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This piece of fashionTech is designed by Anishinaabe artist George Metzler and tells the Story of the Dragonfly.
The Dragonfly dress is based on the Anishinaabe story of the Dragonfly, which tells us to be ourselves and reminds us that creation made us just the way we're supposed to be.
Why? I like to bring pur stories to my design work. I thought dragonfly’s story is a good story. And I like to make pretty and cool things
The controller will be in a pocket, just turn it on or off. It uses super intuitive software/app to program the leds you can keep the program in the controller or change it to how you like.
The larger pocker will have a charge cable, just plug in your phone to charge it
First, design the dress and decide how / where the tech will be.
For this dress I decided to make a 4 panel dress to represent the 4 directions. And to have a dragonfly on each of the panels. I decided on an open vent back and the illustration has a bound button hole in the shape of a dragonfly on the top.
Which is a design feature that is complicated and might not be good for production. The top of the dress is decidedly plain, I want the focus to be on the dragonflies then they eye to come up and see the person in it.
Then fabric choices. I won two boxes of fabric in pink and white at an auction for items from "Jann" TV show.
Almost all of my fabric choices were from these boxes.
I decided that the outer shell would be a polyester white satin that would be laser cut with the main dragonfly I created within Adobe Illustrator. I did some test runs on the laser to determine the thinnest line that I could cut without causing the fabric to fail. I determined it to be approximately 1mm, I kept my smallest line to minimum 2mm, because satin a 5 /2 weave, if memory serves, it’s not as tight as say a herringbone or tweed.
The background layer. I wanted a layer that would have a distance from the main character, the field, and I determined, with many test runs that a layer of 8 flat netting would create the effect I was looking for. The odd pink voile was perfect for this task, its hard to explain the colour, pretty, like halfway between a pink and a coral and heavy. Not a fabric I could immediately see for another project. Anyway I wanted to cut like grass and curls and flowers, with enough flop that it would move, but not enough that it would fall.
I wanted it to look like it was moving as the wearer moved. The 8 layers of net will keep the satin close enough that shadows and bounce back will give a echo effect between the top two layers. I did countless rounds of testing to get to this number.
After I got my skirt pieces tested, tweaked, retested, until I was satisfied, I made the skirt shape in Illustrator around the designs. BUT of course a half skirt isn’t as simple as just cutting out a half circle and putting the designs on it. I had to create a front, back and sides. Also in my auction box of goodies was a pattern set, that the designers created the outfits for the showfrom, they left the original pattern pieces alone, and look! They had the four panel top that would coordinate with my skirt. I placed them on the floor with a ruler and created an Illustrator file out of them.
I used the bottom measurement of these pieces to adjust the skirt to line-up then created each section with different measurement. Which I learned later on, mark them with colour coded thread so they don’t get mixed up! I figured that out after many sessions of sorting the left and right panels.
How to solve the back zipper. Because the back panel is a solid piece, how do I solve getting in and out without damaging it? I decided on a bound zipper. Easy peasy and the least of my worries.
I cut all the pieces on the laser. As well as outlined solid pieces in a pink gingham that I wasn’t a fan of, for the base layer and a piece of organza between each of the cut layer layers.
I experimented on the light bounce with both silk and polyester organza. Silk doesn’t bounce the light at all. Which is gtk for another project. But I’m looking for illusion. Polyester creates this super cool refraction with the LEDs. Like little flares of rainbows, just like you see on a dragonfly’s wings.
Polyester Organza, was one of the auction items. Its like they knew!
I immediately basted the organza layer behind the laser cut layers to reduce the risk of tearing the design and keeps it strong and structured and then you can handle it.
There is a lot of basting and hand stitching in this project.
Then thebase layer. This is the layer that will hold the tech. The gingham is way too floppy, so I decided to use a crinoline netting. Making sure to cut it so the least stretch went up and down
This, and the threads, are the only things not from the auction. I added two layers of crinoline to each base skirt panel. And made the bottom sides about 1 inch or so smaller in order to give room between the base layer and the pink layer. Probably could have gotten away with one. I did one final test panel before starting construction, clipped them together and it looked great. This video is me holding it up, this is very close to what a skirt panel will look. I like the blue leds.
I basted the soft side of the velcro srip to the crinoline layer. This is probably the most challenging part of the project. The back of the Velcro and the crinoline are like trying to attach an ice cube to a hockey rink. After several iterations, I decided the best way is jamming a really bug safety pin the holding tight while jabbing the needle and thread through to a pillow, then pushing up and going in a random stitch pattern to hold it into place.
The pointy velcro will hold the tech, this is so when you wash it the velcro won’t catch on everything inside the skirt. The nLITEn lights have tape on the back and you just stick it to the velcro. This part is the easiest in the project! Ill have a hole between the top left pocket to the controller and then that will plug into the solar panel, for power! Which I don’t have yet. But I imagine it will work something like my diagrams…I think being dragonflies, it would be easy enough to add more solar flowers to the dress if needed. There will be another pocket under to power a mobile device for charging. The right hand side will have the same two pockets but for the wearer.
The next layer, right on top of the base layer. is 4 - bolt widths of net, one for each panel, pleated not gathered, because you want it to poof at the end not the top. I also made them longer so I could make a thick tucked in hem to give it extra volume. This is to give about an inch of lift between the base layer and the first decorative layer.
In all there are 16 layers in total, but don’t worry the fabrics are very light and the tech doesn’t weigh hardly anything. It’s not a heavy dress.
And it gives that satisfying crunch.
The Velcro and pocket access will make the tech easy to remove for cleaning. I was imagining the solar panel on something that can snap off for the same reason.
So, to sum up.
Base layer gingham with two layers of crinoline to firm it up.
Velcro strips sewn onto the base layer to hold the lights, be careful its slippery. Safety pin, baste, sew.
Pleated net layer to give lift.
Pink laser cut meadow with polyester organza basted together.
8 layers of pink net.
White satin laser cut dragonfly layer with polyester organza layer basted together.
Make the three under skirts.
Base layer is one skirt, make it. Attach all scratchy Velcro bits with the tech, plug the lights into each other.
Pleated Netting is another skirt layer.
The pink with organza with the net -flat pieces on top. Sew them together. Third skirt.
Now make the shell, hand tie all the seams for the outer dress. The top portion is lined with the pink, leave it open at the bottom, you will hand sew this after attaching the inner skirts.
Baste at the waist all skirts together.
Sew the skirt layer together. Either machine sew as close to the outer layer skirt seam or hand stitch it with a good thread and solid back stitch. Which is what Ill do. Then on the inside, tuck over the lining and stitch it enclosing the tops of the skirts inside the bottom of the bodice, it will act like a waistband.
Now on how many layers you want the pockets to go through and decide and make the bound pockets. I decided top two skirts but not the netting skirt and not the base layer. You will need to make buttonholes to pass the tech connections through the netting skirt layer. Make sure your tech has room to disconnect and reach the power source.
Zipper – do bound layer through the entire set of skirts in the center back. Now you can carry a zipper all the way up, or stop at the waist with a hook and put a button at the top to make it vented back, or put a button at the bra line to hide it. Vented would look closed until you move and then it would be like a sexy little peek surprise. (And breezy for hot days! Ventilation good sometimes)
Almost done! Now hookup the solar panels, the nLITEn controller and power injector to the LEDs through the pockets and click! Program your light effects on your Bekonix and you’re good to go!
Kinda a hooking up the nLITEn tech video
Bekonix is super easy to do too. Upload the project. Put components on. Program the colours and timing! You can add different inputs like sound or or distance, etc.