|In the background, photos of Donayle Luna wearing Paco Rabanne by Richard Avedon and David Bailey|
During Paris Fashion Week, I noticed quite a few references linked to the 1960's. In the midst of the sweet A-line frocks and mini-shifts was a dress made from squares joined together with small metal tabs. Designed by "Mugler" for me, it could have passed for an updated version of a Paco Rabanne dress.
For those of you who don't know this designer, Paco was at the forefront of avant-garde couture in the 1960's. Trained as an architect, his dresses were made of everything but fabric and often required screw drivers, welding irons and wire cutters to assemble. Also worth noting: his star muse was Donyale Luna (featured in the opening photo next to my model, Samantha), an extraordinary beauty born in Detroit, was the first black supermodel to appear in fashion magazines all over the world.
Paco Rabanne's Metal Tab Shift
Feel free to use any material for either of these dresses. For the Paco dress, I'm using silver cardboard (disposable napkin rings I found in a crafts store).
1. Cut a rectangle of paper large enough to wrap around the doll and the length you want the dress.
2. We will use this to control the width and length of our dress.
3. I have cut enough tiny squares (roughly 3/8" or 1cm) out of the cardboard to cover the entire paper. With needle and thread, I sew a strip of these squares together with a simple running stitch.
4. Make as many rows as there is length of paper.
6. As I sew each column together, I lift it away from the others, being careful to steer the thread away from the other squares. Continue until all rows and all columns have been stitched together.
7. I cut another set of tiny squares out which I glue over the existing squares. This is to hide the stitches. You will not yet glue down the top row of squares.
8. On the two edges I cut longer strips of the cardboard to line the edges so that I can eventually glue velcro down to close the dress. Glue to the interior edge of one side and the exterior of the left hand side. Now go back and clip all of the loose threads.
9. I punch holes in four squares. Put the dress on the doll to see where the straps will be attached.
10. Glue those squares down then punch through to the holes in the squares beneath. Measure the chain you need for each strap and attach.
Your doll is now party-ready a la sixties!!!
What I liked about the original catwalk dress was the sleek black dotted with silver. I couldn't find black felt nor could I get my hands on craft wire, so I settled for black suede and chain--which, by the way, added to the challenge.
1. First make a grid on a sheet of paper. After playing with the proportions a bit, I settled on 1-1/8" (28mm) squares.
2. Wrap this paper around the doll then cut away the square nearest her neck.
3. From there, you will begin cutting away the squares you don't need, like around her arms.
4. Try to line up the squares so that they line up fairly evenly around her body.
5. Place a pin at the back
6. Then begin cutting the squares so that when you have finished, they will fit together. Don't worry if they don't all work out. (You can cheat later on.)
7. This is now your "pattern." I marked how the numbers fall in each row just in case things get separated. Even better--take a snapshot to use for reference later.
8. Now cut the squares apart then tape them back together at each tip to see how it all fits together.
9. For squares that overlap, feel free to shave off the sides of the square until it fits. But if you have a gap, you will modify the shape of that square so that in the end, it fits.
10. Once again, place the pattern back on the doll to check for fit. Be sure all the squares still have their numbers.
11. Now you can fit your squares on whatever material you have and not necessarily in order--as a
way of saving space.
12. Punch a hole big enough to get your links through. Be careful not to get the hole too close to the edge (so it won't tear through).
13. Add the links, two squares at a time.
16. When you have everything linked together and while the dress is still flat, put it on the doll and tape in place. Unless you are working in a stiff material, chances are, there might be a little distortion. You can always recut a square that is simply not working or eliminate a square you see you don't need. Here is where making your own links out of soft craft wire could come in hand. You could change the size of the links to make the dress fit better.
17. Once you are happy, then remove from the doll and finish adding in the missing links except for the panel which will allow the doll the get in and out of the dress.
18. I chose to add chain straps that hook into the links at the back. For a closure, I've used a claw that attaches to a link! You can stop there. However, as a finishing touch, I added small triangles cut from the metallic board which are glued in place. Had I access to silver foil, I would have used it instead.
19. Voila, here's the back. I dressed two dolls with different body shapes and both look equally as good in this dress!
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