Aug 26, 2016

#63 Dateline Paperdollywood - Singing Stars, Classic Hollywood Coloring Books, Unreal Fashions, Paris Haute Couture, European Menswear

Singing Stars All Dressed Up!

Volume 3 of my on-going series of paper doll books, “David Wolfe’s History of Hollywood Fashions” is now in the final stages of preparation for printing. Singing Stars paper dolls and their costumes celebrate some of the most popular songstresses ready to wear their most fashion-conscious creations. Judy Garland’s wardrobe from A Star is Born. Barbra Streisand’s period pieces from Hello, Dolly! Doris Day’s debut costumes from Romance on the High Seas. Alice Faye’s gay ‘90s gowns from Hello Frisco Hello. Shirley Jones’ vintage Americana from Oklahoma! Lena Horne’s sultry style from Cabin in the Sky. Seeing the dolls seem to come to life in their finished fashions, cut-out and tabbed into place, is such fun. Here are some of the Singing Stars fashion plates. 
Judy in Easter Parade and A Star is Born.
Alice in Lillian Russell and Hello Frisco Hello.
Doris in Romance on the High Seas and Love Me or Leave Me.
Lena in ’Til the Clouds Roll By, Broadway Rhythm and Words and Music.
Shirley in The Music Man and Oklahoma!
Barbra in Hello Dolly! and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

Color Me Nostalgic!

At the recent Phoenix Paper Doll Convention, I did NOT win a prize that I coveted in the raffle, even though I bought plenty of tickets. I was unlucky and did not score a 1944 Greer Garson Coloring Book in mint, un-colored condition. Like all losers, I moaned a bit. Back home a few weeks later, a large box arrived. In it was a Greer Garson Coloring Book AND a 1942 Bette Davis AND two 1942 Rita Hayworth books. All had a few pages inside that had been crayoned by youngsters just learning how to stay in the lines. I found that absolutely charming and loved the idea of continuing the books’ lifespan by coloring some of the uncolored pages myself. I wondered who had sent the books as there was no return address except e-bay, no note, no card. A few days later, the sender of the surprise confessed. Jenny Taliadoros! What a wonderful friend she is to me! Thank you, Jenny… and I promise to stay in the lines. Here is a look at the lavish covers, a page colored by the previous owners long ago and some examples of my own Crayola coloring expertise. 

Greer Garson Vintage Coloring Book
My Coloring Greer Garson 
Bette Davis Vintage Coloring Book 
My Coloring Bette Davis
Rita Hayworth Vintage Coloring Book 
My Coloring Rita Hayworth 

Try and Try Again!

Sometimes artwork just doesn’t work. It’s interesting to see how a second attempt, or even a third, will result in obvious improvements. I think of every re-paint as an opportunity to improve, and subsequent attempts are inevitably better than the first version. In Hello Frisco Hello, Alice Faye wears a stunning black and white outfit inspired by the turn-of-the-century; a long white dress trimmed with delicate black lace appliques, accessorized with a sideways cartwheel hat and a black and white feather boa. The applique was a challenge to render, but it was the boa that drove me to distraction. Ostrich feathers are difficult to draw, even more so when half black and half white. I rejected the first version because the feathers looked like long-haired fur and the second reject because the white got too grayed. Finally, on the third try, the ostrich looked frothy and I was happy. Of course, doing three versions meant that I also had to thrice draw those fancy lace appliques…but they got better with each try, too! 

Reject 1, Reject 2, Third-time lucky.

Some People Get It... Others Never Will 

Fashion is always changing because it is a reflection of the ever-changing society that wears it. Fashion right now is undergoing a seismic shift and many of those who follow it simply do not understand what is happening. Most fashion magazines, for example, are totally out of touch. In a recent issue of Elle, the main feature was entitled “Get Real” but it didn’t. Elle stated, “Far from the catwalk, fall’s greatest hits prove that capital F fashion really does work in the “real” world—yes, even in the burbs,” but in the photos were unreal clothes that will never be seen in any burbs, anywhere. Meanwhile, in an interview promoting the new AbFab movie, actress Joanna Lumley got it right when she said, “There used to be a look in the shoe or the shirt or something that was ‘the look’ and that is kind of gone, and now you have to do it yourself. I think it’s both good and, in a funny way, sad because you will never see someone that looks the height of fashion in the street. You can think they look great but not ‘in fashion’.” Joanna may play a crackpot fashionista, but in real life she understands that fashion today is truly getting real. 

