Somniatis (Part 3)

Hello, everyone! This is part three of my series about Somniatis: A Wearable Art Fashion Show, and my experience modelling and designing with my sister, Emily, with this not-for-profit organization!


This year Emily and I set out to co-design, and we had a vision already set. We were going to design a Movie Monster Girl Gang, and we named it Monster Slash. Our journey started in April when we sat down in the home of Ron Hill, who along with his wife, Tammy, had taken over running the show while Ruth was in poor health. In April, all the designers (most of them over fifty, but some under fifteen) sat down together and shared what we had planned for the upcoming year. Most of them had grand concepts like the stages of womanhood or facets of the universe, and Emily and I shyly admitted we planned to paint leather jackets and pose on motorcycles. Hey, what do you expect from college kids?

Still, we were not deterred, and when May rolled around, we met with our photographer, makeup artists, hair stylist, and body paint artist. One of our girls, The Bride of Frankenstein, would be totally painted green, so we spent an evening with our body paint artist, testing colour swatches until we found one we thought had the appropriate vibe. It wasn’t until the next morning that I saw it in full sun and realized that while it was fine indoors, it would glow fluorescent in our outdoor photo shoot! We didn’t have time to schedule another meeting, so we’d have to come up with a colour on the day of the shoot. It turned out well though!


Photo Credit: Ron Hill

Model: Drew Schrauwen


Scheduling turned out to be one of the most difficult parts of the whole experience. I knew I didn’t want to split up the photo shoot this year since I needed group shots. Between five models, two makeup artists, a hairstylist, a body-paint artist, a photographer, and four motorcycle owners, finding a solid eight hours everyone could meet for was like rolling fifteen duce and hoping they’d all line up. Amazingly we managed, but not without cutting one of the models. We’d initially planned to have a Frankenstein with the bunch, but since he could only make one day out of the three weeks we’d put as options, we sadly had to cut him. It still wasn’t a perfect schedule though; our hairstylist would be a few hours late, and we had to shuffle the schedule to make sure the models with wigs or elaborate hair went later in the day.

We met with our models individually to take their measurements, preview the outfits, and explain what sort of makeup they’d be forced into. Our mummy would be wrapped entirely in bandages, our werewolf made up in true movie-monster fashion, and our vampire dusted a shade lighter from head to toe. Since I would be designing and modelling, I knew I’d be running around all day while simultaneously trying to get ready, so I made sure I wasn’t in anything too elaborate. After all, nobody wants to be hauling containers of clothing, coordinating motorcycles, and double-checking bodypaint in six-inch stilettos or a giant headpiece. Our models were troopers, and nobody batted a false eyelash at wearing leather jackets in the July heat. At least, not yet.


Photo Credit: Ron Hill

Model: Emily Pickard


Most of the costuming work Emily and I do is thrifting, like our Bride’s dress, and upcycling, like the leather jackets, but we do make a few pieces from scratch. I knew I wanted The Vampire’s jacket to have red bat wings when she lifted her arms, so we sourced some silk and did out best. Unlike most of the other designers, neither of us are seamstresses, and my rudimentary sewing skills are better suited to lost buttons. Still, it didn’t turn out half bad! For the pieces we thrifted, we spent an afternoon at Value Village with a lot of hope and some flexible checklists. The Vampire’s outfit ended up getting completely reworked from our initial design, and most of The Werewolf’s clothes would have to be shredded and painted.


Photo Credit: Ron Hill

Model: Zain Campbell


Next, it was getting our props. We’d need five motorcycles for the shoot, and luckily our father already had two of them. That left us in search of three colour-appropriate bikes. Luckily, Daddy’s friends were pretty excited about having their prized bikes used in a photo shoot, especially when we mentioned they’d get to take a picture with the pretty girl posing with their bike. We worked it out so that The Vampire would have a red bike, The Bride would have black, The Mummy would have white, The Witch orange, and The Werewolf with a killer chrome side-car bike. One of Dad’s friends let us use his garage, and we were all set!

For the actual photoshoot day, there was a lot to do and very little time to do it. When the photographer wants the light at a certain time but the body paint artist needs four hours and the model doesn’t arrive till noon, trying to get everyone coordinated can become an organizing challenge necessitating two spreadsheets, three checklists, and a written schedule. We knew we’d have to shoot The Bride last because painting her would take most of the day, so we started our morning with shooting The Mummy indoors, after an hour of hair, makeup, and costuming. We managed about thirty photos with her before the lighting equipment stopped working. That meant moving the shoot outside but, as luck would have it, it chose that moment to start raining too!


Photo Credit: Ron Hill

Model: Bonnie Garland


Everyone went on break while I paced around, shuffling things around inside my head to figure out the new schedule. There was no way we’d get everyone’s schedules to line up again! It stopped raining after an hour or so, but up until then, I was certain we wouldn’t finish on time. It was time to start moving the bikes around, which my poor father had to do in hundred degree weather! 


Photo Credit: Ron Hill

Model: Sarah Pickard


From then it was a whirlwind of running around and shouting instructions. “Shoulders back!” “Darker green on the arms!” “Thicker eyeliner!” “Stop, let me fix your hair.” “Damn it, Emily, I said shoulders back!” We’d arrived at ten and started shooting at eleven, and when five o’clock rolled around, the day had turned excruciatingly hot. We started shooting our group shots, and I’m sure we all thanked the stars we had sunglasses, so no one had to look up into the bright light! By the time we took our final few shots, every time the shutter would click we’d all groan and peel our sweaty jackets off, only to have our photographer, or my mother, or someone else insist on one more shot, and then we’d all grumble and have to pull those heavy jackets back on! I was worried we were all sweating our makeup off, but I think everyone else was just worried about fainting!


Photo Credit: Ron Hill

Model (Clockwise from left): Bonnie Garland, Emily Pickard, Zain Campbell, Sarah Pickard, Drew Schrauwen


In the end, the photos turned out amazing, and Emily and I could head back to university for a break. We just had one more event to finish up with before this year’s Somniatis could be finished: the actual runway show.


(And a bonus photo of me and my Dad, who is always colour coordinated to match his bike. Thanks for the help, Daddy!)

Photo Credit: Ron Hill

Model: Ted Pickard