I have a friend Laly Mille, a wonderful mixed media artist, who took time out to create a dress….and not just any dress, but a mixed media fairy dress. It was wonderful and well made/designed. I found it lovely to behold and inspirational….and so in the interest of fashion…..I approached her to see if she might ‘loan’ me her blog post to re-post here on my site. It simply had to be seen.
1) Laly can you tell me what inspired you to take a detour from your painting to design a dress? You mentioned a wedding, but have you wanted to try your hand at it before this moment?
2) Did you enjoy the process? Do you believe you might design again? If so what? I’d love to chat with you about designs as your designing process is similar in some respects to my own. I also don’t care to work too much with patterns, preferring to drape, but more importantly I LOVE recycling clothing
3) Would you change anything about your design? Any plans for the dress beyond the wedding you mentioned? It seems it was well received at the event.
4) Do you have any advice for anyone who’d like to tackle a similar project?
I love fiber arts and textile design, they’re a great source of inspiration. Occasionally, I’ve tried my hand at weaving and 3D textile art and have loved it. But sewing… I guess up until now I never found a way to really enjoy it. So to answer your question, no I had never designed a dress before. But maybe that’s the point: maybe I needed a real challenge to take that leap, and my little sister’s wedding was the perfect opportunity! Another of my sisters, and my sister-in-law, were making their dresses too, so they provided the accountability I needed, and most importantly, I had a deadline!
On another note, since starting my current training and internship at a nursing home, I have been experiencing a lot of stress and fatigue, and it has made it really hard to make any art. This project has allowed me to keep creating a little bit every day, sewing a small scrap here, a ribbon there, emptying my mind with every little stitch… I enjoyed the process very much, partly because it was new, exciting and fun, a challenge and a little girl’s dream at the same time. I found inspiration on websites, blogs and Etsy shops, and gathered images on Pinterest. It was fun, just what I needed. And the process also proved soothing and relaxing. Sitting by the dress form, pinning and stitching, I allowed the dress to grow organically, which felt close to my painting process.
By the way, I have finally started painting again and just finished a new painting (the first since April!), so I think I’ll let the needles and thread rest for a bit, and concentrate on my (non-wearable) art for now. But I know I’ve pushed past one more boundary on my creative journey, and I’ll probably make some more pieces of clothing for myself from time to time. And this whole experience has also made me more confident when it comes to dressing creatively, daring to be an artist inside and out.
The only advice I could give to anyone wanting to embark on a similar project is simple: just try! After all, it’s just a tank top and some fabric scraps awaiting a new life. Trust your instincts and work your own magic…
Me: Thanks so much Laly for taking time out to answer these questions. I absolutely love your work, but of course you know that. 🙂 Can’t wait to chat again. Perhaps we’ll discuss fashion designs and compare notes!
The Contact Info: If you want to reach Laly and see more of her amazing work (she JUST released the most amazing picture this past week! AMAZing) you’ll find her here:
My upcycled “mixed media” fairy dress by Laly Mille
Once upon a time, there was a good fairy who turned Cinderella’s rags into a beautiful, “upcycled” ball gown…
I finished the dress! Yes I did! That was a true challenge, but so worth it. And what was even more of a challenge was: will I dare to wear it at my little sister’s wedding, in front af all my relatives, far and near (gasp…)?… Well I did! And I’m so glad I did. Weddings in France are generally not as colourful and “fluffy” as they can be in the UK or the US for instance. Wearing a lavender tutu, especially when you’re not a 5 year old, but well into your thirties, well… that does require a good dose of courage.
But that was the point: stepping into my own power as an artist, a creative soul and wearing it right on my skin. The fun thing about it was that it got contagious: one of my sisters and my sister-in-law both made their dresses too, one with a tattered, upcycled look, and the other with a fluffly tutu under a tartan print dress (girls, you were both gorgeous!). We supported each other into affirming our creative selves, and I also like to think that it was our way to encourage the newly-weds to be bold and creative in the new life ahead of them…
And now, here is the finished dress…
It all started with a lovely bouquet of roses that my prince charming gave me earlier this year. It was so lovely that I decided to let it dry and keep it. As it dried, the colours became even more lovely and dreamy… At that time, discussions about the wedding and the outfits for the children were going strong. Which quite naturally led us -the mothers of these lovely angels- to start thinking about our own outfits. I started a Pinterest board to gather images I loved, and soon started dreaming of tattered dresses, vintage dresses, fairy dresses, ruffles and tutus… After that, all the other outfits I could see in the shops felt rather dull, so I started to think that maybe I could try and make my own dress…
Now I should tell you that sewing was never really my thing before. My last sewing experience was making washable diapers for my daughter 6 years ago. Just like I don’t like to cook with a recipe, I really don’t like to follow a sewing pattern. I had never made a dress before. So if I were to really make this one, it would have to be on my terms, following my intuition and my own creative process.
I embarked upon a real treasure hunt, looking for scraps of fabric and old clothes that had been awaiting a new life. Inspired by Zollection on Etsy, I bought a tank top with lace straps: it would be my “canvas”! I also bought a few fabric flowers, and experimented with hand dyeing… so much fun! A trip to my local thrift store provided vintage lace and ribbon.
Then I dismembered the old clothes, turning them into scraps of all sizes. And with the tank top on a hanger, I happily started pinning, pinning, pinning… I was already in love with the whole thing, so I knew there was no turning back! I invested into a dress form and pinned some more. Just as with all my paintings, I started experimenting with placement, colour and layers… Then little by little I started sewing the elements in place, some by hand, and some with the help of my sewing machine.
At the same time I was making a matching “no-sew” tutu for my little girl (tutorial HERE!). And it was so pretty that I got a little (a lot!) jealous… So I decided to order some more tulle (which I got from THIS Etsy shop), in purple, rosy mauve and lavender, and made one for myself that I attached to the bottom of the tank top, so that it would be perfectly placed just a little lower than the waistline.
I completed the outfit with a purse made from an old lace cushion cover and a T-shirt, a little bracelet made with ribbon and lace left-overs, and a well-loved grey cardigan that I adorned with tulle and ribbon for the occasion. I also made a pair of shoe clips from two flower-cluster baby headbands from the same shop where I bought the tulle.
The final touch was a Kelly Rae Roberts necklace-locket that my husband gave me for our anniversary earlier this month. The pendant reads “a charming journey”. It couldn’t be better suited…