The Anatomy of a Collection – Arpeggio

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Needless to say, I’ve been a busy little beaver. I started on this collection months ago, but was side-tracked by several of life’s little curve balls. But I’m happy to say that it is now complete. If you’ve never been able to partake in the planning of a collection, or done if you’ve one yourself, this post is for you.

She's a big girl...

She’s a big girl…

Designers approach collections in many different ways. Most start with a theme, then they ponder things like fabrics, shapes, textures – all the things that bring cohesion to the groups. Fashion designers focus on trends and more literal cohesion, creating a handful of looks that ultimately get passed down through the channels into their sample makers. Doll makers aren’t quite as persnickety about cohesion, unless they are basing the collection on a specific idea that spices a theme of variations.

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It’s a new collection…

Gene Marshall had moments of collections that were laced with period-relevant themes like the USO. Tonner approaches his collections with both themes and trends, many fabric driven – and an occasional mini-collection will emerge as supplemental companions to larger sets. I never did understand what guided Alex’s collection other than a poor take on what Robert Tonner was doing, or a momentary lapse into a Clue game, or aging television serial dramas. To each his/her own – what drives a designer’s mind isn’t always explainable.

Ghastly, I tell you...

Ghastly, I tell you…

This happens to be my first collection – one I wanted to expand into a couple of limited editions, but in learning to cope with the Redneck Riviera, sewing professionally for companies like Kinsman Doll, juggling complex and labor-intensive commissions – I had to be realistic about smaller goals up front. Well, and learning that I will be returning to Washington, DC in November to re-assume my former career with the Navy (civilian, thank you) – time was precious. By the time I had finished the first projects for Kinsman, I had such little time to gather my thoughts before undertaking a lengthy new commission. Integrity Convention was just around the corner (click here to see my review of last year’s Gloss Event), and there is no better opportunity to show than that event. So I pulled notes and musings together, sketched with muslin instead of a pencil – and focused on what I wanted to do.

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Inspired by the Integrity Convention theme, Cinematic, I turned to Hollywood. If I was going to draw inspiration from Tinsel Town, then I would need to settle on the things that pulled into the movies – namely: music, costumes and fantasy. I wasn’t going to enter this competition this year, because it is pretty much dominated by the 12inch artists – and 16inch is more of my scale…but I wish all the entrants well in this year’s showing. These highly talented folks really pull out the big guns for the 1:6 Scale Girls…

And a hint of Martin O'Malley's guns...

Maybe just a hint of Martin O’Malley’s guns?

If you’ve never understood what power of a musical score adds to a film, try watching one with the sound off. The Academy Awards will occasionally show clips from famous films with dialogue but no musical accompaniment…another way is to see the same film scene using different musical scoring…

The results are mind-blowing. You see, I collect movie soundtracks from my favorite films, and listen to them frequently – each swell of an orchestra’s collective passion can bring tears to my eyes, a smile to my face, or even make me believe I can fly. So I sat and listened to several of my favorites while scattering out luxurious fabrics in every direction – a fabric sketching session, if you will…

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I wasn’t looking for a single cohesive group, instead, I found many couplings of fabrics that just made sense – you can see the earliest partnering of fabrics here – and initial shapes that came to mind as I explored my theme in Fury, Bijou, and Feline. Something was missing, though – until I saw this on a Facebook Sewing Group to which I belong:

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As much as I love the 1950’s glam on the model, it was the shape of the pattern that fascinated me more. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to render a sculptural jacket using exaggerated sleeves…

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Ugh…it’s a great concept, but if I was going to get my ass moving, then I had better focus on something simpler – and that’s why this pattern called to me. I didn’t want that sculptural – especially one that might prove too difficult to reproduce, and a little ‘one note’. Then this happened:

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I was already exploring contrasting textures and colors in the previous three designs, but this – this was a structure that spoke to me. Through asymmetry, I could build on contrast, using color and texture. The tailored décolletage lent itself to ubiquitous use. Grabbing the fabrics nearest to me…I continued to play, draft, and finally, I cut the first pattern. “If this works,” I told myself – “this will bring the fantasy.”

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There were five fabrics I pulled initially – but the two to be cut were a stunning French silk tissue jacquard, and a burgundy silk taffeta. The jacquard I remembered from a visit to Lyon – and it truly is one of the most remarkable fabrics I bought there. It is changeant (shot silk), exhibiting both silver and gold in its floral motif across a claret backing. Silver and gold – no, Burl Ives, not quite like that…but another contrast. I could find potential in almost every possibility, and it was damn exciting.

