Brainstorming with dandy.
Making the safety vest look its best
Story and outfits by Judith Ann Clancy.
~story posted June 28, 2013~
Cyclists have been cutting a dashing figure since the days of the dandyhorse, and today is no exception. So when the editor of dandyhorse magazine asked me if I was up to the challenge of making catwalk-ready clothing out of safety vests, I - of course - said yes. I love my bike as much as I love designing.
The process of upcycling is something I am all too familiar with. I started when I was four using socks for Barbie tube dresses, and then continued on to projects like my semi-formal dress made out of old denim, when I was 16. I currently have a small line of comfy upcycled sweaters. (There are other great, bike-friendly upcyclers found around Toronto. Two of my faves: Preloved or Paper People Clothing.)
For those of you that don’t sew, or aren’t familiar with upcycling, just think about taking that old junker/beater bike and finding spare parts, donations and anything else you can get your hands on to make a "new" bike - or other usable item. (Check out these cool upcycling projects for bike parts here.) The same approach is taken when re-purposing a garment. Some designers mix old and new, or only use old to make new. I took on the project with the idea to use as little new material as possible.
After sitting down with owner/editor Tammy, we agreed on a flirty strapless dress with reflective pleats as well as a boxier, hooded, short shorts jumpsuit. Each garment incorporated the use of the fluorescent fabric, along with the reflective strips. The curvy sweetheart neckline on the dress incorporates my love of retro-inspired design. The boxier more masculine design of the jumper is all function. (And reminiscent of one of the publisher's favourite outfits from her first Lollapalooza concert.) The high cut bottoms keep legs free of chain-catching fabric, the hood provides cover, and the back mimics the original vest design for safety.
Let the games begin. Work in progress. Photo by Judith Ann Clancy.
The process is like a puzzle. What are the key design features? What can be salvaged from the original piece? What functional parts are needed/what are design extras? And finally, what absolutely cannot change in the design process?
The patterns were simple enough, but required a lot of prep work (common with most upcycled projects). A muslin sample, or prototype for the dress gave Tammy a glance at what was to come. Changes to hem length and a yoke were added for extra design detail, but I had the go ahead to make the dress out of the vests. (Tammy's rallying cry started upon seeing the muslin sample dress: "shorter, shorter!" and continued as we got down to the serious business of tailoring the garments for the models and the shoot concept.
The muslin prototype. Photo by Judith Ann Clancy.
This is when the real work began.
Almost a dozen safety vests were ripped apart, one by one. It’s finicky and took time. Luckily the reflective material did not leave any holes or largely identifiable marks on the fluorescent material, and to my surprise I was able to sew it without any big jams.
The vests -- graciously donated by Redpath Sugar -- were originally cut out of one solid piece of fabric, which was great as it eliminated any extra undesired seams. (dandyhorse will be giving out more safety vests at our launch party this summer and also at an event at the Toronto Reference Library on July 13.)
The bust of the dress came together quickly, but I knew the skirt would be the real time-consumer. Each pleat had a strip of the reflective material sewn in, and then the fluorescent material was pleated to partially hide it, creating the peekaboo effect.
Prepping pleats. Photo by Judith Ann Clancy.
Between the different materials and the number of pleats, it was as slow of a process as riding the bike lane on College during rush hour. The final step was to sew the skirt to the yoke with some decorative piping. With a little elbow grease and some needle replacing, the safe-to-be-seen in 'safety' dress was complete! Now on to the jumper...
The no-excess design detail made the creation of the jumper a much simpler process. With the bare minimum in mind, the design is all sleek, sexy function.
The pattern came from some vintage shorts, lined up with my own bodice pattern, and a hood pattern traced off an old sweater. The prototype had to be modified slightly, and the shorts’ hem taken up (again, at the publisher's request) but all in all the patchwork pattern was made quite quickly. The reflective pieces were kept minimal; around the hood, tops of shoulders, hem and back. The zipper down the front makes it easy to get in and out of, the snug (but not ass-cheek revealing) shorts keep chafing at bay, and the boxier top allows for layers underneath.
Safety first! Gorgeous 'safety' short shorts jumpsuit by Judith Ann Clancy.
We shot the fashion spread for dandyhorse #10 (out now!) on Thursday May 9 with photographer Mike Ford. After a morning of heavy rain, we swiftly moved to plan D, and relocated to Mike Ford's studio. The slightly soggy shoot went super smoothly thanks to make up artist Traceee Gallagher's expertise and dry wit. Our models, Patricia Youn and Sherine Alleyne were spot on, playing it tough and flirty, and hamming it up for the camera. The bike-lock bike made from a ring-and-post bike stand was a real eye-catcher too. It is a creation by Mark Charlebois and Thomas Sands of the Bad Taste bike gang and will be on display at the Toronto Reference Library as part of a dandy promotion starting in July. (Details to be announced here soon.)
We had plenty of gawkers, er, interested onlookers.
As the dresses were being shot for the spread, I reflected on their design and overall message. The dress is playful and flirty, while the jumper is strong and stylish.The two garments together look like night and day, but are still reflecting the same idea; safety is attractive.
Just getting warmed up for the shoot.
Tracee Gallagher make up artist with models Sherine and Patti.
Photos by Tammy Thorne on set for the shoot for "Lock 'n' Roll", dandyhorse issue #10
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