Aug 17, 2019

Fall 2019 Haute Couture, Colored Pencils for Antique Coloring Books, Stripes! Behind the Scenes

Fall '19 Haute Couture Creativity


Paris custom-made elitist fashion, known as Haute Couture, lives in a world of its own, governed by a confusing calendar that schedules Fall ’19 shows in July ’19. Confusing because the more realistic ready-to-wear designers have leapt ahead and already have shown Spring ’20 collections in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Confusing? Nobody seems bothered. A handful of designers demonstrate the diversity that defines fashion today. Each and every designer executes his or her own ideas, sometimes coincidentally agreeing on “trends” such as similar color palettes, silhouettes, textiles and design details. 

For the better-late-than-never Haute Couture Fall ’19 season color concepts, there is a pretty pastel story along with a few powerful brights as well as reassuring black and more black. The silhouette du saison is voluminous, except when it’s slender. Many designers reinterpreted the sumptuously sculptural ‘50s creations of Cristobal Balenciaga and Charles James. There are a few overall ideas that appeared again and again. Tailoring continues to be regaining importance as evidenced by the presence of sharply tailored pantsuits that just happened to open many shows. Somewhat sublime simplicity gives pared-down, serious styles a sense of gravitas while the attention-grabbing opposite attitude sometimes played as a ridiculous joke. It seems as if the purpose of the venerable Haute Couture collections shown in Paris these days is to play catch-up with the truly trend-setting ready-to-wear international designer collections. But wait! Pure artistry prevails in a few collections: Iris Van Herpen, Ralph Rucci, Valentino and Chanel. Possible surprise dark horse newsmaker is the ethereal transparent veiling causing a bit of old fashioned fashion buzz in more than a few collections…Vive, La Paris! 


Pretty pastel story: Armani Prive, Armani Prive, Givenchy

Powerful palette: Valentino, Alberta Ferretti, Viktor & Rolf.

Reassuring black: All, Christian Dior.

 Interesting color combos: Ralph Rucci RR331, Valentino, Valentino.

Slender silhouette: Ronald van der Kemp, Chanel, Ralph Rucci RR331.

 Voluminous silhouette: Iris van Herpen, Valentino, Martin Margiela.

 Recalling ‘50s flair of Balenciaga and Charles James: Ralph Rucci RR331, Ralph Rucci RR331, Valentino.

 Serious simplicity: Ralph Rucci RR331, Valentino, Alberta Ferretti. 

Sharply tailored pantsuits: Fendi, Chanel, Armani Prive.


 Attention-grabbing jokes? Ronald van der Kemp, Valentino, Valentino.


 Artful originality: Iris Van Herpen.


 Artful elegance: Ralph Rucci RR331.

 Artful classics revisited: Virginie Viard at Chanel.

 Artful creativity: Piero Piccioli at Valentino.

 Veiled transparencies, textile news: Armani Prive, Fendi, Elie Saab.


Colored Pencils for Antique Coloring Books


I learned early to stay in the lines and I have always been hopelessly devoted to happy hours spent coloring. Of course, my favorite coloring books always depicted the lovely ladies of the silver screen. In my opinion, the best movie star coloring books were printed in the ‘40s and ‘50s and as a kid, I hoarded a big collection that disappeared in the mists of time when I relocated to London in 1968. Decades later, as a nostalgic old guy back in America, I accumulated a big collection of vintage books and merrily colored a few pages left uncolored in the precious collectibles. I usually used Crayola crayons and I switched to colored pencils, but I soon discovered that the inferior quality paper was endangering the lifespan of the treasured coloring books. Nobody ever expected that the 15 or 25 cent books were to become valuable one day. Rare, uncolored books can today fetch hundreds of dollars (although almost impossible to find.) Unfortunately, many of the most collectible books are reaching the end of the paper’s lifespan, many seventy years old, or older. Not only are the pages yellowing, but the paper is dry, brittle and disintegrates when crayons or pencils are used. I color the pages very gently and lightly when what I really want is lush, vivid color (like Technicolor used to be!). 

You can imagine how excited I was when by my friend, Kevin Wilkins introduced me to the colored wax pencils produced by a cool Australian company, Black Widow. Offered on amazon.com (very reasonably priced) is a 24 pencil set and two smaller sets packaged for light or dark skin shades and accents. I couldn’t wait to see if these new colored wax pencils would allow me to achieve the intense coloration I yearn for. Alas and alack! I had just acquired a mostly-uncolored “Ann Blyth” coloring book and when the point of the wax pencil tore right through the first page, I had to admit that my treasured coloring books are going, going, almost-gone. But like Molly Brown, I am unsinkable and I’m now going to try duplicating uncolored pages on a copier and I’ll try coloring the black and white copies with my new Black Widow colored wax pencils. If that doesn’t work, I may start collecting coloring book Covers (sadly discarding the disintegrating interior pages.) The covers were usually masterpieces of fan art…hmmm. What an interesting idea! 


