With great power comes great responsibility – or so they say. People close to me know that I am very attached to my family. As a single gay man who just hit 50 in 2014, I don’t have children of my own – so I live vicariously through my brother’s and sister’s children, and now, their children, too.
My eldest niece, Elizabeth, is very special to me – she is perhaps the closest thing to a ‘little sister’ (I was youngest of four), and a daughter that I will ever know. When my sister had Elizabeth, she was still at home, and I helped with her upbringing. I rocked that baby to sleep during stormy nights, sang to her when she cried (and considering I can’t sing well, that’s saying something), and changed her shitty diapers through my high school years while working at McDonald’s. I was a busy bee the first few years of her life.
When Elizabeth matured into the beauty we all knew she would be, she hit the pageant circuit, and I lent a hand with some of her gowns – my favorite was a dark emerald green Calvin Klein silk-faced satin I crafted into a fitted and stylish formal. Flying down to meet her during one of her pageant trials for the upcoming Miss North Florida Teen (precursor to Miss Teen Florida and Miss Teen USA), I was taking the gown to fit her, and make a side trip to Disney (of course).
A friend gave me a first-class upgrade coupon – and several cocktails later, I arrived in Orlando – the dress did not. After leaving it on the plane, it was never retrieved – so I spent the 24th, 25th and 26th of December that year re-making the dress. Elizabeth won the pageant. That’s my girl..
So I find it rather ironic that I would spend this year’s holidays making another dress for her – or rather – for her daughter, Liliana (Lily). You see, Lily has Sturge-Weber Syndrome, and is frequently enduring seizure after seizure. A double brain surgical procedure on her 3rd birthday was where doctors discovered her affliction, and although she has found some progress, she still experiences seizures, each one robbing her of a normal child’s laughter and play.
Though there have been significant advancements in understanding Sturge-Weber, Lily won’t see any direct benefits for quite some time. There is strong promise to control her seizures using CBD (cannabadiol), which is why her mother has enrolled Lily in a pre-trial therapy program in Baltimore, MD – she has no insurance to cover any of this, and although CBD is legal in the state of Florida, there are complications with its prescription and usage.
And that’s where I enter the picture. I wanted to help them – but still unemployed, my resources are limited at best – so I decided I would create a special gown and auction it for their benefit. If you would like to learn more about Lily’s journey, Elizabeth writes her progress on CaringBridge, here. She has also set up a GiveForward fund-raising campaign, here, to help with the $7,500 they need for travel and related expenses.
During this time, Elizabeth will also be able to take her youngest daughter, Logan, who has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy – she will be undergoing intensive physical therapy during Lily’s trials.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to this experience is Elizabeth’s writing about her experiences to share with other families who are considering this treatment for their children, but cannot get them to a location conducting trials.
Even if you do not participate in the auction, I hope you will tell others about it, to raise awareness of the cause, and to maximize exposure of this cause – this is what we do as a community.
When I was making Éire, I loved the idea of breaking the line of the skirt with pannier-like attachments – but this thought didn’t come to me until I was already underway with the dress. This time, I played with my sketch book and came up with this:
I admire designers who can stay true to their sketched vision – with me however, the design evolves as I go along – some things just don’t look the way I see it in my head. The main idea was to focus on the panniers embedded within the skirt seams…so I grabbed some muslin, and started drafting.
The first drape only attached the panniers over the skirt, but I would mark the muslin, and slash the skirt across the seamline placement.
I am so in love with princess seams, and use them as much as practical – they follow the form so beautifully, and I like the long continuous line they bring. After some quick re-drafting of my Infanta pattern, I was ready to go. I don’t have a library of patterns for the 12inch girls, yet…so it was necessary to start from scratch.
If you recall from the blog post about Infanta’s construction, a mistake in calculations (I hate math – math is tough – poetic justice, as Elizabeth is a Math Teacher) worked out to my advantage with some cool seaming effects contributing to the overall design. Those wouldn’t work with this – so the bodice was re-drafted into a classic princess seam strapless neckline.
Through the magic of flat pattern drafting, I was ready to roll. I chose a lovely Chinese silk brocade, identical to a fabric I used in Cirque, but in black and gold.
For the lining, I found a wonderful vintage silk poplin, almost crepe-like in its matte finish, but lightweight enough for the 12inch scale. For the panniers, a 1960s vintage silk duchess satin, and tulle for the overskirt. Since the structure of this gown was firm and sculptural, there would be no need for a petticoat.
