Midsummer Nights Dream

This is my second project, though as this is historically accurate, the designs and plot won't be changed to suit the design. The medium used to tell this play will once again be a feature film, mainly due to the sets I'd like to include as most of it will be filmed within a  forest, and I'd like this to be as life-like as possible. The addition of fairies intertwined into the play will also make better viewing within a feature film as effects can be added to enhance their presence.

I was drawn to the play, firstly by my love of anything mystical, mysterious and mythical.. and secondly due to the humour which underpins the entire production. I also felt the idea behind it is an extremely interesting one to unravel. It deals with the distinction between being helpful/encouraging, and controlling, taking circumstances into your own hands to 'resolve' them, though as those who have read/seen the play will know, this doesn't quite work out. This is an interesting area to focus on as the idea of 'playing god' is one which applies to many situations within modern society.

This issue will be illustrated through the use of artistic aesthetic choices within my design. I will be focussing on two distinct movements and their representations which accurately reflect their personas. The first will be Art Nouveau, and the second will be Art Deco. Firstly, the characters within the play are to be separated into 'humans' and 'fairies', this is because each group has different ideologies which characterises how they react to the world around them. Each artistic style will relate to a group and the concepts they represent.

Art Nouveau
This movement evolved out of the art and crafts movement of the nineteenth century, it brought to light the downfall of the industrial revolution which was that products were being mass produced and the artistic approach to craftsmanship was being neglected. It was an artistic movement which reacted against this and began to create beautifully crafted artistic pieces.
  Art's Nouveau was an extension of this concept, its influence spanned the entire artistic spectrum, paintings, jewellery, pottery, metalwork, architecture, furniture and textiles were all involved with this design style. Their style revolved around dramatic fluid curves, and took inspiration from natural sources such as insects and  flowers.

One of my favourite artists who was heavily involved with this movement is Alphonse Mucha (Czech, 1860 - 1939).

This is from a series of sets which were based on the four seasons, it gives an broad idea of the style which this movement revolved around. The style of illustration is one which I aspire to achieve through my own development and hopefully this will come through with my costume plates. I like how the fluidity of the lines reflect natural growth. The main images which influenced my design choice most of his works was of two figures..

Everything about the form and detail inspired me to use this style as the first of my main influences. The serenity of how these figures are drawn also brings a peaceful nature to the paintings, to me this reflects an appreciation of nature. The style of hair, and the freedom of the clothes, which naturally come from the period of the arts and crafts movement, and the incorporation of natural accessories, jewellery and details all draw me towards the idea of the mystical world of the fairies. For this reason, this style will be used to represent them within the production.

I also think this fits in well with the idea of the fairy's world, as though people within this movement were aspiring towards quality hand crafted works of art, they did not rebel against the industrial revolution. To put it plainly, their philosophy wasn't as humanitarian as it seems, art nouveau was a luxury art form, not easily attainable pieces, they were expensive and appealed to a limited customer base. This is understandable due to the hard work which went in and I agree that they were providing an insight into an ideal world. Though this attitude reflects that of the fairies. As the artists within this field made expensive pieces and gained a profit, the fairies took the beauty from nature and used it for their own gain.

Titania, the Queen of the fairies is quoted within the play to ask;

"Come now, a roundel and a fairy song.
Then for the third part of a minute, hence—
Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds,
Some war with reremice for their leathern wings
To make my small elves coats, and some keep back
The clamorous owl that nightly hoots and wonders
At our quaint spirits. Sing me now asleep.
Then to your offices and let me rest."

This means that the fairies don't see themselves as 'at one' with nature, instead using its produce to meet their needs, as the humans do, emphasising the previous point. Though natural influences can still be heavily used within my design, this means that real animal/insect/plant artefacts will have to imitated pretty closely as they are stated to be used within their attire. This is an important factor to consider.. Textiles should be interesting!

