From June to July of this past summer, I had the privilege of participating in a study abroad program hosted by my school, Kent State University, in partnership with Paris American Academy. During that month, we had the choice of studying the couture techniques behind of two garments: the Balenciaga baby doll dress and a gown inspired by Madame Grès’ pleating style.
I chose to make the Balenciaga dress, which is an oversized low-waisted dress with a gathered flounce and often a large bow. This dress appealing to me more because I tend to gravitate towards more structured, tailored garments. The dress is made of velvet taffeta, which made it significantly harder to make. The velvet caused a lot of slippage so I had to pin and repin areas multiple times. We sewed the entire garment by hand before using an industrial sewing machine to more securely finish it. Coming into to class everyday and hand sewing non-stop from 8am to 6pm (with an hour break around 12pm) became a bit monotonous. Luckily, the program introduced other activities to keep the experience exciting.
Field experts came in to teach various workshops on hat-making, felting, shibori dyeing, and featherwork. In each workshop, we took home examples of at least two techniques in that medium. For example, while making hats, we make a brimmed hat, a headdress piece, and a fascinator, which is often seen in 1920’s fashion.
The first couple of weeks were Paris Couture Fashion Week so I dressed for some well-known designers, like Galia Lahav.
We also went on to tours to different places around Paris like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum.
Special exhibitions on couturiers were showing during our time in Paris so we went to those too. The images below from an exhibit at the Louvre on Christian Dior.
The program ended with a critique and photoshoot. I really enjoyed my time in Paris and learned so much about taking my time to make quality clothing. I recommend studying abroad to any student!