Oct 20, 2018

#89 - NY Fashion Week, Michaele Vollbracht, Red Carpet Styles, Costume Winners at the Emmys, Sharry and Micheal Paper Dolls, Coloring Greer, RISD Grad Show, 2019 Paper Doll Convention


Off-and-running at New York Fashion Week! Too much, and it’s already fashion overkill. Too many shows and presentations. New names galore, but who are they? Tom Ford’s elegant, glamorous collection is for immediate fall selling-and-wearing, whereas most shows previewed spring ’19. As expected, the hit of the week was Ralph Lauren’s 50th anniversary celebration. Same stuff, but it’s always on the mark. What’s new? Absolutely nothing. Nada. Maybe we don’t need newness. 

Even seasoned fashion professionals are challenged by the current stagnant state of style. Marilyn Kirschner of “Lookonline.com,” one of the brightest fashionistas, with years of authoritative reporting, told the honest truth about New York Fashion Week. Here’s what she said:. “…themes and subthemes that kept reappearing were strong vibrant color and color blocks, head-to-toe white, yellow, lace and lingerie touches, fringe, pleats, luxe boho, florals, stripes, choir robe gowns, denim, tailoring, shirt dressing, pantsuits, tie-dye, romanticism, cross-cultural references, prairie looks, trench coats, caftans, pointy-toed pumps, crochet, photo prints, cargo pockets, face art, shifts, volume, oversized, etc. But just listing trends robotically is boring and irrelevant, and anyway, when are these items above ever ‘out’ of style?...” I agree with her, 100%. 

If indeed fashion is nothing more than a melting pot of virtually any old thing, it will take a savvy shopper to recognize the “must-haves” of the season. Start with happy-go-lucky colors, especially more rosy pinks, yet spotlighting yellow as the “it” hue. White is the popular fail-safe neutral, ever fresh and often lacy. Prints abound as vaguely ‘60s flowers bloom again. Shirts are a continuing success story. Is it too obvious to recognize that the Feminist Movement may be responsible for the reinvention of the pantsuit? If you must have a trend, think about modernized, simplified ethnic, relaxed sportswear separates. For pure fashion with a capital “F”, look no further than Marc Jacobs’ somewhat satirical and certainly ridiculous overstated tribute to Yves Saint Laurent pushed to the extreme. Wonderful YSL color combos, but as Looney Tunes used to say… that’s all, folks! 

Happy-go-lucky optimistic colors from Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and See.

Continuing the mash-up mixes from Calvin Klein, See and Michael Kors.

Lacy textures in white from Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors and another Michael Kors.

Easy pieces add up to make a modern statement from Philip Lim, Narciso Rodriguez and Theory. 

Pantsuits with feminine flair from Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford.

Marc Jacobs correctly thinks pinks are still coming up rosy.

Sunshine bright Mellow Yellow from Carolina Herrera, Brandon Maxwell and Milly.

YSL-style pushed to almost comic extremes by Marc Jacobs.

Tom Ford’s elegant, buy-now/wear-now sophisticated statement.


The recent passing of brilliant artist/illustrator/designer Michaele Vollbracht at age 70 represents the loss of a great talent. A 1969 graduate of Parson’s School of Design, he brought cinematic glamour to fashion illustration as well as very sophisticated apparel design. However, his business acumen did not match his creativity. His illustrations captured the essence of glamour, and he explained, “I owe my talent to American films.” Joan Crawford became a close friend and Elizabeth Taylor was a client. Vollbracht worked for Henri Bendel and Bloomingdale’s, achieving fame when a shopping bag he designed with a stunning face failed to carry the store’s name, an error unnoticed before 9 million bags had been printed. The bags were deemed chic and became highly collectible. He started his own apparel company in 1978 and was immediately recognized as a star. His signature designs were unique, flamboyant prints on silk and were coveted by celebrities. In1985, he published “Nothing Sacred,” a collection of glamorous and witty illustrations that was reprinted a few years ago. In 2003, he took on the formidable task of designing the Bill Blass collection but not for long. The deal ended in 2007. During the last decade, he dropped off the fashion radar and devoted himself to serious painting. Michaele Vollbracht’s life and talent were recently honored and celebrated in a memorial evening at Parson’s, his alma mater. 

Michaele with Iris Apfel and Carmen.

Now, Voyager, Diana Vreeland.

Flamboyant fashions and that famous shopping bag.


