Priscilla: the Burning Bolero

Deborah and her two friends came to KOBA as they were hunting for garments to wear for their first excursion to Burning Man festival in South Africa, in the middle of a desert. At the Burning Man festival, visitors are known to dress up extraordinary to celebrate the “burning man”.
They liked the idea of wearing garments with lights as it will show well at night, especially desert night will be very dark otherwise. Few weeks after their first visit to KOBA, Deborah came back again with some ideas of her costume. She has gathered some images on Pinterest to share her inspirations/ preferences with us. This was very helpful for me to understand what kind of style she likes. As I looked through the images, it reminded me of the work of Rachel Freire. I showed her the website of Rachel, and she liked the style very much. So we decided to base the design on Rachel’s boleros, and place optic fiber on the frill to add light to it.

The challenge of this garment is that at the festival it will be very hot during the day (over 40 degrees) and very cold at night (0 degrees). So the design should be adaptable to wear directly on body and on thicker jacket.
Also, the burning man is held in a middle of desert and the sand will get in everywhere and may collude metal parts. The electronics needs be shielded made robust to stand the sand dust.


The above sketch is the first sketch of the bolero. Let’s see if we can get close to it.


Development

Toile test

Toil test Toil test

test wearing
Toil testToil test

Black fabric test
Test blackBlack fabric testBlack fabric testBlack fabric test
Black testBlack testBlack testBlack test

Fitting
FittingFitting
Fitting
some alteration on base harness. this will be made with thicker material.

Fabric sampling
These are samples from Maybachufer. I am not sure about the color…
Fabric sampleFabric sample

And here are things I found at Kumasch Stoffe. I took only samples today.
Samples from kumasch stoffe
Sample

Samples from kumasch stoffeSamples from kumasch stoffe
I am thinking of the second one here. It has nice suede like texture. Once side orange-ish shiny gold and the other side is matt suede. The other option will be to go with the first one, both side shiny orange-ish gold taffeta.

Samples from kumasch stoffeSamples from kumasch stoffe

They also had nice translucent fabrics, but I am not sure if it goes well together…

On Monday, we finally decided on the fabric and got 2m of the Golden Suede like fabric. started to make 150cm frill for test.
BoleroBolero

It drapes very nicely and shows the details of gathering very well. The fabric is quite soft, and we are not so happy that it “sags” a bit.
Untitled

As the sagging was an issue, we also tested to make the frill with golden taffeta fabric. We added thin reflective material inside the edge tubing to give more character.
BoleroBolero

The first idea was to mix both types of frills, but it did not look good together.
BoleroBolero

Left side frill is taffeta and the right side is suede. The taffeta holds the shape well, but it looks a bit plain.
Bolero

The next test was to make frill with 2 layers, sew 1 layer of suede and 1 layer of taffeta together. The result is that it has the look of golden suede material, but is much more rigid and holds the shape better. I was afraid that it is becoming too heavy, but this was not an issue.
BoleroBolero
Bolero

For harness(base) part, we purchased 2nd hand old leather coat as material. It was on sale and the zipper was broken.. so I think it is fair that we disassemble it and use it as materials.
BoleroBoleroBoleroBolero

Leather glue test with fabric core to achieve non-stretch and stiffness.
BoleroBolero

In the mean time, Ben has been working on the harness design and pattern. The harness has to hold a battery and electronics, which needs to be shielded from sand. Here is a sketch by Ben.
Bens_sketch

and the current harness pattern by Ben
Bolero

The textile pushbutton:
Burning Man bollero in progress
Burning Man bollero in progress

The taxidermy looking circuit:
Burning Man bollero in progress
Burning Man bollero in progress
Burning Man bollero in progress

Light tube and circuitry embroidery:
SMD mini neopixel LEDs (WS2812B MINI) are mounted on a 4 line strip protoboard facing 3mm brass tube. (1.5cm long) LEDs are mounted vertically on the protoboard and connections to the top side of the LED is made with copper tape from the side. We also tried with bumblebee connectors, but it takes very long to make them with brass tubes and as it worked well with protoboard and it is relatively fast to make them, we decided to use this design for the bolero.
Bolero

The circuit is made with sewing machine regular running stitch using copper conductive thread as bobbin thread. When using the conductive thread in this way, the actual conductor side will be on the back side when you stitch. So, I traced the circuit mark to the back side first and stitched from back side so the copper thread is placed on the facing side. At the end, we noticed it was actually better if the copper thread was on the back side than the facing side as it will be isolated with lining fabric and leather facing it. This will be a revision that needs to be made for next version. After the copper thread is stitched with sewing machine, we still needed to thread the copper thread and make the connection to the LED mounted protoboard by hand. This took few hours to finish all of them.
BoleroBolero
Bolero

Almost finished:
Burning Man bollero in progress

Light up:
Burning Man bollero "Priscilla"
BoleroBolero
Bolero

We were very happy when turned the light on when we finally finished it. Additionally this happened at 4am in the morning after hours of hard work and debugging. (Hannah, Mika and Ben worked around the clock to finish it in time!) We still needed a name for this project, and both Mika and Ben mentioned the movie “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”. So this is the name for this bolero: Priscilla, the queen of the desert!.

Hand-written instruction and stamping the KOBA stamp:
Burning Man bollero in progress
Burning Man bollero "Priscilla"


Links:

Flickr set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/plusea/albums/72157694146695561


Reference/ inspiration
Imogen Heap’s Sound Reactive Bollero:

Reference from Rachel Freire >> http://www.rachelfreire.com/aw10-future-noir/