Jul 17, 2017

#74 Dateline Paperdollywood - Balenciaga, Royal Tartan, Paper Doll Tote, Celebrity Coloring, Esther Williams

London Exhibition Honors Balenciaga's Genius

The V&A Museum in London is currently hosting an important exhibition that is sure to act as an inspiration to the fashion industry. “Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion” is focused on the groundbreaking creativity of the famed Spanish design pioneer in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Over 100 creations are on display and although a half century old, they are pure artistry, still today. Cristobal Balenciaga worked in Paris for 30 years before retiring in 1968 at the age of 74. When his best client, Countess Von Bismarck heard the news, it is said she took to her bed for three days! Balenciaga’s overwhelming originality is apparent in the exhibition’s many examples of innovative shapes, cleverly engineered into volumetric sculptures meticulously executed in luxe textiles. How Balenciaga devised some of his more spectacular creations becomes apparent with life-size X-rays that reveal the complex inner constructions. The sizeable exhibition extends to the floor above where Balenciaga’s influence on contemporary designers becomes obvious. However, there is a huge difference between “the Master’s” work and that of his followers, including Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons (currently on display at the NY Met) and Demna Gvasalia, the cutting edge young designer who is now the Creative Director of the very successful current Balenciaga collections. It is obvious that Balenciaga’s every creation is an original thing of beauty and elegance whereas the extreme contemporary “inspirations” are sadly lacking the masterful vision of the designer that Women’s Wear Daily called “The King” and Coco Chanel described as “The only couturier in the truest sense of the word.” 

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion” at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Examples of Balenciaga’s elegant sculptural creations.

Balenciaga at work and the museum’s X-ray of gown. 

Convention Souvenir Preview

Next month, more than 100 paper doll enthusiasts will gather in Philadelphia to attend the annual Convention, this year chaired by Linda Ocasio and Valerie Keller. As always, there will be good times meeting old friends, buying and trading paper dolls, enjoying entertaining and informative workshops and presentations. Of course, there will be souvenir paper dolls referencing the convention’s “Swinging ‘60s” theme. I’ll be presenting the story of how I went from living in Ashtabula, Ohio to London in the ‘60s, a reminder of the fashions and personalities that made London swing. Here’s a sneak preview of the souvenir book I created that will be given to attendees along with many other paper doll souvenirs. For more information on the convention and souvenirs, visit Linda Ocasio's blog, thepapercollector.blogspot.com. 

Sample Preview of my 6-page convention paper doll souvenir booklet.

Talking About Royal Tartan

When I was researching the Queen’s wardrobe for my forthcoming Royal paper doll book for Paper Studio Press, I wanted to include some more “everyday casual” items. (Not that the Queen ever would appear as dressed-down as an average American.) I decided to include a quilted jacket, a fitted tweed hacking jacket and a tartan skirt. I found that there is an official royal tartan listed in the Scottish Register of Tartans. It is named “Balmoral” after the royal residence in Scotland, woven with black and white twisted yarn suggesting the local rough hewn granite. It was designed in 1853 by Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert and is restricted. It may be worn only by the Queen and members of the royal family with Her Majesty’s permission. The only other person permitted to wear the Balmoral tartan is the Queen’s personal bagpiper. I decided that for the paper doll, I would suggest the tartan, but not attempt to replicate the protected design. Even so, drawing and painting a complicated plaid pattern is no easy task because of the pleats hiding parts of the grid. 

The Royal Family wears the restricted Balmoral tartan.

Working on the paper doll’s tartan kilt.

Terrific Thank You Tote!

I enjoy assisting Jenny Taliadoros with paper doll projects. One such was a delightful challenge that began with a fantastic item Jenny received from Alina Kolluri, a lovely young woman who expertly “test cuts” paper doll books published by Paper Studio Press. Alina presented Jenny with a beautiful Deco Dollies scrap book that held many, many, many paper dolls, each with an extensive wardrobe, all in artist Alina’s charming style. Jenny was understandably entranced and wanted to find a way to turn the scrapbook paper dolls into an eight-page book for publication. Together, we came up with an Art Deco cover that suited the personalities of the dolls and their 1920s/1930s fashions. I sorted the hundreds of garments and accessories into eight themes, then down-sized to the number of fashions that could fit per page, a very challenging editing job. This delightful book will be out later this year. Alina was pleased with the result and surprised me with a marvelous “Thank you” gift, a one-of-a-kind tote bag printed with a collage of 23 paper dolls wearing outfits from two of my recent books. Of course, Alina arranged special permission from Paper Studio Press for this once-only use of the copyrighted artwork. What a wonderful gesture… thank you, Alina! 

