Sunday, March 1, 2015

Doll's Eye View: NY Fall 2015 Trends Pt. 2

Seventh Avenue (NY) has always had the reputation of "What you see, is what you get." There is nothing to interpret. Nothing to second guess how the garment will ACTUALLY be worn. Take it or leave it. In this, the second part of NY fashion week (if you missed part I, click here), everything is so simply defined. It is a matter of black and white.
Winter Whites
Be it dresses, coats, jackets, winter whites (both in warm and cool tones) offer a look that is soft and comforting. And, there is lots of swing whether we're looking at classic Diane Von Furstenberg or that nice. big, swing jacket served up by Josie Natori. What is interesting here is how it is often worn with black accessories including hosiery. (Stockings for dolly???!!!)

Dark Days in Manhattan
Black seems to be the go-to color for Fall Winter.. What's interesting here? Volumes...note how "big" everything has become. Layers....we can adjust layers to suit dolly's proportions to get the look without overpowering her.

Little Black Dress 3.0
Did it ever go out of style?!!! There is a wide variety of ways you can go with this. We love the little bejeweled cap leaves on a basic black dress a la Oscar de la Renta. Cushnie & Ochs shows both an elegant and very sophisticated way for dolly to wear basic black. For my mini-version, I used a stretch satin and a very basic funnel neck knit pattern. (No center seams for this beauty. The opening is on the shoulder) Then I tied a length of black satin ribbon into a bow over the neckline. Also notice the Kim Novak, below-the-knee length hemline! Otherwise, opt for fabrics and surface treatments with lots of texture and movement!
 Black Tie
Okay, so most of us don't go to black tie affairs. But our doll's just love to get all dressed up. Here again, what looks so good for formal wear is basic black. Whether you lean towards sexy or artsy styles, for me, these four looks sum up a great "Midnight in Manhattan" look.
 Clear as Black & White
Have you noticed....many of the television anchorwomen wear sleeveless dresses all year long. Are sleeves too expensive? Are designers lacking in ideas? Or have we gotten past "spring looks" versus "winter looks?" The boldness of black and white stripes has an eternal appear. It's a look that pops up at you, begging to be noticed. In fact, I was going to do Lisa Perry look, but at the last minute, stop myself. It looks awfully like spring time! Then again, these fashion reports serve as banks of information. And with dolls, anything works anytime, anywhere!!!!
 Fruit Cocktail

There's not a lot of color options for Fall/Winter 2015. However, during those long dull dreary winter days and nights, give dolly a shot of vibrant, fruit color. It can be a as simple as dressing her in a simmering satin dress that peaks out from underneath a black faux fur coat. Or you can turn to the deeper tones, like cranberry or raspberry.
Casually Elegant
One final note before leaving New York. The stand out new look for us was the combination of sweaters worn over fancy skirts. My Dolly Ralph Lauren was made from a tube of stretch lace and small lengths of marabou feathers sewn down from hips to hem. The stretch lace allows the doll to get in and out of the skirt easily without snaps or Velcro. But the trick is to attach the feathers starting at the hips so that they don't add bulk under the sweater. Another favorite is our Dolly Victoria Beckham...the little white sweater top over the shabby chic satin skirt. Again, I started with a stretch satin tube skirt, over which a "rag" (a piece of devore satin that was falling apart) is hand stitched on top.

Next stop: London!
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mini Oscars 2015 (Makeovers!!!)

Aside from the fact that the Academy Awards falls right in the middle of Fashion Month, the delay in publishing this post was due to choosing which dresses to imitate. There were a few dresses I did like but either 1) did not have access to similar fabrics or the construction was too complicated to mimic. But largely the problem was bored with the red carpet. Was it that the actresses were playing it safe to avoid ending up on the multitude of so-called fashion critics' "what's-not-hot" lists? Is it that the stylists who dress them lack imagination? It can't be about the cost of the dress because most of what we see is on loan from the fashion houses.

And while I fully accept that today's tastes are much simpler than those fashion mavens of the last century, simplicity doesn't have to be so utterly....BORING!!!!! We can keep things simple, but go wild on the accessories. After all, the Academy Awards is a once a year event where Hollywood Royalty should dust off those tiaras and shine! While I remained as faithful as possible (under the usual constraints of time and materials), I allowed the girls the liberty of changing up the accessories.

