Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Notorious LBD

After all of the fancy clothes I've made over the years, you're probably looking at this my opening photo wondering....what happened? Why is she going backwards? There is a rather "special" fashion month taking place right now. So far the girls are not impressed. What we can say right now is that times have changed. Seriously impacted by the pandemic, fashion professionals are noticing a seismic shift in wardrobe needs and desires. It appears that as a society, we are shifting away from the fancy gowns, the suits and other complicated gear in favor of simplicity and comfort. Consequently the challenge now is figuring out where to go from here.  So we thought it was the perfect time to pause and go back to basics with.....the eternal, the iconic, the timeless.....little black dress (LBD). 
Mattel's Barbie Basics: Little Black Dress Collection 001

Though I've made an abundance of black dresses for my ladies, at this point in time, I wanted to return to the simplest, most basic dress. Inspired by the original Barbie Model Muse Little Black Dress dolls, it remains the core value of my collection and a marker of where many of our collections began. Consider this as a way to "cleanse the palette" while we wait on the new "main dish." Personally, I like to put my girls in these dresses while they await their next modeling assignment or in between seasons while I am figuring out how to redress them. 

So what exactly is a "little black dress" and why is it so special? Simply put, the little black dress serves as a sort of canvas for everything that goes on top from coats, jackets to belts, jewelry and shawls. By itself, it is nothing all that special. But on the other hand, we can create our own personal fashion by layering on a mix and match of things we already have on hand. And while you can make any of these basic dresses in the color or print of your choice, I've stuck with black because--as I've discovered in my own social life-- it is a chic color that goes anywhere, everywhere, all the time.

Of course, for this project, I was inspired by my Barbie's original dresses. Chic, simple and very well made, these are some of my favorites. I have examined them for hours on end trying to figure out exactly why I love them so. One thing I've noticed was how simply they are constructed. Where possible, the shoulder seam has been eliminated which means less bulk and a better fit at an crucial spot. Also, it condenses everything into a single pattern piece which makes each dress, faster to put together.

For this project you will need a set of jersey knit slopers and some 2-way stretch jersey fabric. For the tutorial on how to make the knit sloper for you doll, you can look HERE or see the video HERE. The concept is pretty simple. We take the basic slopers and align them along the shoulder. You can change the neckline to anything you want. Or even add a sleeve if you choose.

1. Take the front sloper and trace a mirror image on the other side of the CF line to create full front sloper. At this point, you can also elongate the sloper to create the desired dress length. Make a second back sloper.

2. Line up the 2 back slopers at the shoulder line of the front. If you want to change the neckline, this is a good time to do so and by doing it on the flat, this will assure the front will match up with the back.

3. For my pattern, I cut deep armholes around the shoulders into a "halter neck" effect. Add seam allowance. Cut out your pattern from a single layer of jersey. 

4. Turn down the edges along the armholes and neckline and stitch or fabric glue.

This is the dress this pattern create. But if I stick to the original sloper and then add a sleeve, this is the result:

The set in sleeve has a more classic, structured look. But we can also make a dress with a dolman sleeve where the shoulder line is softer and we remain with a single pattern piece.

1. Again, we begin with the basic slopers aligned along the shoulder line. Take the sleeve sloper and align it so that the center line follows the line and direction of the shoulder line.
2. Here, I've used a ruler to show how the sleeve follows the line of the bodice shoulder line.
3. Underneath the armhole, make a curve line (shown in red here) to join the sleeve to both the front and back bodice slopers.

4. Cut the dress out in fabric. Turn under the neckline as well as the hems of both sleeves.
5. Fold over the dress and sew.
6. This pattern yields this dress.

We can also do other things with the sloper such as incorporate shirring on one side. In fact, this is one of my favorite Barbie LBD dresses!
1. This starts with the full front sloper. 
2. Mark one side of the waist with a dot. And on the other side, mark with dots where you want to incorporate fabric that will be shirred back in place. 
3. Cut this pattern piece out and slash.
4. Trace the external edges to create your pattern. But make marks as to where the gathers will be. That corresponds to the area on one side where you have slashed.

5. Add seam allowance. Be sure to transfer the gathering marks on the front sloper so you know exactly the area to be shirred. 
6. Finish the neckline and armhole edges. Fold the dress over at the shoulder and pin the sides in place. The one side will fit perfectly, the other side will need to be gathered in between the marks you made so that it fits perfectly with the back of the dress.
All by itself, this dress makes for a lovely little black dress for cocktail wear! Does the little black dress always have to be cut close to the body? I decided I'd loosen things up a bit for the girls by making a tent dress. You really don't need a jersey for this, but a soft jersey will make the dress swing over the body just right!

Same concept, different silhouette. I've added sleeves. You can leave them out! If this is all too complicated for you, there are simpler options. 

This is as easy as making a T-shirt and it has no back closure. It works only if you are working with a quality jersey and if the neckline is wide enough for the doll's body to wiggle through the neckline!
I made this using the basic full front sloper, except that I raised the shoulder line so that it is horizontal (not slanted). The front and the back slopers are equal. The neckline is cut deep enough in the front and the back. After cutting it out, all you need to do is to turn down the edges and slide it right on the doll!

And here's the easiest of easy that doesn't even need a pattern. The sarong!

This is a rectangle of jersey fabric measuring roughly 8 1/2" wide by 5 1/2" long. The rectangle is wrapped from the back, under the arms and across the body, ending up at the back of the neck. I added a snap on each of the upper corners. All you need from there is a belt!

