Thursday, November 26, 2015

PUZZLED!! (Homage to Paco Rabanne)

In the background, photos of Donayle Luna wearing Paco Rabanne by Richard Avedon and David Bailey

During Paris Fashion Week, I noticed quite a few references linked to the 1960's. In the midst of the sweet A-line frocks and mini-shifts was a dress made from squares joined together with small metal tabs. Designed by "Mugler" for me, it could have passed for an updated version of a Paco Rabanne dress.

For those of you who don't know this designer, Paco was at the forefront of avant-garde couture in the 1960's. Trained as an architect, his dresses were made of everything but fabric and often required screw drivers, welding irons and wire cutters to assemble. Also worth noting: his star muse was Donyale Luna (featured in the opening photo next to my model, Samantha), an extraordinary beauty born in Detroit, was the first black supermodel to appear in fashion magazines all over the world.

When I spotted the Mugler dress, I thought it was a good time for us to stop and have a little fun. Essentially, this is a 100% craft project that is deeply rooted in fashion history. But be warned! Though simple and requiring no real sewing skills, these two dresses are quite challenging and require organization, time and patience.

Paco Rabanne's Metal Tab Shift
Feel free to use any material for either of these dresses. For the Paco dress, I'm using silver cardboard (disposable napkin rings I found in a crafts store).

1. Cut a rectangle of paper large enough to wrap around the doll and the length you want the dress.
2. We will use this to control the width and length of our dress.
3. I have cut enough tiny squares (roughly 3/8" or 1cm) out of the cardboard to cover the entire paper. With needle and thread, I sew a strip of these squares together with a simple running stitch.
4. Make as many rows as there is length of paper.
5. Now we need to sew them together in the opposite direction. To keep everything from becoming tangled as I work, I sewed together one row then found an upright surface (a covered chair back, for example) to pin the strips.
6. As I sew each column together, I lift it away from the others, being careful to steer the thread away from the other squares. Continue until all rows and all columns have been stitched together.
7. I cut another set of tiny squares out which I glue over the existing squares. This is to hide the stitches. You will not yet glue down the top row of squares.

8. On the two edges I cut longer strips of the cardboard to line the edges so that I can eventually glue velcro down to close the dress. Glue to the interior edge of one side and the exterior of the left hand side. Now go back and clip all of the loose threads.
9. I punch holes in four squares. Put the dress on the doll to see where the straps will be attached.
10. Glue those squares down then punch through to the holes in the squares beneath. Measure the chain you need for each strap and attach.

Your doll is now party-ready a la sixties!!!
That Mugler Dress
What I liked about the original catwalk dress was the sleek black dotted with silver. I couldn't find black felt nor could I get my hands on craft wire, so I settled for black suede and chain--which, by the way, added to the challenge.

1. First make a grid on a sheet of paper. After playing with the proportions a bit, I settled on 1-1/8" (28mm) squares.
2. Wrap this paper around the doll then cut away the square nearest her neck.
3. From there, you will begin cutting away the squares you don't need, like around her arms.

4. Try to line up the squares so that they line up fairly evenly around her body.
5. Place a pin at the back
6. Then begin cutting the squares so that when you have finished, they will fit together. Don't worry if they don't all work out. (You can cheat later on.)
7. This is now your "pattern." I marked how the numbers fall in each row just in case things get separated. Even better--take a snapshot to use for reference later.

8. Now cut the squares apart then tape them back together at each tip to see how it all fits together.

9. For squares that overlap, feel free to shave off the sides of the square until it fits. But if you have a gap, you will modify the shape of that square so that in the end, it fits.

