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.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


  1. Hi April, this is a wonderful post, so informative and I love the pictures!!!
    I also enjoyed the glimpses of the fashions you made for the dolls, can't wait to see more

    1. Thank you, Billa. There were many dresses that lend themselves to doll clothes which is why I decided to keep the tutorial separate. Hugs

  2. I love the pink dress in the 2nd/3rd pic. Did you peep the Josephine Baker costume he had?

  3. Teva, I still have MANY of the clothes Patrick gave to me. Unfortunately I discovered, I no longer fit into any of those clothes :-( and could not wear them to the opening. No I never had the Josephine Baker costume. On the other hand, the model who wore it, Pat Cleaveland, was present at this event.


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