Friday, May 22, 2015

A Nod to Jeanne Lanvin (expo)

When it comes to Paris fashion, Lanvin is a pretty familiar name. It is, perhaps a household word as the case of Dior, Chanel or YSL due to the lack of a clear identity where the house's namesake is concerned. At least that was my opinion before seeing the current show at The Palais Galliera, one of two fashion museums in Paris. The museum has set out to change misconceptions like mine with this, the first comprehensive exhibition honoring the oldest fashion house still in existence, "Jeanne Lanvin."

Though a wide selection of dresses, hats, lithographs, photos and film clips chosen by Albert Elbaz, Lanvin's current designer, the visitor quickly discovers a woman, one of the first fashion entrepreneurs with a vision and a business plan. Like many female designers of the day, Lanvin began as a milliner then rapidly built a fashion empire (well before Chanel or Dior). Soon after setting up her hat shop in 1885, she married, purchased the building (which exists today) then in 1908, launched a line of childrenswear, apparel for young ladies and women, then added bridal wear, lingerie and finally menswear in 1926!
Jeanne Lanvin and daughter served as the basis for the company logo.
Lanvin's famous perfume, "Arpege" packaged in a gold emblazoned black spherical bottle, bears her logo--a drawing of her with her daughter, the primary source of her inspiration, throughout her life.

Known for her use of artistic materials, embroidery, topstitching, spirals, cut-outs as well as the classic Art Deco codes of the day, her creations were quite modern and innovative.

"My Fair Lady" gown. White circular ribbon pattern on tulle. 1939
Throughout the show, we were impressed by the profusion of topstitching, embroidery and the use of geometrics, much of which could easily be worn today.
Black taffeta with Swarovski crystal beads. 1925
Another standout--Lanvin's "Dresses as Jewels." In 1925, the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes was held in Paris. Fashion was well represented as was Lanvin who presented a display of silk chiffon gowns encrusted in beads, crystals, gold and silver lame. So popular were these dresses, Lanvin set up three embroidery ateliers within her fashion house to keep up with the demand.

The fashions on display had quite a number of great ideas especially when it comes to embellishments. For this exhibition, I selected a dress entitled "Neptune" to recreate on Estelle, my model. The trick to transforming period costume into modern fashion is to borrow details from the original but translate the overall silhouette into modern aesthetics. The original is a loosely fitted, bias cut silk cocktail dress with fringe made from a skillful arrangement of long folded ribbons forming a spiral. I have not been always happy with the way these loose dresses look on my dolls, so I chose to cut a sheath dress, instead.
"Neptune" dress (and its interpretation) from Lanvin Fall 1926 collection.
The bottom layer of loops (made from 1/8-inch 3mm) follows the horizontal lines of the hem while the top layer is placed on the diagonal. Though I like the result, I will admit, I ran out of ribbon and will probably add in more loops at a later date.
Black silk chiffon dress (l) with wavy embellishment & braided gold lamé. Brick coat (r) 1936.
On the other hand, Jolie, my model standing inbetween the two Lanvin garments, is wearing a simple tunic dress we featured awhile ago, created from a small swatch of antique jet beaded tulle. For instructions as to how to make it, click here.
White satin wedding dress. 1929

Coming up right away..."Yves Saint Laurent 1971: Scandalous!"

Images of the Lanvin clothing by Katerina Jebb courtesy of the Palais Galliera.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Gaultier, the Exhibition

Gaultier poster by Pierre et Gilles

After showcasing the works of France's "bad boy" of fashion in nine other cities around the world, the much anticipated "Gaultier" exhibition has finally arrived in Paris. For this tenth edition, installations were specifically designed for its newest venue, Le Grand Palais, and clips from French cinema and early French TV personal to the designer were added. Moreover, about a third of the garments were replaced with others from his most recent couture collections all in an effort to keep the show fresh and relevant.

While the clothes on display are wild and wonderful with splendidly decadent construction and detail, the staging of this even is equally spellbinding and creative. Gaultier's outrageous, over-the-top story is told through a display of 175 haute couture and ready-to-wear ensembles as well as accessories, photos, drawings and video clips from his catwalk shows, collaborations with filmmakers, dancers, pop stars and concerts.

All in all there are 336 items to completely thrust visitors into a mesmerizing world of France's pop culture couture king. But what really sets this exhibition apart is the staging, complete with interactive, talking, singing, eye-rolling, flirtatious mannequins.

Thanks to Denis Marleau and Stephanie Jasmin of UBU/Compagnie de Creation from Montreal, the mannequins were brought to life with super realistic animated faces projected onto the heads. A dozen celebrities, including Gaultier himself, lent their image and sometimes their voices to be projected onto the faces of the mannequins. In fact, the designer's chatty clone stands amongst others, welcoming visitors and sharing his vision of fashion.

As you move about the exhibition, they roll their eyes, yawn and even make comments to each other. At times, they catch a glance of you and toss out a comment. The experience is so surreal, it will have you winking or answering back!