10. Once again, place the pattern back on the doll to check for fit. Be sure all the squares still have their numbers.

11. Now you can fit your squares on whatever material you have and not necessarily in order--as a
way of saving space.

12. Punch a hole big enough to get your links through. Be careful not to get the hole too close to the edge (so it won't tear through).
13. Add the links, two squares at a time.
14. Hint: keep the original pattern nearby as a reference. All of my squares in the final version are numbered on the back side. From time to time, I stop to put everything back in place. This is VERY important because it is really easy to lose your way. (That's why this post is 3 days late!!!)
15. Essentially, I do one row at a time then link it to the previous row. Again, stop and put everything back in order from time to time as your work.
16. When you have everything linked together and while the dress is still flat, put it on the doll and tape in place. Unless you are working in a stiff material, chances are, there might be a little distortion. You can always recut a square that is simply not working or eliminate a square you see you don't need. Here is where making your own links out of soft craft wire could come in hand. You could change the size of the links to make the dress fit better.
17. Once you are happy, then remove from the doll and finish adding in the missing links except for the panel which will allow the doll the get in and out of the dress.

18. I chose to add chain straps that hook into the links at the back. For a closure, I've used a claw that attaches to a link! You can stop there. However, as a finishing touch, I added small triangles cut from the metallic board which are glued in place. Had I access to silver foil, I would have used it instead.
19. Voila, here's the back. I dressed two dolls with different body shapes and both look equally as good in this dress!

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Towing the Line: Dolly Betsy Johnson

Usually when I'm putting my trend reports together, I don't always think about photographing the steps of how I make the dolly versions. So I admit, all of the requests for a tutorial on the Betsy Johnson dress that appeared during New York Fashion Week, caught me by surprise. Moreover, I created that dress by draping it directly on the doll. Not only did I have to take the dress apart to analyze what I had done, but I had to make a few changes so that I could better explain the steps AND...ensure that it would come out with the same success each time it is made.

There were two reasons, I think, this dress had a lot of appeal: the sexy, off-the-shoulder style and the striped fabric which always yields a dramatic result. My version and the dress on the catwalk are slightly different. I suspect the original was made from a silkier fabric than I had on hand. Moreover, the proportions of what resembles a peplum extending from the bodice, seemed to me would overwhelm the doll's little body. What I focused on was the bodice which crisscrosses the bodice with stripes and the skirt which appears to be made with a diagonal stripe (or, as we say, cut on the bias).

Samantha, who wears a black pinstripe version, is an older FR doll with a wasp waist. So for the remake, I chose an S.I.S. Barbie with a more "normal" body so that you can see this dress on a different silhouette.

Stripes are so much fun to work with. However, I would suggest that you make a toile from muslin or a cheap cotton to plan your look since this includes various changes of direction. It's is what I've done here. The finished version follows.

The top is a one-piece camisole, which I'll come back to. But let's start with a wrapped skirt that opens in the back.

1. The foundation of this skirt is the basic slim skirt. Cut it out as is then pin the pieces together. The front is in one piece.
2. Pin on the doll then cut away part of the front asymmetrically as shown.
3. Take another piece of muslin and wrap from side to side across the front, over the under skirt.
4. Smooth out along the side, matching it up along the side seam of the skirt back and what there is of the skirt front.

5. Pin down the side to your left.
6. Take the fabric and pull it up to the opposite hip, to form a soft pleat and pin.
7. You can introduce as many "drapes" as you want depending on the look you want to achieve. Here I've made a second pleat.

8. You can adjust the pleats as you go.
9. Here, I've introduced a third pleat.
10. Pin everything in place then mark the side seam as well as the placement of the pleats.

11. Mark the smooth side of the skirt at the side seam. Remove from the doll.
12. Remove the pins from the pleats and spread open.
13. Be sure to also indicate the fold line of your pleat as well as where it lands when closed. You will transfer these marks to the final fabric.

14. I decided to stop to check for fit. Then I also drew lines on my muslin to indicate the direction of my stripes (45%) to get an idea as to what my final garment might resemble.

15. Remove from the doll. Add a waistband. Note the direction of the stripes. Here's roughly what it will look like in the back.

16. Now let's design the top. I used this one-piece camisole (normally reserved for unwoven materials) because it serves as a foundation underneath the drape.
17. The sleeves are actually, tiny tubes made from squares roughly 2" (50mm) by 1 3/4" (45mm). Turn so that the seam in under the arm.
18. Cut a long strip of fabric (6 1/2"x 1 1/8" or 160mm x 42mm). Make a soft pleat at each end. Place it at an angle from the back hem then wrap around the top of the sleeve, pinning close to the arm on the body. Wrap over the bust, ending at the center back seam at the top of the camisole. Pin.

