Dolls Eye View: New York Fall/Winter 2020

Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Given everything happening in the world right now, it is difficult to talk about something as frivolous as clothes. But even though it seems a bit inappropriate to think about mademoiselle's next fashion fix, all of us in this Lilliputian world of dressed-up divas know that the best distraction is doll play. So for just a few moments, me and my girls would like to transport you to fantasy land where everything is set back to normal, and we are allowed to go outside in style!

Fashion is a reflection of the world around us and as such, the things we see on the catwalks continues along its chaotic path. There are lots of "sensible" everyday frocks for us "normal" people,  as well as outrageous costumes for pop star red carpet. However, there are glimmers of hope. Much of the "grab bag" bloopers on the catwalk aren't selling well so a trend is emerging that favors a return to the good old days of wearable chic. In New York, my girls braved the subways (with hand sanitizer and masks in hand) to see what they could find for Autumn/Winter 2020. Let's start with the cloakroom.

Coat Check
Living large, overcoats are cut with lots of ample volume. Look for coats with rounder shoulders, in animal prints or florals as well as traditional windowpane plaids and fleece.
Liu saw so many possibilities with this coat by Self Portrait. For her version, I used a fluffy white fleece, which on her, resembles a sheared lamb. I used a pattern for the double breasted coat, but felt the little black buttons didn't do much for the overall look. Instead, I opted for a 1950's touch. Instead of three sets of black button doubles, I used one large "statement" button. For the cuffs I added a bit of white faux fur. And though I love winter white, it's not the only color when it comes to fur...

Carnival Animals
These looks are as fun and furry as they are colorful! My ladies love the total look where the sweater, leather pants and furry coat all match. But they also love the idea of using different colors of furry accents in the same color.

Creature Comfort
Some designers believe it's going to be a long, cold winter ahead. Hemlines dip to the ankles. The body is totally draped in soft wools and moletant jerseys. From the karate suit to the super-sized jersey ensemble, these are long, easy looks to keep dolly warm!

Madison Avenue
Trends take on a serious air with the return of the tailored suit. The end result doesn't have to stay regulated within the sharp classic lane. We were  intrigued by designer, La Quan Smith's flirt with the 1980's super inflated shoulders.We also liked how those two suits were accessorized with long leather gloves!
For Denise, we decided to "clean up" the shoulders a little bit. In the original outfit, those super inflated shoulders falling off the shoulders reminded me too much of the last days of that trend when things went from chic to ugly. So I began with a jacket pattern with set in broad, square shoulders, and used a coating fabric which resulted in a more structured silhouette. I used a stretch fabric for her pencil skirt in a matching tone. This is a winter collection and I don't feel the need for a deep slit in the front. The sleekness of her form fitting skirt is sexy as is!
The collar can be raised up for a dramatic effect!

The easiest way to get this look is by using a pattern with a dolman or batwing sleeve. Click HERE for my pattern. Here, for Yvette's version, I started out with a dolman sleeve top that I belted with a very wide belt.

On the left, Yvette has her arms outstretched. This is a really easy pattern. To get the final look on the right, simply belt the waist, push up the sleeves and add on the gloves. Personally, I prefer a longer, just-under the knee, pencil skirt. To my eye it looks newer, more chic.

Village People

Take a walk on the wild side. This is a wink at New York's East Village back in the 80s: sex, drugs and rock & roll. This was the stuff good party wear was made of particularly  back in the days of New York's Studio 54 or Paris' Le Palace. I still like the intricacy of the bondage wrap, the leather, the slashes of flesh, the juxtaposition of shiny leather and matte jersey.
Of course, when I took this look to the doll....well... This garment is comprised of four pieces--a long-sleeved shrug cut from rayon 2-way stretch jersey, a leather wrap around bra with matching high rise panties and a hipster miniskirt. Samantha really rocks this look (which looks much better in photos than in person). But for my (ancient) eyes, when I finished it...  I thought....she looks a tad bit slutty. Ha ha Le Palace nights are well behind me!!!
So to resolve the issue between the younger me and the older me...... I added a belt. But if Sam is anything like her human, and decides to steal away for some hot club action.... she will leave the house with the belt on.....and then after she gets to the party.....the belt will come off!!!

Daywear into partywear--there is this ninja warrior look: a black tee worn with wide, straight legged trousers which double belted. Actually it is one very long belt wrapped around the hips twice and looped. The top is a simple basic bodice (in rayon jersey) where the area over the shoulders have been split  to give the illusion of a layered tee.. 

Christmas Bon Bons
The real story here is the "total look" in terms of color. I'm really not so sure about this choice of colors, however. I do like the light, frothy pastels, the monochromatic themes, the matching legwear, the ease of such simple silhouettes. But, other than the Jason Wu cocktail dress, the clothes are really nothing special.

