Dolls' Eye View: Paris Haute Couture Fall '18

Haute Couture is Back!!! I had nearly given up on this form of fashion because to my style weary eyes--it had lost its direction, lost its charm and possibly, lost the precious few hundred women that make up its worldwide clientele as well. In contrast to the couture weeks that boasted 22 members and about two or three invited foreign houses from 30 years ago, today there are only a handful of real French couture houses that participate. To help fill up the week, there are "invited guests." Sadly, most of them, as well as the public, the press (and perhaps even many of the customers) have not a clue as to what all the fuss is about. French Haute Couture is governed and protected by strict laws over everything from the number of workers employed right down to the number of required private shows that must take place seasonally. But more than a set of rules, couture was always about the preservation of an art synonymous with rarefied elegance and luxury. Couture was also the vehicle designers used to work on ideas and concepts later to be adapted and developed into the ready to wear markets. Like a Lamborghini, yellow diamond, or a Stradivarius violin...Haute Couture should make you dream!

Just as I had decided to stop taking the girls to couture shows....Paris delivered up some good old fashion glamour, over-the-top, luxury, drop dead gorgeous, fab, fab fab couture gowns...just like the olden days of a decade ago!!!! As a result, I was inspired. This report is a little longer than usual. I made more dresses than usual. If you are looking to make a really special dress for dolly...NOW is the time. Here, let me give you a few ideas!!!

Salute to the Suits
Once upon a time, daywear existed in Couture. After all, we are talking about a lifestyle where madame is part of the ladies who lunch and needs something to wear on the way to her fundraisers. Currently there is very little. Still, we can always count on Karl Lagerfeld and his made to order tweed suits for Chanel! These are pretty simple. The sleeves have slits that show off elbow length gloves. While I was tempted to make one of these suits, my dolls were nudging me to concentrate my efforts on......the evening gowns!

Swing Time
There are not a lot of short dresses either this couture season. But what we saw had a lot of swing and sass to them! Think fit and flare where the bodice snugly fits the body in contrast to a gathered A-line skirt with lots of fabric.

Family Jewels
In this case, color is the main story here. Think deep, rich jewel tones when choosing fabric. Ruby, amethyst, tourmaline, sapphire,'s like squeezing the colors out of a jewelry box and onto some pretty luxurious fabrics. 
Here, Nathalie is all dressed up and on her way from the Givenchy show to the opera! She loved the contrast between the sapphire blue sequinned skirt and a simple, black velvet top....and the contrast between the super simple 2-piece ensemble and the cape with power shoulders and a train!

Fancy Pants
Here is the fanciest way to wear pants to the ball! Cut them out of velvet and wear an embroidered bolera....or cut them out of silk and team them up with a waist length velvet jacket. But our favorite is the swashbuckling silhouette of a full over skirt swirling around the legs or....a long train falling from the shoulders of an embroidered top!
Oh, there were many discussions in the house as to which one of those looks I'd make! If I listened to my'd still be waiting on this post!!  For Lynn, I settled on this pants ensemble, cut from midnight blue taffeta. It's a simple bodice with a ruffled treatment I recently featured. It's worn over stovepipe pants and a circle skirt opened in the front. Since the fabric is dark, it is pretty easy not to see the beaded embroidery on the top and the sides of the pants. 

Flights of Fancy
These are lots of classic party ballgowns in a variety of fabrics and treatments. Short and long lengths coexist in the same garment; tulle is worked in a few festive ways including ruffled tiers with sparkling edges. But what I really love is when you take a traditional couture garment and translate it into another culture.
Grace shows what happens when you mix French couture with an African print. For her dress, I used a stylized tiger stripe made of velvet. 

My Fair Lady
It could have been lifted from the black and white day at the races of the movie "My Fair Lady." Except, here, the styles have been modernized for 2018! Black and white...what could be more dramatic or elegant! Note: If the Givenchy gown looks familiar...this dress was inspired by Audrey Hepburn's (red) gown from the movie "Funny Face" filmed at the Louvre!

One-armed Bandits
One very strong trend we noticed throughout the shoulder dresses executed in a number of ways. Of course there is the class silhouette sometimes with an embellishment on the sumit of the shoulder. But there we also love those dresses with a single sleeve as well.
For Margot, our newest model making her debut appearance here... nothing beats the allure, the class of Armani Couture. For her, we kept it black stretch velvet with a supersized black orchid on her shoulder!

Curls & Swirls
Not only are things swinging, silhouettes are also curling and swirling about the body. Look out for flounces, peplums and even giant swirls that form flowers or simply curve around the body.

Seeing Red
In a sea of black and grey gowns....nothing stands out from the crowd than a flash of....RED! Lace, satin, silk....embroidered or plain.....anything red is regal!
And quite naturally, my flame haired doll, Sybille begged me for this dress. Making it was easy. This is a one shouldered sheath dress cut from red lace with a circle of silk that falls asymmetrically over the hips in the back.

The Black Lace Brigade
This is the season for black lace! Stretched over the torso, lined, beaded or "re-embroidered," all forms of lace are big this season. Some looks leave the body to peak out from underneath, while others are totally lined with the lace serving to add texture.

Sheen On!
If it's not lace, it's time to shine. Here the fabric tells the whole story. Silhouettes are relatively simple with lots of flare, lots of drama. What really makes the look is fabric with a high degree of sheen. Note how many of these looks have A-line silhouettes. It's about choosing a simple pattern so that the fabric can speak for itself!
I saw this fabric in a Paris store and fell in love with its bronze sheen. You don't need anything extravagant to create such a super dress. Just a simple cut which helps deflect the light in subtle ways around the edges.
A slightly more glamorous translation of the same theme.... I used a silver ribbon for Arianna's strapless sheath dress and silver lam for the stole. But this is the perfect pattern for really fancy (and expensive) fabrics. 

Very Versailles
In the real world, a couture gown can go from $50,000 to as much as madame feels like spending depending on the embellishments. This is a million dollar theme featuring beaded fabrics and abundantly embroidered laces. You know that section of your fabric store where you wish you could make a dress? Now is the time to splurge... And here is what you do with those super precious beaded remnants!!! Hint--Keep it simple!!!!
There were two ways I handled this theme. For Jourdan's dress, I cut the bodice out of trim which I later added beads (either singular or applied motifs cut from beaded fabric). The skirt is the "typical" draped couture skirt opened over one thigh. I also used a bit of beaded trim to the opening of the skirt. Here's a hint: look for embroidered remnants, beaded trims found in vintage stores and antique fairs!
And then there was that very special sale at my favorite fabric store where I was finally able to buy a bit of beaded lace! The beaded lace in Laeticia's dress is grey. It slides over a black foundation worn underneath. To simplify execution of the dress, I used a separate grey lace trim for the sleeves. 

Continuing on with a glamour theme.... gowns in powdered tones swirl, float, drip down from the hips. Dolly is a movie star and her dress should be the first thing that gives that away. Think about using lots of sheer fabric--the more the better. Add spritzes of sparkles sequins, beads or feathers to give it that super-star quality. Just dream and let your doll take center stage with any of these looks!
Ingrid is wearing a bustier made of pale blue tulle molded to her torso in silver sparkle. It's worn over a matching blue skirt cut from five layers of tulle.

This dress did not fall into any category, but Nichelle fell in love with it and insisted I include it. The dress starts with a silver metallic bustier. Admittedly, I made about for of these as I tried to imitate the look of metal. I did make a  molded silver tone (oven baked clay bustier however....too thin it broke....thick enough--it added too much bulk. So I ended up using aluminum foil! The dress is made in three pieces...the top is a bodice of draped silk over a slim skirt. The front drape is added to the waistline.

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