Forget the election! This week we get to vote number 12 for Kate Miller Heidke in the international Eurovision Competition in Tel Aviv where she will be representing Australia with her original poperatic song “Zero Gravity”.

Behind the scenes in the studio doing final touches up a ladder.

Behind the scenes in the studio doing final touches up a ladder.

Some of you may already know I participated in the speedy creation of Kate Miller-Heidke’s bodice when she won the national performance on SBS “Australia Decides” in March. You can read more about the marathon and creative journey making it here . I admit I’m a little chuffed at the mass of imagery of this creation across the international media, particularly whilst she competes for the competition in Tel Aviv, making Kate’s look an iconic piece of Australian History which I can be proud to have contributed to.

Kate appears in our Gwendolynne bodice creation for Australia Decides on SBS

Kate appears in our Gwendolynne bodice creation for Australia Decides on SBS

Most of all I have been delighted by all the creative imitations of the outfit by Kate’s fans on social media. There has been a Barbie Kate; many drag Kate’s (one in particular which used spoons to mimic the waist embellishment detail in the costume) and so many delightful drawings and cartoons from her fans with the costume. I think the joyful uplifting way people approach Eurovision with humour and fun is something that we can all learn from.

Here are some illustrations:

by @seraphofshadow

by @seraphofshadow

by @doublejradio

by @doublejradio

by by @blondematthew

by by @blondematthew

by @akeyesart

by @akeyesart

by @_defune

by @_defune

by @anat.efrati

by @anat.efrati

by @eurovision_2019_news_

by @eurovision_2019_news_

by @injemercyart

by @injemercyart

by @thiefoworld

by @thiefoworld

But wait there are the dolls:

Barbie Kate Miller-Heidke

Barbie Kate Miller-Heidke

Spooky KAte

Spooky KAte

And then there’s the hilarious performances and drag acts:

For those who have seen some of the rehearsal spoilers Kate has changed up the staging for Tel Aviv. There was much speculation about this particularly on social media and many were criticizing the national staging for being “bonkers and campy”, but I say you can’t be bonkers enough in this contest. The theatrical staging is as much part of Eurovision as her incredible voice and unique song. The competition takes me back to my partying days when I went to the massive gay dance parties at the docks and people (including myself) dressed in crazy, skimpy cartoon like shiny costumes. It was fun, free, a place to express your creativity and to me Eurovision offers a similar space.  

For Tel Aviv the team appointed a Sydney stylist and Kate’s record label specified they want a Sydney-based person to make the costume this time, as that's where all the other components came together. So I’m afraid my bodice got the boot.  :(

A spoiler from the first rehearsal in Tel Aviv

A spoiler from the first rehearsal in Tel Aviv

But with a few weeks before it was due I was asked to be involved to make the costumes for the background acrobats/dancers for Emily Ryan and Emma Waite of Strange Fruit. Fondly also referred to as the “Dementors”. 

 Zero Gravity is about the feeling after coming out of depression so these dementors represent that looming darkness that is depression but her song is an uplifting rise above it all. So this time I got to do the dark side of the performance. I have so many creative souls in my life battling with depression so I first hand see the importance of this message into our world and it really highlights that idea that from darkness comes light and that wonderful metamorphosis when someone finds themselves transistioning from dark times. Regardless if you suffer from depression I think all of us can connect with the invigrating joy of stepping into a happy place after sadness.

Gorgeous stylist Inez Garcia was very much a coach foo get through this process. We nutted out the vision, which was directed by the team behind Kate. The “dementors” were to be; ethereal, powerful, original, dramatic persona, billowy, dark, and in contrast to Kate’s outfit. The costumes had to have dimension; textural with a sense of layering in black and blue. And of course it’s Eurovision so there needed to be sparkle. They needed volume, bustles and movement in the fabric . The skirts needed to drop 2 metres from the waist as they didn’t want to see the pole which also this also helped with the billowy effect. The brief was that the costumes needed to be much darker than Kate's, but a little bit lighter and lighter catching than the matt-black wardrobe of Eurovision Australian Decides.  A blend of black and deep blue/grey with occasional sequins that pop.

I was one of the few who managed to get a sneak peek of the confidential outfit for Kate and I could see it was dramatic proportions so I waned to elongate the one shoulder of the costume to turn it into a futuristic style making it a bit spooky and galactic. I decided to make the costumes asymmetric and mirrored the pair as to frame Kate throughout the performance. I did want to make the second dancers outfit a little different with a spooky a funnel neck but we canned that idea, but you can see a sketch of what it was going to be.

