Whether to use the techniques to flatter the body (a voluminous large T can be unflattering to a woman’s body) or to create additional bulk or structure
- Creating a shape or style that needs to be worn over something else (the green slashed and orange versions)
- Putting the embellishment to the side, the back, the sleeve or the neckline will give very different effects.
- Making your own T-shirt to start with or using a T-shirt with stripes or a pattern, or in a soft, drapey fabric.
I am thinking of having this project finished by Christmas, feeling sure there will be an occasion for a unique T-shirt whatever the weather. In the next two weeks I will give more information on suitable techniques, more inspiration and updates on how I am getting on.
Care to join me for a Sewalong? #TransformTSAL