Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Doll's Eye View: Milan Fall '13

Bellissimo, Armani!
For many years, Milan was synonymous with timeless fashion and knitwear. And though Italy continues to produce some of the best knitwear on the planet, much of what comes out of Milan today are edgier fashions on par with those shown in Paris. Still there are legendary greats like Prada, Emilio Pucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabana and especially Georgio Armani who are the pillars of Italian style serving up the kind of classy clothing that continue to leave the fashion world panting for more.

And so, you wonder, why haven't I mentioned Valentino? The reason is simple. The nationality of the house depends on where the operations reside. Therefore Valentino Couture is Italian, however, the ready-to-wear house is French. We'll see this house later on in Paris!!

In the meantime, we chose the simplest Armani to miniaturize. The doll's top is my feeble attempt at at crocheting with a simple chain stitch and basic crochet stitch. Admittedly, it is an ad-hoc design. I've not counted any stitches. I've made lots of mistakes in the eyes of the experts. But it works thanks to its irregularities. And that's the eye to edgy design. Sometimes the mistakes are better than original idea!

You could also get the look by starting with the 1-piece corset and stitching down some metallic crochet yarn over it in helter-skelter manner. The skirt is a simple sarong. Add four inches and seam allowance to the basic skirt pattern. Cut the back in one piece by placing the pattern on the fold of the fabric. Add 1/2 inch over from the CF of the skirt pattern. Close with Velcro.
For Fall 2013, look for inky blacks, snowy whites, neutral greys and an occasional pop of color. Silhouettes are long and slinky, sometimes with furry details. Also look for tidy coats that flair from the waist.


Photos: © Fashion Doll Stylist 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Doll's Eye View: London Fall '13

London Fashion Week is a smaller event as compared to that of New York and Paris; nonetheless, it is the place where industry professionals go for their cutting edge fix. Here is where the designer tells a story, mixing art and fantasy into the garments. Though these clothes are not always commercial, ideas are plentiful and as a result, more conservative markets tend to reinterpret key details and color palettes into mass market gear.

Admittedly, we're having fun Photoshopping our "girls" onto the top runways of the world. However, when you are viewing these or other photos from the catwalk shows keep in mind the nature of the fabrics as well as the stiffness and proportions of the doll will force you to make a few compromises. The 11-1/2 inch doll does not have enough volumne for fabric to fall into supple drapes and folds.  If the fabric has enough body to hang well, usually it is too bulky for the doll. And if it is super thin, the garment won't, as a rule, hang as desired.

In the photo at the top, the doll's coat and pants are cut from crepe. The pants are unlined and hang perfectly. However, I used the same fabric for the coat and thus created a number of challenges. First, the fabric is somewhat bulky, making it look more structured and less fluid as is the case for the "real" garment apprearing in Jean-Pierre Braganza's collection (to her left). The fabric frayed something terrible, forcing me to do something I try to avoid.....lining the coat. Even when cut from china silk, the extra layer adds to the bulk. Lapels will NEVER lay down by themselves. They have to be tacked in place. In spite of these issues, however, the doll version of this garment remains as chic and timely as the catwalk garment!!! At the very least....your plastic fashionista is NOT dressed as a doll.

Again, the key to making it all work is to be inspired and simplify, simplify, simplify!!!!

Photos: © Fashion Doll Stylist 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Doll's Eye View: Fall 2013 New York Collections

Carolina Herrera's faux fur jacket and one inspired by it.
It's Fashion Week time!!! The marathon of catwalk presentations in the world's fashion capitals began in New York on February 7, moved on to London, then to Milan and will terminate in Paris on March 6. And while there are other fashion weeks around the globe, these are the cities with the world-class designers who impact major trends for the next six months to come.

Knowing how to create your own patterns and realizing them into a garment is important, but being attuned to what's happening in the world of style is essential. It is the difference between making doll clothes and creating fashion. In this post, Fashion Doll Stylist brings you a front row seat to the best New York fashion for Fall/Winter 2013....from a fashion doll's point of view, of course!

