Saturday, June 16, 2018

Variations of a Theme: Margiela Remix




I'm always looking for new, more simplified ways to create interesting doll fashions. As I stated in the previous post, I've never been what you would call a Martin Margiela fan. However, after seeing the way a few concepts could be adapted into some truly refined looks for Hermes, I decided to delve more deeply into how I could translate some of these into "quick and easy" styles for dolly....items requiring a minimum of fabric AND a minimum of sewing....but still look CHIC!!!

The Duvet Coat


I was intrigued by this coat. The concept behind the design was based on a down comforter (duvet)--a square that wraps around the body for warmth, with the option of outer covers. The coat has a simple silhouette. It is a rectangular shape with sleeves made from a basic fabric like muslin with optional "covers" to transforms the coat into a raincoat, something suitable for day or embellished for evening wear. While it makes no sense for the doll--each outer cover is the same amount of work as making a whole coat--I do like the idea of the basic design--a square or rectangle with two sleeves and no seams! For those of you following this blog who can neither sew very well nor have the time to construct a garment, this is ideal!
For my coat, I began with a square piece of paper. Fold in half to mark the center line then place the doll on top and mark the placement of the armholes.
The sleeves are essentially tubes, the same circumference as the armholes with one end cut on a slight angle. The circumference of the armhole can be whatever you want but will depend on the thickness of your chosen fabric. For this coat, I used a crisp cotton muslin. I chose a narrower sleeve because it helps keep this, rather unstructured garment, on the doll. The circumference measurement is 2" 52mm) while the circumference for the sheepskin version (shown later on) is 3" (8cm). I make a stitch around the sewing line on the coat to keep each hole from stretching while you set in the sleeves.
You'll note that the sleeves fit further down on the arm and the top of my "duvet coat" slopes down from the nape of the neck to the shoulders. It is an unusual cut which adds to the charm of this avant-garde look. In able to get the collar to drape in such lovely folds in the front, I have cheated a little with tiny stitches on the lower corners of the folds!
Also Note: If you want a "cleaner finish" on the inside of the coat--make the exterior separately from the lining using a slightly larger armhole. Fit the two layers together right side to right side. Stitch around the edge (leaving a space where you can turn everything right side out). Poke the sleeves of the lining through the exterior and hem at the cuffs.

This coat has so many styling possibilities depending on the fabric you choose. For example...I found a piece of sheepskin. Normally this is pretty difficult--not to mention bulky--to sew. So eliminating the seams is pretty interesting especially if you are just getting into this DIY doll fashion thing.

This coat required very little in sewing. The opening for the sleeve is 3" circumference. I did have a little problem in keeping the coat from slipping off of her shoulders, so I pinched in darts at the top, just above the shoulders). I cut a tiny strip of leather and knotted it on one end to create a button which is placed at the hips on the doll's left side. (There is a closeup of this button further down under "stole.")  It is threaded through a tiny hole and tied in place. You can also use a brad but the stem has to be long enough to be left a bit loose. On the doll's right side of the coat which folds over, I cut a tiny buttonhole. In short, this coat buttons shut!

Many years ago, I was given a small reptile hide. It was stiff and too brittle to sew. The hide had two little holes where I imagine the legs must have been. It is impossible to sew with but I still wanted to use it.
I cut up a sock to make two tubes (for sleeves) which I pushed through the holes and carefully hand stitched in place.

Besides leather and skins, is there must be some other legitimate excuse for using this super simple pattern? Perhaps you have a beautiful pocket square or a gorgeous piece of lace you cannot bear to cut up!
1. I took advantage of a sale and found this piece of 6" (15cm) red lace trim. Unfortunately I did not have any smaller lace to use for the cut (side) edges.
2. So I very carefully cut around the motifs of the edges so as to preserve the curves of the original pattern.
3. Pin the pattern underneath the lace and very carefully cut out the armholes
4. So that the armholes will not stretch or fray, use a chain stitch to stitch onto the sewing line (approximately 1/8" or 3mm from the cut edge). This adds stability to the hole and provides a sewing guide for the sleeve.
5. Here's what this looks like when I'm finished.
6. Cut two tubes to fit the holes. My strips are roughly 2" wide by 3-1/2" long. Fold in half and sew (the underarm seam) then turn right side out.
7. Cut the top edge at a slight angle.
8. Slide a pencil or paintbrush into the sleeve. Poke this tube through the armhole of the coat and pin the sleeve in place on the underside, making sure the seam of the tube will fall under the arm.
9. You can remove the pencil and use your finger to hold the sleeve and armhole in place as you sew. Using a tiny back stitch, hand sew the sleeve to the coat along the stitching line you created early.

