The Etsy Blog

UK Edition: From Concept to Couture With annapopovich

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

After several years of interning for fashion designers, working in costume departments, and training at Central Saint Martins College, Anna decided it was time to start her own fashion label. She now creates made-to-measure womenswear from scratch in her London studio, which she sells through her Etsy shop, annapopovich.

Today she shares the story behind the dress. That is to say, her personal process of designing and making that goes into each and every one of her creations.

Inspiration can come from anywhere — I often find abstract things a good place to start. My S/S collection began with an article in Fashion Theory called “Showing and Hiding,” examining garments which cover the body while drawing attention to particular areas (such as, ahem, the codpiece…). Taking this idea of covering in order to reveal, I looked at intricate drawings of human muscle structure and used the patterns I found in them to re-cover the body. The most literal example is my Marlon bodice, closely based on the muscle structure of the male torso.

[Anna's muscle structure research, left, which inspired her Marlon Bodice, right.]

Next, I collect images — postcards, newspaper cuttings, photocopies, and my own scribbles. I like to put them on the wall in my studio, shuffle them around and start to pick out common threads as well as juxtapositions which I think will translate well. From these ideas I’ll draw hundreds of garment designs which I then edit down. As I’m doing this, I’m also thinking about colours and will be collecting fabric and trimming samples.

Before getting too set on how a dress is going to look, I’ll start draping fabric on a mannequin to help me think in 3D. You can have some wonderful accidents while just playing around with a length of fabric and a handful of pins. I’ll take photos at every stage and add them to the research pile. Through sketching, draping and collage, I gradually refine my ideas into the finished drawings of the collection. Then I’m ready to start pattern making.

[Early stages of draping Marilyn Dress on the mannequin.]

The next bit makes my head hurt, but is so satisfying to get right. There are two main methods for making patterns, and most of my pieces will be a mixture of the two. The first involves manipulating basic bodice, skirt and sleeve “blocks” (2D card templates) to add volume, details and place seam lines. The other method is draping cheap fabric such as calico or muslin onto a mannequin and then cutting, pleating, draping and tucking until you create the form you want. After that, you mark the fabric and then trace its shape and your markings onto paper.

[Pattern making]

From the pattern, I create a toile (mock-up) of the garment in calico or muslin, which resembles as close an approximation to the final design as possible. I make toiles to my measurements so I can try them on to check the fit, how they hang, how they react to movement and whether I still like them. This is an exciting stage – being able to see the progression from my sketch to something which can be worn. Often I’ll return to the pattern to make changes and alter or remake the toile. If something still isn’t right, I might change the design or even abandon it altogether.

Once I’m satisfied with the patterns, they are pinned to the final fabric and cut. The garment pieces are notched and marked with thread so I know the placement of darts and pleats. For a dress like Marilyn, the sheer number of pleats mean that this can take a good couple of hours, after which it’s ready to sew. I do most of the sewing with my machine, but many of my designs have draping which I arrange and stitch by hand. This is my favorite bit, as it really feels as though I’m sculpting the fabric.

[The finished Marilyn Dress]

When the the collection is finished, I pester a photographer friend (Alice Turner, a.k.a. afternoonoutings) to arrange a shoot. I pose, she clicks and we hope it doesn’t rain.

When a customer orders a piece from me, we discuss design adjustments they might want and their choice of fabric. I re-cut the pattern to their measurements to ensure a perfect fit then finally, very carefully, I’ll cut, sew and drape their dress.

Clearly it’s a long process. I don’t know about sweat, but there are usually some tears (though strictly not on the dresses) and more than a few pricked fingers. However, I wouldn’t change a thing about my work. Though I get very attached to the dresses I make, each individual piece is created with the buyer’s input, so there’s always the comfort of knowing they’re going to an appreciative home.

[Lawrence Dress design process]

Many thanks to Anna for giving us such a fascinating insight into her process! Check out some of her amazing designs in the Seller’s Items below. You can also follow Anna on Twitter.

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  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    Beautiful work, its really interesting to hear about your process. I really like all the intricate folds and drapes of your work its really unique!

