My Succulent-inpsired outfit

The Facts

Fabric: 8 yards silk organza left over from a wedding dress 11 years ago, green cotton lining, purple linen interlining from stash
Pattern: Vogue 8112 (again!) but just for top when the other top failed majestically
Year: 1940
Notions: 1 zipper, 12″ square of buckram, millinery wire, bias tape, plastic succulents & two shades of Tinfix dye
Time to complete: 12 hours, maybe more
First worn: July 2012
Wear again? Yes, but only for the *right* event!

Total Cost: $25.41 for dyes (includes shipping), $4.05 for green cotton lining, $18.93 for plastic succulents, $1.24 for zipper so $49.63 total


Many months ago I saw an image in, I swear, Vogue magazine at Angie’s house, that showed a woman standing against a succulent wall; her head piece and outfit looked one with the wall and I thought it was SO COOL!  I looked through every Vogue I could find for the last year, online as well, but no luck. When I saw “Nature” in the challenge list this was the first thing that popped into my head and once there…

…it just wouldn’t leave : ) Do I feel like a refugee from “Waltz of the Flowers” from the Nutcracker? Not really (just a little). What I really DID feel was incredibly light and flowy. This dress weighs next to nothing, the HAT weighs more!

Hat – 6.625 ounces or 192 grams

Dress – 6 ounces or 170 grams

Why succulents? I think they’re very cool, wish I could put them in my yard but alas the chickens think they’re really nifty toys. The small succulent wall behind me is one of many plantings along Main Street. I’m not sure if the same person or department who thought the Buddha/Baby head fountain was a good idea further down the block chose this as well but the wall is gorgeous.

All those plants are real, unlike the ones on my hat : )

Hats, hats, I seem obsessed with hats lately.

But let’s talk about the dress for a minute -

Each of the petals on the dress are hand painted. I knew I wanted to do a water-color style painting technique on the silk organza so I called the lovely people at Dharma Trading. It was SUCH a pleasure to talk to someone who knew what I meant when I said “Sage green” and “Plummy purple”! Each bottle of dye is 3.5 ounces and concentrated. I diluted each color before painting with it for the translucent effect I eventually got. I stretched the silk onto a frame that was approximately 24″ x 27″ and built with 2×2′s. Push pins held the silk and then I could paint on it easily and no dye ran where I didn’t want it. I painted the purple border first, added the green to the middle and then blended them. It really PAYS to buy good dyes, less expensive dyes would turn muddy and ugly when they meet. Originally I thought I’d just paint the edges with Fray-check but that made an icky, plastic-y shiny edge and inhibited the flow of the fabric.

I ended up just running all the leaves through the overlock using the rolled-hem feature. MUCH nicer! There are 6 small leaves on the top and 26 larger individual leaves that make up the three layers of the skirt. There is a green straight skirt underneath to cover up all the lady parts since I declined the tutu-and-tights look. The basic dress is cotton with a layer of painted green silk organza over the cotton for the right color. The purple center band is painted organza with a linen underlining and the entire top is lined in cotton (organza is scratchy, just no getting around that).

My new friend : )

My original idea was to made a strapless top and a cummerbund-style waist band. It looked A W F U L. I used my new favorite pattern (that I’ve used twice now) and figured the skirt was different enough that no one would notice : )

I have to say the silly little hat is my favorite element. It is also the piece that had people looking at me like I was some nutcase that escaped from the sanitarium for the day. Anyone ever see “King of Hearts”? Yeah…like that…

My hat : )

I’ve got my head down so you can see the top of the hat with the succulents, they sort of “flow” into the wall…

…and this is the back of my head, you can just see the clip holding my (windblown) hair. Those purple/green cascade-y things are something we found on our morning walk, they take the place of a veil or bow and cover the clips that hold the hat on. Yes, one of the succulents on my hat has a flower stem, it gives me height : ) and I feel like a Who which is kind of fun.