It is, by far, the most innovative fashion exhibition ever to be staged. This explains why the designer, who for years was reluctant to participate in any retrospective of his work, succumbed to this project first initiated, by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada.

Jean Paul Gaultier remains one of the most prolific fashion designers of modern times. As a child, he was inspired by his grandmother's beauty salon, films, show girl costumes and the Paris Haute Couture as seen throughout the glossy pages of fashion magazines.

On his 18th birthday, he landed a job as assitant for Pierre Cardin. However, London's "Mod" movement eclipsed Paris and a fascinated Gaultier found himself enthralled by the social and cultural revolution taking place throughout Europe.

At the encouragement of his life partner, Francis Menuge in 1976, Galtier dared to launch his own label.

He produced eclectic catwalk shows using a cast of circus-like characters which immediately addressed the concerns of an ever changing multicultural society, while shaking up established, sociological and aesthetic codes.

He mixed cultures and genders, creating a new androgynous figure or humorously delighting in inverting the codes of super sexualized fashion.

"Gaultier," the exhibition, celebrates the designer's unbridled inventiveness as well as his limitless sources of inspiration. The dizzying kaleidoscope of patterns, beads, embroidery and intricate construction here, defines Gaultier as the master couturier that he has become over the years.

If you have the opportunity of going to Paris before the closing date (August 3), this is a rich, must-see exhibition that really shows Paris high fashion at its best within the modern context of art.

For additional information or ticket reservations, go to

All other photographs were taken by Fashion Doll Stylist at the Grand Palais in Paris (with my iPhone!!!)

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Giving Her the Slip

From the boudoir to the dance floor, what could be sexier? The "slip," once worn as an everyday undergarment, is a perennial favorite on global catwalks. Featured in the Louis Vuitton show a few seasons ago, it has re-emerged in time to step into the spotlight for Fall 2015.
Same technique, two different doll bodies. Estelle (left) wears hers under a lace trimmed satin kimono.
There are two was I make this garment. Both are strictly doll-centric. That is to say, it is a super simple approach I use to build the garment directly on the doll.
Fall 2015 Slip dress
This is not how the pattern for humans are made, though it yields the same look!

You can use any type or style of lace provided that it is the correct scale and weight for the doll. You can use hem tape (if that's all you can find), a very fine lace (even better) or...cut the trim off of a second hand garment (smart)! The skirt part can also be anything of your choosing, though you'll probably want a typical luxury fabric. The good thing is, you'll only need a scrap of it!
1. Wrap the lace trim around the doll, allowing for an extra 1/4-inch margin at both ends. If your trim has scalloped edges, you can play with it so that it falls above the bust in a sweetheart neckline.
2. Pin at the back.
3. Fold the left side under and pin. Eventually you will stitch each edge to itself. Tape to the doll's back to hold it in place while you are working.

4. Under each bust, pinch the fabric to create a tiny dart.
5. The dart should fold back towards the side of the doll.
6. This should NOT fit tightly. You should be able to slide the tip of your finger underneath. Hand stitch each dart.

7. Now let's do the skirt. Cut a square of fabric and wrap around the doll's hips to form a tube with the opening at the back.
8. Pinch the fabric at each side of the doll (where a side seam would usually fall) to form a small dart. Hand stitch in place.
9. Turn the doll over and fold the left edge over the right down the center back and pin in place. Be sure the center back seam of the skirt matches up with the center back of the top.
10. Now carefully slide this tube underneath the lace top and pin in place.

11. Make any necessary adjustments for fit and hand stitch using thread the same color as the lace.
12. For the back seam, use a pastel marking pencil and mark where the two edges (which make up the back seam) meet.
13. Turn inside out. Pin then stitch up to about mid-hip. (This is so the doll can get in and out of the dress.)
14. Now let's add a layer of lace at the hemline.
15. Pin in place, then stitch. You can stop there if you want the fabric to peak out from under the lace.
16. But I like the doll's leg to show through. So turn the dress inside out and carefully trim the fabric to within 1/8-inch (3mm) away from the stitch line of the lace.
17. Finish the dress by turning under and stitching down both edges of the lace top. Add hook and eyes for closures at the back. Add straps. Narrow ribbon (1/8") is perfect!

This is a slightly more advanced version of this dress which has a bra top. The way the lace is attached to the dress is reminiscent to the way vintage lingerie was made. If you have a problem with fraying, a little swipe of an anti-fray product can be used to the edges after you have finished the dress.

1. I use tape to make the initial pattern. Tape over the doll's bust. Draw a line around and beneath the bust. Then draw a vertical line (red) from the apex straight down to the line you drew under the bust. This will be used to create a dart.
2. Very carefully remove the tape and cut along that dart line so that the shape is flat. Put it on paper.
3. Draw in that dart. You now have the pattern for the bra top. We will not be adding seam allowance to this. Use this pattern to cut out two bra cups.
4. Now take your lace and trim it down to about 1/4-inch (6 mm).
5. Pin, then hand stitch around the edges (but not the bottom) of each bra cup.