The strongest trend, as far as I could see, is something American journalists call "the column dress." Essentially, this is a new word for the sheath dress.
The actress is Rosamund Pike and her red lace strapless gown is from Givenchy. I used a vintage petticoat to recreate the mini version for Marpessa. Actually, this was one of the more interesting dresses we saw. All that was missing from Ms. Pike's look was jewelry! A rhinestone necklace. A gold filigree bracelet. Maybe even red lace opera gloves!

This black trimmed baby blue gown is by Tom Ford and worn by Reese Weatherspoon. For me, it is a look that screams out for interesting accessories. I'm not talking about another trip to Harry Winston's or Cartier.....personally I would look at sleek contemporary jewelry. Karen is wearing the rubber jewelry we did last year and the wire jewelry we did in January.

Cate Blanchette is wearing a black velvet gown from Maison Margiela (designed by John Galliano). I love velvet. I love turquoise and I love the designer and the fashion house. But somehow everything, even the mini version, resulting in a ho-hum look that needed something. Anything. In an effort not to compromise the look of the original dress, Latoya decided to grab a sheer turquoise "crystal pleated" shawl to toss over her shoulders.

Fifty Shades of Grey star, Dakota Johnson is wearing a red silk gown from Saint Laurent. Personally I don't feel this dress does a lot for her. It's the kind of dress that either needs more fabric incorporated over the bust (like the one my girl, Carla is wearing) or a body with more curves underneath. Again, the look screams for accessories. The dress has a single jeweled strap, but Carla felt it needed something more. So we added a rope of rhinestones around her ponytail and gave her a red silk clutch bag instead of Dakota's black patent bag.

And then there was the sublime Lupita Nyong'o in a special made-to-order Calvin Klein original. The original dress (costing a reported $150,000) is covered with 6000 pearls. When I saw the close up of her neck on the red carpet, I thought she was wearing lots of ropes of pearls. Once the camera pulled away, I didn't immediately see the pearls, but noticed the texture. My mini-version is made from a tiny scrap of sequined fabric. It consists of the halter neck top joined together over a narrow skirt. I added a few tiny adhesive backed pearls in the center of some of the sequins in a line from the bust to the knee. The result gives the illusion of the majesty of the original dress but without the work. The Calvin Klein dress is a jewel all by itself. But I thought it would be more fun (and more modern) to put ropes of pearls around Katoucha's neck and wrist.

Up next...New York Fashion Week-Fall 2015-Part II.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Doll's Eye View: N.Y Fall/Winter 2015 Trends Pt. 1

Don't worry, we'll have the Oscars' Red Carpet post up shortly. But since we already begun preparing the New York Fashion Week, we're putting part one first. In a couple days, we'll do a red carpet flash back before getting back to the month's primary focus....the month-long marathon of international catwalk shows.

Livin' Large
One of the good things about New York fashion is that you get a clear and practical idea of what kinds of clothes you will definitely want for cold weather months. For that reason, it goes without saying that coats are a major focal point. This season they are cut super wide, super long, worn belted or left loose over that sweater dress or pair of trousers.


Both in warm tones as well as cool, grey is THE main color for Fall. What is important here is that it should never be boring. Think about choosing fabrics that have textures.

And don't overlook patterns, plaids and elements that move like fringe.

Rug rats
Another interesting trend is the use of shaggy fabrics and faux furs. Silhouettes are basic...super simple---just what is needed when working with such complicated materials. If you knit, you can make a jacket using a novelty yarn. If you don't, then look for anything with a long nap. For the dolly version of the long vest on the left, I used a small piece of lambs wool.

On the Fringe
The notion of fabrics with built-in movement also extends to trims. For daywear, think of trimming a poncho or a coat with fringe. For eveningwear, don't hold back when it comes to silk fringe trim or even rows of cut ribbon.

Fuzzy Edges
 The popularity of fur, started last year, continues on for Fall/Winter 2015. It doesn't have to be a whole coat or even a jacket. It can be as simple as adding a fuzzy collar around the shoulders of a jacket, around the sleeves of a coat or as a boa, belted over an evening top.

To be continued......

Stay tuned. We'll take a short intermission to show off the girls' picks from last night's Oscar Red Carpet. Then we'll be right back with New York Part II. (Eveningwear.)

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

CARNIVAL 2015!!!!

