Saturday, April 28, 2018

Cabbage Roses and Frills

As I mentioned in my last post, textiles are the most important element in creating haute couture. When I am looking over the catwalks or the red carpets, with certain styles, I am limited by my access (or lack) of luxury fabrics. I can sometimes get around that limitation with opulent trimming. But even then.....the best is in the fabric shops of Paris..and I am not always in that beloved city when I need them.
Left: dress made using a fancy trim. Right: dress made with my own surface treatment.
For the Fall/Winter ready-to-wear Ermanno Scervino dress I replicated for my doll, I used a very elaborate frilly trim and a super simple pattern: fitted bodice with an attached full skirt. It took, literally no time to do this. Quite naturally, there were details I missed from the original dress, but at the end of the day, the doll was happy because.....all she really wanted was the look!

That said, after fashion month, I took a closer look at the Scervino dresses and I decided to make it again..after recreating the fabric! Upon close scrutiny, what I noticed was that the dress was covered with swirls of ruffles and bows! Recreating this is straightforward and pretty simple. You can use commercial ribbon (which I strongly suggest). But if you don't have access to the right color or desired fabric, you can cut strips of the same fabric as the dress. HOWEVER....for this look I do not want if you cut your own strips (which I did), be sure to either flame seal the edges or use a fray check product or white craft glue to keep the edges in tact.


Samples help me to make a game plan for attacking the project. Moreover, I can check to see the scale of my topical decoration in regards to the doll and the design of the garment.

Cut strips or use ribbon. For this sample, I used strips that were about 5/8"(12mm).
With needle and thread, making a simple running stitch and gather each strip into a small cluster.
Tack on to the base.
Check the scale.

Now it's time to apply this concept to the garment. Unlike the "Chanel" project, the garment is fully sewn. (If you decide to line the dress, you should add that lining after completing the outside first.

1. I begin with a VERY SIMPLE dress pattern. Remember: the fancier the fabric, the simpler the garment! This one is a basic: fitted bodice and skirt--though I have not stitched the skirt darts. They are softly gathered into the bodice. I've decided to leave the base of the dress pretty sheer so that the dress remains light. I flame sealed all of the edges. For the moment, I leave the center back of the dress open.
2. Looking at the original dress, I noticed there are swirls of ruffles over the bust. This also serves to hide the bust darts! I did not add ruffled to the back bodice.
3. I ruffle my strips to form clusters then take them onto the skirt of the dress. Before I get too close to the center back, I stitch up the back of the dress, leaving it open from the hips up (so the doll can get in and out). You can use snaps or hook and eyes to close. Tack the clusters over the center back of the skirt to hide the seam.
If you look at the photo with the two variations of this dress, they are quite similar. If you are lucky to find this trim (or something close to it), then getting the look is easy. I will tell you that it took me roughly a day to prepare the fabric for this dress. But at the end of the was worth it.

In fact..... looking at the store bought trim inspired me to try my hand at making my own surface treatment! On the left, what I saw were narrow strips of fabric with pinked (zigzag) edges stitched down the center to a tulle base. Some were loops, others were swirls.

There was an Haute Couture Valentino dress (Spring 2017) I had wanted to make, but had no access to either fabric or trim. When you do find similar fabric, I should point out, it is usually out of scale and very expensive! By making your own, you have control over the scale and the look you hope to achieve.
Pictured here....flat cabbage rose motifs in the palest of pinks. The original dress looks to be a lightweight silk...maybe even with satin ribbon roses. For the dress I wanted to make, I used a pale pink sheer nylon (the type found in old nightgowns). This fabric doesn't fray, however, I liked the zigzag texture of roses on the black commercial trim.


1. I cut strips of my nylon fabric using pinking shears. Cut each one on the bias (diagonally). You can fold in half (the long way) and press so that you have a stitching guide, to make it easy.
2. I stitched each strip down to the base with a running stitch down the center. The fabric was against a flat surface and as I worked in circular motion, I turned the fabric. In able to get the edges to stand up, you need to position each row close to the other so that the edges stand up.
3. Again, you can place the swatch to check the scale against that of the doll.

For this garment, I used the pattern for an evening length slip dress. When you look closely at the original dress, the roses are roughly the size of the model's bust. That helps establish the scale of roses you need to pull off the look. However....what I discovered is that making large roses is pretty easy--small ones take a little more time (due to their scale)! The dress calls for small roses that gradually get larger towards the hem.

Sew your garment together. However, leave the back seam open.
Place it flat on a surface. You are going to need two hands to do this treatment.
Prepare the strips: For this dress, I cut 1/2"(7mm) strips using pinking shears. I folded and pressed them to give me a stitching guide. I use a needle and single weight thread.
1. Fold the strip in half, then fold the edge over and stitch down onto the dress.
2. Moving in a circular fashion, wrap the strip around and stitch the folded edge to the garment. Do this about twice.
3. Then slip the needle inside the strip so that you can make running stitches down the middle of the strip directly on the garment.
4. As you are work, lean one edge against the side of the strip that is already in place. This helps the piece to stand up.
5. Note how I use my thumb to hold the lower half of the strip to the surface of the garment as I stitch. With every stitch or two, I give the whole garment a turn and continue on.
6. Here's another view of how this works. You can either clip the edge and tack down or you can leave the ends loose then wrap around other rosettes later as you add additional ones. If, while you are making these little roses, you run out of fabric strip, simple cut another and keep going. If you end up with funny little spaces, you can always take strips and make zigzags or tiny swirls in between the rosettes.

When you are about 1/2" or so away from the center back seam, stop and stitch up the garment (leaving an opening for the doll, of course.) Then carefully finish adding rosettes until the back is complete and the back seam is hidden. You can, instead, cut a strip of tulle and stitch rosettes to that, then tack the strip onto the back of the dress. 

This is A LOT of WORK!!! This took me a good three days!!! Whether or not you make something using this technique will depend on 1) how badly you want the dress for your doll 2) how special the doll is, 3) how much she begs or nags you!!! For whatever reason, should you find yourself tempted to try this technique, perhaps you might want to start off using it as a trim--or on a skirt--or a short dress unless of course you have the time and patience or the doll has blockaded the door to your sewing room until you meet her demands!

Nonetheless...when I finally completed Veronica's dress....both of us were extremely happy as this is a very pretty look!

For more ideas on creating your own interesting fabric treatments, be sure to check out our other posts:
Affaires of the Heart
Applied Arts: Faux Embroidery
Applied Arts: Faux (Beaded) Embroidery
Pucker Up!

All photos and text property of Fashion Doll Stylist. 2018. Please credit me and ask me first before reposting!!! Thank you.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Chanel-ify Your (Doll) Fabric

Ahhhh...nothing like a vinyl diva in a Chanel suit!!! No matter what everyone's taste in doll fashions are, the Chanel suit always seems to be a favorite in the fashion doll community. Awhile back we addressed this phenomena here at Fashion Doll Stylist with a post entitled, "Let's Talk Chanel."  However....a Chanel suit is more than just a four-pocket boxy jacket outlined in ribbon trim worn over a straight skirt. The notorious fashion house has, to a certain extent, abandon this style in favor of other looks.... which means, the most important part of a Chanel look today is that chunky FABRIC! But to the doll fashion crafter, the problem remains the same...where to find that special material that magically transforms an ordinary jacket & skirt into one that screams....CHANEL!

Back in the 1920's, Chanel was inspired by menswear. She got the idea of using tweed in her fashions after borrowing her boyfriend's sportswear. She was impressed how comfortable and supple the fabric was and in 1924 commissioned a Scottish factory to create fabric specifically for women's garments. Chanel took this material and then combined it with cotton, silk and wool. In the 1930's, she hired a French factory to create a more high fashion, lighter weight and style to this material. Her most popular look was made in pink and rendered ultra famous thanks to Jackie Kennedy who wore it everywhere! (She was, in fact, wearing a pink tweed Chanel suit the day her husband, John F. Kennedy was assassinated!) Today, under the direction of Karl Lagerfeld, the use of novelty tweeds continue. Up close they are often a kaleidoscope of colors and textures, some even shot with streams of ribbon, metallic thread and minuscule baubles. It was the ribbon striped tweeds which gave me the idea to create my own 1/6 scale tweeds using existing fabric as a base.

Create Swatches First!
If you can find it, loosely woven fabric, is ideal. However, you can use more closely woven fabric so long as it is not dense. When you hold it up to the light, you should be able to see the threads. For the beige dress, I cut up an old raw silk blouse of my mom's to start--which is what I used to create the "Chanel" coat dress in my last post. It is beige, mottled with tiny brown specks. Perfect! I probably could have used it without doing anything, but I wanted it to really resemble the real deal, so I made a sample of stitches first. All you need is an embroidery needle with a very big hole. Anything that fits through the eye of it, you can use: ribbon, embroidery yarn, strips of cut fabric, heavy-duty thread.

