Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Late Summer Blooms

In Paris Haute Couture, the creations sent out on the catwalk are truly a sum of its parts. Various elements for the elaborate dresses often originate from a variety of specialized ateliers: embroidery from the house of Lesage, feather work from Lemarie, silk flowers from Legeron.  Today's posting takes its inspiration from a collection I saw by John Galliano, former designer for Christian Dior, from their 2010 Fall Couture show. The dresses were inspired by flowers on the scale of Georgia O'Keefe's magnificent paintings. And though much of it featured hand painted silks, there were some where silk flowers were incorporated into the design. This got me thinking.

After my last post featuring paper dresses, a few people told me how great it was to go to the Dollar Store for material founds. So I went back to see what else could be used for our high fashion designs. Flowers!!!!! Yes, I know they are not the best quality, but with these, you will not feel too intimidated to take them apart to make clothes. The trick in using them in your designs is to.....KEEP IT SIMPLE!!!
Rose petal camisole

What you want is a dress that could, conceivably, appear at a party, on the street or on the red carpet. But let me warn will be tempted to go crazy. Resist. Remember, it's a garment, not a costume! One more tip before we get started. You will not be able to use fabric glue for this project because the glue will show through. Use very tiny stitches, sliding the needle in between the petals and the foundation so as to minimalize the appearance on the wrong side of the garment.

Let's start with the opening photo. I used pink silk roses. Remove them from the stem and remove the plastic stamens. What you will have are just the petals. For our top, I began with the 1-piece camisole cut from pale pink satin. I place the first flatten set of petals, then layer on others. Pin them in place while the doll is still in the camisole. Place pins where you want the stitches to hold down the petals. When you have completed it, remove from the doll and hand stitch the petals in place. My doll is wearing this top over a matching silk satin sarong skirt.

The skirt is the focal point of the next look. Again, you must remove the plastic stamen. For my foundation, I've used the 1-piece skirt pattern. The flowers are folded in half then attached to the skirt both in the front and back. You decide how much flare is desired. My "Tango" skirt has lots of flare. After pinning to the skirt, the flowers are hand stitched in place. The top is quite simple. I wanted something to mimic the veins of the flowers. So I took a small rectangle of silk, wet it thoroughly, then twisted it into ball. I set this out to dry, then carefully unraveled it. The crinkles adhere to the form of the doll and need no hemming. I've attached a bit of ribbon to each end at the back. A single snap holds the top in place.

Use crinkled silk for a simple, but spectacular top.

I wanted something less elaborate for the chrysanthemum skirt. It begins with a straight 1-piece skirt in a contrasting color. When I pulled out the plastic stamen from the middle of the flower, I held the layers together with a pin, then later tacked only the petals down I wanted to stay in place. Here, I've teamed the skirt with the wrap around blouse and a coat (using the straight jacket pattern) made from red felt (found in craft stores).

And then there is the carnation dress. My intention was to do a skirt. The skirt I used is a simple A-lined flared skirt. But while deliberating on which top to do, I decided to do an entire dress. Thus, my dress began with the skirt. I folded the petals in half and added them onto the skirt. After I finished. I took a petal, flattened it (in the same manner as the top shown above), and began to layer more petals over, pinning everything in place. I made sure the doll was completely covered and that you can not see the skirt base beneath, however, it is probably more sensible to add a 1-piece camisole before beginning the top half so that you have something to stitch your layers to.

The Chrysanthemum dress. 

Needless to say, the possibilities are limitless !!!!

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Crafty ideas: The Paper Dress

I cannot tell you why, but, as a small child, each time I was given a doll, I'd remove its clothing and replace them with one of my own "creations, made from....toilet paper. I suppose I was attracted to this material because it was plentiful, cheap, and it never intimidated me. I could be as boundlessly creative as possible, all in the knowledge that I could rip my "creation" and start all over again.

Throughout my career, I've always been attracted to non-conventional materials for fashion, especially paper. Anyone who was around in the 1960's can tell you about paper dresses. Andy Warhol and his soup can artwork made it famous. The Scott Paper company commercialized it, creating a line of paper party dresses with matching paper plates, cups, tablecloths and napkins. In some European schools (and the Caribbean school), students engage in an exercise whereby they interpret couture clothes in newspaper as a way of learning about shape and volume.

Today, we shut off the sewing machine, store away the pencils and graph paper. Grab whatever paper you have around the house. Today is all about unleashing the creative genius that lies deep within.

Let's start simple. The dress in the first photo is made from.....toilet paper!!! First, I twisted several small wads of toilet paper as tightly as possible then dipped one edge into a  diluted water soluble paint. When dry, carefully unwind each wad and simply place on the doll the way you want and tape in place. Get creative with the direction of each wad.

Tissue paper also provides wonderful texture and is easy to use. You can use it to simulate the type of random permanent pleating seen in Japanese designer clothing. Simply crush or twist the paper and tape to the doll. Voila! It's just that simple.

I also used tissue paper and an old fashioned technique to make snowflakes to create a top layer for another dress made of.....disposable fabric softener sheets. The tissue paper was folded into squares. Clip out tiny geometric shapes, then unfold. I quickly draped the fabric softener sheets into a bubble dress, over which the tissue paper snowflakes are draped. (Incidentally, today some Asian designers are using laser cut fabric in their designs which has the same look.)

And then there was that very special Christmas wrapping paper resembling diamond dust, I fell in love with last year. I tried making a number of different dresses with no luck. The paper wouldn't take glue very well. I tried to sew it, but the shapes were stiff and hard. Finally I realized I had to go with the flow and create something that worked with its properties. The end result was this very architectural dress.

I cut part of it into slivers and chopped up the rest into uneven geometrics. I first taped plastic wrap to the doll's torso, then taped the slivers and ribbons one at a time until I arrived at the desired look.

All of my looks, thus far, are ad hoc designs dictated by the materials. But how about using paper to practice draping or to sharpen the eye to brain to hand coordination?

Search online for ballgowns, bridalwear or Haute Couture formal dresses. Print out the image and place it where you can see it while you are working. Take newspaper in hand and crumple, pleat, slice or crush each morsel as you emulate the shapes in view.

 I chose a dress from Christian Lacroix Fall 2008 Haute Couture collection. We see the top is form fitting and the skirt consists of two tiers of poufs.
For the top, I simply tear the newspaper and tape directly onto the doll. You don't need to worry about seams or patterns. This is simply an exercise to help you see shape. Next, take wads of newspaper and crush them. Add a pouf to each side. Repeat for the back. Then add another pouf on the bottom. Actually, the fabric of the original dress flows down in the front. I've created pleats, instead, to give the feeling of flowing fabric.

Finally, I decided to try my luck at making a coat-dress from the Christian Dior Fall 2008 collection, using....paper toweling. Where do you start? The bodice of course. Here is how I went about it.
 I cut a square of toweling, allowing one edge to fold over into the collar. Repeat on the other side and pin or tape at the back of the neck. Tape also along the side of the doll. Add another square to begin the back bodice.
 Cut out around the armholes. Fit the back to the doll, then clip around the waist. Now take another rectangle which will become the sleeve and pin to the bodice. The sleeve has lots of volume, but the volume falls away from the shoulder. I make a couple pleats, then I tape the sleeve at the bottom.
I cut a small rectangle which I wrap at the wrist for a cuff and tape in place. Now it's time to figure out the skirt. Keep in mind we are working in paper toweling and not a sheer soft fabric, so the shape will be somewhat stiff. Nonetheless, I have analyzed that this is a flared (and not gathered) skirt. I attach the waist to the bodice, then cut my toweling on a diagonal towards the hem. Repeat for the other side. Then add another piece of toweling at the back (attaching it to the waist) and cut it the same degree as the diagonal of the skirt. Though I liked the collar, it is not the collar in the photo. I've taped on a bit more paper to the collar and across the back. Cut to resemble the fullness in the photo. Finally, cut the hem of your skirt. And now that you've succeeded in doing can make it is REAL fabric!!!!!!

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Full sized newspaper draped dresses from students of the Caribbean Academy of Fashion & Design @ UTT.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Such a Good Sport (Jacket)!

Since I began creating clothes for my all of my dolls, it has become abundantly clear, Barbie, Ken and all of their doll friends need clothes for many different occasions. Getting the latest looks for Ken, means more than making Shirts and jeans. From time to time, he also needs a sport jacket.

