Sunday, July 26, 2020

Virtually Chic: Dior's Digital Couture Show

In this, the year of Coronavirus lock downs, in person catwalk shows have been least for the moment. But the fashion industry wants everyone to know that it is still with us, if in no other way, it exists in spirit. As a result, the big haute couture houses of Paris staged a "virtual fashion show." For some this was simply a collection of photographs or sketches for a collection that will never be. While for others it was an opportunity to creatively express the philosophy of its couturier. For me, this season was not so much about clothes as it was expressing soul of each fashion house. 
Theatre de la Mode (1946). Source:

The virtual show presented by the house of Christian Dior touched me profoundly, not because it employed doll-sized couture gowns, but also because it allowed us to revisit their famous, "Theatre de la Mode,"  a traveling exhibition of 27 inch tall, quarter-scaled mannequins used to present their post-war collections to clients living in Paris, London and the United States. The backdrops of each "scene" were designed by world famous artists including Christian Berard and Jean Cocteau, set to much by Christian Dior's personal friend Henri Sauguet. The mannequins were constructed of wire, resembling a five-minute sketch, each dressed in an exquisite couture creation and accessorized by other renowned milliners and jewelers. A few weeks ago, Dior released a video for Fall/Winter 2020, where it borrowed the concept of their iconic "Petit Theatre" and applied it to the creations of its current designer, Maria Grazia Churi. 


Though I am not a huge fan of Mme. Chuiri's collections, I loved this video. Aside from the sheer fascination of recreating haute couture creations from the most famous fashion house on the planet to "doll clothes," I find it amazing that two sets of clothing were at 1/4 scale the other full scale. Each had its own set of challenges. The next video takes the viewer back stage for a rare look at the atelier and processes involved in bringing this collection to life.


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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Shoe Biz: SNEAKING Around With Her

Between an unrelenting heat wave and a few challenges making sneakers for my high heel gals, it took me bit longer to bring this post to you than originally anticipated! I also didn't think there would be that much of a demand outside of my Barbies. But to my surprise, some of my Fashion Royalty girls confided how they needed a break from their stilettos and wouldn't mind the comfort of sneakers! Awhile ago, Integrity Toys created a doll body that allows the collector to swap out the high heeled lower limb for one sporting a flat foot.  Admittedly, I had not thought to put this feature to use before my tutorial on men's sneakers. 

Putting together sneakers for the girls  is identical to my last the tutorial on sneakers for the guys. But since most of us have dolls with high heeled feet, I was forced to think of something that works for those who permanently pose on their toes. I thought it would be as simple as my tutorial on espadrilles. But the sneaker is a little more complicated due, in part to its chunky set of proportions. I started out using the actual size of the doll's foot for the base of the pattern. But when I finished, the shoe on my FR doll's foot, looked more like a stump. So I gave that pair to a Fashionista Barbie (pictured above) and went back to the drawing board. The proportions of my final shoe are much bigger than those of the dolls' feet, however, they perfectly capture the massive "spirit" of the full scale footwear.

Ok, so let's get started. Again, assembly of the sneakers for the girls is identical to those for our guy dolls. In case you missed it, here's a copy of those (below).  At the bottom of this post, you will find the patterns I created for this project. Again, it is on 1/4 graph paper. You only need make a few adjustments so that it fits your doll's feet. 
1. These steps are good for any of the patterns featured in this post. The sole should be a little bigger than the doll's foot. For best results, trace each pattern piece off onto the wrong side of your material, then carefully cut. Though I have drawn the cuts which fall over the shoe sole, you can cut in a straight line then cut the notches afterwards.
2. For each shoe: There is the back quarter (cut from black fabric), the heel (cut from white leather), an insole (white) cut from card stock, the outer sole (black) from a sheet of craft foam, and a white rubber band. glue on the leather bits to the toe and the heel while the pattern pieces are still flat. 
3. Place the insole on the doll's foot. Begin with the "vamp" (the toe) and after cutting in the notches, glue the bottom edge around insole. Line up the center back of your back quarter so that it lines up with the back of the heel. If necessary, you can add a few stitches to secure the upper to the insole.
4. Add a layer of strong glue to the bottom of the shoe.
5. Firmly press on the outer sole to the rest of the shoe.
6. Use a dowel or a pencil as a rolling pin over the bottom of the shoe
7. Put a layer of rubber cement around the outer edge of the outer sole.
8. Cut the rubber band in half and fit it around the shoe to get the exact fit. Cut away the excess. Next, put a layer of rubber cement around the inside of the rubber band. Allow the glue on both edges to dry. The surfaces will be tacky.
9. Very carefully, line up the middle of the rubber band to the center front of the shoe.
10. Carefully line up the rubber so that it is flush against the top and bottom of the shoe as you wrap it completely around.
11. The back of the band should meet flush together. If the edges won't stay down, you can use a tiny bit of tape to hold the two sides together.
12. With everything in place, feel free to customized. Use a pencil to lightly draw a line around the center of this band. This will serve as a guide. Place the shoe on the table.Take a fine tipped permanent marker and very carefully draw in the line.

