Couture With a Mind of Its Own…

"Abbe, who?"

“Abbe, who?”

Many designers have a distinctive vision. They can clearly see a design in their head, render it to a reference sketch, and execute it beautifully. And then there’s me

2008 - Project Runway Tryouts

2008 – Project Runway Tryouts

I think that’s one of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to cohesive design – although I can see the vision clearly in my head…I do allow it to run its own course, evolving as construction progresses – clearly with a mind of its own. I make no apologies for such actions…it’s just the way I do things. When I tried out for Project Runway back in 2008, one of the most difficult challenges I had was defining who I was as a designer – or, communicating my distinctive point-of-view to the panel. Christian Siriano was on my panel, and he asked me point-blank, “If you were to win this competition, what would we do with you?” Well, other than let me run around and feel fabulous, criticizing everyone else on fashion television – I really couldn’t answer the question. Figures…

Who are you as a designer?

We can’t all be a Fashion TV Princess…

I guess that’s what makes one-of-a-kind miniature sewing such a dream…you don’t really need a point-of-view. Oh, I’m pretty sure I could head up a doll brand and develop product collections to appeal to a specific audience, but dolls and human fashion are two very different things.

Says, who?

Says, who?

Now, before we proceed…I’d like to address something that I recently found to be very fascinating – it involves Facebook and Ego…

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I posted this image on my Facebook wall after seeing it posted by a friend – I tend to get a healthy amount of ‘likes’ and comments on my posts…and yet…this one didn’t even garner one single ‘like’, let alone a comment.

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Curious, I thought…what exactly is this image saying? Ego is a dog? Hell, I’m the first person who’ll gladly admit to using Facebook for attention – but as a therapist once told me, seeking attention alone isn’t a bad thing. I’ve never really counted the number of likes I get, though I have commented sarcastically when I’ve posted something that I thought was really cool – yet few others seemed to really notice. It’s all a big game I suppose, one some associate with The Power Paradox…be that as it may, I still believe Facebook to be a modern miracle of communication above all else.

That's a big blue marble...

That’s a big blue marble…

I love Facebook, and although it can annoy me from time to time, I have found a good, productive balance between sharing with friends, meeting new people, drooling over such vast talent in not only doll art, but everything from food to photography – and the bullshit ads, game requests, religious faith and/or political view bombardment, and Bitstrips. That being said, many of my friends obviously tolerate my discussions (okay, they’re sometimes rants) on gay rights, selfies, food, photography and doll fashion postings (not to mention my review of the red carpet glitterati that make us all feel like shit while we sit in our living rooms drinking wine, silently judging the rich and famous)…and for some odd, strange reason…these people still wish to be my ‘friend’ on Facebook. I hate to think of how many have stopped following me because of my postings…but that’s their choice, not mine.

Not all ideas need to be shared...

Not all ideas need to be shared…

Facebook is what it is…you can either learn to use it to your best ability, or avoid it thinking your privacy is compromised…whatever. It’s a forum where I have re-connected with family and childhood friends, and a place where I can keep in touch with those cherished all over the world. I was never a regular email writer (and you can forget letter writing!)…but with Facebook, I can post, browse, comment, and dream with much more far-reaching and powerful tools than any other social media device….and in far less time.

Nuthin' but culcher 'round here...

Nuthin’ but culcher ’round here…

Look, when you live in a rural area with little-to-no culture available even within a 1-hour driving radius, Facebook fills a certain void in a world where people like me are hungry for positive attention and encouragement. I like sharing my abilities, and celebrating those of others…coaching, learning, crying with tragedies and roaring with laughter over the insane – it may not be for you but it is for me – and if that makes me a dog who’s ego needs to be fed ‘likes’ via Facebook – then, “woof.” And that’s all I have to say about that (for now)…

A man and his dog...