    3 years ago

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts says:

    Incredible designs and processes!

    3 years ago

  • wearaddiction

    wearaddiction says:

    Her inspiration is so well transformed into beautiful pieces. Some of my neckwarmers are made inspired by architectural patterns. It's so great to find inpiration on other things & bring it to our creations.

    3 years ago

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts says:

    Beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • PhatGrrl

    PhatGrrl says:

    Great work!

    3 years ago

  • possandwom

    possandwom says:

    What a talented lady! Your pieces are beautiful and your inspiration and creative process is so intriguing. Goodluck to you.

    3 years ago

  • NotYourGrandmasAttic

    NotYourGrandmasAttic says:

    Very talented lady. Beautiful creations.

    3 years ago

  • NotYourGrandmasAttic

    NotYourGrandmasAttic says:

    Beautiful designs. Its very difficult to achieve your design in reality, but she seems to do a wonderful job.

    3 years ago

  • MessyJesse

    MessyJesse says:

    lovely to hear about the process you use, it gives your clothes a real story behind them :) well done on the great designs!

    3 years ago

  • vKnit

    vKnit says:

    wow, such beautiful clothes! it's wonderful to see the background behind them :) i adore the Tilda dress! xox

    3 years ago

  • KylieO

    KylieO says:

    What a fascinating article, I really enjoyed seeing Anna's creative process.

    3 years ago

  • GraceDunbar

    GraceDunbar says:

    Interesting article, thank you for sharing your creative process. Your work is beautiful and quite impressive.

    3 years ago

  • Franellie

    Franellie says:

    I am a fashion-designer myself,I love this story, good story,beautiful designs,you go girl!

    3 years ago

  • Jusadreamin

    Jusadreamin says:

    YOUR work is AWSOME I enjoyed your article hope you much SUCESS!!!!

    3 years ago

  • ikabags

    ikabags says:

    Beautiful handmade work !

    3 years ago

  • Asianexpressions

    Asianexpressions says:

    Beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • Unabashedapparel

    Unabashedapparel says:

    wow wow wow! How very inspiring! Gorgeous work and a wonderful explanation of all the hard work that goes into designing art-for-wear! Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • sabahnur

    sabahnur says:

    my fave is Lawrence Long Sleeved Draped Dress amazing

    3 years ago

  • IconicPillows

    IconicPillows says:

    gorgeous!

    3 years ago

  • FunksByRaloo

    FunksByRaloo says:

    amazing work! very original and inspiring!

    3 years ago

  • ecouturejewels

    ecouturejewels says:

    Wow - what an amazing process. I wonder if all the celebrities who make the "designer" crossover really have any clue what goes into making a quality item. Stunning, beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • lulisplanet

    lulisplanet says:

    Lovely creations!

    3 years ago

  • DalkullanJewelry

    DalkullanJewelry says:

    Thanks for a look at how couture clothing is made!

    3 years ago

  • julessabjewelry

    julessabjewelry says:

    I never thought ruffles could be so pretty and flattering. Wonderful work!

    3 years ago

  • OhSoDowntown

    OhSoDowntown says:

    Oh so fascinating...quite a process with beautiful results!

    3 years ago

  • Pailanita

    Pailanita says:

    nice!!

    3 years ago

  • sewella

    sewella says:

    Well this has been a thoroughly elaborate and if I may say inspirational insight into a great artist's work and vision. Anna is so amazingly talented! Thank you for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • whilebabynaps

    whilebabynaps says:

    Holy smokes! Your workmanship is amazing! You're on my list!!

    3 years ago

  • blueskyclouds

    blueskyclouds says:

    Gorgeous designs!

    3 years ago

  • Mylana

    Mylana says:

    This story has breen a great read and the pictures are amazing. Good work.

    3 years ago

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios says:

    Beautiful work. I love reading about "conception to finished product" practices. While the underlying principles are the same, everyone attacks it in their own way.

    3 years ago

  • jelijulie

    jelijulie says:

    Your designs are amazing!

