Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Samurai Ballerina

I am one of 10 fashion designers competing in the "Beyond the Armor" fashion challenge sponsored by the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Garment Guild.  We were given a private tour of the facinating "Beyond the Armor" Samurai exhibit at the DIA, and challenged to design garments inspired by what we learned and saw.

Here is my final design!

I was inspired by 'Reeds and Cranes," a silk painted folding screen painted by Suzuki Kiitsu.  He was trained by a powerful Samurai artist named Sakai Hoitsu, who adopted him and elevated him to the elite Samurai class. 


Samurai culture is full of rich symbolism, and the crane is a powerful image that can mean many things.  The Samurai warrior learned about facing death bravely by watching cranes, who appear calm and fearless when attached by an enemy. Cranes are a symbol of longevity and soaring spirit.  They are also considered good luck in marriage because they mate for life.  I kept these ideas in mind when I sketched the initial design for my "Crane Dress."

Crane Dress Sketch

I used kozo, a natural fiber used in traditional Japanese papermaking, to create the "armor" bodice of the dress.  The fiber must be cooked and beaten with a mallet before sculpting.  I added gold leaf and a wash of sheer metallic paint after sculpting.

The dress is made from a vintage wedding dress that I re-shaped and lined to create a halter top silhouette with gold chain trim.

I designed the Crane Dress specifically for a talented dancer named Destiny.  I was inspired by the Samurai practice of balancing"bun" (arts) and "bu" (war).  This reminded me of the beautiful blend of strength and grace in ballet, as well as the delicate power of the crane. 

Here is the final result!

*****Don't forget, vote "Bridget Sullivan, #8" here!*****

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