Sunday, February 24, 2019

Basic Instincts

The problem with fashion right now is that there is too much junk on the catwalk. Much of it is over designed with little thought to render the woman (or man) beautiful. Perhaps this is reflective of our turbulent times. Some experts feel the passing of Karl Lagerfeld marks "the death of fashion." Instead of looking at this in such a negative light, perhaps we can see this as the need to return back to square one  when fashion was more simple. Perhaps it's time to return to the basics.

By cutting away all superfluous detailing, eliminating bold colors, busy prints and elaborate embellishments, we are left with pure design....where shape, form and line are the only things that matter. In putting together this post, I forced myself to stick to black or white to show off the design. I stayed clear of prints, bling and the over use of accessories. I wanted create clothes without darts, or closures that would, consequently be as easy to construct as they are for the dolls to wear. For that you will need a thin jersey knit fabric.

If you haven't already made jersey knit (dartless) slopers for your doll, please visit the post, "Dolly Patrick Kelly" which has embedded video instructions. Once you have that, we need to modify it to suit our designs. It is as easy as redrawing the neckline! I will recommend, however, that you put the pattern  on the doll to see exactly where you want that neckline to fall. For this project, I will be using a strapless dress pattern and a one-shouldered option that ends in a point.

After you have drawn in the neckline of the front (red dotted lines), you will need to decide what you want the back to look like and draw that neckline in as well (blue dotted line). Finish your pattern by adding your seam allowance (bottom). You want to be sure the front and back will meet as they should on the side seams. Place the pattern together and make any corrections needed. So, for example, my strapless swerves around the top of the bustline in the front and scoops down in the back. Take care that the lines move gracefully from front to back.

Depending on the style, you can repeat the front neckline onto the back or they can be different so long as they move from front to back at the sides in a continuous line. For my first dress, I am using the one shouldered front with back that has a scooped out neckline.
One Armed Bandit
My journey began with a photo of a dress I found on Pinterest (designed by Marcellomoda, but I found the sleek, simple lines were so very modern, absolutely fabulous.

For this dress I used a combination of flat pattern drafting and a little bit of "draping." It begins with the knit sloper I modified into a one-shoulder design.

The back drops into a scooped, rounded out neckline. Instead of working in my final fabric (a 2-way stretch rayon jersey), I cut up an old T-shirt, cut out the pattern, then sewed up the sides with a long running stitch. This is what we call a "toile" (or muslin, in English).
1. To make the sleeve, I cut a rectangle of fabric, the length and a half of the doll's arm.
2. Pin this under the arm. (If you are making this for Barbie, you will have to allow a bit of space so that her spread finger hand can get through the sleeve.
3. Wrap the rest of the fabric around the neck and pin to the peak of the dress on the other side.

4. Mark the transition from the top of the sleeve, around the back to point where this extension meets the dress in the front.
5. Cut away the excess )leaving a small margin for the seam allowance.
6. Mark where the pins join the sleeve together on both sides.
 7. Remove the toile from the doll. Remove the stitches and lay flat. Put a piece of tissue paper over and now trace the dotted lines to create your pattern. Even if the lines are slightly jagged or have weird bumps, this is the time when you want to smooth out those lines so that visually they are more graceful and balanced.
My pattern looks like this. Just to be sure everything is what it should be, I use this pattern to make another toile out of my T-shirt fabric. If the part that went around the neck was too thin, tape scraps of fabric to the toile to get exactly the look you want. Verify the front and back meet as they should, particularly on the sides where they meet.

You will then need to remove the stitches, lay it out flat and create a new pattern. When you are happy with the fit, it's time to make this in fabric.
 Even though this makes a great short dress, I thought it would be more dramatic in an evening length. Here, I've pinned on a length of fabric to see how the design looks as gown and see how much I need to lengthen my original pattern. By the way, the curved edges are finished by sewing on a narrow strip of bias tulle (or a similar product) then turning the edge inward. I used very tiny slip stitches to hold it in place. The straight edges can simply be turned under and stitched. Because the fabric stretches in two directions, the doll can slip into any of these looks without the need for closures of any kind.
 Gorgeous from every angle!!!

