Thursday, June 3, 2021

Simple and Chic: A Salute to Halston

"Good fashion must last for years," said the late, great Halston in an interview for the Boston Globe. Fifty years ago, one of the top figures in the world of high fashion was a tall handsome American known by his middle name.... HALSTON. Once dubbed "the premier fashion designer in America" by Newsweek, Roy Halston Frowick's simple yet dramatic style became synonymous with the 1970's luxury and the glamourous era of New York City's infamous club, Studio 54. It wasn't simply a question of sleek and chic clothing, Halston also became the celebrity designer thanks to his glamorous lifestyle and pop culture connections including the likes of  Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minelli and his entourage of supermodels who accompanied him everywhere. 

As we emerge from a pandemic where everything fashion has either come to a screeching halt, or has fallen down a pit of chaotic concepts, the simplicity of Halston's  high fashion seems befitting right now.  "I got rid of all the junk, all those extra details that don't work," he told Vogue magazine after a decade of mini-skirts and mod,  psychedelic patterns and clashes of neon color. Halston's clothes served as a cleansing of the palette. They were sexy and streamlined, allowing for the natural flow of the fabric to create its own shape.The "patterns" for his iconic gowns were not drafted on paper. Instead they were draped directly onto the body and adjusted until the look was pitch perfect. When finally translated into paper patterns they often resembled abstract art.

For this project, I first chose the looks I felt were indicative to that period and of course, those looks that worked in 1/6 for the doll. This required a LOT of thought, a LOT of experimentation and time. In the spirit of Halston, I faced challenges. There were limitations in terms what even the best, lightest weight of fabrics could and could not do over the tiny frame of the doll. I wanted to keep seams to a minimum, avoid darts and even cut out closures whenever possible. What I ultimately learned was that fabric is everything. The master only worked with luxury fabrics: silk jersey, silk charmeuse, and sometimes cashmere. Many of his dresses were also cut on the bias, resulting in a look that literally melted over the body. Simplicity is hard to do in a way that looks good. My recommendation to you is to use really nice fabric! 

The Toga

It was as if Halston was inspired by ancient Greece when he launched his famous "toga," an asymmetrical column dress with drapery flowing down from one shoulder. There are many variations of this dress. So that you do not have to think about placement of a closure, I suggest using a 2-way stretch jersey. That way, the dress can slip on and off the doll without need for hooks, snaps or zippers.

In creating these togas, it is most helpful to have some sort of foundation or under dress. This allows you to drape the actual toga over it and tack in place the folds.

This starts with a simple, jersey one shouldered dress cut from a thin rayon jersey. If you haven't already visited our post on the dartless sloper, consult the video tutorial on developing the jersey sloper HERE and for the asymmetrical adaptation, look HERE. The toga is cut from the same fabric, double the length of the doll with a ribbon tied tight at midpoint and looped into a sweet bow. After you place the bow on the shoulder, the fabric is partially draped over the bust and top of the back of the under dress and a few of the folds are tacked in place with a few stitches. Because this is stretch rayon jersey, the whole thing slips on and off without removing the toga.

Keeping with the spirit of Halton's philosophy which favored the practicality of working with separates, I began the cream white toga with a jersey one-shouldered top and matching tube skirt. 

1. My dress begins with a top and skirt. I will build the toga onto the top. Use the the jersey sloper to create both the top and the skirt.
2. Cut a rectangle from your fabric approximately 11" long by 12" wide (28x30cm). Round off the corners as shown.
3-4. Tie the left hand corner into a knot.
5. Keeping the knot on the right hand shoulder, wrap the rest of the fabric across the bust, under the arm and around the back of the body, placing the opposite corner just under the knot. Pin and then tack in place with a few stitches.
6. Arrange the folds so they fall gracefully from the knot and tack in place.
7. Do the same thing for the the back. 

Because everything has been made using 2-way stretch jersey, you can slip this dress on and off the doll without the need for closures. The skirt also slips off easily. From front to back, this is the look you are going for. Question: can you use a woven fabric instead of a stretch fabric? Yes, but you will need to plan for a closure to ensure the doll can get in and out of the dress. Also, be careful with the weight of the fabric. You want a "draped" look, but not a look that is "puffy." This dress is not lined so you can turn down the edges and stitch or (fabric) glue in place. Or, use a very sharp pair of scissors and leave the edges as is. Jersey will not fray.

The Sarong

There are also a few different variations of Halston's sarong. This one, I think is the prettiest. It is a simple tube with a cross sash incorporated at the top. The model slips into it and wraps the sash around the bust. Does it have a tendency to slip off the bust? Yes...just like the human scale version which also did not have structure or underwires (LOL). For Nadja's dress, I used a white satin devore fabric (woven not stretch). I did not put so much fullness in the front because, once again, I wanted to create a garment without a closure, but allowed the figure to slip in and out. I draped this pattern. Arriving at my goal was a real trial and error experience. So feel free to trace and tweak to fit your doll. 

