Monday, March 19, 2018

Neck & Neck

Prior to joining our crew in Milan, I wanted to pause for another tutorial on neckline treatments. For a long time, there hasn't been anything special (aside from one shouldered gowns) with necklines. Increasingly however, I'm beginning to see dresses and tops sporting a variety of necklines. What really prompted me to do this project was the sublime gown by Balmain worn on the Oscar red carpet by the iconic actress, Jane Fonda.

This dress is really super simple....a body grazing sheath with a two eye-popping details: square shoulders and a sharply cut neckline. Before we get to that dress, let's first look at how different necklines are designed into a garment.

We must go back to our basic slopers. Whatever happens in the front will impact the back in most cases.
Square Neckline.
1. Place the front and back slopers end to end at the shoulders.
2. Make a mark at the mid point of the shoulder line, another on the center front (as far down as you want) and another on the center back (as far down as you want). Make a horizontal line across the bodice from the mark on the center front and the center back Those lines should run perpendicular to those vertical lines. Draw a diagonal line to join the first two lines as shown in diagram #2.
3. The pattern will look like this.
4. Add seam allowance.

Sweetheart Neckline
5. This is pretty much the same method. It begins by placing a mark roughly 1" (2cm) down from the neck on the shoulder and another as far down the center front line as you want. Draw another line perpendicular to the shoulder as far down as you would like, and then a curved line from that point to the mark on the center front.
6. Place the back sloper end to end along the shoulder of the front sloper. Draw a horizontal line on the center back (where you made a mark). Starting where the line falls on the shoulder from the front sloper, continue that line until it intercepts with the horizontal line extending out from the center back.

Bateau neckline
It is hardly noticeable. But actually, this is a wide neckline with just the right amount of rise in the front over the throat and a graceful dip at the nape of the neck in the back.
7. Mark the mid-point on the shoulder line of both the front and back slopers. On the front sloper, make a mark that is 1/8" (3mm) above the center front point at the neck. Draw a new line
8. On the back sloper, make a mark that is 1/8" (3mm) down from the neck on the center back and draw a new line.
9. Trace off. Then add seam allowance to complete the pattern.

Finishing Touches: Fold and sew (or glue)
Now that you know how to do necklines, how do you finish them?  A full, edge to edge lining is  ideal, but not always practical. Moreover, depending on the style, not all clothes need to be lined. So you have two other options. If the lines are simple and the fabric isn't too complicated, you can simply turn the edge down and stitch or (fabric) glue down and iron. Tip: Join the garment together at the shoulders. Press, then turn and stitch or glue while the garment is flat. Then sew the sides and complete the garment.

Finishing touches: Facings
I hesitate to recommend facings because often, they add bulk around the neckline. But if you don't want to line the outfit and the design is such that you cannot simply fold and stitch (which is the case of our sweetheart along with more complex necklines), then a facing will suffice.

 1. Facings are created by tracing off the top part of the pattern while avoiding darts. In diagram one, the red dotted line indicates the part of the original pattern I will use to create the facing for this bodice. Make sure the length at the side seams are equal from front to back.
2. Here's the pattern for the facing.
3. When you have a pattern with a more involved design--like the sweetheart neckline pictured here--you should mark the design directly onto the wrong side of the fabric because you really must respect the sewing lines. Sew the facing along the shoulder line only. Sew the garment along the shoulder line only. Press the shoulder seams flat. Place right side of the facing to the right side of the garment and pin. Then carefully sew the two elements together.
4. Very carefully clip around the neckline. Turn right side out.
5. Press well, one section at a time.
6. Baste or pin along the neckline edge.
7. Make tiny cuts around the armholes of both the facing and that of the garment. Press each inwards.
8. Pin the edges of the armhole facing together with those of the garment.
9. Using a single thread (needle and thread) sew the two together. Press well.

