Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Let Them Eat Cake

Me and the girls were most intrigued by Moschino's Marie Antoinette collection theme. Closely fitted bodices with super wide bell skirts all decorated like fancy wedding cakes had all of the allure of a precious doll magically emerging from a music box. Worn with petti-pants and thigh high silk boots, it was sugary sweet, it was super pretty, it was from another era! At first, it seemed to be disconnected from modern life. Who would wear this silhouette in the 21st century?" And then the pandemic hit, bringing with it "social distancing!" In a flash..... it all made sense!
I should point out, however, the original dress has a flattened, almost 2-dimensional skirt--something I did not like. I decided to change the shape into a rounder, more balanced bell shape. Again, I begin with a disclaimer. I am not skilled in historical costume construction. I approached this like a craft project, much in the same way I did when I made some of my dolly hats. On the other hand, what I have learned about couture is that  this sort of silhouette is built over an underlying structure, be it hoops, bustles or petticoats.  Getting to a successful finish was not without its problems. Though my pattern is super simple, this dress gave me a lot of grief. Each fabric, each layer behaved differently than anticipated--particularly at the end while attempting to marry the dress with its foundation. The layers fought each other and would not sit evenly. I first concluded this dress was not suitable for reproduction. But still, I pushed on to find a simple solution. After finally completing the white dress, and then the blue denim.... I started falling in love the look. The 17-year old in me even imagined the fun it would be to organize a Mini-Antoinette debutante ball where everybody arrives in one of these little cake-top wonders!

Pattern (and under foundation)
1. For this stage of the project, you will need a bowl, tissue paper (papier chiffon), Mod Podge or white craft glue, water and a brush. First and foremost, you need a shape on which you will fashion the skirt. Don't look at the outside of the bowl but rather, look at the smooth interiors of its interior. Consider width and shape. If you line the interior of the bowl with plastic wrap, it will facilitate removal of the tissue paper shape later.
2. Use at least 2 layers of tissue paper which you will then press into the sides of the bowl's interior. Trim the excess.
3. Spray with water to moisten.
4. Press the tissue paper into the sides of the bowl, pressing out any bubbles that form.
5.Take the Mod Podge or craft glue and mix with a little water to make it more fluid. Then brush onto the tissue paper, covering the entire surface.
6. Let dry. Carefully lift the form out of the bowl.
7. Measure the waistline of the doll, mark, then cut away from the center of the tissue form.
8. Measure the outer perimeter of the bowl. Divide that number  by 5. Then measure that number off around the outside of the form. Draw a line from each point on the perimeter to what would be the center of the waist. 
9. Cut along each line and number each section. 
10. Place each section side by side, lining them up along the lower edge. Create one more section and add to this

11. Place this on paper and trace.The end result is a single piece with darts at the waist.
12. Add seam allowance at the top and sides.
This pattern, which has 6 sections is based on the original pattern (cut into 5). One extra section was added in for additional fullness and ease. This can be adjusted at the back. I used this pattern for all but the red dress.

This is the pattern made with the exact measurements of my bowl. It makes for a slightly narrower dress like the one in red brocade.

My Basic Mini-Antoinette Dress
You can use any bodice you want. Strapless or full bodice. With or without sleeves. For my first project, I decided to keep it simple. I used my super simple, basic, one-piece camisole.
1-2.This dress has two pattern pieces. The strapless top and the one-piece bell skirt. I cut out in fabric. (You can line the dress using the same pattern. Or just line the bodice.)
3. Attached the bodice to the skirt along with waistline.
4. Right side up, this is what you have. By itself the dress will not retain its shape unless it is propped up with a foundation, or at least a layer of tulle.
5. You can gather tulle into a sort of tutu which is then tacked onto the waistband of the dress.  For this dress, I chose to use wired ribbon.
6. I gathered it slightly and then tacked it into the underside waistband of the dress. Still the edges along the hem were not keeping its shape.
7. I took some of the same wired ribbon and cut away a 1/4" (5mm) strip just above the wired edge. 
8. You can hem your dress first or, in this case where I have used polyester Chinese brocade, I have melted the edges with a candle to keep them from fraying. Lay the hem of the dress on top of the ribbon, lining it up just along the wire edging. Hand sew in place.
9. I wanted a smooth looking, almost flat look to the bodice. So, I cut this motif from the fabric and melted the edges. The motif is then carefully tacked onto the bodice (after the dress has been assembled).
10. These little dresses have such structure, they don't even need the doll. They stand up by themselves!

