Woodford house


Trifecta for painted silk dress

A few months ago, Caitlin Snell’s cocktail dress was just a piece of white silk wrapped around a fabric roll.

Now it is an award winning garment – not once but three times.

Caitlin, who is in Year 12 at Woodford House, received a trifecta for her dress at the 2015 Design, Make and Model Fashion Show, held at the Hawke’s Bay Royal A&P Show.

The Mexican and Indian inspired dress won over the judges, who placed Caitlin first in the senior category. Much to her surprise, she also won the best overall senior garment and natural fibre awards.

The dress was created as part of two NCEA textiles standards – to undertake effective development to address an issue and to undertake effective development to make and trial a prototype.

Caitlin has always been interested in textiles, but this was the first time she ventured into silk-painted materials.

She says the idea came about after searching through a fashion magazine, which featured a tutorial on beautiful silk-painted fabrics.

“I love to make my own clothes because it allows me to create pieces that are one of a kind,” Caitlin says.

With the support of her technology teacher, Pam Knight, Caitlin began the intricate, 20-hour process of painting silk.

“Mrs Knight has a lot of knowledge in silk painting and taught me a lot during the process of constructing this dress,” she says.

“I used gutta to freehand outlines of all my designs. The gutta drys into a hard layer that blocks the paint from touching the outlines, leaving them white when washed out.”

She then mixed several different paints together to create the gorgeous peach colour.

“Once I had covered all the material in peach paint, I filled the designs with bright colours. I then heat-set the paint by ironing over them before hand washing the gutta out.”

Just like Caitlin’s personanilty, the dress is bright, bold and uplifting.

“My final silk-painting designs were original, but I used Henna designs to inspire their outlines and traditional Mexican material colours to make them bright and summery.”

She hopes to wear the dress at next year’s school ball.

“I made this dress to wear to a ball or a formal occasion next year as it wont look like any of the other dresses.”


Caitlin Snell in her winning dress.