The geometry of this gown fascinated me…I’ve shown several images of how beautiful the pieces look when arranged on the table.
As for the gathering of the tulle – let me just say I hate gathering. It’s such a fuss…and one that can easily get out of control if you don’t pay attention to it. But this dress needed the gathers, so I put on my big girl panties, and sallied forth…
In order to make sure this would fit Barbie, too…I factored that into the measurements, but more on that drama later. I knew I would use a zipper for a clean closure, and now that I’ve got that process down pat – I was feeling pretty confident.
There are designers out there that are much more accomplished at technical sewing than I am – and this pattern required a fair amount of precision, especially with the tapered effect on the bodice front and back centers.
Marking was critical…and I used some hand-sewing to anchor the panniers to the right spot so they wouldn’t shift during machine sewing. I could have done some of this by hand, but I really need to use my machine more if I’m ever going to finish something in less than a month.
Without the underskirt, the dress was pretty cool – I will remember this for future use…I get so much inspiration from experimental sewing – which is a reason I document everything so I can remember how in the hell I got there in the first place!
Installing the underskirt was sheer madness…literally. As I have grown to see tulle as a necessity, I tried to not toss the whole thing in the trash. Luckily for me…it worked out. There was some variance in the center back, but pulled my Tim Gunn ‘Make It Work’ out of my ass, as I am apt to do on such creative misdirection.
But worked, it did…and although it began to deviate from the original sketch…a simple toss of my head shrugged off the notion of failure, and I went for it. I even chuckled in spite of myself…
The ladies were getting restless, and as Christmas approached, I knew I’d have to take a break if anything else was to get done over the holidays. Poppy was not amused when Barbie tried the dress on…
My mother suggested adding the satin flower – a lovely touch. And as I proceeded to get the lining done, I was feeling pretty good about this confection…
Now…sewing the lining to the shell at the hemline is often not recommended. It can work, but more often than not, it can pull up on the shell fabric, creating a warping of the skirt line. I wasn’t seeing much of this, but did realize that the dress was too long, so had to cut it all out anyway – so much for all that damned math.
After Christmas, Elizabeth and Lily traveled to Baltimore to begin pre-clinical trials for three days – the Ronald McDonald House became their home away from home, and upon returning, we were thrilled to hear the promising news the doctors conveyed to Elizabeth. And with the New Year come and gone, it was time to finish this girl…
I always put a tab on the inside to hide the gap at the top of the center back neckline, but this one was being used to assist with fit across different body types…damned math.
The spot beading I added did the trick to give a three-dimensional effect to the brocade, and it was time to close the lining.
Fitting worked for Barbie and Victoire…Poppy was pissed.
I’m not certain if this will fit Fashion Royalty bodies, though – Victoire’s bust is a bit big, but it worked on her. But as I started on the shrug, math hit me hard again (not to mention a hint of dyslexia) and the long sleeves became short – so a little bolero resulted, which I actually liked better. I’m the designer, I don’t have to explain it.
I have never liked oven-mitt gloves on dolls, but understand why they are used – I will refrain, however. It’s lovely to see the folks at JAMIEshow devising fun solutions for the issue of gloves with dolls. Be that as it may, I opted to not go with gloves here…Poppy is a Diva, not a home baker…
The ‘bolero’ turned out to be nothing of the sort – it served as an extra anchor for the strapless bodice to ensure fit across all bustlines. It may seem a little fussy and fripp-tastic…but it worked. Alas, it doesn’t work on the Silkstone Barbie rigid and slightly thicker arms – but if you win this, I am happy to remake a version to fit Barbie.
Simple black patent pumps to give a lively step forward – it fits Poppy and Victoire, but it’s a bit big on Ms. Silkstone. If you win this auction for your Silkstone, I do have a pair of antiqued gold Barbie shoes that will work.
Facets by Marcia provided the jewelry, and it was the perfect touch to finish this luxurious portrait. Marcia was extremely prompt in shipping my package on Christmas Eve! (UPDATE: Jewelry arrived on 1/7/2015 – and the blog was updated to include the actual set as shown below)
Time for the big camera…and voila:
May I present to you, Marquise:
Lily is an amazing child…her energy and laughter are infectious, and she has these eyes that draw you into her soul. CBD can give her the opportunity to live seizure-free, giving her freedom. Thank you for reading – and for sending light and glowing energy her way.
Please help to share, and to let folks know about her…and to the potential winner – good luck!!! Elizabeth, Lily (and Logan) and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts!