Tuesday, July 29, 2014

True Blue

In my classroom, I used to say to my students regarding menswear, "Men don't wear junk." Where women will wear anything and everything--even poorly made cheap clothing--as a rule, men are less likely to buy a garment that has been badly cut. Women tend to go for the latest, greatest "look." Men, in my opinion, look for things they will wear until they fall apart--and even then....

In a man's wardrobe, a good fitting pair of jeans is THE most important element. And though I've already covered the subject for the girl dolls and though the process is the same, I decided to revisit the subject of jeans, but this time in a more "authentic" way. That means creating a miniature version of the original garment with all of the details in right down to the belt loops.

Faced with having to make it work, I also resolved some issues I had with my original post concerning the waistband. For women's clothes, the waistband is usually cut in one piece and added to the top of the skirt. But after looking at many pairs of men's jeans, I discovered the waistband is cut in four parts-two for the front, two for the back. This also allows for adjusting the fit should you need to after you've sewn everything together.

Drafting the jeans pattern is really not difficult. With Ken, you don't have the problem of dealing with darts. However, since I am revisiting the jeans pattern, I decided to do a great deal of hand holding which those of you with limited sewing skills should enjoy. Following immediately, I will also post a detailed description of the jeans jacket (using the men's slim sloper) because it is very much in focus for next summer's menswear trends.

 I begin with the trouser slopers. You decide how wide or slim you want them to be. Also how long they should be as well. The length of the pant is a "style" choice. In the photo above, the first doll wears a pant that stops just below the ankles. His friend's jeans "breaks over the shoe." For the latter look, you should cut the jeans longer. After making the first pair, I decided to make a longer pair for another doll. I added an additional 1/2 inch. The longer you make them, the more they will "crush" over the doll's shoe. One more thing I should point out..my choice of fabric. Though these jeans look as though they were made of denim, my fabric is really silk! If you recall earlier, I had made my girl dolls jeans from my dad's old jeans. It was extremely difficult to work because the fabric is thick (even when it's soft). You can use a chambray (normally used for men's shirts) which will give the illusion of light blue jeans. Or you can search in your fabric shop of a blue fabric with a twill weave. This silk had the necessary body but was thin enough to work well. This is really important when making itsy bitsy belt loops and pockets.
After you've determine the length of your pants, let's add the "fly front to the pants indicated by the red dotted line in the shape of a small rectangle extended from the CF. I drop this down this down 1-1/4 inch from the waist.. enough so that the doll can get in and out of the garment. Now, I indicate the guidelines for the waistband indicated by blue lines on the front and back. It's about 1/4 inch down. Next, on the back pant sloper, I draw in my back yoke. There is no exact measurement, but this line should slope from the side down to about the middle of the CB seam. Cut the waistband off the top of the initial pattern and add seam allowance to the bottom and on the side. Extend the top of your front waistband by 1-1/2 times. (see next illustration).

This garment will have real pockets that an articulated doll (Ken Fashionista, FR Homme, for example) can slide his hands in. The pattern above has had the waistline removed. The red dotted line (drawn on the remainder of the pattern) indicates where to draw the pocket. It is roughly half way between the side seam and CF line on the waist. And about 1-inch down on the side seam. The (side front)  is the backside of the pocket which includes the left hand corner extending beyond the pocket drawn indicated by my blue lines. Trace this off and add seam allowance to the side and the top.

Now we need to draw in the inner front pocket. That is represented by the area marked by red curved line and the blue (pocket) line. Trace this off, adding seam allowance to the top and the side of this piece. Now let's finish the back pattern.
I've removed the yoke, adding seam allowance to all sides. As in the front, I extend the top of the waistband by 1-1/2 times the length. Add seam allowance to the sides and bottom.
There are quite a number of little pattern pieces of varying shapes and sizes. It is very easy to mix them up or sew the wrong side to the wrong piece. (Yes, been there, done that..too many times!!!) Mark your patterns well on the fabric, indicated which side is up. And keep the pattern nearby to verify it is the correct piece.
 For the inner pocket, use a very thin fabric. I've used china silk. Stitch to the curve of the pocket on the front pant sloper. Clip the curve close to the edge. Then turn and press down. Topstitch the edge.
 With the fabric facing up, overlap the pant front on the side front so that everything lines up (upper left image). I've lined up the tissue pattern pieces in the next image so that you understand better what we are doing. We see the upper corner visible while the rest of the pocket is hidden. Pin then tack at the two points where these patterns overlap (bottom left). Turn the fabric over, fold back and stitch the inner lining to the side front as shown on the bottom right image.