Art Deco
This mode evolved out of the roaring twenties and continued to flourish through the thirties, this was a progression from art nouveau. It was more modern and unlike art nouveau, could be attained by the masses. Art aimed for the people. It could relate to almost any walk of life as it was an extremely adaptable style. One of its most recognisable traits was its interpretation and acceptance of the mechanical world and the industrial revolution, it inspired the shape and line which manifests its aesthetic.  

The humans within the play try to force the natural course of life by formulating boundaries and continually persisting with love to get their own way. They are more mechanical cognitively, feeling the need to have an element of control, and therefore try to shape nature in this way. Though these traits are evident within the fairies actions, I feel that for the humans this behaviour is taken a lot more seriously than with the fairies who see it more playfully and have a more light-hearted approach to the circumstance they create.

This is a good example of an art deco piece, its strong, angular, straight and symmetrical lines and mechanic influence are evident. It is this style of art which will influence the humans costume designs.

It gives the viewer an understanding of the pattern and shapes, particularly the way curves can be incorporated and still work when used within this style, it also gives an indication of how it can be adapted for promotional use.

Another piece which strongly embodies the art deco style is this..

The symmetry and combination of shapes is what I envision as art deco this is what the design of my characters within the human world will be based upon.

The two styles also represent the lifestyles each group leads, the fairies although they have differences of role and status seem to fulfil their duties fairly easily, whereas the humans seem to constantly struggle against restraints of their position in society. For this reason the costumes of the fairies will be designed as elegant yet comfortable and free flowing and humans clothing will be more restrictive.

The fairies attire for females will be based on a fashion house called Boue Soeurs which was founded in 1899 and survived until around the 1930's. Their clothing style was known for its hand made lace, metallic theatrical fabric and delicate embellishment of flowers and ribbon.. subsequently they  became very popular. Here is an example of their works and their style.

As you can see, this style is relatable to that of the fairies, for me anyway, this is how I imagine they'd be dressed. Also as the project has to be historically accurate, this style gives me the most freedom to experiment for these characters using a more theatrical approach.

The main aspects which I will use as influence from these makers, are  firstly the use silk satin which gives the costumes an elegance and a delicate/plush feel to it reflecting the fairies love of affluence. The use of lace to embellish the dresses adding a delicate touch to the design. And finally the introduction of decoration using fabric creations of natural forms, for them they create flowers out of ribbon.

This will allow me to allocate different measures of each of these details for each character to show their status within their world, and the inspiration for their costumes in terms of natural material used, for example, cobwebs, moths wings etc.

Within design, the characters of each world which are most effected by these influences, will be dressed with each style emphasised or reduced so their role, mindset and their freedom is evident through their attire.

The colour palette for the fairies will be  mixture of colours depending on their characters. As mentioned the fairies use materials from insects to construct their world, including their attire. For this reason, their clothes will be coloured to suit the animal they're made from. For example, one of the fairies I'm designing for is Moth one of Titania, the Queen of the fairies servant/helper.. I collected images of moths which I found the most visually interesting and chose the one which caught my eye the most.

From these, I chose this image as the colours for me are the most beautiful out of the images collected and for me related to my idea of the moth most out of all of them.

As moths are nocturnal creatures, coming out at night I wanted a darker hue to the colour and the pop of the electric blue attracts the eye it bringing out its beauty. They are mysterious in my opinion and illusive which influences me into thinking this character is fairly serious and discreet, but still strong as an individual in relation to the dark tones of the wings

The fairies, as previously stated are known to use genuine animal parts for their own needs such as the wings of a moth like this one. This made me far more interested in the character as it meant I had to take the exact pattern and shape into consideration and as an individual who loves anything to do with textiles and it's varied techniques, this made me increasingly excited to take up the challenge, until I gave in and chose this characters costume as the design I'd like to make.

I began by constructing 1920's underwear for my model, this was done by cutting a bra on the stand, and her briefs were taken from a flat pattern block which was drawn out and then made wider using the cut and spread technique.

Once I was happy with the shape and style, I then constructed calico garments from these patterns to make sure they were a good size to fit my model.