Granted this isn’t the kind of dress you can just throw on for any old event, it requires one extra special outing. I have nothing planned like that in the near future, I may have to throw a party JUST so I can wear this dress! It’s a very pretty piece of art, for now it can live on my mannequin when she’s otherwise not engaged and dress up a corner of my dining room. The hat, on the other hand, has to be put away because there is something about those plastic succulents that attract cats like catnip.

Someone certainly has a sense of humor in this town, this is the companion piece to my new friend above : )

Author

Loran

Loran is a Bay Area designer, stitcher and suburban farm girl. Having done theater for years she's finally taking on her most demanding client (herself!) and fashioning a wardrobe from her huge stock of vintage patterns and fabrics, all while writing her daily tablesetting blog. Let's see if she can keep up with both : )

52 Comments

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  1. Loran, that’s so creative…

  2. It looks like so much fun and you painted the silk! It truly is a work of art. Its very intresting to look at.

  3. Really amazing. But I have to ask, where will you wear this? I’d love to create artsy things like this (and I totally would if I had a little girl because then the possibilities would be endless for fantastic dresses like this). But I would just never wear them. Perhaps I’m too much of a square. But really, where do you see yourself wearing this? (LOVE the hat, BTW.)

    • That, Erin, is the big question : ) I’m going to have to throw a party JUST so I can wear this! Sometimes you just have to do art for arts sake.

      • :D Sometime I will do that. Actually, I’m sort of thinking that Gatsby would be a good time for me to get more artsy. Of course, with my fabric buying ban, I may have to get really creative to pull that off…

  4. Wow. Just wow. This is amazing. But I must say, yes, where would you wear this? I mean, to a plant ball? You would be the bell of the ball.

    • Thanks Leah : ) Yes, I’m going to have to think of some themed party to wear this too, otherwise it will be 3D art in my house. I like the idea of a Plant Ball. Maybe in the spring…

  5. Awesome job painting the organza. Seriously! I love the blending of the two colors, and I love the hat. Perhaps it’s because I too have a special love for succulents, especially lithops and agave-types. They’re so pretty. And I’m sure you’ll find an art opening, dance, festival, carnival something to wear this lovely number at!

    • Thank you so much Adri! Yes, you’re right, I need to find some kind of carnival or festival where this would be appreciated. I’d say Burning Man but I’ve never been a big fan of desert festivals : )

  6. I am so blown away by this. I spent weeks before the challenge looking at examples of what fashion students and couture designers have created with nature as their muse and really wanted to do something more interesting than I did, but unfortunately I needed to learn how to make trousers for some upcoming challenges. I’m so so pleased that you and Bethany have done something properly nature inspired. This is such a beautiful dress and hat, the colours are so wonderful. So much awesome.

    • Thank you Tempest. I totally understand your needing to learn about trousers. I think your creation is fun and spunky (as always!). This is just what popped into my brain and needed to be made 3D : )

  7. You should throw the party! What fun that would be! This is no joke-I always wanted to have a party where everyone wore that thing in their closet that they never have an occasion to wear it to. Wish i could be there!

    I think this dress is a true work of art. I have some pieces in my closet that just happened because I needed to get the idea out of my head so that there would be room for other things.

    • I think I’m going to have to throw a special party too : ) And yes, this totally came about because it needed to get out of my head and 3D!

  8. Beautiful job with all that dying! I also love that you weighed the dress! Too funny.

  9. I love succulents too! You’ve been so creative this week! Just LOVE IT!

  10. Succulents are, by far, my favorite plants. This dress is inspiring and so creative!

    • Thanks Tina : ) I’m liking them more and more. I may have to do an entire section of my yard in them and just fence it off from the chickens.

  11. Wow, that dress is incredible! So creative!

  12. Ok, so now we know what you’ll wear in NYC out on the town. For sure you fit infor an evening out! The plants are great, I have a few in my office to add some greenery and I just love the statues, bravo for the town buyer have a great scense of humore.

