Mar 9, 2016

#58 - Dateline Paperdollywood - Royal Fashions, Chanel, Fashion Exhibits, Award Season

Fine Tuning Royal Fashions

Never have I turned down a creative challenge and my new paper doll book, Queen Elizabeth on the Screen contains some of the most difficult artwork I’ve ever done. The iconic ruler was very image conscious and her wardrobe was meant to establish her grandeur and power. She dressed to intimidate. Over the years, some extremely talented costume designers rose to the creative challenge of dressing stars for the role and it was my idea to try to represent many of the magnificent outfits in the 12-page book. The lavish details, the extravagant materials and the wealth of jewelry meant long hours hunched over the drawing board. (Millions of pearls!) As always, I am ruthlessly self-critical and several of the costumes called for more patience and artistic endurance than the average paper doll outfit. I redid Cate Blanchett’s costume because I realized the complicated fabric detail needed to be more carefully executed, rather than “suggested.” And Bette Davis’ bold black-and-white striped outfit was reworked five times, two versions didn’t even get close to being finished before they hit the wastebasket.

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth
Two versions of Cate Blanchette's costume.

Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth

Three of the five versions of Bette Davis’ costume

Chanel’s Classic Suit: Now ironic, not iconic! 

Coco Chanel’s famous cardigan suit debuted in her 1954 comeback collection and became a true classic. It was repeated, with slight variations, in every Chanel collection thereafter and was knocked-off endlessly. It became the uniform of the high society “Ladies Who Lunch,” as seen constantly in WWD throughout the late ‘50s and ‘60s. It became even more iconic when Jackie Kennedy wore a pink version of it on that fateful November day in Dallas. Eventually the suit’s popularity waned but when Karl Lagerfeld took over at Chanel after Coco’s demise, he revived the cardigan suit and it reappeared often during the ‘80s. He treated it irreverently which gave it great appeal to a younger generation. He still grinds out variations, but has lost the suit’s essence (timeless, ageless, flattering and casually elegant). However, that fabled suit refuses to fade away and was included, practically verbatim, in the Spring ’16 runway shows of wacky Jeremy Scott at Moschino and disruptive designer Alessandro Michele at Gucci. But there’s a big difference. Now it’s ironic not iconic, so out-of-it that it’s considered humorously cutting edge and in today’s fashion climate, perhaps it’s ready for yet another comeback. Subscribers to Paper Doll Studio are already on the Chanel comeback trail, having enjoyed the magazine’s recent special Chanel Tribute Issue #113.
Chanel fashions
My sketch of Coco wearing Chanel and Chanel models, 1990 

Jeremy Scott for Moschino
Spring ’16 Jeremy Scott for Moschino

Alessandro Michele for Gucci
Spring ’16 Alessandro Michele for Gucci, and the current version of the Chanel classic by Chanel.

Marilyn’s Octopus Dress

It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Every artist finds it difficult to see his (or her) work with a “fresh eye” after slaving over a piece of artwork for hours. I’m lucky to have Jenny Taliadoros as an editor/critic/best friend. Sometimes her keen eye can surprise me. I painted the white pleated dress that Marilyn Monroe wore while standing on a subway grating in “The Seven Year Itch.” I was happy, having met the challenge of the billowing skirt. Jenny’s bizarre reaction made me look at it in a new way. “It looks like an octopus,” she declared. I looked at it again and had to agree. That skirt became tentacles and her breasts looked like boggling octopus eyes! What to do? The dress looked just fine once it was cut-out and put on the blonde doll in the Hollywood Goes to New York City book. I realized that if the dress had bare arms “attached,” it would no longer look like a creature of the deep. The episode was a nice reminder that being an artist means constantly solving problems and that four eyes are better than two.

Seven Year Itch Dress
Does this look like an octopus to you?

Monroe dress
Adding arms makes all the difference.

Seven Year Itch Dress
Doll and dress from “Hollywood Goes to New York City” book.

Marilyn Monroe portrait
Study of Marilyn Monroe for a future issue of Paper Doll Studio magazine. 

Once Upon a Fashion Exhibit

Fairy Tales can come true…in fashion, anyway. “Fairy Tale Fashion” is the current hit exhibition at The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in Manhattan. Once upon a time, the spacious two-floor gallery used to mount exhibits of a somewhat scholarly nature which befits its academic setting. Exhibits were seriously educational, yet mounted with plenty of flair. The current exhibit which closes April 16, may be a crowd-pleaser, but I didn’t really learn much as I wandered through the enchanting fashion fairyland. The mannequins are grouped to pay tribute to classic tales including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and Rose Red. One tableau is devoted to The Wizard of Oz, another to Alice in Wonderland. Little Red Riding Hood’s cloak is reinterpreted by several designers. There is also a trio of serpentine styles. Another display features gold and silver gowns. The fashions are entertaining, mostly extravagant eveningwear, although sadly, there are only a few gowns from the historic past. There are far too many recent runway showstoppers. This fanciful exhibition is yet another example of how such high fashion is fast becoming a spectator sport, an entertainment extravaganza and is no longer a relevant reflection of even a very fashion-conscious real life. 

Red Riding Hood Sketch
My sketch, one of several Red Riding Hood cloaks on display.

Film Fashion Exhibit
Snapshots taken in fashion fairyland.

Film Fashion Exhibit
More fairlyland frivolities.

SAG Style: Sequins, Sleeves, Skin and Slits!

The Screen Actors Guild Awards are considered to be as serious as that sort of show can be and this year’s fashion stories were about as serious as show-off Red Carpet style can be. There was plenty of sparkle with sequins twinkling in some surprising colors, both bold and/or subtle. Sparkling stars included Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Helen Mirren, Gaby Hoffman and Saoirse Ronan. Two trends, poles apart, were in evidence. Some celebs showed skin with long leg slits, bare backs, plunging necklines and sudden peek-a-boo effects. Bri Larson, Laverne Cox and Eva Longoria were stand-out flashers. The big surprise is the cover-up of sleeves, often to the wrist. Alicia Vikander and Anna Faris took to this unexpectedly demure design idea. After so many years of black or white dominating the Red Carpet, it was refreshing to see a veritable rainbow palette of reds, pinks, blues, greens and more, in hues from pale to bright to dark. An unintentional trend is hemlines that are too long, the understandable result of the reality that borrowed sample gowns are made to fit long, tall models not shorter, real-life size stars. 

SAG Red Carpet Fashions
Alicia Vikander, Helen Mirren, Saoirse Ronan
SAG Red Carpet Fashions
Laverne Cox, Brie Larson, Gaby Hoffman, Anna Faris
SAG Red Carpet Fashions
Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman

Paris Couture, Different but the Same

The concept of creative fashions, custom-made for the richer-than-rich, continues to thrive by catering to younger, global-centric clients. The Spring ’16 collections, recently shown in Paris, demonstrate the staying power of priceless workmanship and the continuity of haute couture. There are a surprising number of couturiers at work today, but only the legendary labels even pretend to set trends. Everybody is making spectacular showpieces, but Dior, Valentino and Chanel still do it best. The House of Christian Dior even managed to put on a splendid show without a Creative Director due to the hasty departure of Raf Simon. A young team interpreted the creative integrity of the storied label, even re-imagining the famous 1947 “Bar” suit with its shapely jacket and black full skirt. The update is somewhat less shapely and features slit flared sleeves. The Dior signature lily-of-the-valley is scattered over half the jacket while the other side gets jewel trim. That history-making “revolutionary” long, full skirt is now modernized into a slim wand with a sexy high slit. Call me an old-fashioned romantic, but I much prefer the 1947 version. How about you?

Chanel Fashion Sketch by David Wolfe
My sketch of the “Bar” New Look suit and the Spring ’16 current interpretation.

Paris Couture
Valentino Haute Couture, Chanel Haute Couture, Christian Dior Haute Couture.

Movie Costumes Off the Screen!

