Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lovely Lupita!!!

Lupita in turquoise Gucci for SAG Awards
In my last post, I was so ambitious with my choice of items to recreate, I missed the red carpet fashions at the Grammy (America's music industry) Awards. Still, I could not help but notice all of the media buzz surrounding actress, Lupita Nyong'O received after appearing in that show-stopping, Ralph Lauren gown at the Golden Globes. Our girl, Lupita turned heads once again, when she showed up at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards (US) wearing a stunning turquoise Gucci. And before we could totally catch our breath, there she was,  photographed for Vogue magazine in an electrifying black & white, strapless dress by Mendes. Wow!

This post celebrates Lupita's timeless sense of style...a style that is easily and effortlessly translated into clothes for our dolls. Why do we love it so? Because it takes us back to the glory days of fashion, the early 1960's, the Jackie Kennedy era when styles were simple, elegant, unpretentious and sometimes......scrumptiously pretty.

In this post I take you behind the scenes of that famous red dress to show you the steps I used in creating my dolly interpretation of the Ralph Lauren dress.
Lupita in Ralph Lauren for the Golden Globes Awards

And then there is the black and white dress, which is not a line for line copy, but rather, a simplified version that captures the essence of such a mesmerizing look.

Lupita wearing Mendes in Vogue Magazine editorial
We begin, however, with that oh, so very pretty turquoise Gucci gown featured in the opening shot. I love the idea of a dress with its own jewelry incorporated. You can (and probably should) start with the strapless sheath we did not long ago. My reason for showing you something else is because, I had the same color of fabric, but not enough to use my original pattern. And while I don't encourage making dresses this way (for reasons of symmetry or lack thereof), I decided to show you what I do when I don't have enough fabric but REALLY want to do make something using scraps.

My dress has no closures and though it is a slim fitting garment, the doll simple slips out of it. (Madame Vionnet was famous for her bias cut dresses that had no closures!) For this to work, it is important for the grain line of my scraps to be running diagonally (the bias). In other words, when the grain is straight, the weave is running north-south/east west and is taunt. But on the diagonal, it will stretch when you pull it. I place the fabric directly on the doll, taping it to her at the back. Then I add the scrap at the back and fold it at the side seams and pin in place. Try to get the side seam as straight as possible. And don't fit the dress too tightly on the torso.

Shape the front of the dress as you want it, fold over and pin. You may have to do this a few times to get it well balanced. I've taped it to the front of the doll, then completed the back. Mark the side seams with a light toned chalk (that you will later rub away). Now carefully remove it from the doll. Smooth your lines out and try to make each side as symmetrical as possible. Now pin-baste the dress back together (seams outside) and slide it back on the doll. Check for fit and ease of removal. In the meantime, I have made a necklace using beads, bits of frayed fabric and silk flowers strung on wire. I mixed a bit acrylic paint  (blue+green+white, in this case) to match the flowers to the color of the dress.

Using our classic backstitch, I carefully hand stitch the dress together. Be careful not to stretch the dress as you are sewing. Carefully press (but don't scrub) the side seams with your iron. Fold down and press down the neckline and tack in place. Now sew the necklace to the dress at each side.

The red dress is more simple. Though I could have used the strapless sheath pattern, I wanted to make sure I got the neckline of the dress aligned with the cape. So I began by making a basic sheath dress. I then took a rectangle of silk and pinned it from one side at the underarm, across the back to the other side. I wanted a bit more fullness, so I folded the area over the center back into two soft pleats and pinned it. I pinned ribbon across the body to mark my cutting line. (Don't forget to leave a margin to turn under or seam allowance if you will be lining the dress.) Remove the cape (be sure to line it) and cut. Upon close inspection of the original photo, I noticed the gown has off-the-shoulder short sleeves. I made two small tubes from my scraps and stitched them on the underarm area.

Of course, I never saw the back of the original gown so I had to imagine how the doll would get in and out of the garment. There didn't appear to be a closure at the back, so I imagined the tiny sleeves serve as a base for attaching the cape. I used tiny hooks (on the tips of the cape) and crochet or thread loop carriers sewn on the underarm seam of the sleeves. I went back and hand-stitched the soft pleats at the back of the cape.

And then there is that lovely black and white striped dress featured in Vogue. The stark contrast of black and white stripes is the key to this dramatic look. It really is a complicated wrap dress but I have reduced this look to a day-length, very simple sheath with a vertical bow. I was not able to get to the fabric store due to extraordinary bad weather and did not have black and white striped fabric on hand which is essential to this look. So....with a rectangle of white cotton, a small vial of paint and a foam brush. I drew stripes freehand. The irregularity of the strokes (often referred as "ethnic stripes") makes them more interesting. To be honest, I wished I had made the skewed my strokes even more! And I wish I had used silk instead of cotton because I think it would have been more luxurious and instead of hemming the edges, I would have left them frayed!

When the fabric is completely dry, cut out the strapless sheath and sew. With the fabric that's left, I folded it and made one seam. I folded and stitched down the top and bottom edges. Then I made what looks like a bow tie by pinching this tube just above the middle with a tiny scrap of fabric. Tack it on the dress and arrange the folds as you please. As with the turquoise dress, this is a style with numerous possibilities!!!!!

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  1. What a lovely article, the reproductions are wonderful and I appreciate the step by step instructions!

  2. Very interesting tip about the bias cut scraps! I'll try it to see how the fabric behaves. Love the dresses too and Lupita is gorgeous!

    1. Thank you. Have a good (and creative) time with the scraps. Often, an unorthodox route and yield the most creative things!

  3. Beautiful dresses. <3 I'm in love with the black and white one, and I'm so excited that you used paint to make custom fabric! Painting fabric with acrylic paint is something I love to do, and I've just begun to incorporate it into my doll clothing.

    Because your blog is such an amazing resource and I'm learning so much from you, I thought I'd share my fabric painting/stamping tutorial: I can imagine some gorgeous, bold tribal prints on Lupita.

    1. Thank you. I did take a look at your blog and the idea of cutting a stamp into the foam sponge is VERY interesting. I also want to do more textiles this year as well.


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