The 70th year of Emmy Awards played to a stadium-size auditorium and the only exciting thing to happen was a surprise marriage proposal on stage. The rest of the super-slick show was as expected (Boring? You bet!). Hundreds of categories became mind-numbing and meaningless. RuPaul took home five statuettes. Ho hum. The traditional red carpet was replaced with a gold carpet. (Double ho-hum.) The gowns were better than usual, although representing very inconsequential trends. There was a selection of colors; primarily red, a few pastels, a whole lot of white and a smattering of black. The go-for-glitz sparkling styles were yawn-inducing, so expected. Unembellished gowns looked refreshing. My favorite was Claire Foy’s Calvin Klein ankle length white column with a lily-petal ruffle in the back. Her hair was notable too, a short, sleek boyish bob. A few stars went to extremes with tricky trims and very high fashion statements. Tracee Ellis Ross wore a huge hot pink balloon by Valentino, Sarah Paulson channeled a black swan in Oscar de la Renta and Penelope Cruz floated in wearing frothy feathers by Chanel Haute Couture. If anybody believed that the fashion industry is influenced by the celebrity carpet, red or gold, they better think again. 

Extreme Haute Couture on Tracee Ellis Ross, Penelope Cruz, Sarah Paulson.

Starstruck white on Claire Foy. Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel.

Unembellished simplicity on Kristen Bell, Regina King and Judith Light.

Yawn-inducing same old sparkle on Constance Wu, Chrissy Teigen and Allison Janney.

Classic Hollywood goddess glamour on Elizabeth Moss, Kirsten Dunst and Heidi Klum.


There are now four categories for costume design Emmys and that means the winners can make sense. After all, RuPaul’s dressed-to-thrill Drag Race should not compete with The Crown’s Queenly ‘50s garb, nor should the primitive fantasies beyond the wall in Game of Thrones. And how about the Gianni Versace deluxe glam that’s being revived right now? All four of these fab TV shows were creatively costumed and deserved an Emmy. They all won! 

Contemporary Category: The Assassination of Gianni Versace; American Crime Story.

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Category: Game of Thrones.

Period Category: The Crown.

Non-Fiction Reality Competition Category: RuPaul’s Drag Race.


The 2018 Paper Doll Convention held in Seattle will long live in my memory. It was like a big extended family reunion party. Both “Paper Doll Studio” magazine and “Paperdoll Review” magazine feature fully detailed reports of the July “Entertainment Extravaganza.” Responsible for the great success of the Convention was the exceptionally talented husband and wife team, Sharry O’Hare and Micheal O’ Hara. They are very active in community theatre, understandably so. They are special people and I deem myself lucky to have them as special friends. As a token of my appreciation, I created special one-of-a-kind paper dolls of Sharry and Micheal with a few costumes from shows they have starred in, including: Take Me Long, Man of La Mancha, Gypsy, A Little Night Music, 1776 and Seussical. 

Paper Dolls of Sharry and Micheal.
Sharry and Michael in some of their favorite costumes.


Continuing my monthly coloring book fun, I again opened my favorite book, “Greer Garson,” published in 1944 and now softly yellowed with age. It’s beautifully drawn and a joy to bring to life with colored pencils. Many costumes from Greer’s hits inspired marvelous artwork. I am surprised that such a great star is not often given her due in Hollywood history though TCM often shows her many films. Let’s remember her; M-G-M’s great lady star. A titian-haired British beauty, she reigned as Hollywood’s most popular leading lady during the years of World War II. Greer Garson’s film stardom started late when M-G-M mogul Louis B. Mayer saw her onstage in London and offered her a contract. She was already in her mid-thirties when she arrived in Hollywood where at first it was difficult to cast her. Initially, she was made-up like a doll with tight curls but after an M-G-M make-over, her regal beauty, splendid intelligence and gracious demeanor revealed her stunning star quality. Wartime audiences responded to her aura of heartfelt warmth and calm elegance. Her first film catapulted her to stardom and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in 1939’s Goodbye Mr. Chips. Hit followed hit and peaked in 1942 with Mrs. Miniver starring Greer Garson in the role of her lifetime as the brave wife and mother coping with the Blitz. The film was lauded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill and garnered Greer the Best Actress Oscar and the longest acceptance speech in Hollywood History. Her career continued with great success until 1946 when the war ended and the movie industry sought a fresh approach that no longer included so-called “women’s pictures” such as sentimental romances that called for great lady stars including the incomparable Greer Garson. 

Greer Garson 1944 coloring book cover and Victory garden.

'40s evening glamour and a scene from ”Madame Curie,” colored by Me.