Finding the right shade of blue was the most challenging in the short time frame even though that sounds unlikely. I wanted to use more blue in the costumes but I bought up everything my supplier had so I saved every bit to ensure nothing was wasted. So there is more black in it than intended which in some ways creates a nice depth to the design. Even black organza was hard to source it seemed to have sold out all over Melbourne and luckily one of my friends came to the rescue with a role she had at home. I pattern cut the strips into escargot shapes so they would fall and billow with more texture and dimension.

Pattern cutting an escargot shape to create billowing textural shapes.

Pattern cutting an escargot shape to create billowing textural shapes.

Sketching the concept for the dancers

Sketching the concept for the dancers

The spooky funnel neck concept that got canned.

The spooky funnel neck concept that got canned.

Performer Emily Ryan of Strange Fruit for the Eurovision Tel Aviv first rehearsal in the Gwendolynne costume

Performer Emily Ryan of Strange Fruit for the Eurovision Tel Aviv first rehearsal in the Gwendolynne costume

Of course being on a pole there were restrictions. The dancers needed leggings underneath, to protect their legs/skin from the pole harness. And the skirt part of the outfit needed to be rolled up as they climbed the pole plus wrapped and fastened with Velcro at the back so they could drop the skirts to climb down from the poles for the quick turn around between acts. We created the costumes as a skirt and a top to minimize changing time. 

It was so exciting to see it come to life at the first rehearsal. There were a few issues and as the dress moved we needed to add more of the escargot strips onto the skirt. But most of all I was so taken aback by the skill of the performers and the core strength. Emma and Emily genuinely seem to enjoy doing it too and it is intoxicating to watch them. They both kindly said the costumes really helped them to get into character and perform the moves.

 But I confess I felt nauseous when Emily moved fast toward me and I thought she was going to fall. You really have to admire the bravery and particularly for Kate who has only just learnt the pole with a foot that is recovering from a potentially deadly infection this plus she has to sing at the same time. What a legend?

I am always excited to have a project that allows me to be more Avant-garde and theatrical than the restrictions of wearable fashion. Kate likes to merge high couture fashion and theatre so she is such a wonderful artist to work with as she appreciates fashion at this level with a splash of theatrics. She understands the value of giving her audience a show, which makes her a stand out artist in my opinion and she is clearly fearless. I love what Kate is bringing to Eurovision for Australia that it is left of centre and not typical pop one might expect. Kate herself enjoys the spectacle saying "It celebrates outsiders, making room for people who might not fit into the commercial music world."  She says about the performance “I personally find it a beautiful sort of haunting weirdly vulnerable, sort of ethereal and yet really human form of art. I love it.”

It’s not widely known that costume is an area I have worked in and I LOVE. So I am always excited to have a project that allows me to be more Avant-garde and theatrical than the restrictions of wearable fashion. Kate likes to merge high couture fashion and theatre so she is such a wonderful artist to work with as she appreciates fashion at this level with creative staging too. She understands the value of giving her audience a show, which makes her a stand out artist in my opinion. If you want to see more of my costume work from over the years you can see it here.

Tune in for the Semi Final 1 – Thursday 16 May, 8.30pm, On SBS Australia (and don’t forget you can VOTE) by texting or calling the numbers that appear on screen during the 5am live broadcasts which is on Wednesday 15th so you have to get up early at 5am before this broadcast. And then there is the Grand Final on Sunday. Here are the details below:

Primetime evening broadcasts:
Semi Final 1 – Thursday 16 May, 8.30pm, SBS 
Semi Final 2 – Friday 17 May, 8.30pm, SBS 
Grand Final – Sunday 19 May, 8.30pm, SBS 
LIVE early morning broadcasts:
Semi Final 1 – Wednesday 15 May, 5am (AEST) SBS
Semi Final 2 – Friday 17 May, 5am (AEST) SBS 
Grand Final – Sunday 19 May, 5am (AEST) SBS

A special mention to the creative team who I worked closely with:

Kate Miller Heidke

Phillip Gleeson and Dancers Emily Ryan & EmmaWaite of Strange Fruit

Mariam Dib of EMI

Blink TV

Stylist | Inez Garcia

Deadline done, and we got it done in the nick of time yet again.

Deadline done, and we got it done in the nick of time yet again.

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