The dress is essentially a tube with the front and back in one piece. As you can see, the body of the dress is a rectangle where the top is wider than the hem. For my FR doll, this tube is 6" (155cm) at the top, sloping down to 5" (128mm) at the bottom. For this doll, the length is 10 3/4" (27cm). Create a facing by cutting a strip of fabric that is the same width of the top of the dress by 1-1/4" in length. 
1. Because I am working with a woven (non-stretch) fabric and I want the dress to slide on and off the doll without a closure, I decided to cut the pattern on the bias. That means, you will place the pattern and its facing at a 45 degree angle to the straight of the grain as shown.
2. Right side to right side, attach and sew the facing along with the top of the dress.
3. Press. Be careful because the edges of a bias cut dress easily stretches. Press downwards with the iron as opposed to scrubbing from right to left.
4. Cut 2 more strips of fabric (always on the bias). Each strip should measure 1-1/4" (32mm) by 11" (320mm). Turn down the edges and sew (or fabric glue) in place. Then make a running stitch and gather one edge.

5. Pin in place, right side to right side on the dress' edge just under the facing. 
6. Stitch in place
7. It looks like this in the front.
8. Repeat on the other side. 
9. Turn down the seam allowance on the side of the facing and press. 
10. Fold the facing over the side sashes, then pin and stitch in place.
11. The top should look like this. Finish the dress by folding the dress over so that the wrong side is up and stitch down the center back, leaving a 1/2" (2cm) space near the top.
Again, this is another simple idea easily adaptable for my 16" Tonner girls.

There is another, even more simple way to create a sarong. I featured this in jersey in our little black dress post. You can do it in woven fabric as well.

This is a simple rectangle of striped satin with a snap sewn on both top points. 

The rectangle wraps around the back of the doll and from each arm pit, wraps around the back of her neck and snaps in place. 

The Kimono

Halston was known for his loungewear worn as eveningwear. This consisted of kimonos and caftans. For this project, I chose the kimono. I've posted a tutorial on the kimono before. This time around, I tweaked the pattern a bit (deepening the sleeves, for example), and cutting it out of silk charmeuse, a very luxurious satin fabric.

The original pattern is really in two parts. The top is gathered as is the bottom which is then joined at the waist. This controls the folds. But for the doll, a gathered waistline is too bulking to achieve such a slinky garment. So, I used the basic kimono pattern which I then belted and adjusted the folds. The secret to this garment is the falls better over the body than polyester.

It's a Wrap
Many of the garments for which Halston was best known included those with elements that wrapped around the body. There are different variations of this theme, but most iconic is this dress which is super easy to recreate. 

I've made it in two parts, although you could make in a single piece. For this dress you need to cut three strips of 2-way stretch fabric. The waistband measures 1-1/2" (4cm) long by 3-3/4" (9.5cm) wide. Cut one. You need to cut two strips for the straps which measure 10-3/4" (273mm) long by 1-1/2" (4cm) wide. 
1. For the waistband, fold the pattern in half, horizontally. Stitch on both sides and turn right side out.
2. Mark the front center point with a pin.
3. Using a running stitch, gather one side of each of the straps.
4. Attach each strap to either side of the waistband along a single edge.
5. Turn down the edges of both sides of the waistband, catching the straps and hand stitch together.
6. Sew on a closure (hook & eye or snap) to the ends of the waistband.
7. The straps go up and over each shoulder and crisscross in the back.
8. Wrap them around the front, again in the back, then tie them in the front.

9. Before you put the top on the doll, be sure to start by dressing her in a circle skirt. Wrap the top over the waistband of the skirt.

Here's the end result front to back. If you make this in two pieces, the top can also be worn with full palazzo pants!

\I did not have enough jersey to make this dress, so I used instead, a micro-pleated sheer chiffon. I was a bit conservative in the amount of fullness I built into the front of the dress because I wanted to avoid bulk. I also wanted a dress that could be slipped on and off without a closure. This dress has fullness in the front and hugs the back of the body, My graph paper is 1/4".  
The proportions look a bit strange from front to back but this is due to the fact there is much more fullness in the front. You will also need  1/8" ribbon that is 24" (60cm) long.
1. Trace the pattern directly onto the fabric. This will help in cutting out each piece. 
2. Wrong side up, layer the front on top of the back being careful to line it up at the curve of the waist, since the back slopes down from the sides of the front. Sew the side seams and press. 
3. Turn down the top edges of the dress. 
4. Turn the edges once again and pin and press. This will be the casing.
5. Before you stitch this down, find the center point of the ribbon and lay it in under the top fold. Pin.
6. Stitch down the casing, being careful to avoid the ribbon trapped underneath. 

