Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Everyday Silver Wear

I come from a generation when fashion was simple. Matte cottons for summer and winter wools for daytime styles while shiny fabrics were ALWAYS reserved for night time occasions. A while back, I did a post on sparkling fashions where the focus was placed on red carpet dresses. The fact is  metallic fabrics have become.....the new "black" in everyday style. This post is not so much a tutorial as it is an exercise in styling. I've kept the text to a minimum as I tell this in photos.

My inspiration came from a Mango (fashion) poster I saw in the Paris metro. Since this is fast fashion with easy elements, I thought putting together this article would be a piece of cake. On the contrary! I had to really figure out what makes this look work without the usual glamming it up. This is a story where fashion is the sum of its parts...where a handful of separates are combined into a bevy of contemporary, super sharp looks that can walk down the street at high noon. I think I did a pretty good job, although I couldn't resist layering shiny on shiny which ultimately produced a few after hours, party looks.
A tone on tone look, Latoya is wearing a silver jumper over a slip dress. Tossed over her shoulders: silver metallic leather bomber jacket. A great party look.

A casual way to wear sequins: team it with washed denim!

But for the most part, by mixing denim in with the metals and using super simple patterns, I ended up with numerous stunning "everyday" looks.
Latoya in her jeans, lame tank top and silver jumper.
The trick to using metallics for daytime is to use less shiny or matte sequins, lames or coated fabrics in deeper shades. For this exercise, I used super simple elements (tank tops, pull-up skirts and camisoles), sometimes paired with a more complicated garment (jeans jacket).
When teamed up with denim, other neutrals, or even other dark shiny fabrics in dark, everything stays very much daywear!

I use very simple elements for this projects. I cut a simple tank top by cutting down the pattern for a basic knit dress. For that pattern click HERE. I also used the pattern for the jeans jacket for both the denim and the silver (leather) versions. That pattern is HERE. I also made a jeans skirt. That pattern is HERE. And for the shorts, I took the jeans (pants) pattern (click HERE) and cut it short, then frayed the edges. I used a 2-way stretch lame for a pair of stretch leggings. I used the pattern for stockings but cut out the feet. You'll find that pattern by clicking HERE. A basic 2 piece pants pattern can also be found HERE.(There's a video at the bottom of that post.) And then there are those mirror glasses....click HERE.

EZ Stretch Skirt.
I did make a couple of EZ items, beginning with a skirt. For this, I had bought mini sequin trim which has a mesh base. There is enough stretch in this skirt to get on to the doll without having to leave an opening at the waistband.
 1. Even though the trim itself is 2.5" (60mm) wide, the sequins only occupy a width of 1.5" (38mm). I decided on a skirt length, then cut only as many strips as needed to stretch around the doll. In this case, I only needed three strips.
2. I butted each segment together sequined edge to sequined edge and stitched each segment together. If you use silver thread, your stitches will be invisible.
3. The hem is simply turned under and hand stitched in place. But I left the top edge flat and stitched on a bit of elastic. So that it would blend in, I painted the elastic using a silver tone paint.
4. The skirt compliments any look including this EZ camisole which I made from a light grey lame sock.

EZ Camisole
1. I cut up a sock and used the fabric for this look. Stretch the knit around the doll's body.
2. Hem the top and bottom edges.
3. Make one seam down the back.
4. Slip on the doll
5. Pinch the fabric in between the doll's breasts with a vertical needle.
6. Add straps. You can either make little straps or you can sew in a bit of embroidery yarn to make "spaghetti straps."

 EZ Sequin Tshirt
1. Again, I used sequin trim for my T-shirt. (This is cheaper than having to buy a half yard of sequin fabric!) I first decide on how long I want my T-shirt. Then I cut 4 small strips of the sequin trim. You can modify the neckline at the center, folding and hemming the edge under.
2. Stitch two of the strips together along the sequin edges for the front. Place on the doll and tape it to her body while you work.
3. Place one of the strips onto the back shoulder of the doll. Lay the front flat over the back. Pin in place.
4. At the side, fold the front over the back and pin in place, leaving an opening for the arm.
5. Again, use silver thread or a grey that comes very close to the shade and tone of the metallic fabric. Clip the excess mesh away at the back. I hand sewed this top using a fine needle. If you use a sewing machine, use fine needles and have spare needles in case one breaks.
6. I wanted my end result of my Tshirt to be loose fitting so it would remain a daywear look.

EZ Jumper

Anna in a silver jumper, lame leggings and black cardigan.
I also made a jumpter which is all in one piece. The metallic fabric I used for this garment had a tendency of pulling apart, so the fewer seams the better.
1. I used my basic slopers, ignoring the darts. I put them armhole to armhole, then drew in my style lines (red).
Latoya's slip dress
2. By flipping this draft and tracing to the other side, I have my little jumper. Again, I didn't want anything specifically "sexy" to keep the look easy and comfortable to wear. I added seam allowances and straps.

You can, of course, use any pattern you want. Admittedly I did make a traditional slip dress (which  I later used for the bottom layer of Latoya's party look.)

Grace in lame tank top and metallic fabric stovepipe pants. Latoya in her lame tank top, silver jumper and indigo jeans and jacket. Anna in silver jumper, cardigan and lame leggings.

Grace looks sterling in silver jumper over a lame tank top, silver leather jeans jacket and metallic stovepipe pants.
For day or for night, silver is the new "black."
Samantha put together the EZ T shirt with the EZ skirt for a sensational 2pc sequin dress!

Sometimes the most precious looks come from fast fashion outlets!

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Dolls Eye View: Paris Fall 2016 Haute Couture

Every six months when Paris Couture Week takes place, I lament on the future of this art. The above, cover picture, reflects my own personal vision of what it is supposed to be: elegant, distinguished, super classy. But I find that much of what takes place on the catwalk today is often a departure from the art I have followed over the years. Much of what passes for haute couture is, in my opinion, is just ordinary ready-to-wear by yesterday's standards. But the key word here is "yesterday" which, of course, is past tense.

Traditionally, the "couturier" does not have to consider commercial constraints while putting together their "made to order" creations, in terms of production, market appeal, expense. But they do have to align themselves with the lifestyles of the super wealthy clients who buy this type of product. That client has changed over the years. She is more concerned about her body than her predecessor and less interested in using fashion to exert her social status. This is a woman with a supercharged lifestyle and consequently, shows a preference for more easy to wear silhouettes.

Each season I swear this will be the last time I will do a couture report because I feel it is no longer relevant. At its best, the catwalk resembles a hit parade of former "greatest looks" watered down for a customer who does not fully understand the art. At its worse, it screams "wannebe fashion student." So why am I still here? As long as there are a few special dresses that help me answer the question, "Why haute couture in 2016," I will stick with it!"

Avenue Montaigne
The suit. There is still a demographic that enjoys the neat and tidy look of a well tailored suit, fabrics in big city tones of asphalt, concrete and slate, and the understated elegance of uncomplicated silhouettes. These are usually women at the top tiers of corporate structures, executives. Armani and Chanel are champions of this eternal style. These are also looks that translate very well into clothes for our vinyl friends.

Out of the Woods
Of all catwalk shows, Jean-Paul Gaultier was a stand out for us. Though many of the silhouettes are very simple at first glance, the devil is really in the details. Gaultier strolled into the depth of the forest and allowed himself to be inspired by the texture and color of the vegetation. He then breathed life into these looks through the use of innovative materials like yarn, leather, shaved fur mixed with lace. But at its base, the silhouettes are relative simple!

