Friday, September 24, 2010

"Rear Window" Black and White Cocktail Dress

I have never been happier to be done making a batch of doll clothes. I pretty much spent the whole Summer making only two outfits from the film "Rear Window". The green suits weren't so bad to make, but my batch was larger than normal. I was very ambitious when I originally decided to make ten of these dresses.

I had made this costume before, back in 2006 . I hadn't made myself a copy though, and I knew there were many Gene fans interested in this design. It is a very popular costume and I have seen other doll clothes designers make it and they are all beautiful.

I briefly entertained the idea of making the bodice with set-in sleeves, but I decided against it. I couldn't really tell in the movie if the sleeves were set in or not and I knew they would be a pain to do in miniature. I have seen them on a Barbie sized version of this dress. All I can say to Natalia Sheppard is I am beyond impressed.

I think I got the look I wanted doing the sleeves my way, and I needed to save my patience for the skirt.

I originally wanted to make the bodice of the dress in a black silk crepe, and the skirt in silk organza lined in dupioni. After several failed attempts with the crepe, I decided it couldn't hold the shape I wanted, especially in the neckline. I also couldn't find a good source for silk organza, and the full circle skirt is a real fabric hog, which would have made the dresses really expensive to make.

I ended up using casa satin and organza. The casa satin is not very shiny and has a lot of body to it. I also like the way the organza skirt shimmers. I tried using a matte organza, but it was kind of boring. Tulle was also considered for the skirt, but I didn't think it would work well with the embroidery. The underskirt is casa satin, I tried a stiffer satin at first, but it was too stiff to me.

I suffered a few setbacks with the skirts. My original batch of organza ended up having holes in it, so I had to exchange it. Thank goodness I caught it before I had sewn the dresses (or so I thought).

I wasn't sure how I should hem the organza skirt. Super narrow hems are hard on circular skirts for me to do perfectly. I did some research in my sewing books and chose a fine zigzag. I ruined two dresses trying to sew the hem using clear nylon thread. Ordinary white thread ended up working better.

The worst setback though was when I thought I was in the home stretch. I had sewn up my second batch of dresses, the snaps were even done and I was starting my third embroidered "leaf" on one of the dresses. That is when I noticed a d_ _ n hole in the organza skirt. It must have been cut from the first bad batch of organza and I had missed the hole when I inspected the skirts because it was a lot smaller than the others had been. I was devastated! So much time lost! I went through my new batch and found another dress with a bad skirt. I didn't have the heart to make two new dresses or pick apart the bad dresses and replace the skirts. I ended up making only eight dresses.

The embroidery on the skirt was my biggest challenge. It needed to look good from both sides of the fabric because the organza is sheer. I used satin embroidery floss and used a stem stitch backstich. I passed the floss through the stitches on the wrong side of the skirt to hide the threads and to back track on the leaves.

French knots or beads were my choices for the other part of the leaf. I ruled out French knots because I knew that they might look bad. The thread would show through from the underside, and the knots risked being pulled through the fabric. I used the smallest beads I could find. Some of the dresses had two groups of beads on each leaf, and others had one. I was experimenting with my technique with each dress.

Each leaf took over an hour to do, and each dress had seven leaves. You do the math.

I wish I had seen this photo earlier. It is the best picture of how the beads look on the skirt.

Only my last two dresses have the beads like this. It took me that long to figure out how to do it!

Blue Parasol is perfect as Grace Kelly. She was meant to model this dress.

All the dresses have been sold.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Hair Part I

I have wanted to write about doll hair for a while. When I first started buying Genes, the hair was the deciding factor for me when choosing which dolls to buy.

I buy most of my dolls to work as models for the clothes I make. My favorite Genes the first few years were "Love Paris" and Symphony in G Minor". I used them a lot. They look great in hats, suits, and in evening wear.

I know what I don't like; I don't like long, loose hair, and I don't like high up-dos. My favorite hairstyle is a low chignon on the back of the head. I think it is the most versatile style.

I started restyling some of my Genes hair myself a couple of years ago. I was very nervous to do it at first. I can sew very well, but hair is not easy for me.


My first hair redo was "American Countess". She originally had her hair in a bun on the top of her head. It looked beautiful with her tiara and gown, but I needed a brunette model that could wear hats. I took her hair down, it was long and not too thick. I used the instructions on Studio Commissary and what I had learned at the hair class during the 2008 convention to make a low chignon. I was very happy with my first attempt. She is one of my few AD Genes that has a IT body.


