Day 30 in my 30 Days of Outfits Challenge: November 30.
Boy, these 30 days have flown by!
I felt it appropriate to end these 30 days in the Dress That Began It All, also known as the Bacardi Limon dress.
No, it didn’t mark the start of my DIY’ing! (I’ve been making my own stuff since I was 9.)
Rewind to Winter of 2006…I was a stay-at-home mom to a baby just over a year old, and my days were filled from morning to night with bottlesdiaperslaundrycleaningplayingwithbaby / bottlesdiaperslaundrycleaningreadingtobaby / bottlesdiaperslaundrycleaningmakingdinnerforeveryone / bottlesdiaperslaundrycleaningcomfortingbaby etc. I did have a Mom’s Club meeting once a week, but otherwise that was my life. It had been so long since I had done anything creative. It was a very difficult time for me.
I began to have more stamina to stay awake after Lil Tot had gone down for the night, so I would try to catch up on email and surf the web a little. One night I happened upon a posting about a design competition, sponsored by FashionTribes.com and The Daily – where entrants had to sketch a dress inspired by the flavor of Bacardi Limon.
Now, being a nondrinker, I had no idea what Bacardi Limon even was, but I read the press releases about the new flavor and over the course of 2 evenings or so I sketched 6 designs, inked and watercolored them, scanned them, and then sent them in to the contest. It was right before Christmas and I had been staying up late trying to get all my Christmas cards written, and instead for two evenings I just immersed myself in what I loved: designing and drawing.
And then I completely forgot about them and the contest and everything. I just figured I didn’t win. Life went on, pretty much unchanged.
And then in February I heard the phone ring while I was lying down next to Lil Tot trying to lull him into taking his morning nap (which he refused to do unless I was lying down with him). I couldn’t answer it and it went to the answering machine. After Lil Tot finally fell asleep despite the interruption, I went to check on the message.
And was utterly stumped by its contents. I had to play it a few times to understand it. Someone who I didn’t know, from some number in a New York area code, calling from a something-Group, wanted me to call her immediately about some competition. And then I realized what it was, called, and was told
I was one of the 5 finalists they had picked from more than 300 entries around the United States in that Bacardi Limon design competition!
A whirlwind ensued. It turned out that the PR group had picked the dress I had designed that had a cut-out in the back, like a lemon slice, as the finalist entry. I had to make the dress I designed. I was being flown to New York to compete in a live “Cut-and-Sew” competition “just like Project Runway” that would be televised and everything. I made another dress in black to take with me to New York and wear while there. I went in March 2007. It was the first time I had been away from Lil Tot so long (I’d only been away from him at the most for 3 hours up until then, since he had born 15 months prior). I met the other finalists in the competition, some who’ve remained my friends to this day. I did the live Cut-and-Sew, where I made yet another version of the yellow dress.
I didn’t win, but I returned home determined to make my 15 minutes of fame into something worthwhile. I parlayed that press coverage and local interest into a great story for me founding a misses’ line of clothing and jewelry. I hired a party planner and PR whiz who helped me plan a launch party for the line, inviting the who’s who of the fashion elite and helping me with press releases, gift bags, branding, the works. I hired a patternmaker to make and grade the patterns, a samplemaker to make the samples. I bought fabric and had it shipped from LA to Hawaii, where I lived at the time. I produced a line, had a runway show, trotted it to local boutiques trying to sell it. A few pieces ended up in a few places.
Hub believed in me and allowed me to use our savings for this venture. I began to produce a Winter Collection and then began to run out of money. The previous pieces weren’t selling well, there were fit and sewing issues. Much of it was returned. I couldn’t pay anyone else to help me and couldn’t do it all myself anymore. We moved to Oregon in late Fall and I officially closed the line down. And I also reached out to FashionTribes.com to see if they wanted someone to write content for them, so I could at least stay connected to the world of fashion even if I couldn’t design.
So I wrote for them. And wrote for them. And started my own blog. And wrote for it. And wrote and contributed to other blogs and websites. And started to design things again, on a small scale, to sell in my Etsy shop.
And here I am today.
Now all that was a bit of a tangent.:-) I guess the point of all this is that sometimes the path from A to B is not in a straight line, and what seems tangential is actually useful experience that sets us up for something better.
I still want to design; I love designing but I HATE the manufacturing of clothing, and being financially responsible for all of it. It’s very scary for a small, struggling family to take on ourselves. Not a very good idea. And it’s too much work for a single person to run an entire line by themselves, even with a patternmaker helping out. Plus I enjoy more working within parameters – maybe not pushing boundaries so much, but working within someone else’s aesthetic or color story or mood board or whatever.
I’m glad I found that out about myself! Who knows if I ever will get the opportunity to design for someone else…but it’s been a great journey, and I’ve learned a ton along the way.
That’s why this dress is so special: it truly marks the beginning. (The other yellow dresses I made for the competition were kept by the PR company as far as I know.)
The dress I designed was a boatneck 50’s style flared party dress that I drafted the pattern to. (For the yellow, I turned the yellow satin inside-out since I liked the matte side better:-) I added a double-layer of iridescent chiffon to the hem. The back was a complicated citrus-shaped cut-out with floating bands attached to a central ring, and Swarovski crystal “seeds” suspended in the bands.
I am a much better sewer and patternmaker now than I was then – and the back of the dress was extremely complicated. I knew exactly what I wanted for securing the Swarovski rhinestones into the cutout, but I couldn’t find elasticized crochet cord sold by the yard. The back was very difficult to fit properly.
The clutch was made by gluing a magazine cover onto a small clutch from Target with E-5000 glue. Any flexible glue would work here, though.
Also, if you’re curious to see how others fared, please check out Katarina from She sells sea shells, who’s been doing this Challenge along with me – you can see her last couple outfits here, here, and here.