Oh and by the way, I almost forgot to mention.... Dolly will need "petti-pants." Those are little shorts to be worn under the dress. If you've ever seen the movie,  "The King and I," you'll know why! Here's Muriel showing off her gold satin shorts that match the underside of her dress! The back of this dress was hand sewn closed from the hips of the doll to the hem. The top of the bodice and point at the waist are held shut with hook and eye.
We made her a pair of glove and, of course...matching over the knee boots cut from Chinese brocade!

This brings me back to the Moschino dress. I used the same techniques as above except my pattern has one extra panel added on. This allows for more volume and more ease around the waist.
But let's go back to the original Moschino dress that had so many of you intrigued. I used a waffled fabric. However..... the waffled surface (right) is actually the wrong side of some upholstery fabric. The normal side is the photo on the left! When you are shopping for fabric, always look at the wrong side. Sometimes it's more interesting!
I made this exactly as explain in the previous dress. This time I stitched gathered tulle into the waistband. I also used the gold edge of (Christmas) wire ribbon onto the hem as a way to maintain the shape of the circular skirt. I tacked on a gold embroidered applique (found in a notions department of a fabric store).

If you are not careful, you can get totally carried away and lose all sense of current day modernity! Eighteenth century fashion was really about cake top decoration with big scoops of fabrics, trims, ribbons and poufs piled on.  
The Moschino collection featured denim dresses which I found most interesting. But I didn't have access to any gold trim so instead, I went the other way and pared things down to the basic silhouette. The top of this dress, as you can see, is comprised of a full basic bodice with sleeves edged with white lace. Otherwise, it is constructed in the same manner as the first two dresses with the exception of the underskirt. I did not add gathered tulle. Instead, I made another tissue paper bowl, covered it with fabric, decorated it with lace and placed the denim dress atop. 

1. Go back to the top of this tutorial and create the skirt by using two layers of tissue paper, water and Hodge Podge (or white craft glue). When dry, make one slit to the center of this structure and cut out a circle the size of the doll's waist. Reinforce the structure with fabric tape. Using the pattern you have already created from the bowl, you can cut a skirt from fabric to place over this structure. Tack the fabric layer to the paper shape. Add ruffles or decorative trim around the hemline. 
2. Create a waistband from a strip of bias tape and attach to the waist. You can plan for an overlap then fasten the waist with a snap or tie. I tend to leave the skirt open at the back. The two sides will overlap each other. 

Complete the dress in the fabric of you choice. Again, you make the bodice and the skirt separately, then put them together along the waist line. I hand sew the back seam together from the hem up to the widest part of the hips. Close the back of the dress with a hook and eye at the back neck and at the waist. Be sure to make a pair of little shorts for the doll to wear under the dress. Add embellishments of your choice. My version was pretty, but somehow in relation to the super ornate dresses, I felt the doll came off looking more like one of Mini-Marie's hand maidens..... So I decided Akure needed more dollops of whipped cream and sprinkles. 

3. I found a little bit of silk the same color as the washed denim. I left the edges frayed to give it texture. Wrap around your finger into a soft pouf then tack it on top of each hip.
4. Somewhat inspired by Wedgewood porcelain, I added a bit of white lace over each pouf. I cut lace medallions from an old shirt and placed them about the dress in a decorative fashion. Just beware... these types of decorative garments invite you to put excessive amounts of stuff on top. From time to time, I had to stop myself from turning things into a 3-ring circus!

The most interesting part of this series is, of course, the skirt. So why not think of the garment as a skirt and top! That provides endless possibilities!

