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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Monday, October 1, 2018

Dolls' Eye View: NY Spring/Summer 2019 Trends

Fashion is a reflection of the times. And today, no matter where in the world you are, there is a good amount of upheaval, dissent, confusion and chaos within our political environments. The same applies to what the girls are seeing on the catwalks of the world beginning with New York. Between the abundance of ho-hum ordinary frocks to the excess of wild and out-of-your-freakin'-mind-crazy  costumes, there is no logic to what many designers are sending down the runway. Very little is flattering. And much of what is actually wearable, is simply not special enough to go out of the way for.  We found beautiful eveningwear at Oscar de la Renta and elsewhere, but almost no interesting daywear.--something we find surprising But the good thing about dolls---they don't mind going back to the past to come up with a great look. We'll first take a look at the takeaways of Spring/Summer 2019, then we'll show you something wonderful we found from 2010.

Oh Natural!
Given the fact that we've had some of the hottest summers on record, I am really surprised not to find more sexy, cool looks. (Maybe everybody is wearing T-shirt and shorts?) In any case, the message here au natural in terms of neutral colors and fibers. Dresses  are long, body skimming (not tight).  Trousers are loose and shorts tend to be those over the need "Bermuda" variety. Just remember to...Keep it Simple!
Here's Grace in a raw silk dress with fringe. I've used the pattern for the basic knit dress and trimmed it with three layers of fringe cut from the same fabric.

Spring Forward
We're still talking about the neutral tones here, though they are sometimes teamed with grayed pastels. What we like here is the pairing of a jacket over lacy tops and slip dresses--all suggesting a casual elegance kind of look.

Pretty in Pink
This is another color story where everybody is thinking pink! It doesn't matter the shade--choose from bubble gum pink to fuscia in silky solids, stripes, patterns and even flower appliques!  In a nutshell, we see looser, wider pants and longer shorts on one hand, slip dresses and "Barbie" doll silhouettes on the other.
For Kimora (the "girlie girl" doll in the house, we started out with a basic lace slip dress (with ribbon straps) then covered it with tiny flowers. No, I wasn't able to find flowers that small. Instead, I removed the petals from regular sized silk flowers, cut them in quarters, twisted the center and stitched them to the dress!

Mellow Yellow
Color is always a welcome element on a summer catwalk. Here is the story of three delicious lemon tarts: a fluffy cocktail dress out of tulle, a strapless tea length gown and a pantsuit where the sides of the jacket and pants are outlined in matching buttons. Whatever you decide to make doesn't really matter. Just be sure to....make it in yellow!

Tar Babies
This group is more about texture than the inky, slippery color of the garments. This is about using fabric that glistens, that shines with the depth of an oil spill or a freshly tarred road on a hot summer day. Again, the garment is fairly simple. It's about letting the fabric tell your story. Look for black lame, midnight blue silk, cire or satin or even reptile embossed fabrics...

Fly Away With Me
A sultry cocktail of feathers and fringe, all fluttering in a warm summer's breeze. The girls were crazy about this glamorous mixed media that has so much movement incorporated into the style! THAT's where Sarah Poulson (and our girl, Kelly) found their dress for the Emmys red carpet!

What's Your Point
We like the look of modernity illustrated by these four gowns...each  in clean lines with a different point of its own. The sculptural beauty of these sheaths is effortless, though the challenge of cutting the neckline is certainly there. I think the black dress has a few pieces to it, even though it almost looks as if it were cut in one piece.
For Nadia--standing all of 12.5 inches....I wanted to keep this look as simple as possible. Normally, I would have begun with a foundation undergarment, but I decided to make this in rayon jersey (which makes it hang well)  so I didn't have the same kind of control. The dress has side seams but no back seam or closure. (She slips out of the top of the dress.) A small circle of fabric is inserted over the thigh. And a simple slit at the was made as opposed to cutting the bodice in two pieces. I really would like to recut this dress, making the bodice in two parts. But keep in mind, the more seams you have, the more you have to solve the problem with...bulk!