I felt very happy and relieved after the fitting as I had been worried about the bra's construction. I wasn't sure how accurate the cups would be as I'd done it on the stand and translating this to the body could have been a challenge. But from thinking of ways I could have altered the construction to make it more fitted, I began to realise that I didn't want undergarments which were boned or restricting to the model, it went against the fairies ethos and I felt a softer approach would be far more comfortable for the wearer. Some minor alterations were marked out and we agreed on the length of the straps. I assured she was comfortable with the cut and shape of the garment before I went ahead and began making the final garment.

I could then begin to experiment with dying fabric to match the colours of the moth, this took a LONG time about 2 days in total to get the correct colours with a diverse range of sample colours collected over this period. The fabric I'd chosen for the briefs was silk/satin replicating the fabric of Boue Soeurs, the bra on the other hand had to be slightly more sturdy so for this I used a dupion silk.

In doing this I came to the decision that the colour palette for this dress would go from khaki green/golden brown - dark brown - light teal blue - electric blue. These are the colours chosen from the samples collected over the full course of sample dying.

During this period I also began experimenting on ways I could merge the colours similar to that of the Moth wing above, to create a seamless transition between each one. This became a continuous challenge as I experimented several different ways I could succeed in this effect. I used dip dying, laying a long strip of fabric over several jugs and waiting for the dye to run up the fabric and merge into each other, hanging dyes fabric from elastic bands and clips and waiting for a darker colour to run upwards overlaying the base colour and simply dunking fabric into the jugs and hoping they would merge..
Here are some images showing this development.

Reflecting on this period, it was pretty frustrating, but not in terms of experimentation when figuring out the transition of colour through the fabric as I enjoyed playing with the different techniques, I mean in getting the correct colours, each shade only getting fractionally closer to the desired result at a time, and this applied to all four colours, but I guess it was worth it as the shades I managed to create and the similarity they had to the moth itself could only have been achieved through constant persistence and determination.

In the end I miraculously managed to create a smooth finish to the placement of dye through simply dunking the large pieces of fabric into the separate dye jugs! This seemed like such a simple answer to a problem I'd spent all that time trying to work out, but in the end  it worked just as well as allowing the colour to bleed into each other naturally.
Looking back, I don't know how I managed to get the dye to merge as well as it did.. but I won't complain, little miracles. Here is an example of the finished panels used for my briefs.

My favourite effect this technique had, was that the lines aren't straight between each colour which imitates the pattern on the wing of the moth, it gives it a more natural and genuine feel to the garment. I like that when the shorts are constructed, the line will be different on each panel creating a spontaneity which would be difficult to recreate using other techniques. I could then begin to  cut and sew the pieces together to get a basic shape for the briefs.

One criticism I had was that the colours weren't exactly the same from panel to panel, some parts were marginally lighter, I'm not sure whether I like this or not, but I can take into account the effects of dying fabric in this way in future so I achieve a more continuous colour palette throughout. I think more attention to the exact time frame would be beneficial and something I could have payed more attention to during this process.

I could now begin adding the lace to the panels and finishing the garment off completely.

I followed the same method when constructing the bra, simply cutting out the pattern in the dyed fabric and hand sewing the lace onto each panel which required it, although for the lace on the cups, I used appliqué and hand sewed some of the flowers onto blue fabric and then sewed it onto the bra to give it a more textured feel.

Midsummer Nights Dream 1920's Underwear for Moth.. All hand dyed and constructed.. Suuuuuper Happy :)!

I couldn't be happier about how this underwear was put together, I feel it's my favourite garment I've made as it's the first design I created and constructed myself including dying and embellishing it. Makes me infinitely excited to finish the rest of the dress!

I could then move onto the outer garments which go underneath the overdress, there is a petticoat and a pannier which had to be constructed to achieve the same shape that the Boué Soeurs sisters created. For this, I looked through their images and found one which showed how the understructure was formed.