For Joan, I made a snowy white dress/coat ensemble with matching stocking boots. I didn't notice it so much on the human, but for the the doll's version, a basic sleeveless shift dress and a simple coat-- I think it is...a bit boring. I added a furry hat and matching purse and though it's quite nice....and quite elegant.. at the end of the day, it had me wishing the designers had made use of a rich autumn palette. 
What I did here was to assemble a few of dolly's existing wardrobe pieces of the same tone. And flaming autumn red, the look really lives up to the beauty of an otherwise, colorful season.

Abstract Thoughts
Geometrics, painter's splashes of color, ripped organza cascading down from the shoulders, this is somewhat of an nontraditional approach to chic eveningwear.

Uptown Girl
These are very pretty, understated looks. The black and white delivers a clean, crisp finish to an otherwise curvy, feminine look in each case. We particularly like the curvy jacket worn over velvet trousers, the organdy cabbage rose suspended over the shoulder of a silky satin slip dress, and the picture frame collar that crowns the full, bishop sleeve of a simple black dress.

Final Curtain Call
This is the big city edition of eveningwear. There are no costumes, no gimmicks, just real-time, understated glamour worn effortlessly. It's the kind of sophistication that stand out in a crowd.
Noor immediately opted for the sultry look of a open-work corset worn over a velvet wrap skirt. For accessories we opted for a pair of lace stocking boots because they mimic the airiness of the corset. Over her shoulders.....netting. Tip Vintage shops often have this kind of netting once used by ladies to cover their heads in Catholic churches. They make wonderful shawls!!
Katherina is a drama queen...She loved this velvet sheath dress with its ruffled tulle bib tacked onto the front. Instead of cutting the layers into a uniform length, we felt it was more interesting to leave the layers uneven.

Hang on to those face masks. This train ride is not over. Next up.. a quick stop in London!

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Oscar Buzz 2020

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Finally!!!! There were not enough interesting styles during the Paris Haute Couture week, so we decided to not do a report. On the other hand, the Oscars Red Carpet was MUCH better than the Golden Globes and that is where we landed two weeks ago. Of course there was a bit of "road kill" on the red carpet, but there were quite a number of great looking gowns the girls were anxious to get their hands on. It took me awhile to get everything together, but here we go with this year's most successful Oscar looks as viewed by my ladies.....
Regina King in Versace. This is a simple strapless dress with an assymetrical neckline and a bustle attached to the back. But the devil lies in the details. There is a side burst of embroidery stitches which I replicated in simple fashion for Naomi's pink satin dress. To give each side of her bustle a bit of a lift, there is a bit of gathered tulle added to the underside.

Again, we were loving this Marie Antoinette goes to Hollywood style. Pictured here, Cyntihia Erivo is wearing another Versace bustle gown that wraps in the front, showing a deep flash of leg. While we love the look of the dress, we found it had a little too much going on. There were complaints about the big boob bodice, so we didn't use any sparkly fabric for the one bra cup. Instead we simply added a thin ring of glitter around the circumference of each bras cup, reduced the asymmetrical strap to a single strand of (glittered string to resemble tiny diamond stud that wraps around the neck. And we dolled Zoe up with silver sparkly accessories including that pair of light silver thigh high boots we made last summer!

Again, this look--Armani Prive worn by Laura Dern-- is another very simple look rendered glamorous thanks to a beaded bra top. The skirt is a high waist A-line evening skirt in white satin. Topping it off..a black beaded bra top with hand made beaded tassels. Margot felt it needed some accessories, so she choose a pair of beaded opera length gloves.
We all fell in love with this Dior statement dress worn by the great Charlize Theron. Here, our own Kym wears the dolly version consisting of a simple bodice with peplum over an flared evening skirt with train.
This Chanel dress, worn by actress Margot Robbie, was the kind of pretty gown our gal, Morgan had been looking for. It is comprised of two pieces, an over dress and a long translucent gathered skirt. The over-dress has an empire waist with open drop sleeves that stream long past the arms. 

Emanuela could not resist the Oscar de la Renta dress worn by Scarlett Johansson. The dress is in two pieces. For the corset top, we started out with a tulle foundation then draped embroidery yarn from side to side. Unfortunately, the metallic yarn we used was quite wiry and did not drape the way we had hoped. So instead of uniform and rhythmic, we ended up with something! The skirt is a simple narrow pattern with a train tacked on at the sides from the bottom of the hip to the floor.