While the selections from NYFW are quite nice....frankly there wasn't much daywear we liked. For that, we took a trip down memory lane.

Flashback to 2010: Donna Karan

Now this is what we like to see. For her Spring/Summer 2010 collection, Donna Karan (no longer showing on the catwalk these days) had one of her more gorgeous set of clothes. The silhouettes were simple: curvy little dresses and jackets cut in air thin layers--with twisted details that added a special twist. If I had the time, I would make all four of these looks. But with three more fashion weeks to cover, I settled on the one below.
We all loved this jacket. Finding a simple way to do it really isn't that hard. This is, essentially--a very simple fitted, unlined, jacket with a shawl collar. I allowed for a little extra fabric on the collar and the hem of the jacket. The edges are pleated, pinched and folded. I wet it and let it dry. I also cut an extra strip of fabric to sew under the hem of the jacket. When everything is dry, iron the jacket where you want it flat (sleeves, bodice and back) then carefully unravel the folded edges. You can stop there, as I did, add a bit of the extra strip to the under side of the hem.

From front to back, this is what I ended up with!

Well....the girls have warned me there is not a lot coming out of  London. But we'll take a look anyway!

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Dolls' Eye View: Emmys 2018

My dolls search for any and all excuses to get all dressed up and show off. This year, however, I asked if they really wanted to continue to go to the Emmy Awards (the U.S. television Oscars). After all, many of the celebrities and their nominated TV shows are scarcely known outside of the country AND (more importantly) the gowns are not always on par with the "gold standard" gear of the Academy Awards or the Golden Globes. To this inquiry, there was a resounding YES vote throughout the house (including from dolls who do not wear gowns). This red carpet event, they explained, allows them to upstage the stars in spectacular fashion by restyling or even redesigned the gowns!

The problem with the lackluster look of today's red carpet events, is what seems to be the missing element of glamour! To our eyes, there seems to be a lack of imagination, a lack of passion for sensational fashion! What happened to opera length gloves, what happened to the stoles, the swashbuckling capes, tornadoes of tulle and chiffon, the piles of jewelry...the tiara? My girls want to strut their stuff the way movie stars from the golden age of cinema did. So once again, my girls headed out to the Emmy's. Think of this session as a lesson in...."if dolls ruled the (fashion) universe!

My girl, Liu loved the black sequined sheath worn by actress Constance Wu (best known for her role in the comedy series, "Fresh Off the Boat" as well as the film, "Crazy Rich Asians." The dress, designed by our beloved Jason Wu, is pretty basic with most of the interest focused on the asymmetrical detailing crossing the shoulders of the draped, bare shouldered sleeves. Since the sequined fabric stretches, I used a basic pattern for jersey dresses. The sleeves are tubes attached to the dress at the underarms. I used tiny strips of the sequined scraps for the detailing over the top of the dress. Liu liked the dress as is, but said, she'd like to take it totally over the top with a shawl made of rectangular black and silver sequins, which she's holding in her hand. (No she could not wait for me to make her a jacket.)

It's always nice to see a fresh burst of color on the red carpet. We know that actress, Regina King--dressed in a neon lime Christian Siriano strapless gown--did not expect to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her role in Netflix's Seven Seconds. We assume that's why she was dressed so simply to claim her award. There's nothing wrong with simplicity, and we do love the color and the cut of the gown...but simple doesn't have to be boring either. With just a little bit of effort, my girl Naomi took the same strapless gown and tossed a brocade kimono coat over the shoulders and a statement necklace around her neck. It moves simple to sensational! (A brocade shawl with fringe would also have been spectacular, but Naomi, unlike Liu, waited for the coat!)

Okay, we get it. The actress put on this very basic dress and assumed she'd wow everyone with her beauty. And yes, Nathalie Emmanuel, Game of Thrones star, you are gorgeous as is. And while we love the stark simplicity of this black gown by designer Anita Ko, my girl Akure still felt something was missing. "Give me gloves," demanded Akure. We gave her opera length gloves, a furry white jacket and teardrop pearl earrings to make the whole ensemble look like a million dollars. You can do this dress with a (bodice & skirt with waist seam) or in one continuous line by creating a strapless princess line dress. Once you've made your pattern, be sure to add a train. You can see how that is made by looking  HERE.

