Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Empire Strikes Back

A little while ago, I received a request to do a post on dresses with empire waists. This silhouette is not readily found in most fashion trends today due to the obsession with skin tight,"body conscious" clothing. But the empire waist dress was a very big thing throughout the Jackie Kennedy era, otherwise known as "Camelot." It is a gracious and very graceful look that reminds me of the reason I fell in love with fashion.

Though a few empire waist dresses do make their way onto a catwalk or two, they tend to appear in mass at this time a year when the younger set begin to plan for..the prom! And, think about it...prom night is for the teenager what the Oscar night is to the Hollywood star. Since I have lots of "younger" Barbies around, this is the perfect time to rediscover such an endearing style.

A true "Empire" dress has a bodice that fits over the bustline then releases a very full skirt. A short while ago, I featured a dress inspired by Valentino where I had draped the pattern. I still feel this is the most efficient way to create the pattern since it gives you complete control over the silhouette, however, there are some of you who better comprehend flat patterns. This post is for you.

The pink satin gown has a classic empire waist pattern. Using a tape measure, I measure down from the pit of the doll's neck to just under her bust as well as under the arm. After placing the fro ntand back slopers together at the side seams, I mark those points on the basic sloper bodice then draw out the cutting line.  Whatever the distance is between the underarm point and the waist, should be respected over the rest of the bodice.

For this particular bodice, I have decided to make a square neckline. On the front sloper draw out neckline keeping the side perpendicular to the bottom. Now line up the front and back sloper along the shoulder seam. Continue the vertical line from the front, onto the back for as low as you want. Then draw a horizontal line which is perpendicular to the Center back line. This will ensure the neckline will be consistent from front to back.

For the skirt, cut a rectangle the length of the doll (from just under the bust to the ankles) and as wide as you would like full. For most fabrics this shouldn't exceed more than 1 1/2 times the circumference of the doll unless you are working with a super fine fabric. Otherwise your dress will resemble maternity wear!

Gather this rectangle and join to the bodice. I've added short sleeves.

I imagined some of you wanting to do one of those "Grecian" silhouettes with a softly draped bodice. Go back to first step of the draft from the above pattern and redraw a strapless bodice. It is best that you try this on the doll then make any adjustments for fit before continuing. You can use any fabric, though I've chosen a crisp cotton for the bodice to support the draped design in chiffon. I've used the same chiffon for the skirt, which is about twice the width of the doll circumference, gathered into the bodice. Assemble the dress as instructed for the previous dress.

Go back to the bodice. Cut a strip of fabric, twist it and lay it over the bodice and pin in place. Adjust the gathers pinning the fabric where you would like it to settle on the bodice.

When you have finished, clip off the excess from the Center Back. Slip stitch those gathers over the bodice, tacking down the folds where you want to anchor them. Slide the needle under the fabric and make tiny stitches so that they remain as "invisible" as possible but secure the drapes in place.


My dress wouldn't stay up on the doll, so I added "spaghetti straps" made from small bits of ribbon.

Some of the dresses the 1960's had high waists but were not, technically, Empire waists. They were simply....high waist dresses.

This dress is really a fitted sheath dress with a "yoke" and a "tent." The silhouette is created by adding a gathered rectangle to the seam joining the yoke and the body of the sheath. My tent is 1 1/2 the width of the sheath dress.
 


The trick is in the assembly. Stitch the darts and the side seams of the bodice. Then stich the darts and sides of the sheath body, leaving the back seam of the tent open.

Baste  the gathered "tent" to the body of the sheath. Then baste this to the yoke and sew together. The first photo shows the three layers stitched together at the bust seam. In the second photo, I flip up the tent and stitch the center back seam of the sheath. The rest of the bodice is hand-stitched in place. I have folded back the center back edge of the tent which swings free over the sheath. A hook and eye keeps the dress closed on the back bodice and another is placed to close the waist of the sheath underneath.

