Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I am thrilled...

with how well my latest creations have turned out. Both costumes are for French Fashion reproductions in my collection and have been in the works for several years.

The first one I finished is for Collette. She is 16" tall and it's speculated that she was made in the 1960's or 70's. She was purchased from my dear friend Betty many years ago and is very dear to me. Not long after I first purchased her I started making her a wonderful wardrobe. It included 5 dresses and many many accouterments. I have also found or made furniture for her.

Now that I have so much time on my hands to sew, I decided to finish many of the projects that I had in my "to do" basket. This outfit was 3rd on my list. I hadn't really made or added anything other than a antique truck to her possessions for some time until this past week when if finished my latest creation for her. Everything I needed to create this gown has been kept in a large zip lock bag now for at least 8 years if not longer. The pattern is from Sylvia MacNeil's book, "The Paris Collection", which I've had since it was first published. Collete already has one ensemble made from the patterns it that book. A light and airy creation made entirely of vintage white batiste and decorated with row upon row of hand sewn ruffles. It is simply scrumptious and over the years I have seen several other renditions of it on the Internet created by other doll costumers .

It was not the first time I duplicated this particular pattern. Several years ago I made one for another friend of mine. It wasn't made for any doll in particular but instead displayed on a mannequin that i created from a dress form pin cushion that i had purchased from the fabric store and then altered to approximate the dimension of a 16" French Fashion doll. The fabric for the dress is a vintage blue striped plisse. I realized upon it's completion that i had enough fabric for another outfit for my doll. Along with the vintage fabric that I had set aside for it I also had vintage lace. During construction I decided to splurge and decorated it with some custom dyed silk ribbon. I had also found a sweet miniature watch with a bow pin fob to accessorize with. An old hat from the 60's provided me with straw for a dashing chapeau.

I realized through the course of making this how far my costuming abilities have progressed. At long last I feel accomplished enough to take on projects more complicated than I ever would imagine and take them to full and satisfying completion and made it possible for me to finish my next project.

My Lady Grace reproduction is not like any of my French Fashion reproductions of which I have 3. The original "doll" was never a doll per se but actually a 5'3" mannequin made by the french doll maker Bru. I purchased the doll from a lady named Janice Allen. She at one time actually owned one of these mannequins and used it to make molds of the heads that she was then able to shrink down to varies sizes. At the time Grace was made her size, 18", was the smallest but since then a 9" version has been made.

She has the most angelic face, very delicately painted with beautiful blue eyes. She came with a soft blond mohair wig that does not do her any justice and some day I would like to make her one more fitting.

I think one of Grace's biggest differences with other French Fashions is that her shoulder plate that includes molded breasts. That along with the full hips of the specially made cloth body give her more of a figure of a real woman as opposed to that of an antique doll. At first I was intimidated by this and was in a quandary about pattern choice. The patterns that I have that were made specificity to fit her are not historically correct. I made one of them up for a customer when I first purchased them and I was not happy with the results. Shortly after that I decided to try a pattern sized for a conventional French Fashion. This too was for a customer. Oddly enough it fit Grace quiet well even in the area of her ample shoulder plate. But while the fit was good, the fabric was not and I was still disappointed with the outcome. So, discouraged by my early attempts to dress her, Lady Grace thus stood on a shelf in my doll cabinet dressed in her undergarments and a robe borrowed from another lady in my collection.

Then on day while rummaging in on of my drawers full of fabrics I came across a lovely remnant of a dress that was mare thank likely made in the 50's. It is a medium weight cotton jacquard in a striped pattern in off white and beige. The pattern reminded me of a dress for doll I had seen in one of my magazines several years ago. The scale was perfect for a doll of Grace's height and the colors complemented her beautiful complexion. I decided it was time for Grace to get dressed at last.

Sometimes when you dress a doll, it's the pattern that dictates the fabric but this time it was the other way around. The fabric would decide what pattern I chose. I knew I needed to go with a dress pattern style that had as few seams as possible. If you cut stripes up too much with different seams it just doesn't look right. The pattern I chose was a simple design appropriate to the 1870's and I had used it before to make an outfit for my little 12" Fashion, Cecile. With some more "rummaging", this time in my lace and trim boxes, I came up with 2 different laces, narrow trim in a slightly darker shade of beige and a ribbon in another coordinating shade of the same color. All of these elements harmonized with the fabric perfectly.

Patterns for the style of the era I selected are usually made of an underskirt, an over skirt and a basque ( jacket). The trim on Grace's underskirt is made from the same fabric as the dress and it is pleated at the same lines as the stripes in the fabric. The over skirt and the basque are trimmed with vintage lace. Because of it's design I was able to use it flat like a trim and above that trim is a narrow loop trim. The same trim is found around the sleeve at the wrist and along the bottom of the basque. A double row of ruffled lace pokes out at the cuff and helps to bring attention to Grace's delicate hands. The square neckline is finished with corded piping and also has ruffled lace around it.

Now that I have finished all these projects that have been left undone for so long, what will I do next......