Sunday, October 14, 2007

The right (silk) stuff

by Suw on October 14, 2007

As well as trying hard to find exactly the right shade of burgundy card for the invitations, I've also been trying to find exactly the right silks for my wedding dress. Having finally settled on a dressmaker, who not only can do exactly what I want but can also do it at a reasonable price and without throwing a strop about “design rights” and attempting to charge for quotes, I spent quite a bit of time trying to find the right fabric.
AnitaJane, my dressmaker, showed me a number of dupion silks by James O'Hare, some of which were lovely, but they didn't have any silk brocades, which we'll need for the insert in the skirt. Instead, I went off to Maculloch & Wallis, to see what they had, and found about half a dozen vaguely ivory-coloured brocades, and a few more burgundy silks. I also managed to get three brocade samples from Dalston Mill, but when you compared all the brocades with the ivory dupion, most of them were a long way away from being the right sort of ivory: too pink or too gold or too yellow. One was about right in shade, but it was a bit too subtle – from a distance you really wouldn't be able to see the detail. I thought I'd deal with this by beading it with pearls and burgundy Swarovski crystals, but that also seemed like an awful lot of work, not just because beading is quite slow and tedious, but also because it would require a whole new thought process about what would be an appropriate design.
Last week was Kevin and my anniversary – two years ago we had our first date, and so Kevin booked us in to one of our favourite restaurants, Andrew Edmund. We had about an hour to spare before our booking, though, so we wandered round Soho looking for a place to have a quick pre-dinner drink. That's a lot easier said than done on a Friday night in London, especially when a warm day has people grasping at summery straws, pretending that autumn hasn't really set in, honest guv. We ended up in a vodka bar that appeared to be mainly frequented by gangsters. You think I'm kidding. I'm not. Kev has a good street sense about these things, and I'd put money on there being various mafias present that evening. We finished our drinks and legged it.
On our way back from the dodgy bar, we walked down Broadwick Street, right past Broadwick Silks. They had some brocades in the window that immediately caught my eye, so yesterday we went back for a closer look. It seemed that they had a much bigger range of silks than Macculloch & Wallis, although M&W only put samples out on display, keeping the rolls themselves behind the counter, so it's really hard to judge. But Broadwick Silks' staff were dramatically nicer, letting me browse when I wanted to, and then helping me out when I asked.
I earmarked a few silks to examine further, then I told the assistant what I was doing and what I was looking for, and pointed out the rolls I liked the look of. She asked me if I had the fabric for the rest of the skirt, explaining that it is actually hard to match fabrics off a swatch, and that if I buy all the ivory I need from them, both the dupion and the brocade, then I can ensure a better match. She went on to explain that silks are dyed in batches, and that so long as the colour is within 10% lighter or darker – within “industry tolerances” – then it's deemed a match, but you can't really tell until you have a large piece to compare.
We haven't bought the ivory dupion yet, so she showed me the dupion that would go with the silks that I had chosen, and you could see it was a good match. I ended up buying 10cm of each, so I have a decent amount of fabric to play with. The assistant agreed that my choice was a bit more period than the alternatives – it's actually not a brocade, it's a dupion that's embroidered and beaded.
(For those of you who don't know, a brocade is “a rich fabric, usually silk, woven with a raised pattern, typically with gold or silver thread”; a dupion is “a rough slubbed silk fabric woven from the threads of double cocoons”; and a slub is “a lump or thick place in yarn or thread”. There, I bet you thought I'd never explain.)
This is all very exciting! Firstly, it means I don't have to do so much beadwork as I had expected. Secondly, it's going to look more period, and thirdly, I can go in some time next week and buy the fabric I need, in time for my second fitting. Of course, on the way back towards Oxford Street, we passed two more fabric shops, so I don't suppose for a second that I'll be able to resits popping in to make sure that they don't have anything better, but I really do think I've found the right silks now.
You'll noticed that I said “second fitting” – had the first one on Thursday. Really all it was just having my measurements taken, trying on a corset again and making a few decisions on how I want to adjust the shape, and deciding on a skirt pattern. Pretty simple stuff, but it's exciting to be making these decisions and getting on with it all.
Of course, as the process progresses, I find myself changing my mind about things, and refining what I want. I was originally going to have lace trim on my corset, for example, but have since decided that pearls (or rather, Czech glass pearls, given that real ones are rather expensive to buy in bulk) would be more appropriate … and less work. I still intend to use lace on the skirt, but I'm also considering whether pearls might not work better there too… it's a rather organic process, this, which means high cognitive overheads as I do more research and try to make decisions, but also gives me a real feeling of ownership. This dress, for better or for worse, will be a true expression of my personality, not just some pretty thing I picked out of a book.
Makes me wish I had room in my flat for a sewing machine.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }