Dolls Eye View: Paris Fall 2016 Haute Couture

Every six months when Paris Couture Week takes place, I lament on the future of this art. The above, cover picture, reflects my own personal vision of what it is supposed to be: elegant, distinguished, super classy. But I find that much of what takes place on the catwalk today is often a departure from the art I have followed over the years. Much of what passes for haute couture is, in my opinion, is just ordinary ready-to-wear by yesterday's standards. But the key word here is "yesterday" which, of course, is past tense.

Traditionally, the "couturier" does not have to consider commercial constraints while putting together their "made to order" creations, in terms of production, market appeal, expense. But they do have to align themselves with the lifestyles of the super wealthy clients who buy this type of product. That client has changed over the years. She is more concerned about her body than her predecessor and less interested in using fashion to exert her social status. This is a woman with a supercharged lifestyle and consequently, shows a preference for more easy to wear silhouettes.

Each season I swear this will be the last time I will do a couture report because I feel it is no longer relevant. At its best, the catwalk resembles a hit parade of former "greatest looks" watered down for a customer who does not fully understand the art. At its worse, it screams "wannebe fashion student." So why am I still here? As long as there are a few special dresses that help me answer the question, "Why haute couture in 2016," I will stick with it!"

Avenue Montaigne
The suit. There is still a demographic that enjoys the neat and tidy look of a well tailored suit, fabrics in big city tones of asphalt, concrete and slate, and the understated elegance of uncomplicated silhouettes. These are usually women at the top tiers of corporate structures, executives. Armani and Chanel are champions of this eternal style. These are also looks that translate very well into clothes for our vinyl friends.

Out of the Woods
Of all catwalk shows, Jean-Paul Gaultier was a stand out for us. Though many of the silhouettes are very simple at first glance, the devil is really in the details. Gaultier strolled into the depth of the forest and allowed himself to be inspired by the texture and color of the vegetation. He then breathed life into these looks through the use of innovative materials like yarn, leather, shaved fur mixed with lace. But at its base, the silhouettes are relative simple!

All That Jazz
Long and lean or short and sassy, these are glammed up looks reminiscent of the 1920's and 30's Art Deco era. In particular, we like the sleekness of long looks. But we also liked all the detailing (embroidery, appliques, feathers and fur) emploied in the shorter dresses.
As simple as this looks at first glance, this Gaultier outfit helped me get the hang of what is important in 21st century couture. What is important here: the dark, rich color palette, the texture of the embellishments and the overall notion of "garment as work of art." Iman's 1-piece corset was cut from brown leather, then embellished with foiling and edged with a tiny strip of ripped silk. The skirt was cut from a patterned suede, over which I added tiny circles of leather faux fur encircled with faux fur glued to the skirt. I added bits of feathers to the bottom circles and ripped silk to the top circles. Over her tummy...a triangle of leather, dotted with bronze self-adhesive pearts and overlapping a speckled feather. While attempting to recreate this skirt, the message of the skirt kept screaming...."make it a piece of art!"

Okay, perhaps the previous outfit is a bit ambitious for some of you. When in doubt, a strapless velvet gown and a shawl of bunny fur bits (taken from a winter scarf) always works! Instant glamour that's easy to make!

Made to Move Couture
 
The 17 year old in me loves fringe! All the dresses above except for the last one can be made with trim! Start with a basic foundation (or sheath dress) and add the fringe.
While on the subject of fringe...I was particularly intrigued by this Versace dress because it's the first I've ever seen that is belted. I started out with a silver, sheath dress (with darts) and some 4-inch (10cm) silver fringe. (For this dress, I only needed about 10" (26cm) of trim, though most stores insist on a 1 yard (1 meter) minimum.) I only used four rows of fringe. If you use more, the doll looks as though she's wearing a hair dress (remember Thing from Adam's Family?), so in this case, less is better. When finished, I cut the dress to the desired length. The belt is made from silver leather with a tiny strip of black ribbon glued to the middle. (It closes in the back with Velcro). I also added a leather band to the top of the dress, thus forming a collar.
 
Carmela's shaggy dress is also made from trim. This is a strapless shift dress (sheath without the darts sewn), over which we've stitched six rows of shaggy fringe. We added two small strips of trim as straps.

Take a Bow
There was a time when it seemed that no couture season was complete without dresses decorated with bows. While I wasn't a huge fan of women wrapped like Christmas packages, I do like these bows. A length of ribbon wraps around the body then is looped into a serious part of the style!
A simple one shoulder sheath and a major velvet bow...that's all Dorian needs to make a grand entrance!
The secret to achieving this look is to do the dress in two pieces: a corset and a skirt. The bow adds a super girly look to an otherwise edgy style.
 
Snowflake Princess
These are very girly looks with the look and feel freshly fallen snowflakes. This is a story of patterned white fabrics. I like the handkerchief points, the appliques over sheer fabric and even the little girl's dress that mimic's "mommy's" gown.
We could not resist this fairy tale story, modeled here by Adriana. This starts with a strapless sheath dress made from white sheer cotton. I cut a bit of white lace trim and stitched it over the bust of the doll. Then I made an apron which wraps around the dress and fastens in the back. The skirt is made from dryer (fabric softener) sheets which has just the right amount of texture and stiffness. The dryer sheets are cut in half and stitched (at the center point) to a tiny band of grosgrain ribbon.

Winter Grecian Goddess
The one-shoulder or bare shoulder gown, a fashion staple, steps out from under what is left from autumn foliage and grey winter skies. Though the fabrics are light and airy, the color palette reminds us that winter is nearing.

Celestial Voyage
Space age couture on the horizon? Though the doll would require very simplified versions of these looks, we like the silver satin, the sheer digital print and the translucent latex material (Iris van Herpen) used in the above looks.

Belle of the Ball
At the end of the day, it's interesting to see today's couturier return to grandeur of Gone With the Wind with its great, big debutant dress (sans frills)!



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