Feb 11, 2016

#57 - Dateline Paperdollywood - Queen Elizabeth, Star Sopranos, Around the World, Royal Fashions, Fashion News

David Bowie 1947-2016 

A brilliant talent, truly original and absolutely unique. 

My portrait in remembrance.

Queen Elizabeth I AND II 

Queen Elizabeth on the Screen, my newest paper doll book, is devoted to great actresses who portrayed the historic ruler in the movies and on TV. The six paper dolls stars in the book include Bette Davis, Cate Blanchett, Vanessa Regrave, Judi Dench and Glenda Jackson. Both Bette and Cate starred in two Elizabethan movies each and Glenda inhabited the Royal role in a nine-hour mini-series on BBC. But only one actress has played both Elizabeths. Helen Mirren was Elizabeth I in a British mini-series broadcast in 2005 for which she won an Emmy and the following year she played Elizabeth II in the movie simply entitled “The Queen,” for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. I couldn’t resist giving Helen costumes for both of the monarchs. The doll gets two rather magnificent Tudor gowns and with a grey wig, she’s transformed into today’s long-reigning ruler with a wardrobe including a gown with regal regalia, an elegantly simple silk dress, a cardigan and tweed skirt plus a raincoat and even a Corgi! The 12-page book, published by Paper Studio Press, can be ordered from paperdollreview.com. 

Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth Paper Dolls
Helen Mirren costumed as Elizabeth I in the TV series.

Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II Paper Dolls
Helen Mirren costumed as Elizabeth II in "The Queen."

Star Sopranos Soon to Become Paper Dolls 

If only paper dolls could sing! I am about to begin research for a new paper doll book in my series “History of Hollywood Fashions by David Wolfe” for Paper Studio Press. This third book in the series will be entitled “Hollywood Star Sopranos”…not to be confused with the gangster family TV series, please! The six soprano paper dolls are all sweetness and light, singing like angels in musical movies. The paper dolls will include Jeanette MacDonald, Kathryn Grayson, Jane Powell, Deanna Durbin, Julie Andrews and just for fun, Marni Nixon whose voice famously dubbed the non-singing leading ladies in “My Fair Lady,” “The King and I” and “West Side Story.” (Even though she didn’t actually appear on screen in those classic musicals, my paper doll will get to wear all the costumes she would have worn if in the films! (Wait a minute, she did appear as a singing nun in a convent scene in “The Sound of Music.”) She also provided the singing voices of Margaret O’Brien and Sophia Loren as well as singing the high notes for Marilyn Monroe. 

Jeanette MacDonald, Kathryn Grayson, Jane Powell
Julie Andrews, Deanna Durbin, Marni Nixon

Around the World in 80s Days … with a Stopover in Phoenix 

The 2016 Annual Paper Doll Convention will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, June 22-26, organized by Jane Alfano Rasor. This year’s theme is “Around the World with Paper Dolls” and many of the workshops and presentations are planned to tie-in with the globalization of our paper doll passion. I’m delighted to have been asked to do a presentation and tell the tale of one of Hollywood’s legendary films, Mike Todd’s “Around the World in 80 Days.” Not only was the 1956 mega-hit an Academy Award winner, but the backstory of the global filming is an exciting tale. Producer Mike Todd (then Mr. Elizabeth Taylor, of course), worked magic, both artistic and financial, to get the movie made and showman that he was, the promotion hoop-la made show biz history. What does this have to do with paper dolls? Well, I’ve never done a convention presentation that didn’t have a paper doll to go with it. If you’re not already registered for the Convention, don’t miss the opportunity to have fun with your friends, new and old, from the wonderful paper doll community. For more information, see the Registration Form included in this newsletter. I hope to see you there! 

A famous scene from the film, "Around the World in 80 Days."

The Cold Shoulder is Fashion’s Hot Spot 

Sex appeal has always been one of the driving forces of fashion. The “erogenous zone” travels around the body as times and fashions change. Today’s body-conscious exhibitionism exposes legs, backs, breasts and mid-riffs. What’s left? Surprisingly, the once-popular bare shoulder is this spring’s sexy site. European designers are cutting away shoulders on tops, dresses and gowns, flirtatiously baring one or both. 