I love this dress so much, I tried to make something similar along the same lines. This time it's a bit more simple. The next dress borrows the idea of one sleeve but remains separate from a simple strapless column dress.
 Make the strapless dress. There are no modifications to the basic pattern. All I've done here is repurpose the sleeve from the first dress into a partial stole.
1. Again, I take a long narrow rectangle of fabric, roughly 12" long (or more, if you like) by about 3" wide. On one end, pin to fit the doll's arm right up to her armpit.
2. Take the rest of the fabric and drape over the front of the neck.
3. Toss over the shoulder. Adjust length if desired.
4. Cut away the excess around the sleeve part of this element. Mark where the sleeve begins. When you draw your pattern, angle your lines outwards so that the opposite end (the stole part) is much wider than the sleeve part. For my pattern, it is 1" (including seam allowance on the sleeve end and 3" on the stole end.

What is interesting about this, is that you can make several of these in different fabrics or colors to coordinate or contrast the original garment.

Don't Shrug It Off
The next dress is even simpler. Again I begin with the strapless column dress, this time in evening length cut from stretch velvet. I've added a "shrug." This is a tiny garment just big enough to cover the arms and a little bit of the shoulders. It's made in one piece from a narrow rectangle of fabric.
The width of the fabric is as wide as the doll with outstretched arms. For Dorian, that meant a 10" wide, 1-1/2" long piece of stretch velvet (again, feel free to use contrasting fabric).
Just in case you're getting a little bored with these basic dresses..there are all kinds of things you can do with a simple silhouette. Add embellishments.
It's as easy as that!
 For Katoucha, I had a moth eaten scrap of cashmere around the house. I made the same dress and shrug then added tiny pearls where the moths had left holes! Don't forget...the fancier the fabric, the more simple the garment should be.

Well....I could have ended this post right here. But you know me....once I get an idea, I tend to run with it. Besides, who knows when I'll be this inspired again.....

I saw a gorgeous red backless dress designed by French designer, Josephus Thimister.

What I loved about it was the deep neckline in the back framed with a single drape of fabric.
1. I decided again to make a toile to be sure this dress would work. I began with the basic knit sloper that I elongated into an evening length dress. 
2. I put it together enough to get on the doll. I did nothing to the front. 
3. For the back, I drew a deep U-neck. 
4. Then I cut the back neckline out. I added string (to simulate spaghetti straps) to the top and middle of the neckline.
5. Cut a square, roughly 5.5x5.5" (14x14 cm) and fold in half to form a triangle.
6. Attach the tip of the triangle at the shoulder so that the long side of the triangle falls straight down with the apex pointing away from the body.
7. Take the apex point of the triangle and pin near the center of the dress (near her buttocks).
8. Take the lower point of the triangle and pin on the hip.

I was very happy with the results of the toile, so now it's time to do this is my definitive fabric.
9. I decided to only put the straps near the waist (and not at the shoulders). If you are tempted not to put straps in at all, just know that the neckline is so deep, the dress will tend to buckle around the midsection. The straps help keep the dress close to the body.
10. You can use ribbon if you like. But if you want the look of spaghetti straps, embroidery yarn is just the thing. Thread it through a needle with very wide eye. Be sure to knot at one end. Make a couple stitches in place and knot again. But leave enough length to tie. Repeat on the other side of the neckline.
11-12. Cut your square. Fold diagonally in half. Stitch then press well.
13. Again, tack one point of the scarf so that the longest side hangs down the center back of the doll.
14. Take the apex of the triangle and tack on the hips near the buttocks.
15. Take the remaining point and tack on the hips. Pin this in place first before you commit. You may have to make a few adjustments depending on the weight of the fabric. When you have finished you want the triangle to drape so that it covers where you have tacked the bottom point near the buttocks.
16. I like to also tack part of the triangle to the side of the dress just underneath the arm.
Again...beautiful from all angles.

And so, you may be wondering, what ever happened Anna in that red dress for Valentine's Day? Here she is. We're breaking a rule here, by using a loud color. 
 It's basically the same dress as the white dress featured above.....except....

Instead of taking the bottom point off to the side on one hip...we tacked it on the other shoulder. In other words, this is almost like a triangular scarf suspended from both shoulders. Here, I've used a narrow ribbon dotted with a rhinestone heart for the strap.