A man and his dog…

Back to the couture, Puddings…

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Another strapless gown…

I love strapless ballgowns…there, I’ve said it. You might think these are surprising simple in their construction, and involve little design effort – but think again. They remain as one of the most enduring silhouettes in all of fashion history, and they inspire dreams far from the avant-garde and tattered frippery you see on the latest designer runways. Every fashion style has its place, but to discount strapless ballgowns to the ordinary – well, it’s like looking at Christian Dior or Charles James and saying, “oh…another strapless ballgown.”

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For this gown, I could see the basic shape in my head…I drafted up a pattern using the base pattern from Vienna, and increasing the skirt width to a more circular shape so the voluminous folds would collapse onto themselves. Within the folds, I could see fabric imbedded in the long seams tapering upwards toward the center back. I also knew before even beginning the toile, that there would be a giant butt-bow – another decorative feature that I simply adore.

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I already knew the fabrics – after wanting to do a lace overlay gown for some time, but mustering enough patience to deal with pattern placement – and the basting…all that basting – pressed against my practicalness (if not laziness – patience is not one of my strong suits). All of them came from Lyon, France…a city I’ve visited only once…and brought back suitcases full of exquisite silks – taffetas, satins, chiffons, and of course…beautiful laces. Lyon is the center for silk in France – and a breathtakingly beautiful city, too. From my stash, I drew out a fantabulous lace. This French style lace was shot with gold metallic threads and had Swarovski crystals dotting the surface. Those close to the seam edges would need to be removed by heating them with my mini iron, and peeling away…to be re-set later once the construction was completed.

'Changeant' is what they used to call 'iridescent' in the 1950s...

‘Changeant’ is what they used to refer to ‘iridescent’ in 1950s France…

Warm and cool…a tone combination that is amongst those I highly prize…and what better pairing than a French blue changeant (or ‘iridescent’ as we would say in modern America) tissue silk taffeta and a rich, golden taffeta? The effect was simply regal…

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The construction of this dress was delightfully geometric, and I’ve received comments from readers who not only love seeing the construction process, but very much enjoy the photos of the pattern layouts – what a stunningly graphic presentation they make!

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And then it came down to the bodice. Oh I was felt so confidently clever about starting the shirring process…pins, pins, pins! Pinching, draping, tucking, pinning…all resulting in a colossal waste of time.

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Nope...let's try this again...

Nope…let’s try this again…

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The horizontal shirring seemed too stiff for a dress that possessed a lovely flow in its lines. What then became a crisscross drape, descended into some over-thought, magnificent piece of wadded crap. And the truth is, I knew it before I even stitched it down…but somehow felt I could make it work…and so I proceeded with the hours of hand-beading (because invisible stitching just isn’t enough, so I told myself) – all along trying to convince my inner fashion critic (and my mother) it would be beautiful in the end. It wasn’t.

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Oh dear…

So I carefully took seam ripper to all those interior stitches and beading…and cast the failed attempt aside like a well-used lover.

Fuck.

Fuck.

But from this torrid affair sprang anew with an idea…why not something a bit simpler…yet more sculpted? Why not, indeed…

Much better...

Much better…

The ‘petals’ would be anchored by a cummerbund treatment, shirred toward the back…and even that ended up a farce…having to pull it all off…and start again. For those that haven’t done a lot of shirring…it really does take a mother load of pins and patience (and there’s that word again).

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And even through all the care and love my bleeding fingers could muster…the damn thing just could not come to a close over Abbe. I dismissed her along her way, and found solace in my muse, Poppy Parker.

The lining...

The lining…

The lining started as a folly…because I didn’t have enough yardage…therefore, I ended up pulling artistic license to finish…the effect was very interesting, and I will remember this for future use. There was one other wee problem with the gold taffeta…a large imperfection in the fabric couldn’t be avoided, no matter how I tried to arrange the pattern pieces…we’ll just call that an inclusion in this gem

Just an inclusion...

Just an inclusion…

Before installing the lining, it was time to finish the lace overlay hem. With the lace embedded in the seams, I left the bottom open at the hem, and hand-sewed those together separately from the shell…the scalloped edges matched pretty well, and the floating effect gave a nice, light touch to the hemline.

