Making the Dragon Vest

One of the pieces from my TAKA show actually originated from another project, but it fit seamlessly into the TAKA collection. The Dragon Vest (shown here in a grey suiting material) underwent a few transformations before its final form.

Model: Alaina DeBellevue wearing the Dragon Vest and Mountain Tank Top at the RAW: Impact show in Denver.

Model: Alaina DeBellevue wearing the Dragon Vest and Mountain Tank Top at the RAW: Impact show in Denver.

Back in October I participated in an art challenge called Inktober, where the goal is to draw something everyday following a list of prompts. In an effort to hone my sketching skills and to accrue a bank of ideas, I decided on doing a fashion sketch everyday.

One of the prompts was “prickly”, and the garment that I drew was a dress that had an armor-like feel with a spiky sleeve that looked like scales. After the challenge was over,I chose 10 sketches from Inktober to then make into real garments. This was one of them.

I went through an editing process to make the prickly dress more ready-to-wear. I kept the basic silhouette of the dress, but chose to move the scale detail to the shoulders and back, and removed the sleeve. This then went through another editing process, and it became a vest with the same placement of the scales.

After I figured out the form of the vest, I set to work on some fabric studies. I wanted to use origami as a technique, which at the end of the day was fancy pleating and folding. I used some basic cotton muslin to test out my technique, and was very pleased with the initial results.

I drew a grid on the wrong side of my fabric using tailors chalk, and marked using slashes or exes, where I would gather the points. This technique is essentially smocking, each “cell” was pulled by hand. The real magic occurs when the cells get pressed into scales. This required me to pre-fold the scale into the right position, then using the point of a knitting needle to hold it in place, I pressed the scale. It was imperative that I got a clean and crisp press.

I made two small panels using this technique (wow was it time-consuming!) and used them as epaulets. I skipped the back panel, as the join would have looked off, and honestly, I didn’t want to fold more scales yet…

In the meantime, I drafted, sewed, and lined the vest itself. I then tacked the shoulders into place and machine sewed them on. The only thing that I somewhat regret is that I sewed the scales down on the vest for fear that they wouldn’t hold their shape. I wish I had kept them more free.

Overall, I am very happy with how this piece turned out, and would be happy to use this technique in future projects! If you’d like a custom dragon vest, or other garment, please contact me, and we can chat!