Monday, May 15, 2017

Shoulder to Shoulder

In fashion, everything old becomes new once again. The 1980's are making a comeback...a little bit at a time....starting with big shoulders. We saw a brief appearance of these "power shoulders" last year. A few more six months later. And then again, a few more this past fashion month....most notably on a cape by the house of Chloe in Paris.

Making this cape was pretty simple. I took the pattern for the cape (click HERE to find it) and simply lifted and squared off the shoulders. Easy!

But when it comes to putting big shoulders on dolly garments with sleeves, I needed to slow down a bit and find an easy solution that works best for our 12 inch divas.

First, let's talk shoulders. In human beings, the spine becomes part of the neck and holds up the head. From the clavicle or shoulder bone, the rest of the skeleton is suspended. The area between the base of the neck and the shoulder appears to be a diagonal slope due to a triangular mass of muscles (deltoids). A garment with shoulder pads gives the illusion of a squared off if the head and neck have popped up like a mushroom from the shoulders. Since fashion dolls are made in our image (more or less), they have the same morphology. The green area shows how this modified shoulder line (through pattern manipulation and a pad) squares off the look of the garment. There are two main types of big shoulders: squared off (with set in sleeves) and round (with raglan sleeves)

Squaring Off!
For this very tailored look, made famous by the late French haute couturier, Yves St. Laurent, I began by making a new set of slopers from our basic ones by modifying the shoulder line.

1. Line up the front and back slopers so that the tips of the shoulders (top of the neck and top of the armhole) line up. Make sure the center front and center back lines are straight.
2. Raise the tip of the shoulder line at the top of the armhole so that it lines up, horizontally with the tip of the neckline on both the front and back sloper. The width of this line is the same as the original shoulder line+1/8" (3mm) so that it extends slightly past the doll's shoulder line. (Make a note as to how much you raised this point vertically, so that you can lengthen your sleeve cap later on!) For the moment notice the difference between the length of our front as opposed to the back slopers.
3. Flip the front sloper over. Lay it on top of the back sloper, lining it up along the side seam. Note the difference in height between the front and back. (With mine, there is a difference of 1/4" or 6mm.) Find the midpoint. (In my case, it's 1/8" or 3mm.)
4. Since the back is higher than the front, I lower the back by 1/8" (3mm) and raise the front shoulder line by 1/8" (3mm). This is so that there is a front to back balance between the two slopers on the shoulders.
5. You will also need to lower the existing armhole by 1/8" (3mm) to accommodate a sleeve. This is what my new sloper looks like. (To make a pattern, you will need to add seam allowance, of course.)

Because we have more space in the armhole, you will need a sleeve with a deeper cap.
1. Trace the sleeve cap.
2. Raise it as much as you raised the the shoulder line plus the 1/8" (3mm) representing the lowered armhole. For me, that meant I raised mine 5/8" (1/2"+1/8") or 9mm (6+3mm).
3. Create your new sleeve by tracing around the modifications, rounding the line as it gets to the bottom of the sleeve cap.
4. My final sleeve for this exaggerated sleeve resembles this. Add seam allowance to make your pattern.

If your fabric has enough body, you may not need shoulder pads, but if your shoulders are not holding up, you can insert a pat at this point BEFORE you line your garment.

Rounding Out the Difference
For round power shoulders, think football players! For garments with round shoulders you will need to use patterns with raglan sleeves (click HERE to learn more).

1. Start by using the squared off slopers we just created. Make a point midway on the neckline of the front and back necklines. Make another 1/8" (3mm) below the bottom of the armhole. Draw a diagonal line between the two points. In the front, you should curve the line upwards a bit midway. Mark the areas above this line A for the front and B for the back. Also note the direction with arrows. Cut away and set aside.
2. Your bodice should resemble this.
3. Take the top pieces (A and B) and line then along the top of the sleeve sloper. Starting at the midpoint of the sleeve, lay each piece with the armhole touching the sleeve cap as shown in the diagram.
4. Trace around to create the pattern and add your seam allowance.

This is a look that works well particularly for jackets and coats. Here too, we can add shoulder pads to give the look a bit of a lift and more structure.

Padded Sells

The rule is simple. Rounded pads for round shoulders and square pads for square shoulders. I make tiny pouches using bit of cotton (from makeup pads) and scraps from the fabric from the final garment. If you plan to line your garment, the lining goes in after the pad so that you don't see it. You will need to tack the lining onto the pad to keep everything in place.