I already had the bodysuit and boots made from the jeweled organdy. So I decided Waris needed a black swan skirt cut from the same fabric.
Here's Waris in her bodysuit. To complete the look, we made a (no sew) tulle tutu and the same skirt we've been making all long. The difference is, it has been fashioned into an apron of sorts with a waistband that ties in the back over a black tulle tutu skirt.

And here she is....our black ballerina. The skirt is tied over the bodysuit and the bejeweled skirt is worn on the top layer. This can be done using a variety of different fabrics. Look below at what we did for Christie! 

I made one last look for Christie cut from a heavy faille fabric. I knew the fabric would fray and wanted it to make a thoroughly modern version of this dress.The top is a fitted corset bordered with ruffled frayed chiffon. The skirt fits over a full cream white tulle skirt. For this skirt I decided not to add the wire trim and simply let the skirt hang the way it wanted over a cloud of gathered tulle.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

La Vie en Chateau

Long before "social distancing" became a universal thing, there were dresses that forced people to stand, walk or dance several feet apart. Those dresses had structures beneath them called bustles which were made from wire, boning, crinoline and even pads and petticoats to help maintain their shape. And though silhouettes were greatly simplified and brought close to the body after World War I, some form of those wide garments have somehow survived. It lives on in the form of wedding dresses, debutante ball gowns, prom frocks and especially  red carpet formal wear. Though many of us remain confined in our homes with nowhere to do, there's no reason our dolls can't get all dressed up like the princesses they are and head to an imaginary ball.

Before we get started, I would like to explain... the technique in this tutorial is the way I create bustle dresses. It may or may not have anything to do with the manner in which its full scaled version. I would also like to point out that there is a difference between fashion and period costume. While the modern ballgown may flirt with the voluminous proportions of its 19th century ancestor, for these dresses to be considered fashion, they must respect modern proportions and aesthetics. In this case, it means softening things up so that the dress flows and is less rigid.

For this project, you will need a simple, evening length dress and a rectangle of matching or contrasting fabric. Depending on how full you want your silhouette will determine the width of your fabric. For this (Barbie) dress, the width of my fabric is 42" (106 cm). Same thing with the length. Though I chose a strapless sheath for this tutorial, your dress can be anything you want. It can have a full bodice, or sleeves. It can be slim or flared. What I like to do is build the bustle as a separate entity that can be pinned temporarily over the existing garment or stitched down permanently. I construct it like this as opposed to creating a single pattern with the volume worked in because this method allows me to better control the look and fit simply and quickly.

1. My dress begins with a simple strapless, sheath dress.
2. After determining the length and amount of fullness, I cut a rectangle of matching or contrasting fabric. Turn under the side edges as well as the hem. The top edge is gathered with a running stitch.
3. Draw the stitch into gathers so they fit from side to side across the back.
4. It's like a half-gathered "train" that only extends only across the back of the dress. Pin and adjust. Then remove and secure the gathers with another stitch so they don't move.