The Rhode Island School of Design, RISD, is one of the most highly respected arts colleges in the world but I fear that their fashion viewpoint is just too creative to be meaningful. High concepts ruled this year’s Grad show and were described thus: “Oversized design to distort silhouettes…abstraction of tailored suits…in-between genders…Mexi-witchery.” Take a look at some runway train wrecks at the recent show. Is this the future of fashion? I sure hope not. 
Maya Ortiz, Erika Kim and Yufei Liu. 

Fernando Flaquer, Ying Bonny Cai and Michaela Wong Xing Yi.

Rachel Wong, Zehua Crystal Wu and Matthew Streedy.


The 2019 Paper Doll Convention is scheduled for July 3-6, 2019, in Kansas City, MO. Hosted by Pat O'Rourke, with the Mystery, Murder & Mayhem, it's sure to be a good time! Visit OPDAG's convention info page for details.

Sep 22, 2018

#88 - Sneaker Styles, Pop Trend Paper Dolls, Coloring The Golden Girls, The Decoder Ring Podcast, Greer Garson, Space Age Styles, Male Fashion


The on-going evolution of trainer-style sneakers has hit rock bottom with Gucci’s latest madness. In a recent issue of Harper’s Bazaar a Saks Fifth Avenue advertorial (that’s an advertisement styled to look like an editorial) there appeared a sneaker that has to be the worst accessory design ever. Form does not follow function for the gimmick-laden hot mess that makes absolutely no sense. The price of this nonsensical sneaker is certainly stupid $1,590! How low can fashion go? 

Gucci sneaker gone wild! Available at Saks Fifth Avenue for $1,590.


I have just completed a new paper doll book concepted with Jenny Taliadoros for her Paper Studio Press publishing company. I was bemoaning the fact that I wish more collectors would actually cut-out and dress their paper dolls. I think that many of today’s paper dolls are designed with already assembled head-to-toe outfits, often including a total look with layers, accessories, hair and hats already totally coordinated. Only the doll’s face peeks through a hole. What’s the fun in that? I remember the way I learned about fashion by mixing items and accessories and admiring the changeable results. Jenny and I came up with the idea of creating a paper doll book with lots and lots of optional items that could be mixed and/or matched. We decided to focus on eight timeless trends as the inspiration for the garment designs: Romantic, Sporty, Uniform, Exotic, Gypsy, Minimal, Futurism and Nostalgia. For each “trend” I designed approximately 10 to 12 pieces to put together within a trend or trends can be mixed-up to invent “new” trends. The book will be available late 2018 or early 2019. 

Front cover and back cover with three dolls that fit all the clothes.

Romantic Trend and Nostalgic Trend.

Sporty Trend and Uniform Trend.

Exotic Trend and Gypsy Trend.

Minimal Trend and Futuristic Trend.


Coloring books continue their popularity and are now found in many stores and shops. I found a good selection at my local Michael’s arts and crafts emporium. I immediately snapped up a 100 page coloring book inspired by “The Golden Girls.” Half the pages feature the beloved characters from the long-running ABC TV sit-com; wise-cracking Dorothy, ditzy Rose, over-sexed Blanche and cynical Sofia. The rest of the pages are Florida-inspired prints and patterns, typical coloring book complex design meant to induce a Zen-like relaxation state. I don’t know about you, but when confronted with some busy little designs, I feel frustration rather than relaxation. Nevertheless, I persevered and colored a few pages. The Disney book, published by Kingswell, is available from Amazon.com for under $10. 

Coloring book cover and fruity Floridian pattern.

Rose (my favorite character) and glamorous Blanche.


For years, when I lived in New York, I attended a weekly life drawing session at a gallery in New York’s Soho art district. There, I met a charming, talented young man named Benjamin Frisch. We often chatted between sketches and he told me he is an editor of Slate, the trendy on-line magazine. He was very interested in the paper doll world and suggested that it might make a good podcast subject. I retired and moved to Palm Springs. A month or so ago, I reconnected with Ben and he arranged to record a long (3 hours!) long distance interview with me to use as the basis for a brilliantly researched investigation of the paper doll in history and today. The Decoder Ring podcasts, put out by Slate.com are billed as “cracking cultural mysteries” and that is precisely what Ben and editor Willa Paskin did. To my surprise Ben created a delightful paper doll of Me(!) to go with the interview. Click here to listen!

Paper doll of me! Created by Slate editor Benjamin Frisch.


An upcoming issue of Paper Doll Studio, the OPDAG magazine is going to be themed to feature the United Kingdom. I lived and worked for two decades in London and Devon. Jenny asked me to write a bit of a memoir about my love of all things English. Being a dedicated Anglophile, it was a pleasure to gush lyrically about the UK of the ‘60s and ‘70s. To go with the memoir, I created a Greer Garson paper doll because she is the very essence of the gracious Englishwoman. I’ve done two outfits for the doll, costumes from Random Harvest

Greer Garson paper doll wearing costumes from “Random Harvest.”