1. For the square shoulders, make sure the pad extends slightly past the armhole seam. Tack the pad in place onto the shoulder seam.
2. You might want to put the garment on the doll first then slide in the pad and adjust. The pad should not be too close to the neck.
3. For the round shoulders, again, be careful the. Pad is not too close to the neck.
4. In this case, the pad will cover the top of the arm. The dotted red line shoulders the area the pad will cover. Tack onto the top seam of the sleeve. Again, if you plan to line, you will need to insert the pad first then the lining.

With some of your existing patterns you make be able to modify them simply by lifting the shoulders and making a new deeper sleeve. This was the case for a princess line jacket pattern I made awhile ago. Since only the shoulder line and sleeve needed to be redrawn, this did not affect the side front or side back. But if you are modifying an existing pattern, I strongly suggest making a cheap cotton version first before moving ahead to your final fabric.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

For the FRILL of it!

At the age of 16, I was such a girly girl. My favorite color was powder pink, I styled my long hair into curls and I loved everything covered in ruffles and frills. Of course, I grew out of that phase and over time, into my current minimalist mode. So throughout this past Fashion Month, all the frills, the cha-cha dresses, the bouncy ruffles and flirty flounced---I felt a little overtaken by that teenage fashionista that lies deep within.

Of course, the ruffles we saw during Fashion Month are not granny's frills. On the contrary, they're all grown up. What's nice about these looks is that they are very easy to make and perfectly adaptable to lovely dolly dresses.

So what's the difference between a ruffle and a flounce? A ruffle is a made from a wide, straight piece of fabric (cut on the straight grain). It has a running stich at the top which is drawn up into gathers. A flounce, on the other hand, is made from a circular piece of fabric, is smooth at the top and wider at the hem. It has a tendency to curl away from the garment. You can also achieve similar effects by manipulating circles, triangles or squares pinched at the center.

That pretty, green Marchesa dress I made for Akira in my last post was quite simple. This is a basic sheath dress with the shoulders cut away to make it strapless. For instructions on how to make a basic sheath click HERE. To see how to modify into a strapless dress, click HERE.  I added a sash over the waist which I stitched in place. The real drama is at the back.
A double layer of flounces are sewn into the back seam at the waist to the hem. I used silk satin which also contributed to the beautiful way the flounces cascade down the back. Here's how to make the flounces.
 1. You begin by drawing a circle. The wider the circle the wider the band. If you want an uninterrupted flounce, you need to measure how long a flounce you need then plan so that the circumference of this inner circle is the same. Personally, I tend to cut two circles butt the ends together.
2. Next, how long do you want the flounce to be? The measurement from the inner circle to the outer circle should reflect that. So, whereas my inner circle began 1" from the needle of my compass, the outer circle is 1-1/2" further out.
3. Make a horizontal cut on one side.
4. Open the circle and clip the short (inner) edge. Attach to the center back seam and sew. But let's make another garment.
 The girls loved this skirt. You can use the standard wrap skirt or simply improvise by wrapping a bit of fabric around the hips of the doll, rounding the edges at the front hemline.

1. Here's what my wrap skirt looks like. Cut two. One will be the lining.
2. Make a flounce or two as shown above. Cut through on one side with a horizontal slit. Clip the inner circle, spread and stitch around the perimeter of skirt
3. When you're finished, it will look like this.
4. Right side to right side, pin lining to the skirt with the flounces pointed inwards.
5. It will resemble a pouch with the flounces on the inside.
6. Use the stitch line that was created when you attached the flounce to the skirt--as a guide. Leave about 1 inch at the waistline open (so you can turn the skirt right side out). Stitch that little seam up using a slipstitch and add a snap to where the two top edges of the waist meet in the front.

At first I was trying to imitate exactly what I saw in the Marchesa original. Carla's top is a simple tube of stretch velvet with one stitch down the back. I added a bow to one side of the waist. However, this isn't the best velvet for making pretty bows, so I decided to top off the look with a corset made of chunky black lace instead.

So your next question is going to do I finish the edges? Depending on the effect you're going for or your own taste, you can either leave them raw (if the fabric doesn't fray too much), make a single stitch around the edge---or give it a rolled silk hem. You do this by making a machine stitch around the edge, rolling the hem twice so you don't see the raw edges and hand stitching in place. Lots of work and patience!