From this one of my tutors and myself figured out how to create the pattern for this garment, we also chose the fabric and agreed that crib steals would be blessed used for this garment to hold the weight of the dress up.

Once the fabric came I was extremely excited as it replicated the light and pearlescent tints which are evident within the style of the sisters, although, when I began to cut into the fabric I found that it frayed a ridiculous amount in a very short amount of time. At first I tried to be positive about the garment and my ability to construct a pannier out of this very frail material. But as I made the dress, it became clear that I may need to re-make the whole thing in other fabric which wasn't so temperamental and that putting steals in it may be near impossible to do. I took a breather and re-thought about the process of making this garment and realised, again, that timing was the issue. I then made the decision to risk wasting more time by creating a second garment out of the same fabric but attempting to hem and finish it within a very short amount of time to limit the extent it could fray. To my relief it worked! Through much deliberation over using crin steals, rigilene and boning, we came to the agreement that two rows of corset boning would work best for this purpose. It's light weight, strong and slim so can easily be fitted through channels imitating the picture above.

Once again, persistence and trust that it would turn out ok was the key to successfully constructing this piece. I feel I could have worked at the seems better and finish it more neatly, but as I mentioned, speed was an issue, maybe I was too fast and was focussing on making it quickly to reduce fraying, another thing to be aware of next time, I'm just happy in the confidence this will work as a support to hold the dress up in the way I imagined.. I am going to add support underneath each end of the bones with ribbon to strengthen these points as they will undergo the most strain. Other than that the final result of this dress is a good one and I can now focus on the toile of the overdress. This will test the durability of the pannier..

I'd already written my character analysis' for each one I'm designing for and I was pretty happy with the standard they'd been written. But today, as I went over them properly, I found them to be fairly bland and to lack the depth of each character which I would ideally like to illustrate. I found that I'd explained their role within the plot, and my perspective of how the circumstances effected each character, and then went deeper into the reasons I thought were behind each characters actions.
   But I found I hadn't explained fully their viewpoint, how other people saw them, how they treated people around them, their emotional state, their mannerisms, hobbies, skills, relationship status, intelligence, self esteem, motivation, fears, loves.. These are things which characterise a person. Their actions are how these traits have altered their decision making process in the actions they take. I should be writing about the their emotional state apposed to the reactions from this.

Here is an example of how I would change my analysis. Here is the one I'd previously written about Queen Titania.

"Titania (Queen of the fairies)

As the Queen of the fairies she is elegant, strong and self assertive. She takes this role seriously as she has a crucial role in overseeing the change in nature and assuring each season arrives as it should. She understands the implications that this role has on every living creature.

For this reason she is known for becoming incredibly fiery if this control is jeopardized. With her husband, Oberon, this task has been interrupted by their many quarrels one of the reasons being her newly adopted son and his wishes to take him from her. She decides to distance herself from Oberon as he is a distraction to her and has also been unfaithful. This circumstance has allowed her to become very aware of situations around her due to the destructive aftermath from not continuously maintaining her effect on nature.
Though serious due to her position, she’s also known for her spirited nature when it comes to fairy dances/parties where she becomes carefree and merry. Rumors which circulate within fairyland give an insight into the aloof attitude towards indelicate recreational activities which transpire there.
Her caring persona is evident through her title, and this is heightened when she becomes spellbound, falling in love with Nick Bottom, she assures he’s cared for at every moment. Though, this encouraged her to take advantage of her position as she uses her resource of servants and their harvest of natures products to cater to him, even pulling the wings off butterflies to shade him. This implies that although she cares for the growth of nature, she sees this as an excuse to take from it what she wishes."

With this one especially, I felt I hadn't properly established her role within fairyland.
With additional thought to her character.. I began to alter my perspective of their entire race. As individuals they are pretty ruthless.
  In terms of Titania's mindset, I now find she is a woman who loves power, she uses her role of controlling the seasons as an excuse to take from nature what she chooses, caring not for the material she protects. The power she has may be effecting her in more ways than one? The weather is incredibly forceful.. could this be taking a tole on her being?
It's a known fact that weather effects our mood, so could this be having a long term effect on her? Her mind could have been altered by this continual change in atmosphere around her, warping her perspective, this confusion paired with the power this role gives her is a dangerous concoction.

