Laurence Li, Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Photo Credit: CP Saw
For this year's contest theme of "Renewal", I was inspired by old majolica tiles from Taiwan. They are a kind of colorful glazed tile, in use from 1920 to 1935. Originally manufactured in Victorian England, these tiles add a pop of color to house exteriors, and are easier and cheaper to manufacture than traditional Chinese decorations (such as carvings and 3D mosaic). Under Japanese colonial rule, Japan exported large amounts of these majolica tiles to Taiwan, with designs based off of Victorian tiles.
Wealthy families would decorate their facades with these tiles, application ranging from a solid wall of tiles to a couple of strategically arranged "statement tiles" for those less moneyed.
Use of majolica tiles ceased with the outbreak of WWII, as the Japanese diverted their manufacturing towards the war effort. Thus, these tiles are only seen on old Taiwanese buildings from that period, and are in danger of extinction as old buildings are torn down for development. Inspired by the preservation efforts of the Museum of Old Taiwan Tiles (@tilesmuseum on IG), I hope my entry can “renew” new interest in this fascinating piece of decorative art.
The latticed closure of my stays form diamond-shaped tiles, with a cherry-blossom-patterned stomacher made from kimono fabric representing Japanese influence. Cherry blossoms, which bloom in the spring, also symbolize renewal.
The main body of my stays is gray, referencing gray concrete often found on old buildings. The stays are then mounted on a brick-colored chemise dress, tying the whole ensemble up with Georgian flair.
Mood board: https://pin.it/qkycctrco3ndb4
I used a pattern for 1760s-style stays that I drafted myself, based off of “Patterns of Fashion 5” and supplementary instructions from Emma Brackenbury’s MA thesis (I participated in the testing of the instructions in the thesis). There are four panels in the pattern, and I added a latticed front closure, stomacher, and shoulder straps later. This was the first time I had drafted a corset from scratch by myself, and it took me five mock-ups to get a decent fit.
I decided to deviate from historical construction methods for this entry because it wasn’t wholly supposed to be historically accurate. So I used double layer welt-seam construction, with a cotton coutil as the base layer and linen for the outer. The boning channels were sewn by machine after assembling the panels, then 5 mm plastic zip ties were cut and filed to size and slid in. I also opted for metal grommets for a more modern look.
The stomacher is made from one layer of grey linen, one layer of coutil, and a fashion layer of deadstock kimono fabric that was given to me because it was faded around the edges.
The tabs are bound with bias tape made from the linen fashion fabric and stitched by hand, first with backstitches from the front and then whip-stitches on the back.
The stays are worn over a linen dress loosely based on the chemise à la reine that I drafted myself, which has hidden drawstrings in the neckline, underbust, and waist.
Cotton coutil, plain-weave linen (remnant from shop), vintage deadstock kimono fabric, 5 mm plastic zip ties, 8 mm metal grommets, large brass hooks and eyes, 7 mm cotton tape (lacing), double-faced satin ribbon
What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?
This is my third year entering the contest, and the main difference this year was that Chinese New Year (major holiday here) fell BEFORE the contest and so I had to scramble to get my supplies before all the shops closed for a week. And also I spent my entire CNY holiday putting together my entry. It was stressful, I won’t deny it, but it also allowed me to work dedicatedly on one project, which pushed me out of the creative rut that I’ve been in for a while. The contest is an excellent way to practice design skills, how to execute your vision, and (for me) also pushes me to research more, which I found enjoyable. To someone who’s thinking about entering, I’d say DO IT if you like to make fresh new things! But just don’t put it off until the last minute like I did. Therein lies procrastination and regret.