Roland Mouret, Blugirl, Barbara Casasola

Thierry Mugler, Balmain, Sonia Rykiel

Breaking Out of the Boudoir 

Spring fashions that look as if they are seductive lingerie and nightgowns are designed to go out in public this spring. Sheer and semi-sheer fabrics, lace and lacy knits appear in innocent white, sexy black or a palette of soft shades. Silhouettes are sometimes skin-tight, but look newer when they are soft and flowing. Unquestionably the most outrageously feminine look of the season, from Paris, Milan and London. 
Givenchy, Alberta Ferretti, Philosophy

Scognamiglio, Celine, Emanno Scervino

Unrolling the Red Carpet, Once Again 

The Golden Globes marked the start of the so-called “Awards Season.” With so many categories of movie and TV eligible, only the winners really care who wins. But the public loves to watch the stars parade up the red carpet wearing gowns that go from gorgeous to God-awful. It’s a fashion spectator sport. Everybody has an opinion and here are mine. For me, Helen Mirren was the best of show in her long-sleeved black gown with sheer shoulders and the best diamond necklace of the evening. Most challenging was Cate Blanchett’s pink, fringed Givenchy saccharine-sweet concoction, a cross between Downton Abbey and French pastry. Jane Fonda’s dramatic Saint Laurent gown looked as if she had been transformed into a long-stemmed white rose. Also curious were the cape effects on Jennifer Lopez (Gianbattista Valli) and Viola Davis (Marchesa) and a number of difficult-to-drag trains on Taraji P. Henson (Stella McCarthy) and Laverne Cox. The media went mad reporting the skin show provided by plunging necklines, cut-away sides and a plethora of bare backs. Among the many flesh flashers were Jennifer Lawrence (Dior), Kirsten Dunst (Valentino), Joanne Froggatt, Alicia Vikander (Louis Vuitton) and Saoise Ronan (Saint Laurent). As always, there was plenty of glitz, sequins and jewels paving simple, slim columns. Some of the sparkling stars included Julianne Moore (Tom Ford), Brie Larson (Calvin Klein), Kate Hudson (Michael Kors), Olivia Wilde (Michael Kors) and Kate Bosworth (Dolce & Gabbana). Amidst such a flashy crowd, all dripping borrowed diamonds, the looks that stood out were often simple gowns in richly colored plain fabrics such as Kate Winslet (Ralph Lauren) in deep blue, Amy Adams in red-orange, Jada Pinkett Smith in rich green, Rachel Bloom in dark green. Of course, there was plenty of black and white, as seen on Amy Schumer (Prabal Gurung) and Lady Gaga (Versace), among others. It never fails. The fun of red carpet gazing is spotting the clunkers and there were a few…Maggie Gyllenhall looked positively frumpy in a black/gold floral Marc Jacobs and Eva Longoria’s bouquet-trimmed gown by Georges Hobeika (Who?). Stayed tuned for more star style as the red carpet rolls out again and again this season. 

Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, Jane Fonda, Jennifer Lopez
Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, Laverne Cox, Jennifer Lawrence
Kirsten Dunst, Joanne Froggatt, Alicia Vikander, Saoirse Ronan
Julianne Moore, Bri Larson, Kate Hudson, Olivia Wilde, Kate Bosworth
Kate Winslet, Amy Adams, Jada Pinkett Smith, Rachel Bloom
Amy Schumer, Lady Gaga, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Eva Longoria

Sublime Illustrator: Remembering Kenneth Paul Block 

When I see the few well-executed fashion illustrations today, I miss the time when Kenneth Paul Block reigned supreme, the 1950s to the 1980s. For 40 years, he was the chief features artist of WWD (Women’s Wear Daily, the fashion industry trade paper). His incisive, yet infinitely graceful work set the tone for the last years of genuine fashion elegance. His sketches of society grande dames helped WWD owner, John Fairchild, create a mystique surrounding “the ladies who lunch.” (Block often did clandestine sketches as he dined at the same chi-chi eateries as his subjects.) Babe Paley, CZ Guest, Gloria Guinness, the Duchess of Windsor and Jackie Kennedy among others, were turned into celebrities (at least in the eyes of the fashion industry.) As a young man in Ohio, just joining the fashion world, I leaned about taste and style by carefully studying the authoritative sketches signed with the initials KPB. 