Elle’s idea of Getting Real is absolutely Unreal.
AbFab Actress Joanna Lumley as Patsy Stone and as her real self. 

Paris Haute Couture: Lost Fashion Direction

The recent semi-annual showing of custom-made creations in Paris clearly demonstrates the collections that once dictated fashion direction for women the world over are now impotent. There are plenty of designers you’ve probably never heard of showing meaningless assortments lacking a style GPS to head them in the right direction instead of any-and-every direction. Only Chanel, Dior and Valentino retain clout, focus and leadership. (However, Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld is aged, Dior is temporarily without a designer and one of the two co-designers of Valentino is splitting.) Iris Van Herpen possesses true genius and creativity, but her fashion is art, pure art and unlikely to influence wearable apparel. The rest of the couture crowd are spinning their wheels, producing some rather pretty clothes that look too familiar to move fashion forward. 

Chanel Haute Couture clout for Autumn 2016. 
Valentino’s Homage to Shakespeare for Autumn 2016. 
Dior Haute Collection minus a Name Designer.
Unwearable Creations by Genius Iris Van Herpen. 
Autumn ’16 Haute Couture by Armani Prive, Alexandre Vauthier, Elie Saab. 
Autumn 2016 Haute Couture by Georges Hobeika, Givenchy, Giambattista Valli. 
Autumn 2016 Haute Couture by J. Mendel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Maison Margiela. 
Autumn 2016 Haute Couture by Schiaparelli, Versace, Vetements. 

Designers Put Men at Ease

The recent European designer menswear shows for spring ’17 were more relaxed than ever before. Gone were the neat, natty examples of precision tailoring perfectly polished off with elegant accessories. Sartorial splendor that most real men find an intimidating turn-off has been almost totally replaced with a relaxed, roomy, rather casual look that can conceivably influence mainstream menswear, sooner or later. Wider, pleated pants, functional jackets, tracksuits and ‘nary a necktie in sight on the runways of Europe. 

Bottega Veneta, Dries Van Noten, Trussardi 
Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Dior Homme.

Jul 19, 2016

#62 Dateline Paperdollywood - 2016 Paper Doll Convention, Phoenix Art Museum, Couture Confessions

Phoenix Convention Souvenir Paper Dolls

The 2016 Paper Doll Convention, hosted by Jane Alfano Rasor, was enjoyed by more than 80 enthusiastic collectors, dealers and artists. Many attendees were newbies who live locally and hadn’t before experienced the fun and friendship that always blooms at the annual paper doll conventions. Because there were slightly fewer people, I had more of a chance to visit, to socialize and spend more time getting to know people better, and I liked that a lot. The fun began with a museum visit and bus tour, followed by a “Fiesta” themed party including a delicious Mexican buffet, the first of the banquets including Italian, Asian and French feasts, each one commemorated with a “Small World” menu by Linda Hoerner.

The following three and a half days were packed with informative and entertaining presentations and instructive workshops, plus a day of selling and the ever-popular raffle (bigger than ever!) and an exciting silent auction. As always, the souvenir paper doll books especially created for the convention are collectible reminders of a good time had by all. A red tote bag was presented as attendees registered and in it was a coloring book by Shannon Finch, “It’s a Mod, Mod European Tour.” The first souvenir book distributed was “Miss Paper Doll World,” an imaginary beauty competition with each entrant a paper doll by Alina Kolluri, Gregg Nystrom, Ralph Hodgdon, Brenda Sneathen Mattox, Diedre O’Tierney, Patricia Corte Rooney, Eileen Rudisill Miller, Larry Bassin and Kwei-Lin Lum. The next evening’s souvenir featured paper dolls starring in movies with foreign themes. “Roman Holiday” by Eileen Rudisill Miller, “On an Island with You” by Ted Menton, “Kismet” by Marilyn Henry, “Mogambo” by Norma Lu Meehan, “Anna Karenina” by Bruce Patrick Jones and “Julie and Julia” by Karen Hunter. 

Dress a Doll and Menu
 My Outfit dressing Rudy’Dress-a-Doll and Linda’s Asia Menu. 

Two Menus
Linda’s Paris and Italy Menus.

Shannon Finch Coloring Book
Shannon Finch’s Coloring Book.

Miss World Paper Doll Souvenir
Kwei-Lin’s Beauty Queen and Miss Paper Doll World Book Cover.

Miss World
Beauty Queens by Brenda Sneathen Mattox and Diedre O’Tierney. 