Barbie wears all the latest looks to appear on New York's catwalks.
Enjoy yourself as you look at all the latest fashions, but for your doll, you will need to take into consideration fabric weight, proportion, the size of the print, the scale of the texture. Look for simple silhouettes. You don't want to dress in a costume and neither does your doll!

Pretty dresses are a natural for the fashion doll, though she might prefer shorter lengths.
With a little trial and error, you'll learn what works and what doesn't. But in the meantime, over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting styles I think would translate very well into chic duds for the foot-high fashionista.
Barbie in Ralph Rucci!!??!!

Later on, we'll stop and analyze few of our favorite runway looks then discuss how to create similar looks.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sleeve me alone... (VIDEO)

Let's stop and play catch up a bit. Though you've already created the bodice sloper (Block Club: Upper East Side), we need to create a separate sleeve sloper. This exercise is a tad bit more complicated than the others in that we must draft the pattern. Don't worry, I have simplified the steps for drafting a sleeve.

When you marked the doll, you were instructed to extend the shoulder line onto the tip of the arm (about 1/8"). You should have also drawn the "armhole" from that point dropping roughly 1/4" under the doll's natural joint (which aligns to the top of the bust), which is what we call the armhole length.

Measure the length of the doll's arm to her wrist to arrive at the arm length. Using a tape measure, determine the doll's most narrow arm width which slips over the her outspread hand. (Her hand limits the width of the sleeve).

1)With these these 2 measurements, create a vertical rectangle. Divide in half and mark with a center line. 2) Using the measurement of the armhole length, make a second line (in my case it's 3/4" down from the top). 3) From the center top point, draw a diagonal line to the horizontal line on both sides. 4) Mark the center of each diagonal. 5) from the bottom point of the diagonal make another mark 1/4". 6) Draw a bell curve above each diagonal. The midpoint of the curve should arc up 1/8" from the diagonal line and it should dip slightly below the 1/4 mark.The end result should resemble the last diagram. Be sure to label the sloper, noting the front and back of the sleeve. Note I have put tiny "notches" or small lines--1 on the front and 2 "notches" on the back. Place the front and back slopers against the sleeve sloper and put notches at precisely the point on the armhole that correspond to the sloper. This will help the placement of the sleeve to the bodice and will also remind you as to the right side of the sleeve.

As-is, this sloper produces a basic, straight sleeve like the one on the shirt in the picture at the top. It can also be manipulated to create a wide variety of sleeves from batwings to bouffants and everything in between.

There is another way to make a sleeve sloper and that's by draping it directly on the doll. Here is a video tutorial of that technique.

Content & Photos: © Fashion Doll Stylist 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Panting For More (VIDEO)

A tribute to the late Yves Saint Laurent whose Haute Couture pants suits were legendary.
We cannot even begin to imagine fashion without including trousers, a principle wardrobe staple. Jeans were created more an a century ago as a utility garment for women working on the farms. During World War II, women traded in their skirts and dresses for trousers as they replace men in the workplace and headed to the factories. However, thanks to legendary designers like Claire McCardell, the inventor of American sportswear and  French Couturier, Yves Saint Laurent, known for introducing trousers to the world Haute Couture, that this garment has become an essential wardrobe staple.

Actresses Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Katherine Hepburn were also ambassadors to the cool, groovy look of this men's into womenswear trend. Your fashion doll can have the same allure.

The pants sloper and pattern featured here is designed to produce a classic straight legged trouser that can be cut from all types of fabric. The doll's pants in these pictures are cut from a crepe fabric, which explains why it fits and hangs quite so well.

You begin much in the same manner as you did with the skirt sloper. A rectangle of fabric is taped to the doll with the grain falling perpendicular. The fabric should extend from the center front line to the center back line, inasmuch as this is a 1-piece pants pattern. Next, fit the fabric to the bottom mid-point of the doll. Cut a curve so that you can fit this snugly. Mark the CF and CB of the doll. Create a front dart on the quarter mark. Create a back dart on the quarter mark in the back. Pin the leg, keeping your line from the knees down straight (perpendicular) to the floor.
Mark the side line. Next, I pin the inner seam and check the fit. Adjust if necessary. Your draped pattern should resemble the image.

