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Dressed to Rule

“Whatever we might do to conciliate opinion… is nothing beside the effect that the lapel of a uniform will produce… you win the French people with ribbons, with remarks, and with smiles.” -Barnave to Marie Antoinette

Project overview

The project was open-ended and we were allowed to explore any idea we wanted to with any medium as long as it related to our research in the seminar.

Seminar piece

In seminar, I researched public shaming, especially that correlating to women. I researched how it has been used to brand and exile powerful women. I zero’ ed in on how public shaming and how the perspective others have about us relates to our self-worth.

Concept and Inspiration

For my studio piece, I chose to focus on a more positive sense of how we carry ourselves. Clothing is very expressive of who we are and the persona we want to give off. Certain garments can give us courage and empowerment when we wear them. Growing up I have always been very insecure and only until recently have I been able to gain confidence in myself. I found that most of my life I was using my clothes to hide behind them and blend in, afraid to be different or stand out from the norm instead of just being myself. This dress represents my outfit of empowerment. While it is delicate and soft it is bold and demands to be worn with confidence due to its sheerness. The chainmail headpiece displayed as an accessory in the critique represents the armor and protection we wear to face the world. Its materials are strong and harsh but in the way, it’s crafted and the ribbon details it allows the piece to be beautiful. I gained an aesthetic to create art that was powerful, delicate, and beautiful because of the deep connection I had to fairytales and the powerful female characters in them. They inspired me because of the way they carried themselves with grace yet were so strong.


I did a lot of research on how to sew a dress as this was not something I had ever done before. I also did a lot of projects on how to create a dress pattern as I created two of my own patterns in order to get the dress the shape that I wanted. Lastly, I did lots of research on how past rulers and leaders used the dress in order to distinguish themselves and signal their power.

When the emperor of Japan was beginning to impose western dress on his subjects his doctor urged him to let the ladies of the court retain the traditional Kimono; they were healthier than the corseted garments which tortured the western women. The emperor replied, “Doctor about matters of health you may know a great deal but about politics, you know nothing.”

Monarchs know that dress is a political instrument. Rules of dress have a political, economic, and social effect that signify identity, kinship, and rank. The way we dress and fashion answer many questions; Who we are: who we want to be; who we are forced to be; how we express it; and what it means. The right dress or uniform is believed to encourage loyalty, satisfy vanity, and impress the outside world because of status reassurance.


I learned that the yellow tulle was very difficult to even see with just one layer so I had to put about 4 layers on the bodice even though I was going for a sheer look. Then for the bottom, I put 8 layers of tulle. Tulle was also very difficult to work with because it would constantly rip as it is incredibly delicate so I had to re-cut and sew the fabric many times. Lastly, with the tulle, it is sheer so it is impossible to hide any mistakes so I really had to make every stitch perfect which meant many hours of hand sewing.

Concept Mood Board

Dress Mood Board



the muslin dress

The first layer

the first layer of skirt and boning

Another layer of skirt, sash, and the cups

Additional four layers of skirt added

bodice and top attached and buttons and ribbon sewn on

Final Piece


During the critique, the color choice and sheerness of the dress were discussed sating that yellow represented light and joy. Someone mentioned that the craftsmanship of the dress was impressive due to a difficult fabric. It was mentioned that the contrast of the dress and the headpiece showed a concept of strength and redefining feminity. It was also critiqued that the dress should have had more of a connection with the chainmail in its material. Personally I have to stand behind my work and disagree while I did consider adding chain mail to the dress I decided against it as I enjoy the contrast the two pieces give off as they both represent different aspects, one being the delicacy of the dress and how that represents a future with of confidence with no guards while the headpiece is a symbol of my past and how my clothes were used more like protection so I did want some more separation between the two pieces. I also believe by the ribbon and the pearls on the back of the dress matching and the same textured ribbon on the headpiece connects the two into one garment. And lastly the silver chainmail and white ribbon, in my opinion, match the color and texture of the dress quite nicely.

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