We took a good, hard look at Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany's outfit and notice the Rosalind Russel "Auntie Mame" moment she was having in this very 1950's pants ensemble designed by Christian Siriano. Again we loved the color and the drama of the top as well as the sassy stovepipe pants. Veronique, however, didn't feel this ensemble was dressy enough. She insisted the black pants should be replaced by forest green taffeta and that the accessories should be more in-your-face-present. Replicating this outfit was super easy. It starts with a halter neck top over which I have simply draped a piece of fabric over one shoulder and across the bodice. The trousers are the standard slim fitting pants. We gave her a chain belt and some statement gold earrings to pull off a super glam look.

This is an instance were we completely redesigned the dress. Yara Shahidi, is a beautiful 18-year old actress best known for her role in the hit TV series "Black-ish" wearing this gown from Gucci,.We were immediately drawn to the flower in the center of the body with fabric radiating from the central point. In our view, the gown itself is well.... a tad bit matronly for a girl of 18. The drapery does nothing for her young silhouette, the beading, even the fabric undermines the freshness of the concept. So we kept the flower and the color but swapped out the sequined silk for a lightweight sheer fabric. We dropped the halter neck for the simplicity of strapless. Iman's dress begins with the base of a strapless foundation over which we simply draped the fabric and tacked it in place. Then, we added a flower in the middle of our drape.

Speaking of fresh flowers....spotted on the red carpet was actress Elisa Perry in a white dress designed by Jovani. The girls absolutely LOVED her dress.....but as a wedding gown!!! Still, we again attracted to the 3-D aspect of her dress filled with blooms. Even though it is a little bit late in the season for this dress, I gave in to Joan's request to make it for her. (She was out of town when we were celebrating the Royal Wedding!)  The 1/6 version starts with a strapless sheath in white lace. I bought small silk flowers from the craft store then stitched them on randomly over the front of the dress right down to her toes. A little bit of gathered tulle is added at the waist in the back. And since we're doing a Billie Holloway number here, we put a flower in Joan's hair. Aloha!!

My girl, Kelly, insisted on being part of this post. She selected the feathered gown worn by Sarah Poulson (Oceans 8 star) from the house of Oscar de la Renta. This is just a 1-piece corset top over a tulle skirt with LOTS of feathers sewn on top. The bustier, as simple as it appears, is a real challenge on this scale due to its deep décolleté. I tried numerous things to make this neckline work but the deep neckline causes everything to spread apart. But at the end of the day, I ended up using felt for the stiffness and pinched it in over the bust--which worked...sort of.... Ok, so I cheated...and glued stretch velvet over the whole structure after it was on the doll. If she doesn't move, her boobs won't fall out! It's not perfect but this was the closest I could come to replicating this neckline and frankly, the end result is not half bad! We fiddled with accessories, but with the skirt this large, settled on the simple addition of silver and crystal jewelry.

With that, we end on a pure and simple note here with actress Kristen Bell in a white Solace London gown. We pretty much remained faithful to the design of the original dress. It is a strapless sheath with sleeves sewn onto straps which I added to keep them on at the cap. The message here is to make a statement with your choice of fabric. Something with texture of interest. The actress, best known for her roles in Veronica Mars and Anna in Disney's Frozen, is clad in a super simple white dress. For my taste, the fabric is too matte, too plain. And while we feel the fit is flawless, my girl Meagan wanted it in a more glamorous with a bit of sheen. Meagan's dress was cut from a champagne white polyester fabric with a distinct, striated sheen (a bit too difficult to appreciate in these photos) that reflects light and gives a sculptural look to her curves. We gave her accents of pearl jewelry, all of which match her luminous platinum hair. And for the last photo, we gave her a snowy white furry stole.

Don't go away.....up next....the girls' first report on Fashion Month from New York!!!

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Zip It!!!