I will begin with a couple disclaimers. 1) I am not a tailor, nor do I pretend to be. But I do know construction and consequently, I attack patterns for Ken much in the same way I do for Barbie. And 2), even though I have racked my brains to find simple solutions to very thorny issues, in no way should you assume tailoring is easy. While I try to post every three days, the menswear is taking a bit longer. What I have learned through these exercises is that for Barbie, almost anything flies, whereas for her male friends, the devil is in the details! Collars, buttons and especially proportions!!!

That said, let's have some fun. For today's exercise, I show you two ways to make your handsome 12-inch hunk, a sport jacket. One uses the shirt pattern to get you started, the other (yellow) is draped on the doll.

I begin by tracing half the shirt pattern onto tracing paper, then taping it directly onto the doll.
 Draw your "style" lines. That is, draw the curve of the front jacket hem. Decide whether you want a 1-2 or 3 button jacket and draw your V neck from the neck-shoulder point to where the collar will end at the center front. Be sure you extend your pattern at least 1/4 inch away from the Center Front (the buttons are aligned on the CF). Mark all seams. Remove this from the doll.
 I even mark the inside of the pattern to make sure I can see all of my indications. Now transfer to graph paper. Add seam allowance and make another toile, this time in cotton.
Put this on the doll. Chances are, it will not fit the way you want. I cut along the CB, thus allowing the jacket to open up. Tape a bit of fabric in this space and now create a new CB line which will begin above the point you slashed but will be extended over the new volume. Cut out of cotton fabric again and check the fit, making any needed adjustments. Once you are happy with the fit of your jacket, make a new paper pattern.

Cut out your garment in fabric.
What differentiates a jacket from a shirt in menswear is the very pressed, structure of the jacket front, normally achieved in tailoring with the help of interfacings and facings. But for our 12 inch diva, we must avoid bulk. I use an iron-on interfacing. Use the front jacket pattern you just created, but without the seam allowance. Press in place. Now complete the jacket (beginning with stitching the shoulders together, then adding the sleeves while still flat. Hem the sleeves. Then fold the jacket over, inside out and stitch along the under sleeve and side seam in one operation. Now the more challenging part.....the collar.
For the collar, I cut 1 inch piece of my fabric on the bias. Fold in half (lengthwise) over the neckline edge and pin in place. Now cut away excess and carefully roll the collar under. Tack in place. Once this is done, stitch the collar (by hand) on the inside. If you have any problems with corners popping out, use a bit of fabric glue to hold in place.

Now turn over the outer edges of your jacket and glue in place. Inasmuch as menswear garments are usually made of dry wools, cottons, linens (and in my case raw silk), fabric glue will provide a nice clean finish without tiny stitches. However, if you use silk, sheer or any fine fabrics, glue will show and so will have to carefully hand stitch. The buttons, by the way, are tiny beads.

Since this is a hot weather look, (Salvatore Ferragamo Summer '13), I made my guy a tank top to wear underneath. I cut two swatches from a pair of my father's worn out briefs, then draped the pattern directly on the doll. I drew in the neck and shoulder lines and marked the side seams. That was transferred to the graph paper for the pattern, making sure the pattern was symmetrical.  You will notice my seams are pretty small. That is because this particular cotton knit is thin and unstable and risks being caught up in my sewing machine. For that reason I've chosen to hand sew it. On the other hand, I did not try to turn the edges or hem. You can use a special product to keep the edges from fraying. My knit stretches over his head pretty easily. For that reason, I also did not  make the usually back seam.

For my second sport jacket, I decided to try my hand at draping it using the same technique we used to create Barbie's basic slopers. I taped a bit of cotton to Ken's shoulders. (At first, I planned on creating shoulder pads but found them to be too bulky. Using the same technique I used for Barbie, I start in the front, creating the style lines. Then attach the cotton to the back to finish the drape. For the sleeve, I used my shirt sleeve and made any necessary adjustments.

Again, I slash where I want ease, and tape fabric to the existing toile.  When I am happy with the results, I remove from the doll, take apart and create my paper pattern. Make a second toile just to be sure you are happy with the fit and note any adjustments you have made onto the pattern.

We are making a real notched collar. The bottom part of the collar is taken from the top edge of the front pattern which is folded outward. For the upper collar, I need a rectangle which will be attached to the neckline and overlap a bit. My upper collar measures 3-1/2 inches wide (plus seam allowance) by 5/8 inch long. I turn down the edges of my collars and stitch the upper collar along the neckline seam (inside--fold over the seam, right side out.) You can use tiny stitches to sew the upper and lower together. I use a bit of fabric glue on the inside of the collar to keep everything nice and flat.

