Tuesday, September 20, 2016

That Special Dress: Valentino



Fashion weeks are underway and while I await my girls' report on New York fashion, I thought I would revisit a dress from last season and use it to illustrate the principle of reinterpreting a design.

To the layman,  making a 1/6 of a designer's dress constitutes "copying." But as I've stated before....no matter how much you know about sewing and pattern making for humans, the tiny proportions of the doll forces you to simplify, stylize and reinterpret. By the time you've worked all of that into the design, the garment becomes your own. Sometimes I can get pretty close to the original but when it comes to embellishment.....that calls for my own interpretation. Also, there might be times when you see something you like, but think it might be cool if other materials were substituted. For those of you who are keeping a croquis book (sketch pad), this is why it is also important to note down garment details.

Last season (Fall/Winter 2016) I saw a Valentino gown I wanted to try. I love the way the feathers stretch out over the body like a bird in flight. For the doll this dress is a challenge. While the dress is simple enough, you will not find flat feathers small enough. (And even if you do, they will be too difficult to handle.) The first thing I did was to look at the photo and decide what it is about this dress I like. It is the texture and the movement of the feathers against the delicate dress. I first bought silver grey feathers with the thought of cutting them down. But I soon discovered the final effect didn't come close to the original. On the contrary, I thought I could get a similar effect using raffia painted silver.

We begin with a dress with lots of flare. I chose a floor length princess line dress. You can also use the basic 2-piece dress (bodice+flared skirt), but I didn't want to take the chance of bulk around the doll's waist. The original dress appears to be tulle--which is not so easy to handle. So I used a sheer nylon (from one of my mom's old nightgowns). I cut a double layer.
1. Baste the two layers together using a running stitch. Then assemble the front, then the back together.
2. Trim within 1/8 inch from the seam and press each seam towards the nearest side. (Don't press flat.)
3. Sew the front to the back at the shoulders. I am adding on sleeves. (Hem them first.) Then stitch up the sides.
4. At this point you can redesign or readjust the neckline. If you decide to line this dress, I would use a simple (sleeveless) sheath dress pattern and attach it at the neckline. In my case, I rolled and stitched the neckline (like a silk scarf). Though you see her body through the dress, remember, we are adding an embellishment which will cover all of her privates.
 
5. The basic dress will be your canvas.
6. Take a good look at the movement of the feathers and make a rough sketch.
7. With that sketch nearby, I begin to pin my raffia (or whatever material you chose to use) on my dress.
 
8. Pin a little at a time onto the dress and then sew it to the dress. Then pin a little more and then sew.
9. Because the top will overlap the bottom. I stopped to add strips around the waist.
10. I use a simple whip stitch to keep the raffia in place. I'm using a silver embroidery thread. The stitches will be visible and using silver thread will add to the decorative edge of this embellishment.
 I've stitched down the strands to a point. But then I frayed the ends so that it forms a ragged edge of fringe. When it's all finished, I add a few auto-adhesive rhinestones to the bodice.
 Here's the finished result. The original is more of a "bird." Mine is more rustic....perhaps the nest! One concept--two completely different interpretations simply by changing up the materials! And that's how some  designs are born!

Up next....the girls are back with their picks from New York Fashion Week!

All text and images, property of Fashion Doll Stylist. 2016.


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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Closet Boxes


It should come as no surprise but...my dolls have too many clothes and I have too little space!!!! In fact, they have outgrown the closet I built three years ago. In this, a period of transition when I change my dolls into Fall clothing, I had to stop and solve a growing problem.....how to store their mountain of clothes in a way that is organized and easily accessible.

When I first started making doll clothes, I bought lots of Barbies to "display" the clothes. I thought spending $8-12 on a doll was cheaper than, say, buying a mannequin. That excuse wore thin when I ran out of space for the both the dolls and their clothes! So....three years ago, in a post entitled "Taking Stock" I built a simple closet and purchased a skirt rack for more storage. Still... I still ran out of space. I began wrapping clothes in tissue paper and putting them in boxes down in the cellar. The problem was, I couldn't find anything and when I did...everything was wrinkled!

