I think I ended up refering to this as “Conceptual Muppet Show”.
I wasn’t entirely sold when Glyn sent me the original reference but when am I ever going to turn him down? Especially when it’s this level of batshit. It’s so nonsensical, it makes perfect sense. The idea is based on this Maison Margiela Artisanal Fall 2009 number, my research only turned up a few mentions to this and refered to it as a Caterpillar Coat. It’ll come as no surprise that I’m a massive fan of MMM, the bonkers the better. Working this out on a budget was the biggest challenge.
Using marabou would have been the obvious choice but I’ve found I don’t like new feathers anymore (or feathers at all if I can help it) plus it’s very £££££. I got around this by using 25 of those expanding scarves. You know the ones, they can stretch to become a cowl or a (very small) strapless dress. The guy in the shop was so curious as to why I wanted so many and in these colours, I ended up drawing him a picture. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone in there with an obscure shopping list, they’ve become an important part of my “network”, not least because they always say “are you sure you don’t need gaffa tape?” and I ALWAYS need gaffa tape.
Once I had these sorted I could start working out the frame. It’s basically a rucksack with the bag part cut off and a curtain rod. I make that sound like it was obvious and I had it done in an hour but no. The scarves were a bit heavier than I anticipated so it took a few tries with bamboo rods (too weak), wire (too bendy) until I settled on the metal curtain rod. To secure it to the body, I considered using a wire frame that sat over the shoulders but it seemed too much work when a rucksack did pretty much the same job. Yes, it looks ugly but it was covered by yet another scarf so who would ever know?
The rod attaches via wide loops of calico on the rucksack. To stop the rod slipping right through the loops, I hammered the part in the loop flat once it was in and made a stopper of tape where the rod exited. The scarves were stitched onto a 2 strips of heavy calico, one for each side, with one row of stitching attaching the scarves and another creating a tunnel for the rod. It’s easier than it sounds. I ran a row of stitches closer to the fold for the rod to pass through. Then I opened it up, placed the ends of the scarves onto the edge of the calico strip with a good inch overlap, then folded the calico back over and stitched that down. The second part involved a lot of wrestling with 12 scarves, trying to get them to stay put while convincing the cats that this was not a fun game I’d forgotten to invite them to play.
After all that, I fed the calico onto the rods, hand stitched them to the rucksack at the loops and other strategic (random) points. I covered the rucksack with a scarf, handstitched that in place then had a drink. The concept of a frame like this isn’t entirely new but after this, I have a lot of respect for anyone tackling these shapes. Bob Mackie’s Gone with the Wind-inspired curtain dress for Carol Burnett is pretty well-known and references to this pop up quite a bit. In fact, at the December Ball *Tracey Ermine turned up in this …..
*Margate-based performer and all round great human being.
Needless to say, after all my faffing about with this Conceptual Muppet Show, I was extremely precious about anyone touching it and how to transport it (lack of sleep probably had something to do with this too).
I was really lucky to have photographer Polskey with me during this show and have her to thank for the pics of this look (and more) onstage. Thank you Olivia!