7. Bring the straps over the shoulders and crisscross the back.
8. Bring the straps back to the front and crisscross.
9. Wrap around the front once again and tie in the back.

Here is my dress front to back for Barbie. Fit for a goddess.
Same dress, but this time cut from satin for my Tonner doll (1/4 scale).

The Catsuit
This is essentially, what is called a "unitard" (bodysuit and tights in one piece), borrowed by Halston and renamed a "catsuit." This very comfortable garment was quite popular at this time, largely because it could be dressed up or down and took the wearer from daywear directly into the clubs at night. Here is Tatjana wearing her catsuit only accessorized with jewelry inspired by Tiffany's designer Elsa Peretti and a pair of silver heels.

And here is Noor, completely in daywear. She wears her catsuit under a leather jacket, a swashbuckling wrap and a pair of boots.

To create the bodysuit, I started out with the pattern I developed for the jumpsuit. I cut up an old Tshirt which I pinned to the body, Then stretched out the excess fabric and traced around the body. Don't forget to turn the doll over and pin the fabric to the contours of the doll's back so that the end garment will hug her hips.
Make the adjustments so that the front to the back will line up when you put the pattern together. Where there is a difference, compromise....raise your point on one side, lower it on the other. When you place the pattern pieces together, they should line up at the shoulders, the sides and the inseam.

The Ultrasuede Connection

We cannot talk about Halston without mentioning a fabric innovation he was associated with and that is ultrasuede, a non-woven material with the feel of suede that was machine washable. Though he did not create the material himself, he used it in much of his daywear. Silhouettes were, in general kept simple...Shirtwaist dresses, jackets and skirts. 

As you can see, I spent a lot of time preparing this post right down to the jewelry. Elsa Peretti, he late model turned jewelry designer for Tiffany's, was one of Halston's best known collaborators. Known for her very sensual, sculptural designs, she created cuff bracelets that resembled liquid metal pouring over the wrist bones of the wearer, lima bean pendants, earrings and clutch bags, snake head belts and pendants shaped in the form of tiny vases that could actually hold a small cut flower. If you look at my images close up, you will notice a number of my dolls are wearing tiny accessories inspired by Peretti's work. Next up, I'll do a short post showing you how I made these. Stay tuned! 

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  1. And again you showed great outfits that my ladies would like to have. Thank you for knowing about cool solutions in creating clothes. I will certainly use a few.

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Happy to know this post might be of use to you and your lovely ladies! Big hugs. April

  2. Hello April, waw, what a post you gave us today.
    First of all, I'm not familiar with Halston's work. Thank you for introducing me to this couturier.
    What a coincidence, we released a post almost at the same time on designers. But I must admit that you are far more detailed with a lot of advice.
    So, I really want to try to make one of these dresses. Because in my article on the great couturiers, I had to add two other couturiers: Pierre Cardin and Versace. I really want to replace one of the two with Halston.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind worlds, Shasarignis. Unless you were in the U.S. during the 1970's, it is normal that you might not have heard of this designer. But especially for New Yorkers, Halston was all the rage. But you know, the dresses featured here are so simple to make, instead of replacing Cardin or Versace, maybe you just add Halston!

  3. I almost forgot, it's a real pleasure to read your new publications. I wait until the end of the day to settle down comfortably to enjoy your post. How long did it take you to make all your beautiful dresses? I look forward to reading your next post.

    1. You would think this post would have taken very little time to realize these looks but took me nearly about 3 weeks. That is because simplicity is difficult to do and do well! I was trying to come up with looks that would not only work for the doll but would be easy to make as well. I had to experiment with the fabric I had on hand. Instead of starting out with a pattern, I started from scratch and draped each pattern myself. I had to create a toile...sometimes 2 or 3 and make changes until it worked. Sometimes I was able to recreate a look but had a difficult time explaining what I did or....there was a problem trying to figure out how the doll could get in and out of the dress. I did 3 catsuits before I arrived at the correct pattern! Sewing took very little time. It was the process of creating a look that I could easily explain and was easy to construct that took the most amount of time. There was one more thing... even when the cut of the garment worked, if the fabric was too cheap, the outfit did not work. So the lesson I learned was...the more simple the garment, the more money you need to spend on the fabric!!! Again, thank you so much for your kind words, Shasarignis.

