Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Dolls' Eye View: Milan Fall/Winter '18 Trends

L'Italia è bellissima!! After the shows in NY and London, the girls were really happy to get to Milan where they were able to bask in the classic sophistication of knits, leather and old school glamour.

Animal Kingdom
From what we've already seen in NY and the UK, it's safe to say, animal prints are a big thing for next fall. Here in Italy, this trend is spelled out in a number of different ways. It can be worn as simply as a spotted jacket over a pair of jeans, or a top to toe "total look" employing a variety of different patterns (spots or stripes) or even scales of patterns teamed together in the same garment.
With this look, "more is better." Maybe neither you nor I can get away with wearing this much animal print, but our divas have the figures and the attitude to pull it off! The key to this look lies in the mix of two different fabrics with different scales of leopard spots. I already had the fabric for the top and pants, but needed a second knit for the skirt and handbag. With no fabric store around, I headed to the beauty supply store where I found a small turban with just enough fabric! The skirt has leather straps that attach to the waistband and drop down the sides of the skirt. The handbag is from the tutorial you can find by going HERE.

Fur Babies
This theme is about fur trim in a great big, old Hollywood sort of way. Any coat will suffice. It's all about simply adding a boa to pump up the look!
Dovima wears a straight grey wool coat. I made the boa by sewing together a few scraps of rabbit fur taken from the cuff of an old glove. The rabbit fur adapts to the scale of the doll, but scraps of faux fur can be used as well.
We had a LOT of fun here. Kate immediately grabbed a light grey "bathrobe" style wool coat already hanging in the closet. We had some striped faux fur on hand. It is fluffier than the rabbit hair and even though we tried to cut a narrow strip of it, the result still makes for a voluptuous allure. But still, my girls simply LOVED this 1930's glamorous Hollywood movie star look. I expect they will be getting into my stash of faux fur for some time to come!

Skin Flicks
This is the third variation of the animal kingdom trend. This time we're talking abuot garments made from leather and embossed animal patterns (scales). Even if you don't want to go the way of leather, you can still create the look using substitutes: pleather or faux leather, felt or vinyl squares embossed with snakeskin scales (carried by many craft stores). And if you are particularly can create your own fabric by hand painting (or foiling) scales with metallic paint to create a sensational evening look like the one by Antonio Barard pictured above.

Coat Check
The cut of these coats are simple. It's all about the fabric! The choice of fabric is behind all of the sensational looks it shiny vinyl, butter soft leather, cushy wool or very regal brocade.
If I had access to a wonderful brocade, I would have made a dolly version of the golden Albino Teodoro coat. Carmela reminded me, however, we already had a vinyl coat in the closet. This is a classic look that never goes out of style and can be worn over everything!

That Shirtwaist Dress
The shirtwaist dress is one of my all time favorites. It is both comfortable and stylish and can be worn in nearly all situations. Making this is very is an elongation of the oversized shirt pattern and can be cut from any fabric. But what's new here.....these dresses are cut from leather!
I used a lightweight leather for Brie's dress and the pattern for the oversized shirt which I lengthened into a dress. Her matching handbag was made from the tutorial found HERE.

Bar Code
Like most other seasons, there is a dominant presence of black and black/white looks running throughout the collections. All black can be rendered more interesting by using different materials in the same look, by raking in stripes of white, or by using contrasting accessories. Again, silhouettes are basic, skirt lengths tend to be long...dropping below the knee.
A simple leather car coat, a pair of stretch pants, a T-shirt with a face and Tamron is ready to hit the road!

Pinot Grigio
Like Italy's favorite white wine, this group is light, crisp and easy to digest. It's almost like cleansing the palette between the animal prints, the hot colors and the density of all black fashion.

Grey Scale
In between black and white there is grey. But unlike grey skies, these looks are glamorous! As with most other looks on this page, note the style trends: longer hemlines, looser silhouettes, shorter dresses worn with pencil thin pants.

Soft is a state of mind here....soft colors....soft,cuddly fabrics....soft in the way the garment fits and gracefully drapes over the body. Think about big, loose, jersey jackets over sweaters and wide trousers. A-line dresses under softly flared coats, or even ponchos belted over narrow pants.

This is Joan in a cream white 2-piece dress version of the Agona outfit. I started with a basic jewel-neck cashmere sweater knit dress over which a waist-length stole from the same fabric wraps over the bodice and snaps in the back. The back story-- Initially I made a capelet instead of the stole. When I finished, Joan resembled one of the nuns from my childhood Catholic school. It was NOT the look I was going for. At first I thought my choice of fabric had impacted the final look. So I stopped to analyze the style and what had attracted me to it. It was the tight square piece that drew the arms close to the body and cut across the shoulders in a horizontal line. I replace the cape with a stole that cradled the shoulders. After taking another close look at the original photo, I discovered the dress was actually designed with a stole and not a capelet! The cashmere, by the way, came from an old moth-eaten skirt belonging to my beloved mother. 