5. Next, create your own "bias tape" by cutting a strip of fabric diagonally on the fabric that measures a little more than the circumference of the doll's waist by 1" (2.5cm) tall. Note: This strip really have to be cut on the bias so that it curves around the waist smoothly!
6. Fold one side and the bottom edge under and press.
7. Pin the folded over the gathered edge of the "skirt," pin then stitch in place.
8. Fold the top edge down but just until it reaches the top edge of the gathered train Press but don't stitch it down yet.
Though I have a lot of fabric in this train already (42") it will need something to help the gathers maintain their fullness and not droop. You will need some sort of "padding."
For padding, you can use a stiff tulle or, as I've used here, you can recycle those used "dryer sheets."
09. My dress is pretty heavy, so I used two dryer sheets. Put them together and fold them in half lengthwise.
10. Make a gathering stitch along the top of the folded edge. Draw up the gathers so that this "padding" falls 1" (2.5cm) short of both sides of the train.
11. Cut another 1/2" (1cm) bias strip of fabric and stitch it to the top of the gathers.
12. Tuck both side edges inwards
13. Apply to the middle back of the gathered train.
14. Stitch the top folded edge of the train to the top edge of the ribbon on the padding. This is just to keep the padding from shifting.
15. Fold each side of the train inwards towards the center.
16. Pen both edges of the waistband together.
17. Stitch shut along the top and the bottom of the "waistband.". The end result will look like a gathered skirt where the waistline has been sewn shut.
18-19. Place over the train over the dress and make any needed adjustments needed on the front or back. Pin in place. I add some sort of embellishments to the train so that it comes together as a complete look. We will need to figure out how our doll gets in and out of the dress! At this point, you can decide whether you want this train to be permanent or simply pinned on. For this dress, I have decided to make the train a permanent part of the dress. It will be stitched onto half the back (to the opening) then attached to the other side with a hook and eye.
20. I still have some beaded lace. I cut out a few medallions to sew on the top of my train.
A. Sew the beaded lace medallions on top of the bias tape of the train.
B. Allow the medallions to extend over the side of the tape so that it will overlap and blend into the rest of the dress. When you have completed this, pin the dress to the dress for placement. Then stitch the train from the front of one side across the back to the center back closure. The doll must be able to get out of the dress, so I secure it only as far as the back opening. The remainder of the "waistband" will lay over the other back half of the doll's body then attach to the side front with hook and eye as explained in the next two steps.
C. Add a hook to the underside of the lace medallion.
D. Add the "eye" (in this case I made a crochet eye instead of the metal one) to the front of the dress where the medallion will attach to the dress.

21. When you are finished, it will look something like this from front to back
22. You can use almost anything for the embellishment like lace or tiny silk flowers!

23. My finished gown.

A variation of the above look using flowers. 

 You don't have to use a slim dress. You could start out with something more flared. And something more decorative!
 This is a princess lined, "faux embroidered" dress we made awhile ago. Notice it has an A-line silhouette. But what if we wanted something rounder, fuller....
I used the same technique as the first dress. Instead of the dryer sheets, I gathered a width of tulle which is about 2" (5cm) deep. It is applied exactly as we did to the train in the first dress. Instead of beads, I cut a bit of lace from an old shirt to add to the top of my train.
From the front, the difference appears to be more discreet but once you turn her a bit to the side and the back, you notice how much rounder the silhouette appears. For me, this will be temporary, which will give me the option of having two looks.

 This was a red carpet dress worn at the Golden Globes last year. It was a red silk strapless sheath dress with two small peplums on either side of the front.

This is the original Valentino red carpet dress worn by Jennifer Lawrence for the 2014 Oscars. It is a slim fitted strapless sheath with two gathered peplums, each placed just above the hips on both sides.
There are a couple of things happening here. First I created a train, using the above technique for the first dress. The top of it is placed just under the peplum at the side and wraps across the back to the other side, then tacked under the opposite peplum. 
Instead of adding the gathered tulle for padding, I took a length of chiffon and gathered it into a soft knot which was then added on top of the train. 
Each layer is longer than the other to create this most elegant silhouette.

Finally, this is the (Versace) gown Lady Gaga wore to the 2019 Golden Globes Award show. I was most intrigued by its "Marie Antoinette" allure. I did not have the time to make another, so I'll walk you through the steps I made to create this look. There are several things going on here. The dress is a strapless, princess line gown with a long (incorporated) train in the back. See "Train of Thought" for the instruction. The sleeves are separate  puff sleeves. The ribbons that wrap around her wrists are separate as wel.
To this dress I added little poufs created from the same fabric as the dress. Again, they are made by creating folding bits of fabric and gathering them into small pouches. I applied these to the sides and the back of the dress.

I made two panels. Each measures 24x12" (30x60 cm). The bottom edge was rounded and all sides, including the top of each panel were turned under and hemmed. At the top of each panel has been gathered to fit on either side of the back of the dress. Attach one panel to the right side of the dress, from the center back seam to the side. The left panel is slightly wider. It is stitched to the left back of the dress but there should be overlap that covers the right side by a 1/4" (6mm). They are held in place with a hook and eye.
The result is most regal!

Coming up next.... another Behind the Design look at Moschino's "Versailles" mini dress! In the meantime... Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe. Stay virus free!

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