All That Jazz
Long and lean or short and sassy, these are glammed up looks reminiscent of the 1920's and 30's Art Deco era. In particular, we like the sleekness of long looks. But we also liked all the detailing (embroidery, appliques, feathers and fur) emploied in the shorter dresses.
As simple as this looks at first glance, this Gaultier outfit helped me get the hang of what is important in 21st century couture. What is important here: the dark, rich color palette, the texture of the embellishments and the overall notion of "garment as work of art." Iman's 1-piece corset was cut from brown leather, then embellished with foiling and edged with a tiny strip of ripped silk. The skirt was cut from a patterned suede, over which I added tiny circles of leather faux fur encircled with faux fur glued to the skirt. I added bits of feathers to the bottom circles and ripped silk to the top circles. Over her tummy...a triangle of leather, dotted with bronze self-adhesive pearts and overlapping a speckled feather. While attempting to recreate this skirt, the message of the skirt kept screaming...."make it a piece of art!"

Okay, perhaps the previous outfit is a bit ambitious for some of you. When in doubt, a strapless velvet gown and a shawl of bunny fur bits (taken from a winter scarf) always works! Instant glamour that's easy to make!

Made to Move Couture
The 17 year old in me loves fringe! All the dresses above except for the last one can be made with trim! Start with a basic foundation (or sheath dress) and add the fringe.
While on the subject of fringe...I was particularly intrigued by this Versace dress because it's the first I've ever seen that is belted. I started out with a silver, sheath dress (with darts) and some 4-inch (10cm) silver fringe. (For this dress, I only needed about 10" (26cm) of trim, though most stores insist on a 1 yard (1 meter) minimum.) I only used four rows of fringe. If you use more, the doll looks as though she's wearing a hair dress (remember Thing from Adam's Family?), so in this case, less is better. When finished, I cut the dress to the desired length. The belt is made from silver leather with a tiny strip of black ribbon glued to the middle. (It closes in the back with Velcro). I also added a leather band to the top of the dress, thus forming a collar.
Carmela's shaggy dress is also made from trim. This is a strapless shift dress (sheath without the darts sewn), over which we've stitched six rows of shaggy fringe. We added two small strips of trim as straps.

Take a Bow
There was a time when it seemed that no couture season was complete without dresses decorated with bows. While I wasn't a huge fan of women wrapped like Christmas packages, I do like these bows. A length of ribbon wraps around the body then is looped into a serious part of the style!
A simple one shoulder sheath and a major velvet bow...that's all Dorian needs to make a grand entrance!
The secret to achieving this look is to do the dress in two pieces: a corset and a skirt. The bow adds a super girly look to an otherwise edgy style.
Snowflake Princess
These are very girly looks with the look and feel freshly fallen snowflakes. This is a story of patterned white fabrics. I like the handkerchief points, the appliques over sheer fabric and even the little girl's dress that mimic's "mommy's" gown.
We could not resist this fairy tale story, modeled here by Adriana. This starts with a strapless sheath dress made from white sheer cotton. I cut a bit of white lace trim and stitched it over the bust of the doll. Then I made an apron which wraps around the dress and fastens in the back. The skirt is made from dryer (fabric softener) sheets which has just the right amount of texture and stiffness. The dryer sheets are cut in half and stitched (at the center point) to a tiny band of grosgrain ribbon.

Winter Grecian Goddess
The one-shoulder or bare shoulder gown, a fashion staple, steps out from under what is left from autumn foliage and grey winter skies. Though the fabrics are light and airy, the color palette reminds us that winter is nearing.

Celestial Voyage
Space age couture on the horizon? Though the doll would require very simplified versions of these looks, we like the silver satin, the sheer digital print and the translucent latex material (Iris van Herpen) used in the above looks.

Belle of the Ball
At the end of the day, it's interesting to see today's couturier return to grandeur of Gone With the Wind with its great, big debutant dress (sans frills)!

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bonnes Fetes!!!!

A tous nos amis Francais...... Bonnes Fetes!!!!
(To all of our friends in France..... Happy Holidays!)
April & the gang!