Late Bloomers
Atypical of winter fashion..... hybrid flowers blooming out of season. A necessary element to Italian style--femininity is sculpted in bloom of ruffles.
Getting the look is as simple as using two strips of decorative trim: one that fits over the bodice and the other gathered into a pretty ruffled skirt.

Very Berry
Another a color story with easy to wear styles. While shopping for fabrics, feast on tones of blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry.

South of the Border
Ole, ole!!! Hot spicy colors, flared silhouettes that swing and swirl around the legs...this is one of the most festive (and colorful trends we've seen in a long time. We loved the wild Pucci prints, the circle skirts with the big patch pockets and even the knit dress in curried tones edged with lots of fringe.
This can be any wild and wonderful print of any fabric. The important thing about Cathy's look is the circle skirt (with patch pockets) cut from a festive print and worn with a simple sweater or top.

After Hours Around the Duomo di Milano
The latest (Italian) version of the late night, go-everywhere black dress where the details and the accessories make the difference!

We LOVED Versace's version of La Dolce Vita (1960) starring the glamorous Anita Ekberg and Anouk Aimee. While I didn't do a line for line version, I did something similar and little bit sexier. The original dress is looser (the fabric fall down from one side of the neck and is caught in the center back seam) and it has a hoodie built in. I used a sweater knit for Sybille's version and added fullness to one side of the dress which is then shirred into the side seam. Sybille's dress has a funnel neckline. Thinking back of the movie stars from the 1960's (Gina Lollobrigida, Sopia Loren comes to mind), I simply wrapped Sybille's head with a jersey scarf and slid on a pair of over-sized sunglasses (borrowed from my 16" Tonners).
I normally wouldn't do something this simple, but since it was Versace.... and this doll begged me.....Katoucha's dress is made of a double layer of polyester organza drawn into the waist with a fancy belt. It's one of those basic looks that rely on the choice of fabric, a look that you can dress up with lots of jewelry or quietly slide under a fancy coat or jacket.

Easter's right around the corner. The girls already have a drawer full of hats thanks to previous posts.
Joan's Agona dress has the kind of deep Southern style you'd most likely see in attendance at many Pascal celebrations. The only thing needed was a hat. So I made a small beret with a cluster of fabric scraps. The perfect way to top off Joan's holiday outfit! Happy Easter to you all!!

But wait, there's more! We'll see you next in Paris for the last of Fashion Month!!!

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Neck & Neck

Prior to joining our crew in Milan, I wanted to pause for another tutorial on neckline treatments. For a long time, there hasn't been anything special (aside from one shouldered gowns) with necklines. Increasingly however, I'm beginning to see dresses and tops sporting a variety of necklines. What really prompted me to do this project was the sublime gown by Balmain worn on the Oscar red carpet by the iconic actress, Jane Fonda.

This dress is really super simple....a body grazing sheath with a two eye-popping details: square shoulders and a sharply cut neckline. Before we get to that dress, let's first look at how different necklines are designed into a garment.

We must go back to our basic slopers. Whatever happens in the front will impact the back in most cases.
Square Neckline.
1. Place the front and back slopers end to end at the shoulders.
2. Make a mark at the mid point of the shoulder line, another on the center front (as far down as you want) and another on the center back (as far down as you want). Make a horizontal line across the bodice from the mark on the center front and the center back Those lines should run perpendicular to those vertical lines. Draw a diagonal line to join the first two lines as shown in diagram #2.
3. The pattern will look like this.
4. Add seam allowance.

Sweetheart Neckline
5. This is pretty much the same method. It begins by placing a mark roughly 1" (2cm) down from the neck on the shoulder and another as far down the center front line as you want. Draw another line perpendicular to the shoulder as far down as you would like, and then a curved line from that point to the mark on the center front.
6. Place the back sloper end to end along the shoulder of the front sloper. Draw a horizontal line on the center back (where you made a mark). Starting where the line falls on the shoulder from the front sloper, continue that line until it intercepts with the horizontal line extending out from the center back.

Bateau neckline
It is hardly noticeable. But actually, this is a wide neckline with just the right amount of rise in the front over the throat and a graceful dip at the nape of the neck in the back.
7. Mark the mid-point on the shoulder line of both the front and back slopers. On the front sloper, make a mark that is 1/8" (3mm) above the center front point at the neck. Draw a new line
8. On the back sloper, make a mark that is 1/8" (3mm) down from the neck on the center back and draw a new line.
9. Trace off. Then add seam allowance to complete the pattern.

