We hate to admit it, but shopping for dresses can often be a harrowing experience, especially in a one-size-fits-all society. If it’s the right fit on our shoulders, then the waist might not fit, and all too often, a dress that looks fantastic in the fitting room is demoted to back of the closet IRL.
But not all dresses are created equal. In fact, some are works of art.
Brooklyn designer Lital Dotan is reinventing the way women shop for and wear dresses. The dressmaker, who owns Williamsburg-based boutique Que sal mah, is obsessed with creating one-of-a-kind pieces that double as performance art. According to her boutique’s website: “Each item is created individually by Lital Dotan on her body and embraces the essence of performance dressmaking. Using a special padding technique in order to fit different sizes and body forms Lital sculpts her body for each dress.”
But not every dress Dotan designs is crafted on her own body. She’s decided to expand on the idea of wearable performance art by offering dresses made for each customer’s body. According to local news site DNA Info, women come in to her store and have a single piece of fabric transformed into a unique frock – all while she’s wearing it.
“She comes in for the experience rather than to purchase the dress,” she told the side. “It ends wth the garment, the dress. But that’s a documentation and manifestation of the process that she went through.”
Making these elaborate dresses started out as a hobby for Dotan, who began snipping and sewing these gowns in 2007. Friends then began asking her to make dresses for them, and her business was officially born.
Dotan has filmed herself making her own dresses (slightly NSFW) in places as exotic as the Dead Sea, using only a plain white fabric and a pair of shears as her way to make a dreamlike dress.
For her customers, Dotan offers a bevy of dress designs and styles, from formal to quotidian, asking the women about fit preferences and what season she’ll be wearing the garment, according to DNA Info.
That’s not the only unique thing about her designs – Dotan doesn’t sew the gowns with thread, either. Instead, she uses discarded pieces from the original sheet of fabric to hold everything together.
Since the dresses are made expressly for the person wearing it, they always have a perfect fit and, Dotan said, a profound effect on its owner.
“I don’t want to say the word magic, but there’s something about these dresses that are really a form of expression,” Dotan told the news site.
“This was created for you. It was created as you.”
At $1,100, the asking price is a bit steep, but Dotan says it’s better to think of these frocks as collector’s items, not only as dresses.
This isn’t Dotan’s first time inviting strangers to participate in her expression of performance art. Back in 2013, she turned her Brooklyn apartment into a “living and exhibition space” and allowed visitors to enter and explore her daily home-life.
“We didn’t open a gallery in our house,” she told Narratively of the project she conceived with her boyfriend. “We transformed the whole concept of living and the whole concept of experiencing art. It’s not even showing anymore. It exists here and it’s alive, it’s breathing, it’s changing all the time.”
Similarly, her process of dress-making is designed with the intention of experience and process, as opposed to just the outcome. We can get behind anyone challenging the notion of dressing room hell and self-scrutiny in the hopes of finding a “perfect” outfit. Dotan’s work may not be for everyone, but it’s a good reminder to appreciate the process of dressing your body, and loving yourself in the moment—no matter what kind of dress you end up purchasing.
In the meantime, check out her whole dress-making process here: