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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  1. Hi April, when I opened this post and saw the first photo, I thought WOW! The dolls look like real models! Fabulous dresses and again a great tutorial! I love your blog :-)!!! And thank you for putting all this energy and love for doll couture on here every time, I really admire you for doing this and with so much style and passion! Just wanted to let you know it's highly appreciated!!! xxx

    1. Thank you soooooo much for your very kind words, Linda. That you said the doll's look like real models is a real compliment! Knowing how much my blog is appreciated, compels me to strive for the best with each post AND it has been so much fun putting it all together. Thank you.

  2. Witaj! Szycie wygląda dość skomplikowanie, ale efekt jest fantastyczny! Piękne lalki w pięknych strojach!
    Pozdrawiam bardzo serdecznie!

    1. Olla wrote: Hello. Sewing looks quite complicated, but the effect is fantastic. Beautiful dolls on beautiful clothes. Very truly yours!

      Hi Olla. The sewing part is not that complicated. It's the planning of the stripes on the various pattern pieces. This is why I recommend working this out by making a toile where you plan the direction of the stripes first. Happy you enjoyed this post.

  3. How did I miss those dresses the first time? They are fabulous! Nice of you to do a tutorial. Do you sew your own wardrobe, too? After creating Dasia's wardrobe I was inspired to sew me a few things. I got as far as cutting out one top. That was it. Lol!

    1. Thank you, Vanessa. When I was younger, I made all my clothes as well as those for my mother and a good friend. But as I got busy with my career, I no longer had the time. I recently came across a few of those garments and was amazed at how well I sewed. This is what prompted me to slow down and better finish my doll clothes! Most of the doll clothes you see are the kind of things I would wear for myself.

  4. I love, love, LOVE the jacket. Looks like Betsey Johnson strikes again! I prefer the stripes on the doll better. The human dress, makes me crosseyed! Maybe it's my cataracts! I love the bias cuts. These dresses are amazing. Once again, beautiful dresses, for the fashions take doll.

    1. LOL!!! Thank you, Sharon. It's true, often the dolls look sooo much better than the human models. And when I do the Oscars fashions, the dolls also look lots better in the clothes. I think the dolls have more class!!! ;-) Glad you enjoyed this post.

  5. Love, love, love these dresses and the jacket too! I may have to try this sometime!

    1. So happy you enjoyed this post, Phyllis. Whether you make this dress or not, do have fun by cutting out your favorite dress in stripes!

  6. Hello from Spain: these dresses are fabulous. I like the looks very much. Nice creations. Very glamorous. Keep in touch

    1. Thank you, Marta. I really like how this project turned out as well! See you soon.

  7. Ahhh these clothes look so good! Thank you so much for the tutorial, it's very helpful. : D
    Now I really want to try this! Your dresses and coats always look so clean and finished, you're a very inspirational and creative person. <3

    1. Uraru, thank you for your kind words. I'm so happy you enjoyed this post. Knowing that people appreciate my blog inspires me to put in so much work.'s fun!

  8. OutstandingTutorial April,congrats for all the energy you put on this as a blogger we know how hard is this and all steps, picts,uploads e.t.c
    Looks so real as the Models,great job.

    1. Thank you, MC. Yes, as you know very well, this is a lot of work! Moreover, I'm in Paris where I don't have a sewing machine, so everything has to be made by hand which adds to the time and task! Like with your is a labor of love!!

    2. Thanks April for kind words,sometimes i get stressed with my miniatures to much work when i am using volumes in half scale,need to make breaks for 2 or 3 days with the same piece,but at least worth to see the result.
      Hope everything is ok with you in Paris,the news on the last days are so sad,God bless you all

  9. C'est trop génial. Je suis vraiment contente de voir tout ça. Il faut juste que je recommence à coudre dans je me serai remise de mes émotions.

    1. Merci pour les gentils mots. Chaque tenue est, pour moi, un grand défi. Cela m'amuse de voir si je peux dupliquer!

  10. April, I think this is one of my favorite posts of yours! The stripes are fantastic, and they're just perfect for the dolls. <3

  11. Thank you,Sarah. The girls do look quite sexy in their new fashions. LOL!!!

  12. Wonderful tutorial April, thank you so much for taking the time to redo and photograph the whole process!!!

  13. This post really shows how awesome you are. So thoughtful to go back and show us how it's done!! I had to post first and thank you, now I'm off to read the whole article in depth, lol :) And as always..great fashion choices!

  14. Thank you for your kind words, Tinny. This was a dress from the Spring Summer 2016 edition of New York Fashion Week! Stay tuned...the Golden Globes award show is this weekend.. and we'll be featuring dolly versions of a few of the best dressed actresses! If there's something really spectacular...we'll do a tutorial at a later date!


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