Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Let’s Go Vegan: DIY Faux Leather

A few posts ago, I posted an update to my original tutorial on making leather doll fashion. I assumed some of you might not have access to stores selling leather or even its vinyl or pleather look-alikes, which is why I included a few online resources. And while that provided a solution, the truth is, it is still difficult to find more than three colors: black, brown and...if you are lucky...tan. While preparing the report for our Milan Fashion Week report I needed a specific color of leather that was not immediately within my reach. That’s when I decided to try out a craft technique I found for  for DIY (Do It Yourself) faux leather...otherwise known as “Vegan Leather.”

The technique for creating it involves painting layers of acrylic paint on fabric. On some sites, there were comments questioning the interest in making such a thing especially given the cheap price of vinyl. And yes, if you have access to glove weight leather or vinyl, or if you are selling your creations, this project might not be of interest to you at all. But if you are keeping up with the trends and your budget is limited...or if you simply have limited access to the desired materials in the color of your choice...or perhaps you are vegan...this tutorial wproposes a creative solution.

Full disclosure: While the end result of this technique approaches the look of the real skin, it lacks the buttery touch of leather and tends to be a bit brittle. However, there are numerous advantages to making your own “leather.” First of all, you have control of the weight and color and can create the exact quantity of material needed. The cost is very small. Sewing it is easier on your sewing machine than real skins, and you can have lots of fun experimenting with the surface texture; you can decorate it with painted designs or even manipulate it to create pretty embellishments! 

To transform fabric into “leather” you will need lightweight fabric, acrylic paint, a sponge brush and paper towels. 


The fabric you choose is a factor in how supple or stiff your “leather” will be. Stay away from heavy cottons, canvas, duck, linens, unless you are making accessories like hats or handbags. On the other hand, for articles of clothing, I found that lining materials: lightweight polyester, acetate, habitai silk, are the best. They have structure but, unlike cotton, their surfaces are slick enough to hide most of the grain. You can choose a similar color to the one you will be painting. It is interesting to work within the depths of the tone, however the paint you will be using covers well so it really doesn’t make a huge difference in the end. Nonetheless, I found it best to start with a dark tone (like black) if your “leather” will be dark.


You have a choice between using a good grade of artists’ acrylic paint or latex acrylic house paint. Both are water soluable and cleanup is easy. I made the Fendi dress (above) using a brush and Windsor Newton artist acrylics which is easy to work with and is somewhat supple when dry. However, my end result was a bit shinier than I wanted which prompted me to experiment with acrylic latex paint (satin finish). Some stores sell tiny “tester” containers (50ml) of paint for a couple euros or dollars. With latex paint, I got the look and sheen I wanted, but the end result—depending on the color--tended to be a little brittle. Strangely, the black was more supple than the beige! The garments I made with the black latex paint were nearly identical in appearance to those made from real leather! But I highly recommend you experiment, experiment, experiment to get just the look you are going for.


The problem with traditional brushes is that later on, the brush strokes are noticeable and you must work hard to rub them into the fabric. A sponge brush better conceals the fabric grain and distributes the paint more evenly. You will still need a soft rag or paper towels to rub the paint into the fabric. 
(1) You can use a brush, but the strokes might show. (2) Sponge brush is better; dilute paint with a little water; (3) brush on even layer (4) use a soft rag or paper towel to work paint into the fabric; (5) the end result using Windsor Newton acrylic paint and a brush.


1. Begin by protecting the surface of your work area with plastic.

2. Next, be sure to iron your fabric before you begin because the paint will not hide any creases or wrinkles! (photo a)

3. If you are using artists’ acrylics from tubes, squeeze out a little and mix with a little water to obtain a fluid consistency (photo 2 above). Moisten your sponge brush. If you are using latex acrylics (house paint) moisten the sponge brush or roller just a little and squirt a little paint onto the brush. Brush your first layer of paint into the fabric.