19. It should look something like this when you're finished.
20. Turn the doll to the back and trim away the fabric at the bottom so that it lines up with the hem of the camisole.

21. Repeat for the other side. But note: to our left, the stripes run horizontally. On our right the stripes run vertically.
22. Put the skirt on the doll to check. Here it is front to back. There is the pattern for the dress. Part is a flat pattern, part is draped. Remove from the doll, take it apart and create your paper pattern.

On your pattern, draw a line that is 45 degrees from your straight grain line. Your pattern pieces will lay on a slant against the fabric according to how you envision the movement of the stripes.

23. Of course, it's time to cut it out of our real striped fabric and put it together. Here you see the doll with all of the pieces laid out around her.
24. Again, I start by assembling the skirt. Stitch all darts closed, front and back. Sew the back of the skirt along the center back seam, leaving about an inch (2cm) for the opening.
25. The draped side of the skirt front is placed right side up above the abbreviated side up, also right side up.
26. Line them up along the side seams. Baste both fronts together.

27. Pin the fronts to the back together and sew.
28. Add the waistband. Your finished skirt should look something like this.

29. Prepare the sleeves. You can use a pencil to help you keep each tube in place as you sew. Tack each tube to the dress under the arms.

30. Take the top band and wrap around the bodice as shown above. Pin this band close to the body in the front and back of each sleeve.

31. Pin the bands at a couple points over the bust, especially where you need to secure to the bodice.

32. Remove the top from the doll and carefully begin stitching the band onto the sleeve. You want to use tiny stitches that do not show. Again, you can use a pencil as a base to sew the sleeve.
33. When stitching the drape over the body, make your stitches inside the drapes. Slide the needle between the layers so they won't show on the underside. Use tiny stitches.
34. Here is a close up shot of my stitching the sleeve to the bodice.

35. If you want to hide everything, you can add a (lightweight) lining. Sew only at the top and sides.
36. I've added a band at the bottom. Note the direction.
37. Press down. Fold this band in half horizontally and press.

38. Turn under the edges and tack in place over the lining.
39. The finished top looks like this.

 Put the skirt on first, then the top.'s my finished dress.
And this is what the back looks like.

Yikes, More Stripes!!!

Don't stop there. Working with stripes is a good way to build a dramatic collection of garments using simple patterns. Simply draw a line 45 degrees from your straight grain line.

Pictured here, the same jacket pattern I used for the previous YSL post!

Instead of fancy fabrics, think stripes for formal where. I've used the same striped cotton but when draped against a simple foundation, look at how elegant Kate's dress is. FYI...I created this dress using the technique found here.

All images and text property of Fashion Doll Stylist. 2015.

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Saturday, November 14, 2015


Fashion Doll Stylist & all of our models would like to pause and express our sincerest condolences to the families whose loved ones fell victim to the Paris attacks. We remain in solidarity with France against terrorism and cowardly acts.

Our regularly scheduled post will be up shortly.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Let's Talk YSL

Let's take a look at a style that lifted women out of frills and into pants suits! (Once again, this is an excuse to show you another method for lining coats and jackets.)

It was the beginning of the 1970's and the couturier who was all the rage in Paris, rattled the establishment, once again with a look literally lifted from menswear. "Le Smoking" (the Tuxedo, in English) took the fashion world by storm. Women dared to wear pantsuits in defiance of dress codes at swanky restaurants, formal events and especially...the work place.

Almost any jacket pattern will suffice for St. Laurent's iconic style. For this project I chose a super fitted jacket before toning things down with the simpler, basic boxy variety some of you may try instead.

What is different here from the Chanel inspired jackets is that this jacket has a "notched collar" and it is likely to be worn open, showing off a flash of the interior. This is to say that if you choose a jacket that is designed to stay closed, the previous lining technique (edge to edge) is fine. But if your coat or jacket has a collar that folds down and is likely to be worn open, you will need to plan for a front facing+lining.

