The “making” process involved several phases, including selecting the kind of fabrics I wanted to use, drafting measurements from the original garment, creating a mockup of the product, sewing everything together, and finally decorating the garment with reflective materials.
I went to Mood Fabrics store in New York City’s famous garment district to find fabric. I also visited Material Connexion and P&S Fabrics in SoHo, but Mood was the best place for what I needed. I spent 4 hours wandering down aisles at Mood, and finally decided on a corn blue color jersey rayon material for the main bulk that would breathe and cool the body much better than the existing rayon. I got a silver pleated polyester for the cape inserts, which is very light-weight.
I draped both of these materials in the store and discovered that they hang and flow nicely with a person’s gait. I also found a beautiful polyester silk blended silver and blue fabric that is embroidered with diamond shapes, which matches the retroreflective designs well.
Next, I met with Melody to cut the fabric from our pattern that we had just made. It was fun to have a production partner.
She sewed the pieces separately in stages, beginning with the back blue panels and silver triangle inserts, and then the crown and headband, and finally the front piece and face mesh. Fortunately, the jersey rayon fabric isn’t too stretchy or flimsy, so it was relatively easy to sew. The silver pleated fabric was much thinner and slippery.
We met several times to create mockups of the pieces in order to see what they would all look like together. ITP has a dressform on the floor, which I used to visualize the various elements of the design by pinning everything on the dressform.
This way, I could see how the different elements complemented each other and fit together.
We took a photograph with flash to visualize how the retroreflective strips and face mesh would look as part of the overall garment. Not bad!!
I like how the silver inserts turned out in the back cape. We draped the garment on the dressform to see the outline of the cape and how the silver inserts hang.
The trickiest part of the production was making the head band and crown piece. The original burqa’s head piece is too small, and I wanted to make a garment that *most* people could try on and wear, so it was necessary to design a better sized head piece. Melody used muslin material for mocking and it worked great because we could mark on it.
Based on our original estimations, we first attempted a 22″ head band with 8.5″ top, but it was too small and not quite deep enough. Then, Melody tried making slightly larger sized crowns of 23.75″ and 24.5″ with 8.75″ pleated top, but those didn’t sit down far enough and eventually slipped due to the slippery jersey fabric. She also tried sewing a 24.5″ band with a 9″ pleated top which sat well, but also slipped.
To prevent slipping, Melody sewed a light-weight lining between the blue material and the head. Finally, we decided to try a 23.5″ band with 2.2″ band height, and a 9.25″ dome. I tested this model on several women at school and confirmed that this was the perfect size for the average woman.
As part of this user testing, I also took measurements of people’s faces to calculate where we should place the face mesh panel on the front of the garment.
As suspected, the range was roughly 5″ x 5″. Here are the measurements:
34.00mm / 1.35″ width of each eye
120mm / 4.7″ width from far edges of eyes (just inside the temples)
70mm / 2.77″ height from nose tip to chin (nose & mouth breathing area)
44mm / 1.75″ height from band seam to top of eyes (forehead area)
115mm / 4.7″ height from low brow to bottom edge of chin
47mm / 1.8″ width of mouth
1. Seal the face mesh piece, and attach it to the front.
2. Sew the retroreflective strip designs.
Read about the background and inspiration for this project in previous blog posts: