Monday, January 27, 2014

Doll's Eye View: Spring 2014 Paris Couture

Things are a lot different today than when I first began reporting on Haute Couture collections back in the 1980s. At that time, there were about 23 official couture houses. Only French were allowed into the "inner circle" (though Valentino had a permanent invitation to show) and the press presentations themselves were smaller and perhaps a lot more sane than those of today. Today there only about 10 "official" French Couture houses, about six invited members and a host of other young people on hand...just to keep things interesting.
Master of Couture....Giorgio Armani's "Oscar" ready Couture line
These shows often had their clientele seated in the first row. You were lucky to get the Yves Saint Laurent invitation and even luckier if it were for the morning show when his most famous customers were in attendance. And during those shows back then, I had the privilege of attending the couture show of Mme. Alix Gres. Her models filed out holding numbered cards and the only sound in the room was that of the clicking of camera shutter lenses. Haute Couture had a specific purpose and its own very special customers.
Haute Pants. Trousers get all dolled up for spring.

Muriel wears her "bathrobe" kimono cut from Chinese brocade over white crepe trousers.
French Haute Couture is every bit as regulated as French wine. A house must be mentored in and voted upon in able to gain acceptance into the group. Then, the couturier must have a prerequisite number of workers, a specific number of private showings plus two press shows during the year. And the couture house must be based in house, regardless the nationality of the designer. I have not mentioned exact numbers because over the years, the requirements have been eased as a way to keep the industry going.
Spring Frost. White on white embroidered dresses with a dramatic touch.
 It is also difficult to say with precision, the exact number of clients who continue to buy Haute Couture clothing. Everyone has a different number. What I can tell you is that wealthy women who buy it today, usually reserve their purchased for eveningwear or bridal wear as witnessed by overabundance of gowns paraded on the catwalks. Gone are the days when women bought day dresses or even multiples of the same dress for milady's multiple residences.

Today, Haute Couture is more a marketing tool used for brand image. We see it on the red carpet of the world's numerous Awards Ceremonies. And sadly, most of those dresses are lent to the actresses, not purchased. Once upon a time Couture served as a sort of atelier of ideas which later influenced the designers more commercial ready to wear collections. However, over the last couple of decades, the catwalk shows of the numerous global "fashion weeks" has upstaged Couture in both interest and ideas.

Sew Simple, Roshamba wears an assymetrical dress cut from two layers of sheer fabric.
On a positive note, today we see participation of designers from all over the world. Designers like Elie Saab and Zurhaid Murad, not to mention a number of Eastern Europeans sometimes "out-French the French" when it comes to preserving the magical world of Haute Couture.
Millefeuille...very girly dresses as light as flaky pastry

And yes, we've got the dolly version as well, cut from polyester "crystal"

 It is always my pleasure to bring you our "dolly" edition of those shows. Instead of picking out the easy garments, I chose a couple which were more challenging, the details of which, we will discuss in a later post.
Winged feathers and butterfly wings serve as inspiration for great summer looks.
In terms of trends, what we did notice this season were softer, sweeter dresses with lots of tulle and lace.
Like flowers in a garden, pastel tulle and lace are big hits for soft summer looks.
 A few hints of drama but without bling. And a very simplistic approach to the whole notion of couture. Still, I could not help but to include a few draped dresses. It is a tiny remnant of what I remember from my glorious days of attending French Haute Couture Collections.
Monica gets all glammed up in her version of this silky wrap dress.
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ken's Eye View: Men's Fashion Week Fall '14 Part II

After London and Milan, my guys made a dash for Paris for the third and final installment of Men's Fashion Week where Fall/Winter 2014-15 trends were presented. Several major directions emerged that we think will be important.

The supersized coats introduced in the US last year, have finally washed up on the shores of Europe. They range in style from double breasted bathrobe coats to the massive tailored tweed variety worn over roomy suits or sport jackets and trousers.

We saw a little of this in Italy but here in Paris, there are several ways to wear this look. Richard, our guy to the left is wears a grey wool kimono coat with a shawl collar.
Cut in grey tweeds or plaids, they take the wearer to work. When you try this for the doll, be sure to make a muslin (toile) first and add or subtract the volume to suit the doll. 

The mighty blues provide a sporty look for an easy urban, edgy look. For these styles you use the same basic patterns you developed for the Ken doll, but using more daring patterns and prints.

It's the year of the horse which favors bright earth tones. These are easy silhouettes that work as statement pieces. 
Get rid of the pattern but keep the wide volume for a super easy, super smooth silhouette. To pull this off, you will need to get your hands on some good quality wool.

If you can only make a single item your doll let it be anything in leather. Jackets, coats, soft and supple or thick slabs, leather is worn in a variety of styles. Just remember, the thicker the skin, the more simple the style must be.
Remember the shearling jacket we made for Ken, a few posts ago. It's all over the runways! Here, that same jacket is here at Christian Dior Homme!

Young, hip and very much urban, this street style fashion is all black. Leather pants (our guy's pants are cut from a stretch faux leather fabric) and a simple black sweater (cut from black knit) belted, is all Ken needs to pull off this look.

The Rock Star is alive and well and still going strong. Here the basic jacket is cut short to the hips. Get really funky with Ken's jackets by using animal printed fabric.

Or go totally crazy and transform otherwise basic looks with abstract "works of art." This is a fun look to recreate. Use simple cottons or wool, then pull our your paint and express yourself. The model on the far right wears a "blanket" geometric print you could realize using felt squares.

The recent frigid temperatures had a way of bringing out the beast in our fashionista. The message here....Ken can wear the same faux fur you buy for Barbie!. My guy on the left wears a coat from the straight coat pattern featured in an earlier post. I added a bit of scrap around the neck for the collar.

Up next.....The Paris Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014 shows are in full swing and the girls are checking out everything out. We'll be posting their summary in a few days.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ken's Eyeview: Fall '14 European Menswear Trends Part I

Menswear season is in full swing and guess what...the guys are back in action! In this first of two summaries, we take a look at key looks for next Fall/Winter 2014 appearing on the runways of London and Milan.

In London, designers relied primarily on what they are know for best best: classic sport coats, suits and casual gear. We did, however, find a few standouts. The supersized silhouettes that invaded the US last year look particularly sharp and modern when cut from monochromatic plaids and stripes. These are garments requiring very few pattern pieces which is easily translated to the proportions of the doll.

 This is the year of the horse and as such, warm Mediterranean colors (particularly in the brown/russet and green range of palettes) are favored. But what really makes this look is the addition of blanket sized shawls tossed over the shoulders and in the case of Philipp Plein, belted at the waist.

For early Autumn, shorter lengths in jackets look particularly sharp. From slim and sleek narrow jackets that barely graze the hips to a wide, utilitarian silhouette falling just below the hips, this style of jacket is worn with traditional trousers or supersized pants.

Comfort and luxury.....this is about the easy look of a double breasted coat wrapped around the body and belted in place. The straight over coat also gets a "comfortable" edge when worn over wide slouchy trousers and a super long scarf.

There is lots of leather everywhere, usually cut in big, wide slabs for easy to wear urban coats. 

 Another strong look takes its direction from the streets. The classic biker jacket is super cool especially when worn with slip pants. Silhouettes here range from waist length shearling jackets to fitted racing suits in metallic leathers.

The recent Siberian weather patterns has sent designers back into the den and out again with fur coats for men. They are big and bold and sometimes in whimsical man-made variations.


These are not your father's quilted parkas. Super lightweight, the quilted coat comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. We also love the parka with cargo pockets and we also love the hoodie car coat cut from a plush fleece fabric.


Who says menswear has to be boring. The simple silhouette of the coats, jackets and trousers is given a contemporary edge when drenched with images or patterns. this might not be something the average guy can wear everyday....but your Ken doll is no ordinary guy no?

Up next.....FDS heads to Paris where EVERYONE else is showing. Stay tuned!!!!!

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Doll's Eye View: Golden Globes '14 Red Carpet

Yup. Our girls were there on the red carpet for the Golden Globes on Sunday. A few even managed to upstage a few of the stars. Here, take a look!!!

Our favorite gown of the night: Lupita Nyong'O in a red hot, sizzling Ralph Lauren. 