I've also added a velvet ribbon trim to mark the "empire" waist.




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Monday, April 7, 2014

April Showers


At long last, winter is finally over!!!! But with Spring, comes the rain.....And we all know our dolls do not like to get wet. So.... Let's celebrate the month of April with rain gear, all the while....singin' in the rain!

Many of the projects on this blog can be transformed into suitable rainy weather clothing. After all, we've already explored basic coats, jackets and capes. The only thing really different here is the material....shiny vinyl. You could also use nylon, oilcloth....or, if you're really on a budget....heavy duty garbage bags! To make things a tad more interesting this time around, I'd like to start by introducing you to the raglan sleeved coat.

While a regular sleeve is just fine, the raglan sleeve simply gives you another design option. In World War I, these sleeves were used in infantry men's trench coats because they afforded ease of movement. In full size clothing, they are also much easier to sew than regular set-in sleeves.

I begin with the basic coat, to which I've added a bit of flair at the sides. Before we begin to manipulate this pattern, it is best to create your coat facing now. I don't like bulkiness, particularly on the shoulders, so I have combined the back facing with that of the front by adjoining them along the shoulder line as shown in my draft. That way the facing seam will be at the back which, for me, is less problematic.

Let's go back to the neckline of the coat. Note the width of the neckline of the Front Coat and mark 1/4 of the width over from the shoulder. That will be point "A." Next, note the length of the armhole and mark 1/16th of an inch (about 2mm) down from its mid point. That will be point "B." The shoulder armhole tip is point "C" and the shoulder neckline tip is "D." Connect point A to point B with a straight line across the body (indicated in green). Now draw an arc that rises 1/16" from the center of the line between A and B. That line will be the new "style" line. (You can now disregard the straight line.)

Repeat for the back. The point 1/4 down on the neckline (away from the shoulder) will be point "E." The point 1/16" (2mm) just down from the center armhole point will be point F. "G" will be the shoulder armhole point and "H" will mark the shoulder neckline tip. Again, draw a straight line between E and F. Draw an arc which bends 1/16" up from the middle of this line. Now cut or trace those two shoulder wings, taking care that all of the points are labeled.

Attach back to back and front to front, joining point G on the back to point C of the front at the midpoint of the sleeve. Each will be placed at a about a 15-degree angle from the top of the sleeve. The curved bottoms of the wings are then aligned to touch the curve of the sleeve cap. Each piece will then form a "V" shape at the top of the sleeve cap as shown in the above illustration.

After you have cut away the shoulder wings, you will be left with the rest of the coat pattern. Add seam allowance to the front and back coat pattern. The shoulder wings are now part of the sleeve shape. Add seam allowance all around including the "V" shape which is now a large dart. When you begin to assemble your coat, sew the dart on the sleeve first. Then attach to the body of the coat as usual.

Note: When sewing with vinyl, tape the pattern to the fabric or pin within the seam allowance. Same thing when you put the pieces together. Pin within the seam allowance or tape together. Remember, once you puncture the vinyl or plastic, the hole is there forever. Most vinyl has a cloth backing which facilitates machine sewing. However, if you use a plastic or vinyl without the backing and experience problems, tape a bit of tissue paper to the underside, then sew.

If you are tempted to press the seams, always use the coolest setting on the iron, and then protect the vinyl with paper towel. And, be sure to use a somewhat larger stitch. If the stitch length is too small, it will rip.


A rain slicker is one of the quick and easy ways to protect dolly from a sudden cloud burst. This is another version of the cape which is really quick and easy to make. And, I've added a hood....after all, it is raining!!!

Draw a line that forms a 90-degree angle. Take the front and back sloper and place them shoulder tip to shoulder tip, angling the back sloper so that it is 90 degrees perpendicular from that of the front sloper. Between the two shoulder tips, make a diagonal line which half way between the two shoulder tips.