There is one drawback to 1-piece patterns. Their odd shapes take up a lot of space on the fabric which could result in a bit of waste. So I highly recommend cutting out several at a time. Play around with the layout of the pattern pieces on the fabric. What I've done here was to play around with the layout, then chalk the patterns down directly on the fabric. Yes, the lines look fuzzy, but you should look at the straight line created by the chalk at the edge of the paper pattern and cut along that line. This is not a necessary step, but I did this because the jersey often moves around if the paper pattern is simply pinned to it.

So now that we have our little black dresses....let the show begin! Let that inner stylist take over.  Have fun by mixing and matching other pieces in your dolls' wardrobes along with  all the boots, shoes, hats and jewelry you've been collecting! To get you started, here are a few ideas!

Note: For this post, I did not include the strapless dress or 1-shouldered dress. For the tutorial on how to create those from the jersey knit sloper as well as others that make for really nice little black dresses, be sure to check out:

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  1. Oszałamiająco piękne Kreacje! Nie sposób się nie zachwycić takimi fasonami, zestawieniami kolorów i tkanin! Jesteś wielce kreatywna i masz niesamowitą wyobraźnię! Jestem zachwycona tym znanym, ale jakże wspaniałym, projektem: podstawowa, czarna, prosta sukienka i fantastyczne dodatki!
    Dziękuję za wykroje, będą na pewno pomocne :-)
    Wspaniały temat przewodni!
    Pozdrawiam Cię serdecznie ♥

    1. Olla wrote:
      Stunningly Beautiful Creations! It is impossible not to be delighted with such cuts, color combinations and fabrics! You are highly creative and have an amazing imagination! I am delighted with this famous, but still wonderful, design: basic, black, simple dress and fantastic accessories!
      Thank you for the patterns, they will be helpful for sure :-)
      A great theme!

      Thank you so much Olla. Sometimes it is the most simple lines and silhouettes that pack the biggest punch. I discovered the many colors of black when I moved to Paris. Given all that is going in the world, I thought I'd take a brake from all the usual fashion trappings, and focus on just the basics which are always in style and always beautiful. Happy you enjoyed this post. Big hugs.

  2. The little black dress is something everyone should have, and your dolls have all the perfect ones! The fashion show is fabulous, and shows the versatility so well! Thank you for sharing the tutorials and the fashions, it was a treat!

    1. Thank you so much Linda. At a time when I was really in the thick of things and attended many functions where women wore very expensive designer clothes, my little black dress allowed me to fit in perfectly. And so with very little, I discovered I really had an entire wardrobe when dolled up with fancy scarves, shawls, and assorted accessories. Very happy you enjoyed this particular journey.

  3. Wow, love the cuts of all your dresses, but the accessories are Way WOW! hugs, Sandi

    1. Thank you sooo much Sandi. To be honest...I was just getting started... I could have put in more patterns and more styled dresses... But I wanted to post something before the end of the month (LOL!!!) And so we have another fun way to play with our dolls all day long!!! Happy you enjoyed this. Big hugs.

  4. Great dresses. The girls look fantastic.

    1. Thank you so much Dlubaniny. Well, the girls were going to look good no matter what, but I am happy they do look this good in just a simple black dress. It's also fun to see how many different looks I can create just by starting out with such a simple dress too!

  5. Bonjour April, merci de nous faire un rappel de la petite robe noire. Moi aussi j’en ai quelques unes dans ma collection, et en terme de création, j’en ai créé qu’une seule je crois. Peut-être que, si l’occasion se présente, j’en ferai une autre.
    Je ne sais pas si tu as vu la collection de Moshino printemps 2021, le défilé de mode est fait avec des poupées animées comme des marionnettes. Je trouve ce défilé de mode génial. Mais je me demande si les modèles miniature peuvent être achetés par nous les collectionneurs.
    J’ai aussi hâte de voir comment ce défilé de mode peut t’inspirer dans ta créativité.

    1. Hello April, thank you for reminding us of the little black dress. I also have a few in my collection, and in terms of creation, I only created one I think. Maybe, if the opportunity presents itself, I will make another one.
      I don't know if you've seen Moshino's spring 2021 collection, the fashion show is made with dolls that are animated like puppets. I think this fashion show is awesome. But I wonder if the miniature models can be purchased by us collectors.
      I also can't wait to see how this fashion show can inspire you in your creativity.

      Thank you so much for your kind and supportive words Shasarignis. When in doubt, the little black dress comes to the rescue. And this is particularly the case right now during this pandemic where people (and their dolls) have more simple tastes. The nice thing is, whenever we do come out of this pandemic, the litle black dress will still be there and we can add as many fanciful accessories as we like. But this project provided me the opportunity to make more black dresses for my Fashion Royalty dolls. (The Barbies are tired of them borrowing their dresses!). As far as the Moschino show is concerned...... I laughed out loud when I saw your comment because a friend sent me photos yesterday and I had intended to post them as a big surprise. (They will be up shortly.) I have a feeling we will not be able to purchased those dolls. They may be auctioned off later as a fundraiser or maintained in the archives of the fashion houses for future exhibitions. But rest assured, I will be looking very closely at what I can draw from that collection...especially since it was presented on fashion dolls!

  6. Wonderful! I love your creativity. Dresses are beautiful but when you add accessories - they are just perfect. I love the set with red elements. And the one with silver ornament on the front. Your dolls have the best wardrobe ever. :)


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