Fans of film fashions can see actual costumes from the best movies released in 2015 if they are lucky enough to visit the 24th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition at the FIDM College in Los Angeles. Two large galleries are simply stark white to allow all attention to go to a super collection of cinematic costumes displayed in little groups. Getting well-deserved pride of place are Oscar-nominated costumes from “Cinderella” by Sandy Powell who garnered a second nomination for “Carol.” Other nominated costumes include “The Revenant,” “Mad Max Fury Road” and “The Danish Girl.” It is interesting to note the number of films like “Brooklyn,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Carol,” and “Trumbo” set in the mid-twentieth century, allowing designers paying homage to elegantly tailored suits as well as petti-coated full skirts and cardigans. More antique are the superb period pieces for “Suffragette,” “Crimson Peak” and “Far From the Madding Crowd.” Fashion of the future is forecast in a tableau of sci-fi style from “Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens.” The iconic West is represented by “The Hateful Eight,” “The Revenant” and “The Longest Ride.” Contemporary fashion appears in “Straight Out of Compton,” “Jem and the Holograms” and “Pitch Perfect 2.” Several other films round out the impressive display of design creativity and skillful craftsmanship that results in costumes designed to be seen first on giant theatre screens and the viewed again and again on large home televisions and palm-size personal devises. The annual costume exhibition at FIDM Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising annually pays tribute to cinematic costumes. This year’s exhibit ends April 30, 2016.

Film Fashions
 Star Wars and Disney’s Cinderella.
Film Fashions 2
Period Pieces in Suffragette, Crimson Peak, The Danish Girl.
Film Fashions 3
Smartly Tailored in Trubo.
Film Fashions 3
‘50s Chic in Carol, Brooklyn.
Rugged Looks in The Hateful Eight, Revenant, Mad Max Fury Road.

Fashion Embraces Diversity, too!

The 88th Academy Awards show was dedicated to encouraging more racial diversity in movies. The pre-show red carpet parade demonstrated that fashion has already achieved definite diversity of design and style. No definite direction but a parade of pretty women dressed in diversity. There were beautifully simple gowns in contrast to daydreamy Cinderella-goes-to-the-prom effects with full skirts or dragging trains. A perfect example of opposite extremes co-existing in harmony was exemplified by Cate Blanchett’s minty-blue feathery froth versus Charlize Theron’s blazing red sublime stunner. Color was diversified. Although black, white and red were plentiful, they were challenged by a veritable rainbow ranging from sugary pastels (Alicia Vikander’s pale yellow and Emily Blunt’s soft pink) to bold brights (Brie Larson’s blue and Olivia Munn’s red-orange) and on to dark shadows (Sofia Vergara’s midnight blue and Tina Fey’s intense violet). Glamorous glitz is a red carpet classic and sparkle was plentiful (Naomi Watts, Saorise Ronan and Margot Robbie.) Lace looked sexy on Rooney Mara, Priyanka Chopra and Jennifer Lawrence while sheer chiffon ruffles wafted around Brie Larson. Sex appeal aplenty appeared as legs peeked out of high slits, necklines plunged and backs were sometimes absolutely absent (Olivia Wilde and Rachel McAdams). Lady Gaga’s gown-pants-combo creation was innovative, but Daisy Ridley’s sheer bordered ankle length looked a bit odd. Divine diversity with only a couple of nightmares. (What were Heidi Klum and Amy Poehler thinking?) Fashion-wise, diversity means no definite direction, so you win some, you lose some…not everybody gets that gold statuette.

Star Fashion Sketch by David
Diversity in Design on Charlize Theron, Cate Blanchett and Lady GaGa sketched by David. 

Oscar Fashion
Black and White on Olivia Wilde, Kerry Washington and Kate Winslet.

Oscar Fashion
Soft Shades on Alicia Vikander, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Emily Blunt.

Oscar Fashion
Rainbow Brights on Brie Larson, Olivia Munn and Tina Fey.

Oscar Fashion
Peek-a-Boo Lace on Jennifer Lawrence, Rooney Mara and Priyanka Chopra.

Oscar Fashion
Flesh Flashers on Rachel McAdams, Margot Robbie and Saorise Ronan.

2016 Phoenix Paper Doll Convention
Convention host Jane Alfano Rasor is busy preparing for our next convention to be held June 22-26, 2016 at the Biltmore Embassy Suites in Phoenix, Arizona. There's still time to sign up! Visit the Convention Information Page for details. Don't miss out on all the fun!
Paper Doll Convention