Thursday, June 27, 2013

Short Stories

Baby, it's hot outside!!!! After all the fancy clothes of the last few postings, let's take a time out and cleanse our palettes with the simplicity of shorts and a summer smart halter top.

This is a super simple project that yields lots of different styles for both day and evening.

White, crisp and cool, my first look begins with a halter top and pleated shorts. Start with the bodice slopers (look in "Pages" for instructions). Measure 3/8 inch down the under arm and mark. Mark the side of your back bodice at precisely the same spot.

Decide how deep you want the neckline and mark on the CF line. I've made my mark down 1 inch from the neck.

Next, starting at the point where the neck meets the shoulder, measure 1/4 inch on the shoulder and mark. On the neckline/shoulder line tip, draw a vertical line upwards from this point by at least 1 1/2 inches. That line will blend in with the V-neck of your neckline. On the other side, draw a straight line to meet the 1/4-inch mark. And from that mark, draw in a new curve to meet the new mark on the front side.

For the back sloper, fold out the existing dart, then decide how you want the back of your garment to look. Draw a line which gracefully slopes down to the CB line. The front pattern is cut on the fold. For summer cottons, roll the edges over and use a dab of fabric glue to hold in place. For silks, you will need to hand sew using tiny stitches. This top ties in the back of the neck.

Shorts are super simple. Take your one-piece pants pattern and cut at the desired length. For my first pair, I wanted a clean, urban pair of shorts. You will not stitch the dart. Instead, draw a line perpendicular to the hem at the base of the dart. Slash and spread. I was very conservative and introduced 1/4 inch, but you can add more if you choose. Make the marks in the seam allowance. Instead of folding the area into a dart, you will pinch the two marks together and sew. You will need to make a waistband.

I also decided to make a pair of flared shorts, featured here with the bra pattern I introduced in the "Summertime" post. For those shorts, you will need to take your 1-piece shorts pattern and separate it at the line indicating the side. Just as you did with the flared skirt, fold out the darts in both the front and back. This will through fullness to the hem.

The first thing you will notice is that from front to back, the fullness is not equal. Measure the difference in fullness between the front and back. In my case, the back was 1-inch fuller than the front. Divide that figure by half. Add half to the front and deduct half from the back. In other words, I added 1/2 inch to the side on my front shorts pattern and I took away 1/2 inch from the fullness of the back. When you are finished, there should be roughly the same amount of fullness in each pattern. I added a tiny flap to the back just in case you need to adjust the pants. For these shorts, I simply folded the shorts over at the waist.

Of course, there's nothing stopping you from making a simple pair of shorts using the original 1-piece pattern. Here, I've made a pair of (lined) evening shorts cut from lace and worn under a satin tunic.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Applied Arts: Faux Embroidery

Every now and then, an image sticks in my head, forcing me to create a project around it. Last month, it was a draped velvet gown by Madame Gres in the Haute Couture exhibition. Of late, it is an image of a dress from the Spring/Summer 2013 collection of Italian designer, Alverta Ferretti. It was a simple ecru gown with what resembles a whisper thin layer of diaphanous flowers floating on top. I love the idea of petals lifted from one source--an embroidered vintage petticoat, a lace trim for example--to use as an embellishment for something else. Think of it as a form of embroidery, but much more simple.

I will warn you. This project will take you a while to complete as there are many aesthetic decisions to be made. Admittedly, I am a day late with this posting because I thought this would be a snap. Au contraire! You are the artiste!!! You are, in fact, deconstructing one element to create a new "work of art!" Truth be known, this project took me four days to complete, start to finish.

For my black lace dress, I decided to create a monochromatic patchwork of lace. I chose a "nude" colored fabric to create a strapless sheath dress (consult "patterns"). My closure will be on the side.

I took black lace trim and cut out some of the motifs. Lay them on the doll. Play around with them, turning them upside down, backwards, diagonally. Pin them in place. Remember to turn the doll around as you work so that there is harmony between the front and back of the garment. I also try to camouflage the seams and darts by covering those spots with bits of lace.

For this design, I wanted texture which is why the lace in this garment sometimes overlaps and why there are spots where the foundation peeks through. I could have stopped there, but decided to add a bit of subdued spark with the addition of black beaded clusters randomly placed. The straps are different from one side to the other. One side has beaded straps that purposely fall off the shoulder. The dress is closed with Velcro.