Lucky me with Alina Kolluri's terrific one-of-kind tote bag. 

Creative Coloring the Celebrity Scene

This month’s coloring book was even more creative than usual. Bruce Patrick’s Jones’ fabulous talent and sense of humor come together in his Celebrity Scenes, Fun and Games with Hollywood Stars coloring and activity book. Page after page of top stars are ready to color or to doodle, to mix and match, to play games and be creative. I especially enjoyed creating new gowns and hair-dos for some stars. What makes this 46-page book so special is Bruce’s extraordinary ability to draw such perfect likenesses of scores of top stars, female and male, from Angelina Jolie to Zac Efron. This unusual book provides hours of creative fun and is available for purchase from paperdollreview.com

Celebrity Scenes cover and make-up page.

Celebrity hair-do and gown make-over pages. 

Esther Williams - New on paperdollywood.com! 

I had fun recently writing about the life and career of the splashiest movie star ever for the upcoming Paperdoll Review magazine, Issue 67. Esther Williams! Her extensive article ran with lots of gorgeous photos including some gems from the private collection of movie expert and paperdoll artist, Marilyn Henry. You’re invited to visit paperdollywood.com where the Esther Williams' bio joins the many star bios that I have written over the years.  

Esther Williams article in Paperdoll Review Issue 67

Jun 6, 2017

#73 Dateline Paperdollywood - Met Gala, Coronation Gown, Jazz Age, War Paint, Gene Dolls, New Website

Met Gala Reflects What's Trending... Everything!

“Art of the In-Between” is the year’s big exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum that pays homage to designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons. That title is rather obscure, but maybe that’s the point. Only the second living designer to be so honored, the first was Yves Saint Laurent in 1983. The opening of the current exhibition was celebrated by the highly hyped annual gala party, once an elegant soiree, but now so celebrated that it has come to be a circus of sorts, upstaging the exhibition. 

The arrival of the attending celebrities from the worlds of fashion and show biz rival any Hollywood red carpet occasion. Usually, the theme of the exhibition inspires the guests’ designers. A handful of attendees, notably Rihannna and surprisingly Caroline Kennedy, wore Kawakubo’s artistic extreme creations. Although most Comme de Garcon collections over the years have been black, red has been an occasional alternative and some gala-goers acknowledged that. Red looked great on Katy Perry wearing Maison Margiela designed by John Galliano and Rita Ora in Marchesa. Other celebs simply opted for a motely mix of every and any trend du jour. There was good ol’ Madonna still trying hard to shock in Moschino camouflage, Kendall Jenner almost naked in a wisp of La Perla, Julianne Moore in feathered confetti Calvin Klein and Kate Hudson in a stunningly simple white gown by Stella McCartney. The absurdity of long, long trains continues. Dragging yards and yards of fabric behind them were Jennifer Lopez in lovely blue chiffon by Valentino, Zendaya in Dolce & Gabbana and Priyanka Chopra in a classic trench coat trailing a ridiculous train. Ralph Lauren should know better. 

It is indicative of the growing interest in men’s fashion that more than a few peacocks such as Joe Jonas, Rami Malek, Wiz Khalifa and the Maxwell trio walked the gala’s red carpet. More designers than ever joined the ranks of familiars like Chanel and Versace. Not so surprising is the inclusion of some so-called “fast fashion” names including custom creations by H&M and Topshop. An overview of the gala guests can be seen as an accurate reflection of the current state of fashion that is now so diverse, so inclusive and democratic that every trend possible is trending. And as always there were a few trend-followers who got it oh-so wrong. 

The art of Rei Kawakubo, designer of Comme des Garcons.

Artful examples on Rihanna, Caroline Kennedy, Julie Macklowe and Tracee Ellis Ross.

Red on Rita Ora, Katy Perry, Rami Malek and Helen Lasichan.