 Black Widow 24 colored wax pencil set and Skin 12 colored wax pencil set. 

 Ann Blyth 1952 Coloring Book cover and colored title page.

 Two pages from the book, colored by me using Black Widow colored wax pencils.




A New Paper Doll Book is Born


Sometimes the creative process is not the shortest distance between two points. Case in point: Recently, I was chatting with Jenny Taliadoros, the owner-publisher of Paper Studio Press. We were discussing our favorite subject, paper doll books. We came up with the idea for a book devoted solely to stripes. We thought it would be a perfect subject for Brenda Sneathen Mattox. Wrong! Brenda was not at all excited by the subject. She had another project she wanted to pursue and Jenny approved. Meanwhile, I had roughed out an idea for the stripe book cover-- a woman in a backless black dress trimmed with a giant bow and streamers in rainbow colors. I suggested to Jenny that I’d like to do the book myself and she gave me her blessing. I wanted to rework my cover idea and make the ribbon wider, which was not an easy thing to do. I devised a grid to figure out the stripes but there were too many lines and would be weeks of work. I simplified the stripes and sent it off to Jenny who disliked the rainbow color scheme and suggested I come up with a more sophisticated color story. So it was back to the drawing board, one more time. I decided to reconcept the entire project, making the dolls and the clothes look more modern, more doll-like. I realized that my usual, vintage-style approach would not have the look I was after. What to do? I conferred with Jenny and we came up with a surprising twist. To be continued in next month’s blog… 


 Left: very rough idea in color. Right: Grid guide with far too many lines!


 Left: Mis-guided crayon test that failed. Right: Wider stripes deemed too "rainbow-y" by Jenny.

 Left: Back cover in the works with doll. Right: Sophisticated stripes in shades of pink. Rejected!



Join us at the 2020 Paper Doll Convention!


Another fun time is planned for our paper doll family! Jill Kaar Hanson and her husband Jerry are hosting our next convention, July 1-5, 2020, in Milwaukee, WI. Visit OPDAG's convention page for more information. Hope to see you there! 



Jul 16, 2019

Fashions from the Tonys, Designer Menswear 2020, Convention Coloring, Kansas City Paper Doll Souvenirs

Tonys Prove Broadway is Alive and Well!


Wrapping up the seemingly endless “Awards Season” are the Tonys, celebrating a record-breaking year of audience attendance on or around Broadway. Whereas the Tony Awards Show used to be somewhat low key and classy, it is now a major, mind-blowing extravaganza that plays to a full house at New York’s mammoth Radio City Music Hall as well as a network TV 2-hour presentation. Two-time host James Corden’s high-energy participation was splendid and the show was studded with explosive numbers from the nominated musicals. As usual, I watched the show with my eye peeled for any surprise fashion trends. Sorry to report that the presenters’ gowns were good and sometimes even gorgeous, but hardly trend-setting. Diversity in dress was the over-riding style statement. The most attention-grabbing outfit was a fluid-gender showstopper with a pink tulle train worn by Billy Porter. There were a few grandiose gowns, period pieces from Dior’s heyday and some simpler sophisticated statements. What would an Awards show be without a sprinkling of razzle dazzle sparkle? More interesting perhaps, were some novelty textured textiles and a few one-of-a-kind prints and trims. Color came on strong, substituting the usually ubiquitous black with a rainbow palette that included primary bright red, blue and yellow. Bob Mackie won a Tony for best costume design of a musical, The Cher Show. He told a charming story.“When I was ten years old, my Uncle asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I told him I wanted to be a costume designer on Broadway. His eyes rolled back in his head and he just walked away. Here I am, 70 years later, and I got my first Tony nomination.” 


Fashion diversity personified, left-to-right: Rachel Brosnahan, Billy Porter and Tina Fey.

Grandiose gowns: Celia Keenan-Bolger, Sophia Anne Caruso and Hilary Rhoda.

Sophisticated simplicity: Laurie Metcalf, Audra McDonald and Regina King.

Razzle dazzle: Judith Light, Laura Linney and Vanessa Hudgens.

Fancy Textured fabrics: Kelli O'Hara, Ruth Wilson and Jane Krakowski.

One of a kind: Anna Wintour, Cynthia Erivo and Laura Donnelly.


Primary color palette: Ali Stroker, Lucy Liu and Jordan Roth.