Fashion today is fascinated by collaborations, often unexpected or incongruous. A current collaboration put together young, super-trendy designer, Heron Preston with NASA. Yes, NASA, now celebrating its 60 year history. The familiar logo, worn from 1976 to 1992, is an iconic graphic element that recalls America on the brink of the Space Age. Heron Preston is not a genius designer and he has produced a surprisingly wearable collaborative collection of jackets, hoodies, polos, utility pants, accessories and a street savvy silver denim jeans jacket, all under strict NASA guidelines. 

Moon Mode for modern men and street savvy silver denim jacket.

Commercial collaboration blends NASA with streetwise contemporary items. 


Now that the dust has settled after the hype generated by the recent Men’s Designer Spring ’19 Collections shows, it’s easier to spot the really meaningful styles by a handful of designers who are the true influencers. Gone are the extreme silhouettes, both super-skinny Thom Browne hangers-on and premature oversize boxy shapes. Both extremes are still there, but hardly noteworthy or immediately actionable. Leave it to venerable maestro Giorgio Armani to execute the best expression of modern tailoring that is big enough to be comfortable and flattering, perfectly relaxed for today’s style-conscious yet realistic male. Dries Van Noten’s dare-devil color caper was a courageous stand-out, a powerful, saturated palette. Prada usually is leader of the pack, but designer Miuccia Prada seems to be under the influence of Alessandro Michele of Gucci. Wild and crazy and a little bit silly. A fine line to walk, but Prada does it rather interestingly. The designing Caten twins Dsquared2 served up a reminder that there is still plenty of inspiration to be siphoned out of military uniformity and sporting style activewear. Oddly, both Prada and Dries Van Noten picked-up the mid-century Scandinavian graphics and optimistic color seen in the work of Danish interior designer Vernon Panton. This could be the start of something big! 

Giorgio Armani’s perfectly pitched, easily relaxed silhouette statement. Smart guy.

Dries Van Noten’s bold, brassy color caper.

Prada’s daringly balanced tightrope walking.

D-Squared offers new versions of military and activewear inspirations.
Mid-century Scandinavian designer Vernon Panton influences Dries Van Noten and Prada.

Aug 22, 2018

#87 - Fall 2018 Haute Couture, Modern Mermaids, Coloring the Royal Wedding

New Mood? Deluxe, Discreet and Dignified

If it’s Paris in the Summer, then it’s time for the Fall Haute Couture collections. It’s a challenge to untangle the seasons. Summer 2018 is the time to see the latest Fall 2018 custom-made couture. But at the same time, the men’s collections for Spring 2019 are being shown in Milan and Paris. Some shows are unisex and include womenswear for Spring 2019. That means that the Haute Couture for Spring 2019 will be shown in January of 2019. Confusing? You betcha. 

Because the Haute Couture collections are truly fast fashion, custom-made for instant consumption by rich private clients and magazine editorials, the designers often offer genuine, fresh-off-the-runway newsmaking originals. The most important, influential couturiers are all agreed that a new mood is in the air. The best designers are sensing a seismic shift from crazy showstoppers to chic statements that are deluxe, discreet and dignified. The new Duchess of Sussex may well become the role model for the new mood. Oh, there are still creators like John Galliano at Martin Margiela who aim to shock and/or bewilder. But the more serious leaders are forging a pathway with wearable, adult, elegant, super-sophisticated, simple styles. Fabrics are as costly as expected at couture level and dressmaking skills are tantamount. Black is important but there are some saturated mid-tones that look directional. 

CLARE WAIGHT KELLER for GIVENCHY was the surprising choice to design Meghan Markle’s royal wedding gown. The design was simple and sublime. In fact, Ms. Keller seems to have channeled Hubert De Givenchy’s wardrobe for Audrey Hepburn, not only for the wedding gown, but also for her Spring 2018 couture collection. However, the result misses the je ne sais quoi of Givenchy’s original mid-century modern creations. (See Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charade.) 

Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy

KARL LAGERFELD for CHANEL is still going strong, updating the iconic brand yet again. This season’s reinvention is unfortunately not very flattering; a clunky, boxy shape with gimmicky zippers that unzip to show micro-miniskirts or fluted sleeves that reveal crushed chiffon gussets. The expected tweeds are present, but they seem too heavy. Lagerfeld says he was inspired by urbane Paris, by the cool grays and greige of the buildings, but a more accurate metaphor might be the heavy-handed Brutalist architecture of the ‘70s. 

Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel

ARMANI PRIVE by GIORGIO ARMANI sticks to his tried and true formula. Pure luxury, subtly stated. Impeccably tailored jackets and slender, wand-like gowns in restrained good taste. The fabrics are extravagant and the color palette is based on black and champagne. 

Armani Prive by Giorgio Armani

MARIA GRAZIA CHIURI at CHRISTIAN DIOR obviously feels that fashionable clothes are serious, very serious. Her collection references the label’s rich heritage and utilized one of the finest alteliers in all of Paris. Meticulous tailoring by talented crafters allow the realization of the designer’s quest for perfection. Nothing but low-key high impact drama. 

10_11_12_Maria Grazia Chiuri at Christian Dior

PIERPAOLO PICCIOLI for VALENTINO’s triumphant collection cannot be boiled down to any one trend. It is a mash-up of divergent sources including: Greek myths, Pasolini films, Ziggy Stardust, armor, 17th and 18th century paintings, photographer Deborah Turbeville. Somehow, it all works. An extravagantly strong statement of how wonderful haute couture can be. 

Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino

FENDI is all about furs, but furs are out of favor. Gucci, Micheal Kors and Versace have all recently forsaken furs. What’s a furrier to do? Create fabrics that look like fur (for example, fringed tulle that looks like mink.) Easier still, Fendi’s collection features fabulous fashions made in non-fur materials. 


GIAMBATTISTA VALLI is catering to a young couture customer with collections that would be perfect for a real-life Barbie doll. Some sky-high hemlines are sometimes long in the back. The collection is sweetly pretty partywear, a confectionary no-brainer of fancy gowns, frocks and pantsuits. 

Giambettista Valli

JOHN GALLIANO at MARTIN MARGIELA is fashion’s mad man, daring to work without a net. He thinks and thinks, perhaps he thinks too much. This season he mixes up garments and inserts cuts and slashes to create bizarre juxtapositions (hard to decipher since they are worn back-to-front). Talk about gimmicks, there’s a curious contraption to hold a cell phone (on the ankle!) One beauty spot is a color story that can only be described as “purely pretty.” 

John Galliano at Martin Margiela

IRIS VAN HERPEN continues to follow her own glorious path, creating wearable art. This season she is inspired by feathers, by the wings of birds and the sound waves created by birds in flight. Her inspiration comes to fruition as breathtaking visions of futuristic fashion that is truly original. Will she ever become commercial? Unlikely. Will the fashion world ever catch up to her? Even more unlikely. 

Iris Van Herpen.

Modern Mermaids Coming in Wed World Future

Eco authorities state that by 2100 the world’s temperatures will have risen 3.2 degrees, melting the ice caps and affecting 3 billion people living in submerging coastal megacities rising skyward right now. Global disaster! Fashion to the rescue? Jun Kamei a student at the Royal Academy of Art has come up with “Amphibio,” a two-part, 3D printed apparatus/accessory that would enable modern mermaids to breathe underwater. It extracts oxygen from water and releases carbon dioxide back into it. Until such time passes, mermaids are a recurring fantasy and part of Pop Culture in movies like Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid and The Glass-Bottom Boat, both included in out-of-print paper doll books. (Captions… 28…RCA student Jun Kamei’s apparatus/accessories for breathing underwater 29.30…Fantasy image and Doris Day’s mermaid costume in The Glass Bottom Boat. 31,32…Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, Ann Blyth’s costume in vintage paper doll book, 1952. 

RCA student Jun Kamei's apparatus/accessories for breathing underwater.

Fantasy image and Doris Day’s mermaid costume in The Glass Bottom Boat.

Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, Ann Blyth’s costume in vintage paper doll book, 1952.

Coloring the Royal Wedding

When I saw this new Royal Wedding coloring book, I eagerly bought it and was very disappointed. Where’s the bridal gown? Not in this 30 page book that obviously was created before the gown was seen. The book is filled with wedding-related still-life drawings and a few, very few drawings of the Royal couple, mostly commemorative. What a missed opportunity for illustrator Teresa Goodridge to show the new Duchess of Sussex as she steps into the media spotlight, stunning in an elegant, simple bridal gown. And it seems she has a new wardrobe that exemplifies fashion’s incoming sophisticated trend. I’m hoping this is just the beginning of a stunning image for this lovely new member of the Royal Windsor family. Even though it is missing Meghan’s fashion statement, the coloring book is definitely collectible. Published by Dover Publications, $9.99. 

Harry & Meghan Coloring book cover and still life page.

Coloring book pages colored by me.
Meghan’s elegant, simple sophisticated wardrobe may very well become trend-setting.