To all of our friends in the Caribbean (Trinidad & Tobago in particular), we wish you a very happy, fun filled Carnival.

Have fun.

Stay safe.

And just in case your dolls want to get into the action... these outfits were borrowed from our posts on making panties, and bra tops.

The second photo borrowed one of the corsets from our "Paper Gladiators" post. I made the bottoms by first cutting a pair of panties out of tulle, then gluing on pieces of a gold doily on top. I cut away the tulle so that only the shape of the doily remains and added gold ribbon to the sides to hold them up.

The inspiration for this bra top came from 1980's designer, David Spada whose jewelry was worn by Grace Jones. This is a single piece of 20 gauge wire wound around each breast. Red ribbon is tied to each side of my bra which ties in the back. A strip of ribbon is added to the middle of the bra then wraps around to the back of the neck.

Some of our girls are in New York right now for fashion week. Others are out in California on Oscar watch. Stay tuned!!!!

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Affaires of the Heart

Normally I avoid such a kitsch theme like Valentine's Day. My criteria for choosing the looks on my blog usually comes from the answer to my question, "Would I wear that?" However,  this year with all of the new boys in the house, my girls have fallen in love. To appease us both, I decided to do cut-outs and fabric paillettes using heart shapes. However, this (surface treatment) project can be easily modified by using any simple shape, fabrics or color for more sophisticated styles. Both looks are super simple, requiring little skill but lots of patience.

We have been looking at catwalks and red carpets for inspiration, but sometimes you only need to open your closet to find the source of your next doll creation. For example, a couple years ago, I bought this little bolero jacket at H&M.
I was attracted by the flutter of pink petals. Upon close inspection, those petals are really upside down Valentines! That also gave me the idea to do heart shape cut-outs that fall away from the body, revealing the lining underneath. 
At first I thought of red revealing white. Then it occurred to me the inverse might be more interesting. After all, our hearts are underneath our skin! I began with a simple shift dress which you can find by clicking here. Cut this dress out twice. One will be used for the outer dress, the other (in a contrasting color) for the lining.
I drew rows of hearts on the good side of the fabric using a light toned dressmaker's (chalk) pencil. I did this on the outside because whatever side you cut is where the petals will fall. To keep the hearts roughly the same height, I made marks in the seams. Leave a margin from the side and back seams and be careful not to draw the hearts too close to one another. I used a single edge razor to pierce the side of the heart. Then I cut the rest of the heart with small, sharp scissors. Don't cut completely away. Be sure to leave the heart attached at the bottom of the shape.

Sew the outer dress together. Then sew the lining together. Press the seams well.

Line up the outer dress to the lining and sew along the neckline and the hemline. Turn right side out. Press. Pin the rough edges together and stitch. Then pink the edges. Stitch the dress up the back seam, leaving enough space for the doll to get in and out. (I use hook and eyes as closures.) Clip along each armhole. Turn each inwards and hand stitch together.

 And now for my bolero.... (It's easier than it looks!)

I used the basic jacket pattern which I shortened to just below her bust. I curved the center front edges. I also decided on short sleeves.

You will need to create your own heart trim. For this you will need to cut small heart shapes (or whatever you choose). Be sure to use sharp scissors. Turn each upside down and glue the bottom tip to a strip of narrow (1/8 inch) ribbon. Please note: whenever I use glue, I always follow it up with the press of an iron.

Begin at the bottom, hand stitching each row directly onto the jacket. The row above should overlap. Don't worry about any gaps. Leave space near the top edge.

When you have finished sewing the trim onto the jacket, cut out a few more hearts. Stitch those hearts over any gaps and wherever the ribbon is showing. Also, take the loose hearts and stitch them along the top edge of your jacket.

Front to back my finished jacket looks like this. Very pretty. This would also make a very lovely dress.

Originally I slipped the jacket over the shoulders of a matching sheath dress. However, I felt it needed a little something more for balance. So I made Carol a pink wrap around blouse and I cut out a matching slim skirt to which I added rows of round petals. I stitched together the skirt, but left it open at one side so that I could open it out flat. My petals, this time, are round shapes. (I traced off a small coin.) Starting at the bottom, I glued each disk to the skirt. Each row overlaps the one below. I decided to stop after my fourth row, however, you can continue up to the waist. When you have finished, stitch the skirt along the seam, leaving space for the doll to get in and out. Take loose disks and hand tack them over the seam. Attach the waistband.

