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Sunday, 5 May 2019

Bespoke Adventure, Part 3 of 3

For background on this post and the overall fashion project, please scroll to the bottom or go to the first of these three posts, HERE.

This is the third of three bespoke outfits that Vancouver Community College's (VCC) Fashion Design & Production Diploma program students made for me. This team was comprised of:

OUTFIT 3 - Elizabethan Catwalk

This outfit is definitely the most adventurous of the three in terms of the team's choice and manipulation of materials. It also has the most components, so it's hard to know where to start. 

photo by Carol Sawyer
Below is the sketch that the team presented during my first classroom visit. Wow! It consisted of a brightly-patterned form-fitting under-dress with black sleeves, a ruched clear vinyl neck collar with shoulder garlands, and a clear vinyl skirt with a similarly ruched wide waistband. The bell of the skirt featured holes with vinyl garlands draped around the structure. It was a lot to take in. I loved the absolute creativity of this piece and couldn't help but grin in wonder.

sketch and photo by Shadi Arastehmanesh
That said, you see from the opening photo and the sketch that there were a few changes. 

Jason Matlo, who is the class instructor and a prominent designer, and I thought that a black under-dress would better highlight the details of the vinyl work than a bright pattern. It was still very chilly outside so I was also concerned about how I could wear the shoulder garland under a coat. Perhaps an Elizabethan ruff collar would be much more practical. Hahaha. But I also knew that I could wear a ruff collar with many other outfits as well. 

After a very constructive back and forth among the team, Jason, and I, it was decided to go with a fringed shrug made from strips of the colourful fabric. I loved the idea. And the wide ruched vinyl waist was replaced with a simple black waistband to lighten the focus with a slimmer profile; the team came up with a new way of pleating the vinyl to accommodate this change.

photo by Shadi Arastehmanesh
Above are the fabrics the team had suggested for the dress but which would now be used for the fringed shrug. And below, some of the pattern pieces.

photo by Shadi Arastehmanesh
The fringes for the shrug waiting to be sewn onto the black backing. 

photo by Shadi Arastehmanesh
photo by Shadi Arastehmanesh
Isn't that an amazing piece?! The skirt is starting to take shape too.

photo by Shadi Arastehmanesh
Below, this is what the outfit looked like at the first fitting of two. I wondered if there were too many competing elements, especially when each component was very strong on its own. As a fix, Jason suggested a black fringed bolero for the final piece instead. Yes! I thought that may be just right. The team got back to work.

photo by Shadi Arastehmanesh
The next photo of the team was taken at the final fitting. The black fringed shrug looked fantastic, and I was thrilled that I would be able to keep the colourful one as well. 

Below, left to right: Shadi, Cayce, and Nataly,

Below, detail of the vinyl garland. The Elizabethan ruff collar was of similar construction, designed to be folded over when worn. So good.

photo by Shadi Arastehmanesh
No risk, no reward - that may be an apt saying for this project. Definitely this outfit underwent the most changes of all three, but it was also the most adventurous to start with. I feel privileged that I could go through the process with the team.

Also, I would like to thank Shadi for sharing her behind-the-scenes photos of the process involved in making this complex outfit. They are wonderful. 

Next are the street photos of the final outfit. 

Below is the under-dress made of lightweight neoprene, which features an oversized rear zipper and a high collar to avoid chafing by the ruff collar. The waistband of the skirt is the same fabric. 

The dress with the black pullover shrug. I look concerned because I was concentrating on listening to the camera shutter.

And the complete outfit below. By this time, I was having trouble with the shoot: I was getting cold, and with the nearby traffic, it was difficult to hear the timer beeps, especially for the burst shots. I'm glad this one turned out. It brings to mind '60s Audrey Hepburn in a Dior futuristic film set in Italy.

Carol Sawyer took the next shot, which is a close-up of the opening photo. As I was packing up to go home, dissatisfied, a friend showed up in the plaza by chance. Carol, whom I didn't know, was with her, and when I asked for a hand with photos, she obliged. Thank you, Carol!

Here you get a better view of the collar. The top part is designed to lay flat, but I also like it sticking up (yeah, and because my personal assistant didn't show up). I'll do another shoot with it in the future because I love this piece too.

photo by Carol Sawyer
Below, the stars of the show, left to right: Jason Matlo @jasonmatlo, Cayce Vanderzalm @caycescustoms, (me), Shadi Arastehamanesh @shadi.arastehmanesh.arts, Nataly Kingsley @natalykingsley.