4.  Brush the paint from side to side (photo b), then top to bottom (photo c) until the surface is well covered and the paint has been worked into the fibers of the fabric. Because the paint is wet, your fabric will also be wet. When you are finished painting be sure to lift it up from the plastic protection and place it on another surface (parchment or waxed paper for example) so that it can dry.

5. Let the fabric completely dry. This is, after all, the foundation layer.

6. When dry, paint an undiluted layer of paint evenly across the surface—side to side, top to bottom. (photos b, c) With a soft rag or paper towel, rub the paint into the fabric (photo d). Let dry.

7. Paint a third (last) layer of paint onto the fabric (photos b,c). Note: three layers of paint seem ideal. Two layers is not sufficient to cover the fabric properly and more than three will greatly stiffen the end result.

8. Let this layer dry slightly. While it is still damp, take your fingers and rub the paint into the fabric (photo e), moving in all directions (photo f). This will add a certain patina to the surface, replicating that of real leather.


As with leather—keep your design and pattern simple. Sewing this material is pretty straight forward, but the tricky part is when you have to turn sections of the garment (like sleeves, or paint legs) right side out. I have not yet made anything requiring this. However, should I encounter problems, I would probably give the fabric the first coat of paint. Let dry. Assemble the garment. Stuff the sleeve or leg with plastic, then carefully apply the two layers of paint afterwards. Again, I haven’t tried this out, so this is only a thought. I will post an update later to this page.

Don’t iron directly on painted areas. If you must, iron the material face down on a piece of cotton and place a pressing cloth on top to protect your iron. 

You can hand sew your “leather” but you will need to wear a thimble as you are now sewing through paint! Be sure to knot the thread at the beginning and the end of each row of stitching.

Unless you are lining your garment, you do not have to turn down the edges or hem. The paint has saturated the fabric, thus sealing off the fibers. In short, you can get away with cut edges!

One last thing...this is unchartered territory in terms of interaction between the paint and the doll’s skin. When working with dark or bright colors, it is recommended you line the garment!

Have fun with this. There really are no rules except to be as creative as you want to be! Feel free to gather, pleat or even create little medallions to embellish your garment. You are, after all, still working with....fabric!

P.S. I used Velcro to close the garments.

One thing I noticed while working with my “leather” is that it can be cut into fringe (without fraying) just like the real thing.

Have fun experimenting with the base fabric. Paint over quilted or textured surfaces. The end result may not resemble anything you have ever seen, but you might just stumble upon a really interesting look! One thing you should avoid—painting over plastic. I tried painting over plastic bags and wrappings. Though the black paint held up better than the beige, the paint will eventually flake or peel off. 

That said....I admit not listening to my own advice. Just for fun I made this kimono jacket out of painted bubble wrap!!!

All photos and text property of Fashion Doll Stylist. 2018. Please request permission and credit us prior to reproducing. Thank you.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Dolls Eye View: Paris Spring Summer ‘19 Trends

The girls were happy to get back to Paris, where, frankly, there’s a little something for everyone!

Biker Babes

Biker shorts are back with a bang! (Were they ever out of style?) What's new this time around is pairing them with a tailored jacket.
To better conform to the original jacket, I could have used a flat textured wool. But having just found some very chunky (and hard to sew) "Chanel" type fabric, Anna insisted I make her 1/6 scale version out of my latest find. The jacket itself really isn't anything special. It's really all about the look--big Chanel jacket with the stretchy bike shorts.

Basic Instinct
The little black dress. The little white dress.... Getting dolly dressed for summer is as easy as making her a basic sheath. What makes these special are the tiny little details--a hint of lace peeking out from under a hem, peek-a-boo shoulders or a bias trim to an asymmetrical skirt.

