Caroline Z.

Behind the Scenes: Designing a Custom Dress

Caroline ElenowitzComment

One thing that is great about working directly with my clients is the potential to design something entirely custom. The ability to have a collaboration between client and designer creates beautiful pieces that could never have happened without each side bringing something great to the table. 

I want to share my latest custom evening gown with you, which was actually inspired by a photo of a dress worn by the client's mother in the 1950s. I wanted to take that original inspiration point and combine it with the concepts from my debut collection in order to create something new.

Photo of the Client's Mother which was inspiration for her dress

Photo of the Client's Mother which was inspiration for her dress

My original sketch

My original sketch

The client and I met to discuss what she wanted and to take her measurements. Then, I created a sketch to share with the client to make sure we were both on the same page as far as what I would be making. Originally, we were discussing two different color options, but ended up going with navy and black in the end.

After that, I created a mock-up in muslin, tulle and paper to make sure that the fit was comfortable, flattering and well-proportioned. We ended up cutting back on the amount of laser-cutting on the top and adding more to the bottom in order to make a design that best suited the client.

The final dress

The final dress

Finally, the dress was finished! I try to always have a last fitting, however, to deal with tiny details of fit that might have changed or hadn't been fully corrected yet. Here, I ended up trimming the hem and very slightly shortening the sleeve in order to make everything lie perfectly.

Dress details

Dress details

The back

The back

My favorite part is when the dress is finished and the client gets to wear it to an event! She said it 'made me feel like a princess' which is all a designer could hope for.

Two Caroline Z. dresses in the wild! On the left is the Lucy dress and on the right, the custom dress .

Two Caroline Z. dresses in the wild! On the left is the Lucy dress and on the right, the custom dress .

If you are interested in ordering a custom Caroline Z. design or inquiring about one, please email me at caroline@caroline-z.com and I would love to see how I can help create something unique for you!

5 Fashion Books on My Holiday Wishlist

Caroline ElenowitzComment

As much as I adore the tactile qualities and the physicality of fashion, books were really my first love, which is why I have such a love for fashion books and all the fascinating images and knowledge therein. And as much as we have access to so many wonderful images at the click of a mouse these days, it will never replace the joy of looking at the printed version. So here is a list of fashion books that I hope will inspire me:

1. Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion by Patricia Mears

Madame Grès was one of the most mysterious designers of the 20th century, known for her distinctive Grecian-inspired gowns. I've always been fascinated and impressed with her incredible draping technique and I would love to learn more about her work and her life. I've heard wonderful things about this book-- I'm just sorry I missed the exhibition at the FIT Museum with the same title!

 

2. Tim Walker: Story Teller by Tim Walker

I've known the name Tim Walker for a while, but I never really paid attention to it until I was going through my editorial inspiration pins on Pinterest and realized just how many were his. That, of course, sent me on a complete internet exploration which made me into a true fan. And as much as I am glad the internet exists to show me so many images I wouldn't have otherwise found, photography is just so much better when it is printed. Which is why I need this book to look at from cover to cover.

 

3. Charles James: Beyond Fashion by Harold Koda

I really loved the detail in the Charles James exhibition at the Met a few years ago, so I am kicking myself for not buying this book at the time. James had such an unusual approach when it came to construction and draping that I would love to spend more time investigating his thought process and finding out all the nerdy details I might have missed on a casual glance.

4. Fashion at the Edge: Spectacle, Modernity, and Deathliness by Caroline Evans

This books is focused on the avant-garde designers of the 1990s and their penchant for the macabre-- a topic that I think sounds pretty fascinating. Evans discusses a lot of interesting designers (such as Vivienne Westwood, Hussein Chalayan and Alexander McQueen) and ties them into the philosophy and history of fashion. Sounds a little bit more cerebral than the typical fashion writing, which is all the better.

