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Fit for a Mad Tea Party

"You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are."
                                                                     -Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and, of course, Alice. Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is full of memorable characters. The mastermind who helped bring them to life in Tim Burton's film adaption and its recent sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, was designer Colleen Atwood. She deservedly won an Oscar for making Alice in Wonderland's costumes ever bit as extraordinary as the cast.

One of the biggest challenges for Atwood while coming up with design ideas was Alice's continuously shifting shape. "We made a decision that as Alice shrunk and grew, her dress would not," says Atwood. "Alice had around eight looks, and multiples of most of them, so there were around 20 hand-made costumes. The script and idea of Alice as an exploring spirit really inspired me." 

In one scene, Alice shows up to the Red Queen's court, eats a bit too much cake given to her by the White Rabbit, and completely outgrows her blue dress. The Red Queen (played by Helena Bonham Carter) spots her hiding behind the bushes and orders, "Someone find her some clothes, use the curtains if you must, but clothe this enormous girl!" Alice is then given the very Burton-esque, asymmetrical black, white, and red dress.

The Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp, is a bizarre character that has literally gone mad. When coming up with a vision for the character, Depp found that hatters would actually go a little nutty from the glue they used because of its high mercury content. He then made a watercolor painting of how he envisioned the Mad Hatter's appearance. At the same time across the globe, Burton came up with a sketch that was very similar to Depp's. When designing the Hatter's costume, Atwood spared no detail and even incorporated all the tools of his trade into the designs, such as scissors, thimbles and a pin cushion ring. 

Atwood and Burton have been working on projects together since Edward Scissorhands. May their whimsical masterpieces continue for many years to come. 

My friends are throwing a mad tea party this week inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (costumes, teacup breaking, and all). Since I love Tim Burton films, I chose to make the dress Alice is given when seeing the Red Queen. And that is when I fell down a rabbit hole . . .

The black and white striped fabric used for the original costume is beautiful and it was difficult to find something similar. I ended up buying a striped chiffon from Etsy along with a lot of tulle, taffeta, cotton twill, cording, and ribbon. The total amount of fabric came close to 20 yards. 

I only had photos from a Google search to use as a guide to create this costume. Due to the limited number of hours I had to make the dress, it was lucky for me that the original design by Colleen Atwood was made to look like it had just been thrown together on a whim. It was perfectly undone. By the end of it, I was cutting fabric pieces haphazardly without even measuring them and randomly tucking in bits of the skirt in the back just as Alice's dress is in the movie when she shrinks once again.

Fittingly, constructing this dress made me go a little mad. 

Made in Colorado


Spring into Summer with Flowers and Lace

"After women, flowers are the most divine creations."
                                                     - Christian Dior

Emilia Wickstead Spring/Summer 2016
Wildflowers of all different colors are in full bloom on the mountainsides of Colorado. It's quite fitting that this season's collections are adorned with flowers and lace.

Monique Lhuillier Spring/Summer 2016
Marchesa, known for their ultra feminine dresses, seems to include these two elements into each and every one of their collections and did not disappoint for spring/summer 2016. Burberry, Oscar de la Renta, Emanuel Ungaro, Emilia Wickstead, and Monique Lhuillier have all followed Marchesa's lead. Designers can't get enough of the flowery prints and have even sprinkled them throughout their latest collections for next fall.

Not only something pretty to look at, flowers have been incorporated into clothing from many different cultures around the world offering significant meaning and symbolism.

The peony is the national flower of China and represents wealth and honor.  It is often seen on Chinese paintings, national clothing, and decorations. Floral prints are also widely used in India and Japan (think of all the colorful flowers on a kimono). Do I even need to mention Hawaii?

Just like floral prints, lace has been around for centuries and was frequently used for both men and women's collars, shawls, and even to decorate door knobs. It was a popular clothing choice for Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century.

Quite a contrast from the buttoned-up and formal usage of the delicate fabric worn by the Queen, the Roaring Twenties transformed the textile into something entirely different. It was used to create a whole new look and controversial dress silhouette that encapsulated the free-spirit of the 1920s flapper girl.

This week I dug through my fabric archives and found an absolute gem that I had used ages ago for a summery dress. The new and improved design is made of the same black cotton lace. Using the flowers to my advantage, I carefully cut around their edges to accentuate the collar and hem. It isn't entirely symmetrical, but that's what makes it unique.

For my next look, I purchased a gorgeous floral silk cotton voile by Liberty of London from Mood Fabrics and made a dress with a dramatic collar and exposed shoulders. Every girl needs a pretty flowery dress she can wear to a summer garden party.

Made in Colorado