We loved the voluptuousness of Sophia Vergana in Zac Posen.

And of course, we thought Hayden Panettiere's Tom Ford dress was ever so chic. We loved the way she accented the halter neckline with the addition of a broach.
Sometimes simple make a really big statement, especially when it's cut from aqua blue crepe. 
Okay, so this was not everyone's favorite and we know not everyone can wear this, but for an at home formal dinner party, nothing beats the casual chic of this look. We would have preferred a better blouse, perhaps!

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Next up: The guys are back. Stay tuned because the European menswear collections for Fall/Winter 2014-15 are going on right now. We'll have the first installment (UK and Italy) coming up within a day!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Red Carpet Ready: Variations of the Sheath

Now that the holidays are over, and the girls have had a bit of a break, it's time to look forward to the awards season. The Golden Globe Awards Ceremony takes place on Sunday, hence we look forward to the glamorous gowns we know the stars will be wearing. Usually I chose a selection of the most outstanding dresses and present them to you as a source of inspiration. However, this time around, I thought I would select a super simple silhouette, then show you how you can modify it to create your own red carpet sensation for your doll using the base of a strapless, sheath evening gown.

I took advantage of my having to create foundation garments for my new Fashion Royalty dolls. Thus, this project begins with the sheath dress created by draping directly on the doll. Click here for instructions.

Inasmuch as this is something you will use repeatedly create numerous garments, I strongly suggest you take your time to be sure this foundation fits your doll well. Make a full muslin (toile) to check for fit. Then mark the neckline of the strapless dress directly on the muslin, then transfer that to the paper pattern. I have elongated this foundation to the floor.

For my first garment, I have used a gorgeous navy lace. I have laid out the pattern so that the edge is against the decorative edge of the lace. While you could line this garment, I have chosen to leave it sheer and in the style of the late Yves Saint Laurent, I add tiny sequins (or beads) to strategic areas. Very sexy!!!

The lace "coat" is another piece of the same lace. I didn't want to cut it into a specific style, so I simply folded it over the arms and hand stitched it along the arms. I also pinched it in at the waist in the back and hand stitched it down for added shape.

Normally I don't pink gowns with fishtails. But for many, the fishtail gown is the quintessential "glamour gown." I don't like dresses that simply flair out the silhouettes at the side into some sort of silly fin.

On the other hand, you can create something much prettier by taking a length of fabric (hemmed with the ends stitched together), gathering it and adding it to the dress. Though I've used the same fabric, feel free to use tulle or incorporate even more fabric for a more voluminous tail. The "flower" on one side of the dress was made by scooping up a bunch of scraps, twisting them into a pouf and sewing them in place. The stole is a long tube I chose not to iron.

One of the great things about the sheath dress is that it can serve as a base for draping.

On this jade brocade dress, again, I started out with my foundation. Then I literally sculpted the fabric on top of the bust by puckering and twisting a scrap of fabric which is pinned then stitched in place. See a demonstration as to how it's done by looking at this post.

Now, we will make a large bow for the back. It starts with a long tube. Press lightly then create a bow as shown in the illustration. Crisscross the two sides then pinch it in the middle. Wrap the middle with a small strip of fabric. Tie and stitch middle of the tie to the the loops.

Now add this to the back of the dress. You will sew it to one side of the back. Use a snap to hold this bow to the other side of the dress. Do not try to tie a traditional as it will not be as nice.

Now, for the piece de la resistance! The dress at the top of this post. The simple sheath is regal with the addition of panels to either side.

I cut two squares. On each square I cut one corner off. Turn the edges down on the side and top. Create soft pleats at the top. Hand stitch them down using slip stitches and add each panel to the side of the dress. Tack in place. I created my own bows using the fabric which I allowed to unravel. You can use ribbon or even small broaches, instead. I add a bow to each side as well as one placed at the center of the back. Tact down to the dress at the side waist. Mark the hem into a curve and cut.

There are endless possibilities using this simple dress. Add a train to the back or a swag to one side of the dress. Create stoles, trains or top off with a short bolero or a cocoon. Most of inspired by the divas of the 1950's silver screen. See you on the red carpet!!!!

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