Mysterious Geisha
The Mysterious Geisha by Sandy Vanderpool. 

Sandy’s gorgeous Geisha Kimonos.  
World of Movies
Meryl Streep by Karen Hunter and Roman Holiday by Rudy Miller.

World of Movies
Kismet by Marilyn Henry and Mogambo by Norma Lu Meehan. 

Dior Paper Doll by Jim Howard
Paris Dior Cover and Dolls by Jim Howard.
Dior Costumes
Dior Creations by Jim Howard.
Around the World
Around the World in 80 Days Cover by Me. 

Around the World
Character Dolls from Around the World in 80 Days. 

Conventioneers' Dress-up Time in Phoenix

A growing tradition at the paper doll conventions is the fun of playing dress-up in an outfit expressing each evening’s theme. What originally began as a Saturday evening fancy frock opportunity is growing and in Phoenix even Jane Alfano Rasor’s delicious banquets reflected the fun themes. “Fiesta,” “Exotic Asia,” “Roman Holiday” and “Evening in Paris” brought out the inner fashionista of many conventioneers. 

Mexican Fiesta
Dressing-Up for Fiesta. 
Asia Dress Up Night
Dressing-Up for Exotic Asia. 
Evening in Paris
Dressing-Up for Evening in Paris. 

Defining Divine Moments in Fashion

The convention kicked-off with a visit to the gorgeous Phoenix Art Museum where we enjoyed a docent-guided tour of a special exhibition that displayed a brilliantly curated selection of 50 important gowns from the museum’s vast vintage collection. Many wealthy women of the desert city are patrons of the Museum and donate funds as well as their own couture creations. The exhibition occupies two galleries that had been decorated with whimsical fashion silhouettes by artist Ruben Toledo (husband of designer Isabel Toledo). Beginning with several beautifully preserved 18th century highly ornamented confections, the changes in silhouette from then-to-now were carefully charted. Starting with a gown by Charles Fredrick Worth (history’s first designer to put his name on the label), the exhibition is like a Who’s Who of designer names including Fortuny, Vionnet, Chanel and Schiaparelli. The second, larger gallery positioned a Charles James creation as the focal piece and followed it with Dior, Ardrian, Valentina, Saint Laurent, and Givenchy among others. 

Personally, I found the more modern, 21st Century designers sadly lacking in elegance and grace, not to mention wearability. A close look at the credits revealed the now-familiar story that most of the current clothes are in fact runway showstoppers that were never worn by anyone but a fashion model, thus disagreeing with Chanel’s famous statement that, “It isn’t fashion until it is worn on the streets.” Right you are, Coco! I’m not the only fashion professional trying to equate true fashion with today’s runway artworks. Bridget Foley of WWD Women’s Wear Daily recently wrote an op-ed entitled “Museum Pieces” and in it, she said, “…Maybe it’s time for current fashion to disengage briefly from its own deification, to take a hiatus from pondering the deep, historical meaning of clothes made 10 minutes ago and refocus on that original purpose, still valid after 170 millennia…dressing people. And, in a modern twist, selling them first.” 

Phoenix Art Museum
Charles James gown at Phoenix Art Museum Exhibit.
Phoenix Art Museum
Murals by Ruben Toledo and Gauntlets, 1650, the oldest item in the Museum’s collection.
Phoenix Art Museum
Fancy 18th Century Confections. 
Phoenix Art Museum
Decorative Trims on 18th Century menswear, 19th Century Worth gown, 20th Century Schiaparelli suit. 
Phoenix Art Museum
Couture Creations by Worth, Chanel and Vionnet

Couture Confessions in Designer's Own Words

Pamela Colbin has written an unusual book, “Couture Confessions: Fashion Legends in Their Own Words.” It is a clever cut-and-paste compilation consisting of many interviews given by legendary fashion designers. The result reads as a revealing portrait of the real person behind the famous labels, eleven fascinating personalities from Paul Poiret to Alexander McQueen. The author even has created an imaginary “round table” discussion between several superstar talents. The book is brilliantly illustrated with portraits by Yann Legendre, graphically bold artwork that imitates wood-cuts. Available for $23.66 on A sampling of designer quotes… Paul Poiret: The avant-garde designer…such as myself…has to have his wits about him. He must be tenacious and farsighted. It’s not always easy! Coco Chanel: Few designers have been copied as much as I have, and it has always given me great joy. I always side with the majority. Christian Dior: A fashion devoid of a certain poetic resonance is worthless. All the fashions I have created have come from the heart. Alexander McQueen: I like blowing people’s mind. It’s a buzz. Like a fix, for twenty minutes. Fashion should be a form of escapism and not a form of imprisonment. 