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More beading and frippery before installing the lining. And one of my most dreaded tasks…removing the basting threads. Since I used different colors, it was easier to identify stitches that needed to be removed…but man, that’s a shitload of thread.

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I had just enough fabric left, and one remanant surprisingly cut in an interesting symmetrical shape – one of which I wanted to take advantage, using the pretty lace in a hooded cape/wrap to keep her protected from the spring air’s chill.

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And thus, avoiding my one last task was an easy diversion as I added the bow and train, and even made a lovely little handbag…

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It was all to avoid the petticoat. During fitting, I used an old Tyler Wentworth petticoat to provide shape…but knowing that this gown would need support from underneath…it was time to get this girl finished.

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Like linings, petticoats are concealed…and they can involve just as much work that goes into a full gown. The petticoat for Aurora was pretty basic, but I was feeling a bit fancy for this gown…so I rolled up my sleeves and got my fussy on…

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The teddy is courtesy of Superdoll…one added reminder of Abbe Lane’s dismissal because her boobs were too big for my lack of precise technique. It’s only for the photo, though…I ain’t giving that teddy up. I considered making a little corset for Poppy…and then abandoned the entire thought to a newer project one day – I’d had enough of lace overlays.

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There you have it – Lyon – an evening ensemble for springtime ballroom dancing. I will be offering this on eBay, but just to be clear, it is not a sale that will be benefiting my niece. I am very, very grateful for those that participated in Marquise, and other auctions generously donated by friends – but I wanted to make sure there were no blurry lines associated with the sale of this gown. THIS ITEM IS NOW SOLD.

See below for more particulars, including fit, and other items included.

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Lyon by Tom Courtney to fit 16inch Poppy Parker by Integrity Toys

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Lyon by Tom Courtney to fit 16inch Poppy Parker by Integrity Toys

I have fit this gown to 16inch Poppy Parker – it will also fit Antoinette, Tyler Wentworth FR16, JAMIEshow, Kingdom Doll, and Gene Marshall. The shoes have been ordered…and they are on their way – the shoes will fit 16inch Poppy Parker and FR16, but I do not know if they will work with other fashion doll feet:

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The jewelry is simple…pale blue stones in goldtone metal with pearl studs at the earrings – they will also be included.

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And now…please enjoy some other images of Lyon…and thank you for reading!

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14 thoughts on “Couture With a Mind of Its Own…

  1. Well, I’m crushed that it won’t fit Abbe. She’s been SO patient! But since it WILL fit JamieShow, I definitely have several girls who would love for me to try to get it for them. But then that dear man who ended up with the red Abbe gown which for which I pined just might have a JamieShow girl or two himself. Dammit.
    I do enjoy watching the process, and the fabrics in this town are spectacular. I’m happy you’re going to post it on eBay so everybody can have a chance at it, and not just the attendees at a convention. Thank you for that!! Now let’s hope that the gown with a mind of its own decides to come live at MY house…

  2. When I saw “Abbe who?”, my first thought was ‘Abbe……Normal” Great blog as usual, glad you posted the metamorphosis of the bodice that shall never be spoken of again. And btw, my wedding gown had a huge Butt Bow! Love them!

  3. Stunning! I’m one of the people who love progress photos. You have incredible patience and dedication and it shows in the details of every finished piece. I also love butt bows 😄 I put one on my first doll dress that I made in school to hide some ugly stitching. They work so well on doll clothes because gravity doesn’t cause them to flop.

  4. I love your blog and this is the first time I am writing. Do you hand sew everything? Or do you machine sew straight seams and other less difficult seams?
    Your fashions are truly works of art and I look forward to your new posts.

    • Thank you, Rita! I use my machine wherever I can…it’s consistent and practical. But I use a great deal of hand-finishing, too…it works for many small scale areas, and for finishing.

My blog is satire, but your thoughts are welcome!

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