Depending on the look you want, the time you feel like allotting to this project (it is a bit time-intensive), and the materials you have on hand--you can simulate whatever "couture" fabric needed to create Dolly Chanel fabric. As you can see in the above photo, I tried a number of materials, including drawing lines using a small brush and acrylic paint. Frankly, there are no rules. I cut 1/8" (3mm) strips of silky fabric. The strips were not even, which was not important for the rustic look I was hoping to achieve. With my threaded needle I caught one thread of the fabric and skipped over about 1/8 or 3/16" (3-5mm), then caught another thread, etc. Using cut fabric, as you thread each strip through the fabric, it will begin to fray, thus adding additional texture. Sometimes the fabric broke. But you re-thread and keep going.  I cut strips of sheer nylon which didn't fray. They lent an air of lightness to the fabric. If you use commercial 1/8" ribbon, the look is more even, more polished.

For my second sample, I started out with a cotton broadcloth. Note how it isn't as loosely woven as my first sample, but still, the weave is loose enough to catch my woven bits in the threads of the fabric. For these two samples, I was inspired by two of the fabrics at the top of this post. For the white on black I used kitchen string which I unraveled down to 2 threads. It was very soft--the look I wanted--but it had a tendency to break. I concluded that embroidery yarn would be easier to use. On the bottom, I was going for a black on black textured look, using strips of lining fabric. I LOVE the look, but again, the fabric tends to fray and fall apart. So if you go this route, plan for a lot of extra time to get your fabric together.

Note: I opted for white on black, but you if take another look at my initial Chanel fabrics & jackets, you see that there are also colors and plaids! Feel free to get creative, even colorful with your "couture fabric!"

How to Proceed
For my coat dress, I used the pattern for a basic sheath dress, modified so that the back is cut on the fold and the opening is in the front. (Yes, this dress does have darts. But you will put them in after you have customized the fabric.) Before you get started, lay out your pattern on the fabric and cut it out. We are only going to treat those pieces relevant to the outfit. I decided to begin with cut strips of fabric. Strips cut lengthwise are usually stronger than those cut horizontally on the fabric. My strips for the beige coat dress were approximately 3/16" (5mm).

1. Cut the end of each strip on the diagonal so you can more easily thread your needle. You only want to thread a single strip (not double), so keep a short end of your strip near the needle.
2. With each strip, I slip the fabric loaded needle through a single (or two) thread of the fabric. I skip over 3/16"-1/4" before catching the next thread. Do one row at a time. Leave a little extra beyond the edges of each pattern piece.
3. I left a space of about 1/4" in between rows. Keep adding until the entire piece is complete.
When you have finished this, sew a stitch around the edges of each piece to secure your rows of ribbon. Note: my fabric is very loosely woven, so to keep it from stretching and to add more structure, I lined each pattern piece with an underlining. An underlining is made using the exact same pattern pieces, but cut from a lightweight material. The underlining and the fabric piece are sewn as one. You can either finish the edges with bias tape or you can sewing in a separate lining. Just before you allow enough ease at the side seams of the outer garment to accommodate the extra layers. Now lay the garment pieces out and sew together as usual being careful that the ribbon falls away from the edges are caught in the stitching. If, by chance, a ribbon did not get sewn while you were stitching this together, you can always take needle and thread and stitch it down to the fabric!
I LOVED the way the beige fabric turned out. But I wanted to see what the results would be if I used commercial ribbon with finished edges. I wanted to make a black on black "Chanel" jacket. To make this jacket, I used a simple (dartless) basic jacket cut to the hips. You can find that tutorial HERE.
For my samples this time, I used ribbon and embroidery yarn. The yarn was more subtle, but the ribbon added the texture I was going for. As you can see in the second photo, the fabric was denser than the beige. But there was just enough space between the threads to allow me to force the ribbon through.

Taking into consideration I used a very simple pattern and the pieces are very small, it took me about a day to prepare my fabric for each garment. The looser the weave, the easier and faster you can work.  And yes, this was a lot of work....but remember we are replicating a very expensive designer suit! The end result speaks for itself.

One last thing....initially, this post was supposed to show a number of different surface treatments I used while putting together last month's fashion reports. But I was so happy with the results I obtained for my Chanel inspired dress, I decided to focus on the fabric I altered. For the next post I'll share with you a few more ways to customize fabric.