Cool Shoulders
A trend that has been quite popular over the last few seasons, rocks on with all types of garments from easy, breezy caftans to an amazing strapless pantsuit frothing with an overabundance of ruffles! But the girls' eyes went directly to the caftans. What other garment do you get jewelry built into the dress!
We could not resist the challenge of making this caftan with the dropped shoulders. Unfortunately I had some time constraints and took many shortcuts to produce this version for Sophiya (aka Modernist Eugenia), the newest model to arrive in the house. I liked the idea of jewelry incorporated into the dress (or is it the other way around). And since I didn't have time to make (and embroider) a separate collar, I decided to bead the collar of the dress then attach pieces of old earrings I found in my own jewelry box. What is lovely about this look is that, depending on the time of day and the occasion, this dress can be cut in cotton for late day or silk for evening wear. In any case, this look deserves to be further explored in a future post!

Elements of the Earth
This is clearly a surface treatments project. A photo print of an earthly landmark---Sahara Dessert, the Grand Canyon, perhaps--is cut up by the princess seams of a top or skirt and teamed with a neutral accessory. Our eyes also zeroed in on the "waterfall" top and dress that appears to have been constructed with layers of cellophane fringe.

Me and the girls were rather intrigued by what appears to be cellophane dresses and tops in this collection. Kimora’s outfit is, technically, a paper dress. I located a roll of lightweight acetate (transparent film florists use to wrap bouquets of flowers). The base shift dress along with the rows of fringe are all cellophane held together with tape! (You cannot hand sew cellophane because it tears easily, as I discovered.) I’m going to work on this a little more to find a way to make this dress more “permanent.” In the meantime, Kimora is having a really good time!

With all of its twists and turns, this story is once again, all about surface treatments...this time around a nod to strange and exotic foliage. A throwback to the 1980's Issey Miyake "Pleats Please" collection, there is lots of creative draping, permanent pleating and at times....old fashioned bows!
A while back, we did a dolly textile post, "Twist and Shout," a surface treatment imitating permanent pleating ushered in the early 1990's by designer, Issey Miyake. So for me, (even though the namesake designer is no longer designing for his company) it is really nice to see this very organic look back into the spotlight. This is a cotton plaid that I wet and twisted. When dried, I draped it around Nichelle's body in similar fashion to the original garment. Then I pinched it in certain areas, stitched those "bunches" down and ironed those areas as flat as possible. I left out the straps which, for me, added nothing to the design. The result came out even better than I anticipated.

In Contrast
Black and white...this is a favorite reoccurring theme for spring and summer collections. What we loved best about this time around is how bold the graphic look is achieved through color blocking or Chinese calligraphy style prints.
My girls first spotted this dress, by Alexandre Vauthier during the Haute Couture collections. I never had time to make it, so they were delighted to see the designer make a very similar version for his ready to wear line. Again, we were taken in by the big sweep of black and white in this garment. This version features little shorts. But the girls preferred the couture version where the base was a dress. The two-tiered train of the dress goes from center front to center back.

Her "A" Game
Glamour as simple as a 1950's inspired prom dress! The classic A-line dress is part of a gorgeous lineup of evening wear cut in lace, satin or chiffon. The easiest way to get the with our basic dress patterns made in two parts where the fitted bodice is joined with an A-line skirt.

Arsenic & New Lace
Speaking of lace.... a new take on an old fabric....we love the look of heavy "crochet" laces that drip over the body. Also..what could be sexier than dresses where the body peaks through sumptuously artisanal lace. And finally...a simple cotton lace dress made from three different laces gets all glammed up for the hottest of summer days.
I have a thing for these 3-D laces...This one employs the art of ribbon embroidery. Admittedly I did not have much time as I would have liked. But with a little bit of 3mm ribbon, a few silk flowers and a few lace medallions, I was able to create a similar effect over a tulle sheath dress. Very simple. Very sexy.

Glamour Girl
And finally....what would a summer ball be without a statement dress! It can be as big (like Russian born Valentin Yudashkin or the French house Talbot Runhof) or as subtle as the dresses put out by Rochas and Maticevski. What they all have in common...approachable glamour with a hint of  high drama!