Finishing Touches: Fold and sew (or glue)
Now that you know how to do necklines, how do you finish them?  A full, edge to edge lining is  ideal, but not always practical. Moreover, depending on the style, not all clothes need to be lined. So you have two other options. If the lines are simple and the fabric isn't too complicated, you can simply turn the edge down and stitch or (fabric) glue down and iron. Tip: Join the garment together at the shoulders. Press, then turn and stitch or glue while the garment is flat. Then sew the sides and complete the garment.

Finishing touches: Facings
I hesitate to recommend facings because often, they add bulk around the neckline. But if you don't want to line the outfit and the design is such that you cannot simply fold and stitch (which is the case of our sweetheart along with more complex necklines), then a facing will suffice.

 1. Facings are created by tracing off the top part of the pattern while avoiding darts. In diagram one, the red dotted line indicates the part of the original pattern I will use to create the facing for this bodice. Make sure the length at the side seams are equal from front to back.
2. Here's the pattern for the facing.
3. When you have a pattern with a more involved design--like the sweetheart neckline pictured here--you should mark the design directly onto the wrong side of the fabric because you really must respect the sewing lines. Sew the facing along the shoulder line only. Sew the garment along the shoulder line only. Press the shoulder seams flat. Place right side of the facing to the right side of the garment and pin. Then carefully sew the two elements together.
4. Very carefully clip around the neckline. Turn right side out.
5. Press well, one section at a time.
6. Baste or pin along the neckline edge.
7. Make tiny cuts around the armholes of both the facing and that of the garment. Press each inwards.
8. Pin the edges of the armhole facing together with those of the garment.
9. Using a single thread (needle and thread) sew the two together. Press well.

10. Once you have finished the neckline and armhole edges, fold the garment down and stitch the sides (and back).

When you have finished, you will have a neckline that is shaped like the top of a heart over the bustline and is square in the back. This was a very popular look in the 1940's, especially coupled with puffy "leg of muffin" short sleeves! Sometimes over the years, it tends to fall out of favor. But you can modify it to serve your needs. For the gorgeous velvet dress below, designed by New York designer, Brandon Maxwell and worn by Viola Davis for this year's Golden Globes, a lot of you (and me) fell in love with the look.
Creating what appears starts out as a "slip dress" in 1/6 scale, particularly in velvet, is quite a challenge. So I made a modified version of the "sweetheart" neckline. And since stretch velvet doesn't fray, I didn't need to do anything special to finish the edges. Note: only seam allowance has been added to the shoulders and the sides. There is enough stretch in the fabric for the doll to slip into the dress without the need of a back opening. So the dress is only made of two pattern pieces!
I started with the (dartless) knit sloper. Then modified it by redrawing the neckline using the same "heart shaped" design, but with slim "straps" over the shoulders.

Behind the Design: That Balmain Dress
Okay, I came here to find out how to make THAT dress......

Even though Jane Fonda's dress has a bit of a train in the back, I decided to keep the basic dress as a long sheath. If you really want, you can add a wedge of jersey (in the same color) into the center back just under the knee. But for me, the drama of this dress is really the power shoulders and the dramatic neckline.
1. This is one of those rare occasions where the design of the front doesn't impact the back. That is because the dress is close to the back of her nape in the back and drops down and wide in sharp points in the front. So, I begin with the zig zag design in the front. Be careful not to draw the zig zag too small or the design won't be too visible when you have finished.
2. The back sloper remains unchanged.
3. Because this dress has square power shoulders, you must lift and square off the original shoulder line. Line up the front and back slopers so that the shoulder points align as shown.
4. The top of the shoulders run horizontal (and perpendicular to the rest of the sloper. Extend the curve of the armhole to meet the top of the shoulder.
5. Take the redesigned front and overlap it with the back along the center lines. Note the difference in height. Raise the front and lower the back so that both slopers are equal in length at the shoulder line.
6. Redraw the pattern.

7. Line up the front and back bodice patterns along the new shoulder line. We cannot have the armhole come to a point, so make a mark about 1/8" (3mm) from the widest point on the shoulder.
8. Make a mark 1/8" away from the bottom of the armhole on both the front and back pattern. Draw a line from that point back down to the waist of the pattern. Now redraw the armhole
9. Because these are padded shoulders and we have lifted the shoulder line, we must lift the cap of the sleeve. Whatever the amount your shoulders were lifted--1/2" (1 cm) in this case, you add to the top of the sleeve. The best way to do this is by tracing off the original pattern. Then sliding the sloper 1/2 along the center line and tracing off part of the cap. Redraw to that the lines blend.