The Flat Coat

There was another coat that caught my eye at the Margiela exhibition. Hanging on the wall there was what appeared to be a flat trench coat. The problem is, there wan't anything to show the front, nor how it was worn. Still, it sparked my imagination! My first attempt--cut from cotton cloth-- was awful. Fabric jutted out from the sides and flopped down from the shoulders. The doll looked as if she got caught up in her bed linens. I'm not sure a softer fabric would have rendered better results. But after much reflection, I decided this could be transformed into a real haute couture piece by using an interesting material like.... sheer polyester organdy!
The choice of fabric came after the disaster of my first attempt. I had sewn together, two lined cotton squares thus adding to the bulk to the look. But using the polyester organdy (a.k.a. crystal polyester), I only used a single layer and flame sealed the edges. When I finished, the final result looked NOTHING like Margiela's coat on the wall!  Instead the coat I created made the doll resemble a beautiful butterfly! That's the difference between copying and being inspired!

1. To create the pattern, I started with a sheet of paper folded in half to mark the center. Lay the doll down with her arms outstretched (about 24 degree angle). Line her up so that the center of her lines up with the center of the paper.
2. Trace a line around one side of the doll from the back of her neck straight over to the length of her arm.From the CB line, measure 1-3/4" (42mm) and extend a vertical line down to the hem. From that same point draw a horizontal line out to the doll's hand.
3. Round out the perpendicular line of the underarm/side seam. Trace to the other side of the paper to make a full back pattern.
4. For the front, Trace off half the back then add a margin. Mine here is 2" but you can add more or less depending on your desired look.

5. Here's the tricky part. Your pattern is actually the outer measurements of the sheet of paper! Cut two panels for the front and one for the back.
6. The pattern which you just created for the back will be traced onto the back panel. Pin the panel onto the sheer fabric, then using tailor's chalk or a pastel pencil, trace the pattern of the coat.

7. Pin the front panels to the back along the top and side. With the back panel (which has the pattern traced onto it), sew along the pattern lines. Be careful to keep the overlay of the front panels free from the stitching.  The stitches are on the outside of the garment. I added a belt made from the same fabric. Just under the stitched sleeves at the waist, I machine stitched small squares then slit tiny openings so that I could feed the belt through (close up circle).
 Here is my finished coat back (top) and front (bottom).
It makes for a spectacular effect!

The Stole
This garment I liked a lot! A simple stole becomes a veritable garment.
 My favorite Paris shop for leather scraps (Au Gentleman des Cuirs, 4bis, rue d'Orsel, Paris 18) had some sheepskin scraps which I immediately grabbed. They are bulky. They hard to sew, but look-- in an instant, Samantha has the closest thing to a sheepskin jacket.
I used the leather side for the outside. By turning down the edges on the top and bottom to expose the fleece, you have a quick and easy fur trim. Note: when flat, the shape of this stole is curved much like those old fashioned fur stoles from the 1950's. Here again, I've made my own buttons (center photo) by taking a strip of leather and knotting one edge and threading the other end through a tiny hole which is tied on the underside. I cut in tiny buttonholes so that the garment can be closed without snaps or velcro!


The beauty of the stole is that you can use almost any fabric and customize it anyway you'd like. I decided to "tailor" it a bit--and make it more fitted to the body so that it looks like jacket from the front. This one is cut from a cotton broadcloth napkin.