    3 years ago

  • ekra

    ekra says:

    I love the detailed description of the whole process. Amazing where inspiration can come from and how it inspires different things in different people. Also, this line of clothing is incredibly gorgeous!

    3 years ago

  • congcongdesign

    congcongdesign says:

    amazing fashion design.very beautiful.

    3 years ago

  • doveandflower

    doveandflower says:

    The Marilyn dress is to die for. LOVED this article!

    3 years ago

  • sweetlaraine

    sweetlaraine says:

    Amazing beautiful fashion....The ruffle sleeves are to die for. Laraine

    3 years ago

  • brooksbarrow

    brooksbarrow says:

    Interesting inspiration and process...

    3 years ago

  • SilverSistersStudio

    SilverSistersStudio says:

    oh wow, so gorgeous! Thank you for letting us peek into the design process.

    3 years ago

  • DarkBluebell

    DarkBluebell says:

    Beautiful!

    3 years ago

  • ANANEE

    ANANEE says:

    georgeous!

    3 years ago

  • Emmamaha

    Emmamaha says:

    so interesting to see the process behind the creations. Enlightening article!

    3 years ago

  • WoodsyWools

    WoodsyWools says:

    beautiful clothes! stunning!

    3 years ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie says:

    Amazing work!!! Beautiful!!!

    3 years ago

  • Illusio

    Illusio says:

    Brilliant...and takes me back. I studied Fashion and Textile design when i was young.

    3 years ago

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 says:

    Very talented. Much success to you.

    3 years ago

  • cinnamongirlprints

    cinnamongirlprints says:

    wonderful wonderful stuff, I need to start saving now!! x

    3 years ago

  • BeatificBijoux

    BeatificBijoux says:

    Love the structure of these pieces. Architectural, textural, historical. Really inspiring.

    3 years ago

  • AvianInspirations

    AvianInspirations says:

    Wow, so many long hours of hard work. But your dresses are beautiful and unique and your passion and dedication show. The Raimunda dress is my favorite, the back in particular is stunning.

    3 years ago

  • jewelrybyjackie

    jewelrybyjackie says:

    Simply stunning! Love it!

    3 years ago

  • cosmiksouls

    cosmiksouls says:

    Both unique and chic ... love the creative journey you go through to completion of a piece. Very inspiring !!!! Thanks for sharing .

    3 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    Lovely! Those big, billowy sleeves are great!!

    3 years ago

  • labellefairy

    labellefairy says:

    beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy says:

    what wonderful detail. love it.

    3 years ago

  • audreytolove

    audreytolove says:

    Absolutely Gorgeous! I can see the philosophy behind each design!!! Bravo!

    3 years ago

  • arsniccandy

    arsniccandy says:

    Fabulous creations! Isn't it more rewarding when you create your creations from scratch:) I agree....the pattern making does make my head spin at times, but like you said, once you have it cut and draped on the dressform.....who knows what wonderful mistakes can happen:)...

    3 years ago

  • babybayrs

    babybayrs says:

    Your designs are so beautiful! Besides several designs I like very much, I love Lawrence Long Sleeved Draped Dress! I wish you are offering pattern for this dress!

    3 years ago

  • sarantos

    sarantos says:

    Really beautiful work! Love seeing the creative progress.

    3 years ago

  • DayDreamerVintage

    DayDreamerVintage says:

    Incredible designs, love your work!

    3 years ago

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage says:

    i love, love, love the lawrence dress!

    3 years ago

  • EdensEndeavors

    EdensEndeavors says:

    I'm always so impressed by people that can sew! I really enjoy reading how other people describe their creative process.

    3 years ago

  • KMalinka

    KMalinka says:

    Beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • polkadotmagpie

    polkadotmagpie says:

    Fabulous pieces Anna. So glad you escaped costuming houses! Best to you!

    3 years ago

  • FeltShmelt

    FeltShmelt says:

    Thank you so much for this window into your process - I love hearing about your favorite stages to work on, and that Marilyn Dress is amazing!! Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • QueenofCuffs

    QueenofCuffs says:

    Such sculptured cloth, wonderful work. The way you build each piece is fantastic. Love the thought process that gives such beautiful results.