Here is my finished pattern. Unless your fabric has a lot of body, you will need to make and sew in shoulder pads. You can find them HERE.

Well, the girls are waiting for us in Milan to show us their faves from the Italians' Fashion Week. We'll see you all there in a few!!!

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Oscar Buzz '18

Understandably, the Oscars red carpet remains a favorite event among my girls. The glitter the glamour and the prospect of parading around in some of the most gorgeous gowns...what more could a girl (and guy) want?!! Our takeaway from looking at the red carpet this time around: there is a more relaxed approached to eveningwear. A return to elegance is what we've noticed.

We saw this dress by Giambattista Valli--worn by Zendeya--during the Spring/Summer '18 edition of Paris Couture week. We felt the original dress was absolutely sumptuous. The only thing is that there is so much fabric, it can overcome a doll's body rather quickly. For that reason, I decided to show a flash of leg for the 1/6 replica. This version. worn by China. was made as a two piece dress. The top is simply a slightly oversized smocked top with one sleeve, worn over a gathered skirt. Each piece is gathered into a ribbon which helps keep the dress slim around the waist.

It is rare to see a stand-out outfit amongst the men in attendance. So when I saw Olympic figure skater, Adam Rippon in this very unusual tuxedo, it caught my eye. Yes, it was quite controversial--some even calling it S&M, bondage.... And as I was busy making the harness, it even had a sinister military air to it. But at the end of the day, it was an intriguing outfit that I had a fun time putting together. And Sean, pictured here, was pretty happy to get a red carpet outfit!

Here's another example of a look that conjured many emotions. When Taraji P. Henderson walked onto the red carpet, this instantly caught my attention. Very daring, it really doesn't reveal  as much flesh as one would think. Vera Wang used a lot of flesh tone fabric underneath the sheer black to give the impression of nudity. Again, I did this dress in two parts. The skirt is a no-brainer, but the top gave me a bit of a challenge because of the differences in body shapes. Taraji is nice and curvy while Janice is skinny with a tiny bustline! After struggling with the bodice, I finally settled on cutting the top in a single piece (suspended from a wire necklace and sewn into a ribbon waistband) and slitting it up the center!

It's all about illusion! When replicating a look, what is important is to find a 1/6 solution that resembles the finished full figure dress. Gal Godet's dress by Maison Givenchy, is an art deco maze of sequins and beads. The temptation is to replicate it using the same fabric. However, for the Veronica's dress, I used a dark silver stretch lame. Over the top I used a little iron on rhinestones, but for the "sequinned fringe" I slashed strips of the same lame into fringe and stitched four rows onto the basic slip dress.

There were a few of these super simple gowns on the red carpet, like the Gabriela Hearst gown worn by actress Danai Guirira. The secret to making such a simple gown, extraordinary lies in the choice of fabric! The pattern is simple: a strapless sheath with a train gathered into the back. The fabric is sheer luxury: peach silk satin. Grace, our model, also suggests the addition of "regal" accessories: white opera length gloves and lots of pearls!!!

 Mary J. Blige certainly has added a special touch to the red carpet this season. Again, this Versace dress is something we see as easy elegance. Easy to wear, easier to make! I started out with silver stretch lame (minidress) over which I wrapped a white sarong skirt. The small epaulets are pleated silk stitched to the neckline.

Sandra Bullock's dress by Louis Vuitton is one of those dresses that looked so comfortable, so gold poured over a simple black Grecian gown. Of course, the look relies on this particular fabric. I didn't have that fabric, but I did have black jersey and the materials to do a little foiling! This is actually a simple tent dress pattern I pulled up to one side and pinned!

I almost didn't replicate Chadwick Boseman's Givenchy suit, worn here by Jamal. But the doll begged me and pointed out how I've been neglecting the Ken dolls in the house. And so....with the film "Black Panther" so much in the headlines, I couldn't say no to making him such a regal suit. All three pieces are basics: shirt, pants and straight coat. I've simply added silver embroidered trim around the shoulders.

Hubert de Givenchy (1982) Photo: Luc Castel. Captured from
We're in the midst of Fashion Month. Our girls are busy on the ground in Milan and Paris. However, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of a fashion giant. Mr. Hubert de GIVENCHY passed away Sunday. For those of you who don't know him.....he was the Haute Couturier who dressed Audrey Hepburn in many of her films, most notably: "Breakfast at Tiffany's" as well as Jackie Kennedy, Princess Grace Kelly and many others. I had the honor of meeting Mr. Givenchy on several occasions in Paris. I wrote numerous articles on him and his fashions and worked in collaboration with him for a couple of school projects. Coming soon, I will make a special tribute to the man and his beautiful body of work.

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