Pattern for the Lining
This is quite simple. The original draft for the shawl or notched collar, calls for a front facing. (For the tutorial on creating jackets with collars click here). When you were planning that facing, you drew a (red dotted) line on the pattern around the collar extension and front edge to design the facing. Now that we will be adding a lining, be sure to add seam allowance along the left edge. Go back to the front blazer pattern and trace off the pattern to the left of that red dotted line. Add seam allowance to create the front lining. You will use the back jacket pattern for the lining. On the other hand, I did not include a back facing due to the problems of bulk.

No matter what pattern you start out with, the process is the same. Here I am showing the pattern for all three jackets featured on this page.

Let's Start.
I took photos throughout the making of a boxy jacket using the basic pattern as well as my fitted jacket. I'm using both to illustrate the process and am including lots of photos so that you will better understand how I arrived at my result.

1. As usual, start by sewing your jacket at the shoulder seams and setting in the sleeves while the jacket is flat.
2. Stitch the underarm seams of the sleeves and the side seams of the jacket together.

3. Tip: use a safety pin at the end of the sleeve to help pull the sleeves to the right side out. Slide the pin through the sleeve, pulling down the sides as you go.

4. Press the seams well. Attach the front facing to the jacket. Place the pattern over this and make a mark where the collar will attach (on both sides). Stitch down.

5. Before you turn the facing to the right side, be sure to clip the pointed edges on the diagonal and trim down the sides close to this point to eliminate bulk.
6. Turn the facing right side out. Use a pin to pull out the points. Press well.

7. Now attach your collar (top edge facing down) between the points on the facing and along the necking line.
8. Turn the front facing wrong side out again, pin in place at the neckline with the collar sandwiched in between and stitch.
9. Turn right side out and press down.

9.5 Before you go any further with your jacket, finish all of the details. Attach the buttons, add pockets, and finally, turn down the hem and hand stitch in place.

10. Completely sew your lining together--both shoulder and side seams. (But do not add the sleeves.) Press down the seam allowance at the hem.
11. Pin the edge of your lining to that of the jacket facing,
12. Wrap the lining around the front of the jacket, pin then sew the side front edges together. You are sewing right side to right side with the raw edges facing outwards.

13. Pin the lining to the bottom of the collar at the top.
14. Then stitch the bottom of the lining to the hem of the jacket, being careful not to stitch the main part of the jacket.

15. On each side, align the armholes together and baste along the seam line. This keeps the lining from moving away from the sleeve.
16. Stitch your sleeve lining together. Make a running stitch along the edge of the cap.
17. Slide the lining over the sleeve (right side to right side with the seams side out). Pin, then stitch along the hem of the sleeve.

18. Pull the lining down from the sleeve.
19. Using a safety pin to help you, pull the sleeve lining back up through the inside of the sleeve until you can see it.
20. Turn the edges of the lining sleeve cap down. (Draw the running stitch to help you with ease.) Sew the sleeve lining to the rest of the lining, being careful not to catch the fabric from the jacket.

True to the late couturier, I have used a "surprise" color.

Just be careful with using colored fabrics as linings because the can stain the doll! Also, if the fabric you chose for the jacket is a bit stiff or thick, consider using fabric for half the collar and lining it with a softer material.

One Last Alternative
It is possible that some of you are still lost when it comes to lining your doll's coat or jacket. Perhaps you don't want to line the sleeves for one reason or maybe you want to line an existing garment.

1. Stitch your lining completely together. Turn under all edges and press.
2. Pin the lining to the jacket facing and stitch, again being careful not to catch the fabric of the garment. Stay on the facing or collar.
3. Line up the armholes of both the jacket and its lining. Whipstitch in place.

Next up: THAT off-the-shoulder Betsy Johnson dress from NY Fashion Week that had many of your dolls drooling. (Yes folks, they have been writing me!!!) I'll show you how I did it!

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