Again you decide. The cut-outs in the first dress could easily be triangles instead of hearts. The skirt would be fabulous in a non-woven shiny vinyl, giving the illusion of scales! Have fun. Be creative. Happy Valentine's Day!

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Doll's Eye View: Paris Couture-Spring/Summer 2015

Each time I mention to someone that I am preparing a Paris Couture report, images of voluptuous, 1950's gowns floating down the aisles of a super exclusive salon, quickly comes to mind. Frankly, after having seen so many incredible couture shows executed by the icons themselves (Mr. Givenchy, Mr. St. Laurent, Mme Gres, for example) in the 1980's and 90's, I too, expect something extraordinary. Otherwise, why should it exist when ready-to-wear can do the trick? I want to see a story behind the collection, ingenious cuts, outrageously intricate embroidery, rarified fabrics. I want to look at the model and fantasize about the lifestyle of the woman who can afford such a dress. In short, I want these clothes to make me dream.

Over for the past few seasons, I have felt that the Paris Couture catwalk has missed its mark. With a few exceptions, there are not many jaw dropping creations (which probably explains why I haven't been wowed over recent red carpet dresses). Either everything looks too much like ready-to-wear or we've seen it all before. Is it due to a lack of ideas? Perhaps what I am seeing is the new look of couture, scaled down to appeal to hasty lifestyles and simpler tastes of fashionistas more interested in world affairs and electronic gadgets than tedious, made-to-order clothing.

Today, there are very few customers for these made-to-order garments. It's hard to know the exact numbers because they are part of the secrecy surrounding this milieu. What we do know is that designers like Armani and Versace often produced gowns they hope will later show up on Oscar-bound celebrities. There are really no trends to emerge from couture fashion week, so dear friends, I'd like to tell this story largely in pictures.

Bamboo Garden...If anyone knows how to win over the heart of a couture purist (like myself), it's Giorgio Armani. For spring, he lost himself in a bamboo forest, only to emerge with narrow, linear looks, bamboo prints and transparent fabrics with structure coming from welt stitching and pin tucks. Silhouettes are fairly simple so translating them for the doll should be easy. The fabric I used for the dolly version of the middle look, was sheer curtain material on which I traced a bamboo print, then painted it on with a small brush and black paint.

The new Chanel Suit....has a bare midriff and a longer hemline. This is a very young look (which is why I chose Kimora, my S.I.S. Barbie to wear the mini-version. The jacket has raglan sleeves. I gave a quilted look to the pockets by topstitching them to add more interest since the wool fabric I used wasn't the traditional, Chanel boucle. The fingerless gloves were made from nylon stockings cut into small tubes.The other looks, however, do work for a more mature woman and a more sophisticated doll.

Body Beautiful... Here is a classic case illustrating the future direction of couture. Sleek and simple, the Versace dresses, shows off interesting cuts within an uncomplicated silhouette. For the mini-version of the white jumpsuit, I constructed my jumpsuit as usual, (flaring the bellbottoms out 45 degrees) at the knees, then fitted it to the doll. Afterwards, I cut away the shoulder, then used trim to recreate the pattern over the breast. Usually these cut-outs require the use of "invisible mesh" to hold everything together (as with the ice skaters' costumes), but the trim, stitched together where they intercept, held its own shape.

Bijoux de Famille..Here the main attraction of these classic gowns is twofold: the use of vibrant, jewel tone colors and "garden party" prints with oversized flower prints.

Night time whispers...Black lace mixed with feathers, sheer or fishnet embellished with beads or embroidery, we love these short, little dresses. A version of the black crochet dress could be made using an antique doily, dyed black, with a bit of lace sewn to the bottom.

Ship Shape-- the girls loved the exaggerated A-line silhouettes and tea-length skirts. Notice the use of dip-dye on Stephan Rolland's skirt, resembling an upside down tulip.

La Vie En Chateau...We love Elie Saab, a Lebanese designer who, for my tastes, understands couture better than most on the Paris scene. I like the look of a fitted, lace bodice and an A-line or gathered skirt with lots of sheer fabric

Happily Ever After...Another Lebanese couturier who really gets it right. Though the silhouettes are simple, there is much going on with embroidery, beading and the like.

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