For the classic white sneaker, I used linen which emulates the scale of the canvas found on a full sized sneaker. The toe as well as the back of the heel was cut from tiny pieces of leather. The shoe laces are tiny slivers of leather which are easier to thread through the holes than regular string. I did not use eyelets. Instead, I poked holes using the needle of a compass. A white rubber band is used for the lower border of the shoe.
Denim is also another good substitute for the canvass used in a traditional sneaker.
For the high heeled foot, it's a little more complicated. What I've done was to create a wedgie sole out of clay (polymer or epoxy), then build the Converse style sneaker around it. On the exterior, the shoe appears to be flat. This trompe l'oeil effect tends to elongate the leg. This style of sneaker is the only one that works with the high heeled foot. As with the men's footwear, you can use almost any material from cotton to leather. In the United States, everyone tends to wear "athletic" style shoes, while in France, fashionistas tend to opt for a more "girly" version cut from florals, prints and even lace! 

So for my first pair, I chose a tiny floral print, accented with a hot pink suede toe and white satin ribbon shoelaces.

1. If you choose a cotton as I have, you will need to line your shoe. I cut my pattern out twice per foot, once in my fabric, and another in the lining material. Stitch along the center back seam.
2. Iron the back seam flat. Place the right side of the shoe upper to the right side of the lining then stitch along the sides and across the top.
3. Turn right side out. Make a stitch along the bottom edge of the shoe upper. Cut notches. And if you choose to add top stitching to the shoe, now is the time to do that.
4. Cut out the vamp. Since my fabric is not heavy, I added iron-on interfacing to the underside. Set aside. 
If you are cutting this shoe out of leather or a sturdy cotton, you can skip these first four steps and simply turn down and glue in place the edges of the side back. For the upper/toe, use a anti-fray product along the edges around the tongue. Continue on with step 5.

5. Wrap your doll's feet in plastic to protect them.
6. Take a small ball of clay and press it to the bottom of the doll's foot. You want to shape a wedge that fills in the area between the doll's heel and the surface of the table. Create a little bit of a platform by adding a little more clay under the foot itself  as well as just above the toes.
7. Cut out and place the insole at the bottom of this clay platform. Then massage the clay so that it fills in within the confines of the sole. Cut away the clay that extends further than the sides of the foot. But don't worry about this structure not looking so "perfect." It will be hidden. If you have used polymer clay, carefully remove the sole off the foot and back in the oven according to instructions. If you have used epoxy clay, carefully remove from the foot and allow to air dry.
8. Put a layer of rubber cement along the underside of the notched edge of the upper/toe as well as over the underside of the sole.
9. When both surfaces are dry and tacky, carefully fold the notched edge of the upper onto the bottom of the sole.
10. If you are using a lined cotton back quarter, be sure to cut notches along the bottom seam allowance. If you are using leather or some other non-woven material, turn the top and side edges under and glue in place. Flatten the center back seam. 
11. If you are going to add on any decorations, this is the point you should add them. For the "Chanel" sneaker, I added an inverted V shape to the back. (Before adding the sole, I added a black leather toe to the rest of the upper.)
12.Put a layer of rubber cement along the underside of the shoe back quarter as well as a layer of rubber cement over the rest of the shoe bottom. When both are dry, carefully match up both center backs and wrap around the rest of the shoe.
13. Punch the holes on both edges of the upper. thread in your shoe laces. Tip: If you use string, dip each edge in craft glue and let dry. This will make it easier to thread it through the holes!

Now, let's go back to our flat foot and do something really easy and fun! Let's create an "athletic" shoe. 

While doing the research, I found myself fascinated by all of the tiny bits and pieces that cover this style of sports footwear. Working with such tiny scraps is a tad bit time intensive, but when I finished, it was well worth the effort. Unfortunately, this style of shoe only works with flat feet.

1. For this shoe, I chose a tiny scrap of leather. The pattern requires a seam down the front because it is shaped around the heel of the foot in the back. Begin by stitching down the center front seam.
2. Turn to the wrong side. Flatten the center seam. (If you are using leather, run a line of rubber cement down each underside of the seam and press. Turn the top edge down and glue. (If you work in cotton, you might need interfacing to give the shoe more structure over the top of the foot.
3. Cut notches along the bottom edge. Stitch along the back edge of the shoe.
4. Add rubber cement to the bottom edge of the upper as well as the bottom of  the sole. Let dry until tacky to touch.
5. Slip the upper over the dolls foot. (You can wrap the doll's toe with a bit of cotton and tape so that when you stretch the upper over the foot, the toe remains rounded and not flat.
6. Put the sole onto the doll's foot, tacky side up.
7. Fold the top edge over the sole. Your basic shoe will look like this. 
8. Now comes the fun part. Take all those tiny strips of leather and lets decorate our shoe. I started by putting a tiny tab onto the center front near the top of the shoe. 
9. With other strips, I make curved shapes, gluing them together where they cross.
10. Add other bits as you want. Draw the "laces" on the front tab. 
11. Add industrial strength glue to the bottom of the shoe. Then add a sole. I cut this out of a sheet of craft foam. 
12. Using a dowel or a pencil, roll it over the bottom of the sole to ensure all areas are fully glued together.
13. When set, add a layer of rubber cement along the bottom side edge of the shoe as well as the underside of a rubber band. Let dry until both surfaces are tacky.
14. Carefully press the rubber band to the sides of the shoe.

15. Off all the sneakers I made, this was the most fun! I started thinking of other color combinations when a little voice inside my head said, "Stop and post this tutorial!!!" 

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