Black/White worn by Kate Hudson, Jourdan Dlunn, Halle Berry and Emmy Rossum.

Feathers flying for Julianne Moore, Blake Lively, Anna Wintour and Lupita Nyong’o.  

No! No! Kendall Jenner, Madonna, Nicki Minaj and Janelle Monae.

All aboard the trains! Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez and Priyanka Chopra.

Wiz Khalifa, Joe Jonas, Frank Ocean and the Maxwell trio.

Rei Kawakubo featured in Paper Doll Studio Magazine

Paper Doll Studio is the colorful quarterly magazine of OPDAG (Original Paper Doll Artist's Guild." As one of the contributing editors, I am delighted to work with brilliant publisher Jenny Taliadoros and for each issue I write an article and create a new paper doll for the collector's and artists who subscribe. The current issue, No. 117, features my view of far, far-out creations by Japanese designer Rei Kawabubo plus a paper doll of the designer herself. I also occasionally work with Marilyn Henry's magazine, PaperdollReview, another popular quarterly publication filled with stories devoted to vintage paper dolls, Hollywood stars and profiles of artists. Both magazines are lively, entertaining and an absolute must for paper doll enthusiasts and can be ordered from paperdollreview.com.

Paper doll of designer Rei Kawakubo by David Wolfe
Rei Kawakubo paper doll to accompany my article in Issue 117 of the Paper Doll Studio magazine.

Historic Gown for New Queen Paper Doll

Researching the Royal wardrobe of Queen Elizabeth II is fascinating as I prepare to begin working on a new paper doll book.  During her long reign, Her Majesty has never been a fashion follower, but rather a dutiful dresser, always appropriately outfitted for her very special lifestyle.  It has been said that she doesn’t care about fashion but is very particular about how she looks.  The Queen dresses for the occasion, usually a rather dreary ribbon-cutting or plaque unveiling.  For such daily duties, a dressy coat and a somewhat frivolous hat will do, but some times call for iconic grandeur.  Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 was one such occasion, a once-in-a-lifetime commission and designer Norman Hartnell understood that.  He created a gown that bespoke the symbolic power and privilege of the Monarch.  The gown suggested the full-skirted ball gowns that Christian Dior had brought back into fashion with his “New Look” of 1947.  The Queen’s bodice was somewhat matronly with its conservative sweetheart neckline.  The white satin gown is covered with embroidered motifs that represent the Empire; shamrocks for Ireland, thistles for Scotland, etc.  A complicated, extravagant gown that was a challenge for me as an artist.  It demanded patience as I poured over old photographs and current museum records.  It is just one sample paper doll version of the Queen’s lifetime of her unique personal style.  The book, a major undertaking, will probably be published by Paper Studio Press early next year. 

Coronation Gown
Her Majesty in the gown, in a museum, for my paper doll of the Queen.

The Twenties' Jazz Age Roars Again

New York’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum current exhibition revisits the “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s,” arguably the most important decade of the twentieth century as far as design is concerned. More than 400 examples evidence the importance of the 1920s in terms of explosive creativity. Diverse areas are represented, including interior and industrial design, decorative art, architecture, diversity and dynamism. Fashion’s disruptive modern designs spotlight Art Deco jewelry and apparel by Chanel and Fortuny. Although the period has been revived as a fashion influence, time and again, this significant exhibit may well inspire designers to reboot The Jazz Age. The exhibition ends August 20, 2017.

The Jazz Age at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City.

Art Deco modern design motifs. 

Roaring 20s fashion (Chanel on left).

Jazzy accessories, compact and vanity case.


