Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love

In 1979, a young man from Mississippi named Patrick Kelly made his way to Paris France with dreams about becoming the next big thing in fashion. He took in all that the Parisian fashion scene had to offer while making it his business to meet everyone who was anyone, be they designers, buyers, journalists, models, photographers, or simply other American expats struggling to get into the business themselves. And though Kelly was short on garment construction skills, he was a man with a plan who figured out how to create simplified, stretch knit versions of everything high fashion.

Madame Gres, Coco Chanel, and Yves Saint Laurent inspired Patrick as did the flamboyantly dressed women in the pews of his grandmother's Baptist church. Within five short years, Kelly with his concept of cheap and chic fashion, charmed his way into the hearts and minds of industry professionals and the public alike. This propelled him into the highest stratosphere of Parisian fashion, earning him the distinction of becoming the first American accepted into the French fashion industry's prestigious Chambre Syndicale de Couture.

From now until November 30, 2014, The Philadelphia Museum if Art plays host to the exhibition, "Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love." On display are works representing Kelly's five-year meteoric rise to fame from a rough cut tube dress with bows to the more sophisticated suits, leathers, leopard spotted coats, and elasticized draped dresses. Within this body of work, the visitor feels the presence of the creative environment that enveloped and shaped Kelly's sense of style. As to be expected, there are plenty of garments studded with his signature buttons and bows.

Patrick Kelly (an avid doll collector) is also credited for igniting the era of "stretch" (garments). Though knit jersey had been around for a half century before, Kelly's use of Lycra enhanced fabrics for young, fun, sexy garments sent the entire industry in search of stretchy fabrics.

Patrick Kelly's early ready to wear designs were the embodiment of "fast fashion." These were garments with simple, narrow silhouettes paired with interchangeable pieces that insured maximum impact for minimal fashion and cost. From the beginning, Kelly strived to create fun and interesting clothes that would be affordable to "real" people, not just the rich and famous. He also wanted women of all ages to love their bodies, by making designs that celebrate any shape or size. Known for his generous, exuberant personality, and as a loyal, down to earth friend to many, Kelly was also a sharp businessman and savvy marketer. Kelly's playful, colorful designs brought a sense of humor to high fashion. As he would often say, "I want my clothes to make you smile."

The exhibition is staged like a winding catwalk with a parade of Patrick's "greatest hits" strutting down a red carpet in the midst of chic onlookers. At the back, a giant screen lit up with video clips of Kelly's shows that always concluded festively with a crowd of top models, clouds of confetti and the designer himself all smiles and blowing kisses.

We're not completely finished. Next up: we show you how to create a basic knit dress sloper as well as a couple Patrick Kelly dresses for your doll! In the meantime, don't forget, there is already a tutorial (video tutorial as well) showing how to reproduce the Patrick Kelly cocoon for your doll.

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Make your very own (adult size) Patrick Kelly cocoon for yourself. Click here for pattern and instructions courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pucker Up!!!

For many years, the world of fashion design was totally separate from that of textiles. We looked at fabrics in terms of fibers content, weave and print. And then came the 1990's and the dominance of Japanese designers who revolutionized the market by introducing a new way of looking at materials used in garment design. It's called "surface treatments" which includes both familiar artisanal methods of coloring (tie-dye, dip dye, batik) to the more experimental approaches that begin with alter the surface of familiar fabrics like...devore, shibori, permanent pleating. The fact is...nothing is new in fashion. We live in an era of basic shapes and silhouettes. What distinguishes one design from another is....fabric!!!
Last August, we made our own rendition of "Fortuny" pleats with our "Twist & Shout" project. It wasn't really permanent, but given the tiny quantities needed for the doll, we didn't really need to worry about the pleats falling out. Today's project explores permanent fabric manipulation using polyester or nylon fabric, and tiny objects which provide three-dimensional special effects to our fabric.
For this project you will need polyester or nylon fabric, a needle and heavy duty cotton thread and any size or shape of tiny object you desire (beads, coins, bolts, seeds, etc).
Pink: coins; Blue: beads; Dots: Running stitches gathered
One by one, entrap each object with the fabric. Run a stitch underneath the object then wrap the thread around two or three times then make another stitch and pull. You want secure the object but not so much as to make it too difficult to remove the thread later. Put as many or as few. Feel free to combine different shapes and sizes of objects. You can also make rows of running stitches and gather to make puckers or pleats.
Wrap each fabric in aluminum foil before placing in the oven.
Heat your oven to 325F (170C). Wrap each fabric in aluminum foil and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes.You want to fiber to soften but not melt or burn. So after 15 minutes, take a peak to make sure nothing is turning yellow. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove the string.

Remove the thread and Voila!
Okay, so now that you've got this really cool fabric samples, how do you use them? If you want to apply to a specific garment, I will advise that you keep it simple. Make a large simple garment, then apply the surface treatment the way we suggested in "Twist & Shout." Or you can make the fabric and use the samples to adapt an existing garment. Use them for collars, skirts, capes, shawls.....

Regarding the garments featured here, the pink (effects created with coins) was simply tossed over the shoulders of Muriel as an evening wrap.

The blue is a fabric, readily found in stores known as "crystal polyester." The puckers were created using beads. I simply tacked it over an existing dress.

For the polka dotted black sheer, I gathered rows of running stitches. But instead of using the resulting effect as a horizontal pleating, I chose to use it on the vertical. This "tube" dress was created with single stitch down the back.
The aqua blue ensemble was made with two pieces of fabric made awhile ago. The fabric was so pretty, I couldn't bring myself to cut it. So I simply folded it in half, added clear plastic thread to make "spaghetti straps" and made tiny stitches to pull some of the 3-D back close to the body. Her wrap encases the arms with tiny stitches, as well.

The girls are off to Philadelphia, this weekend to attend the opening of the Patrick Kelly Exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Then next, we're back in Paris where lots of fun events (including the Barbie exhibition) await us. We'll be back next week with full reports!!!

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

In My Easter Bonnet

I was so involved putting together the last project, the arrival of Easter Sunday nearly caught me off-guard. My dolls, on the other hand, did not forget! When I awoke this morning, many were looking at me cross-eyed. "How could I forget to make them Easter bonnets!!??!!"

So, I lied and told them I had not forgotten and then quickly hunted down my organza jewelry bags and a few silk flowers.

This project is a (last minute) quick & easy way to get your doll ready for the Easter Parade!

The organza bag (available at crafts stores in a variety of colors), is turned upside down and fitted to the head of the doll by drawing in the ribbon. You can tie on to itself at one side, then simply crush down the areas to "sculpt" the desired look. Feel free to add additional ribbons or tiny flowers.

I create my hat directly on the doll, pinning in place until I'm happy. Then I tack everything in place with tiny hand stitches.

In a variation of this, I've added a silk flower petal layer to the underside. This helps to frame the face and add an additional texture.

And then there is the story of doll named rose...... Inspired by Irish fashion designer, John Rocha, who often uses oversized flower hats atop the heads of his models. I've followed suit with these hats. It's best to use two flowers, either the same or different, simply because it provides more petals as well as the opportunity to better hide plastic bits.

To make this hat more permanent, I've created a tiny base (slightly larger than a Euro coin or a US quarter) using air dried paper clay. This base allows you to pin things into it as well as pin the hat in the doll's hair. Bend the petals around the head to frame the face and to hide the plastic centers. I chose to leave those centers in tact because I wanted to preserve the stamens. Again, I try this on the doll to get just the right look. When you are happy, you can then remove the pins and glue the petals to each other. Then pin down the flower onto the base.

Most likely this will not stay put on the doll. So we will do as our great grandmothers did..use a hat pin (straight pins with a pearl or colored bead is good) to keep everything in place. Just remember that, like your great grandmother, the pin should go in the hair and NOT the head!!!!

Happy Easter, everyone!!!!!

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Skinny Dipping

While most everyone is busy coloring eggs for Easter, I've been busy at work.....dyeing fabric! Dip dye, to be exact. Some of you might know this as "ombre" the Spanish word adapted for a graduated drench of color.

With this very simple technique, there are many design options. It's just a matter of planning where you would like the point of color to be introduced and the fabric. I will tell you straight away to do as I say and not as I did. Test your color on the fabric first! The denim sheath dress was my first attempt and it was much more successful than I imagined. I was so sure the other natural fibers would yield the same intensity, I did not test it before making the garment. The (faded) purple over ecru wool basic dress worn by Gunilla (the blonde) was supposed to be navy! I hated the result and nearly threw the whole thing out. But then I decided to try it on the doll and to my surprise, it had a very "vintage" look. So I completed it and feel differently. I did test the color on the chiffon dress because it is polyester, a fabric which doesn't take the dye well. I started with navy, then dunked it in black for an hour and it came out pretty much as I anticipated. The red in the habatai silk two-piece wrap dress came out pink.

Since these are tiny garments, you need not use the entire package or even half. I call it "teacup dyeing." One teaspoon of powdered dye to a cup of hot water is more than enough. Wear gloves to keep from staining your fingers. You can add a teaspoon of salt to the dye bath for a darker color.

I started out first by making the garment or at least parts of the garment. You can control how deep you want the dye to travel up (or down the garment) by drenching more or less of garment or fabric into the dye. Just make sure there is a part of the garment which not immersed. You must leave it in the hot bath for at least 15-20 minutes. Rinse first with cold water, then lukewarm until the water runs clear. Afterwards, I wash in soapy water then rinse again until the water runs clear.

For the wrap dress, I dipped only the end points and the belt extension of the blouse into the dye as well as one side of the wrap skirt.

Of course, you can always dip dye a length of fabric and let it fall where it wants to fall in your design. And, don't think the fabric always has to be solid. Try prints, plaids or tweeds!

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Empire Strikes Back

A little while ago, I received a request to do a post on dresses with empire waists. This silhouette is not readily found in most fashion trends today due to the obsession with skin tight,"body conscious" clothing. But the empire waist dress was a very big thing throughout the Jackie Kennedy era, otherwise known as "Camelot." It is a gracious and very graceful look that reminds me of the reason I fell in love with fashion.

Though a few empire waist dresses do make their way onto a catwalk or two, they tend to appear in mass at this time a year when the younger set begin to plan for..the prom! And, think about it...prom night is for the teenager what the Oscar night is to the Hollywood star. Since I have lots of "younger" Barbies around, this is the perfect time to rediscover such an endearing style.

A true "Empire" dress has a bodice that fits over the bustline then releases a very full skirt. A short while ago, I featured a dress inspired by Valentino where I had draped the pattern. I still feel this is the most efficient way to create the pattern since it gives you complete control over the silhouette, however, there are some of you who better comprehend flat patterns. This post is for you.

The pink satin gown has a classic empire waist pattern. Using a tape measure, I measure down from the pit of the doll's neck to just under her bust as well as under the arm. After placing the fro ntand back slopers together at the side seams, I mark those points on the basic sloper bodice then draw out the cutting line.  Whatever the distance is between the underarm point and the waist, should be respected over the rest of the bodice.

For this particular bodice, I have decided to make a square neckline. On the front sloper draw out neckline keeping the side perpendicular to the bottom. Now line up the front and back sloper along the shoulder seam. Continue the vertical line from the front, onto the back for as low as you want. Then draw a horizontal line which is perpendicular to the Center back line. This will ensure the neckline will be consistent from front to back.

For the skirt, cut a rectangle the length of the doll (from just under the bust to the ankles) and as wide as you would like full. For most fabrics this shouldn't exceed more than 1 1/2 times the circumference of the doll unless you are working with a super fine fabric. Otherwise your dress will resemble maternity wear!

Gather this rectangle and join to the bodice. I've added short sleeves.

I imagined some of you wanting to do one of those "Grecian" silhouettes with a softly draped bodice. Go back to first step of the draft from the above pattern and redraw a strapless bodice. It is best that you try this on the doll then make any adjustments for fit before continuing. You can use any fabric, though I've chosen a crisp cotton for the bodice to support the draped design in chiffon. I've used the same chiffon for the skirt, which is about twice the width of the doll circumference, gathered into the bodice. Assemble the dress as instructed for the previous dress.

Go back to the bodice. Cut a strip of fabric, twist it and lay it over the bodice and pin in place. Adjust the gathers pinning the fabric where you would like it to settle on the bodice.

When you have finished, clip off the excess from the Center Back. Slip stitch those gathers over the bodice, tacking down the folds where you want to anchor them. Slide the needle under the fabric and make tiny stitches so that they remain as "invisible" as possible but secure the drapes in place.

My dress wouldn't stay up on the doll, so I added "spaghetti straps" made from small bits of ribbon.

Some of the dresses the 1960's had high waists but were not, technically, Empire waists. They were simply....high waist dresses.

This dress is really a fitted sheath dress with a "yoke" and a "tent." The silhouette is created by adding a gathered rectangle to the seam joining the yoke and the body of the sheath. My tent is 1 1/2 the width of the sheath dress.

The trick is in the assembly. Stitch the darts and the side seams of the bodice. Then stich the darts and sides of the sheath body, leaving the back seam of the tent open.

Baste  the gathered "tent" to the body of the sheath. Then baste this to the yoke and sew together. The first photo shows the three layers stitched together at the bust seam. In the second photo, I flip up the tent and stitch the center back seam of the sheath. The rest of the bodice is hand-stitched in place. I have folded back the center back edge of the tent which swings free over the sheath. A hook and eye keeps the dress closed on the back bodice and another is placed to close the waist of the sheath underneath.

I've also added a velvet ribbon trim to mark the "empire" waist.

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