For the beige dress, I worked with a strip of vintage lace. You can begin with a sheer foundation which will give you a maximum amount of control, but I decided the lace was dense enough to create a dress without one. I played with the lace, wrapping it around the doll and pinning in place. There will be spots where you need to cut away the lace to make it fit against the foundation. Take those bits and pieces and patch them back onto other areas. Doing it this way meant I also had to figure out how the doll gets in and out of the dress. The dress is closed at the neck and one point on one hip with the help of hooks and eyes.  Keep everything in pins until you are certain you are happy with the results. Then, using tiny stitches, hand stitch everything in place.

The dress appears to be without seams....the mark of a couture garment!

For the last garment, I began with the same princess line dress I posted earlier (Princess Diaries) except I added 5 1/2 inches to the hem to create an "evening" length. I machine stitch the dress and put it on the doll. Here too, I cut out tiny motifs from some metallic trim I had as well as the embroidered roses that once graced an old undergarment.
The lace appears to "float" on top of the chiffon gown.

Play with it until you get just the effect you want and hand stitch in place.
Play with the direction of the motifs. And, make sure your appliques aren't too thick.
When you are finished. Carefully cut away the top of the dress very close to your "embroidery."
If you have used anything other than tulle, you will need to use a product like "Fray Block" to keep the edges from unraveling. Because my gown is sheer, I decided to create a simple one-piece under-skirt which also has more "embroidery." I like the subtle hint of motifs under the chiffon that contrast those in full view.

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Make matching "couture" shoes by creating sewing a bit of lace over open toed sandals.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Hip, hip hoorah, summer has arrived. So we're planning ahead for days at the beach and nights in resort destinations. Think bathing suits, bikinis and cover-ups!

In the years I lived in Trinidad, I made the acquaintance of several local designers and retailers. According to them, bathing suits and free flowing, colorful dresses that can be worn by women of all sizes and shapes accounted for the majority of their sales. We've already covered how to make the maillot (1 piece bathing suit) and panties, so today you'll learn how to make two bra tops, a popular variation of the maillot as well as two super simple cover-ups that require no real skill.

A quick and easy way to create a bra top starts with a tube. Measure the doll for length over the bust as well as length. Stitch leaving one end open then pull it inside out to reveal the right side. Find the midpoint of the tube and twist your tube twice. Pin. Adjust the folds then stitch in place. You can use snaps at the back to hold in place. However, if the top tends to slide off the doll, feel free to use embroidery yarn or narrow ribbon to create straps.

For the skirt cover-up, I used a square of hand painted silk folded in half. Pin at the waist and mark. Then make a row of hand stitches where the skirt hugs the waist or hips. At each end of these stitches I added a hook in eye.

The next doll wears a typical Caribbean style cover-up. I started out with another square of silk (you can also use a scarf). I folded over the edge and pressed it down. In the middle, make 4 folds and pin. Then stitch along the edge. Pin at the back. Replace the pins with a hook and eye. I added two straps (from braided embroidery thread, knotted at both ends) which wrap around the back of the neck and tie.

Those of you who prefer a one piece bathing suit....start with the maillot pattern you have already created. Trace the left side of the front, the entire back and about a 1/4 inch up the right side of the maillot. Put a pin at the upper left hand point then swing the front maillot pattern to the left about 1-1/2 inch. Draw the top of the maillot. Now on the right side of the front maillot, draw in the curve so that it joins the existing draft just under the waist.

Gather that side of your pattern to just below the waist. Pin the seams shut. Adjust the gathers and stitch.

For the bikini bra, I draped the pattern on the doll using paper tape (available at the pharmacy). I started with length of tape over the bust. Cut a slit under the bust and fold the tape over itself. Add more tape to the side, extended to the back. Draw in your style--over the bust, along the side and back. When you are finished, carefully remove from the doll.

Slit the pattern under the bust and flatten on graph paper. You now have your pattern. Add seam allowance.