6. As you did in the first version of this dress, cut a square of fabric that fits around the doll's hips plus about 1/4-inch (6mm) to both side edges for seam allowance. Add about 1/2" (1cm) lace to the top and whatever you'd like at the bottom. Stitch in place. Be sure to use the same color thread as your lace so that it remains invisible!
7. Turn over and trim to within 1/8" (3mm) from your stitching line. The back side of your top and the skirt part will look like this.
8. Tape the bra cups to the doll so that they won't move as you're working.
9. Take the bottom part of the dress and lay over the doll so that the lace falls about 1/8" (3mm) over the bottom of the bra.
10. Pin in place.
11. Turn the doll over and fold the left side over the right down the center back. Pin in place.
12. Again, pinch the fabric in on either side of the doll to create a small dart (for shape). Pin. Adjust. Sew. You can really stop right there.
13. Or, in my case, I didn't like how the lace seemed uneven in the front, so I cut a medallion from my lace and stitched it onto the dress, center front and added a tiny bead. Remove the dress from the doll and stitch everything together. Add straps.

Up next: The girls have landed in Paris where they have hit the ground running!!! First stop: They're going to give you a grand tour of the Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibition now on through August 3, 2015 at the Grand Palais!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

For Whom the Bell Tolls...

Next Fall promises to be an exciting time for fashion trends. There were lots of great new looks....particularly in terms of pant silhouettes. I love skinny jeans but frankly they've been with us for over a decade. It's time for something different and Fall trends really deliver when it comes to offering a variety of shapes.

One of those new looks: bell bottom pants---is something we haven't seen in quite awhile. First introduced at the onset of the Carnaby Street Mod era with pants where the hemlines flared out like trumpets over the ankles, it became a signature look of the 1970's with an assortment of flared styles ranging from sexy calypso pants to elegant palazzos. For this project, you will need to pull out your basic pant sloper. Don't have one? You can find it HERE.

You should first decide on the look you'd like to achieve. This tutorial gives you the basics. From there you're invited to make changes and do your own thing!

Before we get started, lay the doll next to the pant sloper and mark where you want to introduce the flare. All the area above this line will be fitted to the hips or legs but flared below. I've marked my sloper at the top of the hips as well as just above the knees because I will be making bell bottoms which will flare out from either of these two points.

1. Decide how much flare you want and mark to one side of the pant leg. Whatever amount of flare you put here, you will need to add to the other side as well as to each side of the back sloper.
2.. Using a compass, I place the needle where I want to introduce the flare and stretch it so that the pencil touches the hemline on the front pant sloper. My mark will create a 45 degree angle from the leg---or a half circle around the ankles when the leg is completed.
3. I draw a curved line to the mark I just made. The end of your line will be above that mark.
4. Draw a line from the side of the pant to the end point of the curve.
5. Repeat on the other side.
6. Remember to add the identical amount of flare to each side.
7. Add seam allowance to create the pattern.
8. Apply steps 2-6 (using the same amount of flare) to the back pant sloper.
9. Add seam allowance. You can add a waistband or fold and stitch down the fabric at the waist.

A variation of the above draft, the flare is 90 degree angle from the pant leg, (a half circle at the end of the pant leg) or a full circle around the ankles in the completed garment.

The procedure is identical to the classic bell bottoms, however I've simply started my flare further down.

There are two ways to make this look, depending on the effect (and the fabric) you want. By maintaining the darts in your pattern (left), the pants will hug the hips and flare out under the hip line. On the right, we've pivoted the fullness of the darts out and into the legs. The hipline is less fitted. However, it is a look best suited for knits and soft or silky fabrics.

Palazzos with darts.

 The draft is identical to that of the classic bell, with the exception of my introducing the flare at the top of the hips instead of the knees.

The end result will hug the doll's hips then flare to the hemline. With this method we can also control how much flare we want which is important if you want a conservative silhouette. But for a full flare, we can make a dartless palazzo pant.

1. Again start with the basic pant sloper. Trace the sloper onto paper. Make a vertical line down from the apex of the waist dart to the hemline.
2. Cut along that line. Fold and tape shut the dart. Trace onto another sheet of paper.
3. Repeat steps 1-2 on the back sloper.
 4. Measure the width of each pant leg at the hem. Note the difference then divide this number in half.For example, my front pant pattern measurs 2.5 inches. The back sloper measures 3.5 inches. That means there is a one inch difference between the front and the back. You will add that measurement to the smaller pattern (the front in this case). My front sloper now measures 3 inches at the hemline.
5. You will deduct that measurement from the wider pattern (the back in my case). My back pant pattern now measures 3-inches as well.

If all of this is really too much for you there is a super simple way to get your girls in bells. It's a look borrowed from the college kids of the 1970's.
 1. Start out with a pair of ready-made Barbie pants.
2. With your compass, measure where you'd like to insert a wedge.
3. With the compass set at the angle of choice, mark a center point and make a full circle.
4. Cut a wedge as full or narrow as you'd like and hem.
4b. Open the side seam of the pants to the desired height.
5. Sew or glue into the seams. You can stop there....or...
6. Add a second wedge to the other side of the pants.
Voila. Instant bells!!!

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