One of the worst things that could happen at a prom is turning up in the same outfit as someone else. You just know that people will be playing a game of “who wore it better” the entire night. With the stakes high to look your best and unique, many students turn to a tailor or to the internet to find something that will net them Best Dressed of the night. I turned to my sewing machine, to create a dress that would represent all seven years of my life at King George V School.
Sewing has been a huge part of my life since I was 11; I received my sewing machine for my 15th birthday. I used it to create my dress – a rich tapestry of symbols and illustrations that depict moments shared between my classmates and I.
To commemorate our Challenge Week trip to Mongolia in 2014, a trip where I finally overcame my homesickness, I drew the ger, a traditional Mongolian tent, we had slept in. We stayed there for three nights, in the cold, without electricity or a toilet that flushed. I included musical notations, too, to reference the music that has shaped my secondary school life. There were also images that represented events I’d been involved in, like the Hong Kong Charity Pedal Kart Grand Prix and the Hong Kong Award for Young People, and local cuisine like pineapple buns and dim sum.
I chose to make the dress in a satin in Pantone’s Spring 2013 colour, Lemon Zest, a colour popular in Proenza Schouler’s Resort 2017 collection. The shape was inspired by Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Spring 2017 ready-to-wear collection for Dior, and Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection, while and the cursive prints were a reflection of Dolce and Gabbana’s Autumn 2017 ready-to-wear line.
At first, I had no idea where to begin. My dress would require plastic boning, and steel wiring. I even tried to duct-tape my outfit to give me the shape I wanted, which went about as well as you’d expect (horribly). I turned to pre-existing dresses and outfits that already have those things and examined how they were put together, and I sought the advice of my textiles teacher, Melanie Walton.
The dress was made up of 10 meters of fabric, took more than 100 hours to put together, and cost around HK$1,000 (and a lot of sweat and tears!) to produce and print. Still, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Anyone who wants to do create something truly special for their own big event should keep the structure as simple as possible, Walton says.
“Try to work with fabrics you have had experience with,” she says. “Make a toile to check your fitting before working with potentially expensive fabrics.” A toile is an early version of the finished outfit made up in a cheap material. Have, she adds, “a good solid grounding in how garments are actually constructed, how fabrics react in certain situations, and the ability to use a sewing machine with skill”.
My dress was a lot of hard work, but I was rewarded for it – on prom night, I won Best Dressed Girl, an award that I’d dreamed of winning since I was 10. The recognition gave me a huge boost of confidence.
There’s a saying that goes “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. My time making this dress definitely lived up to that saying, and I’m glad I persevered through my duct-tape disaster. The one thing I will take away from this experience (apart from a truly special dress) is to always keep experimenting, and always keep trying. I hope my fellow wannabe designers out there will do the same!
Edited by Ginny Wong
tags: prom, prom dress, King George V School, KGV, fashion, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Proenza Schouler, Dolce and Gabbana, Cherie Chun