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Dolls' Eye View: Paris Fall '18 Trends

Ahhh, Paris!!! This time around it did what it does best...centering its attention on form, line and cut. Be warned: this was not the place for color. After all, we're talking about winter when the sun is covered under a cloak of grey clouds and madame is forced to tuck everything under coats, capes and boots. This season, the designers we liked, took a little time out to focus on concepts, story telling and those fine little details that make their fashion statement a fascinating journey.

Autumn Leaves
Take a walk in the woods to find the inspiration for this theme. Basic garment silhouettes are littered with patterns of leaves or appliqued with leaf decals. For the most part, garments are long and loose. Fabrics are a little chunky (keep an eye out for socks with leaf patterns!)  Colors are subdued or totally grayed out, given a spark with the help of shiny metallic accessories. We can even think of a pretty little dress of silvery (snow dusted?) leaves that flutter over the hem of a metallic lace shift dress. These are looks that take borrow their color palette from late fall when fallen leaves have lost their tone to early winter with the first frost kisses what's left of existing vegetation.

About Town
The overall message for daywear or late afternoon dresses, is....long and loose, easy to wear. This a style of elegance we haven't seen in many a year. There is nothing super fancy about these clothes, just nice easy cuts that are attractive and easy to wear. Count on the fabric (especially winter white or light neutrals) to pull off the look. Windowpane or chunky plaids, oversized houndstooth or abstract prints like the bold scribble print over Guy Laroche's dress coat  (which you can DIY with a fabric marker)come to mind.

I had to look close to see that what I thought was a coat dress was, in reality, a jacket and loose straight skirt. But for Emanuela, I decided to go with my first impression and turn the look back into a coat dress. I used the basic sheath dress pattern (with the back cut on the fold and the front with extended seams) to create her dress, complete with patch pockets. And though the original do not have vest pockets, most Chanel ensembles, whether one or two pieces, usually sport a four pocket look. I used gold bead caps as buttons, though hidden snaps were used to keep the dress closed. Where did I get the fabric? Surprise! In one of my next posts, I'll show you how to Chanel-ify a piece of fabric!

So Chanel, Faux Chanel
Speaking of Chanel.....Years ago while I was working for a local Paris magazine, we received a memo from the company forbidding us from using the phrase, "Chanel suit" in our description of that boxy 2-pc ensemble made famous by Coco Chanel decades ago. We all thought this was silly that the company did not see the compliment in our gesture. After all, how many styles are attributed to a single designer for over 60 years of existence. When we see nubby fabric, quilted materials, we automatically think...Chanel. This theme pits the real Chanel (which looks anything but typical) with other designers (who do the look really well though unintended). (Will the real Chanel, please stand up!!)
Dorian is our official Chanel spokesdoll in the house. So imagine the surprise when we outfitted her in this classic grey sheath dress and told her it was....Ralph & Russo! We both loved the grey tweed fabric made into a chic after hours dress, opera gloves and all! Okay, Dorian, now you have two designers you can wear!

Intergalactic Warriors
From the "Wonder Woman" reboot, the "she-ros" of "Black Panther" to the strength of the #MeToo movement and beyond, there is a feeling of female strength and power in the air. Strap on your boots, slide on those gloves, and get ready to do some battle.. is the feeling behind the collection strutted out by Belgian designer, Ann Demeulemeester. Of course we know there is more to this movement than black leather straps and high heeled boots, but its fun to see this played out in the virtual universe of the designer's fantasies! (And it makes for fun fashion!)
It was fun putting together Samantha's outfit. She's wearing essential a wrap dress with the skirt part cut and tacked up in spots belted over tights. What really makes this look, of course, are the accessories--little tubes with pointed edges points for the gloves. Barbie (Cher doll) thigh high boots (though you can make your own spats to cover existing shoes). And tiny leather strips tied over both the boots and the shoes just for the effect!

Return of the Jedi
I'm not sure if it was the result of Elon Musk'sTescla launched into space or the popularity of the moving "Black Panther", but designers were clearly ensconced into a cocktail of outer space gear and super woman imagery. These great big, black looks continue on with the help of Japanese designer, Yohji Yamamoto (who's been doing this look for over 30 years). And yes, everything is black, black some more! An essential element of these looks---a black leather waist corset. The result...a look that is big, bold and high drama almost to the point of caricature.
Unless you want this Star Trek look, it doesn't have to be so....serious! What I liked about this look from Yohji Yamamoto is the top with the draped neckline. The fluidity of the skirt. And how everything is pulled into the body with an oversized leather corset. But for Nichelle, instead of trying to replicate such an odd skirt, we both settled on a pair of wide trousers. The top is a simple knit top with a bit of sweater weight wool knit twisted and stitched on around the neckline.