10. Once you have finished the neckline and armhole edges, fold the garment down and stitch the sides (and back).

When you have finished, you will have a neckline that is shaped like the top of a heart over the bustline and is square in the back. This was a very popular look in the 1940's, especially coupled with puffy "leg of muffin" short sleeves! Sometimes over the years, it tends to fall out of favor. But you can modify it to serve your needs. For the gorgeous velvet dress below, designed by New York designer, Brandon Maxwell and worn by Viola Davis for this year's Golden Globes, a lot of you (and me) fell in love with the look.
Creating what appears starts out as a "slip dress" in 1/6 scale, particularly in velvet, is quite a challenge. So I made a modified version of the "sweetheart" neckline. And since stretch velvet doesn't fray, I didn't need to do anything special to finish the edges. Note: only seam allowance has been added to the shoulders and the sides. There is enough stretch in the fabric for the doll to slip into the dress without the need of a back opening. So the dress is only made of two pattern pieces!
I started with the (dartless) knit sloper. Then modified it by redrawing the neckline using the same "heart shaped" design, but with slim "straps" over the shoulders.

Behind the Design: That Balmain Dress
Okay, I came here to find out how to make THAT dress......

Even though Jane Fonda's dress has a bit of a train in the back, I decided to keep the basic dress as a long sheath. If you really want, you can add a wedge of jersey (in the same color) into the center back just under the knee. But for me, the drama of this dress is really the power shoulders and the dramatic neckline.
1. This is one of those rare occasions where the design of the front doesn't impact the back. That is because the dress is close to the back of her nape in the back and drops down and wide in sharp points in the front. So, I begin with the zig zag design in the front. Be careful not to draw the zig zag too small or the design won't be too visible when you have finished.
2. The back sloper remains unchanged.
3. Because this dress has square power shoulders, you must lift and square off the original shoulder line. Line up the front and back slopers so that the shoulder points align as shown.
4. The top of the shoulders run horizontal (and perpendicular to the rest of the sloper. Extend the curve of the armhole to meet the top of the shoulder.
5. Take the redesigned front and overlap it with the back along the center lines. Note the difference in height. Raise the front and lower the back so that both slopers are equal in length at the shoulder line.
6. Redraw the pattern.

7. Line up the front and back bodice patterns along the new shoulder line. We cannot have the armhole come to a point, so make a mark about 1/8" (3mm) from the widest point on the shoulder.
8. Make a mark 1/8" away from the bottom of the armhole on both the front and back pattern. Draw a line from that point back down to the waist of the pattern. Now redraw the armhole
9. Because these are padded shoulders and we have lifted the shoulder line, we must lift the cap of the sleeve. Whatever the amount your shoulders were lifted--1/2" (1 cm) in this case, you add to the top of the sleeve. The best way to do this is by tracing off the original pattern. Then sliding the sloper 1/2 along the center line and tracing off part of the cap. Redraw to that the lines blend.

Here is my finished pattern. Unless your fabric has a lot of body, you will need to make and sew in shoulder pads. You can find them HERE.

Well, the girls are waiting for us in Milan to show us their faves from the Italians' Fashion Week. We'll see you all there in a few!!!

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Oscar Buzz '18

Understandably, the Oscars red carpet remains a favorite event among my girls. The glitter the glamour and the prospect of parading around in some of the most gorgeous gowns...what more could a girl (and guy) want?!! Our takeaway from looking at the red carpet this time around: there is a more relaxed approached to eveningwear. A return to elegance is what we've noticed.

We saw this dress by Giambattista Valli--worn by Zendeya--during the Spring/Summer '18 edition of Paris Couture week. We felt the original dress was absolutely sumptuous. The only thing is that there is so much fabric, it can overcome a doll's body rather quickly. For that reason, I decided to show a flash of leg for the 1/6 replica. This version. worn by China. was made as a two piece dress. The top is simply a slightly oversized smocked top with one sleeve, worn over a gathered skirt. Each piece is gathered into a ribbon which helps keep the dress slim around the waist.

It is rare to see a stand-out outfit amongst the men in attendance. So when I saw Olympic figure skater, Adam Rippon in this very unusual tuxedo, it caught my eye. Yes, it was quite controversial--some even calling it S&M, bondage.... And as I was busy making the harness, it even had a sinister military air to it. But at the end of the day, it was an intriguing outfit that I had a fun time putting together. And Sean, pictured here, was pretty happy to get a red carpet outfit!

