Chloe Prusa Custom Dress
I don’t plan to put this post up on the blog until after my birthday, in October of this year [edit: It's actually going to be a series of 4 posts, in September, while I take a blogging break]. I want to record each session, take pictures as we go, and record it all, as a special gift to myself for my 50th birthday. I’ll be writing each of these sections as each step happens, and I’m telling myself now not to go back and edit any of it! It’s March 29th now, seven months to go…but the dress will be done before that.
How did this all start?
Well, duh, I’ve been planning my 50th birthday party for a while now, kind of humming around how I want to celebrate. I’m thinking a big after-work ‘do’ at the Bard & Banker Pub [edit: they were booked, so it's going to be elsewhere] so that I can invite a bunch of my coworkers and my family, as well as my friends. Then I’m chatting with my friend Randall, whose birthday is only two days from mine, and who is also turning 50, about doing a smaller party with our closer friends. We’ll see how things turn out. [edit: we're doing a 3-person celebration later in October - more on that when it happens].
But of course, my thoughts started swirling around The Dress. I can’t just pull something from my closet! I mean, I might find something good in my thrifting adventures, but what if I don’t? What to do? I usually find a good dress, or wear one of my older ones that hasn’t been seen in a few years, but this is FIFTY.
As you know, L and I go to Floyd’s Diner every Saturday, and we’ve gotten to know everyone there, including the owner, Petr, and in recent years his daughter Chloe. We talk to everyone, and found out that Chloe was going to school for fashion design. She’s pretty freaking amazing (link to her page here). She’s going to Paris this summer, and as we were chatting we both looked at each other and it clicked: “You need to make me a dress!” “I need to make you a dress!”
I talked it over with L and set myself a $2,000 budget. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but I don’t actually live expensively, and it’s not hard for me to save that up. This is another birthday present to myself (hello, arm tattoos), and I deserve it.
The First Meeting – 3-20-17
I went to Chloe’s apartment (I met Maud, her ancient one-toothed Chihuahua), and we just talked over a cup of tea. What do I like? What do I not like? What do I need? How do I want to feel?
I had printed a couple of pictures of dresses that I’d worn where I’d felt like a million bucks (this dress here, and this dress here) and gave them to her, explaining what I liked and what I didn’t.
Did I want to show my tattoos? Which ones? How much of them? I need to wear a bra.
Fabrics, structure, details (I love details, and so does she!). We flipped through the ginormous Vogue magazine with all the collections and tagged some that I loved. I don’t remember which ones, but I love colour, rich fabrics and elaborate designs.
Above all, I emphasized, I wanted this to be art for her. I didn’t want to micromanage every single detail, just give her the bare bones of what I wanted, and then let her do her thing. I do this with my tattoos and my hairdresser – you have to trust artists.
We chatted for about an hour, and she took pages of notes. We made our next appointment for a week later. She explained that she would have 8-10 sketches for me to look at, along with some swatches of fabrics. Exciting!
Second Meeting – 3-29-17
We met again after work today, and oh my, I have pictures! Two full pages of drawings, fully coloured, and a page of gloriously rich fabric swatches. Ooooh…ahhhh…
I’m immediately drawn to the big floofy skirt on the red dress and the bell sleeves on the blue dress. I am in a ruffly mood.
On page 1, I love the neckline of the blue dress. Although I love the ruffled cuffs, I know I’ll just drag them through the food. The colour would be the royal blue velvet, and the decoration would be the peacocks on the burnout velvet swatch.
The neckline of the black dress is very dramatic (I adore the wide V), and the edges would flip over with a contrasting colour/pattern. Chloe mentioned the skirt being able to hook up underneath to adjust the length. That sounds very cool.
The skinny cheongsam-inspired red dress with the white lining doesn’t grab me at all. I already have stuff like that.
That red ruffly thing really grabs me, but I’m not big on the stripey top. Reminds me of a bathing suit.
On page 2, I see that the neckline of the long red dress is very similar to the picture I gave her – this dress also looks hippy. She explains that the dress could be two-tone, with the darker trim being leather. Cool. But I don’t think I want a full-length gown. I want a party dress, something I can dance in, and twirl in. This dress is not it.
The blue dress next to it also doesn’t really ring my bell. I can see that the skirt would be amazing – shiny crinkled layers of iridescent silk, but it’s…not me. Forget the stripes.
I adore the green and black striped dress – it’s so bold and strong. I wonder if it would wear me, instead of vice versa. The lines at the hem would be zippered, so that you can adjust how the hemline looks. “Full carwash!” I exclaim (referencing the “car wash” skirts that had long flaps at the hem from days gone by), but of course you could just open one or two to create different slits. I like that feature, but overall, this dress feels a little too daytime. I would wear this to work.
The yellow and black striped dress isn’t quite right. The little jacket over it would dip down in the back, and it would have very strong, dramatic shoulders. I do like dramatic shoulders, but I don’t want a jacket.
We look at the fabrics. The iridescent ones remind me of the late 90s (my nail polish this week matches one of them exactly). The velvet, the burnout velvet with the flowers and the peacocks, the brocade…those all call to me. The fabrics are all beautiful.
I stare at them, over and over. I notice things, we discuss the finer points, what I like, what I don’t, what appeals to me, what doesn’t.
I get to take the sketches and fabrics home(!) – I can take pictures, post them or whatever. She’ll work on a more refined design based on my feedback. The next appointment is Monday.
Designs Revisited – 4-3-17
So. On Saturday – after much wine with L – inspiration strikes! I fear all these ruffles (because that’s what I really like, the ruffles, oh, so many ruffles) will wear me. L likes the blue dress with the ruffled sleeves, but the pencil skirt is just so…pencil-y. But what if…it had a detachable ruffle, high-low, full-on mullet ruffle? Where the buttons/snaps are part of the design? Yes! And what if…it also had detachable sleeves?? Go with that button (or a snap?) detail and incorporate it into the design there as well, have a crazy shoulder with more buttons/snaps?
I sleep on it. L thinks I’m taking over the design, and I worry about that too. But I know style, and fashion and design! I just can’t make any clothes myself. But she’s the designer…let her work her magic! It feels too complicated to explain in an email, so I have to tell her in person. I’m prepared for her to manage my expectations and tell me to do something else.
Monday’s a stupid-busy day at work, can’t even think about this, except to remember that I have a meeting. Chloe’s got another page of gorgeous-looking dresses, lots of ruffled skirts, and V and wide necklines, with and without sleeves. She totally understood what I liked/didn’t like. They’re so pretty…but they are a LOT of dress. So many ruffles…and of course, all that fabric is also expensive. Must watch my budget.
Anyway, I hug Maud the Chihuahua on my lap and launch my crazy idea, and Chloe’s intrigued. She asks lots of questions, and we both start getting excited. This is doable. We’re going to do this! One big ruffle around the waist, and removable sleeves. We giggle like we’re getting away with murder – I think she’s excited by doing something so different. I hope so!
We talk money – I just did an etransfer to her for the deposit: $500. Done. The next meeting is to go look at fabric – we’ll probably need two trips, once to Chintz & Co and one to Fabricland. I need something with some weight (but not too thick) and something I won’t destroy if I have a hot flash. But I know the colour. It will be blue. Shopping dates are put forth, for after work in the next week or so.
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Hello, my friends! Are you intrigued? Stay tuned, I have four scheduled posts in total, with tons more pictures (so many pictures) of the process of creating this dress.