Attach the bottom of the front waistband to the top of the pants front. The waistband is placed upside down (fabric right side to fabric right side). Press with the seams pointed upwards. Clip the bottom of the fly on the right pant front slightly.
 Press the fly (right up to the top of the waistband) inwards. Now fold the waistband over itself. Press and topstitch.
 Topstitch a "J" over the fly front. For the left pant front, I topstitch the edge to keep it from fraying.
Take the back pant piece. Pin then stitch the bottom of the yoke to the top of the pant leg. Press, seams pointed upward. Then topstitch on the yoke. Pin then stitch the bottom of the back waistband to the top of the pants+yoke piece. Fold the waistband over itself towards the back. Press (seams pointed upwards) and topstitch.
Stitch the front to the back at the side (left). Now is the time to turn up the hem and topstitch in place. Fold the pant (wrong side of fabric showing) and pin then stitch the inseam (center). Press the inseam open (right).
Turn one of the pant legs to the right side. The easiest way to do this is with a safety pin attached to the bottom of the pant leg. Slide the pin up the leg then continue to pull until the pant leg is right side out. Leave the safety pin in for the moment because you want to now, put one pant leg inside of the other, right side to right side of fabric. Pin the front to the back stopping just before you arrive at the fly front. Stitch. Press. Turn the pants to the right side out. I use a hook in eye as a closure. (It's more sturdy than Velcro)
 Belt loops!!!! This is when it gets tricky because you're dealing with itsy-bitsy stuff. I cut a length of fabric that is 3/8-inch wide by whatever length will yield at least 3 loops (5, if you're ambitious). Lengthwise, I fold in thirds towards the middle. I used glue to hold everything together then pressed it well. Then cut off as much as you will need for each loop. (Mine was about 3/8-inch). Each of the smaller lengths is folded in thirds with the raw edge underneath. I glued this to the pants. However, I tried to leave the loops open so that I can get a belt through. The studs were easy. You can use "mini-brads" (mini attaches parisiennes) (mini broches alemanes) or gun metal toned pearl stickers. I've also topstitched the back center seam and added another row of topstitching at the back. This is a design decision.
Oh no, we're not finished yet! You cannot imaged how many pockets I made before finally arriving at a formula I could post! But here it is.
This is a square folded as such. For the girl doll, you can use less complicated pockets. But on the boy jeans, those square pockets are hideous! So you really need to do a shaped pocket. I also tried to "embroider" a pattern, without much success. So in my attempts to bring authenticity to the garment, I emulated Levi's with a leather patch on one back pocket!

Now that he's got his designer jeans, Monsieur needs a jacket as well. We'll be right back with a detailed tutorial. Stay tuned!
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dolly Couture 101: The Classic Draped Couture Gown (VIDEO)

Dolly Couture inspired by Zuhair Murad.
 After having featured posts on the Charles James exhibition in New York and the most recent Haute Couture week in Paris, I thought this would be a good time to revisit couture "draping" techniques we posted a while ago. This time I've prepared a video:

For the 12" fashion doll, you'll need a length of fabric roughly 36 by 18 inches. Use it width wise and not length wise as stated in the video. Should you misjudge the amount need (which is what originally happened in the video) you can simply sew on an extension which you will steam press until barely noticeable.

Here are the important things to keep in mind:
1. Find a photo of a dress that inspires you and keep it in sight while you're working.

2. Analyze the design to discern out how it was made. Decide where the dress will close (side, back, front). Use hooks & eyes. And make design decisions as to what you'll do with the back since you cannot see it in the photo.

3. Make the foundation out of a structured fabric. It should not be stretch nor soft. Try to match it to the color of the dress. Complete it right down to the closure and put it on the doll.
4. The foundation can be a full sheath dress, a strapless mini (like mine), a corset or one-shouldered. It depends on the ultimate design of the dress and the amount of control you'll need over the movement of the folds.
5. Your thread should match your fabric.
6. You can use almost any material for the dress fabric provided it is not too thick or too stiff.
7. Take your time when stitching the fabric to the foundation. Remove the pinned dress from the doll prior to stitching down the folds. Try to slide the needle between the layers so they remain as invisible as possible but don't pull your stitches too tight. It will shrink your dress.