For my bra, I have added a wire eyelet in between the breasts as well as straps.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Concours d'Elegance

A day of Haute Couture, high fashion hats, fine cars and France's prestigious horse race.
One of my fondest memories takes me back to a part of my career when I was fortunate to have been invited to the Prix de Diane (held at the Chantilly racetrack, near the chateau) when it was sponsored by Hermes. Though the  were no ordinary horseraces, this was THE most elegant event of the season. The invitation came in the form of a poster complete with a dress code: "men in morning coats and bowlers or top hats," "women in elegant afternoon dresses and wide brim picture hats." Everyone came dressed as instructed.Those years when the weather cooperated, it was as if a painting of an early summer event had suddenly become animated.

The day began with a 'concours d'elegance'. Women were dressed in haute couture. The men came in luxury vintage automobiles in tune with the theme of each year's event. At the base of each car: couture dressed families with their fine linen table settings, porcelain dishes, crystal glasses, silverware, an assortment of picture perfect finger foods complimented with vintage wine and sparkling champagne. One-thousand guests of Hermes were treated to a four-course lunch--wine with each course and champagne with dessert. Afterwards, we watched the horse races with another glass of champagne in hand. At the end of the day, the woman with the most elegant hat was awarded a watch.

Things have changed. Longines now sponsors the event. Publicity hungry guests are known to show up with absurd hats hoping to have their pictures taken on the Chantilly grounds. But memories from those early days of the Prix de Diane Hermes live on. So today we salute the fete which celebrates all things elegant, especially when it comes to le chapeau!!!!!

A furry brooch is enhanced with feathers for this "Downton Abbey" inspired look

I'm always on the look out for items that can be transformed into fashion accessories. For this exercise I used one of those little silk jewelry bags, brooches, barrettes and ribbon flowers, all of which can easily be transformed into an elegant hat.
Velvet flower brooch works well as a hat for madame.

I love the "fascinator" worn by Princess Catherine Middleton. They require a base. Not having access to raffia to make straw hats, I decided to use my air dry paper clay. Cut off enough to make a 1/2" or so ball. Flatten it by pressing your thumb in the middle to make it concave. I then continue to shape it on the doll's head. (Choose a doll who's hair is uncomplicated and pulled back.) You can make an assortment of them in different sizes and shapes.
Paper clay hat forms.
When they have dried, feel free to paint them as well. What's great with paper clay is that you can pin, sew or glue things into it. Moreover, it's lightweight and can be held in place with pins (to her hair, not her head). If you don't have access to paper clay, you can also create a base using a round of felt. for that I cut a circle, then make a single slash to the mid-point of the circle. Layer over a bit to create a slightly conical shape, on top of which we can add our elements.
A cut flower barrette from H&M makes a lovely flower hat.
Circle of felt & lace creates the hat below.
For the first "fascinator," I took an 8 inch length of "hem tape" lace (easily found at sewing stores in the notions department). I ran a running stitch along the top third of the lace. Pull the thread to gather, then stitch. Fan out the lace and drape around your base. Here, I've added a tiny bead and a couple plumes of feathers for a very elegant look. I admit, I was tempted to add crème colored tulle, however, that would have given it more of a wedding dress look (which was not my goal for today).

I also like the use of tulle which adds so much drama to a look. The red had begins with one of my bases. I take a wad of red tulle wrapped around my had three times. Tie in the middle with a thin red ribbon and fluff out. You can hot wax it or stitch to the base.
A few loops of tulle tied with a ribbon atop the base.
I also like the idea of the petal hat. I took an 18x3 inch length of grey chiffon. Cut into irregular circles. Then layering three at a time, pinch in the middle and stitch the base. I made about 5 of these clusters which I then stitched in place around the crown of the base.

Finally, you can find those tiny silk ribbon flowers. I pinned a bunch to a narrow base. Afterwards I wrapped a bit of red tulle around the whole thing and tied it with ribbon.
Start with the base. Add flowers, a bit of tulle and tie with ribbon.
Paper clay base+chiffon circles in a cluster. Tie the point & add to the base.

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Two smaller ribbon roses clipped on to a larger silk rose, pinched in the back.

All images and text property of © Fashion Doll Stylist. 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.

The same tie-dyed fabric wrapped around her head.
Jewelry bags make great whimsical summer hats!!!
Congratulations to Treve...this year's winner of the Prix de Diane Longines.