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Dolls' Eye View: MIlan Spring Trends '19

FINALLY!!!! Beautiful, elegant, pretty clothes to wear! Italy is where my girls found happiness.... Oh yes, like New York and London, there was a circus here, but there were also lots of gorgeous dresses that appealed to all my vinyl fashionistas from the youngest of Barbies to my most sophisticated Fashion Royalty divas. These are pretty little fashions that make a big splash for Spring Summer. Clothes that are both flattering as well as a pleasure to wear!

Baby Love
Itty-bitty, frilly, girly Barbie doll dresses..a flashback to the early 1960's!!! These are dainty little frocks cut in silhouettes that float over the figure, sometimes playing peak-a-boo from under layers of filmy, transparent fabrics. Making a big statement---tent dresses cut in super short lengths.
Kimora was right there at the front of the line when she say me cutting out this dress. This is three layers of micro pleated chiffon--two asymmetrical, tents over a mini-shift dress. The original dress has lacy short-shorts underneath. We loved the lace but decided to bring it front and center on layers two and three.

Art Atelier
This group brought back memories from the 1980's when European designers produced clothes that were both wearable and fun! The silhouettes are pretty simple. It's the topical design that gives it the edge. We thought it was really rather fun to start with a "blank canvas,"a white garment in this case and then make bold squiggles to produce a 3-D garment that looks all together like a 2-D sketch brought alive!

Culture of Coats

Whether a true piece of outerwear or a dress that resembles one....the coat and coat dress both make a grand entrance for early spring. The silhouettes are pretty simple. (Our basic coat pattern works for producing most of these looks.) Have fun with the fabric.

Chocolate Caramel Frappuccino
When I think of brown, I think of autumn. But these milk chocolate, toffee, caramel tones, these looks become a delicious alternative to the usual Easter bonbon colors. And yes, the color is the main theme here, whether we're talking about corset dresses or sarongs--leather or chiffon. 

I'm not sure why Ermanno Scervino put thigh high boots on a cool and classy summer chiffon dress. Estelle opted for high heel pumps instead. Her dress started with a strapless foundation, over which I added ripped strips of mocha chiffon to the top and four layers of ruffled ripped chiffon to the waist. The ripped edges almost resembles feathers!
Bea reminded me there are still lots of Barbies in the house and I must continue to dress them as well. I did love the toffee toned leather dresses featured in the group, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get my hands on the right color in time to complete this post. So.....I experimented with a technique "DIY transform fabric into leather." You paint layers of acrylic on fabric to simulate a leather look. Honestly, it really doesn't look like any leather or faux leather I've ever seen. But for the purposes of this's not bad. After the girls are finished with their Paris report, I'll show you how it's done!

Spring Neutrality
For spring we can see any of these looks strolling downtown. The silhouettes are pretty classic, but what makes this group appealing are the tender, neutral color palette. Noteworthy here...skirts in longer (more graceful) lengths! While you are out buying fabric....choose those with a soft touch or..with a sheen!

Fringe Benefits
We LOVE dresses that shimmy, shake, rock & roll! There is all sorts of fun things happening here from the Tod's leather coat dress quivering with tiny fringe to Byblos long, shaggy party dresses to Moschino's "pins and needles" gown.. The message here....stay on the move and have fun doing it!

Anna--my very edgy FR Kyori doll-- could not resist! When we inspected the Moschino gown up close, we noticed the fringe was, in fact, rows of needles! Well, there are no 1/6 scale dolly needles that I know of, so we! Anna's dress started out as a basic sheath. I cut small strips the overall parameter of the dress and started stapling! I recorded the steps as I progress and will share it with you very soon!

Brunch at Tiffany's
Reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn's and the iconic fashions of her early 1960s films, this group has all of the elegance of fashion past. What the girls like best: one-shouldered wonders in black and neutrals, bubble dresses and free flowing tents with deep flounces. This is pretty woman in all the right places.

