Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Doll's Eye View: Paris Haute Couture Fall 2017

Literally translated, the word "couture" means dressmaking. Any made-to-order dress or gown is couture, but not all couture is "Haute Couture" exceptionally high level of dressmaking. It isn't just about fancy gowns or hefty price tags, this is a completely different type of garment from that which is produced for mass distribution.  And as with other forms of fashion, lifestyles impact what  couturiers produce for their clientele. As women have become more active, Haute Couture has become more simple.

Since its inception in 1865, Haute Couture is the product the super wealthy turns to for wardrobe choices. Couture fabrics are like fine works of art produced in small quantities by private, family owned mills. Master crafters are also employed hand embroider, apply beads or feathers onto the final garment while others produce coordinated shoes, hats and jewelry. But often, the women who could afford clothes costing upwards of $15,000 for a daywear dress to over $250,000 for a hand embroidered evening gown, had plenty of time for tending to their wardrobe and  attending  fittings. But times are a-changing.

Most women in affluent socio-economic communities now hold down full time jobs, or run their own companies. Such fast paced lifestyles means less time for the frivolity of "ladies who lunch." The stigma of wearing off the rack designer wear has dissipated. Most young women have no idea of the work and artistry that goes into a couture gown, nor do they care. Today, it's all about....the look and labels! As a result, there are very few "ambassadors" of the real Haute Couture. So there is no real reason for these clothes to exist. But Paris being Paris...the industry won't let HCdie. Instead, twice yearly,  it invites new designers to present their wares at an event once reserved for a handful of iconic couturiers. Today, designers come from all corners of the globe to celebrate Paris Couture Week. Some, like Italian born, Armani and Giambattista Valli, British duo Ralph & Russo, Lebanese Zuhair Murad, Georges Hobeika, and Elie Saab are now doing Haute Couture better than the French! But many of younger designers invited as guests during couture week, seem not to completely grasp the concept of couture. Much of what we saw was, well...ready to wear. And sadly, this season, many of our favorite labels showed either dreary grey frocks or predictable, almost stereotypical ball gowns. As a result, this season, my girls settled on only a few looks from the Haute Couture Fall/Winter 17 collections.

Star That You Are..
These are simple silhouettes zapped with the twinkle of delicate beadwork. They are dresses that may very well end up on red carpet events this fall! But even with all of the sparkle, my girls found ways to jazz up the looks a bit!

This is a dress made from a tube of stretch, semi-matte black sequins. I removed a bit of embroidery from a piece of vintage, beaded, black lace and tacked it onto the top for the "bra" top. I also added a bit more of this embroidery to the hemline, then added a few iridescent black beads  to the bra and to the hem. The rest of that trim is used as a shawl that Grace chose to toss over her shoulders.

I really don't really understand the Haute Couture connection with this wrap dress. And I doubt the woman who buys this will wear it without underwear. But it was simple to make and, after all, my girls love to shine! Instead of rhinestone studded sheer fabric, I chose a glitter tulle for both Nichelle's dress and shawl. Where the dress crisscrosses over the body, I added rhinestone stickers.

Christian Values
This summer, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs pays tribute to the legacy of Christian Dior with a tremendous exhibition. (We will dedicate a post on that exhibition in the near future.) A few couturiers also paid homage, with silhouettes reminiscent of the namesake's signature look: the "trapeze." This classic dress has a fitted bodice with full, flared skirt. This is a very pretty silhouette that lends itself to princess Barbie wear!
There were lots of ou's and ahs over this Grecian dress. Though it looks more summer than winter, my girls loved the softness of this look. The dress starts with a strapless fitted bodice with a drape of sheer fabric attached to a full, gathered skirt.

One Off
 Again, emphasis is on the shoulders, with one-shouldered dresses taking center stage.