Designer Menswear Spring 2020: Working the Season


Do “real” men buy and wear cutting edge designer menswear? Do they even care what comes down the runways? Probably not. But the high style stuff is created by very important designers who are intentional influencers. Their presentations act as a sort of experimental fashion laboratory, a testing ground. Of course, not every designer is a genius, a hard fact that must be taken into consideration. Here’s how I work through a season. Firstly, I review on-line most of the hundreds of shows previewing spring 2020. (Reviewing the shows on-line is more efficient than fighting for a decent seat in a crushing throng.) I take notes and pull images that capture my attention. I look for changes in silhouette, color and textiles. I rely on my gut instinct to recognize what is new, yet commercially viable. For spring 2020, I reacted positively to extraordinary prints, bright colors, creamy colors, sandy beige, oversize jackets and wide, high-waist soft pants, transparencies, leopard spots (yes, still!). Most interesting is the blurring of gender in fashion. Gender Fluid is neither masculine nor feminine. It is both. It is free of traditional gender-specific colors, fabrics, apparel and accessories. 


V.I.P. Designer: Ralph Lauren’s bright color ideas. 

V.I.P. Designer: Dolce & Gabanna glorification.


V.I.P. Designer: Versace’s hot luxury.

V.I.P. Designer: Sterling Ruby for SR Studio LACA, a star is born.

V.I.P. Designer: Hedi Slimane for Celine’s early ‘70s retro.
V.I.P. Designer: Jacquemus’ pretty provencal.

V.I.P. Designer: Sir Paul Smith rethinks his biz suit.

V.I.P. Designer: Kim Jones for Dior Men referencing the recent past.

V.I.P. Designer: Veronique Nichanian for Hermes’ relaxed tailoring

V.I.P. Designer: Dries Van Noten’s eye-popping prints.

V.I.P. Designer: Dsquared2 studies Chinese cultural heritage.

V.I.P. Designer: Giorgio Armani softens tailoring.

V.I.P. Designer: Olivier Rousteing for Balmain’s starstruck shine.

V.I.P. Designer: Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton’s luxury streetwear.

V.I.P. Designer: Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino’s planetary prints.

V.I.P. Palette: Bright Colors. McQueen, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren.


V.I.P. Palette: Creamy Colors. Hermes, Paul Smith and Kenzo.

V.I.P. Surprising Shade: Sandy Beige. Dior Men, Dolce & Gabbana and Hermes.


V.I.P. Prints: Extraordinary. Dsquared2, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino.


V.I.P Hot Item: Oversize Jackets. Dries Van Noten, Balmain and Paul Smith.


V.I.P Hot Item: Soft Pants. Dior Men, Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton.

V.I.P Mor Leopard. Celine, Dolce & Gabbana and Dries Van Noten.


V.I.P Hot Buzz: Transparencies. Dior Men, Balmain and Dolce & Gabbana.


V.I.P. Hot Buzz: Gender Fluid Fashion. McQueen, Balmain and Dries Van Noten. 


Convention Coloring


My monthly coloring fun is four pages from the Paper Doll Coloring and Cut-Out black-and-white packet handed out to all convention attendees. The color-ready sheets were drawn by several popular artists. I chose to color two pages by Jim Howard and two pages by Brenda Sneathen Mattox celebrating the classic mystery, Laura
Color & Cut Convention hand-out artwork by Jim Howard, colored by me. 

Color & Cut Convention hand-out artwork by Brenda Sneathen Mattox, colored by me. 


Retro Chic Convention Souvenirs


The recent Paper Doll Convention, held in Kansas City, was a delightful experience for all. Pat O’Rourke, this year’s head honcho, organized four days of fun; renewing friendships, enjoying creative workshops and informative presentations held in a comfortable, spacious venue. The Raffle broke the record for donation prizes. The souvenir books handed-out at each evening’s bountiful banquet were impressive. All exemplified the convention’s “mystery” theme. My favorites also referenced retro chic movies including Jim Howard’s Charade with Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy wardrobe and Hitchcock’s Icy Blondes by Eileen Rudisill Miller. Also capturing the retro chic vibe was Murder on the Orient Express by Gregg Nystrom and The Postman Always Rings Twice by Norma Lu Meehan. Karen Hunter referenced Suspicion and Double Indemnity. Laura was remembered by Brenda Sneathen Mattton. My own souvenir contribution was The Thin Man. There may be some souvenir packs available to purchase for $110. Email Pat O'Rourke for more info.



Charade starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, by Jim Howard.



Audrey’s Charade wardrobe by Givenchy. 



Hitchcock’s Icy Blondes with costumes for Kim Novak from Vertigo, Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest and Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder. 



Lauren Bacall and Vanessa Redgrave in Murder on the Orient Express.

Wardrobe for Barbara Stanwyck from Double Indemnity and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice.



The Thin Man, Nick and Nora Charles starring William Powell and Myna Loy.