While there are plenty of DIY ideas floating around the internet on how to build a bigger, better closet (my favorites are the ones on Suzanna William's blog, "The Building of...THE PRIORS." And though I'd love to make one of these, I simply don't have the wall space. So I needed a quick and easy solution which is the focus of this post. The two ideas featured here are neither new nor  original. What is different here is that I have taken a common concept and adapted it to a simplified, inexpensive and time saving storage method. The materials are free (recycled packing boxes from ordering dolls). And no special tools or skills are required.

No More Wire Hangers!
Originally this idea comes from Mattel and the way it packages its stand-alone Barbie fashions which are mounted on a cardboard or clear plastic shape conforming to her body. But it was Suzanna's blog that  really planted the idea in my head. It is really brillian and solves lots of problems when it comes to hanging up outfits, particularly those consisting of several items.
1. Lay the doll down on a piece of paper and trace the length of her neck out to the widest part of her shoulders. Then trace around both sides of her body down slightly past her hips.
2. Slightly part her legs and trace inside. This allows you to create a template which accommodates trousers and bathing suits.
3. Remove the doll and connect the top shoulder point with the rest of the body. Trace this off onto a stiffer cardboard which you will use as a template. I have made two of these, one with the legs and another without.
4. Now trace the template onto a stiffer cardboard. I've recycled much of the cardboard packaging that comes into my home. My favorite is the thin corrugated cardboard used for the post office (priority mail) boxes. It is easy to cut with scissors, allows you to still pins in it, yet provides a sturdy form for the garment. Punch a hole in the neck and add a little bit of wire bent into a small hook. Hint: If you don't feel like making your own hooks, Christmas Ornament hooks work really well!
What I LOVE about these hangers is that you see the entire look at a glance. It keeps individual elements from being displaced. Even better, it saves space and it makes it easy to hang odd shaped clothes like strapless dresses and asymmetrical garments! If your form is too wide or too narrow, simply modify the hanger to fit the need! (I'll also be making these for my guys!)

Accessories can be draped over the form or clipped on. (I've used those miniature clothes pins to attach the gloves in the middle photo.) And if you have a top or dress with spaghetti straps, cut slits into the shoulders of the hangers to accommodate the style!

The Closet Box
Again, a super simple idea that is VERY practical and can be stored anywhere!
Choose a cardboard box suited to the dimensions and quantity of the clothing. It should be broad enough to accommodate the garment, shoulder to shoulder, plus about 1/2 inch (1.5cm) on either side. Add a little contact paper to spruce things up if you feel inclined. Poke a wooden dowel near the top and voila! You're good to go. I've organized my clothes by type and color. In this box: dark toned evening gowns.
After hanging up all the dresses, you can add some tissue paper to the "floor" so that it folds over the clothes as you close the box. Be sure to mark the contents (and the direction) on the outside of the box. I've used some old belts to keep the boxes shut.
It's not furniture, but it solves a problem!
The advantages to this system is that, the clothes are hanging upright as opposed to laying flat and wrinkling. And...when you need either a single item or the entire wardrobe, the box becomes an annex closet that can be transported anywhere for quick access. When not in use, it's like storing a miniature closet on your shelf.

The Closet Suitcase

In my cellar I also have some old luggage I'm not using. I simply installed a rod inside this carry-on and hung up my dolls' fur coats. On the outside of the bag, their fur accessories (stoles, trim, handbags and hats) are placed in the pockets! Then it's back down to the cellar and onto the shelf!

While we're on the subject.....this being the season of "Back to School," now is the time to look for all sorts of handy containers--like pencil cases-- to store tiny objects. This helps keep the interiors of drawers organized.
(Top photo) I found these really great little pencil boxes with small compartments on both sides. One side I used for glasses and tiaras and the other for a variety of belts.
(Middle photo) Like everyone else, I use those plastic drawers on my desk top. At the dollar store I found small, clear containers normally destined for nails, nuts & bolts. I use them to store jewelry. The nicest thing is to be able to see what's inside without having to open the box up. 
Bottom photo) At the local craft store, look for bead boxes. Here, I'm using one to store doll shoes. Again, you can see what's inside.

