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UK Edition: From Concept to Couture With annapopovich

Dec 13, 2010

by AmityUK 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 said 6 years ago

    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!

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts said 6 years ago

    Incredible designs and processes!

  • wearaddiction

    wearaddiction said 6 years ago

    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.

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 6 years ago

    Beautiful work!

  • PhatGrrl

    PhatGrrl said 6 years ago

    Great work!

  • possandwom

    possandwom said 6 years ago

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

  • NotYourGrandmasAttic

    NotYourGrandmasAttic said 6 years ago

    Very talented lady. Beautiful creations.

  • NotYourGrandmasAttic

    NotYourGrandmasAttic said 6 years ago

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

  • MessyJesse

    MessyJesse said 6 years ago

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

  • vKnit

    vKnit said 6 years ago

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

  • KylieO

    KylieO said 6 years ago

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

  • GraceDunbar

    GraceDunbar said 6 years ago

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

  • Franellie

    Franellie said 6 years ago

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

  • Jusadreamin

    Jusadreamin said 6 years ago

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

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 6 years ago

    Beautiful handmade work !

  • Asianexpressions

    Asianexpressions said 6 years ago

    Beautiful work!

  • Unabashedapparel

    Unabashedapparel said 6 years ago

    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!

  • sabahnur

    sabahnur said 6 years ago

    my fave is Lawrence Long Sleeved Draped Dress amazing

  • IconicPillows

    IconicPillows said 6 years ago


  • FunksByRaloo

    FunksByRaloo said 6 years ago

    amazing work! very original and inspiring!

  • ecouturejewels

    ecouturejewels said 6 years ago

    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!

  • lulisplanet

    lulisplanet said 6 years ago

    Lovely creations!

  • DalkullanJewelry

    DalkullanJewelry said 6 years ago

    Thanks for a look at how couture clothing is made!

  • julessabjewelry

    julessabjewelry said 6 years ago

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

  • OhSoDowntown

    OhSoDowntown said 6 years ago

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

  • Pailanita

    Pailanita said 6 years ago


  • sewella

    sewella said 6 years ago

    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!

  • whilebabynaps

    whilebabynaps said 6 years ago

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

  • blueskyclouds

    blueskyclouds said 6 years ago

    Gorgeous designs!

  • Mylana

    Mylana said 6 years ago

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

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios said 6 years ago

    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.

  • jelijulie

    jelijulie said 6 years ago

    Your designs are amazing!

  • ekra

    ekra said 6 years ago

    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!

  • congcongdesign

    congcongdesign said 6 years ago

    amazing fashion design.very beautiful.

  • doveandflower

    doveandflower said 6 years ago

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

  • sweetlaraine

    sweetlaraine said 6 years ago

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

  • brooksbarrow

    brooksbarrow said 6 years ago

    Interesting inspiration and process...

  • SilverSistersStudio

    SilverSistersStudio said 6 years ago

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

  • DarkBluebell

    DarkBluebell said 6 years ago



    ANANEE said 6 years ago


  • Emmamaha

    Emmamaha said 6 years ago

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

  • WoodsyWools

    WoodsyWools said 6 years ago

    beautiful clothes! stunning!

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 6 years ago

    Amazing work!!! Beautiful!!!

  • Illusio

    Illusio said 6 years ago

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

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 6 years ago

    Very talented. Much success to you.

  • cinnamongirlprints

    cinnamongirlprints said 6 years ago

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

  • BeatificBijoux

    BeatificBijoux said 6 years ago

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

  • AvianInspirations

    AvianInspirations said 6 years ago

    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.

  • jewelrybyjackie

    jewelrybyjackie said 6 years ago

    Simply stunning! Love it!

  • cosmiksouls

    cosmiksouls said 6 years ago

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

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 6 years ago

    Lovely! Those big, billowy sleeves are great!!

  • labellefairy

    labellefairy said 6 years ago

    beautiful work!

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy said 6 years ago

    what wonderful detail. love it.

  • audreytolove

    audreytolove said 6 years ago

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

  • arsniccandy

    arsniccandy said 6 years ago

    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:)...

  • babybayrs

    babybayrs said 6 years ago

    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!

  • sarantos

    sarantos said 6 years ago

    Really beautiful work! Love seeing the creative progress.

  • DayDreamerVintage

    DayDreamerVintage said 6 years ago

    Incredible designs, love your work!

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 6 years ago

    i love, love, love the lawrence dress!

  • EdensEndeavors

    EdensEndeavors said 6 years ago

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

  • KMalinka

    KMalinka said 6 years ago

    Beautiful work!

  • polkadotmagpie

    polkadotmagpie said 6 years ago

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

  • FeltShmelt

    FeltShmelt said 6 years ago

    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!

  • QueenofCuffs

    QueenofCuffs said 6 years ago

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

  • Prittyfy

    Prittyfy said 6 years ago

    Incredible thought process.

  • knitmystique

    knitmystique said 6 years ago

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

  • rusticrevivals

    rusticrevivals said 6 years ago

    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

  • 2007musarra

    2007musarra said 6 years ago

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

  • peonylovespink

    peonylovespink said 6 years ago

    Lovely pieces. Very unique.

  • theroyal

    theroyal said 6 years ago



    SMIRNOFFdesignSTUDIO said 6 years ago


  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 6 years ago

    Beautiful dresses! I love your work!