We loved Ralph & Russo, finding it to be one of the few collections that had the mark of authentic Haute couture. That baby blue dress caught everybody's eye and is just the kind of challenge I was looking for. But it did make me cry. Making this dress meant getting out the muslin and draping it directly on the doll. And though I made another toile from the original drape, the bad surprise came when I transferred everything to fabric. The top came out better than I expected, but there is a major flaw in the skirt. I cut it on the bias thinking the skirt would fit better. Instead, the edges stretched as I ironed it which is why it is curling around the legs. When I have a bit of time, I'd like to try this again, cutting the skirt on the straight grain!!!

Glamour Girls
Me and the girls love old fashioned, 1930's silver screen fashion. We love the feathers, the fur touches, the glitz and the drama. But if you look closely, beyond the flash and dash of the glamour, you'll see that not everything here is HC.. Still, this was something my girls felt they could work work with.
For an Haute Couture catwalk show, we believe you should go big or go home, especially when it comes to accessories. After all, these are clothes for a queen! While Meagan loves white satin and white fur, she felt the original dress was a bit too.....ready to wear. It could at least have a little beading. In this case, we simply made a bodice using some pearl medallions (found in the wedding department of our favorite fabric store). Her coat is simply a cheap rabbit fur scarf we found last winter..

The original dress has the look Nadja was going for, but she felt Haute Couture, even in a modern context, is more than a leather corset and pleated trousers. We kept the (faux) fur neck muff, the leather corset and matching opera length gloves, but gave her a taffeta wrap skirt instead and added ropes of rhinestones.

Shine On
Silk satin sculpted into a fishtail gown, velvet with shiny edges generously poured over the body in a tent-like silhouette or a super simple evening length shift with gilded is the time to shimmer and shine!

But why look good when you can look great! It is, after all Haute Couture. You can start out with something simple, but when you finish, the look should be....grandiose! Stephani looks sensational in her Ralph & Russo but she didn't stop there. She borrowed the crystal polyester coat we did in an early post..."Flaky Pastry."

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ken's Eye View: Summer 17 Menswear Trends

The guys are back, this time with the best of Summer 2017 fashions! Traditionally, summer collections are not news making styles. It's a time for chilling out and enjoying the beautiful weather in style. After eyeing the catwalks of New York, London, Milan and Paris, the dude dolls in my house have all agreed the way to go is with super cool fashions cut in easy to wear silhouettes cut from soft cottons in white, neutrals and sometimes fruity tones.