  4. OMgoodness. Colette is yanking on my sleeve demanding the Sarong and the white coat. Totally divine. I remember having similar to the stripe wrap dress, which I wore to gallery openings/shows when I wanted to look avant garde and still be comfortable. Wonderful post--and yes, calm down Colette, you will have to wait until the garden is finished! Hugs, Sandi

    1. LOL!!!!!! Colette sounds like my girls who constantly beg me for one thing or the other. I've tried hiding the phone, but somehow they find a way to hit Instagram!!! LOL!! How interesting you had a dress similar to the stripe wrap dress. I don't think I had any of these looks, but I do remember my mom coming home with a Halston ultrasuede suit! I actually bought a piece of ultrasuede that I used to make her anouther outfit. I had a tiny bit left over which I kept all these years and is what I used to make that coat for my doll. The Grecian gown was a look many of us had for senior prom, though. I had almost forgotten how popular Halston was until that docu-drama on Netflix came out. One of his star models has been all over the media recounting her memories. I don't know if you are familiar with the jewelry designer Elsa Peretti (still sold at Tiffany's). But I will warn you...get your clay out. Colette will have you making cuff bracelets and lima bean pendants after the next post. (I can't keep up with the demand!)

  5. What a fantastic post! I bet you spent a lot of time writting this, because you made lots of looks. I do like clothes that are simple yet effective, rather than pouffy dresses and things that are imposible to wear, so I really like the approach Halston had.
    I know there are a brand new series on Netflix about him, so I could probably check that out to learn more about him. Plus, I'll need something new to watch once I'm done with "Glow Up".
    Have a lovely weekend.

    1. Thank you, MC. I spent a LOT of time on this post. At first Ithought this would not take any time at all because the clothes are so simple and I was already familiar with this designer's work. But, as usual, creating 1/6 scale versions of his garments taught me a lot about Halston and the methods of his design process. add a challenge...I simplified things even more so that those who come to my blog with little or no experience sewing, could easily make any of these dresses. From time to time, it is a good thing to put up simple ideas for creating fashion.

  6. Przepiękne stroje! Czasami wydaje mi się, że nie możesz nas już niczym zaskoczyć a tu, proszę - kolejne wspaniałe kreacje! Zdaję sobie sprawę, że materiał łatwiej ułożyć i drapować na kobiecej sylwetce, ale i na Twoich lalkach ubrania wyglądają cudownie i lekko!
    Masz wiele pomysłów i jesteś bardzo cierpliwa w tworzeniu ubrań a kreacje Twoich lalek są naprawdę fascynujące!
    Serdecznie Cię pozdrawiam ♥

    1. Olla wrote: Beautiful costumes! Sometimes it seems to me that you cannot surprise us with anything and here, please - another great creations! I realize that the fabric is easier to arrange and drape on a female figure, but also on your dolls, clothes look wonderful and light!
      You have many ideas and you are very patient in creating clothes and the creations of your dolls are really fascinating!
      I cordially greet you ♥

      Thank you so much, Olla. Coming from you, that really means something. The ideas have been long in coming over this past year. But hopefully with the end of the pandemic on the horizon, things will open up and future inspirations will start to flow again. In the meantime, this designer's work was a good way to restart my creative process again. Big hugs, April.

  7. You have always so creative and amazing ideas for creating new outfits for your dolls. I think this is really difficult to find way to create something new based only on photos of human fashion creations. They are perfect! Congratulations! And thank you for your tutorials! <3 Hugs!

  8. Thank you so much for your lovely words, Aya. Yes indeed, it is a challenge to create something simply by looking at a photograph. I cannot see how the original garment was constructed and I cannot see the back views so there is much left to imagine. But even if it is not a line for line copy, the result is still quite thrilling to see. Happy you enjoyed this post.

  9. Great timing for this topic. I just finished watching a movie on Netflix about Halston.

    1. Ha ha was thanks to that movie I had the idea to do this post! I had forgotten about that era of 1970's fashion. This was a pleasure to recreate.

  10. Wonderful post April! Sorry for the late comment, I'm catching up after my break. :) These designs are exactly what I like, simple, chic. The striped sarong I would love to wear myself, and the catsuit reminds me of one I wore in the nineties, when I could still pull that off hahaha. Mine had long sleeves and a turtle neck collar. Your mini versions are GORGEOUS!!! I love the red catsuit with red jacket over it, the sarongs, the backless gown, ... all of it. Well done, as always! Hugs!

  11. Thank you so much Linda. I think we all love these fashions because they are the kind of clothes we can easily see ourselves wearing, let alone the dolls! I had forgotten about Halston until the Netflix movie. Once I took a look back at his most memorable dresses, all of the memories came back. There is even a scene in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" when Audrey Hepburn's character is wearing what looks to be a white Halston toga gown. I had forgotten about the catsuits. I remember seeing the models all wearing them in the beginning of the 1980's. And then I recalled that most of his clothes were accessorized with the Elsa Peretti jewelry that I loved so much. So this and the following post were both labors of love for me. Big hugs.


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