But, back to the point about her taking advantage of the life-force she is working to protect. This just doesn't make sense to me. She works continually to protect nature and allows it to change smoothly, yet takes from it what she wishes for her own personal gain.  The fairies, as mentioned in the quote above, work against nature, fighting the animals and insects to use their wings, produce, fur.. They destroy what they support themselves on, it reflects how we as humans are gradually killing the world around us, exhausting the earths resources. Will the land the fairies live from one day turn on them too?

It's made clear that this mentality is infectious, as while Bottom is in her company, he asks of the servants to  kill bumblebees in order to supply him with their honey.. could the fairies all be brainwashed into thinking this behaviour is acceptable, almost spellbound into this mentality.
Exhibition Visit
On the 4th April, I visited the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A Museum in London..

When I walked in, I didn't know what to expect, I knew only of the beauty of his designs and how renowned he was, I just knew it couldn't be missed. Other than this I had no other knowledge of his life, the process he used to make his works, or what made him captivating to such a wide audience.

When I walked out.. all of these answers became clear..
Immediately after, I knew I'd experienced something which had changed my perspective of the fashion world.. completely. This is what I took from the exhibition;

In my eyes, this was a man who was totally un-afraid to explore the raw - darkness within himself and explore it to it's full capability in terms of creativity. He chose to explore concepts which moved him to a point where emotion and experimentation became intertwined, so his pieces are a documentation of his reaction and reflection of certain events/movements/periods which effected him throughout his life. His works are used to convey powerful messages in a way which would hit the audience, he wanted the audience to react to his work as he reacted to the concept he was trying to portray, allowing them to understand his emotional perspective. Now. This was my initial reaction I got immediately after I left the exhibition.

The next day I took the train back to Scarborough, and travel time has always been thinking time for me, it's where I process information. I've known since the beginning of this course that what would be ideal for me, is a course which combined the construction and fundamental theory behind costume, but which had the experimental and conceptual aspects that a fine art degree has. And this had been presented to me right in the face. I think to say I can relate to him is too strong, and also very pretentious, but I think it's respectful to say I feel like I understand him,to a certain extent at least, and the way he worked.
    One of the key points about this artist - people can call him a fashion designer all they want, but he is definitely an artist - is that his approach to fashion is so different from any other designer I've seen before. I feel that most people look at fashion like this;

Fashion designer wants to create dresses of style 'x' + using 'x' concept = a collection which is influenced by a style/period/concept but the focus is on the construction of the dresses and their use as a garment.

This is a fine way of working, but it pushes the concept into the background and pushes the audience to think the concept is just a way for the designer to achieve a certain look of the dress.

This is where McQueen switches this algorithm, in his work;

Fashion designer wants to convey concept 'x' and his reaction to it + creates dresses of style 'x' to achieve this = a collection which is totally connected to the concept
- the concept builds the dresses, not the other way around.

Another point which I picked up on, was that in self reflection, I tend to soften the content of my work to suit a particular audience, as though I don't want to upset/offend. But I think a lot of times I could be missing the fundamental point of a piece by avoiding the harsh realities. There is noting wrong with exploring the darker content of concepts as long as it is understandable and has a genuine and meaningful message. That is my opinion anyway. Actually, I think exploring these things to their full extent is absolutely essential to get a point across. There is no point in putting a message across if you're only going to go half way with it.. If you want to send a message, allow it to be heard!
This is something I need to take into serious consideration.

These are things which I have taken away from this experience and I found this will be extremely helpful when creating garments/concepts.

I then began to think back to my own work and think deeper about the message I was trying to convey to my audience and began to connect the dots within my work on how different aspects of the play related to the approach I've chosen.

