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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22 comments:

  1. Love the fashions. Wish I had the patience to do this . YOur directions are right on!

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    1. Hi Simgrl. Thank you for your kind words. I really tried to find a faster way to make these dresses but was amazed at how such simple looking garments were so time consuming. I nearly threw them in the trash at one point! But for those who are better at crafts than seeing, it's like putting together a necklace!! It just takes time!

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  2. I am so jealous of our dolls wardrobe. Your skills amaze me!

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    1. Thank you, Brini. I too, am jealous of my own dolls' wardrobe. I'm in rags and they are the height of fashion! LOL!!

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  3. The dresses look fabulous on the dolls, lucky girls!!! I agree with Brini, the dolls have such fabulous wardrobes, I wish I had the same LOL!

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    1. Thank you, Linda. Though I joke about being jealous of my dolls, truth is, I have closets of beautiful clothes but due to changes in my lifestyle and this crazy world we live in, I have no where to wear them. So like many of us who play with dolls, my life as a perineal fashionista is now played out in 1/6 scale. One thing about it, the dolls are prettier than most of today's runway models!!!

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  4. Oh La la !!!! .... J'aime trop ! Merci Merci Merci !!!! .... Il faut que je me remette de mes émotions, que je retrouve mon inspiration pour coudre à nouveau. Merci pour tous ces conseils et surtout de prendre le temps de les publier pour nous ! C'est trop gentil.

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  5. La mode des années soixante est plein d'idées!! C'était une très belle et créatif époque. Je suis contente que ça te plaît. C'est une autre example où il faut chercher pour être inspiré!! Merci pour les gentils mots.

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  6. OMG...you are a design goddess! Fabulous.

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    1. Thank you KQM, though I will admit, these outfits caused me a lot of grief during the assembly!!!!

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  7. Piękne! Wspaniałe! Niepowtarzalne! Nie miałabym tyle cierpliwości, żeby wykonać taką suknię! Twoje są śliczne!
    Pozdrawiam serdecznie!

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    1. Olla wrote: Beautiful! Great! Unique! I would not have the patience to do such a dress! You are beautiful! Best wishes!

      Thank you Olla. Yes, it does take a lot of time and patience to make these dresses. But when I finished, me & my dolls were most happy with the results!!! Big hugs.

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  8. Hello from Spain: great creations. Fabulous looks. The dresses are awesome on the dolls. Keep in touch

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    1. Thank you, Marta. Very happy you like my girls' new dresses. See you again soon.

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  9. I know someone who makes doll-sized chainmaille. I consider myself a very patient person, but things like these would probably drive me nuts! I really dig the first dress. I wonder if it would be easier to glue thread between the two layers of squares instead of sewing them. You could do different colours and make a reversible dress!

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    1. Black Kitty, believe me when I tell you I did consider all options including gluing the thread, gluing fine ribbon & gluing thin strips of clear vinyl. The problem is that your thread or ribbon has to be perfectly straight and there has to be just the right amount of glue so that the dress doesn't later fall apart. Glue is very messy and glue sticks don't stick well enough. Sewing the strips doesn't take as long as you think unless it's for a taller doll. After doing the silver dress I realized that the under squares could be another color of paper or board or soft vinyl. But frankly, if I make this dress again, I would rather do it using a single layer of squares and take the time to punch the holes in the edges and use jewelry findings to hold it all together for a more authentic look. Chain maille would be quite interesting but the end result will yield more of a sexy, molden metal Halston look from the 1970's as opposed to the Paco metal tab dress of the '60s. Believe it or not, the silver dress was less time intensive than the black dress which did drive me crazy.

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  10. Oh my gosh...what MATH EQUATION did you use to form these squares, triangles and circles into a solid shape???? Bravo!

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    1. Math is not my strength! This was done purely by sight based on the proportions I saw on the original model. My first grid was way too small. But by working with the photo near by AND making a paper model, I was able to arrive at a grid that better worked with the doll's proportions. Thank you.

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  11. Good god, you're amazing. I love how you broke this down and figured it out. Nice survey on the originals at vogue.com/slideshow/12175429/trends-fall-2015-paco-rabanne-francois-hardy/

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    1. Thank you and thanks for the link to the slide show. A few years ago, Paco Rabanne sold a DIY kit complete with all the discs and screws you needed to put the dress together. The teenager deep within me wanted to buy it but the adult in me refused. So, in a way, this is my way of getting to wear such an iconic dress!

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  12. WOW, I'm flabbergasted....this is incredible! I always loved this dress but couldn't even imagine of doing one....

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    1. Thank you, Billa. I did not realize how challenging something that looked so easy could be. Both dress nearly ended up in the trash! But I figured it out and in the end, was most pleased.

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