Next, trace the pattern onto Bristol paper.

For the pattern you will need to add your seam allowance AND...a flap to the center front or center back (depending on your style). This is to allow for the closure. Here, I have added it to the back. Remember to mark "Front" and "Back" on your sloper.

This pattern will not allow you to make flared pants. For that you will have to create your pants in two pieces. The procedure is the same for creating the normal skirt sloper.

As far as the waistband for this pattern as well as for that of the skirt, I prefer using ribbon instead of creating the usual waistband. Most of the time the waistband will be hidden under some other garment or a belt. What is important is that it should fit as close to the body as possible. Cut the length of ribbon while the doll has the skirt or pants on to ensure the length is correct. Stitch in place by hand. You can top stitch with the machine afterwards. Turn up the hem and glue in place.
The 1-pc trousers is worn with the 1-pc camisole and a simple faux fur stole.
Looking for a traditional 2pc trouser sloper. Here is a video tutorial to show you how:

Content & Photos: © Fashion Doll Stylist 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Block Club: Downtown (VIDEO)

With this exercise, we're going to create a skirt sloper. Yes, I know....we've already done a 1-piece skirt pattern, so you're probably wondering why bother with a 2-piece skirt sloper? The answer is quite simple. It will allow you to, not only control the fit (tapered or looser skirts), but it will also allow you to create a variety of other silhouettes. AND...when combined with the bodice sloper, you can now create dresses and long-line foundations. Pictured here: the dress consists of a pattern using the basic bodice sloper combined with the basic skirt sloper which was manipulated to create this flared skirt.
The approach for the skirt is exactly the same as for the bodice (see February 14, 2013 post).
Start with a rectangle of fabric (with vertical and horizontal grain markings) taped to the doll. Place the vertical line against the CF line of the doll. Keep the fabric straight (the perpendicular horizontal line will help guide you) and taunt against the doll's hips and tape in the back to hold in place as you work. Mark the side seam. Then, create a dart aligned with the "quarter line mark" (the line extending down from the mid-point of the bust). With a pencil, mark both the waistline as well as both sides of the dart.
Without removing the front skirt sloper, repeat the same procedure for the back. Pay special attention to the shape of your sloper. The skirt should fall perpendicular to the floor and not tapered to the doll. (You can always create a pencil skirt later. But you will need this basic shape for creating other types of skirts.) When you are finished, remove from the doll and clean up your lines.
Pin this back together and try it back on the doll. Make any adjustments or corrections. I generally use a different colored pencil for the corrections. You can also x over the lines you want to ignore. When you are happy with the fit, remove from the doll and trace onto Bristol paper. Again, we do not add seam allowance at this point as the slopers (or blocks) are used to create a variety of different patterns which we will explore later.
Adding seam allowance to the basic sloper results in a classic straight skirt. For the waistband, I use a narrow ribbon either glued, hand-stitched or top stitched in place closed with a tiny dot of velcro.

Need to see this again. Here's our video tutorial:


Photos: © Fashion Doll Stylist 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Block Club: Upper East Side (VIDEOS)

Slopers (a.k.a "blocks" in UK fashion speak), are the basic patterns--taken from measurements of the body--from which all other patterns are created. As I said in an earlier post, all fashion dolls of the same length (even within the same brand) are not created equally. I have three types of Barbies in my collection. (Warning: nudity ahead.) Notice how different they are even though their length is within a quarter of an inch of each other.

This is precisely why I feel it pointless to provide ready-to-download patterns. In this exercise, you will learn how to make slopers for each doll body in your collection. To make it easy, we will drape our basic pattern directly from the "model." You should take whatever time it takes to get your slopers as perfect as you can to ensure well fitting patterns in the future. First, we need to mark the doll.