    3 years ago

  • Prittyfy

    Prittyfy says:

    Incredible thought process.

    3 years ago

  • knitmystique

    knitmystique says:

    Stunning work Anna, thanks for sharing it! best of luck

    3 years ago

  • rusticrevivals

    rusticrevivals says:

    Oh, I LOVE and Adore these dresses...and I'm supposed to be a tomboy! The Marilyn dress (and the photo of it) are stunning, just breathtaking! Julie, of Rustic Revivals

    3 years ago

  • 2007musarra

    2007musarra says:

    OH my! Such lovely work. You truely are an architect in ever sense of the word. Good luck to you and your line.

    3 years ago

  • peonylovespink

    peonylovespink says:

    Lovely pieces. Very unique.

    3 years ago

  • theroyal

    theroyal says:

    gorgeous

    3 years ago

  • SMIRNOFFdesignSTUDIO

    SMIRNOFFdesignSTUDIO says:

    BEAUTIFUL,STUNNING WORK. GOOD LUCK TO YOU,ANNA!

    3 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage says:

    Beautiful dresses! I love your work!

    3 years ago

  • LoveSickClothing

    LoveSickClothing says:

    These dresses are gorgeous - so well designed, and original! I wish I could afford them! (Maybe next year.)

    3 years ago

  • ellabellamay

    ellabellamay says:

    Thanks for the inspiration, the dresses and ideas are beautiful!

    3 years ago

  • consciousclothing

    consciousclothing says:

    delightful designs! thank you for sharing!!

    3 years ago

  • rubybeantoes

    rubybeantoes says:

    Thank you for your blog . . . LOVE your Lawrence dress and Marilyn dress, can't choose one over the other. Your designs are genius, adjusting them to different sizes is gutsy, and I know your little fingers must need lots of TLC with all that pinning, it can be brutal! You have to really love what you do, and it shows (:

    3 years ago

  • MissHildebrandt

    MissHildebrandt says:

    more like anatomy fabric art...stunning! If all the ladies could get their hands on your label, the world would be a prettier place. Chow!

    3 years ago

  • shop1848

    shop1848 says:

    Your work is fabulous! Those sleeves are freaking awesome!!!

    3 years ago

  • allthepreciousthings

    allthepreciousthings says:

    Love your work - fascinating to read, especially as someone who is also addicted to sewing :)

    3 years ago

  • hankietankie

    hankietankie says:

    breathtaking!!! lovely designs! xoxoxo

    3 years ago

  • GracefullyGirly

    GracefullyGirly says:

    Such beautiful dresses. It was so wonderful to hear the behind the scenes! Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • craftylittlecritters

    craftylittlecritters says:

    Great work! It's kinda like giving birth. It must be hard sometimes to let your babies go. I love it!!

    3 years ago

  • jaipuronline

    jaipuronline says:

    Beautiful creations.....

    3 years ago

  • ViviansKitchen

    ViviansKitchen says:

    Just adore ♥

    3 years ago

  • jamiespinello

    jamiespinello says:

    So gorgeous! Another great designer discovered on Etsy! Love to see work with high aesthetic standards and such attention to detail!

    3 years ago

  • Minxshop

    Minxshop says:

    Awesome lady! Love your stuff!

    3 years ago

  • sophisticatedwedding

    sophisticatedwedding says:

    fantastic designs, im speachless, just beautiful :)

    3 years ago

  • Powerofflower

    Powerofflower says:

    Great designs!

    3 years ago

  • stylesupplier

    stylesupplier says:

    fascinating clothes, beautiful design.

    3 years ago

  • BreatheCouture

    BreatheCouture says:

    wonderful, creative designs and great feature. Very inspiring :)

    3 years ago

  • ManoBello

    ManoBello says:

    Creative! Loving them. Thanks for the feature and congrats as well!

