Damian's Dress Design

Making dreams come true

This year I had the pleasure of working with Damian Campbell, an A-level student at St Aquinas Grammar School, Belfast.  Helping him realise his dream of creating a 1930's bias cut silk dress for his A-Level Art. The result of which earned him full marks for his dress, and for it to be exhibited in the Ulster Museum as part of the 'True Colours' exhibition.  The dress will also be used as an exemplar piece of work by the CCEA exam board.

Here's his story in his own words.

Why I wanted to make the dress?

I have always been in love with fashion, visiting fashion museums and exhibitions every time we went on holiday. I have always sketched designs but never actually tried to construct anything (unfortunately there have never been any sewing fanatics in my family). The first time I actually wanted to create something was for my GCSE in Art & Design , my theme was Narnia and I wanted to create a gown fitting for the Snow Queen as my final piece, but I was discouraged by my teacher at the time who thought it might be too ambitious and he was certain that I'd be able to secure the mark I wanted through a fine art piece. Thus, I went forward with painting. The next year I considered creating a dress for my AS level but it wouldn't really have meshed well with the theme and the time constraints as I hadn't thought if it until later in the course. I also knew again that my painting skills would helped me achieve the grade that I wanted. So, it came to my final year at school and I had yearned for so many years to create a dress and really this was perhaps my last chance to do so. Therefore, I chose to explore how fashion has changed throughout the last century as I knew this body of coursework could lead nowhere else other than to a textiles final piece. My teacher agreed that a dress would be fitting for this theme and so I immediately began to sketch. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am quite ambitious and a little bit of a perfectionist and this came through in my designs. The only problem was I had no pattern draping, cutting or construction skills and that's when I turned to Christine; my mum found her website online. After my first meeting with Christine I felt much more confident about the project that I was about to embark on.

Success of the Dress

I focused so much of my energy on this dress, even neglecting some of other work to make sure that it was perfect. Months of my life were consumed by a vision, a vision of my first ever garment coming to life. I tried to got the extra mile with every last detail right down to the french seams. I spent roughly thirty hours hand sewing over 3000 Swarovski pearls and beads on to the cummerbund and it was all worth it.

The cummerbund which alone took over 30 hours of hand beading.

The cummerbund which alone took over 30 hours of hand beading.

I achieved full marks for my dress and it will be displayed in the Ulster Museum as part of the True Colours exhibition. It will also be used as an exemplar piece of work by the CCEA exam board to help other teachers and students who wish to pursue textiles as part of their A Level coursework.  All of this wouldn't have been possible without Christine, she has been so amazing and so generous with her extensive fashion and textiles knowledge and I hope to remain in touch for years to come.

Future Plans

I had initially planned to study International Business with French at the University of Edinburgh and at the time of application I was quite content with my decision. However, after working with Christine and making this dress I was brought back to my childhood dream of working in the fashion industry. My time with Christine was a real eye opener to the possibilities within this industry but it also showed me the hard work that goes behind it. It was because of this that I have chosen to decline my place at The University of Edinburgh to work on my portfolio and apply for a foundation year next year with the long term goal of studying fashion design and building a career for myself. I hope to study in London as I have always been attracted to the big city and I know that there are so many fashion companies based in London that I would thoroughly enjoy interning at.

It was my absolute pleasure to be part of Damian's dress journey and I am very proud of his achievements.  You can follow his journey on instagram @damian437


A well deserved reward after a great A-Level, Damian treated himself to this fantastic dress form!