Now trace the neckline and shoulder line of the back sloper, then along the diagonal line. Draw in the hemline. Repeat for the front sloper, tracing the neckline and shoulder line before tracing along the same diagonal line. Voila! The only other thing I've added was seam allowance and a hood.
 
I had no problems stitching the garbage bag plastic with my sewing machine. I did try to use glue for the hem, but it did not stick for long. So I used it to "baste" and then topstitched everything down. (Like many of the mass market rain slickers on the market, this is not really a garment built to last!)
One more thing.....for those moments when dolly is out and about and she didn't think to take along that wonderful new rain slicker you just made for her..... Make sure, inside of her purse  is a.....rain bonnet!


For this I used plastic from a ziplock food storage bag. I measured the front of the doll's head from side to side for the proper width of my bonnet. The length will be as deep as you want it to be. My cut square was 7x7" (18x18 cm). I fold the plastic back and forth into accordion pleats(about 5/8" (8mm), using my fingernail to crease as I go. When you have completely folded the square into one strip, you can wrap it with paper towel and then with the lowest setting on your iron, press the strip. This will help set the pleats. However, be VERY careful not to melt the plastic while your doing this.

Now, fold each edge under and pierce with a large safety pin or needle. Attach a brad AND a small length of ribbon. (I've used a bit of ribbon from Chanel No.5 Packaging!) Not exactly your grandmother's rain bonnet!!!!


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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Making Fashion Doll Slopers: Pt. 2-6 (VIDEOS)

As many of you have discovered by now, I have added video tutorials to the mix. I began by embedding these videos directly in the original tutorials, then indicating the links in our Video Tutorial page to the left. The entire YouTube process is quite new, and while figuring out how to get the videos into this blog, I accidently created a separate post, Part 1 of the series, "How to Make Slopers for the Fashion Doll"on March 26" I apologize for that tutorial appearing seemingly out of sequence with the rest of the blog.

Nonetheless, I didn't want it to look as though there haven't been anymore new additions, so I've decided to post Parts 2 through 6 together on today's post before getting back to my normal set of projects. Inasmuch as I am a one-woman operation here (photographer-demonstrator-director-producer, and video editor), things do not always come out as pristine as I'd like. So please excuse the occasions when the doll goes a bit out of frame.

I will continue to add videos to the site. However if it's a subject I've already covered, I'll continue to embed them directly onto the original post then list them in the index. Otherwise, all videos with new subject matter will be directly embedded in that day's post and then listed in the index. Be sure to check the Video Tutorials from time to time to see what's there.

As I've stated in the videos, take your time with these basic slopers. Once they are as perfect as possible, you will discover that everything you make with them will fit the doll perfectly.

For those of you who create your own patterns by directly draping on the doll, the slopers are good for basic items. Things like shirts, simple skirts, jackets, tops, pants and skirts. Simple things you make over and over. Some things are easily drafted with slopers. Other things with complex construction and more "organic" detailing are better off draped.

When you are ready to transfer the markings from the cloth to the paper, be sure to cut your slopers from a stiff paper like Bristol and store them in an envelope with indications as to the doll body for which they were created. When you are ready to use them, you will do all of the manipulations necessary to achieve the desired pattern, first and THEN add your seam allowance.











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Friday, March 28, 2014

Cape Town

One of the biggest trends slated to hit the streets next Fall is the cape. I had planned to wait until next Autumn to do this tutorial, but last week after tuning into NBC's "Today" show, I saw co-anchor, Tamron Hall wearing this very stylish garment outside on the (Rockefeller) Plaza. Clearly the designers in the US have jumped the gun and rushed to get the cape into the stores, this Spring.

Originally introduced in Medieval times, the 1960's and 70's saw a rise in the popular of this swashbuckling outerwear garment. By day, the "cloak" as it is sometimes called, was cut from wool and tossed over the shoulders of a "mod" mini-suit. By night, it was glamorous, cut from satin, brocade or some other luxury fabric, while lending its wearer an undeniable Jackie Kennedy moment.