    3 years ago

  • OsoVictoria

    OsoVictoria says:

    Wow, lots of time involved! Beautiful clothes!

    3 years ago

  • evdesign

    evdesign says:

    Nice work. Thanks for sharing your creative process, and inspiring me.

    3 years ago

  • John8eight

    John8eight says:

    A former costume designer myself, I can appriciate the work that goes into making an item of clothing look effortless. I would tell any designer- fashion or otherwise- to never limit your inspiration to just the works and people in your own field of work. Look beyond the ordinary. I've made jewelry before that was inspired by oil floating on top of water in a gutter.

    3 years ago

  • gretchenmist

    gretchenmist says:

    just amazing. the pleats and folds are really gorgeous. so fascinating to see the sculpting in progress :)

    3 years ago

  • Baymut

    Baymut says:

    Sooo awesome and fashion!!!

    3 years ago

  • eclettica

    eclettica says:

    A sculptured feel to couture pieces has always fascinated me and I confess to following Anna's store very closely for a while now. I appreciate her aesthetics quite a bit :)

    3 years ago

  • PatchworkTrails

    PatchworkTrails says:

    Wow, Anna, your work is really gorgeous! I really loved learning more about your process. Your construction and these shapes will make every woman look and feel beautiful.

    3 years ago

  • PyxusPassionProject

    PyxusPassionProject says:

    Fantastic! So great to see how other designers work and for people in general to see how much work goes into each design. Your work is GORGEOUS and inspiring.. thanks for sharing!!

    3 years ago

  • FunWithNeedles

    FunWithNeedles says:

    oh my! just beautiful... i love the marilyn dress.

    3 years ago

  • VintageHaven

    VintageHaven says:

    So beautiful and feminine.

    3 years ago

  • NoelPaints

    NoelPaints says:

    This is fabulous, you are an artist of fabric manipulations!

    3 years ago

  • SmilingGirlStudio

    SmilingGirlStudio says:

    Your work is amazing and ohhhh so time consuming...which means you must love it and of course that will be passed on to the buyer. Thank you for sharing and congrats on your feature....well deserved from the looks of it!

    3 years ago

  • zehland

    zehland says:

    I appreciated reading about the process you go through to create these beautiful dresses. They really are stunning!

    3 years ago

  • sparrowsalvage

    sparrowsalvage says:

    This reminds me very much of my brother's work, he takes Victorian garment construction and makes it look like architecture and comes out with the most futuristic Ancient Greek/Japanese pieces. I should show him this article and tell him this is how wonderful he could be if he'd stop working in the pub and start being a famous designer! Maybe I should send him to you for a good talking to. :)

    3 years ago

  • Andriano

    Andriano says:

    Awesome creations.. love, love your work and the process..you rock!

    3 years ago

  • SylviesDesigns

    SylviesDesigns says:

    As a Textile Designer myself, I understand your love of fabric. Your work is exquisite. I hope that you are kept VERY busy, because you deserve it. Way to go Anna!

    3 years ago

  • LeapARTandVintage

    LeapARTandVintage says:

    Wow, I love the transformation of male torso muscles to vest! Brilliant! Very interesting creative process, thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu says:

    Your work is awesome! Just so beautiful.

    3 years ago

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField says:

    Amazing work! Congratulations Anna!

    3 years ago

  • TRAMPmillinery

    TRAMPmillinery says:

    What a fantastic feature, love the folds and hearing about your design processes, congrats ;D

    3 years ago

  • bigbluebed

    bigbluebed says:

    I really enjoyed reading about the process. And what beautiful designs.

    3 years ago

  • BetsyMarieJohnson

    BetsyMarieJohnson says:

    You're a true artist. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    3 years ago

  • jungledread

    jungledread says:

    the way you sculpt the fabric.... I appreciate your attention to detail! Love your work

    3 years ago

  • jewellerytreasures

    jewellerytreasures says:

    interesting read the marilyn dress is beautiful

    3 years ago

  • kisforkitty

    kisforkitty says:

    Beautiful dresses, beautifully made. Thanks for explaining the process that makes a couture dress so expensive. I work the same way,(on MUCH simpler pieces!) but I have been too afraid to try to do couture long distance without any fittings.Bravo to you!