Couture Confessions Fashion Book
 Book Cover, Alexander McQueen and Cristobal Balenciaga
Couture Confessions
CoCo Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior.

Jun 7, 2016

#61 Dateline Paperdollywood - Bonnie Cashin, Singing and Dancing Stars, FIT Uniforms

And the lucky bidder is...

Coming soon, the annual Paper Doll Convention, June 22nd to 26. The Silent Auction of original art donated by top paper doll artists is always an exciting high point. Conventioneers write their bid for a specific piece of original art and then keep tabs on competitive bids. Nervous tension fills the air as the hour-long final bidding session takes place after dinner on Saturday. One of the most coveted donations this year is a vintage fashion illustration by legendary artist Jim Howard whose dynamic, yet exquisite style propelled him to the very pinnacle of success. His beautiful drawing is certain to be one of the auction’s big successes. And for those who rely on good luck, Jim has donated a second illustration for the Raffle. That means just one raffle ticketholder will win a magnificent piece of art by Jim Howard. 

Jim Howard Fashion Illustrations
Jim Howard’s Illustrations for the Silent Auction and Raffle. 

Remembering Bonnie Cashin

A recently published, splendid book by Stephanie Lake has brought back into the spotlight a neglected designer of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s whose creative and innovative work was extraordinary. Bonnie Cashin is often credited as the inventor of American sportswear. Her fame and success rests on her casually elegant, comfortable yet glamorous designs that were also sensible. Her layered outfits were decades ahead of their time and all of her simple, strong silhouettes stand the test of time. She loved color and texture, favored leather and suede plus some amusing touches like grommets and dog clips. Her accessories, particularly the bags she designed for Coach, made her a household name for decades. The 286 page book, “Chic is Where You Find It” traces Cashin’s life, philosophy and her dazzling career from Hollywood (including Gene Tierney’s noteworthy wardrobe in “Laura”) to fame on Seventh Avenue. It is $75.00 but obtainable from for $45.69. 

Bonnie Cashin
 The New Book, Bonnie herself and her famous dog-clip hostess skirt. 
Cashin's comfortable, modern wardrobe.
Bonnie Cashin fashions
Simple, strong statements.
Bonnie Cashin paper doll
My paper doll honoring Bonnie Cashin’s layers

Color Me Trendy!

The current craze for adult coloring books meets fashion with “Fashion Trends: London Look of the ‘60s” by Leigh Rudd. It’s a cute 85 page book illustrated by young artist, Brittany Morganti. Much more than a coloring book, this tome looks at Swinging London with over 200 images of fashion trends, London boutiques, supermodels, prints and patterns. It’s all fun and surprisingly informative…as seen through the eyes of (slightly fictitious) trend forecaster, Jordan Parker. The author herself is an insider and a very close friend of mine. She just happens to be a famous fashion trend forecaster who initiated the world’s first trend-forecasting company and jumpstarted my own career. The coloring book is $10.95 and available on

Fashion Trend Coloring Book
Vintage fashion forecasting to color for the fun of it. 

Singing and Dancing Paper Doll Stars

Volumes 3 and 4 of my History of Hollywood Fashions for Paper Studio Press are making progress. Scheduled for publication later this year are “Singings Stars” and “Dancing Stars.” The dolls are finished and what a glamorous group they are! The singers are Judy Garland, Alice Faye, Doris Day, Lena Horne, Shirley Jones and Barbra Streisand. The dancers are Ann Miller, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, Cyd Charisse and Leslie Caron. Their on-screen wardrobes include costumes from the greatest musical movies ever made, films such as A Star is Born, Romance on the High Seas, Born to Dance, Cover Girl, Down Argentine Way and Hello, Dolly! Each volume has 10 pages of costumes and I’m now in the process of beginning to colorize the feint pencil drawings with bold swipes of marker color that will then be covered with gouache paint washes and accented with color pencil. All together, I’m working on 72 costumes for the Singing and Dancing Stars. It’s a big job, but I enjoy every minute!  

Singing Stars Alice, Barbra, Lena, Shirley, Doris and Judy.

Dancing Stars Cyd, Eleanor, Leslie, Rita, Ann and Betty. 