Easy Does It!
Summer time when the livin' is easy....shapes are loose and large. Think drawstring pants, oversized tunic shirts and Tshirts that float loosely over the abs. Many of the looks on this page can be made using the basic pattern tutorials for the Ken dolls. You only need to lengthen the patterns for the oversized shirts or widen the pattern (and ignore any darts) for the wide pants.
Sport coat, slacks with a tie dye oversized tunic peaking out....this is an exotic look with a Middle Eastern flair that our guys simply love. The tie dye aspect of these shirts adds a bold graphic statement to Renauld's ensemble.
New Boys on the Block
Bold and big, this is the 2017 version of color blocking. Shirts and jackets are super wide with stark, contrasting accents. This is done by changing up the color of the sleeves or pants, or with the addition of a supersized pockets or blocks of photo images.
Country Gentleman
The same idea of loose, easy clothes is carried over to more formal daywear. Sport jackets are cut from textured cottons and linens in styles ranging from the classic blazer through safari jackets. Colors are faithful to sun bleached tones of chalk, clay, white washed pastels, light grey.
Mr. Clean
Once again, this is a story of easy fashions cut from the same neutral palette. In this theme, note the appearance of the jumpsuit, the oversized shirt with cargo pockets and the trench coat tossed over the shoulders of a white Tshirt and trousers.
Short Stop
As to be expected with summer fashions, shorts... particularly those worn with jackets, are big! Here, the guys show off the best way to wear shorts from daytime safari looks to regal nighttime styles.
Our guy, Marcus wears the total (Moncler Gamme Bleu) package: safari jacket, white shirt and shorts with lots of pockets, worn with knee socks and beige shoes.
Suits Me!
There are classic suits, by the way. But look at how they break tradition in terms of choice of color. Whether single breasted or double breasted, think of using soft colors for your Ken doll's summer wardrobe. You could also be rock star daring and use a brocade fabric for the whole( a la Editions MR)  suit OR...add a black ruffled shirt to a charcoal black suit for a glammed up guy look a la Versace.
Desert Storm
Military is on everybody's mind! Look for styles inspired by army/navy gear. Rugged fabrics in khaki, camouflage, battleship green and slate grey are key colors for clothes with a lot of structure and detail: patch or cargo pockets, snaps and straps.
From the battlefields to the mean streets of urban jungles, overcoats, shirts, and sometimes denim jeans are spattered with "stencil graffiti" motifs. Again, this is a story about great big silhouettes and even bigger, bolder patterns literally painted onto the face of the garment.
Fresh Prints of BelAir...
Speaking of prints... They're not just reserved for Barbie fashion, you know. Our guys have picked up on the trend in all of its aspects. You can use kitschy florals or vintage prints for shirts and even shorts, subtle patterns in soft cotton for elegant suits or go all out with graffiti scrawled over jackets, shorts and shorts. The patterns are kept simple. The overall effect is large!
Dudes in Denim
Not your grandfather's jeans.....these show how far designers have taken the iconic garment. In the version by Christopher Shannon, the classic jeans jacket and pants are fringed using belt loops! The message here is...get creative with your blues! We probably couldn't duplicate Shannon's styles for the doll, but we could substitute rough cut slices denim for the belt loops! guys denim with subtle patterns like those used in jackets and loose trousers OR the other extreme....super long jeans crushed around the ankles with lots of straps!
Tribal Vibes

With far away cultures the center of world events, it's no wonder we are seeing ethnic patterns and prints used in menswear. My dude dolls really loved the look of ikat prints worn with basic navy blazers, animal prints for hipster jackets or exotic geometrics etched over classy daywear gear.
For awhile now, prints, normally reserved for women's wear, has been adopted into menswear. But as styles have relaxed, the use of these prints has grown into a popular way to jazz up the look.

In the meantime, rock star mania continues its influence on men's fashions. Zak liked the idea of a waist length zebra printed jacket over slim pants. But instead of adhering to the original Louis Vuitton garment, we chose a simpler pattern and polished cotton instead of the leather version. Zak's "Nike" (which I found on eBay) perfectly compliments this look.
Summer in the City
White and neutrals aren't the only choices you have when choosing fabric for your favorite vinyl guy. There is also a tangy palette of fruit kissed tones to choose from. Keep the individual elements simple. But go as creative as your doll will let you when it comes to fabric and color!
Here, Richard wears a basic blazer (the tutorial for this is HERE) and trousers cut from apricot raw silk. The jacket and pants were made using the tutorials we did early on. To that classic pant suit, we added a shirt (that we lengthened by one inch (2.5 cm) then cut from batik dyed silk. This is the coolest way to look this summer.
If you only have the time to make one garment for Ken....let it be an oversized shirt!!!!
Richard (left) wears a classic shirt that was lengthened, whereas his friend Renauld (right), wears a tie dye shirt with no collar that is buttoned down the back. I used the same shirt pattern (which you can find by clicking HERE) but laid it out so that the front center line was on the fold. And I added seam allowance to the center back seam.
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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Going Fourth!

To all of our friends in the United States....
Happy Fourth of July.
Enjoy. Stay Safe.

We'll be back shortly with a trend report for your Ken dolls.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Flower Power

Next to fancy sleeves, the next biggest trend this summer is the return of florals. From pretty little dresses straight down to footwear, everything is growing up roses, pansies, violets and chrysanthemums! Though this is about fashion sprouting flowers, there are enough different ways to wear this trend from classic to edgy! In other words....there's something for everybody out there in our garden of style.

This post is not so much a tutorial as it is an exercise in styling as there are many ways to wear this trend.