While the girls are compiling their fashion month reports, I thought I'd do a quick tutorial on zippers. In the world of doll fashion where most designers use snaps, hooks and velcro, a dress with a zipper is a luxury item. It's not that they are difficult to put them in. The problem--and expense--lies in finding doll sized zippers. Not an easy task. And when you do find them---well....even though they are 1/6 the size of a normal zipper--they certainly are not 1/6 the price! Yes, they are small, but they are ever as complex as the real thing.

I have been to fabric and notions stores everywhere looking for 1/6 zippers.  I will tell you now, you will have to order them online. For this post, I bought metal separating and metal regular zippers at I Sew For Dolls. (Located in the US, they ship fast. My order was perfect.) There are three other online sources that sell them as well. (Their websites are listed under Tutorials-Fab Favorite Resources.) Prior to buying 1/6 scale, I have to admit I've used 4"(10 cm) pant or jean zippers. They are the same length as doll size however, the teeth and zipper pulls are a bit large on the doll. The image above on the left shows the difference between human and doll zippers. On the right, the nylon zipper teeth are closer in scale, however the zipper pull is out-sized and I have yet to figure out how remove it! Nonetheless, the pant zipper is perfect for a 16" doll dress and will make do for the 12" doll inasmuch as it is sewn in the back which is out of view.

The Dress Zipper
Let's start with something simple. Whether you use a 1/6th zipper or a 4" (10cm) pant zipper, putting it in is the same.
1. Using a long, running stitch, baste the center back seam of your dress closed. No matter what happens, this ensures the zipper will line up perfectly with the center back seam of your dress.
2. Make sure the zipper is zipped shut and lay it face down against the seam of the dress. Leave a small space at the top of the dress (about 1/4" or 5mm) near the neckline.
3. Baste each side of the zipper to the corresponding side of the center back seam.
4. Working your way down one side of the back (about 1/8" (3mm) clear of the center back, stitch the zipper to the dress, using a tiny back-stitch. This is, in effect, a top stitch. (Note: You can also top-stitch using a sewing machine. Just be sure to use a zipper foot.)
5. When you get to where the zipper pull is, move it down a little then continue to stitch the zipper to the dress until you have finished. Repeat on the opposite side being care to create a line of stitches equally spaced from the center back seam.

6. You can finish the dress as you would normally. However, if you have gone through the trouble of buying zippers for your clothes, maybe you should consider putting in a lining! I've sewn my lining in as usual, leaving the space down the center back seam. I fold the lining's center back seams inward and pin so the bottom of the zipper is exposed and clear from the fabric. You want to get close to the zipper but far enough away so that the lining doesn't get caught.
7. I've hand stitched everything down. And at the top of the zipper---a hook and eye keeps it all closed and neat!

The Separating Zipper
Whereas you can probably get away with using a human sized 4" zipper to close the back of the dress, a separating zipper--that which is used for jackets--is another story! (If you attempt to use a regular zipper, the doll won't be able to get out of the jacket!) When you find a 1/6 separating zipper, it is a truly remarkable item worth the price. Fully functional and perfectly scaled, the doll jacket because a true miniature marvel. Putting this in is easy provided you remember to keep the zipper closed in the first few steps!
1. The material or fabric you use will determine the option you should chose. If you are working with a woven fabric that ravels at the edges, I would opt for the same instructions we used for the back zipper. But for this jacket, I am using python printed and stamped vinyl. Whether vinyl, plastic or leather, you don't have to worry about frayed edges but you do have to be concerned about bulk. So for this exercise, I am simply aligning the cut edge of the jacket against each side of the zipper. I pin the inside of the seams to the jacket.
2. Repeat on the other side, being careful that the two sides of the jacket line up perfectly.
3. Baste the jacket to the zipper. Check to make sure the zipper can move up and down smoothly without getting jammed.
4. If you are going to use a machine to top stitch this down, be sure to use a zipper foot. My machine is old, but your zipper foot will look similar to this. The zipper foot is more narrow than the regular one.
5. It is designed to hold the fabric/zipper down while leaving the needle free to stitch without obstructions. You can also elect to hand stitch this as we did with the dress zipper.
Waris can wear this jacket open and over a matching skirt. Or she can lend it to her girlfriend, Katoucha who wears it zipped up over pair of a silk abstract printed pair of trousers.