This is what I call a "fitted" stole. It has a more tailored fit.
1. You decide on the length and the look. My stole here measures 2-1/2" (65mm) wide by 10-3/4" (28 cm)long which I've hemmed all around.
2. Wrap this around the doll's shoulders and pin at the waist and hem.
3. Pinch in darts over the shoulders.
4. Pinch in darts from the bust down to the bottom edge towards the back at a diagonal. Make sure the doll's arms are stretched out at an angle.
5. When you're done, it should fit like this. Add pockets, center front buttons...whatever embellishments you desire!
For Tamron, I decided to add leather pockets with tiny silver studs (brads) and black buttons (brads) down the center. You can use snaps or velcro to close this.

Oh it's gets even better. How about a "Chanel" jacket-stole!!!!
I found this "Chanel" inspired fabric at a store in Troy Michigan (Habermann Fabrics). And with minimal work, Dorian now has another designer look for her wardrobe.
The weave is quite loose and while this is good for fraying the edges, don't forget to make a machine stitch around the edges to keep the fabric from fraying beyond where you want it to end.

One last thing....
That Glove Bustier
This was, of course, way too much fun. The original top designed by Margiela was constructed by sewing actual gloves together. And yes, I took a shortcut by making a one piece strapless leather camisole first.  I had to first make the "gloves," then one by one, layer them over the camisole.
I drew a glove the same scale of the doll's hand and with tiny, manicure scissors, I cut out each glove.
Tracing the glove drawing onto leather could have been a tedious job. So I came shortcut. Place (or double stick tape) the glove to the leather then rub soft pastel over the entire glove which will result in a "shadow" once the cut-out is removed. The photo to the right shows the "shadow" which you cut out using manicure scissors. Feel free to decorate the glove by cutting in fringe or embellishing with other bits of leather or paint.


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Friday, June 1, 2018

Martin Margiela's Mad Revolution

For those of us fashionistas who lived through the 1980’s, it was a decade of sumptuous fashion that was sexy, flirty, pretty, glamorous and, at times, downright fun. But not everybody was on board. Hiding in the shadows in the atelier of French designer, Jean Paul Gaultier, was a young Belgian named Martin Margiela. He was against everything my favorite decade represented: from the omnipresence of designer logos to the planned obsolesce of the fashion trends. As the 1980’s drew to a close, we found ourselves facing a Gulf War, economic constraints AND….a radical revolution within the fashion world itself.
"Recoup" A gown is belted and worn as a skirt.
The lining is pulled out and worn as a top

Considered one of the most atypical and mysterious designers of his generation, Martin Margiela with his conceptual collections, his predilection for deconstruction and recycled materials, his catwalk shows  staged at unusual venues (warehouses, car parks, a metro station even a waste land site) quickly became one of the most talked about and the most imitated  designers of his generation. He never made a single public appearance nor did he give personal interviews. Instead, journalists  were responded to  by fax in the first person plural as a gesture of respect to his team and as a statement in response to the celebrity cults dominating the fashion world at that time. As a reaction to the rise (and importance) of the supermodel, Margiela often covered the faces of girls in his shows. In 1988 Margiela set out on his own and launched a totally new movement which not only challenged the existing system but completely changed the course of fashion itself. “Grunge” otherwise known as ripped jeans, repurposed vintage clothes, deconstruction (garment linings and lingerie introduced as outerwear), rough cut hems, the helter-skelter of mixing patterns and prints…most of what we see on the streets of today can be attributed to this rebel. Don’t get me wrong!  Me and my girls are NOT….repeat…NOT fans of grunge! So when we arrived in Paris only to learn there were—not one, but two exhibitions devoted to Martin Margiela, the man I feel launched the “anti-fashion,” grunge movement of the 1990’s, we found ourselves a bit perplexed.
Scavaging style. Existing garments are reconstructed into "new clothes.