 Back in Paris, I was most intrigued by the top of this Johanna Ortiz outfit. I love the bouncy ruffles that completely engulfs her torso. After much experimentation, my best guess is that it was created by a series of circles. Again, I've used stretch velvet, though you can use other fabric or even ribbon to make this blouse.
1. Again, I began with a simple tube top. It's stretched over the body with a single seam at the back.
2. The fabric is sturdy enough to stay up on the doll.
3. Trace and cut out a series of circles. I needed about 10 for this project. They are about 3/4" each.
4. Fold them in fours and sew the center point to the top.
5. Sew the subsequent circles close to each other in succession.
6. On each side, leave a slightly bigger space where the arm comes down over the body. Keep sewing these circles until you have completely covered the top.
7. My fabric was a bit thick and the circles kept opening up instead of draping down. If that happens, simply tack some of the circles down in spots so that it has the look you are going for.
8. The sleeves are simply, tiny tubes that slip over the arms. You can, if you'd like, tack them onto the top at the sides.

Her pants are basic trousers in a pinstripe cotton. I added a sash cut from a floral print over the waistline.


I love the red on red monochromatic look from Givenchy which I feels gives this ruffled style a modern edge. This looks more complicated than it really is.
 1. Begin with a basic straight skirt. Stitch down the darts and the side seams, but leave the back seam open for the moment.
2. I took an 18 by 1 inch strip of silk, hemmed it along the length on both sides. Make a gathering stitch at the top then pull the thread on the wrong side until the ruffles form and fit from one side of your skirt to the other.
3. Add a second row in a contrasting texture. Here, I've used red lace, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
4. Add a third row. I used the same silk as the bottom layer, but this time, I ran my gathering stitch in the middle of the strip. Stitch down to the skirt.
5. The skirt now looks like this. You can now stitch up the back, leaving enough space (about an inch) so dolly can get in and out of the skirt. Add the waistband and close with hook and eye or snap.
 For the top, I used the pattern for the tent. For instructions how to make a tent dress, click HERE. (Note: I added sleeves to this pattern which are slightly flared on either side. In the next post, I'll show how to make fuller sleeves which work well for this technique.)  I made this top a length which will fall just above the ruffles on the skirt when finished.
1. For this top, I decided to do a bit of smocking using elastic thread and a sewing machine. Hand wind the elastic thread onto the bobbin, being careful not to stretch it as you wind. Thread your machine as normal.
2. Mark and make your first stitch on the flattened sleeve. Sew with the right side up. The elastic thread should only be visible on the wrong side.
3. Make a second, then third stitch, using the previous stitches as a guide.
4. When you are finished, it won't look all that stretchy.
5. Gently pull the elastic thread  a bit (at the back) to draw up the gathers. Don't do this too much or it won't be as stretchy as you need.
6. It should look like this when you're finished.
7. Using either a steam iron or an iron and a moist pressing cloth, press the gathers.  You'll instantly notice how they shrink and they will now be more stretchy.
8. Repeat this time on the body of the blouse. I made four rows of stitches this time around. I place a pin where I feel the bottom row of stitches should fall.
9. Complete the garment as you normally would in putting together a doll garment with sleeves: Stitch the blouse together at the shoulders. Sew in the sleeves while still flat. Then turn over and sew along the seams of the sleeves and the side seams of the body of the blouse. I stitched about half way up from the hem, pressed the seams open, then added a hook and eye at the neck to close.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dolls' Eye View: New York F/W '17 Trends

This has been a most remarkable season. The girls arrived back in New York for the last series of collections. As with the other fashion capitals, there was plenty of big city high fashion to choose from!

In Stark Contrast
The stark graphics of black and white make a demonstrative statement in New York style. But not all contrasts are as simple as black and white. There is also the marriage of matte and shiny, of flat and fluffy, and even wide and thin silhouettes in the same look.

One-sided View
 A lot of one shouldered dresses hit the catwalks. But here again, everything is about the essence of this look. Of course, the girls love the one-shouldered tops and tunics that slide diagonally across the torso, but they also like the winterized, trump l'oeil version of a dress that completely covers the body but simply suggest this asymmetrical fashion through the use of color-blocking.

As warm and cuddly as teddy bear yet sexy all the same, Veronica selected this 3-pc ensemble consisting of a one-shouldered pullover sweater, ankle length sweater skirt and matching cardigan tied around her hips (made from a moth-eaten cashmere sweater of mine). This shows up the power of separates and how they can be styled into a variety of fashion forward looks.