Here's another example of a look that conjured many emotions. When Taraji P. Henderson walked onto the red carpet, this instantly caught my attention. Very daring, it really doesn't reveal  as much flesh as one would think. Vera Wang used a lot of flesh tone fabric underneath the sheer black to give the impression of nudity. Again, I did this dress in two parts. The skirt is a no-brainer, but the top gave me a bit of a challenge because of the differences in body shapes. Taraji is nice and curvy while Janice is skinny with a tiny bustline! After struggling with the bodice, I finally settled on cutting the top in a single piece (suspended from a wire necklace and sewn into a ribbon waistband) and slitting it up the center!

It's all about illusion! When replicating a look, what is important is to find a 1/6 solution that resembles the finished full figure dress. Gal Godet's dress by Maison Givenchy, is an art deco maze of sequins and beads. The temptation is to replicate it using the same fabric. However, for the Veronica's dress, I used a dark silver stretch lame. Over the top I used a little iron on rhinestones, but for the "sequinned fringe" I slashed strips of the same lame into fringe and stitched four rows onto the basic slip dress.

There were a few of these super simple gowns on the red carpet, like the Gabriela Hearst gown worn by actress Danai Guirira. The secret to making such a simple gown, extraordinary lies in the choice of fabric! The pattern is simple: a strapless sheath with a train gathered into the back. The fabric is sheer luxury: peach silk satin. Grace, our model, also suggests the addition of "regal" accessories: white opera length gloves and lots of pearls!!!

 Mary J. Blige certainly has added a special touch to the red carpet this season. Again, this Versace dress is something we see as easy elegance. Easy to wear, easier to make! I started out with silver stretch lame (minidress) over which I wrapped a white sarong skirt. The small epaulets are pleated silk stitched to the neckline.

Sandra Bullock's dress by Louis Vuitton is one of those dresses that looked so comfortable, so gold poured over a simple black Grecian gown. Of course, the look relies on this particular fabric. I didn't have that fabric, but I did have black jersey and the materials to do a little foiling! This is actually a simple tent dress pattern I pulled up to one side and pinned!

I almost didn't replicate Chadwick Boseman's Givenchy suit, worn here by Jamal. But the doll begged me and pointed out how I've been neglecting the Ken dolls in the house. And so....with the film "Black Panther" so much in the headlines, I couldn't say no to making him such a regal suit. All three pieces are basics: shirt, pants and straight coat. I've simply added silver embroidered trim around the shoulders.

Hubert de Givenchy (1982) Photo: Luc Castel. Captured from
We're in the midst of Fashion Month. Our girls are busy on the ground in Milan and Paris. However, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of a fashion giant. Mr. Hubert de GIVENCHY passed away Sunday. For those of you who don't know him.....he was the Haute Couturier who dressed Audrey Hepburn in many of her films, most notably: "Breakfast at Tiffany's" as well as Jackie Kennedy, Princess Grace Kelly and many others. I had the honor of meeting Mr. Givenchy on several occasions in Paris. I wrote numerous articles on him and his fashions and worked in collaboration with him for a couple of school projects. Coming soon, I will make a special tribute to the man and his beautiful body of work.

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Dolls' Eye View: London Fall/Winter '18 Trends

The chaos continues. All of the unrest, the socio-economic uncertainty, political mayhem seems to have leached into the design community. Again, much of what we saw ran the gamut of safe, very conservative garments to overly designed costumes....a sort of throwing everything to the wind. The girls decided not to stay very long here. But before they left, we had an exercise in how to be inspired by the spirit or a detail of a garment.

Hyde & Seek
This is a story about leather which the girls just love. Instead of coats and jackets, leather is treated like a fabric and fashioned into flirty skirts and dresses. This group signed by British designer, David Koma, reminded me pf my intentions to update my tutorial on working with leather. Let me give you a hint....glove weight leather sews like fabric!
Katoucha's outfit is a combination leather (the bodice) and a leather-like coated fabric (skirt). I made the two items separately so that I can use them for other looks. Katoucha's skirt is a bit shorter than the one in the photo to keep it a little more youthful and better suited for her proportions. Add a belt and it all comes together like a dress!

Midnight Warrior
Gareth Pugh made his mark as a young designer with extreme avant-garde clothing bordering on goth. What's interesting is how, over the years, his work as successfully transcended into some pretty sophisticated fashion. This season's look is comprised of massive, black on black silhouettes! Okay, so the shoulders are big (we did a tutorial on that), but that's the 1980's revival kicking in.
The secret to the look I made for Grace is that it's a composite of different elements. The leather top is a simple bodice with a peplum flared over the hips and belted. It's worn over a straight wrap skirt and accessorized with a with a pair of thigh high "Barbie" boots. If you can't get the boots, you can always make....spats to fit over a pair of shoes! Oh yes, the fur jacket was borrowed from the tutorial on padded shoulders!

