About 2 years ago, I did a fashion project on “Decay”. I looked at 4 different themes of decay; natural decay, human decay, urban decay and the decay of rubbish. I felt more inspired by human decay than the others, to be honest; it sounds morbid, but I found it really interesting to look at how the body rots away and the degree to which we're responsible for destroying our own bodies. However, I was also inspired by how we try to prevent our own decay i.e. the preservation of corpses. So a year later I decided to continue the fashion project with the theme of decay, but this time I concentrated only on human decay.
The theme of human decay led me to 4 different outcomes titled; “Rotting Skin”, “Biohazard”, “Poor Girl” and “Just fix me”.
Dress number 1 “Biohazard”
During this project my love of the horror genre and morbid fascination with human decay lead me to look at the living dead, i.e. zombies. I had so much fun Looking for information about zombies; I didn’t really need to look far because everything I needed was at home. I have always loved a good Zombie movie; I think I was 12 when I saw my first one and ever since then I have always loved them, from George A. Romero’s classic "Night of the Living Dead" to the very funny "Zombieland". Along with these I collected information from books, magazines, the internet and my own personal knowledge on the subject. Looking into zombies gave me a lot of ideas –mainly involving blood, bites and ripped clothes- which I would like to explore more in future (I've never actually explicitly used the zombie concept as inspiration for any of my pieces, as surprising as that sounds.)
When researching into zombies I thought a lot about the setting for them as if it was my own movie; in the end I chose an urban setting, I think the setting for the zombie scenario inspired me more than the actual zombie images did. I loved the outline of the buildings and the really urban theme. I was really inspired by the idea of the world’s busiest locations being deserted, with little or no living population and only the architecture left intact, like great big tombstones in memory of the citizens that had been wiped out by some horrific biological event.
I wanted these buildings to represent the living dead and to be part of the dress design, but I didn’t want to make a dress in the literal shape of a building. Instead, I printed the skyline onto the dress to represent the empty zombie city, and of course I wanted to include the texture of the zombies themselves, so I aged and distressed the fabric with a tea and coffee staining method and then slashed small areas of the garment with a sharp blade.
My favourite zombie movie is George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and I wanted to somehow make that part of the design. Dawn of the dead (the original) was made in the 1970s, so as a kind of tribute I made the dress in 70s style using original vintage 70s sewing patterns.
The fabric that I used for the main body of the dress was a thick calico, chosen because it's something that wouldn’t flow; I wanted it to be slightly stiff, like it has been years since it was last washed. The arms, however, I wanted to contrast; something soft that could fray and tear easily to create the look of being clawed at. The brown rotting colour and texture was made my soaking the dressing in a big bucket of really strong coffee, then tea, and then the design was hand painted using really watery fabric paint.
I am really pleased with how this dress turned out; I have a few more designs similar to the style of this one, depicting other major cities from all over the world and other 70s styles. And seeing as it’s the summer I hope to get around to making a few more.