In a professional atelier, the dress form is taped along the dimensions of the figure with "tying" ribbon which is, in general, thin twill tape. Remember, it is vital to keep everything to scale. For this exercise, the most narrow of ribbon (3mm) is too thick so I use a single strand of crochet yarn which I tape to the doll's body. (Here, I use medical paper tape I found at a local pharmacy.) We must first mark the midpoint of the doll's front and back (center front, center back), her side, neckline, bust, waist, and hips. Mark her shoulder line as well, from the neckline to the arm. Notice that I have taped slightly over the arm joint. You must imagine where the sleeve will join the bodice which, in this case, it extends slightly beyond the point (about 1/8") where the arm is attached to the doll's body. Using a grease pencil I draw in an oval under her arm from where the arm is joined to a little above the bust line (about 1/4" down from doll's natural joint).

Add a final bit of yarn to mark another vertical: the center of the shoulder line to the center point between the side and waist to the center of the hip line. This will help you place the darts in the proper place.


Afford an extra doll if you can. She will serve as the dress form/fit model for others with the same proportions. I've been tempted to create a dress form for my dolls. However, when I looked at the cost of model making materials, I decided it was cheaper to simply buy an extra doll with the same proportions). I created a "bodysuit" using a stocking anklet, (like those at DSW when you're trying on shoes). The bodysuit allows you to pin your draped patterns onto her.

Cut a hole in the top and stretch over the doll's shoulders. Pull the stocking tight around her neck and tack in place. Cut underneath the arms.
Pull tight and stitch under the arms and down the sides. With a soft pencil, mark the areas as designated above. This will serve as a guide. Use heavy-duty (buttonhole or carpet) thread and needle and create a running stitch. When you use this, you will need to adjust the stocking from time to time as it will move. Even if you can't see the guidelines through your cloth, you should be able to feel them underneath.


Take a rectangle of cotton and mark the horizontal and vertical direction of the grain.

For reasons of maintaining symmetry, we only drape half a garment. Place the fabric against the doll's body, keeping the fabric straight. (The marked grain lines will help you do this.) Cut around the doll's neck and clip, then tape the fabric on the doll's body to hold in place while you work. Smooth this fabric around her bust, holding it firmly in place just beyond her side. There will be a little excess fabric falling away just below her bust. Mark the doll's shoulder and side lines and trim the excess.
Now, pin the dart that forms along the middle guideline. With a pencil, mark both sides of the pins and the waistline.
While the front is still on the doll, take a second piece of fabric and drape the back sloper, repeating the same process as you did for the front. When you are finished, remove this from the doll. Remove the pins and flatten. It should look something line the picture below. Clean up your lines with a ruler. Smooth out the curves.

Pin it back together and put in on the doll to make sure of the fit. When you are happy, remove from the doll and transfer the pattern to Bristol paper. For slopers we do not add seam allowance. On the other hand, notice I have indicated: CF (Center Front); CB (Center Back), vertical arrows (indicating the "straight of the grain" which means to place the pattern in the same direction as the vertical threads of the fabric). I have labeled them: front bodice; back bodice; and I have indicated the type of the doll for which these slopers were created.
If I want to make a simple "shell" like the one pictured at the top of today's post, I simply trace the sloper (including the darts) onto a sheet of paper and add my 1/4 inch seam allowance. The CF is placed on the fold. I cut two of the back. I stitched the sides and shoulders, pressing out the seams and darts. I rolled to the inside, the neckline, armhole and hem and used fabric glue to hold in place.
Below are two video tutorials to help you.

Photos: © Fashion Doll Stylist 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sew What: Laying out your pattern

Many of our readers are novices with little or no experience in sewing. Some have figured things out on their own while others still struggle to stitch a straight line. In an effort to help any of you who are a tad bit challenged in this area, I am introducing a series of tutorials under the banner, "Sew What." These posts feature "the basic necessities" to help ensure your projects will have the best possible outcome.