There are times, however, when putting in a zipper is more complicated. As an inspiration for my next project, I found a photo of a biker's jacket I wanted to make for my guys.
This was a bit of a challenge. The zipper is at a slight angle. The left lapel folds inward and the jacket zips up to the tip of the shoulder. Note how the zipper runs along one edge of the lapel but not the other. And to boot---it's all in leather!!!
This is a version of the pattern I used. Inasmuch as this is a tutorial on zippers, I decided to use a simplified version so as not to confuse you with umpteen pattern pieces. The principle for putting in the zipper, however, remains the same. The zipper is sewn into a seam on one side and is part of the lapel on the other. I cut (my) left side in two (blue line) and added seam allowance to both pieces. The zipper will lie against where you see the fuzzy green line. (The lapel folds over where you see the fold line.)
1. Using chalk, I drew in the seam allowance on the side front pattern. This provides a guide for the placement of the zipper.
2. I lightly press that line to further help me with my placement of the zipper.
3. In this instance, I open the separating zipper and place one side of it onto the side front panel. The teeth are facing inward--the seam allowance of the zipper placed along the seam of the side front jacket panel. I pin then baste the zipper onto the jacket (place pins on the seam allowance away from the stitch line). Even with lightweight leather, you will need to use a thimble.
4. My center front panel (which also has the lapel extension) goes on top and the zipper is sandwiched in the middle. I baste all three layers together using a long running titch. Basting keeps everything together as you sew the jacket together.
5. Now sew.
6. When you are finished and you turn the jacket to the right side up, the zipper teeth to the right.
6. Hammer the seams flat, being careful to avoid the zipper teeth.
7.  Turn the left front and left side front right side out.
8. Zip the two sides of the zipper shut.
9. Place the right jacket front over the zipper and pin to the seam allowance. Carefully unzip the zipper and baste in place. Again, the zipper teeth should be facing inwards, away from the front edge.
10. Place the facing over the right jacket front with the zipper sandwiched in between and sew.
11. Clip the seam allowance around the tip of the lapel. Turn right side out. Use a pin to completely turn out the lapel tip. The zipper teeth should be now pointing outward towards the center front. Hammer the lapel flat.
12. Complete the jacket.

When All Else Falls, Fake It!
I could have stopped there, but you know me. There's always one more thing I want to try. What are somewhere and those lovely doll zippers are not available. What if, your doll could care less about functionality and he (or she) simply wants the look of hardware.....
 1. I started out by removing a metal zipper from an old, very decrepit pair of my dad's jeans. You can just go out and buy one if nothing is readily available. n any case, you should use a zipper that is color coordinated to the outfit you want to sew it in. Zip up the zipper so that the teeth are closed. Measure out the length you need and make a series of stitches around that point so the zipper won't unravel after you cut it. You need to do this at both ends.
2. Pin one side to the center front edge of the jacket.
3. Sew in place. On the other side of the zipper teeth, sew or glue a strip of velcro directly onto the zipper tape.
4. Add the other half of the velcro to the inside edge of the jacket.

The jacket can't be zipped up or down. The velcro holds it closed and simply gives the LOOK of a zippered jacket while allowing the doll to get in and out of it. And why not fake the look of zippered pockets!?!

1. This time, I took a bit of the zipper but left it open.
2. I placed each piece on the jacket for placement. When I have the placement I want, I used pins to indicate the line of the pocket.
3. On the inside, I mark those pin points with pencil. And connect the dots with a cutting line.
4. Using a blade or very sharp small scissors, slice open this line.
5. Now slide in the zipper sample.
6. This is how it looks right side up.
7. Stitch along the bottom of the opening.

If you try this out for your design, keep in mind you will need to allow for the extra space the zipper will take up in the front!

All text and photos property of Fashion Doll Stylist. Copyright 2018. Please ask permission before reposting. And please credit us. Thank you!

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