8. Don't despair if the result is not a line for line copy of the original. Often, the imperfections make it more interesting AND it makes the original dress your own!
Use this technique for an all over draped effect or simply in small areas like over a bodice or corset.

The possibilities are limitless. Once you get the feel for it, explore your own designs!!!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Doll's Eye View: Fall/Winter '14 Paris Couture

A study in stripes, Isabella wears a dress inspired by Zuhair Murad
Simplicity seams to be the norm when it comes to current Paris Haute Couture trends. Think of it as "cleansing the palette" from all the bling-bling that littered the catwalks a decade ago. That said, I still feel that couture, by its nature, should be something really special. You know, clothes that make you feel like a princess or a queen!

The Versace dress in the middle can be interpreted in numerous ways.
For this, the Fall/Winter Haute Couture collections, there were quite a few grand looks that remind me of the "good ole days" of yesteryear. Sumptuous ballgowns with dramatic drapery and intricate embellishments.

Moreover, much of what I saw easily translates into incredibly gorgeous clothes your doll will die to wear. Though I have demonstrated how to do the foundation with the draped silhouette over, I will soon post a video to help guide you through the process more easily. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy my dolls' picks from the Paris Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2014 trends.
Indian Summer Days
 Okay, it does look like Spring. And we can get started with these dresses while the weather is still warm. I love the throw-back silhouette to the 1950's with this trio of dresses by Giambattista Valli. You can achieve a similar look with the flared, princess line dress
As we progress into Autumn, these neat and tidy looks is the best way to face cooler temperatures. I like the little touches of fur at the neck and hem, the embellishments on the capes, and the look of brocade for evening suits and coats, whether they're the basic straight coat or the redingote.
At Jean Paul Gaultier, we loved the details that render the classics thoroughly feminine. A great big ruffle around the neck of a black silk wrap coat, fur at the neck and hem of a fishnet covered cape. And a touch of lace peeking out from a slim black velvet gown. I also love the idea of the dip dyed herringbone suit.

Armani rhymes with elegance. A simple cape or jacket gets a feminine touch with the addition of a ruffle. And flocked tulle adds a fairy-tale princess allure to the classic evening gown.

We can always count on Elie Saab for red-carpet glamour. Start with a metallic lace, flared princess line gown then toss a fur boa over her shoulders. The boas here can be made with a rectangle of faux fur held together with a satin ribbon!
An Armani look easily moves from the catwalk onto the doll!
And there's always feathers! A flame red feather boa over a slim silk evening skirt....dolly's ready to paint the town...RED!!!
Many fabric stores now offer a wide variety of faux fur and shaggy fabrics. This is a simple fur coat cut from a white shaggy material.
Black and white is a natural choice with dramatic results. We especially like the black and white prints at Valentino and Zuhair Murad. Does the middle dress look familiar? It's quite similar to this one we showed you how to make a few months ago.
 Our absolute favorite collection this season was that of Zuhair Murad. Glamorous, chic, most of what we saw on the runway is easily translated into gorgeous eveningwear for the doll. All of the photos below can attest to that!
Gowns of this type begin with a foundation with the fabric draped and stitched on top like the one we featured here.

A similar dress to the one worn by our Lupita, we've cut this one using a devore satin, then cinched in the waist with a silver belt.
This is a basic, strapless dress with a satin ribbon belt. The pouf of lace is stitched to the belt.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

A la Bastille (Day)!!!

To all of our Friends in France.......have a safe and thoroughly sparkling Bastille Day!

After the strolling from one street ball to another, giving into the sizzle of the merguez at the foot of the Eiffel tower, being mesmerized by the fireworks across the river at Trocadero, and sipping a few glasses of chilled champagne with their colleagues in Paris.....
The girls will be right back with their Doll's Eye View of the Fall/Winter 2014 Haute Couture catwalk shows. They've got some really nice dresses for you!!! Stay tuned!!!
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Good Foundations: The Pants Sloper for Ken (VIDEO)

Before the girls get back, I thought I would post one more video for Ken. Prior to this, we did a basic pant pattern for Ken with just one seam. It's fast and easy, but there are times when you may want a better fit or a different look.