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Distant Venus was next. She was my very first convention doll. I loved her beautiful face and silver hair, but her long wavy hair limited her modeling possibilities. I saw other people on the doll boards putting her hair up so I thought, "Why not?". I gave her the same low chignon as my American Countess. I left the curl by her face though. I think I cut a little off the bottom of her hair. I love the results. She has modeled many outfits for me. I especially love her in black, white, and red.

She is so gorgeous, and probably my favorite Gene ever.


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I didn't have very many Madras and I decided I needed a brunette Madra. I loved Special Scene Madra's face and her dark hair. I loved her hair in the promotion pictures, but my Madra's hair wasn't as nice, I could see it getting messy on me. I decided to try to copy "Symphony in G Minor's" French Twist.

The first thing I had to do, was very scary. She had A LOT of hair on her scalp. Especially on top of her head. I wish I could have transplanted her hair to my head! I had to thin it out so I scalped all of her hair except for a few rows of hair going around her hairline. She still had a thick ponytail even after I took out most of her hair. I should of taken pictures of the process, but most of you would have freaked if you had seen her! I had instructions to follow from a HLAYG magazine that were very helpful.

I started sectioning off her hair and pinning it close to her head. I covered all that up with the roll. I had to thin her hair out even more to get the results I wanted. I have a rule about doll hair; my doll's ponytail should not be thicker than my ponytail. That is so wrong! I'm pretty happy with the results, though I wish it was a little smoother hair-do.


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This is one of the first doll that I bought for the clothes. Her suit is stunning, but I hated her "Bride of Frankenstein" hairdo. I really wanted to give her a "Love Paris" double twist. I thought that would have looked beautiful on Zita.

My Zita before her redo, notice how messy her hair is.

When I took her hair down, it was long and thin. There wasn't much hair in the middle of her scalp. Unfortunately, it wasn't thick enough for two twists and I couldn't figure out how to make it work. It also wasn't thick enough for my good old stand-by low chignon. It was perfect for a braid though. So I braided it and pinned the ends under. I am satisfied with the way it turned out, but I would have loved it if I could have done it "Love, Paris" style.


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I bought this doll nude for a good price not long ago. I was attracted to her dark hair and her bangs. I wouldn't want bangs on all my dolls, but I like the variety. She came to me with her curls a little messed up, and they were on the top of her head, like I don't like them. I dreamed of styling her hair like "Color Deal" Ivy"s.

That was before I took her hair down. The top curls were long and I knew I could work with that part of her hair, but I should have stopped there. The back and sides were very short and uneven. She looked almost as bad and my "Special Scene" Madra would look if I ever took her hair down, but that will be NEVER!

Scary pictures of her hair while I was working on it. My husband asked me "what the @&*# did you do to her?" I was wondering that myself.

There was no way I could do the style that I really wanted. I ended up putting the back and sides up again, but it isn't as nice as the original back was. I twisted the top of the hair and pinned it to hide the mess in the back. This is least favorite redo I've done, but I still like it better than the original do, at least she can wear hats, and she may be wearing a lot of them. I do not recommend taking her hair down.


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When I first brought Stardust home, I told myself "I am keeping her hair down!" Her hair looked so pretty in the promotion photos, mine- not so much. It was a mess, and I gave into the urge to brush it out and "fix it". I tried to gel in the waves and clean it up, but it ended up looking flat to me.

I found a helpful article about doing an up-do in an old "Haute Doll" magazine that I have saved. I brushed Stardust's hair out and started pinning it up. I didn't cut anything off, and that is why her hair is so big. I didn't want to do anything drastic, and it could be taken down if I wanted to later. I gelled the ends of her hair into curls and sprayed it with hairspray. I love her now!


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I bought Calendar Shot nude at the convention. She didn't have her hairnet and her the back of her hair was in long messy ringlets. I knew I was going to have to put her hair up too. I brushed it out and straightened it with hot water. I gathered it into a low ponytail and then made two even braids. I didn't cut her hair and I twisted the braids around the back of her head. Hiding the braids' ends was the hardest part.


I received Oona at the 2008 convention for making an auction outfit. I was tickled pink. I love her but never liked her high ponytail. I knew I didn't want to take it down, but I wanted her hair up.

Her curls were always messy, and I felt like she could only wear evening wear with this style.

I braided her ponytail into three even braids and like Calendar Shot, twisted them around the back of her head.


This Gene was bought to be my Esther from "Meet Me in St. Louis" model. For more details about her hair click here.

I have my eye on a few more dolls that might need new hairdos. Fringe Festival Ivy, Glammed Up Ivy, and Love, Madra, better watch out!