Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Realms of the Unreal and a Fabric S.O.S.

Realms of the Unreal is a beautiful documentary on the book that a man quietly spent his entire life developing. This on the author himself, via Wikipedia:

  • Henry Joseph Darger, Jr. (ca. April 12, 1892 – April 13, 1973) was a reclusive American writer and artist who   worked as a custodian in Chicago, Il.  He has become famous for his posthumously-discovered 15,145-page, single-spaced fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings illustrating the story. Darger's work has become one of the most celebrated examples of outsider art.

The illustrations themselves are beautiful composite collages with Darger's own drawings superimposed about them and, once seen, have a haunting quality that makes it impossible to get them out of your head.* The book's elaborate mythology includes the "Blengigomeneans;" gigantic horned, winged beings who occasionally take human or part-human form.

These images from the book are some of my favorites of the "Blengins":

image via victorialeif's blog

image via joo young choi's blog

image via empty kingdom magazineI wanted to wrap myself up in this one particularly.

image via curated magazine

In a wonderful, serendipitous act, I got funds buy clothing. I knew how to spend it; straight onto Spoonflower to have fabric made out of my favorite of Darger's illustrations:

Two full yards of a luxe cotton-silk blend! 

Mmmmm. Isn't it gorgeous? I love it. However, it has its complications ...

A. It's an incredibly busy print:

B. Its scale is rather large:

C. It's a difficult fabric to pair because of the weight and sheen of the blend:

D. It wasn't cheap. Worth it, but it's not something I can afford to cut up only to be underwhelmed by the result. The garment pattern needs to be well chosen.

I want to make a dress, but I'm having a hard time deciding what will work best with the fabric. Considering the busyness, I'd like to pair it with a plain fabric rather than making a whole dress out of the print alone.

I've gathered a few pattern options that I'm mulling over:

The Colette Macaron Dress:
colette macaron pattern image via Colette Patterns

The Gail Dress:
gail pattern image via BurdaStyle

The Kristen Dress:
kristen pattern image via Burdastyle

So, what I want to know is ... what would you recommend I do with it?
What fabric for contrast? In what color?
What garment/pattern/look? One of these, or another?

What do you think? I'm all ears :)

*See more beautiful images from the book at the American Folk Art Museum's site here


  1. I don't necessarily think that you need to break up the fabric. The colors are awesome. I was thinking it would look nice something like this:
    If you did use another fabric, maybe just as a small accent, like on the edges.

  2. Also, keep in mind that all the dresses that you posted are not in the same fabric weight, so if you were to make it in one of those patterns, it would not look the same.

  3. i'm with jess on this. i'm not sure the dress patterns you've picked out will work for this fabric/pattern, based on the way it drapes. however, the one she recommends is definitely gorgeous and would be beautiful with this pattern and color scheme. have you thought about doing a skirt, or a shirt, instead of a dress? here are some examples i found:
    i think flowy, rather than structured. the ma-petit-chou is my favorite. i think a simple outline would be best, so you don't have shape competing with pattern.
    this is liz, btw; i don't have an account.

  4. Agree agree with Jess and Liz! I would probably do a top or bottom in the fabric then have a coordinating same type fabric for the other and trim it in the custom fabric to coordinate. And you have any extra make us fabric wrapped headbands :)
    Love, Lauren b.

  5. Damn, that fabric is awesome but it packs a punch. I would use it as an accent and spread it out across a couple of uses, to maximize your enjoyment of it. Namely, heres what I would do:

    1. make a skirt, not a dress
    2. make a pair of throw pillows for your bed or sofa--great visual interest/conversation starter and 24 hour enjoyment!
    3. line a CAPE with it! Maybe make it reversible--you could pull off a cape of that fabric, whereas for me, it would just need to be the glorious lining surprise of an otherwise boring wool camel cape.

    Can't wait to see what you create!

  6. Good ideas Denise!

    LOVE the cape idea :)
    -Lauren b.

  7. you guys are total rock stars! this is exactly the sort of advice i was hoping for. <3<3<3 - f


Let me know what you think; comments make me happy!