 Dorian fell in love with the simplicity of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Vera Wang gown. I didn't have any blue fabric on hand, so she had to make do with a silky rayon jersey version. What makes this gown is the subtle cowl neckline that descends from spaghetti straps and a silhouette that glides down the the hips then flares out into a graceful train.
It is as though Gal Gadot is wrapped in black lace and floating on a cloud in this Givenchy gown. Natasha liked the spirit of it (actually she LOVED the skirt), but she felt the top needed tweaking a bit. So instead of doing a long sleeved top, we did this bodice in three parts. There is the strapless basic camisole with arm tubes instead of sleeves. Another piece wraps around the neck and partially covers the bust. Like this there are small peek-a-boos of shoulders....or perhaps we can simply remove the parts she doesn't want to cover for a totally different look.The skirt consists of squares of ripped chiffon attached to a waistband. It doesn't need to be measured or equal....which adds to the charm of this asymmetrical skirt.
 Well....Just because the dress is in sequins doesn't mean it's enough for the red carpet. Zazie Beetz is wearing Thom Browne's two-piece ensemble but we found it was a bit boring. With Khadija as my model, we started out with the same strapless black sequin sheath dress, but added a corset belt to give it a modern edge. Then we glammed everything up with a big black marabou feather boa!

 Simple, elegant, there is nothing else to say. Renee is the lady in red, inspired by the Romona Keveza gown worn by Christine Lahti. Again, it is a simple strapless dress with a criss-cross panel that wraps around the shoulders and a big wedge of silk tucked in the back seam and left to cascade into a train at the back!

Oh my goodness...I'm afraid the girls spent way too much time chasing down Oscar dresses. Much has happened since..... coming up next.....Fashion Weeks!!!

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The 20s are Back!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Yes I know, it's not 1920, it is 2020! And from the looks of things, fashion this time around won't be nearly as beautiful, luxurious or as interesting as they were the first time around, a century ago. The 1920s was a break from all the uptight, corseted, heavy looks of 19th century. Gone were the bustles; the body jiggled and locks were cut short. Legs were revealed and accentuating all of this... "flapper" dresses that shimmied above bare legs kicking up a storm as they danced the Charleston. SCANDALOUS!!!

Back in the day (100 years ago), the flappers, a generation of young American women known for their energy, freedom and lifestyle--considered by traditionalists as outrageous, immoral and even dangerous--were looked upon in disdain. These were "bad" women who listened to jazz, smoked cigarettes, drank liquor, wore makeup (bright red lipstick in particular). But looking back, you could say they were the first generation of independent women who pushed the boundaries in economics, political and sexual freedom! Nonetheless, the legacy for which they are remembered first and foremost is the fashion they left behind. The flapper dress! Those dresses were like precious jewelry in themselves. They were cut in basic, loose, straight silhouettes with dropped waists and hemlines grazing the knees. The hemlines were usually adorned with trim that moved or swirled about the legs--fringe, small flaps of embroidered fabric, feathers, or asymmetric squares or even handkerchief points. Colors were generally soft in peach or grayed pastel tones when they weren't cut from black translucent fabric. Polishing it all off-- a plethora of headbands, tiaras, opera length gloves, long ropes of beads or faux pearls, a fur wrap or cocoon coat tossed over the shoulders!

Like the research suggests, for this project I have based all looks on a single (easy) pattern. The shift dress. This garment is essentially the sheath dress without the darts. The fabrics are all woven (with the exception of the silver dress) because stretch fabrics like jersey had not yet been invented! Of course when we think 20s, we tend to think "fringe." And while this was an essential part of many styles, I thought it was equally important to incorporate beaded embroidery. (You can always use beaded stickers!)
I draped the sheath dress directly on the doll. Go HERE to see how the basic pattern was created. For Eva's dress, I chose a dévore rayon satin.
1. I made a few changes to my original pattern. First of all I ignore the darts. Secondly, I straightened the line from the hip to the hemline. (The original pattern tapers the dress in for a sleek fit to the doll's body. I leave the curves in at the waistline so that the dress has a wee bit of shape. If not, the dress will tend to look baggy around the waist.
2. Many of the vintage dresses from that era had geometric detailing, particularly around the hemline. This is a simple thing of determining how high you want the wedges to fall on the dress, then placing them mid point on each quarter.

Note: for this dress, I have added fringe. After cutting away the wedges and turning the edges under, I added fringe. If you use commercial trim, the fringe will hang at an angle. So I made my own fringe, cutting each strand from viscose cord. If you cannot find this, you can always buy a long length of fringe and cut them down into 1-1/4" pieces. I made the fringe by first, cutting a 1/2" (1cm) strip of tulle, which I pinned to the underside of the hemline. I lay each piece as a slight angle downwards. In other words, I cheat by adjusting my fringe so that it will hang downwards from the V-shape of the hem. I use a simple glue to hold the strands in place on the tulle. Then I sew the strips of fringed tulle to the hemline of the dress and sew everything together very close to the edge. From the right side of the garment, you can see the desired result. For this dress, I decided to glue on the self adhesive pearls to the dress.