Once you have removed the muslin from the doll, flatten it out and smooth out the lines.

Now, transfer to graph paper. More than likely there are adjustments to be made.

You must check to make sure the side seams of both the front and back pattern pieces are of equal length. If one is shorter than the other, note the difference then make the shorter side a bit longer and conversely, make the longer side a bit shorter until both sides line up perfectly. Repeat for the inseam. And don't forget to draw in the "straight of the grain" lines!
You will need to add the "fly front" flap to the front of the pants sloper. Mine here extends 1/2" (1cm) from the center front seam and goes down where that line begins to curve.
For a simple pair of pants, I've decided not to make a belt. Instead, I'm mimicking the Mattel method....that is, I extend the waist 1/2" upwards. I will fold it down and then topstitch the "belt" as well as the design of the fly front.
Underneath, you can either use a dot of Velcro, or better, a hook and eye for the closure.
Adjust the width of the pants on equally on both sides from the hips down to the hem to make them wider or more narrow. It is always good to make a pair in muslin or cotton first to verify the desired fit.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Good Foundations: The Slim Bodice Sloper for Ken (VIDEO)

 This post came about after seeing a need to revisit Ken's basic slopers when I tried to make a jeans jacket and a vest for my beloved male fashion dolls. Normally I use the man's shirt as the base for all of their shirts, tops, jackets and coats, but suddenly I discovered there was too much volume for an otherwise skinny garment. Mind you, men's patterns are traditionally drafted after meticulously taking measurements. But in my effort to make this process as simple as possible for all of us, I decided to take a few steps back and re-begin by making slopers for the Ken doll much in the same way we did for the girls.

I will point out to you immediately that I have not allowed for any ease because I wanted something very close to the body to make that St. Laurent "embroidered" leather vest and eventually slim fitted shirts or jackets like the leather shirt-jac worn by Zac in the photo above.

 Measure and mark the male doll much in the same way as you did with the girl doll. Wrap a piece of yarn around the circumference of his neck, on top of the shoulder between the neck and the tip of the arm. Mark the entire armhole. Then mark his chest, his waist and then the top of his hips.

Prepare two rectangles of muslin (large enough to cover half the front from under the chin to just below the hip), making a vertical line, intercepted with a horizontal line.
 After you have followed the instructions in the video, remove the muslin from the doll. Smooth out the lines then transfer to graph paper. Make sure the shoulder seams are equal in width and that the side seams are equal in length and in form. Make the necessary adjustments on the graph paper. Use this draft for your basic bodice sloper. After you design your garment, be sure to add seam allowance which thus transforms it into a real pattern.
For my vest, (1) I put the muslin pattern back on the doll then with a narrow tape or ribbon, I design the shape of the vest front. Again, (2) transfer your markings to paper and add seam allowance. Here in the final version, (3) I have cut this in leather. I overlapped the seams and glued in place. The seam allowance here has been cut away from the front, the neckline and the armhole.

I used beaded stickers (normally reserved for scrapbooking) for my "embroidery."
The drape of the sleeve is identical to that for the Barbie doll.
I began by preparing a rectangle of cotton muslin. It should be a little longer than the length of the doll's arm and three times the width of the doll's open hand. (For the Ken doll it will measure about 2-1/5 by 5 inches). Fold in thirds and pin. Cut a groove on the under side (where the fabric is overlapped). Slide onto the doll's arm and pin onto the bodice using the armhole markings as a guide. Then pin the underarm seam together. Mark. Then remove and transfer to paper. Make sure the underarm points fall on the same level. Make sure the underarm seams are equal. Adjust if necessary. Add seam allowance to transform into a pattern.
With this very simple bodice sloper and the addition of the sleeve, I was able to make Zak's form fitting, "European-cut" leather jacket. I simply added seam allowance to my sloper to the side and shoulder lines, then extended the center front by 1/2" (1cm).
I did sew the seams by machine. I stitched each seam twice for strength, glued down the seams inside the garment. Then (using a mallet or hammer) pounded the seams and around the armholes of the sleeve to eliminate bulk.
Using this same sloper, I was able to make a pretty successful jeans jacket for Ken which I will post very shortly!

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Up next: The girls are back with Fall/Winter 2014 Paris Haute Couture!