These are the analysis's I made.. Additionally, my interpretation of the play had been established earlier, but during this time I simply refined it.
Here are the notes I took;

"Titania’s queen of the fairies mind has been warped from years of maintaining and generating the change of seasons within nature. As the weather is known to change our moods, this effect has had a long term effect on her mentality. This has been emphasized by her position as Queen of the fairies, paired with the power she holds and her seemingly boundless abilities has given her a sense of invincibility. Subsequently, she now uses her power to fulfill her greed, feeling the need to take from nature what she chooses with no empathy towards the animals and plant life she kills to attain them. The feeling of being untouchable has blinded her from seeing what the result of this behavior will be, the natural world could become depleted. Unfortunately, her power is so influential that the other fairies within her reign have attained this mentality indirectly, just by being in her presence. She envelops all those around her into thinking in the same way, but not in a way she is aware of, until all the fairies are poisoned by a need to take what they want. It forces them into thinking they can play god and manipulate other creatures in any way they wish, even for their own amusement.
are the other fairies patriotic or brainwashed?

what was their original mentality before it was warped?

does this effect humans who enter into their territory?

Within the play script, the humans are related to the art deco ethos in that they are restricted to the rigid structure of nature in it’s basic form, they do not have the ability to change and manipulate their environment as the fairies do through magic, in this way they are far more mechanical and restricted, much like the linear form within the art deco style. Additionally, they also make their own boundaries for each other, dictating who can love who and limiting the choices each of them have.

The humans are more mechanical cognitively, feeling the need to have an element of control, and therefore try to shape nature in this way. Though these traits are evident within the fairies actions, I feel that for the humans this behavior is taken a lot more seriously than with the fairies who see it more playfully and have a more light-hearted approach to the circumstance they create.

The humans rehearsing their play all have specific roles to portray within it, this restricts their actions limiting their influence. The only actor who steps over his mark is Nick Bottom, he goes beyond accepting his own roles and wants to take ownership of everybody else's, this attitude is more characteristic of the fairies. This is interesting as he is the one Puck, the most mischievous of the fairies, chooses to mutate into having the head of a donkey, he could have chosen him due to the attitude he has and it’s similarity to his own.. It’s also interesting as while he is in this state, he also learns to adapt to the fairies way of thinking very easily and ultimately out of the whole experience, enjoys this aspect of their world the most. he is the focus of attention and is waited on hand and foot - he can command the fairies to do as he wishes.

The fairies are more like art nouveau in the same way that art nouveau was an influence for the masses, its influence spread far and almost stated what is fashionable, although only the higher classes could attain genuine artifacts.

This relates to the fairies way of working as only they can attain the things they want from nature, yet their influence is great and can effect people who aren’t within this circle, influencing them into their way of thinking. They also relate more the the fluidity of the art nouveau style due to the way they can so easily manipulate the world around them giving them the freedom to control nature as they please.

Nick Bottom should have elements of art nouveau in his costume to reflect this fact he resembles the characteristics of the fairies and to illustrate their control over his perception.

art nouveau was an extension of the arts and crafts movement, which was a rebellion against the repetition, un-originality and mechanical state of the industrial revolution, they wanted to make items which were hand crafted and beautifully made from skillful artists.. art nouveau didn’t follow the fundamental ethos of its attitude towards the industrial revolution.. it advanced the style and created something materialistic.

the fairies have the same attitude towards nature.. they would have previously had an appreciation for the nature they protected but they then when titania got infected through her influence on the weather and how it altered her mentality, this changed the fairies perspective, almost moving them into the art nouveau mentality.

so to put it plainly, they began with good intentions, much like the arts and crafts movement but changed their perspective into the art nouveau perspective through titania’s influence."

Comment Stream

3 years ago

Has the art deco movement inspired the colour palette at all ?

2 years ago

I was interested in your comments on Alexander MacQueen, but wondered if they were in conflict with the love of art nouveau? In one you say concept should be the leader but didn't the other propound that form should dictate?