I created this dress sculpture after studying steam-punk for my Alevel art exam. The 6 foot+ mannikin (dubbed nefertiti by my art class) was a lend from my art department and most of the eqipment used was:
4M fiberglass sheeting (rough and fine)
6-7 cans matte & gloss bronze/gold spraypaint
aprox 2M fake suede, purple satin, woven copper wire
assorted nuts, bolts, washers, screws etc
Step 1: Frame - Chickenwire
After getting my mannikin, the first thing i did was create a chickenwire frame based on the dress sketches i'd done. I nipped it in at the waist and bust with normal florists wire twisted with pliers and used rolls of chickenwire at the hips and bottom to create a bustle. Thin strips of chickenwire secured at the waist and moulded to the body shape of the mannikin formed the train and skirt of the dress, Thinner, folded strips became the bodice and choker.
Step 2: Sheet Fiberglass
The second stage was to sew on small sheets of fiberglass. I could have used larger sheets but i think the smaller sheets overlapping gave it a cool patchwork effect, i also left some stitching visible, for the texture. For the base of the dress i used rough (car repair!) fiberglass sheeting and a finer textured one for the delicate areas like the bodice. After attatching it all to the chickenwire frame i covered the fiberglass with fiberglass resin which sets unbelievably hard! I did this in several small stages, preferring to overlap sheets of fiberglass than panic and do it all at once. (After you mix the resin up, it sets quickly) *The resin actually looks really good if you apply lots and let it drip or press objects into it as it dries.*
Step 3: Decoration/preparation
When the dress had set and dried (this took a few hours, outside) i sanded down the loose fibers then washed off the dust with a slightly wet sponge. Then i glued squares of mesh and found objects eg: coins, nuts, washers etc to the fiberglass and used different materials to create interesting textures eg: polymorph, modrock, glue
Step 4: Spraying/staining
Now this stage was one of the trickiest. I originally wanted to make the dress out of copper sheeting which proved to be far too expensive, so i had to find a decent colour and finish for it. The end finish was a mixture of matte and gloss bronze and copper spray paints. Over this, i did a stain in the ruffles, pleats and folds of fiberglass 'cloth'...the stain was a mixture of black watercolour and diluted dark green acrylic to create an aged metal style patina.
Step 5: Fabrics
I used a fake suede cloth, dyed and stained in the same way as the fiberglass, draped over the bustle and moulded with the chickenwire for the train and skirt of the dress, a rich royal purple satin to peep through the train and woven, cut and pleated copper wire which formed the petticoat, basque and Vivienne Westwood inspired half-ruff.
Step 6: Accessories...extra Bits
Another feature of the dress that was inspired by Vivienne Westwood was the over-sized bow attatched over the bustle. It's easy enough to make, just a rectangle of fabric nipped at the middle, pleated and dyed! I fashioned a little dangling earring for the outfit made of solder wire, a cat-collar bell and nuts and screws and sprayed gold. The tube was from a washing machine, sprayed black and attatched with modrock at the end, then touched up with more spraypaint. The final touch was the medallion attatched to the bodice- it was the restored clockwork from a 50's bakelite alarmclock and gave a really cool effect in the exhibition: it ticked and occasionally gave off a piercing ring :)