 

5. Masters of Fashion Illustration by David Downton

Fashion illustration is such an interesting art, I think, especially because it seems to be having a bit of a revival these days due to an overabundance of unmemorable photography. I really love seeing talented fashion illustrators work and it definitely inspires a different way of looking at fashion because they see things and portray moods in ways that photography never can. I definitely think this one could be educational.

Are there any fashion books you would recommend to add to my growing reading list?

Behind the Scenes: Inspiration

Caroline ElenowitzComment

I often think that inspiration is a tricky thing to use properly. You never want to create something that is too on the nose, that seems like a costume or a faint imitation of something else. "Inspiration" can can also seem pretentious and forced, a needlessly overwrought justification for something that really should speak for itself. At certain times during this design process, I questioned whether it was even necessary to have a specific idea in mind, besides whatever I found aesthetically pleasing. But what I found I needed was a point of inspiration to act as an anchor, pinpointing an emotional response beyond mere aesthetic cohesion.

The Alice Dress - Photo by Tayler Smith

The Alice Dress - Photo by Tayler Smith

wolves.jpg

The original spark of inspiration for this collection came from an unlikely place-- one of my favorite works of young adult fiction, "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" by Joan Aiken. The story is a somewhat gothic adventure story, centered around two young girl cousins and set in an alternative version of England during the 19th century in which wolves are a significant and dangerous presence in the woods. The particulars of the story aren't important to the collection, though it does involve an evil governess, a shipwreck and of course the threat of wolves lurking in the woods. What made it such a compelling type of inspiration was the intoxicating atmosphere the author evokes: a mixture of powerlessness and determination in a world both cold and threatening that helped me figure out how these dresses should tie together. Plus, of course, the undeniably fairytale nature of the way the story is constructed seemed a natural fit for dresses that you wear on occasions when you dress up and perhaps are a slightly more fantastic version of your ordinary self.

Albrecht Durer, The Four Angels of Death, 1496-1498

Albrecht Durer, The Four Angels of Death, 1496-1498

The look of woodblock prints (or woodcuts) was another significant source of inspiration that led me down the path of using laser cutting-- something I had never previously thought of doing. Because laser cutting is controlled by a computer program, theoretically it seems like it would produce designs mathematical, precise and geometric. What I did end of creating was organic and romantic in appearance, but precise and controlled in practice, a perfect combination for my mood and my tastes. Just because something uses technology doesn't mean it can't also be lyrical. In fact, in 15th century Europe, woodcuts were the latest technology and formed part of an explosion of printed matter that was much more widely available-- it's only fitting that laser cutting fit in this honorable tradition (though of course woodcuts were made much earlier in China).

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into my process, though of course there are still many other little details of how these pieces came to be. I'm always happy to answer any questions about any of my creations!

We are Launched!

Caroline Elenowitz1 Comment
Photo by Kristen Blush

Photo by Kristen Blush

So the day has finally come... we're launched! Last night we had a launch event with some amazing models and guests, revealing the entire debut collection for the first time. After so much hard work, it's really very exciting to finally hear what everyone thinks and to see my dresses actually worn! The models, hair and makeup were amazing and I have all these wonderful photos thanks to Kristen Blush.


Welcome to Caroline Z.

Caroline ElenowitzComment

Hi, I'm Caroline, the founder & designer of Caroline Z. It's strange to be finally be sharing some small pieces of a project that I've been so excited and stressed to be working on.

So far, I've touched every piece of this project, an exhilarating and overwhelming amount of work and control. I am tempted to simply throw my pieces out into the world without comment, saying, "Let them speak for themselves," but as a consumer as well as a designer, I know that rarely tells the story in a way that allows it the most justice, especially when you can't reach through a screen and feel the delicious fabric or see the way it moves. My goal is to use this space to explain details and point out parts of the process that might otherwise go undetected, as well as sharing news and updates, of course.

I'm not ready -- yet-- to explain my inspiration and the story behind what I have created. I want to wait for after the collection is unveiled to give all of the details.

I will just leave you with the title of my new collection, "The Chase."

And of course, a little teaser of what is to come: