A conversation with Gagosian director Antwaun Sargent at Frieze London 2021 unpacking his exhibition exploring the dimensions of space within the context of the African diaspora.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A COUTURE CAPE?
A step-by-step guide by Rocco Sergio Baldassarro
Valentino Daydream Haute Couture Beijing, November 6th 2019
Look N°2 – AL 11: a floor-length, bow-covered cape in shades of pink taffeta. This piece requires four artisans and six weeks of work from the first sketch to the completed garment.
Polaroids by Pierpaolo Piccioli
1. First, sketch a croquis of the cape. Think about what shape, volume and line you’d like to achieve.
2. Choose a fabric – in this case, a heavy taffeta for the outside, and a lighter one for the interior – in pink tones. Lay the fabric on the table with the wrong side facing up.
3. Choose an appropriate interfacing for the cape. Here, we used a light gazar organza. Lay it on the fabric and stitch them together. Set aside.
4. Lay a large piece of muslin onto a table. With a pencil, mark the centre front of the cape along the straight grain of the muslin.
5. Mark the cross-grain of the muslin at an angle of 90 ̊ from the straight grain, then mark the hip, bust, waist and upper chest.
6. Take the muslin and pin it to the manne- quin – aligning the centre front line on the muslin you’ve indicated to the centre front of the mannequin. Check that this aligns with the mannequin’s bust and waist, indicated by the bolduc tape.
7. Begin to work the muslin directly on the mannequin to create the first test toile. Because the cape is symmetrical, mould a right-hand, half-stand toile only. When you achieve the desired shape and volumes, pin the muslin into place.
8. Cut any excess fabric, being sure to leave a little extra muslin margin for adjustments in the following steps.
9. Step back and look at the toile. If you would like to adjust the shape, use a different colour marker to denote any changes and re-pin.
10. Sew seams to maintain shape and volume, if needed.
11. Fit the toile on your preferred model, making further adjustments as above where necessary.
12. When you are happy with the toile, disassemble it carefully unstitching with scissors, as to not cut the muslin.
13. Put each piece of the toile flat on the table. Take the pieces of the toile, and place onto the paper. Trace the pattern, making sure however that all the markings and notches for mileage, two or three along each seam are transferred to the paper pattern. Cut out the paper pattern pieces. Set aside.
14. Take the taffeta fabric, iron and place flat onto the table. Pin the fabric to the table.
15. Take the paper pattern pieces, and place on the fabric. Baste stitch the paper pattern to the fabric, leaving about 2cm between each stitch.
16. Cut the fabric with the paper pattern still stitched on, approximately 4cm from the stitched line. (I use a pair of size 6 scissors, but you can also use larger or smaller scissors depending on the fabric you choose and the size of your hands).
17. Remove the paper pattern carefully and set aside intact. Be careful to keep the thread in place as you will use this as the sewing guide.
18. Sew all the pieces of the cape together by hand following the thread, including the notch marks you’ve sewn with the thread. I use a No. 8 size needle – from the short side – and a thimble to protect my thumb.
19. Once all seams are stitched, place the finished cape onto the mannequin. If you need to adjust, unstitch the seam in question and make the change, but make sure to mark any changes on the paper pattern. Check how the cape fits (on the same model). Set aside.
20. Next, lay out new muslin onto the table and pin it. Free hand sketch a 7-metre ribbon on the muslin and cut it out.
21. Lay out the new muslin onto the table, considering the sizes of the types of bows you want to make.
22. To create the bows, choose a new faille fabric with more weight and texture than the taffeta for more volume for the bows that follow. Repeat two more times.
“To wear Valentino Haute Couture is to feel the hands of Antonietta, Manrico, Giuseppe, Lina, Debora, Riccardo, Lucia, Sabrina, Anna, Federico, Bianca, Laura, Daniela, Sara support you, engage you, elevate you, dress you – and to have the eyes of Pierpaolo SEE you and wrap you in his dream. In Valentino, you feel both human and otherworldly.”
– Julianne Moore
23. For one bow, sketch a rectangle free hand onto the muslin. Cut out, fold onto itself and stitch. Check its shape. Make another rectangle from the muslin, cut out and fold across the bow.
24. Check the shape again. If you are happy, unstitch and place paper onto the muslin pieces and stitch together. Cut out paper pattern.
25. Stitch paper pattern to chosen colour for the outside of the bow and a contrasting shade and fabric for the inside. Cut the fabric leaving 2cm of margin along the stitched line.
26. Stitch the two fabrics together with a normal hem. Fold the rectangle onto itself to create the bow. Lock the smaller rectangle onto the wrong side of the fabric and fold it over the bow to create a knot shape.
27. Make 130 bows of different sizes, alternating the colours and fabrics. Set aside.
28. Take one ribbon and fix it onto the cape on the front. Affix two ribbons on the back.
29. Take the bows and stitch them to the cape and ribbon, grading larger bows from the bottom of the cape to the smallest at the neck and shoulders.
30. Now that the garment is fully realised, make the lining with a chosen taffeta using the same paper pattern. Follow the steps above.
31. Inspect the cape, and check that all stitches hold and that the fabric is flat. Fix and iron if needed.
32. As the last step, sew the Valentino Haute Couture label onto the lining on the left.
This article originally appeared in A Magazine N°20 Curated By Pierpaolo Piccioli, December 2019.
Entitled Rhapsody In The Street, A#22 responds to the tradition of Black poetry, literature and portrait photography of the 20th century, featuring a curation of archival portfolios and other historical ephemera, as well as newly commissioned essays, poems, paintings and portraits.
An exclusive portfolio of behind-the-scenes images from the Comme des Garçons Spring Summer 2022 collections in Tokyo, Japan, photographed by Noam Levinger.