As fabulous as this outer garment can be, it is incredibly simple to create. Moreover, it lends itself to numerous interpretations.

We use the basic bodice slopers as a base. It provides sense of proportion of the body as well as the anchor of the shoulders and neckline which can be left as it or given the addition of a collar.

 
Begin by tracing the neckline and shoulder from the front bodice. Measure out about 3/8-inch (1 cm) from the side and draw a vertical line. For a single breasted cape, I've extended the front 1/4-inch (7mm) from the Center Front. And, of course, the length is whatever you want it to be.
For the back you will trace along the Center Back line, up to the neckline, and then over the tip shoulder. Then take the front cape draft and flip it over so that the shoulder lines up with that of the back sloper and the CF line is straight. Trace the new silhouette of this new front cape onto the back. Afterwards, cut out the pattern pieces, then line them up together side seams together. Make any adjustments you have to so that the front and back line up along the side. My basic cape is short enough such that my girl can still hold her bag. You can, however, put in a buttonhole armhole on either side of the center front should your doll decide to poke out her arms. I've added a simple collar to this cape.

Add seam allowance. You will probably want to line this, edge to edge. Use a single hook and eye to close the cape under the throat.

Here is the same cape but cut from panne velvet and trimmed in faux fur at the neckline and hemline.



Another popular style is a cape that has a front panel belted at the waist while the back falls freely. This is a very simple variation of our basic cape pattern.


For mine, I've decided to flare out the sides on either side. Take the cape we just drafted and from the tip of the shoulder (consult your basic sloper for the exact point), swing out to the desired flare. At the midpoint on the shoulder, I draw a vertical line straight down to the hemline. Make a mark down from the shoulder which will indicate how far down you should sew. (I placed the pattern against the doll to figure out at what point the arms would comfortably swing out from under the cape.) Cut the pattern in two, then add seam allowance to each. The back is all in one piece, however the sides swing out the same angle as the front. I have extended the front by 1/4" from the Center Front line (plus seam allowance.) For this particularly model, I attached a long rectangular scarf to the neckline of my cape. Simply, wrap the waist with the belt of your choice.

You can add as much flare as you want. Just remember to keep it consistent. Whatever flare you add to one side, you must add the same to all sides. For a full, 3-Mousketeers cape I, took my cape, (using an old-fashioned compass to get the proper arc.

Place the point at the tip of the shoulder and swing out by 90-degrees.
 


You will also add swing to the center. Begin at the neckline CF point and swing out by 90-degrees.

The back cape pattern will have a center back seam. Swing out the side by 45 degrees. Then swing out the top of the CB by 45 degrees. Be sure to mark the CB with an arrow so that you will lay your pattern on the correct grain of the fabric.

The hood on the doll below is part of the dress underneath. However, feel free to add a hood to your cape.


Night at the Opera.

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All images and text property of Fashion Doll Stylist. 2014. Please do not reproduce without prior permission. Thank you.

P.S. Check out our video tutorials on creating the basic slopers. They are at the very end of the original post.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to make slopers for the fashion doll Pt.1 (VIDEO)

Last year, when I began this blog, I posted tutorials on creating basic slopers. The hope was that those "basic blocks" would facilitate my visitors in following along with all of the other posts. I realize that this is virgin territory for many of you who are just getting started in the adventure of making doll clothes. So for all of you, who could use a little more help, I've created this series of, "How to make slopers for the fashion doll."
Though I feature mostly 11-1/2 to 12" dolls in this blog, the same instructions can be applied to any size doll! In fact, I created slopers for my 16" Tonner dolls using the same method!




Here, we begin with Part I: Measuring the doll for slopers.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Paper Gladiators



Often, when working on a post, I have something specific in mind. Sometimes it works out as envisioned. Other times, I'm forced to rip things up and start anew. And then there are those rare times when things exceed my expectations so much so, I will remove an element out of the original theme and consecrate an entire new post on that item alone. Such is the case today.