I have a ways to go before everything in the house is sorted and completely organized. But at least, I know I'll get there quickly and inexpensively!
It's so much easier to find exactly what I'm looking for now!!!

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Trash Couture

During a car event I attended recently, there were two young women strolling down street selling T-shirts. Each had personally customized their shirts, one by slicing the back into thin slats then tying them into clusters of fringe, and the other by cutting up the front and knotting a single braid down the front. Intrigued, I did more research on this style and discovered this is a popular DIY look around American beach towns, particularly in the late summer when bodies are well bronzed, T-shirts are well worn and there's a desire for something a little different. It is a fairly simple, rough-cut, "slash & go" sexy look created out of something that might otherwise end up in the trash.

The technique consists of taking old T-shirts, cutting away the sleeves and neckband, then slicing cut-outs, slats or fringe. Of course, our dolls do not have "old T-shirts" laying around, so we have to make some first. But you only need to sew the sides and shoulders together and the end result doesn't have to be perfect.  There are no fancy fabrics involved. No complicated sewing or finishing. Nothing is perfect. It's all in the name of fun! After all, this is "trash couture." The dolls wear it. The dude dolls whistle. Then after summer is over, they throw them away and start all over next year. (Not really, but that's the general idea.)

Basic T-shirt
In a very early post, I did a "Mattel" dolly T-shirt which is traced from an original garment and open down the back. But for these projects, you'll need a "regular T-shirt" that slips over the doll's head. The pattern is simple. In the two weeks it took to prepare this project, I experimented with different types of knits to see what was possible. Cut up old T-shirts work. You can always dye them (1/2 teaspoon of fabric dye to 1/2 cup of boiling water). Or embellish them with foiling, transfer or stickers.

1. Use your doll's basic bodice. Ignore the dart.
2. Depending on the length you want, drop a vertical line straight down from the underarm point. Here I've extended 1" (25mm) Simply flip the sloper and trace onto the opposite side of the CF line.
3. Add seam allowance. For these projects, you only need to add seam allowance to the shoulders and sides.
4. Repeat for the back, using the back sloper.
5. Again, I added 1" down from the CB point and I dropped a perpendicular line down from the bottom of the armhole.
6. Add seam allowance as shown.
7. Hint: For the T-shirt with the fringe down the back, you can line up the side seams of the front to those of the back and draw a one-piece T-shirt. The only seam allowance you'll need is for the shoulders.


T-shirt with Back Fringe
Let's start with something simple. You will need a 2-way stretch knit. This means it stretches in both directions. Above, I used an old cotton T-shirt.
1-2. I use the one piece T-shirt pattern and put it on the doll and check for fit and length.
3. Remove from doll, fold T-shirt in half and pin together down the side seam.
4. Cut into strips. I found you cannot cut thinner than 3/8" (6mm) without the fabric coming apart. You might want to test a swatch first.
5. Put the T-shirt back on the doll and carefully stretch each strip.
6. As you stretch each strip, roll the fabric in your fingers.
7. Grab two strands on either side and tie them into a knot. I've pulled the T-shirt to fit snugly onto the doll's body.
8. Two by two, continue all the way down the back.
9. My front looks like this.
10. Cut the neckline you want. You can also recut around the arms.

 
T-shirt Cover-Up with Fringe

1. Again, start with the one piece T-shirt pattern. I tried a different type of knit, something that doesn't fray, for this one.
2. On the wrong side, I mark off my fringe to ensure everything will be evenly cut.
3. Stitch together the shoulder seams and only down the back to the point where the fringe will begin.
4. Cut you fringe.
5. Here, Bea is wearing this over bikini bottoms.
 
 You can also add beads to the end of the fringe for a Boho chic look.
I found tiny silver filigree "tubes" with 2mm holes. Roll the ends tight and feed through the bead. If this is difficult, use a needle and thread to help you pull the end of the fabric through the bead. Knot to keep the bead in place.
 
