Friday, May 29, 2015

Creative Outlet

My first dress.
Currently for sale, btw. :)
I just finished my third Irish dance solo dress. The first two were for my oldest daughter and were true labors of love. The third was made for a good friend who was in need and I rose to the occasion. Of these experiences, the third was by far the most stressful. Why? I was making it to someone else's specification. Whether or not they liked it mattered. The quality of my product would be judged by someone other than myself. AND I was on a very ambitious deadline (one week).

Overflowing with insecurity, I did the final fitting and tried to read every micro-expression, gauge every raised brow, every assessing glance. Did they like it? I couldn't tell -- they said they did, but there was that momentary look of confusion when they looked at it, the hint of disappointment. It crushed me.

My second dress on left.
The dress on right is a school dress.
They asked me to make the dress because of a desperate need, and, because I recognized the need I agreed. The moment money changed hands, I went from a friend doing a favor to an employee providing a service.

In the end, the young dancer had a very elegant dress. When she was on stage she beamed and held herself proudly. When she danced I knew she loved the dress.

Let me be clear that I am not complaining about the experience; I'm detailing the stresses involved as they relate to my growth as a Irish solo dress designer/seamstress. The biggest life lesson here was how difficult it was to make sure we all had the same expectations. Despite sketches, swatches, and explanations, I wasn't able to explain my vision to my clients OR (worse) understand their vision/expectation. We thought we were all on the same page, but I could tell by the look on their faces that the dress wasn't what they imagined it would be. Did I deliver a good dress? Yes. Was it what they wanted? Ehrrrmmmm... not sure. Probably not.

My third dress (and first commission project)
I have my own perspective on solo dresses. First, I don't want them to look just like everyone else's dress. What's the point of it being a solo dress if it's a carbon copy of this year's trends? So far every dress I've made has been quality, elegant, and met all the performance costume guidelines (the one linked is only one set. There are small differences between different regions). Solo dresses are supposed to get the judge's attention, but I'd rather have that be because it looks beautiful on the dancer rather than because the dress punches you in the eyeball. I want my dresses to move well, fit well, and suit the dancer. Of course I don't want it out of place in the line of dancers, but I don't want it to blend in either. That said, not everyone will like my designs.

This ties in perfectly with my experience in writing. It must be a common thread in all the creative production professions. Making what you believe in compared to making what you think will sell. Communicating your vision and inspiring others to feel as strongly about it as you do... it's all the same beast. Of late I've felt more satisfaction in designing/creating dresses than I have in writing -- perhaps because with the dresses I can see them out there, dancing. My books sit idle, waiting.


My dresses are entry level solo dresses so far, not elaborate enough for Worlds (above). 

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