    • Thank you Krista!! I’m not sure where we’d go but I’m sure we could find something appropriately ‘floral’ : )

  13. That dress is so cool. You could wear it to a costume party, or to a play or be in the play! Be a speaker at the succulent convention, a spokeswoman for the Green Party or the Go Green initiative . Perhaps grace a float in the Macy ‘s parade or the Rose bowl parade. Be featured in any of those plant themed magazines: Country Garden, Home and Garden, Sunset. Be an actress in a children’s show on PBS. Or even be the ever-popular featured artist on the most popular sewing blog in the world…. The Sew Weekly! I’m so lucky to be a part of this great adventure we are all on. Thanks for sharing your talent and artistry with us.!

    • Thank you so much Barbara! Isn’t this such fun? It has become an amazing adventure and I’m glad you’re here to share your creativity with us as well : )

  14. Loran, this is gorgeous! I cant believe you hand painted the edging!!! And your hat!?! Can I say AWESOME!!!!

    • Thank you Bethany! I’ll be putting up step-by-step pics on my blog when I get it up and running. I still REALLY like the hat, just wish it wasn’t so heavy : )

  15. No, don’t put it away! You need to wear that hat everywhere! Love the painted silk, and agree X 1 million about Dharma’s staff– they are the best. Fantastic and fantastical!

    • The dress is still on the mannequin, the hat is in the closet : ) And Dharma may be posting pics of my dress on their facebook page this week as a featured artist…very exciting!

  16. You should wear this to a garden party!

  17. Gorgeous outfit!!! Never thought the succulents were plastic – they look so real..
    You should throw a party to show off the dress, it’s sooo cool!

  18. So, so beautiful!! I think I need to learn how to do fabric painting now, that is unbelievably amazing. The hat is perfect with that dress and the setting!

  19. what a bold and unique design, in literally every single aspect of your work. congratulations on such a wonderful garment!

    • Thanks Puu! If I get to New York I can wear it out somewhere, maybe meet up with Krista and other Sew Weekliers like yourself : )

  20. So creative and awesome. I was just starting to feel like maybe a garment a week is no better than fast fashion, and no one has time to do AMAZING things, but this gives me hope.

    • Thank you VERY much Angela! There are weeks when just making a skirt is the challenge but I was able to carve some time out to do something really fun and different. Thanks for noticing : )

  21. This is amazing! No idea when you could wear it, but I’m so glad you made it! It reminds me a bit of the flower fairies by Ciceley Mary Barker- does anyone remember them from childhood?

    Rachel

    • I know EXACTLY who and what you’re talking about! There is a challenge coming up in a few weeks and those fairied just *might* be my inspiration : ) Have to see what the schedule allows…

  22. so creative.. Great job

  23. That is mad and crazy and fantastic. Definitely needs the right event though!

  24. Amazing! Love the hat, the dress is fabulous and the colors fantastic!

  25. Loran you are amazing, seriously this is a stunning piece of costumery, you can certainly see all of the work you put into it, I am in awe of your talents. I can only imagine how you felt after you stepped back and took a look at your efforts and that hat!!…what a talent!

    • Thanks Kazz : ) It was a little bit of work but I knew in the end it would be pretty cool. Now if I could only find the right place to wear it…

  26. Wow. What a piece of art. Not extremely wearable in everyday life but very very beautiful. I wish we could all have a party and wear the outfit that we never really get to wear. I have a few pieces like this in my wardrobe – although they aren’t half as artistic and impressive as this one here.

    • Thank you Djamila and you’re right, not very wearable in the every day world : ) I think a party just to wear something fun and “arty” is definitely in order! I wonder if we could coordinate something where we all hook up via the internet to see everyone’s parties around the world? Hmmmm…..

  27. You are sooo creative…. I love the succulents, have a garden full, even here in Wisconsin.

  28. Wow, fantastic job painting the silk! I agree – you really must throw a party so you have an excuse to wear it. The art needs to be shown off. Well done!