Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Summer Dresses

My latest project is the perfect example of how a relatively small project exploded into a big pain in the behind.  It all started quite a few years ago with this photo and yards of vintage dotted Swiss fabric.

Photo by Frances McLaughlin Gill

Oh my gosh, I LOVE this dress so much!  When I first saw this picture, I knew I had to make it.  At this time, I don't know who designed this awesome dress.    The only information that I have is it's from 1952 and is modeled by Jean Patchett.

In 2012, I was cutting out the blouses to for this "Sound of Music" inspired suit.  My grandma had given me about four yards a nice dotted Swiss when I was in my early 20's.  Well, I decided to plan ahead and cut out as many skirts for the dresses as possible while I was cutting out the blouses.

I probably cut out about 8-10 flared skirts and that ended up biting me in the butt a couple of years later.

It turned out that a flared skirt was not the best skirt shape for this dress.  I wanted to make a tuck at the bottom of the skirt to make it look like the ruffle was attached to a petticoat under the skirt.  The rounded bottom of the skirt made that technique a challenge.

I think I made it work though.

I had just enough fabric to make a dirndl skirt for my pattern prototype.  The straight bottom of the skirt was much better with the ruffle.

The bodice and sleeve tabs are a great detail.

Of course, I had to make my life harder by making the pattern project bigger....

by revisiting this dress.

 "Rear Window"

 Introducing "Rear Window" inspired print dress part 3
 Part 1- I wish I had bought more of this fabric originally.

 Part 2- this fabric wasn't a very great match for the original dress, but it turned out cute.

I was so excited when I found this fabric a year or so ago, best match ever!  I was so excited that I bought one whole yard of it.

I was only able to make 4 dresses out of a yard of fabric, two for Gene-
and two for Franklin Mint's Grace Kelly doll.
Part of me wishes that I had bought more fabric, and the other part of me is glad that I didn't.  But wait!  I'm not done yet.

It turned out I wasn't so keen on making 8-10 of the original dress with the cute tabs, piping, and ruffles.  So I made a few adorable sleeveless dresses with piping.  I had also decided that I couldn't make a successful sleeveless dress by just omitting the sleeves.  This called for a new bodice pattern.

Still not done though.

What about a basic sleeveless bodice with a dirndl skirt?

and the basic sleeveless bodice with the flared skirt?
Can you even tell the difference?   When I get around to updating my pattern blog, I am going to write about the pros and cons of these two different skirts.
Ugh!  I thought I was finally in the home stretch, but then I wanted to improve the fit of the Tonner/Grace Kelly bodice and make a bodice with buttons down the front.
So I made this cute dress out of this fun print, one for Gene-

and one for the bigger girls.
The end!
To purchase the pattern, click here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Charles James Collection

Warning!  This is going to be a long post!
Photo by Cecil Beaton, 1948

Whenever I think about Charles James, this is the image that first comes to my mind.  I love everything about this photo, the soft colors, the structure of the gowns, the room.  I would love to recreate this photo with my dolls.  All I need is this room setting recreated in 1 inch equals 4 inches scale,  eight elaborately draped gowns, and a lot of patience.

I decided to work with what I already have, and this is what I got.
Taking pictures is a lot of work!!!!!! Choosing the gown for each doll, finding the shoes, gloves, jewelry, and wigs, changing my mind about some of the accessories, dressing the dolls, deciding some of the gowns needed to be pressed, undressing the dolls, pressing the gowns, dressing the dolls again, setting up the backdrops, setting up the dolls, trying to get the dolls to all look at me at the same time (they are worse than children!), realizing the necklaces were crooked, taking more photos, changing the backdrops, taking photos of each gown alone, putting the dolls away, editing the photos, wondering why some faces are blurry while others aren't, posting the photos, and realizing too late that I forgot Madra's black fur.
These eight gowns were made by four different manufactures, Ashton Drake, Integrity Toys, JAMIEshow, and Sandra Stillwell.  The models are all by JAMIEshow.

Charles James was a British born American designer who was famous for his architectural designs.  For more information about Charles James, click here.

Ashton Drake, the first company to make Gene, created two Charles James inspired gowns.
 Violet is modeling "Spotlight, and Zita is modeling "Unsung Melody"

Spotlight was released in 2003

Property of Ashton Drake

I wanted this gown for a long time and was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to buy it. 

Inspiration photo, circa 1952

Violet's wig is by Ilaria.

"Unsung Melody" was released in 2001

Property of Ashton Drake

 This is my most recent Charles James inspired gown.

Inspiration Picture, circa 1953


Integrity Toys was the second company to manufacture Gene.
"Le Jazz Hot" Oona is wearing "Stardust" and  "J'Adore is wearing "Shadow Song".

"Stardust" was the 2010 convention doll.
Property of Integrity Toys
Property of Integrity Toys



 Inspiration photo, circa 1955


 The bustle is detachable.

"Shadow Song" was the 2007 convention doll.
photo by Michelle Michael

 Inspiration photo, circa ??

I just discovered I'm missing an Integrity Toys gown.
Not my photo

"Metropolitan Madra" created for a Metro Dolls event.  She is gorgeous, and I might be pouting right now that I don't own the doll or the gown.

Not my photo

Inspiration photo, circa ??

JAMIEshow is the third company to manufacture Gene
Property of JAMIEshow

"Black Lipstick" was the 2015 convention doll.
"Phoenix" is my model.

The gown is made of black velvet and silver taffeta.  It fits the doll like a glove.

Inspiration photo, circa 1955

My last three gowns were manufactured by Sandra Stillwell.
"Holiday Gala" is wearing "Toast of Manhattan", "Heart of Gold" Ivy is wearing "Ribbons" and "Spotted in Manhattan" is wearing "Tour de Force".  The girls look like they don't like each other in this photo.

Sandra doesn't make dolls, but she makes awesome outfits for Gene and friends and throws memorable conventions every year.  I have attended her conventions for 5 years in a row, and am going to New Orleans this summer.  In 2014, Sandra's convention was "Toast of Manhattan", it was my favorite convention so far.  One of the highlights of the convention was seeing the Charles James exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Sandra recreated quite a few of Charles James' gowns in miniature.
 "Toast of Manhattan" was our Saturday night gift. 
Sandra Stillwell Presents

 It is a stunning gown.

 Inspiration photo, circa 1955
 Sandra Stillwell Presents
The gown was created in two other colors.


Sandra Stillwell Presents
Sandra had so many different Charles James gowns for sale at her convention.  I wanted to buy all of them, but decided to splurge on "Ribbons".
 Sandra Stillwell Presents

 Sandra Stillwell Presents

Sandra Stillwell Presents

The detail on this gown is incredible.

 Ivy's wig by Ilaria

Inspiration photo, circa 1946

I do believe the gown is in the center back of this photo.

Last year I broke down and bought "Tour de Force".
Sandra Stillwell Presents

 This gown is perfect for Madra's green eyes.


 Inspiration photo, circa 1954

Here are the wonderful gowns I don't have in my collection.

"Architect of Fashion"
 Sandra Stillwell Presents

 Sandra Stillwell Presents

Sandra Stillwell Presents

Inspiration photo, circa 19??

Sandra Stillwell Presents

Inspiration photo, circa 1957

 Sandra Stillwell Presents

 Sandra Stillwell Presents

Inspiration Photos, 19??


Sandra Stillwell Presents

Inspiration Photo, circa 1937

"Under the Mistletoe"
 Sandra Stillwell Presents

 Sandra Stillwell Presents

 Sandra Stillwell Presents

Sandra Stillwell Presents

Inspiration photo, circa 1954

Charles James did many different variations of this gown over the years.
 Sandra Stillwell Presents

 Sandra Stillwell Presents

 Sandra Stillwell Presents

 Sandra Stillwell Presents

Sandra Stillwell Presents

Sandra Stillwell Presents

Sandra Stillwell Presents
I can't believe the detail!  Don't forget that this is a 16" doll, the tucks, and ruching, in silk chiffon, oh my!

Some of these gowns are still available for purchase, click here the visit Sandra's Blog.

Here are photos of some gowns that someone else, besides me, needs to make.  I found these photos here and there on the internet.

Pretty please with sugar on top!

 I found information and photos for this post on Wikipedia, The Gene Marshall Wiki, The Studio Commissary, a Star is Born, Sandra Stillwell Presents, Pinterest, and all over the internet.