It's a Wrap!
This is an effortless look. Simple garments made special with an element that wraps around the neck or body. This can be as easy as an oversized plaid square tossed over the shoulders of a satin top and pants, a big scarf knotted around the neck of a straight coat or a sleek pair of pajamas wrapped with satin cord. Note the color palette and the print!
This is shamefully simple! Helena's look starts out with a strapless sheath cut from herringbone patterned silk. We took another length of fabric and wrapped it around her neck then belted it! It's the leather gloves and thigh high boots that really pulls off the look!
Tip: I wanted to "control" the drapes so I pinned then stitched them down into the scarf.

Royal Encounter
There's not much to say here except....think brocade, on your next trip to the fabric store! This fancy fabric is all you need to transform any ordinary garment into something quite regal!

Soho Boho
It's the Arts&Crafts movement combined with the bohemian movement of the 60's and 70's. By itself, it's nothing your doll is going to want to wear outside of your sewing room, but we all were intrigued by the texture of the thing! I liked the idea of creating my own fabric using tiny bits of frayed scraps.
The top is simple. A simple bodice without darts, elongated to the hips in blue, covered with scraps. I did this pretty quickly. If I had more time, I might have designed a pattern then filled it in with color coordinated scraps. Personally, I would have stopped here and put this over jeans. But then I got the crazy idea that ripped jeans would be the perfect compliment. So I made a pair, ripped them and added a backing to the holes (so the pants wouldn't fall apart.) My first reaction was that she resembled a big, shaggy dust rag. But the next morning after the photo shoot, it somehow works as an ensemble while capturing the essence of the original look.

As I stated before....such a busy top works best when worn over something the pair of jeans Donyale is now wearing! (We'll save the tattered jeans to wear with a simple T-shirt, later on!)

By now you already know how much the 18-year old that lives deep within is attracted to silver! I'll admit, the light bright silver on silver is a bit much (pots and pans chic), but since I already had a little bit of silver leather left in my closet.....I couldn't help myself.
After close scrutiny, I noticed the dress had a shiny silver lace trim. For Iman's dress, I took white lace and foiled it. The gloves are tiny tubes of silver lame and the boots are silver leather covered Barbie boots. So Carneby Street Sixties!!!

While we've been busy with Fashion Week, the Academy Awards took place. And yes, my girls were there! While half the girls make their way to Milan, we'll be taking a break to find who upstaged who on the Oscars' red carpet last night!

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dolls' Eye View: Fall/Winter 18 NY Trends

There was a lot not to love at New York Fashion Week. It would appear the chaotic transition we saw last season, is still very much alive. Designers are throwing everything and the kitchen sink onto catwalks: bizarre color and pattern combinations, clunky clothes or simply....the same old stuff!  My girls are looking for something new and had a difficult time weeding out the bad from the good. So I told the girls to concentrate on styles for which New York has always been best known: simple, sophisticated silhouettes, easy to wear pieces with a touch of eclectic pizzazz .

Animal Crackers
It is a winter collection, after all. The girls loved the Rock 'n Roll feeling of Tom Ford's animal prints that ran over everything from blazers and tights to blouson jackets and tunics. What we loved in particular, was the abundance of animal prints sometimes teamed with metallics.
Natasha loved Ford's snake skin printed blazer and  leggings, but since I didn't have a comparable print, we decided to go with the leopard printed fabric similar to the far right jacket. It may be a bit over the top for some, but my dolls like the "more is better" concept of piling on different versions of the same animal theme print! Her square, padded shouldered blazer is worn over leopard printed stretch leggings.
And if that weren't enough....we topped it off with a faux fur jacket in a matching print!

Check Mate!
There is LOTS of black and white combinations planned for next winter. This can be as simple as a white fleecy coat tossed over the shoulder of a black turtleneck sweater and black slinky leggings, or it can be a giant checkboard dress trimmed with fur.
But for Liu, she wanted to stick to the classic look of a white "sheepskin" coat over a black turtleneck and skinny pants. The coat here is from our tutorial, "Fleeced!".