One Shouldered Top with Side Fringe

Another very simple look, this one starts with a basic T-shirt.
1. Cut away one shoulder. On the opposite side, divide into four parts,  the length of the T-shirt from the underarm to the hem. Slash the T-shirt as indicated to within 1-1/2" (4 cm) of the opposite side seam.
2. Here is my basic T-shirt with one seam sewn and the shoulder removed.
3. Here is the T-shirt with the initial cuts.
4. There is a wedge cut away from the first slash.
5. And that's all...Place on the doll and tie down the side. Notice how one section is tied over the shoulder.
 
Draped Back T
 
One more (easy look). I wanted to translate "Trash Couture" into something less savage. Here is a simple top with a twisted back. You don't need a 2-way stretch fabric, but you will want to use something that drapes well.
This look is very simple in the front and quite dramatic in the back. I used a 2-way stretch rayon for this look. Here, Waris wears the top over a pencil skirt.
 
The classic T-shirt is drafted as shown at the top of this post. Add seam allowance.
Extend the back by 1-1/2 inches (4 cm) from the CB. Trace to the opposite side so the back pattern is all in one piece. Once cut from fabric. line up the front to the back at one shoulder and side seam. Twist the back twice so that the side seam and shoulder  of the back lines up with that of the front.
 
Now for something a bit more complex but nevertheless easy. There are two knotting methods involved for most T-shirt cutting designs. I've tried to explain this as clearly as possible by using a diagram.
 
Weave
This technique creates a latticework with soft loops down each side. In essence you are simply pulling the lower slat up and over then looping the next one through.
1. After you have cut your T-shirt into slats, stretch them carefully. Take the second slat (red) and pull it up above the first one (black).
2. Fold this second slat (red) down past the third one (blue).
3. Pull the third slat (blue) up through the red.
4. Then pull it down past the fourth (purple).
5. Pull the fourth (purple) up and over and down past the next...etc until you reach the end. Once you have reached the end you can either stitch it down to the garment, or you can cut the loop and tie into a knot. 
Hint: if you want a look that really hugs the body, make a dress with the basic knit sloper.
 
Super sexy, Joan wears a her lemon yellow dress over a fuchsia bathing suit.
Weave & Loop


This is the same technique except that each loop is given a single twist before threading the next slat through. It forms a soft braid down center. Here too, we start with a 2-way stretch knit cut into slats.
1. Pull the second (red) slat up and over the first (black).
2. Make a single twist and thread the third slat (blue) through the second.
3. Make a single twist.
4. Thread the fourth slat ((white) through the third (blue).
5. Make a single twist and pull the next slat through, etc.  As you work, a soft braid forms down the center. Again, either clip the last loop and tie into a tiny knot, or stitch it down to the garment.
Hint: Experiment with your slashing. Slash on a curve. Make double rows of slashes. Or after you have used one technique, you can come back and use a second technique on the same "weave." There are plenty examples on YouTube and Pinterest.
 
My research also led me to the intriguing work of Adam Saaks, a Los Angeles designer known for his super sexy slash and weave swimwear and jumpsuits.
 
Basic 1-piece Bathing (or Body) Suit
What is nice is that the same techniques can be used for 1-piece bathing suits. A while back I did a tutorial on a strapless bathing suit. But you'll really need a suit that fits like a second skin. So I decided to make a new tutorial.These are really nice to make because they can also be used as a form fitted top worn with evening skirts or with pants Warning: there are a lot of steps here...not because anything is complicated. It's simply my way of hand holding you through to a great fitting bathing suit.
 