The point where the collar turns away from the body of the jacket, make a tiny slash, then turn the outer edge of the rest of the jacket inwards and glue (or sew) in place.

I folded tiny slivers of fabric into pocket flaps. And I used tiny white sequins to imitate buttons.

This guy is wearing the class shirt we showed you how to make in the prior posting. So that he can wear it with the jacket, we made a short-sleeved version of our original pattern.

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Text and images property of © Fashion Doll Stylist. 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Boyz on the Block

In the seasons to come, Ken is quickly learning that fashion is the sum of its parts. Most of the trends Richard has been reporting to me indicates a strong penchant for graphic color blocking. It can be done with wild splashes of Crayola tones, or bold and urban using the simplicity of black and white.

Today, we show you a sampling of looks which illustrate how the simple shirt pattern can be modified to create a variety of looks.

Once you become accustomed to the proportions of the male doll (broader shoulders, flatter  anatomy and more massive than Barbie), and once you have a good shirt pattern that fits your doll well, making patterns for Ken is more of a game of jigsaw puzzles. We do not have the complication of darts and special seams due to the female doll's curves. On the contrary, it is more about adding, subtracting volume, cutting up flat shapes then piecing them back together.

While you could take a big black marker and draw in the shapes, the garments on this page will better resemble their human counterparts if you take the time to cut the shapes and piece them back together.

For the Alexander Wang garment, I started with the basic shirt pattern then drew slash marks where I wanted the black bars placed. Cut the pattern along those lines then add the necessary seam allowance to the top and bottom of each piece. Be careful to label each piece (including straight of grain) so as not to be confused later on. For the placket, I used 1/4-inch bias tape I made myself. You need bias so that it curves around the neck smoothly.

Make it yourself: Take scrap fabric. Determine the straight of the grain and cut 1-inch strips on the diagonal. Fold in half and press. Open. Press each side in towards the center. Fold and press the two sides together and fold it over the raw edges of the shirt. Hand stitch in place. I used tiny sequins to imitate pearl buttons down the CF. The shirt closes with Velcro.

For the trousers, I traced off the original pants pattern. Put your traced pattern on the doll and added extra volume to the legs at the sides. Then drew a new pattern. I added a 1/2-inch band to the end of the pants.

If you do not already have pants for the doll, you can drape a pair using the technique featured in "Panting for More" (2/18/13).

The Gaultier shirt and pants uses the same principle, though is less complicated in that there is only one change of fabric.

For the sweater, is a technique called "Cut and Sew" knits. This means you use knit fabric which is cut using a pattern then stitched in place. The pattern is borrowed from the shirt. The CF and the CB lines are placed on the fold to create a single piece for each side. My knits are super stretchy, so I did not need to make a back seam.

To emulate the look in the photo, I used an old sweat sock and cut it into strips. Then, alternating the textures, I stitched them into a single band (seams side out). Cut this band into quarters. Turn each strip to alternate the texture, then sew everything together. Now cut the front and back pattern out of this. The sleeves are cut from the cuff of the sock.
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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Shirt Tales

A silk shirt for her and a Yohji inspired cotton shirt for him.
Whether it's for the Ken doll or just for Barbie, nothing is more quintessentially chic than the all time fashion staple....the shirt. For the Ken doll, this item opens the possibilities to create countless casual and urbanwear gear. For Barbie, it's a wonderful summertime garment that always looks fresh and never goes out of style.

That said, keep in mind that unless you make a coat with very deep sleeves, the doll won't be able to slip anything else on over her shirt. This is primarily why I feature largely sleeveless dresses. When I have examined the clothes Mattel provides for Ken, even his wedding suit is a 3-in-1 trompe l'oeil costume like that worn by Chippendale strippers. (Richard was so kind as to point this out to me.)

Today's posting focuses on the basic shirt for both sexes of dolls. Rather than mark Ken for slopers, I took the easier route by duplicating the shirt delivered with Ken by tracing off the shirt pattern (see Trace of Style) to make a basic toile.