UPDATE: Our heartfelt condolences are extended to the victims of the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France. We love and stand by the people of France and denounce the senseless and cowardly violence that continues to be committed against humanity.

Our report on Paris Haute Couture is coming right up!!!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Behind the Design:

From time to time, I'm asked about how everything comes together here at FDS. Through my detailed tutorials, you are already familiar with the process for constructing a garment from point A to B. And, you already know where I look for inspiration. Today however, I decided to take a break from my usual posts to give you a "behind the scenes" look at my workspace. In the normal design process, a designer would put together a "moodboard" (collage of inspirational images), fabric board (swatches & colors), notebook with hundreds of sketches, before moving on to the "first model" or toile and ultimately the completed garment. But for most of us, this is a hobby. And since we aren't putting together "collections," my process is a simplified version of what happens in a design atelier.
My desk
Welcome to my work doll's space.

On my chest of drawers
My dresser drawers
My dolls "live" with me. I have no separate doll room. My collection (which is what this has become) started out with a handful of Barbie Basic dolls in little black dresses posed high atop my chest of drawers. But those girls sent for their family and friends and now the dolls have taken over the entire room! And yes, I know...You really shouldn't work where you sleep, but technically, it's not work. I'm "playing" with dolls!!!
My night stand. They wait for me to wake up and make them more clothes!
Ideas simply don't fall out of the sky. To design anything, you must open your eyes, look around you and be inspired. By now you know I rely on a plethora of catwalk shows, red carpet events, TV personalities, rock stars and even people on the street for ideas! Don't consider this copying. It's called research and is what every designer does! Even if it is your desire to create an exact replica of a designer garment, it will still be different because of the compromises you are forced make due to the constraints of the doll's properties and proportions. Moreover, most photos  show neither the back view nor the details, leaving much to the imagination. Don't shy away from more challenging looks. No matter the result, treat it as a learning experience. It's how you grow.

The Notebook
I keep a notebook. I use Pinterest as an online "scrapbook," where I collect catwalk photos, fabric swatches and accessories I like as well as craft techniques I'd like to try. I'm also "old school." I sketch out ideas for clothes and accessories and pin in samples of my textile experiments. The sketchbook is my personal reference tool for all things doll.

Waiting to be dressed next to the clothes rack!
 Tip: If you cannot draw, take a picture of your doll and print it out. Then use it as a template to draw your idea directly on the photo!

My Mannequins
Not all designs start out as a paper patterns. Once we get away from basic silhouettes and venture into "couture" looks, it's time to create the garment (or the pattern) directly on the doll. At first, I started out working directly on the doll, using her as a sort of "fit model." Over the years I've collected a few forms which more or less, double for the bodies of my dolls. You can find these "Barbie" forms on eBay or sometimes Amazon. (The FR form is more rare, more expensive and not out of sync with the latest bodies.) But the best form is the headless doll body if you can find one. Better than the dress form, the doll body has arms and legs and takes the guesswork out of how the final garment will look. Even when you work with a pattern, you can try it on the mannequin without disturbing your diva.

Style Analysis

I have always been amazed how the gurus of New York's fashion industry look at style through a super simplified prism then translate high end trends into a similar, more simple garments priced for the masses. In effect, I do the same thing when making designer clothes for my dolls..
I look at a photo, analyze it, then try to break the design down to the simplest construction. Most of today's fashions are already super simple. In fact, most things in stores today are based on the basic patterns featured on this blog! From season to season, it is simply a difference of fabric, color and details. But for catwalk creations, you'll need to look a little closer. What is ultimately the shape of foundation garment closest to the body? What elements are essential to the look? Describe the look in as few words as possible, then translate this into the look. In other words, don't sweat the details! For this black evening gown, I saw: short, straight, strapless dress (yellow diagram) with fabric roses added on, and a long full skirt (blue diagram) with front slit wrapped around the waist. Everything is in sheer fabric. (A pleated sheer is even better, but a simple chiffon is just fine!) I opted for satin ribbon straps (green diagram) instead of the existing leather truss.


