Dina Bahgat models my Lady Vava costume
Published in The Toronto Star, March 2010.
The lady in me has gone a little gaga.
It took some needling and some prodding for her to materialize but eventually I was able to summon my inner vixen. Apparently, she is a fabulous shade of gunmetal silver and manifests herself in the form of oven-mitt insulation.
I've spent the entire day channelling my inner diva at The Make Den sewing studio at 1207 Bloor St. W., where I attended a Lady Gaga sewing workshop that paid homage to the pop artist's mad sense of style.
It's a huge leap for me and I'll provide a full disclaimer here: When it comes to fashion, I'm pretty vanilla. I partially blame my adorable but fashionably rigid mother, who likes to pair mint-green sweaters with mint-green pants and a "pale green" handbag as an accent. Think really cute limesicle on short legs.
While I don't condone the use of colour kidnapping I am guilty of being a lazy, pseudo-fashionista myself, who assembles rather than creates outfits.
So, when I read things like "Saran wrap" and "outer-space crystal around your body" on the workshop description, you can imagine my anxiety. After all, what can I have in common with a lady who has a seriously deep disdain of pants, wears bubbles on her bubbies, not to mention a dress made of lifeless clones of Kermit the Frog?
Answer: Shiny things.
The Make Den's seamstress in charge, Irene Stickney, has laid out a few fabric options for our Lady Gaga costume – a blazer with extended pleated shoulders – as a tribute to Gaga's love of body parts on steroids.
There's just two of us today, myself and Dina Bahgat, 23, a fashion and design student who moved to Toronto from Egypt last summer.
I sift through rolls of white PVC, grey sweatshirt material, and then see it winking at me from under the lights: Silver oven-mitt insulation.
I'm gaga for it.
If the Lady is anything, I reason, she is shiny, synthetic, and while not flame-retardant, pretty damn hot.
I'm a sewing amateur, but under Stickney's tutelage, I'm tracing, cutting, pleating and stitching. My sewing colleague Bahgat has opted for the PVC and, design student that she is, has decided to make intermittent black stripes in the sleeves.
Bahgat is a huge Lady Gaga fan and is making an outfit to wear for the singer's Toronto concert in July. As we toil away in the windowless basement studio, oblivious to the passage of time, we start chatting about why the world is gaga for the Lady.
"She's the only one who has the courage to think outside the box," Bahgat says. "I like fashion that involves art."
Stickney too appreciates the Lady's dark sense of whimsy as a former like-minded fashion student. "I was chomping at the bit to create bubble dresses, 6-inch platform heels, bustle dresses, and gold snakes climbing on women," Stickney said.
My reflector jacket begins to take shape. Both Stickney and I giggle all day at the surprising ability of oven mitt insulation to hold stitching and become wearable art.
As the day progresses, I've become more confident with the sewing machine and have developed a lead foot on the pedal. Stickney has the patience of an elephant and is guiding me throughout the process. When conferring about the trim, or the sleeve length, I base my decision on this one question: What would Lady Gaga do?
I'm not ashamed to admit that as Bahgat models my jacket, there are a few girlish squeals of delight that go off in the room and short bursts of clapping.
Time is ticking, but Lady Vava, as I've decided to call my outfit, needs an accessory. I've scavenged some mesh and play with the material, bunching and squishing it in front of the mirror, all the while asking myself, "Is this something Lady Gaga would wear?" And slowly it dawns on me how refreshing it is to escape from the confines of convention and create what my imagination bids. Time and skill permitting, the veil-slash-headpiece would have been a purple mesh armadillo to complete Vava's look.
I accept the praise and the oohs and ahhhs with a sheepish grin, and inside I'm chuffed. The complete ensemble is a raging success, and Bahgat too, is a fan, modelling it with confidence, hamming it up for the camera in her best Lady Gaga poses.
It's been a marathon nine-hour day of sewing, with a brief 15-minute interlude in between, but I'm full of energy. Later that night, I model the jacket for friends in a busy restaurant, which solicits a collective gasp of part guffaw and part feigned praise. The restaurant owner, a friendly septuagenarian, proclaims his love for Lady Gaga and we swap head pieces – his hat for my veil.
Were it not for the fact that my pointy shoulders presented safety hazards, I would have worn it throughout the night, eating my lobster dinner, in my best "Poker Face."