Commercial paillettes work very well with this project as well!
I wanted to do something fairly ornate but very vintage looking for Anna's dress.
Again I started with the shift dress pattern and two layers of black chiffon. Inasmuch as I planned to attach a 2.5 inch piece of trim with long paillettes to the hemline, I shortened the original pattern so that the finished dress would fall to the bottom of the knees. Before sewing the dress together, be sure to embroider it first. For ideas on simply bead embroidery, click HERE. For the face of Anna's dress, I have drawn a simple series of three diamonds down the front. I used a combination of small round beads, baguettes and flat sequins to fill in my design. When it's finished, sew the dress together. (You can add the lining at this point). Afterwards, add the strip of paillettes.

Consider feathers for the hemline!
I admit, I cheated for Veronique's dress. I used a stretch fabric and the basic stretch dress pattern as the base. But do yourself a favor and make it easy on yourself by doing this dress in two parts. The "bodice" is really a short stretch top. I sewed the feathers onto a separate skirt, then tied a scarf around her hips! For tips on sewing feathers onto a base, click HERE.
And of course, Veronique grabbed that beautiful fringed shawl we made last summer! For this and more ideas for working with fringe, click HERE.

This sort of sweet, soft look was also very popular.
Here again, it starts with the basic shift with a series of "handkerchiefs" tacked onto the hemline. I use two layers of peach chiffon.
 1, Here too you should draw a line (in chalk) to indicate where plan to line up the handkerchief points.
2. Cut about 10 squares 1-1/4 inch each of chiffon.
3. Fold each one on the diagonal into a cone. Let the points in the back of the cone cross and tack together. The idea is to force the handkerchiefs to hang the way they would normally on a full scale garment! Sew the dress together at the shoulders and at the side seams, leaving the back seam open.
4-5 Beginning at the front center,  pin each handkerchief to the dress.
6. Adjust everything so that they are equally spaced. Leave one square off (at the back).

7. Cover the top points of the trim with a satin ribbon. Add a bow to the front. (To tie a perfect bow, go HERE.) Now carefully sew the back seam together, being careful not to catch any of the handkerchiefs in the seam.
Helena's accessories are simple. A long scarf (made from the same chiffon as the dress), linen pumps and a crown of salt water pearls on wire for her hair.

 Latoya's dress is made from a pair of lace panties with geometric motifs.

Her dress is in two pieces. The top is a tunic, using the same shift dress pattern. It is open at the back (held together with a single hook and eye at the neck) and worn over a  narrow skirt. What I've done here is to cut the hem away following the lines of the geometric motifs. I added a few sequins on the tunic and highlighted the points with teardrop crystals.
Latoya had a difficult time choosing between the fur stole and the fur trimmed cocoon coat.
I think she's going with this look. If you are so tempted, you can always follow the "Patrick Kelly" Cocoon coat pattern we featured awhile ago and toss a tiny strip of fur around the neck! For the cloche hat, please refer to our felt hat tutorial HERE.

There are other ideas from this blog you can use. Here is a simple "Gatsby" dress. It's really more of a 1960's rendition of a 20's dress. And pretty simple, too! A strapless sheath dress with five rows of silk fringe.

Her headband is a row of blue sequins with a larger paillette over the brow!

Speaking of accessories.... We've said it before... Fashion is the sum of its parts. Aside from long strands of pearls and beads which you can make yourselves, you'll also need to think of opera length gloves and..... headbands!!!
This is simply a tiny strip of ribbon or trim embellished with rhinestones and a tiny piece of marabou feather tucked into the back. I tend to pin it in the back, but for longevity sake, feel free to glue on a bit of velcro where the ends overlap. Unlike the girls in the middle and right hand side, Veronique (left) wears a Barbie tiara to which I have added a couple of rhinestones. Though this one came from an old SIS Barbie, you can find them on EBay for a few dollars.
What's that she's holding?!!! On top, a cigarette holder I made from a toothpick! Snip off one end and glue a tiny piece of aluminum foil to the other. Paint the better part black but leave space to paint the end in white. Take a red marker and add a few dots on the blunt end for the ash! I am amazed how it is just the right size to fit between my dolls minuscule figures!  On the of the marabou plumes I took from my bag of feathers is just the right fit for tiny hands.

Oh, but it's not 1920. It's 2020! As such, we have access to materials that allow us to really have fun making a 21st century flapper girl. For Nadja, we started out with a silvery Lurex fabric cut into a halter neck mini dress suspended from a silver wire necklace. Add a couple of rows of metallic fringe, a rhinestone studded (Barbie) tiara) and a long cigarette holder and voila... the 20s are very much alive....again!

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