    Below is my friend Patti, who writes a blog called Not Dead Yet Style. She and a couple of other friends came to Vancouver and arrived on the same day that I picked up the finished outfits from VCC. Patti wore the shimmer top from Outfit 2 with the Elizabethan collar and skirt from this team, another excellent mix/match. We had such a great time! Other photos from that shoot are HERE.

    This VCC project was the first time I have ever experienced bespoke clothing. The closest I've ever come is making major alterations to an existing pattern or farking/upcycling an existing piece. As a thrifter, I have always taken what I find, so I am used to styling on the fly, finding ways to make too-big or too-small clothing "fit" through attitude or farking. In fact, I had almost forgotten what true fit is! Hahaha. This experience definitely spoiled me. I'm not going to give up thrifting, but, wow, this was an utter indulgence. Thanks, all!


    In January I received an email with this as the subject: VCC Fashion wants to dress you. Oh!

    It was from Sarah Murray, the Co-Program Coordinator of Vancouver Community College's (VCC) Fashion Design & Production Diploma program. In essence, she wanted to know if I would like their students to make me some bespoke clothing in exchange for taking part in the process and posting about it. Umm, let me think... Hahaha!

    As a first step, I spoke with Jason Matlo, the class instructor and a prominent Vancouver-based designer, to form an initial mood board. He divided the class, who were in "cycle 4" of their program, into three teams of three, and based on the mood board, my Instagram, and a budget, each team had to create an original design that resonates with my personality.

    These students had only made a tote bag, a T-shirt, and a draped top during their first six weeks of school. I was curious, perhaps slightly worried, about what they would come up with. Well, they blew me away with their creativity, technical skills, adaptability, and hard work. Incredible, as you'll see. 

    For my part, I made three classroom visits over a month as follows:

    Visit 1: Consultation and measurements. Each team described its design concept and vision through sketches and fabric swatches. Jason and I joined the discussion to fine-tune the design to my taste, if required. This was an exhilarating process.

    Visit 2: First fitting of the pieces, in some cases with a toile made of less expensive fabric as a tester.

    Visit 3: Final fitting. The finished pieces were ready for pickup in mid-April.

    These three posts detail the bespoke outfits created for me by the students. Be prepared!


    Vancouver Community College's Fashion Design and Production diploma gives students an immersive experience in the fashion world.  You can read more about HERE. Their campus is in the heart of Vancouver, just a couple of blocks from our city's top fabric stores. It was a joy to meet the people involved in the program and get an insider's view of the studio/work space. Student designs are regularly showcased at Vancouver Fashion Week - you can see why. I can't wait to see the graduation pieces for this group.


    1. So so so so good, Mel! The collaboration and back and forth was interesting to see in pictures and in your words. The end product is pure art. I wonder if vinyl collars and skirts are in all our futures....


    2. Did the instructor or students explain why they used vinyl in two of the designs? It's certainly a fabric that has a had a limited clothing use bias until recently. The students took a very honest approach to vinyl in their designs. Love, Jude

    3. This is truly a fantastic outfit, I mean the word fantastic in a literal way. And also in the most flattering way. The fabric, textures and design are all incredible. I’ve always been a fan of plastic or plastic like fabrics for clothing. It was also such fun to see Patty wearing the same outfit.
      I truly think that these designers are quite talented and I’m sure they have a very successful career ahead of them

    4. Whew, those are 3 amazing, action-packed posts! I love these outfits, but I really love how you styled them on Patti, mixing the two. Fab-You-lous. The behind-the-scenes stuff is so cool. How awesome it all is! Thank you for sharing this, Mel!

    5. I love the fringed shrug idea - you can wear it over so many other things, and the dress is an excellent layering piece. You know I love clothing/accessories made of unusual materials so the plastic ruff and skirt ticks ALL the boxes with me.

    6. what a fantastic experience and what a fab outfit!, I do love the shrug and the vinyl pieces!, fantastic layering pieces with lots of possibilities!
      You totally rock and look like a expressionist artista in these pics!

    7. I thought I had commented on this post, as I have seen it about 4 times. But no, my picture isn't at the bottom.
      I can so imagine they chose you to design for. Their designs are you. So completely you. I think they are great.
      By the way, the way you look wearing only a very fitted black dress is unbelievable. You are a dream of a model.


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