    3 years ago

  • annakdesignstoo

    annakdesignstoo says:

    Great style! Fab with jewelry from annakdesigns and annakdesignstoo. More power to you!

    3 years ago

  • kisforkitty

    kisforkitty says:

    Truly beautiful designs and workmanship.Great visuals on why couture clothing costs so much.All the labor that is involved in carrying out the vision. I do work from sketch,to paper pattern, muslin fittings,handwork etc.,too, but I`ve never thought I could do it without personal fittings on the customer. You`ve given me something to think about. Your photos and YOU are lovely also.

    3 years ago

  • kisforkitty

    kisforkitty says:

    Oops. Double message. Can`t remember anything!

    3 years ago

  • thePieceDeResistance

    thePieceDeResistance says:

    What a fabulous article - she truly has a beautiful process with a breathtaking outcome. Proves love + hard work = the perfect product.

    3 years ago

  • JenniferLynnProducts

    JenniferLynnProducts says:

    "You can have some wonderful accidents while just playing around with a length of fabric and a handful of pins." OMGoodness. This is SO TRUE! I don't do fashion design, but I make bags, and this comment really jumped out at me. Anna, you do amazing, beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • rebelrose68

    rebelrose68 says:

    An inspiring article and truly stunning designs. THank you for sharing your experience!!

    3 years ago

  • vuedesign

    vuedesign says:

    Thanks for sharing your process and story with us! It is VERY apparent by your work how much of you goes into each and every detail. Way to go!

    3 years ago

  • ezliving

    ezliving says:

    Very creative ever I love it!love it!!!! Happy Holiday to all!!

    3 years ago

  • simplycoolstuff

    simplycoolstuff says:

    Oh how I enjoyed reading this step by step process. As a garden designer I know all about the process and it is both tedious and exhilarating! Thank you Anna for all the lovelies! Good luck

    3 years ago

  • artigianajewellery

    artigianajewellery says:

    Beautiful designs, styling and photography - very inspiring, thank you!

    3 years ago

  • habbags

    habbags says:

    wonderful work Anna, inspirational to see the process from beginning to end, and you making a success of it. I know what you mean about becoming attached to each piece of work, but at least on Etsy the 'hand-crafting' is appreciated! Thanks for sharing, and all the best!

    3 years ago

  • Overboard

    Overboard says:

    Incredible clothing. REAL fashion!!! Love it all .

    3 years ago

  • thenewblackmarket

    thenewblackmarket says:

    The pleating is gorgeous!

    3 years ago

  • discerningchichi

    discerningchichi says:

    Beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • nowvintage

    nowvintage says:

    Really stunning! Fun to see the process!!

    3 years ago

  • mtillery

    mtillery says:

    Loved this piece especially the most intriquing inspiration and the process - kudos!

    3 years ago

  • mtillery

    mtillery says:

    Loved this piece especially reading about the creative process - intriguing and inspiring!

    3 years ago

  • kalicat

    kalicat says:

    beautiful and stylish dresses!

    3 years ago

  • tiialin

    tiialin says:

    I love learning about others' creative process. It's so inspiring to get into the head of a designer. Understanding a new way of thinking and seeing why methodical works for one but random works for another.

    3 years ago

  • Deiselection

    Deiselection says:

    A true creative designer wow designs fame awaits you, never stop designing.

    3 years ago

  • strawberrycouture

    strawberrycouture says:

    Your designs are very intelligent. Like I said, inspiration is ALL around you let it be candy colors to human anatomy. Brilliant!!!

    3 years ago

  • kokopelligirl

    kokopelligirl says:

    Quite an intriguing article. Amazing creative process,striking designs!

    3 years ago

  • mediterra

    mediterra says:

    Loved her style a lot !

    3 years ago

  • WayuuSusu

    WayuuSusu says:

    LOVE your work! thanks for sharing your creative process, it is an inspiration. ws

    3 years ago