That Special Dress: Valentino

Fashion weeks are underway and while I await my girls' report on New York fashion, I thought I would revisit a dress from last season and use it to illustrate the principle of reinterpreting a design.

To the layman,  making a 1/6 of a designer's dress constitutes "copying." But as I've stated matter how much you know about sewing and pattern making for humans, the tiny proportions of the doll forces you to simplify, stylize and reinterpret. By the time you've worked all of that into the design, the garment becomes your own. Sometimes I can get pretty close to the original but when it comes to embellishment.....that calls for my own interpretation. Also, there might be times when you see something you like, but think it might be cool if other materials were substituted. For those of you who are keeping a croquis book (sketch pad), this is why it is also important to note down garment details.

Last season (Fall/Winter 2016) I saw a Valentino gown I wanted to try. I love the way the feathers stretch out over the body like a bird in flight. For the doll this dress is a challenge. While the dress is simple enough, you will not find flat feathers small enough. (And even if you do, they will be too difficult to handle.) The first thing I did was to look at the photo and decide what it is about this dress I like. It is the texture and the movement of the feathers against the delicate dress. I first bought silver grey feathers with the thought of cutting them down. But I soon discovered the final effect didn't come close to the original. On the contrary, I thought I could get a similar effect using raffia painted silver.

We begin with a dress with lots of flare. I chose a floor length princess line dress. You can also use the basic 2-piece dress (bodice+flared skirt), but I didn't want to take the chance of bulk around the doll's waist. The original dress appears to be tulle--which is not so easy to handle. So I used a sheer nylon (from one of my mom's old nightgowns). I cut a double layer.
1. Baste the two layers together using a running stitch. Then assemble the front, then the back together.
2. Trim within 1/8 inch from the seam and press each seam towards the nearest side. (Don't press flat.)
3. Sew the front to the back at the shoulders. I am adding on sleeves. (Hem them first.) Then stitch up the sides.
4. At this point you can redesign or readjust the neckline. If you decide to line this dress, I would use a simple (sleeveless) sheath dress pattern and attach it at the neckline. In my case, I rolled and stitched the neckline (like a silk scarf). Though you see her body through the dress, remember, we are adding an embellishment which will cover all of her privates.
5. The basic dress will be your canvas.
6. Take a good look at the movement of the feathers and make a rough sketch.
7. With that sketch nearby, I begin to pin my raffia (or whatever material you chose to use) on my dress.
8. Pin a little at a time onto the dress and then sew it to the dress. Then pin a little more and then sew.
9. Because the top will overlap the bottom. I stopped to add strips around the waist.
10. I use a simple whip stitch to keep the raffia in place. I'm using a silver embroidery thread. The stitches will be visible and using silver thread will add to the decorative edge of this embellishment.
 I've stitched down the strands to a point. But then I frayed the ends so that it forms a ragged edge of fringe. When it's all finished, I add a few auto-adhesive rhinestones to the bodice.
 Here's the finished result. The original is more of a "bird." Mine is more rustic....perhaps the nest! One concept--two completely different interpretations simply by changing up the materials! And that's how some  designs are born!

Up next....the girls are back with their picks from New York Fashion Week!

All text and images, property of Fashion Doll Stylist. 2016.

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