Light to medium weight cottons or cotton blends, simple, lightweight wools, linen....are all good choices because they are easy to sew and don't cost an arm or leg. You can also save money by re-purposing old clothing, seeking out  Avoid fabrics with nap or pile (like velvet or velveteen), plaids, heavyweight wools or slippery satins or silks. Once you have a little sewing under your belt, then you will be able to experiment with more complicated materials. Don't be intimidated by your mistakes. Chalk it up to a learning experience and continue to move forward. But first and foremost....don't forget to just have fun!!!!!


Before you start, iron the wrinkles out of your fabric so that you will be working on a flat surface. Doll clothes are so tiny, you need to be as exact as possible. Every millimeter counts!

Even though it's hard to see...and even though there's not much to a 12" doll....cutting out a pattern on the straight of the fabric's grain will ensure that your garment will hang the way it's supposed to. But how do you identify the straight of grain and once you do, then what?

When you buy a length of fabric from the store, one of the first things you notice is that the side edges are more dense than the rest of the remnant. It is what is known as the "selvage edge" or "selvedge." It has stronger threads than the rest of the fabric. Threads running parallel to this edge are usually straight with a cross grain running perpendicular (or 90 degree angle from the selvage). The direction running 45 degrees is known as the bias which has the property of being naturally stretchy and hangs into softer drapes over the body particularly in eveningwear.  But for our purposes here, you want to line up the straight of grain marked on the pattern pieces with the selvage edge. Place a pin at the top of your straight grain line. Measure to see the width between that line and the edge. Then make sure the bottom of the straight grain line is the exact same distance.

For pattern pieces that fall further away from the selvage edge, you can line them up with other patterns' straight of grain line.
Since many of us make doll clothes from scraps of fabric or vintage clothes, how do you identify the straight grain! 1) Take the scrap in both hands and stretch. 2) Pull on both sides. In both cases the fabric should remain taunt. 3) It only stretches on the bias. 4) Once you have established the straight grain, draw a light line, then line up the straight grain of your patterns with that of the fabric.

Pen your pattern to the fabric, then cut along the outer seam lines. Transfer details like darts and such to the fabric using dressmaker's carbon and a tracing wheel. Note: When working in leather or similar non-wovens, it is better to tape the pattern down then trace it using tailor's chalk or pastel pencil and transfer all construction detailing (like darts). 

Feeling confident enough to work in plaids? Line up the bottom edge of all pattern pieces along one of the stripes to make sure they will match at the sides and flow uniformly around the body. Note: before you lay out your pattern, be sure the side seams of the front and back patterns are the same length!

You can have a border print on a garment simply by lining up your pattern pieces side by side along the edge of the fabric (or scarf, for example). Just be aware that to pull this off, the pattern pieces can't have too much flare. That is to say, we won't be able to do a circle skirt or a four-gore skirt using this method.
On the other hand,  it's perfect for gathered skirts, trouser legs and sheath dresses!

When you are working with single direction prints, all pattern pieces must be placed with the top edge up.

However for most flat, plain fabrics, small prints and those where the motif move in various directions, your pattern pieces can be right side up or upside down. What you cannot do is to turn some of them on the side!!!

You can create a dramatic look by laying your pattern pieces at a 45 degree angle from the straight of the grain. Here, To make the skirt with the diagonal stripes pointed upwards, note how I've laid out my four-gore skirt. I've indicated the CF (Center Front) and each side will line up at a 90 degree angle from the other side. This works for bodices, side panels, collars. On your pattern piece, you will make your "straight of grain" markings at a 45 degree angle moving upwards or downwards, depending on the look you want.


Should you ever be tempted to work with velvet, velveteen, corduroy or any other fabrics with pile, you will need to lay out your pattern pieces in a single direction. On the left,  the SAME fabric has a totally different look when place in an opposite direction. 

One more tip: Certain patterns tend to look like pieces of jigsaw puzzles. After you've cut out your patterns from the fabric, leave the paper pattern on until you are ready to pin them together. This is very important when there are lots of little elements to a pattern (like a jeans skirt, for example). Indicate the top, bottom and even the side of each piece so that you won't be confused when assembling everything together!

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