Add pieces of fabric with tape to introduce new proportions to your pattern.
The original shirt was smaller and shorter than the proportions I desired . After duplicating it, I put it on the doll, being sure to mark the CF and CB lines. For adding volume or length, slash your toile where you want more fullness or length, then add more fabric, taping it in place. Once you are happy with your new proportions, mark where the new seams, hemline, armhole or neckline should be. Remove from the doll to create a new pattern. Cut this pattern out in fabric. Pin together and try on the doll. If it still needs adjusting, add or subtract fabric. It is very important this pattern is correct because all other styles will depend on how well this draft fits. I made a couple toiles before I was happy. Create half a pattern so that both sides will be symmetric.
Mark the CF, CB, all seams and style details on your toile.

Create half a pattern for symmetry. Check that side seams are equal in length.

I had some problems with the collar. So I waited until I had sewn the toile together, then measured the neck hole to ensure a proper fit. My front placket is the edge folded twice over to the front, then stitched in place. If you don't want a placket, fold it to the underside and stitch. Unless you are doing something fancy with the cuff, sew it onto to edge of the sleeve before you sew the underarm of the sleeve.
A well fitting shirt with just the right amount of volume! 

I'm featuring two types of sleeves for the girl doll. The first is a simple dress shirt, like the kind you would wear with a suit.

An easy to make simple "dress shirt."

Trace off the front bodice sloper. Ignore the dart. Measure 1/4 inch on the right of the CF line. From the neckline measure 3 1/2 inch and drop the new line. Straighten the seam under the arm so that drops perpendicular to the hem. From the bottom line, make a mark roughly 1/4 inch up. Now draw your curve at the bottom. For the back sloper, measure the length of the underarm length of the front pattern to get the proper length for the back. Also note where you shortened it on the side for the curve.

In this blouse, I am not adding a collar. Instead, I've made a facing by drawing a line 3/8 inch away from the neckline at the back. For the front draw this line so that it looks like that in the illustration. Trace the front facing. Flip. Then add this piece to the front pattern along that new center line. I've used the regular sleeve. The final pattern is featured below.

This makes for a nice blouse. However, if we want to create the women's version of the men's classic shirt, we'll need the next draft.

The oversize shirt pattern features a deep, dropped shoulder sleeve, a cuff and a back yoke if you so desire.
The chic of a crisp linen shirt over a halter top and jeans.

Begin with the front sloper. Again, ignore the dart. I decided to add quite a bit of length, so I dropped the center line by 5 inches from the neckline.

At the neck shoulder tip, draw a straight horizontal line equal in length from the shoulder tip to the underarm line (see close up) minus 1/4 inch. Measure 1/4 inch down from the underarm tip and mark. Now draw a vertical line straight down to the hem. At the front, add 1/2 inch to the right of the CF line. Make a curve at the underarm. Decide how deep you want the side curve for the tails. Mine is marked to start at 3/4 inch up from the hem. Draw your curve.

Take your sleeve sloper and measure out from the cap to the wrist minus 1/4 inch. Draw a horizontal line from the new shoulder tip of the oversized shirt pattern and another from the underarm tip. Join with a vertical line. Draw a diagonal line from the underarm point to the mid-point of the vertical line (at sleeve hem). This will result in a squared off triangle. Trace this off and add to the top to get the sleeve.

For the back, flip your front shirt pattern. Line up the back sloper to this pattern. You will maintain the neckline of the back sloper but trace off the rest of the front pattern. If you want a yoke, simply place a horizontal line at the point you want it. Here, I've place my slash line 1/4 inch down from the neck. You will add seam allowance and stitch these two pieces back together. You can also decide to leave the back in a single piece.

For cuffs, create a rectangle: measure the length of the sleeve at the hem, add 1 inch. Fold in half horizontally and press. Sew onto the hem of the sleeves before preceding.

If you have opted for the yoke, sew this to the back bodice, press. Baste together and stitch the front and back patterns along the shoulder line. Next, stitch the sleeves to the bodice while everything is still flat. Fold over to the wrong side of the garment and stitch the sleeves along the under arm and down the side seam of the shirt. Measure the neckline and create your collar. Create a rectangle the same width of your neckline plus 1/2 inch (or more). Add seam allowance. The complete pattern should resemble the one pictured here.

You can use all different types of fabrics. Bulkier ones or leathers will yield you a shirt-jacket. By lengthening this pattern  and adding a self belt, you have a "shirtwaist dress."

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