  • LoveSickClothing

    LoveSickClothing said 6 years ago

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

  • ellabellamay

    ellabellamay said 6 years ago

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

  • consciousclothing

    consciousclothing said 6 years ago

    delightful designs! thank you for sharing!!

  • rubybeantoes

    rubybeantoes said 6 years ago

    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 (:

  • MissHildebrandt

    MissHildebrandt said 6 years ago

    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!

  • shop1848

    shop1848 said 6 years ago

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

  • allthepreciousthings

    allthepreciousthings said 6 years ago

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

  • hankietankie

    hankietankie said 6 years ago

    breathtaking!!! lovely designs! xoxoxo

  • GracefullyGirly

    GracefullyGirly said 6 years ago

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

  • craftylittlecritters

    craftylittlecritters said 6 years ago

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

  • jaipuronline

    jaipuronline said 6 years ago

    Beautiful creations.....

  • ViviansKitchen

    ViviansKitchen said 6 years ago

    Just adore ♥

  • jamiespinello

    jamiespinello said 6 years ago

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

  • Minxshop

    Minxshop said 6 years ago

    Awesome lady! Love your stuff!

  • sophisticatedwedding

    sophisticatedwedding said 6 years ago

    fantastic designs, im speachless, just beautiful :)

  • Powerofflower

    Powerofflower said 6 years ago

    Great designs!

  • stylesupplier

    stylesupplier said 6 years ago

    fascinating clothes, beautiful design.

  • BreatheCouture

    BreatheCouture said 6 years ago

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

  • ManoBello

    ManoBello said 6 years ago

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

  • OsoVictoria

    OsoVictoria said 6 years ago

    Wow, lots of time involved! Beautiful clothes!

  • evdesign

    evdesign said 6 years ago

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

  • John8eight

    John8eight said 6 years ago

    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.

  • gretchenmist

    gretchenmist said 6 years ago

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

  • Baymut

    Baymut said 6 years ago

    Sooo awesome and fashion!!!

  • eclettica

    eclettica said 6 years ago

    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 :)

  • PatchworkTrails

    PatchworkTrails said 6 years ago

    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.

  • PyxusPassionProject

    PyxusPassionProject said 6 years ago

    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!!

  • FunWithNeedles

    FunWithNeedles said 6 years ago

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

  • VintageHaven

    VintageHaven said 6 years ago

    So beautiful and feminine.

  • NoelPaints

    NoelPaints said 6 years ago

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

  • SmilingGirlStudio

    SmilingGirlStudio said 6 years ago

    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!

  • zehland

    zehland said 6 years ago

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

  • sparrowsalvage

    sparrowsalvage said 6 years ago

    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. :)

  • Andriano

    Andriano said 6 years ago

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

  • SylviesDesigns

    SylviesDesigns said 6 years ago

    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!

  • LeapARTandVintage

    LeapARTandVintage said 6 years ago

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

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu said 6 years ago

    Your work is awesome! Just so beautiful.

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField said 6 years ago

    Amazing work! Congratulations Anna!

  • TRAMPmillinery

    TRAMPmillinery said 6 years ago

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

  • bigbluebed

    bigbluebed said 6 years ago

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

  • BetsyMarieJohnson

    BetsyMarieJohnson said 6 years ago

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

  • jungledread

    jungledread said 6 years ago

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

  • jewellerytreasures

    jewellerytreasures said 6 years ago

    interesting read the marilyn dress is beautiful

  • kisforkitty

    kisforkitty said 6 years ago

    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!

  • annakdesignstoo

    annakdesignstoo said 6 years ago

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

  • kisforkitty

    kisforkitty said 6 years ago

    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.

  • kisforkitty

    kisforkitty said 6 years ago

    Oops. Double message. Can`t remember anything!

  • thePieceDeResistance

    thePieceDeResistance said 6 years ago

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

  • JenniferLynnProducts

    JenniferLynnProducts said 6 years ago

    "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!

  • rebelrose68

    rebelrose68 said 6 years ago

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

  • vuedesign

    vuedesign said 6 years ago

    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!

  • ezliving

    ezliving said 6 years ago

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

  • simplycoolstuff

    simplycoolstuff said 6 years ago

    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

  • artigianajewellery

    artigianajewellery said 6 years ago

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

  • habbags

    habbags said 6 years ago

    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!

  • Overboard

    Overboard said 6 years ago

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

  • thenewblackmarket

    thenewblackmarket said 6 years ago

    The pleating is gorgeous!

  • discerningchichi

    discerningchichi said 6 years ago

    Beautiful work!

  • nowvintage

    nowvintage said 6 years ago

    Really stunning! Fun to see the process!!

  • mtillery

    mtillery said 6 years ago

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

  • mtillery

    mtillery said 6 years ago

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

  • kalicat

    kalicat said 6 years ago

    beautiful and stylish dresses!

  • tiialin

    tiialin said 6 years ago

    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.

  • Deiselection

    Deiselection said 6 years ago

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

  • strawberrycouture

    strawberrycouture said 6 years ago

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

  • kokopelligirl

    kokopelligirl said 6 years ago

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

  • mediterra

    mediterra said 6 years ago

    Loved her style a lot !

  • WayuuSusu

    WayuuSusu said 6 years ago

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

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