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After refining the collar, I embarked on that strange journey of lining a doll garment – I’ve spoken of this many times, but for new readers, you can see Magalie Dawson’s video here. It’s a great technique that can lend itself to many types of garments if you think outside the doll box.

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There was a medieval feel to the garment, yet one I could easily see in a 1950s vintage hostess. The colors said ‘Autumn’, and the music playing was The Four Seasons (though it was one of the ‘Spring’ concertos – inspiration isn’t always perfect, Cinderella). Returning to my other fabrics – I found Winter, Spring and Summer – all using the same shape. But two others screamed at me through my piles of exotic textiles – and still a couple more…hmmm. Focus, bitch

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I’m getting ahead of myself, as I often do – but it was important to see ‘Autumn’ fully through if this shape would serve me marching orders. And of course, that means one thing…frippery

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It’s just not Tommydoll without the splash of sparkles and the fabulosity of frippery, Puddings. And that includes accessories, too. Fashion people might make fun of doll clothes and it’s matchy-match ideas – but we love our shit – just try to pry it from our cold, dead hands…

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Fringing the shawl…

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Silver and gold, light and dark, contrasting front panels and a sumptuous lining – and one big ass sweeping skirt that was so stiff that it would stand by itself, and so rustly that the Lord would think it was made of angelswings. Oh yes…this was it…

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Winter was next. Using a Chinese silk brocade, and a bizarre black material…I don’t know…is it denim? And a big thank you to Tim Purk for sending it to me…but I have no earthly idea what it is. It’s cotton, that much I can tell…and it’s heavy (I was almost afraid it would be too bulky) – and that gloriously raised stripe pattern woven into its surface – incredible.

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My first though was Regina from Once Upon A Time – I love that show, and I love the fantasy concepts they bring, sometimes to silly lengths – but it’s fucking Disney, people…so get over it. And thus…more fuel added to the inspirational fire…

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I thought about using a more basic silk for the lining – but that missed the point. Some Hollywood directors were so intense on costuming being hyper-accurate – right down to the undergarments. “But no one will see them,” you might think? Sweetie…she will know there are there – and my dolls expect nothing less.

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Spring always invokes thoughts of flowers and Ladies’ Day at Ascot for me – but it’s not My Fair Lady, we’re going for here – this needed more vintage-meets-modernity in its approach – for dolls, that is. I had this unbelievable changeant silk taffeta with golden yellow as the warp, and teal as the weft – making it appear green – but I can assure you there isn’t even the slightest hint of green yarn in it. The sun-kissed yellow silk jacquard with another floral motif – this sporting hints of blue and jonquil in its weave – well, it was damned perfect in combination. Yeah, a bit bright…but that shouldn’t stop you from pairing glorious colors together. I offset with a beige print silk chiffon and coordinating silk shantung belt. Yeah, ok…so it’s a bit cliché – I’m the one doing the work here…indulge me.

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And a perfect little bag made of cut silk velvet with beading and fripp…

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And of course…a hat – and not just any hat mind you – but one Philip Treacy would put in his shop window.

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Summer was lighter and airier – refreshing in an embroidered silk shantung paired with the white-on-white embroidered silk dupioni. It was all about contrasting white here…the soft blue was gravy…

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But if she’s going to California, she needs a striking swimsuit and bag – you can’t just wrap a hand-painted silk chiffon scarf around her and call it fantasy, dears…that’s like walking in the bedroom with a hard-on and a smile – and expecting applause – and might I add that micro-sequined bag just captures the light perfectly…

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But my four seasons weren’t over just like that that. I had other color combinations of the fabulous silk jacquard used in the white panels of ‘winter’ – and it was time for my Pirate Princesses to leap into action. They are sisters, you know…collection123 (59) collection123 (60) collection123 (61) collection123 (62) collection123 (63)…And, of course…sexually fluid, and lethally corrupt.

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Solstice used a contrasting gold and silver pattern – so I partnered a silk-faced wool satin with it. I ran out of the fusible Swarovski crystals in the ‘winter’ ensemble – but in my panicked state to keep the momentum going, I discovered two packages of Swarovski rhinestones with holes drilled in the center (think Michael Jackson and his famous glove) – they would have to be sewn with a bothersome clear monofilament thread, but the effect would be dazzling

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And would you believe, I was so into it all – that I only got one work-in-progress of Equinox? When I focus…I really focus…

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That’s all…

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – should pirate dames have pants? No, Puddings…these are Ladies, after all…did you fall down and smack your little head on the pavement?