Cloak Room
It would appear that designers presenting during Paris fashion week, were all concerned about the changing weather patterns and frigid temperatures. The girls saw quite a variety of coats. Pictured here are big, loose coats whose primary virtue is the richly patterned materials from which they are cut. While you are out shopping for fabrics, look for paisley prints, interesting Art-Deco inspired patterns or even something as simple as herringbone. 

Blizzards & Bears 
While on the subject, global warming is on everyone's mind these days. So the girls weren't at all surprised at seeing the number of big loose coats in snowy winter white wool, as well as the polar bear outfits and boots. The notion of bears everywhere isn't limited just to coats and pants. There are also stylish cubs.... like the one we saw at St. Laurent:.a faux fur dress with a fuzzy-wuzzy collar on its way to an imaginary arctic party!
Veronique's bear essentials are comprised of a basic faux fur coat, a matching detachable hood and a pair of fuzzy spats that slip over existing shoes or boots. This was cut from an inexpensive faux fur we found at a local crafts store! (Everything is good when you know what to do with it!!!)
And wouldn't you know....not far behind is Katoucha in her faux fur dress with a long-haired faux fur scarf wrapped around her neck!

Techno Vibe
This is a fun group of party clothes I'd like to explore in another post. The "space age" look (a little left over from the 1960's) is made from unusual materials...bits of plastic cut into circles or tabs, tape from an old music cassette cut into fringe for a skirt....or silver vinyl cut into a jacket. The idea points to a revival of the philosophy behind famed 60's couturier, Paco Rabanne and his "space age" fashion, teamed with the notion of recycling odd materials into today's edgy looks. 

Girl Talk
One of the attributes of French fashion....femininity, a theme that always marks the collections here. We see it in clothes with lacy detailing, ruffles and frills. We see it in curvy, little sexy dresses that pay homage to the female form. Of course, everything is black but still...These are clothes my dolls love to wear!

Curried Mango 
 Amidst all the black...a lightning rod of hot tangy color straight from the kitchen! All materials are on the table here. Think silk, satin, leather or even velvet! It's all quite tasty!
There is this Polish designer, Maticevski, I have been following for a few seasons now. I am intrigued by the cut of their clothes, in particular. The simple, yet dramatic lines of Gail's saffron crepe-back satin one shoulder dress is simply stunning! 

Velvet Underground
Last winter, velvet made its comeback. Though there's less of it this time around, it's still around, often used in combination with other fabrics for a variety of looks and silhouettes. What caught our eyes here, is the shifting proportions around the waistline. The girls loved the lines of a high waist flared evening skirts over a form fitted top as well as the tiny velvet empire bodice over a big splashy floral printed silk.
A form fitted lingerie inspired corset with a velvet skirt---Ingrid immediately jumped for this dress. I made her corset (and matching gloves) out of lace and gave her a lace coat to toss over her shoulders for later!

Abstract Beauty
Shades of the high fashion appeal of the late, great, Balenciaga..... This is all about simple, pure shapes--worn alone or teamed with other elements-- and how they create their own drama.
When I first laid eyes on this outfit, I saw a thigh high mini dress (shift), under a big bubble of a cape and tights. And that is exactly how I made it. Anna wears a simple shift dress (made from two layers of polyester organza) over opaque pantyhose. Her cape (made with two layers of polyester organza) was constructed in the same way as a gathered skirt, but fashioned around the neck rather than the waist. Instead of creating the exaggerated lines of the  shoulders, I chose instead, to make soft pleats for a more graceful effect . The stiffness of the fabric is what helps to maintain this shape. Its sheen adds to the modernity of the look while the sheerness of each element creates the overall look of drama.

At the end of the day, dolly might just want a wee bit of bling. For that we turned to the collection of Russian born, Valentin Yudashkin who sent out a classic (and classy) bevy of fishtails,sultry draped couture dresses and "Hollywood" gowns glowing of frosty white and shimmering silver aflutter with petals, spangles and beads...a befitting champagne toast to a most interesting fashion month!

For those of you fairly new to our blog....Featuring trends from fashion weeks in the US and Europe as well as red carpet events is an important part of what we do here at Fashion Doll Stylist. This helps us help you keep your beloved dolls in the thick of current fashion and it gives us ideas for projects, tips and tutorial and serves as inspiration for fabric and color recommendation when shopping for fabric. In able to come up with a few of the looks featured during our fashion coverage, I had to explore fabric options and alternatives which I'll be sharing with you shortly! Stay tuned for more fun!!!

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