By extension, this post is part of the one before, "Going Green." I found an old package of metallic doilies in a drawer and decided to see what I could do with them. The challenge, quite naturally, is creating something of "quality" from a horribly cheap material. Things can easily go very wrong. But au contraire! I was quite pleased with the results of this craft project. And though I'm not a huge fan of Donetella, these fashion items could very easily parade down one of her Versace couture catwalk shows.





Each packet of doilies will be different in design. This exercise shows how to start as well as the design decisions I made putting the garments together. Should you be tempted to make any of these paper treasures, just be aware that paper doilies are VERY fragile and rip easily. On the other hand, I only needed two doilies to make all four elements pictured. If need be, any mishaps are easily repaired! (And the mistakes don't show!) Think decoupage. Just keep gluing!





Ideally you should chose doilies that have lots of rosettes and/or medallions. For the long corset, I wanted the doll's "skin" to show through. So this garment is thin. I began by wrapping the doll's body with a little bit of plastic wrap (to protect it from glue).





Start by taping a medallion to her torso.





For the conical "bra," I folded over one of the spokes so that it becomes more 3-D and fits over the bust. I use a toothpick and some white craft glue (that dries clear). Continue to cut the medallions out and paste onto the other medallions in place until the doll is covered. If needed, cut the medallions so that they will conform to the doll's curves. By itself, a single layer structure is way too fragile. So you will need to keep adding and gluing on medallions on top of the original structure. This will provide a more "hammered metal" look. Be sure to glue on rosettes to secure fragile joints.





When it comes to the back... the medallions should over lap in the back.  I added two more sets of medallions at the point I designated to be the closure.





When you are finished. let the glue dry. Check to see that everything is well glued, adding additional medallions. When dry, cut the plastic wrap down the center back and carefully, very, very carefully peel the plastic away. If it sticks, it is better to use scissors to cut around the stuck parts. I used a small square of Velcro in a single spot to close. Or......





I made a second corset using the same method. But this time, I cut two strips of stretchy nylon (from some old  lingerie which I glued to each side. On the inside of the corset, over the point where I glued the strap, I added another medallion. If you can live with a tie at the back, it's perfect because all of the stress of closing is absorbed by the stretch ties and not the paper!





Then I decided to do a "girdle" which could be worn over a dress. The 1st two garments are too fragile, so this garment begins by first creating a girdle made of air-dried paper clay (found in crafts stores). Roll into a ball then press directly onto the doll to form this girdle. (Those FR dolls with the wasp waists have the perfect silhouette to wear this accessory.)  I let it dry a bit, then carefully remove it from the doll's body, allowing it to completely dry. Paint it the color of the dress it will be worn with (while it is off the doll). Now cover the doll's torso with plastic wrap and slide on the girdle.





Add the central medallion. Since the girdle is made of paper, you can use straight pins to hold it in place while you decide how you want the design to go. Then glue a central medallion in place, then add additional medallions or rosettes. Sometimes I cut the spokes so that the medallions conform to the girdle smoothly.





Continue until you are happy, adding additional layers until it is complete. When all the glue has dried, carefully remove the plastic. Since the girdle stays up by itself, you don't have to worry about any closures.





I could not stop there! So I made a pair of spats. I was afraid, however, that with all of the manipulation of getting the doll's leg in and out of this accessory, the paper medallions would not stay glued to the fabric.





So I created the basic form using air dried paper clay. You roll it in a ball and press over the doll's legs until it is thin enough to have a nice shape, but not so thin as to break. (It will look like her legs are in casts!) Since it's made of paper, you can use scissors to trim it. Let them dry and remove from the doll's legs. Paint. Then add the medallions. Though I loved the open-work of one layer, I still felt  additional layers of rosettes and medallions needed to be added for the illusion of hammered metal.









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