Designing, drafting and sewing a CLOWN DRESS

I shared these photos on Instagram last November, but I wanted to share them on here as well because I’m really proud of them!

This is a dress I drafted and made as part of a school project last year. The theme was ‘spots, stripes and checks’, and I wanted to put a more costumey spin on it, so I designed this crazy clown dress.

The dress has a lot of influences (strangely, In The Night Garden was one of them), but if I had to describe the aesthetic of the final garment I would say… ‘sad clown/ gingham fly agaric mushroom but make it fashion‘. So when I did the makeup for these photos, I tried to create a 1920s pierrot clown look to match the dress. I’m SO happy with the result, and how it sits on the edge of being really quite creepy, but also fashiony at the same time!

I started out with a basic women’s bodice block and altered it to match my design. If you’ve ever seen a bodice block, you’ll know that they are incredibly close-fitting, with no ease and set in sleeves that sit right up in your armpits. Needless to say, I had to adjust almost everything about it!

Some of the adjustments I made were:

  • I pivoted out the darts into the waistline, added lots of length and slashed and spread to create the extreme triangular silhouette.
  • I added diagonal panels to the front of the dress.
  • I converted the sleeves from set-in to raglan.
  • I lowered the armholes and adjusted the sleeve pieces accordingly, then added fullness at the top to be gathered into the neckband, and fullness at the bottom to be gathered in with elastic.
  • I drafted a neckband.

It has two rows of horsehair braid in the hem to give it some extra drama, and on top of that is two sets of ruffles. I’ll let you in on a secret: within all those ruffles is TWENTY METRES worth of hemming, which took countless hours over half term (and several years off my life). It was all worth it in the end though, because it’s turned out exactly as I’d envisioned it in my head!

Oh, and I made a weird lil cone hat out of some leftover fabric to complete the look! Hopefully it will come in handy if I ever decide to dress up as Wirt from Over The Garden Wall for Halloween!

This dress was the culmination of a sketchbook full of samples and experiments (too much to share in this post!) but here are a few moodboards and illustrations I did to develop the design:

This one was inspired by Sonia Delauney’s fashion illustrations.
For this illustration I machine-embroidered on top of a magazine image…
… and then used the back of the embroidery as the basis for an annotated illustration!

I’m so proud of this make, and I look forward to making many more costumes in the future! I’m actually working on another costumey project at the moment (hint: it’s got a futuristic, sci-fi aesthetic) and once it’s done I’ll do another photoshoot, so keep an eye out for that in the next few months!

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