Okay, this is the last one before I let you put your scissors away. I loved these back neckline drapes. This made me wonder if it were possible to do a successful cowl neck dress for a doll. The answer is....YES! I found the simplest draft for a cowl neckline. Not sure how it works for full scale humans, but for the doll, it is quick, easy, perfect!  Again, I am using a 2-way stretch fabric.
1. It begins with the basic knit jersey sloper. You will need to decide the depth of the neckline you want to create. Redraw the neckline (red dotted line).
2. From the center back moving towards the side, cut along the red dotted line which is about 1/2"  (1cm) down from the armhole. Cut but do not completely sever.
3. Spread open this top part of the sloper, bending back as much as you would like to introduce the drape. The more you bend, the deeper the drape. Here, the widest points between the two points of the top and bottom elements measure 1-1/4" (35mm). Next, draw a horizontal line from the top most point of the top element. It should be perpendicular to the center back line.
4. Trace around this new shape to create your pattern. Trace over to the other side of the center back line and add seam allowance (in blue). You now have your back dress pattern.
5. Draw the neckline you want onto the front sloper. Don't make this too deep or the dress will not be able to stay on the doll without straps.
6. Trace over to the other side of the center front to create a one piece front pattern.
7. Add seam allowance (blue) to finish the pattern.
Sew front to back. This is what the dress looks like off the doll. Flat on the table, it looks rather bizarre!

Once on, the dress comes to life. The back will pertrude away from the body. Bend the bottom of the neckline inwards and adjust the folds.

Very pretty silhouette!

My goodness....we haven't even touched little black (daytime) dresses...(wink, wink).

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Except for the two  small designer pix, all photos and text are property of Fashion Doll Stylist. 2019. Please ask permission before reposting and please, please please always credit us. 


  1. I really love your posts...and the actually simple way to look at altering patterns and achieving designs. Some of course are more complex. I watched the Oscars last night and found myself sketching out a few dresses, I will attempt to duplicate. Thank you for your wonderful blog to inspire me.

    1. And voila! That's exactly how we do it!!!! Thank you Sandi for your wonderful comment. When I started this blog, it's intent was to show my how to create high fashion using simple patterns. It makes me so happy that you have figured out that the trick is to break the style down to the most simple terms! Now that you know that....the possibilities are limitless!

  2. I'm delighted with the dresses. I admire your knowledge about creating creatives and the ability to communicate to readers.

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely words, Dlubaniny. I am very happy to know that you enjoy the things that I post here. That gives me the incentive to continue on with my blog. Big hugs.

  3. Biel i czerń... wspaniałe, podstawowe kolory...
    Nie można wyobrazić sobie klasyki bez tych właśnie barw. Proste, długie suknie, ale jakże eleganckie!
    Były, są i będą zawsze modne!
    Pozdrawiam serdecznie :-)

    1. Olla wrote: White and black ... wonderful, basic colors ...
      You can not imagine a classic without these colors. Simple, long dresses, but how elegant!
      They were, they are and will always be fashionable!
      Best wishes

      I totally agree with you. And also, by sticking with the simplicity of black and white, it forced me to concentrate on the lines of the garment--pure design! I had almost forgotten how beautiful this could be. Thank you for your lovely words, Olla.

  4. I didn't see the Oscbut I enjoyed this post. My favorite is the black stretch velvet.

    I also LOVE how Anna defied the rule by whipping out that vibrant red gown. She pulls it off. Go, Anna!

    1. Oh my dear D7ana--I was preparing the post on the Oscars as you were leaving this comment! I cannot decide which one I like most. Each time I finished one, I thought it to be the "perfect" dress. And so, at the end of the day, it's the simplicity of the style that remains the star. And yes, Anna is a real rebel in my house!

  5. I like basic clothing, sometimes I feel like less is more. And, as you said, you can always make it a Little bit more special with bold colors or ornaments.
    Take care.

    1. Monstercrafts, I totally agree with you. There is so much excess on the catwalk. And on the red carpet, the fashions seem very confusing to my eye. But as I began to make these very simple garments, I find myself re-energized. Less is more!!!

  6. This post is amazing! Your tutorials are so intresting, always! I admire your creativity. The last white dress is my number one. It's gorgeous!

    1. Thank you so much Kamelia. This was a really fun tutorial for me. Now that I've done these in black and white, I'd like to see what they look like in colors and prints!

  7. Love this too! It is on my list this year to try some of your patterns!

    1. Thank you, Ms. Leo. It's really interesting to see what's possible in the world of doll clothing. Some things don't work. But when they do(like these cowl neck dresses, the results are quite satisfying.


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