Block was born in Larchmont, New York in 1924 and grew up enthralled by the elegance of the 1930s. He himself was always impeccably dressed, a dapper gentleman. He attended Parson’s School of Design, graduating in 1945. His first job was sketching for McCalls Patterns. He joined Fairchild Publications in the mid 1950’s and produced an innumerable number of drawings over the years, even as photography slowly but surely out-moded illustration (which Gloria Vanderbilt once correctly described as “divine distortion.”) When WWD launched a slick sister publication, “W,” Block’s artistry reached a new level of expression, truly pure art. Nevertheless, he was let go with entire art staff in 1992. Time marched cruelly on. 

There is a beautiful, very oversize book published in 2007, “Drawing Fashion, the Art of Kenneth Paul Block” by Susan Mulcahy. It is available on amazon.com. It contains a breathtaking array of his most artistic expressions. As gorgeous as the book is, I find it unsatisfactory because it so blatantly ignores Block’s prodigious output of more commercial (though still highly artistic) drawings. It is those drawings that I admired so as a teen-ager, drawings that inspired me to pursue fashion illustration as a career. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is the repository for almost 2,000 of his drawings. 

Block’s most significant and fascinating work was his sketches of the society swans he so greatly admired. Once, after sketching the Duchess of Windsor at home, he wrote an insightful interview about the sitting, but didn’t pursue a writing sideline to his art. In addition to WWD and W, Block produced campaigns for prestigious NY fashion emporiums including Bonwit Teller, Bergdorf-Goodman and Lord & Taylor. 

Kenneth Paul Block understood fashion as an expression of the wearer, saying “Gesture to me is everything in fashion. It is the way we stand, sit, walk and lie. It is the bone. I was never interested in the clothes. I was more interested in the women in the clothes.” 

Color Sketches in "W"

KPB at WWD Office #53…KPB at Met Opening 

Show Notebook, Diana Vreeland 

Babe Paley, Issac Mizrahi Sketch in “W” 

Duchess of Windsor, WWD Front Page 1960 

Dissecting a Fashion Illustration 

For future issues of Paper Doll Studio, the OPDAG magazine, publisher Jenny Taliadoros has invited several well-known artists to share their “secrets,” the special techniques that makes their artwork popular. I’m revealing my own step-by-step process for creating paper dolls and their wardrobes. I start with a rough sketch, then transfer it to watercolor paper, block in color with markers, add a layer of gouache paint and finish up with colored pencil accents. Sound easy? It’s not, believe me. Here’s the finished sketch, the end result of the process I delineate in a forthcoming issue of the magazine. If you don’t already subscribe to Paper Doll Studio Magazine, you can do so at paperdollreview.com, so you don’t miss a thing. 

Marlene Dietrich
Finished sketch of Dietrich after a five-step art technique process. 

Now Available! New Paper Doll Books by David 

Paper Studio Press has just published three new paper dolls that I created. 

Costumes from movies set in New York CityFirst is Hollywood Goes to New York City. Four model dolls and eight pages of clothes celebrate the movies’ everlasting fascination with the city that never sleeps. The costumes in the book were seen in screen plays actually filmed on location in the Big Apple or on Hollywood studio sets built to stand-in for the city itself. Included in the book are some iconic, instantly recognizable costumes from such films as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Ziegfeld Follies,” “42nd Street,” “The Women” and many more. 

Classic Hollywood Drama Queens Paper Dolls Also released are two new books in a brand-new format, the start of a planned on-going series devoted to historic Hollywood costumes. Each book will feature six movie star paper dolls and ten pages of costumes. Classic Drama Queens, the first book in the series, stars Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Greer Garson, Irene Dunne, Loretta Young and Bette Davis. Costumes worn by these great stars include creations from “Queen Christina,” “All About Eve,” “Mildred Pierce,” “Mrs. Miniver” and “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” Also included is a lengthy commentary I wrote about the stars and the costume designers. 

Queen Elizabeth in the MoviesThe second book in the series is Queen Elizabeth on the Screen. The six paper dolls are stars who portrayed the legendary ruler in the movies and on TV: Bette Davis, Cate Blanchett, Glenda Jackson, Vanessa Redgrave, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren (who also played Elizabeth II). Each doll has magnificent costumes from her portrayal, costumes that took hours and hours of diligent work to capture their lavish luxury. Also included is a lengthy commentary, a history of the Queen’s rule and behind-the-scene stories about the costumes and the designers.