Concept: the Black Opal Outfit
~ An outfit signifying an event. A concept which takes inspiration from the local area. Fashion which incorporates contemporary looks in a fun way. Items which could be re-styled and re-used. An outfit which would still be comfortable long after the main event. An outfit which would be thoughtful, inspirational and memorable.~
Just a small brief from Emma!
For me - the best kind of brief. Concept outfits - allowing thought, creativity and symbolism - with the process not the prize as the primary goal, is music to my ears.
When you get a brief like like this, it allows fashion to become art with a story, or an idea, or a feeling. By not being too proscriptive, ideas which aren't working or looks which don't suit the wearer can be rethought on the run. It allows you to work with someone, to understand their body shape and posture and preferences, while also focusing on the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve with your outfit.
It allows you to tell a story.
The Black Opal Stakes.
Held in Canberra, the race was started in 1973, as a lead-up to the Golden Slipper in Sydney, a major highlight of the Autumn racing calendar. At a beautiful track on the outskirts of the city, not far past the Civic centre, the Black Opal Stakes now features as part of a social two-day carnival for locals and visitors alike. As well as the racing, a highlight is the fashion of the women, men - and children! - who grace the track over the two days, bringing colour and a range of autumn styles during a weekend which can be unpredictable when it comes to weather.
The Black Opal Outfit.
The starting point, colour-wise, was the black opal. New South Wales produces the majority of Australia's opals by value, and is best known for the black opal, most of which are from the Lightning Ridge area, in northern NSW. Black Opals are rare, have dark undertones and are renowned for their vibrancy. The fabric used for the Outfit symbolised this - it was a patterned material on a black base to represent the dark undertones, with a lively blue and pink pattern over to represent the vibrant opal colours.
The other factor influencing the choice of the material was the pattern, a subtle floral design. Florals were very popular on the overseas catwalks in the lead-up to 2020, and we expected them to become even more popular as the year went on. Fashion and creations are not about always trying to be different from everyone else - rather, if something trending is joyous or appeals to you or necessary for your designs, think about how you can put your own unique spin on it. Nothing wrong with wearing florals if everyone else is - but do it because it works for you and your ideas and look.....not just because, florals.
The outfit itself was a combination of desire, design and practicality. Emma wanted a cape. I have been wanting to do some capes ever since my mother in the 70s designed (and won a competititon in) a cape dress. Floating off the European runways had been ruffles, A-line dresses, whimsy and shapes which we felt could be made not into a cape dress, but a stand-alone dress WITH a cape. In particular, we decided on a more structured baby-doll style sleeveless dress with a ruffled above-knee hem, and a matching cape with a large collar which could be worn either up or down, secured by a long velvet bow. Not only would this be a nod to current fashion trends, but it would be a practical solution to the variable Canberra weather, as the cape could be thrown back or removed altogether if the temperatures rose. Furthermore, by having two separate pieces, Emma now had other options for her outfits, such as adding the cape over a simple black or pink dress or pants, or wearing the dress with different accessories. #sustainability [and that simple idea had the last laugh - see footnote below]
A last minute addition was the blue striped edge which demarcated the sides of the cape. Using the same fabric as the blue lining, it added more clarity to the outfit, especially when photographed. [If you are making an outfit for someone who will be photographed in it, make sure you factor this into the design process. No matter how beautiful, disappointment will ensue if you can't see the work or efforts that have been made]
The finishing touch with this outfit was the beautiful cloche hat made at lightning speed ('lightning ridge speed'??!!) by Jade of Canberra-based @sovata_fashion_ millinery. The cloche, never out of fashion in countries like Austria, is slowly creeping back into popularity here again and we expect to see quite a few different takes on cloches and outfits to match in the coming months. <photos: Wendell Teodoro @wendellt>
The final brief? Comfort. No matter how simple or difficult the concept, fashion isn't fun if you can't be looking good from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave. It was.
Footnote: Six weeks later, Emma reworked existing items in her wardrobe - using the Black Opal dress as her starting point - to enter the Australia/NZ wide Virtual FOTF competition. She won Week 3 of the competition against over 150 entries. Her win showed that thoughtful design and sustainable re-use can still be at the forefront of fashion looks and trends.
<Dress: @fitoure_mode. Headpiece and blouse: @sovata_fashion_millinery. Photographer: @stuart_steenbergen>