Our Furry Friends
 The long and the short of it....for deep winter trends, we see car coats in shaggy furs worn over trousers and over-the-knee boats as well as bathrobe style short-hair coats dropping from the knee straight down to the ankle.

Our girl, Gail, selected a long haired car coat in cranberry to wear over a red, monochrome dress and stocking boots. Gail's coat was made from rabbit fur trim, cut into strips and sewn on a basic straight coat pattern. We teamed it up with thigh high stocking shoes...another season trend.

Jacobs Ladder

This is what the girls love about New York fashion. It's all about quiet elegance with an edge. All of the items here are simple with peak-a-boo cutouts filled in with a crisscross of spaghetti straps,

The Power of Pants
Thin and skinny worn above the ankles to super wide swishing over the feet...there's a wide variety of trousers to choose from and you should explore something other than skinny jeans. What's also important here is the color story.....cranberry, airline blue, charcoal and slate are winter tones to consider when fabric shopping for dolly!.

Shoulder to Shoulder
For the second year in a row, bare shoulders remains a major must-have in dolly's wardrobe. But what is interesting here is the wide variety of looks it entails. It's not just reserved for'll also find them for late day pantsuits and coat dresses.

Prints Charming

This is a trend the girls have noted in every fashion capital....the appearance of florals worn both day and night. We like them particularly in the form of brocades, trimmed with a soft tone fur or worn over a complimenting print. When shopping for fabric, be sure to look at upholstery cottons or even vintage men's neckties!

Arsenic and New Lace
Where lace was once reserved for summer fashion, here in New York, it's drenched in deep tones or metallic then transformed into regal dresses. What the girls found really interesting is the amount of detail and texture in each dress.

Waris couldn't pass up this silver number. The original dress is very simple. The interest her lies in its texture of lace and fringe. I didn't want to be literal, but simply draw on the idea of a silver lace dress with some degree of texture. So I began with the basic knit dress sloper and added embellishment. From the waist up is an applique of silver lace which is also used for the sleeves. Rows of silver fringe were stitched below the waist and on each sleeve. Putting this together was like an exercise in decoupage. More is better!  Complimenting her look....stocking shoes made from silver lame.


Satin will be big in New York next Fall. We loved the fluidity and the simplicity of shapes shown here. Silhouettes float over the body and are punctuated with asymmetrically detailing: handkerchief points, one shouldered tops. For the best results, consider splurging on silk satin or charmeuse!
Here's Meagan in her version of Dennis Basso's gown. The dress is in two pieces: a satin high waisted skirt with a slight A-line cut worn under a micro-pleated sheer waist length top with tea length sleeves.

Velvet Underground
The other major fabric we'll be seeing a lot of next Fall is velvet: rayon, cotton, and stretch. We saw this fabric used in the other three fashion capitals as well.  What's interesting here is how velvet is mixed with other fabrics like chiffon and taffeta.

Old School Couture
Quite naturally, this is a theme which had the attention of all the girls in the house! This is classic couture complete with dramatic draping, big bows, flounces dancing about the body and a sprinkling of sequins and feathers.

I was intrigued by what appeared to be a double layer of flounces cascading down the back of this satin. "Rita Hayworth" style evening gown. The jewel tone satin was another plus. I didn't have green, but did have turquoise silk satin which is divine against Akuri's skin tone.

Fall Winter '17 Summary
After little more than a month of looking at hundreds of fashions on two continents and four cities, what were the takeaways? What should you consider when putting together next season's wardrobe for your dolls?

1. Power shoulders (think Chloe). Shoulder lines are growing, particularly with outer: capes coats.
2. Bare shoulders are still with us. Necklines slide down to reveal both shoulder or just one for an asymmetrical effect.
2. Sleeves are getting fancy.
3. Silhouettes are looser, flowing over the body.
4. Pants come in a variety of widths with more focus on wide, loose trousers.
5. Over the knee boots and colored stockings are major!
6. Color: Red is regal especially in a monochromatic themes (think Givenchy). Otherwise, consider fabrics in  jewel tone brights, soft greyed tones, as well as sharp contrasts of black and white. Metallics continue. But use them in unexpected ways (think Balmain--gold lame teamed with suede or doeskin).
7. Prints offer a nice alternative to solids. Consider using floral prints, brocades or...a mixture of geometric prints (think Missoni).
8. Satin, velvet and lace are all the stars of the season.
9. All the colors of white....from cream and ecru to pure white remains a favorite!
9. When all else is always chic and forever in style!

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