Draping the Pattern
1. Start with a bit of cotton knit, wide enough to cover the doll shoulder to shoulder and long enough to cover her down past the hips. You'll need two pieces
2. Fold each in in half and cut a demi-circle.
3. Tape one piece to the doll's back.
4. Put the second piece over the doll's front and then pin to the back at each shoulder.
5. Stretch the fabric and pin under the crotch.
6. Working from side to side. Stretch both pieces and pin along each side of the doll.
7. Work from front to back and stretch so that the knit fits firmly and smoothly over the doll's body.
8. Clip away the excess.
9. Turn the doll over and continue to fit.
10-11. You will need to do this a few times, turning the doll from front to back to ensure the bathing suit fits her well. Adjust the pins as needed.
12. Again, trim away the excess.
13. For the basic bodysuit, feel along wear the leg joins the body.
14. You will make your line here. You can always come back later and recut this line if you desire a higher cut suit. Just be aware that the doll's mechanics may not make her attractive in a scantier cut around the legs and hips! This is especially the case with some Barbies who have imprinted panties on their bodies.
15. Begin marking your pattern along the line of pins. Trace along the sides.
16. Trace around the armholes and shoulders on the front and on the back!
17. Figure out where the center of the doll's body is and with a ruler, make a vertical line down her center front.
18. Do the same thing for the back. After everything is clearly marked, remove this from the doll and prepare to make a paper pattern.

Transferring to Paper Pattern

1. Take apart your draped suit and lay flat. Place a piece of tracing paper over and trace. Draw in the center line
2. Fold along the center line and compare.
3. More than likely, one shoulder is higher than the other. Find the mid point and raise one side higher and the other slightly lower. Repeat for the back
4. My front is wider than the back. We need to console the difference.
5. Lay the front over the back and note the difference in width. Find the midpoint, then make the front more narrow.
6. My back will be wider. When you are finished. the front and back should be the same width.
7. My shoulder line in the front is wider than the back. I note the difference between the two, mark the midpoint.
8. With the front over the back, look at the bathing suit crotch and make adjustments so that this area lines up by raising and lowering to two lines.
9. In the front, move the shoulder line over a bit to straighten it up.
10. Repeat on the back. What you are doing is to compensate for each move so that the measurements are faithful to the original pattern but line up better.

Flip the back upside down and join it to the front at the crotch line. Then add seam allowance. For the standard suit, you may want to add seam allowance all over and turn down the edges. Note: if you do this, it will be easier if you finish your edges before sewing. But keeping with the spirit of this project, I'll only add seams at the sides and shoulders. I should also note that the suit on the left is fuller and was created to cover my Barbie SIS panty area. The suit on the left is high cut and works well with the look of my Barbie Model Muses.


 After discovering the work of Adam Saaks, a designer from Los Angeles known for his cut and slash bodywear, I made swimsuits for my 16" Tonner dolls and had some fun.
1. Fold the bathing suit in half and pin along the side seams.
2. I wanted a V-neck effect, so I used a straight edge to help guide me as I cut.
3. Slash, making slats 3/8-1/4" (5-6mm) deep. For this suit, I did this on both sides
4. Place on the doll. Here's what she looks like in the front.
5. Here's the back.
6. Tug carefully and roll in your fingers to loosen and create somewhat of a roll.
7. It should look something like this.
Using the same technique as shown for the T-shirts, my front will have the "weave and loop" in the front.
8. Pull the second slat up and over the first. Then give a single twist.
9. Feed the third slat through this loop. Pull up and give a single twist to create a new loop.
10. Feed the four slat through this loop, etc. until you have reached the end. Stitch the tip to the garment.
My back will have the basic lattice achieved with the "weave" technique.
11. The back is already cut into slats.
12. Pull the second slat up and over the first.
13. Pull down past the third slat.
14. Thread the third slat up and over the second.
15. Repeat until you are finished.

16. Pull the suit away from the doll and make diagonal slashes over the abdomen.
17. Slash the shoulders, cutting down to the top of the bust.
Pull one strap over the shoulder.
 
My end results are not as "clean" as I'd like it to be. (The one fabric I didn't have a chance to explore is Lycra to see if it cuts and stretches better.) The problem is course, the scale and what happens when you slash fabric for a small doll. Still, I'm pretty happy with the results (and so are the dolls!) They didn't get their pool, but many did get swimwear!
Tamron is wearing a 1 piece suit that's simply been slashed in the front. I slashed and made a simple weave in the back.

 
 
 
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