First of all, thank you so much for the condolences. They were very much appreciated.
So, Project Project Runway. This week our challenge was entitled “Puttin’ on the Glitz” (someone on the production team has way too much fun coming up with corny episode titles for this show!) With a one day time limit, we were to create an over-the-top costume consisting of separates for a wealthy character in the play Godspell. This season’s challenges have been really, really difficult. It makes sense, the season being All Stars, but holy moly am I have to reach outside my comfort zone and usual aesthetics this go-round.
I think the biggest problem that I had with this challenge was that I’ve never seen the play before! And furthermore, costuming is a completely different animal than fashion. I really struggled towing the line between making a costume that fit with the already established aesthetic of the show (of which it was quite difficult to find photographs) and doing my own thing. In the end I decided to more or less take the costume my own direction rather than worrying about it “fitting in” so to speak.
May takes to the runway in separates meant to evoke luxury and ostentation. She wears a top of crimson crushed panne velvet with gold trim at the wrists; a full, brocade skirt featuring a wide red and gold trim at the hem; a deep plum sash with hand-beaded fringe; and the ensemble is topped off with a triple-wrapped gold beaded necklace.
It feels like it wouldn’t be one of my designs without a long, involved explanation of my inspirations. This challenge I went in a couple different directions before settling. Like Austin Scarlett, my first inclination was to do a Marie Antoinette inspired piece (I actually said it out loud right before his was aired) especially since I just watched Sophia Coppola’s movie a week or so ago. But then, I spent a decent amount of time researching Godspell and looking at the few pictures of the current production available online, and as I developed my idea, it just wasn’t fitting with the feel of the show. My design instincts for the look were too avant-garde and I couldn’t see my ideas meshing at all. So I decided to rethink the direction I was going.
I then started thinking about the feel of the production. It was developed in the early 70’s and seems to luxuriate in its ideals of a DIY, hippie, “bohemian” style. This got me thinking about the origin of the word “Bohemian” as a person from what is now the Czech Republic. So the idea of folk costume was floating around in my brain quite a bit. Then I thought about cultures that use luxurious, often ostentatious clothing to signify wealth (as we were to design this costume for a ostentatiously rich woman.) I came to the conclusion that I should take a bit of inspiration from the Roma (or Romani) people, commonly (and sometimes pejoratively) called Gypsies. I felt that due to the hippie feel of the show, taking inspiration from the Romani would be appropriate, as their culture was romanticized heavily in the era of the play’s creation. I also thought about the historical Sumptuary laws regarding textiles, and decided I needed to use colors that have been used primarily by only the very wealthiest people. I also took a lot of inspiration from Auguste Renoir’s painting Odalisque. That painting just oozes luxury, and I felt it connected quite well with my other inspirations.
Producing this look was a lot of fun, actually. It is so different than my usual aesthetic (which seems to be my ongoing motto this season.) I usually prefer a sleeker and more simple feel to my garments, but in this case, more is more! It was really fun picking out all the trims to apply to the garments and picking out the fanciest fabrics I could find. The panne velvet was a complete given to me, and I knew I wanted a brocade as the skirt. I found this particular brocade with the sari fabric, and believe it or not, this is actually the wrong side of the fabric! I initially didn’t find anything I liked, as none of the colors were fitting what I had in mind. So I started looking at the back sides of the fabric and found “the one.” The right side of this one is actually primarily a bright, clear red and would have clashed terribly with the crimson of the top. I also knew I had to use some sort of purple in the look, as that is the color I think of when it comes to Sumptuary laws, so I found this silky plum-colored lining fabric that would work perfectly. I had initially also wanted to add a vest to the look as well, but found that it took the outfit too far into folk costume territory and added too much bulk to the look. So I strung my leftover beads into the necklace and called the thing done. I kind of wanted to keep embellishing, but stopped myself (just in time, I think!) Working with the brocade of the skirt was kind of a nightmare, as it frayed and shed like crazy. And not big thick threads, but wispy, stick-to-everything threads. I think I will be finding those floating around for weeks.
In styling this look, I wanted to continue the aesthetic of over-the-top luxury. From the Neiman Marcus Accessory Wall I picked Velvet Ankle-Wrap Strap shoes by Valentino and Karina Feather Earrings by Kendra Scott, which I don’t think could have been more perfect for the aesthetic I was trying to achieve. I think the hair style for this look should be shiny, long, loose waves. The makeup should be fairly simple, but with a striking, metallic gold eye shadow.
I really don’t know if this look would fit with the current production of Godspell, but I really feel proud of this look. It’s nothing I would have designed usually, but that is the best part of Project Project Runway, stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something different.
Don’t forget to see what the other PPR designers have created this week at that Project Project Runway Flickr group!