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For the 16inch finale – I turned to Superdoll’s Abbe Lane – a real star. She would be my queen. Pairing changeant silk taffeta that reads purple, and a blood red silk shantung – this variant would have a short, symmetrical jacket over a sweeping mermaid style skirt.

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Despite the red, white and blue appearance in the images, you truly have to see the red and purple together in person…it is noble. After beading the top back and shoulder with Swarovski sewn crystals and seed beads, the one thing left for our coronation was still needed…

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Well, of course. This gorgeous sheared mink and white jasmine mink trim was made for me by renowed doll furrier Dimitha for an older project now banished to the back of a shelf – but that cape was too rich to leave in the dust. Abbe agreed…

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Now, when I was making Bijou – I had another beaded silk chiffon on stand-by – it was time for this to hit the studio table. Backing in the making of Feline…remember this?

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Yes, that stunning sandblast silk cape shot with gold Lurex threads was about to get it’s day in the sun…with a million seeds beads and iridescent sequins to help it glow brightly

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But my whole Hollywood inspiration wouldn’t be complete without another little 12inch tribute – ‘Summer’ brought me visions of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly – it was time to shrink my versatile pattern for the 12inch girls. But I didn’t want to go with just a smaller version of the other looks – each had its own feel and character. What this called for was a touch of houndstooth…Italian wool, to be specific…

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It’s the same pattern – but it’s funny how the choice of fabrics changes the story. The 12inch conversion was mostly successful. But it wasn’t perfect – and given more time, I would have figured out the adjustments needed to fit Victoire Roux’s ample bosom – a coordinating shift dress was warranted.

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Adding hand-embroidery brought that Tommydoll touch – and showering her with little accessories told her story…

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At this point, I was ready for the big camera – so I concentrated on styling each doll for the character, adding final jewels, swords and frippery – and I sat back and looked at them all. A very special thank you to Sandra Rademacher for sending me jewels fit for a king – many of which were used in the photography you see below – thanks, Sanny!!!

There is a reason I named this collection Arpeggio. With music, costume and fantasy, I found that like an actual instance of a musical arpeggio, this collection told a story through a visual chord, and each look achieved an individual height when played separately. I like to think of these looks as lost stories for the Author’s Book in Once Upon A Time – for in each, you can see them clearly, know where their adventure is about to lead them – and sigh over their gorgeous clothes worn while on that quest. Make no mistake – that’s one thing that dolls can bring that mere fashion won’t (at least not by the mainstream) – a fantasy element that knows no boundaries when it comes to lost horizons.

The Seasons

The Seasons

Therefore – it is with deepest pride, and hysterical pleasure that I present my first collection – Arpeggio. Check availability on Collection designs – click here. Thank you for indulging me – and enjoy!!!

The 16inch Girls…

FuryLearn more about Fury here – wearing Fury is Superdoll’s Gen-X Vinyl Sybarite Precious

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Adagio – wearing Adagio is Integrity Toys’s 16inch Tulabelle (on a FR16 body)

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Arioso – wearing Arioso is Integrity Toys’ 16inch Poppy Parker

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Allegro – wearing Allegro is Integrity Toys’ 16inch Tulabelle

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Andante – wearing Andante is Integrity Toys’ 16inch Poppy Parker

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Solstice – wearing Solstice is Superdoll’s Gen-X Vinyl Sybarite Precious

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Equinox – wearing Equinox is Superdoll’s resin Sybarite Voltaire (wig by Laurie Lenz Angels)

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Nobilmente – wearing Nobilmente is Superdoll’s resin Abbe Lane

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The 12inch Girls…

BijouLearn more about Bijou here – wearing Bijou is Integrity Toys’ 12inch Poppy Parker

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Dolce – wearing Dolce is Mattel’s Silkstone Barbie

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FelineLearn more about Feline here – wearing Feline is Integrity Toys’ 12inch Poppy Parker

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Marcato – wearing Marcato is Integrity Toys’ Victoire Roux and Mattel’s Silkstone Barbie

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7 thoughts on “The Anatomy of a Collection – Arpeggio

  1. YOU are who inspires me to keep trying , I enjoy your work so so much! I learn something eveytime I read you you give me something to think about an even chuckle. I humbly thank you for sharing your talent with us.

My blog is satire, but your thoughts are welcome!

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