Elisabeth Nilsson, fashion design competition

Elisabeth Nilsson
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Elisabeth Nilsson came to the British Library to research prototypes for her autumn/winter Once Upon a Time fashion range, during her final year of a Fashion BA at the University of the Creative Arts in Epsom.

Elisabeth Nilsson came to the British Library to research prototypes for her autumn/winter Once Upon a Time fashion range, during her final year of a Fashion BA at the University of the Creative Arts in Epsom.

This was for a competition run by the British Fashion Council in collaboration with the British Library and fashion house Teatum Jones to create a fashion portfolio telling a story inspired by the British Library’s collections.

Fashion illustration outfit 6 from Elisabeth's collection

Fashion illustration, outfit 6 from Elisabeth's collection

Having decided on fairy tales as a source of inspiration for her portfolio, Elisabeth who is from Sweden, remembered that as a child, her parents used to read her fairy tales that were illustrated by Swedish artist John Bauer. Although the library in her university had many resources, it did not have references on Bauer’s work, so Elisabeth did a search on the Library’s online catalogue. She was delighted to discover that she could access Bauer’s work at the British Library and so she registered for a Reader Pass.

Through the Library’s European and America’s collections, Elisabeth was able to research Bauer’s folklore paintings, his family and the jewellery that appears frequently in his portrayal of grotesque, but humorous trolls and princes and princesses. Researching in the British Library led Elisabeth to review the ethics and perceptions of fashion in Sweden from 1910 through the 1920s, including the Art Deco movement.

Having had the opportunity to research her collection in the Reading Room, Elisabeth found that her initial ideas changed and that the results were not what she expected at the start. She felt she could work with the geometric aspects of art deco jewellery. Elisabeth scaled up images of jewellery to A2 and A3 size from references in the Reading Room.

Inspiration and technical drawings

Inspiration and technical drawings

She then cut out the shapes and put these on a mannequin, so she could move them around to get placement and to drape fabric through, in order to make sketches and chose final designs. She bonded layers of material together to get the hard material she needed to bring her designs to life.

The resulting shapes are bold and structured and the angular gaps let the lighter fabrics flow through. Colours and textures are drawn from Bauer’s midnight illustrations, which reflect paintings of the moon and the starry sky.

Colour and fabric board

Colour and fabric board

Elisabeth not only used the illustrations from Bauer’s’ work to inspire her, but also drew design inspiration from photographs of both Bauer’s and his wife’s clothing.

Elisabeth highly recommends fashion researchers to discover the potential of the British Library resources for inspiration and support. She found working with resources on site in the Reading Room to be an effective, focused way of researching.

Outfit 8 from Elisabeths fashion collection

Outfit 8 from Elisabeths fashion collection