“Martin Margiela: 1989-2009” currently on at the Palais Galliera,  is the first retrospective in Paris devoted to Margiela. It  examines  the designer’s conceptual approach in challenging the aesthetics of his time. His anti-1980’s movement is the starting point—deconstructed garments he recuperated from vintage shops then put back together with the seams on the outside. With the help of 100 garments accompanied by catwalk videos and installations, visitors are led through the evolution of his twenty year career. The intimate installations throughout the museum provides an up close and personal look at how Margiela constructed garments by deconstructing them, exposing the lining and other unfinished parts, thus revealing the different stages of manufacture: pleats, shoulder pads, patterns, bastings and all.
 The designer thinks of new ways to wear clothes and new materials like the shirt and dress (left) which are made from stockings.
Margiela often transformed recuperated items and objects into works of fashion. Here, gloves are stitched together into a bustier.
Interestingly enough, even Barbie has a presence in this show. Margiela often pushed the scale of a garment to extremes, enlarging the proportions to 200%. With his “Barbie Collection” he was inspired by  doll clothes and how the fabric and the closures are often oversized for the scale of the doll. This “error” is reinterpreted for humans with the use of supersized buttons, snaps and yarn.
Margiela studies Barbie and the proportions of the elements used in the construction of her clothes. In this case, the oversized yarn used to make her sweater and giant snaps serve as inspiration for the human series of sweaters.
The exhibition walks visitors through the designer’s rebellious era complete with clothes that looked as though they were lifted straight off the racks of the Salvation Army to Margiela’s last show where, more experimentation was made in terms of construction. In contrast to the beginning of his label, Margiela made an about face and embraced the swollen shoulders  and proportions of a fashion era he initially rejected.

From human hair wigs on the left to a supersized "Chanel" knitted jacket on the right, everything was fair game when it came to imagining new creations. At the end of his career, Margiela reconsiles with the big shoulders of the 1980's (center).
The exhibition, which is very well mounted, is both aesthetically shocking and enlightening at the same time. No matter how you find his work, one comes away with a newfound appreciation for his “art.” Margiela’s story doesn’t end here, however.

The down comforter coat. One basic coat with the option of changing the "cover"

 Margiela loved to use vintage scarves for his dresses.

Long before Kanye West's Yeezy stocking boots, Margiela had already created them.
The beginning of the ripped jeans craze!


Within his 20 year career, Margiela was commissioned to design ten womenswear collections for the 132 year old prestigious house of Hermes. From 1997 to 2003, Margiela developed a vision in which the woman’s way of living standards was essential to the design of the garment.  For the Hermes woman, Margiela developed a gradually evolving wardrobe made up of individual pieces that contributed to the comfort, quality and timelessness of the basic look.  He presented his collections on "real women" of varying images and body types as his fashions were always harmonized with the wearer.

Two looks in one thanks to the addition of an overskirt.

It's Martin Margiela but classically executed for Hermes.
This second exhibition—which goes on until mid-September focuses on Margiela’s collaboration, his love for tradition and tailoring. Margiela: The Hermes Years can be perceived as a vast wardrobe, in which the two worlds of Martin Margiela  engage in dialogue with one another.

What first may seem to be irreconcilable worlds of luxury and avant garde,  are brought together as part of a single vision, in which ideas and concepts that span collection and seasons are recaptured, rethought, or even refined. For me, here is where I could best appreciate the talent of a man I had previously dismissed. Many of the concepts introduced in his own signature line were elaborated and refined for Hermes. Aesthetically, the silhouettes remain faithfully simple.

The stole jacket. Essentially a shawl or stole but with pockets that result in the look of a jacket!
The “originality” lies in the multipurpose nature of each garment. The concept of a down comforter coat with covers that snap over it and transform into a multitude of looks is very smart. Other favorites: the shawl with pockets that provide a trompe l’oeil jacket; a basic dress given a new look thanks to a leather apron that wraps around.


Both exhibitions provide an in-depth and well rounded look at a man who remained invisibly in the background of his work. They also yield a few very interesting items—Margiela’s “flat” garments--that I found useful for my girls. Okay, they won’t be wearing grunge anytime soon, but they did see a few things they found quite intriguing. In my next post, I will be following up with a “Behind the Design” post to show you what I found interesting and how I adapted it for my dolls.

“Martin Margiela: 1989-2009” Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris (Palais Galliera). 10, avenue Pierre-Ier-de-Serbie 75116 Paris www.palaisgalliera.paris.fr Entry : 10 Euros. Open Tues-Sun 10am-6pm (Thurs until 9pm) through July 15.
“Margiela: Les annees Hermes. Musee des Arts Decoratifs. 107, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr Entry : 11 Euros. Open Tues-Sun 11am-6pm (Open Thurs until 9pm) through September 2.
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