Saturday, August 29, 2020

Shrug It Off!

While we wait to see what direction fashion will eventually take, I thought I'd go the accessories route and update the look of a few' outfits with the help of a shrug. A shrug is like a micro jacket, originally designed to cover only the shoulders and arms, it was worn over a fancy nightgown as a woman received guests in her bedroom. But since the 1930's when this was immensely popular, this simple little garment has come a long way as a fashion accessory. There are shrugs for day and shrugs for eveningwear. It can be as fancy or as understated as your the velvet sheath with matching shrug pictured below.

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For my dolls, I have a super simple method for making shrug. It's as easy as taking a rectangular piece of fabric and creating a horizontal tube leaving the end and the middle open. 
For Sybille, a Fashion Royalty doll, I cut a piece of stretch velvet that is 1-1/2" (4cm) long by the length of her outstretched arms--which is 10" (25cm) wide. Fold in half with the wrong side facing you and stitch, leaving the area from shoulder to shoulder free. Turn right side out and put the doll's arms through each end of the tube. Voila!

While stretch fabric is ideally suited for this, you can also use woven fabric.
Inspired by an outfit from the designer Ronk (Spring/Summer 2020), I made this outfit from a piece of my dad's worn out plaid pajama top. The rectangle here is 2-1/2" (7cm) long by 10" (25cm) wide. I hemmed each end before creating my tube. Since Gloria, an SIS Barbie, doesn't have a body where the hands can be removed, my tube had to be a little wider at the ends. However, you can create a "cuff" of sorts by making a 1/2" (1cm) stitch perpendicular to the hem near the doll's wrist. Fold over and close with a snap. Before securing the snap to each sleeve, check to make sure her hands can pass through the end.

Now...hold that thought and let's make a very fancy version of this.
This is exactly the same shrug as the first two, but this time, it has been embellished!

I started out with this dress inspired by British designer, J. Mendel (S/S2020). It's indigo blue silk made to ressemble jeans. The dress is simple: fitted, strapless bodice over a circle skirt. It is embroidered with beaded motifs cut from swatch of embroidered lace. To make this I began with a foundation....a tube cut from silver tulle. The tulle stretches. So it will be just like working with a stretch fabric.
1. Make a tube as described at the top of this page. Here, I've folded my rectangle horizontally, stitched it up being careful to leave the middle (from shoulder to shoulder) free, as well as the ends open. 
2. When cutting this out you want to use the direction of the tulle that stretches for the horizontal direction of your shrug. Like that it will lay over the back of the neck smoothly and it will facilitate getting the doll's arms in and out of the garment.
3. Turn to the back. As you have noticed with the previous shrugs, the back swings away from the body. In this case, I want to control that by removing the excess. I pin this down from each shoulder point and hand stitch in place. 

4. Now, the real work begins. You can do whatever you want. What I've done is to cut small motifs from a fancy piece of beaded lace, then pin it in place over my shrug foundation. 
5. Continue adding more pieces of lace or....add a few beads or sequins to fill the bare spots or to cover the stitches.
6. Work in the round. That is to say, keep turning the shrug around to check for balance. 
7. And don't forget to think about the back! Here, I've cut a bit of embroidered lace from another swatch. The fun part for me was actually assembling this as if it were a collage of sorts. I used the edge of a piece a lace to the edges of my shrug and the hems of my sleeves.

And Voila!! Here's Denise showing off the front, side and back.... My shrug is like a piece of jewelry adding to the total look!

Now, let's take this back to the lingerie roots. Awhile back, I did a post on slip dresses. All by themselves they are quite lovely. But Kym wanted a little top for her dress. So I took the same 1-1/2" navy lace trim I used for the dress, and made a matching shrug.
You could keep this quite simple, but Kym wanted something a bit fancier.... something with ruffles. 
1. Technically, this is the same tube as before....except I am making this right on the doll. The width of the shrug is the same as the doll with her arms stretched straight out. 
2. Fold the lace over her arms, front over back and hand stitch.
3. The back will flare out at the shoulders. 
4. Create a dart from the hem upwards to get ride of the excess on both sides of the back at the shoulder joint.
5. The front should look like this. 
6. You could really stop here if you wanted something understated and discreet! But Kym insisted on something fancier!
7. Take a separate length of trim and gather enough to fit from the two front shoulder points.
8. Pin in place and adjust as needed. Cut and gather a little more lace to attach to the hem of the sleeves.

If you look up shrugs on Pinterest, there is also something else that appears. Personally I see these as glorified shawls with the exception that they have a tad bit of structure. But since they are easy to make and serves the same purpose as the classic shrug, I have included them here. 

In keeping with the lingerie look, here's another slip dress I made for Janice, a Model Muse Barbie. Janice wanted something pretty and frilly so I pulled out the a length of black lace trim. 

This is simply a piece of lace with a running stitch down the middle and gathered into ruffles. Put this on the doll and adjust the ruffles so that her shrug wraps around her and meets at center front. Take a length of ribbon which is the length of the ruffle plus enough extra to tie into a bow in the front and stitch it over the center of the gathers.

This idea of a ruffle can be exploited into something quite creative and grandiose like Laetia's fluffy, lime green "shrug."

This, again, starts out as a tube made from a rectangle of polyester organza. The edges have been melted with a flame. After turning the tube right side out, I keep the seam in the middle, then gather along that line. Adjust so that it wraps around the doll. You can use a ribbon, or, in this case, a strip of organza that is stitched down over the gathers in the middle and tie in the front.