Silver Streaks on the Red Carpet

My sketch of the Red Carpet fashion trend at the Met Gala.
The greatest fashion show in the industry is the annual fund-raising party at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. What was once a very sophisticated evening of elegant women beautifully gowned has become a nightmare of vulgarity. It’s a calculated climb up the grand staircase (carpeted in red, ‘natch) to publicize who’s “hot” in the all-powerful media world. The Kardashian clan (klan?) represents the decline and fall of taste that is now epidemic. The fashion news from the evening is flashy metallic (usually silver) creations that only an exhibitionist can flaunt without embarrassment. There is no shortage of wannabe models, actresses and designer’s muses who are quite happy to dress (or un-dress) and pose and pose and pose some more for the photo-op that was once a fashionable society soiree.  
Jourdan Dunn, Kylie Jenner, Lady Gaga, Kim and Kanye.
Joan Smalls, Julia Macklowe, Poppy Delevigne, Rita Ora.

Creating a Musical Cover

I love every task involved in the process of creating a paper doll book. But designing the cover is the absolute peak of imagination and creativity for me. Endeavoring to capture the essence of the cover subject is always a challenge. After all, a paper doll is un-real, a photographic likeness just won’t have the bit of magic that makes those little paper beauties so enchanting. I thoroughly enjoy collaborating with Jenny Taliadoros on the cover concepts, both for my books and for other artists who allow me to envision a cover that captures their individual style. I like a vintage paper doll look and feel for covers, usually working with the standard portrait and doll on the front cover and 2 or three dolls on the back. It often takes more than a dozen rough sketches until I’m happy with a design. The current Hollywood Costume series I am doing for Paper Studio Press has a grid, a film strip I designed that gives the volumes continuity, but allows me space to visually define the book’s content and flavor. For the Singing Stars, I revisited the old movie motif of faces framed by a star. The Dancing Star cover is not yet finalized, but ideas are stewing in the back of my mind where my imagination is always simmering.
Singing Stars Paper Doll Book
David's designs for "Singing Stars" edition of his History of Hollywood Fashions Series

Dancing Stars Paper Doll Book
David's designs for "Dancing Stars" edition of his History of Hollywood Fashions Series

Gregg Goes for the Gold

Artists sometimes make their own opportunities in order to gain recognition. That’s the backstory to a new paper doll by Gregg Nystom. Here’s how the artist himself tells the tale… “Well...for the longest time, I had resisted twitter, (I'm on Facebook & Instagram), ...twitter seemed so egomaniacal...'me, me, me', and I don't think I'm special or interesting enough that anyone would follow me or read tweets about my everyday life. However, a friend convinced me that I could use it to post my art, and let others know about my paper dolls... which is what I did. I follow mostly film and fashion things, and had some follow back, and the director of the movie Golden Vanity liked several of my tweets of my paper dolls, and sent me a direct message asking me if I'd like to collaborate to create a paper doll to tie-in with the movie for promotional purposes. Of course, I said yes! I sent them the scan of the finished piece (the character of Mabel Montgomery-Mayflower, played by Melora Hardin), and they sent it back with the movie branding on it. I guess it's OK to use it and send it along here, since this is what they are using on all their social media! Any other exposure would be good for them!”
Golden Vanity Paper Doll
Golden Vanity Paper Doll by Gregg Nystrom

Uniformity at FIT Museum

Uniforms may not be considered “fashion” in some circles, but the fascinating new exhibit at the FIT Museum in NYC closes the gap between high fashion and drone workwear. The well-curated selection of uniforms is divided into four categories: Military, Sport, School and work. Authentic uniforms, both antique and vintage, are displayed with unique designer creations inspired by apparel made to obliterate individuality. One big group shows how camouflage prints have been totally absorbed by high fashion. The educational exhibition reveals many of the oft-practical sources for traditional uniform details, patterns and colors. School uniform “Blazers” are so-called because of their original blazing red color. “Navy blue” was the color of sea-faring militaries. Breton stripes helped spot sailors who fell overboard. A short film features an interviews with with Stan Herman who designed uniforms for many major corporations including TWA, FedEx and MacDonald’s. This important exhibition of uniformity in fashion will not doubt inspire designers to start a trend for some realistic clothes, for a change. The exhibit at FIT ends November 19th. 

Uniform exhibit at FIT
MacDonald's uniform and a satire by Jeffrey Scott for Moshino. Vintage football uniform and '60s sequin gown by Geoffrey Beene.

FIT Uniform Exhibit
Stan Herman's TWA uniform in '70s style and US Naval uniforms with WAVES by high-fashion designer, Mainbocher.​