Tescla Trip to Mars
What would you wear if invited for a trip to Mars in Elon Musk's Tesla's a hypothetical question the girls began asking while looking at Alexander Wang's catwalk show. We all loved the kicky little dresses and ensembles all etched with silver zippers! We're going to set these photos aside and pull them out later after we get some metal zippers to experiment with! Another way to go--silver tights and shoes under a Tom Ford blazer! Houston, we have lift off!!!

Fruit Basket
My girls never get tired of black. But a few (and many of you) have been calling for color. It's not that color isn't on the catwalk. The problem has been the trashy, crashing way designers use it these days. But here, we were able to find a most delicious application of color. The silhouettes are simple, the fabrics luxurious. And for the palette...think citrus with a twist of raspberry on your next trip to the fabric store.

Family Jewels
Again, this is a story about color straight out of the jewelry box: amethyst, topaz and garnet or a pop of fuchsia.
Natalie fell in love with this hot pink dress by Oscar de la Renta. The fabric was a bit stiff for a doll dress, but the color was spot on! This is a standard dress: bodice joined with a flared skirt. The "embroidery" was painted on using fabric paint.
But let's not forget, this is a winter collection, so we added black accessories: a furry jacket and a pair of "gloves." 

Second Hand Rose
Anyone who has lived in New York for any length of time, knows all about its vintage shops. One trend we did notice was the return to garments with a distinct second hand look. Madras, velvet, art nouveau detailing, faded's all about extracting the best of fashion's glory days in order to give a new direction to today's styles.
 I love the look of blush and claret. Violetta's dress is made in two parts. The top was fashioned with vintage lace, pieced together over her form to create a simple bodice. The bottom is a simple, evening length wrap skirt that opens in the front off to one side. I did not have velvet in this color, so I substituted a patterned silk. To further give it a "vintage" look, I cut out floral medallions from a length of lace and stitched them to the skirt.
But we weren't sure Violetta would be warm enough. So we added a cocoon coat made from a men's  paisley printed silk tie.
 Again, my girls' eyes were attracted to those sexy little dresses. It doesn't seem like much, but this is the kind of dress that goes everywhere! I chose a neutral silk to replicate the dress. I like how the straps wrap over the shoulders. But.....the doll is tiny. No matter what you do, the fabric will not drape the same as a full scale model. So we simply decided how the dress should drape and tacked those points down.
This is a very tricky color. I chose Meagan to wear this dress. The trick to making it work, once again, is by piling on the same or similar color. A big bathrobe coat is the perfect garment to wear over such a sexy little dress.

Pure Sugar
Again, pure white takes center stage next winter. These are simple-go anywhere-silhouettes with a touch of glamour....fur trims at the shoulders or hemline, asymmetrical necklines or the simple elegance of a bias cut fishtail gown.

Return of the LBD (Little Black Dress)
When in doubt...go with black....the little black dress, that is. There is a variety of fabrics, textures and chic all packed into the best looking black dresses. Consider asymmetry as a way to transform an ordinary dress into one of the hottest looks of the season.
 Laeticia' wears a very simple dress. We took the basic stretch dress pattern and cut this neckline into the front and the back. Since it stretches, there is no need for snaps or other closures. The dress can be worn by itself or with the over layers of draped tulle.

Skinny Black Tie
A New York night in the 21st century! It's a look that combines the ease and comfort of legging with the chic of a tuxedo jacket to be worn to those very dressy affairs.
Billie immediately grabbed a tailored jacket and a pair of stretch pants from the closet then headed out on the town.
This is a Fall collection, so don't forget the faux fur stole to toss over the shoulders when the party is over!

Twilight Time
Formal events call for something a tad bit more luxurious. So here we are....back to black shot with silver streams of silver sequins and sparkle. This can be as simple as a strapless, empire waist velvet dress etched with silver designs over the bust or a long shift streaming with silver sequins worn under a velvet coat. When duplicating this for the doll, you can make your own fabric by making lines of sequins and creating your own designs over velvet or attaching lines of silver sequins to a sheer fabric to recreate the look of the dress in the middle.

Well....fasten your seat belts.... Next stop....LONDON Fashion Week!

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