My preference, however, remains with something more discreet. A wispy little tulle shrug that discretely adds a touch of glamour over the shoulders of a little black dress.

1. Start off with a rectangle of tulle, organza, chiffon or the sheer fabric of your choice. The rectangle should be a little longer than its width. For example, this one here is 7" wide and 8" long. If you want less gathers you can reduce the length. Pay attention to the direction of the stretch. I found that, in this case, you don't want this garment to stretch horizontally because it tends to do funny things over the shoulders when you put it on the doll. Make gathering stitches along each side of this rectangle.
2. Gather the edges tightly.
3. Stabilize the gathers by sewing and wrapping each edge with a few more stitches.
4. Take a 1" (2cm) piece of polyester ribbon and melt the edges. Fold in half over each edge and stitch down. I did this to keep things as bulk free as possible. You can now add a snap or a hook and eye.
5. For the embellishment, you can use anything you want...a ribbon, rhinestone, a pouf of tulle or, in the case of of the silk roses we made on our last project! 
Anna's best friend, Veronique opted for the shrug with the satin ribbon!

I'll close with one last variation. A reversible, day to night shawl-shrug. Denim on one side, silk brocade on the other!

Inspired by a Haider Ackermann jacket with a big draped collar I made a few years ago, I decided to make a shawl-shrug that would have a similar finished look, but could be removed. I chose this fitted denim jacket over a matching silk flared skirt I found in Margot's closet.

1. The rectangle should be wider than the doll's shoulders because you want to add tucks and twists. I chose to line this garment with a contrasting silk brocade that peaks through at the edges. Right side to right side with the wrong side facing you, stitch the two fabrics together, leaving an opening so that you can turn it right side out.
2. Turn right side out. Stitch the opening and press flat.
3. For each side, create a series of soft pleats but stagger them so that it will lay fairly flat. 
4. Stitch the pleats together using a slip stitch so that they remain as invisible as possible. 
5. Lay the top over the bottom in the front and pin.
6. With the front pinned in place, create a series of soft pleats and tucks until the shawl fits the doll. 
7. Again, tack each tuck and pleat, being careful that the stitches remain out of sight.
8. Go back to the front and after determining exactly how the front edges will overlap each other, place a small pin to indicate where you need to sew a snap or hook and eye.
9. When it's all done, it should look almost effortless.

Remember, I said I wanted this shawl-shrug to be reversible! After all, that's why I chose a silk brocade for the reverse side. 
Turn the shawl, to the reverse side. Turn upside down and plan the over lap of the front edges. Plan where you will sew the hook and eye. Try to position everything so that the closure you have for each side does not show. Here, Denise shows the same shawl-shrug over a little beige silk slip-dress.

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  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Dlubaniny. Happy you enjoyed this post. Big hugs.

  2. I love this! The first one seems super easy to do. This could be a great option for someone who's starting and doesn't know how to sew sleeves. The second one seems pretty easy aswell. I'm glad that you pointed out the difficulty of sometimes dressing non articulated dolls, as they might not be able to fit into very tight outfits.

    Hope you have a great week ahead.

    1. Thank you MC. Given the range of my followers' sewing abilities, I think it is a good idea to come up with super easy projects for those who are just coming into this hobby. I know that people, in general, love looking at the more complicated styles, but sometimes the simplest of garments can make a big fashion statement. As far as the hands are concerned.. in the beginning when I made the basic patterns (slopers), they were created on Barbies. Since they can't flex their hands, the sleeve sloper could only be as narrow as the width of their hands. I'm really happy that the FR dolls' hands can be removed because I can now make skinny sleeves, but I don't want to forget about my Barbies, all but one Tonner, my MyScene dolls and of course all of you who have MH dolls.

  3. Waw ... i am so impress with your new idea, and how it can change a dress. Now we have to try it.

    1. Thank you so much Shasarignis. I have been using the most basic version of this for quite some time. But for this project, I was quite amazed how this tiny little accessory could totally transform a garment. Have fun. Gros bisous.

  4. Waw ... i am so impress with your new idea, and how it can change a dress. Now we have to try it. 🤩

  5. Thank you, Linda, for your kind words. I keep thinking this should be more complicated, but no. Sometimes the simplest things make the biggest impact! Glad you enjoyed this post.

  6. These are so interesting. I love all the detail in the blue lace...which must have taken a bit of patience. I think accessories are always a great way to 'jazz' up an outfit. This was completely fascinating, and I know I pinned a bunch...thanks, Sandi

    1. I apologize for taking so long to respond. Thank you for your kind words. As you know, I've been in a fashion desert for awhile and it is taking every ounce of my imagination to come up with new ideas for new posts. So I've gone back to my fashionista roots, a time when I had little money but still found lots of ways to jazz up my outfits.

  7. Your shrugs are beautiful and I love that they can either be really casual or really fancy. I love the embellished one and the blue lace one too. Such creativity!

    1. Thank you so much Phyllis. Considering how simple this little garment is, I myself was quite surprised to see how dainty and pretty they all turned out!

  8. As always, you amaze me with your creativity, April. I love your work. My number one is definitely blue beaded shrug for Denise! Just gorgeous!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Kamelia. You are so creative and produce such beautiful work yourself. So your lovely comment means a lot to me.

  9. Wooow, I'm in love with this first blue dress! I love it! You are sooo talented!

    1. Thank you so much Aya. I have been struggling to find new ideas throughout this pandemic. So reaching back and coming up with this little garment proved to be little ray of sunshine for me. The crazy thing is.. these are so quick and easy to make!


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