A Dress for 1914, January

So, I was teaching myself about gradient dyeing…. I wanted to create a dress for Neil Gaiman’s Calendar of Tales, from his January story. This is 1914’s dress. If you haven’t read his stories, or heard about his project, you need to! No really, check this out, right now. I’m not posting a full image of the dress here, because I want the final image to be a bit of a surprise…

My objective for the dress was to imitate the styles shown in Downton Abbey, the season 1 dresses at least, because they were mostly set in that time.

I’m not entirely satisfied with this dress. Its a beautiful dress (if I may say so myself!) but its not the effect I was going for in the end. To me, it looks more disney princess than anything else. I think my problem is mostly that I used two such contrasting colors. Most dresses from the time stuck to one color family. However, The Man Himself specified 1914’s long white skirt, and, well, I didn’t want to do an all white dress because it’d feel too wedding dress-y. And I was in the mood to try something new, I’d been reading about ombre dyeing and I wanted to try it myself.

The dyeing went wonderfully! That was also half the problem. My original plan was to have an over dress of the white chiffon that toned down the darkest purple on the bodice. But that shade of purple was just so beautiful, and the chiffon wasn’t as transparent as I wanted it to be, so ended up not doing a full over dress.

I think if I’d had more time I could have added a lot more embroidery, and that would have been truer to the 1914s super elaborate styles and fashions. If I could have added some beading and heavy embroidery to the skirt, I think it would have been perfect.

Gradient dyeing was definitely fun, and an effect I plan to use again in the future.

We had the photo shoot for the project last thursday. The picture is from when we were preparing for the shoot, we were gathered in the lobby of a local building, and my glove was feeling rather contrary (Photo by Kelsey, a gorgeous model)….


This photo is of the scene in January, when 1914 greets 2012 in the place where years go when they’re over. In the background, you can see several of the other years hanging out, enjoying life beyond time.


The photography was done by Sonja of Soulfire Studios ( facebook , tumblr ). Isn’t it fantastic? Everything feels magical and sort of timeless. (My favorite part is how she got the color of the water to actually match my dress, haha).

2012 is modeled by Matthew Sumner, of Beat Down Boogie.

I think my favorite part of this project is that I didn’t even know half the people I was working with when it all started. I just decided “Hey, I want to do this. I won’t be able to pull it off alone, so I should find some other people who want to do this.” And I sent out a bat signal, and friend of friends of friends responded. And this happened. And it was fantastic. Love of art and love of neil gaiman collide, and cool things happen.

I chose to work with the January story for several reasons. One of the easiest reasons is because it was one of the only stories where clothing was mentioned, and I wanted to sew something fantastic and fun. It was also the most Gaiman-esque story in my opinion. It left so much open, there are so many more stories just aching to be told. One year, one lifetime, second by second, battling a fight…

Anyways, this is the dress I imagine 1914 would be wearing. I copied a style similar to what fashion was like historically during that time, with a high waist, straight skirt, and lots of embellishments But I took a few liberties of my own, of course…

I also very much liked the imagery of sand trickling through an hourglass, and I tried to incorporate that theme in as many places as I could. The main fabric of the dress is gradient dyed, going from a deep midnight purple at the top and fading to timeless white. The embroidery on the bodice echoes that transition, and the shape of falling grains of sand. The beading in the back train of the dress does the same, individual beads trickling away like seconds of time.


Gaiman builds an image at one point in the story, the final grain of sand caught in the hourglass, the final second of Twelve’s time… One grain of sand per a second, for a year. I’d like to say there are as many beads on this dress as seconds in a year… But I did the math, and that comes out to be 31,536,000. Thirty one million, five hundred thirty six thousand seconds, in a normal year. (I wonder if the personalities of leap years are different? See, there’s a whole new story someone could write within this story…)

There aren’t that many beads on this dress, but there are probably a good couple of thousand.

Edited at 1:26pm local time (which happens to be 5:26pm GMT): Actually, I missed submission time by TWENTY SIX MINUTES. FML. Stupid Greenwich Mean Time. Also curiously appropriate, given my mental meanderings on the meaning of seconds, and time, etc etc. *sigh* Oh well. such is life.