For the design of the white dress, the silhouette is simple enough. What sets this dress apart is the fabric's change of direction. I opted to keep the back of the dress super simple--cut in one single piece. I used a worn out cotton sweat sock and a piece of men's long underwear. I liked the ragged edges of the original, but my material was cotton knit and wouldn't give me the edge I wanted. So I stitched a ripped strip of muslin onto each edge.
While I was analyzing the design (and before I started to cut), I took a sock and posed it against the mannequin to see if it would yield the look I was going for.

I began by making the back in a single piece. I traced this off onto paper, then cut it up like a jigsaw puzzle, added seam allowance to the top and bottom of each piece, then marked the change of direction directly on each piece. You'll need to number the pieces to remember, what goes where. When the front is stitched up, I pin then stitch it together at the side seams, leaving one shoulder seam free. (The dress is closed with hooks at the shoulder.) The bottom line---The essence or spirit of the look is more important than a line for line interpretation! Think similar fabric, similar silhouette, similar detailing. The doll is tiny. Accept you will have to sacrifice a few details. It's a question of eliminating bulk, avoiding delicate seams which may fray and pull apart. Less is always better on this scale. Avoid complication wherever possible.

Tip: When trying closely replicate a look, have the image in view as you work so that you can properly gauge proportions and compare your garment against the original .

Have the original image in view as you work.
Like the rest of you, I do try to anticipate my needs and buy fabric. If I don't have the fabric or the right color, I'll use something else, keeping in mind the properties of the material in the original garment. I do like to get creative with my fabric search. I like to use recycled fabric found in clothes I don't wear anymore. Nothing is off limits! Places like Salvation Army, garage sales or resale shops are good resources for scarves, men's neckties, vintage laces, trims or crocheted doilies. Pay attention to scale when it comes to prints or textures. Imagine that fabric six times thicker or six times larger, then think "How would that look on me? Would I wear a dress made from this?" For an alternative to evening fabrics, look in the trim department. Many stores today, insist on 1/2 yard (or 50cm) minimums. So unless you plan to make LOTS of silver sequin dresses, a 2"(45mm) sequin trim may be enough for your doll's needs.

Machine or Hand Stitch?
My sewing machine is in another room (the den). I use a machine for straight, long stitching. But often, I will hand stitch tiny pieces, complicated curves or difficult areas. A good backstitch (8-10 stitches per inch (22mm) is just as good as a machine. (See "Sew What" under Tutorials for description and photo of this stitch) In fact, until about 50 years ago, all Haute Couture garments were entirely hand stitched because it was believed this was contributed to a higher quality!)
Casting Call
Each doll has her own personality. Some are very girly, others can only wear edgy. Still, much to the chagrin of some divas...it's not because I have fitted a dress on a specific doll that she'll be photographed in it. After all....that's why there's a collection of dolls with different looks, skin tones, ethnicities and hair colors! Except for the red carpet shots where I chose a doll who looks similar to the celebrity, I will try the garment on several girls before deciding who wears it best.

Portable Photo Studio
Like most of you, I use a point and shoot camera. I like to work in natural light, never flash. Though I sometimes put the dolls in a diorama setting, I also like to Photoshop the backgrounds in. As such, I need a "seamless studio." To create the look of a "seamless" background with diffused lighting, I bought a white translucent plastic "storage" box with a piece of poster board, fabric or construction paper inside. The translucence disperses the light evenly through the top. The box (a 16 quart (15 liter container) can be carried around the house or grounds for optimum lighting. Need another color of background? Slide another color of poster board. If you must photograph at night, you can "bounce" light off an adjacent white board which will softly illuminate the subject inside of the box.

A little bit of writing (well maybe a lot) and.... Voila....a post is born!!!

Normally these girls are downstairs on the piano. But they came to my room and onto the far nightstand to escape the summer heat.

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