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

The newest way to dress dolly is by layering floral prints. Here Sybille wears a stretch rose dress (made from socks) underneath a classic coat (made from cotton upholstery fabric). This is a basic coat--the tutorial is HERE.) Both are oversized prints for her, but the graphic impact is what makes the look.
But if this is too much print for your doll, you can always slide the coat over a solid tone or bi-colored geometric dress (left). And the dress (which I have stitched in a line of shirring to one side), can be worn alone with a floral sheer scarf tossed over her shoulders. Tutorial for making a basic knit dress can be found HERE.

Placed Prints
In the market, a "placed motif" is a print where a design is printed only in certain spots against the background. You can simulate this with applique. Over a princess line dress in cotton chintz, Angelina wears a coat inspired by an item in Fendi's recent collection. I wanted to do this coat in linen but with this special motif. Tutorial for the coat with raglan sleeve is found HERE.
1. On the left, you see the simple princess line dress. (Tutorial for a princess line dress can be found HERE.)
2. On the right you see how I started out with a piece of the printed fabric. Using very sharp scissors, I cut away the motif I have selected. Place this on your garment AFTER you have sewn it together (to make sure it falls where you want. Use a light layer of fabric glue on the back of your motif and place on the garment. Iron well. You can stop right there.
3. But for the Fendi coat I was copying, I needed a flash of metallic. So I added a bit of foil. The tutorial for foiling can be found here.
4. In the middle photo, you see the finished look.

Olympia is wearing a classic blazer (collarless) over dress with a fitted bodice and gathered skirt. The tutorial for this jacket can be found HERE. Here's a tip: look for cotton squares sold for quilting! For the most part, the prints will be the right scale for dolly!
For directions on how to make the 2-piece dress, refer to the tutorial found HERE. Modification for the flared, gathered skirt part of the dress is found HERE.

Lounging Around
 In Paris, young girls are all over the streets in flowered pants (often mistaken for pajamas). Here, I've cut up an old silk scarf for Grace's wide, palazzo pants. The tutorial for these can be found HERE. What I did differently was transform them into drawstring pants. Do not stitch up the darts and, instead of a waistband, simply turn down the top edge of the pants and sew or glue down.

In the lower left hand side, you see what I've done. I threaded a wide eyed needed with silk embroidery yarn and made a running stitch about 1/8" (3mm) away from the top edge. Use a double strand and be sure to double knot each end.

Steel Magnolias

Floral prints don't have to be realistic nor bursting with color. Look for abstracts, floral silhouettes, monochromatic patterns. We paired a cotton print (again from the quilting section of the store) with an abstract floral silk sheer for Nichelle's exotic ensemble.

Her top is super simple. It consists of two tiny squares of sheer frayed fabric: 5"x 5" (13x13cm).  Lay one square on top of the other and pinch together the corners. Tack them together with a stitch, then wrap the thread around and tie in place. Repeat on the opposite top edge. (I wanted a little shine, so once again, I added foiling in the middle of the flower motifs.) Now place on the doll allowing one side to slide off the shoulder. This can be worn as is or belted.
Underneath is a basic pair of pants cut mid-calf length. Tutorial for a 1 pc pants can be found HERE.
Finally, I made a pair of "spats" out of the same cotton print I used for the pants which slide over any pair of dolly shoes. Tutorial for the spats can be found HERE.

 With the season abound with floral prints, it's no surprise to see the kimono make a show. This one is cut from a silk material (recycled from an old blouse). I have a collarless tutorial for the kimono HERE, and if you want to add a collar like I did, you'll find instruction for adding on a shawl collar HERE. Here again, I've combined two different prints, each a contrasting scale. What makes them work together is that both have the same colored background.

In this, another view of Katoucha's pants outfit (1 pc narrow pants and matching bra), you can see I've made matching espadrilles. The tutorial for that is found HERE.

But once again, if this is too much print for your can always pair your kimono with a solid pair of pants!

Okay, dollies. It's time to get out and smell the roses!!!!!

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