Elegant, classy, this is right up Dorian's alley! I made this dress in two parts for her out of black crepe. The top is a simple one-shouldered top with a small sash added at the shoulder. The skirt is a slightly high waist pencil skirt.

Sex & the Single Girl
The girls really love these looks because they are sexy enough to turn heads, but classy enough to be taken seriously. Important here: body skimming silhouettes, both long and short, figure fitting jerseys and fabrics like satin and leather with plenty of sheen.
I surprised myself as to how easy it was to make this dress for Radiah. This is a simple stretch jersey dress with sleeves with a super deep front neckline and a bra top of the same fabric worn underneath.
How did I make spaghetti straps---I used embroidery yarn!

Tutti Frutti
Here's a novel idea. Instead of the traditional black eveningwear, why not opt for something juicy and bright. Whether its frilly little dresses in tea length and formal or satin pajamas...the news here is color in bright, sweet tones like cherry, grape, watermelon.

The girls aren't finished yet. There's one more fashion capital to explore. Last stop...PARIS!

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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Dolls Eye View: London Spring 19 Trends

Another city, another chaotic fashion week! There were lots of clothes--some clownish others ho-hum...very little capturing the fancy of my girls. We nearly skipped over this fashion capital, but then you know what happened.... A few looks caught their discerning little eyes. So here is what they found!

At the end of the day, most of my dolls have girly-girl tastes. This group has as many (or as few) ruffles as any girl could want. I'm not sure I would wear any of this, but if you are a doll--preferably a playline or fashionista Barbie, a Monster High or a My Scene..these dresses are perfectly suited for you. What's particularly new and fresh here are the dresses bursting with ruffled prints and patterns!
Katoucha shows what happens when you transform an animal print into perky little dress. This is essentially a strapess tube dress topped off with rows of striped and spotted ruffles.

Short Stop
In London, there are two dominant lengths for summer--super short, very long. For this group we see tailored jackets belted over short-shorts, kicky little body-skimming dresses with ruffled trimmed sleeves and a modern day version of a Paco Rabanne shift dress--covered from edge to edge cellophane paillettes.
For China's dress, I couldn't find the oval shaped paillets used in the original dress, but I did have these square translucent blue paillets on hand. I made a foundation using four layers of soft blue tulle then, one by one, stitched on rows of blue transparent paillets using "invisible" thread. I used clear vinyl for the straps. The clear vinyl boots seemed to be the perfect accessory for this "space age" fashion.

The Slink
The ease and fluidity of 1930's fashion is incorporated into these comfortable, breezy dresses. We love how the silhouettes literally slinks over the body. For day this ankle length cotton dress serves as a canvas for an interesting abstract print. While for evening, we like how silhouettes literally pour over the body in a sparkly fabric falling into asymmetrical hemlines.

Jacob's Ladder
Flat, geometric shapes joined together with tiny straps.....what could be more modern! I treated this like a puzzle by starting out with a basic shape, slashing it, then pulling it all together with a web of straps. The ease or difficulty of realizing any of these looks is largely dictated by the fabric you choose, so I discovered.
I used a rayon jersey fabric for Zoe's dress. It is a simple column dress with a deep V cut out in the front. There aren't many straps within the V-neck, however, the doll's body doesn't react the same as humans, and adjusting the straps was quite tricky. I used 1/8" (3mm) ribbon for the lattice work. At first I decided it was too wide, so I removed them and used embroidery yarn. The yarn pulled the V out of shape, so I replaced them with the ribbon!
On the other hand, I had a lot more success with Sybille's dress. It started out as a basic strapless sheath cut from a more structured stretch crepe. The dress is actually in one piece! I did this for control! I cut out a V shape over the doll's belly and I simply made a slash over the thighs. Here, I used full strands of embroidery yarn (instead of ribbon) which is threaded into a needle and sewn in place. We were both much more happy with the result!

Stay tuned...I'm told things are going much better in Milan, our next stop on the fashion month train!

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