Cosmetic Queens sing out in War Paint

The most fashion-conscious musical on Broadway now is “War Paint,” a tale of two catty competitors in the beauty biz. Helena Rubinstein is played by Patti Lupone while Kristine Ebersole portrays Elizabeth Arden. Double diva dynamite, to be sure! The production is a chic, slick glamorous portrait of the rival cosmetic tycoons who achieved wealth and fame, feuding for decades. They never met although the show allows a face-to-face rendez-vous for a crowd-pleasing finale. Variety’s review of the beautiful two-star vehicle said,“… it really is hard to concentrate on the plot when Ebersole is swanning around in a gorgeous rose-petal-pink silk suit. Or when Lupone steps out in a billowing taffeta number dripping with thick strands of faux gems. Luckily, there’s not much plot to distract from these carefully nuanced characters, their amazing careers and dazzling wardrobes.” The costumes by Catherine Zuber are sensational and almost do the impossible by upstaging the stars. Lupone’s accessories as the legendary, bejeweled Rubinstein could very well inspire jewelry designers and milliners while Ebersole sings an ode to Arden’s signature shade of pink. “War Paint” is playing at the Nederlander Theatre. Tickets: war.paint.nyc.com/box-office. For a glimpse of the show, visit YouTube

War Paint’s stars dressed to the hilt.

Elizabeth Arden’s costumes in pinks by Catherine Zuber.

Curtain for Broadway’s glamorous star divas.

Before Paper Dolls there were Gene Doll designs

Before I rediscovered paper dolls, met the dynamic Jenny Taliadoros and scores of paper doll enthusiasts, I designed outfits for Gene dolls, miniature couture creations made by my then partner, Jerrold Thomas. I used to attend the conventions for collectors of fashionable Gene, the lovely creation of genius illustrator, Mel Odom. While rummaging through some almost forgotten artwork recently, I came across this 3-page 2000 Gene convention souvenir. I don’t even remember creating it, but I guess I was preparing to discover the wonderful world of paper dolls, and I am so happy that I did! 

Paper doll of Gene doll with a “Luau” outfit, "Bon Voyage,” and "4th of July."

Coloring Lovely Loretta Young

This month’s coloring is from the Loretta Young Paper Dolls and Coloring Book, published by Saalfield circa mid-1950s. She made over 100 films, won an Oscar and was the first full-fledged movie star to enter television with a popular anthology series that ran for years. She was known as a fashion plate and made a grand, graceful entrance at the beginning of each weekly show. Unfortunately, the coloring book is not as lovely as Loretta was. The artwork never captures the beauty of the star and there are many pages that depict animals, clowns and other subjects to color, disappointingly dull. However, the book’s cover dolls are gorgeous and four pages of realistically rendered clothes are credited, “Miss Young’s personal gowns by Werle.” 

Loretta Young coloring book pages
Loretta Young Coloring Book

Loretta Young coloring book pages
Loretta Young in a sari and glamour pose.

Visit the new Paperdollywood.com... and SAVE 30%!

After more than a year in the works, my paperdollywood.com website has had a much-needed facelift. Here, you’ll find articles, star bios, archive paper dolls and my own memoirs. And you can shop! My own line of paper doll books can be purchased along with other books containing my star bios, as well as magazine issues that include my articles. To celebrate, I’m offering a 30% discount on orders placed by June 30, 2017. Use the discount code DAZZLE. A huge thank-you to Jenny Taliadoros for doing this website makeover. This a new format, so if you discover any glitches or errors, please contact Jenny via email or phone 800-290-2928. Hope you’ll visit paperdollywood.com!

Classic movie star paper dolls, fashion history, nostalgia
My newly redesigned paperdollywood.com website!

May 2, 2017

#72 - Dateline Paperdollywood - Fashion Inspiration, Liz Taylor, Coloring the Twenties, Silent Stars, Queen Elizabeth II, Paper Doll Videos

What inspires fashion designers today?

Yesterday, there was a method to the madness of fashion. Looking back at the twentieth century system governing fashion creativity, it’s a wonder that newness managed to blossom again and again with such beauty. Each new season was unveiled from the rarified atmosphere of Paris Salons, then nurtured as it rippled out, seeping at last into the rushing waters of the cultural mainstream. That simple system was devised by inspired 19th century designer Charles Frederick Worth. It functioned with ‘nary a glitch for almost a century, from its inception to the hue and cry over heroin chic, grunge and hip-hop. 

Throughout most of the twentieth century, only a handful of extraordinarily talented men and women could truly be considered fashion designers. Inspired designer Paul Poiret set the template that gave rise to the cult of the designer as artist rather than craftsperson, as a marketable personality. Part of the mystique was the supposed transparency of the creative process. The (totally imaginary) image of a fashion designer became that of a flamboyant persona perched on a stool in an ivory tower, awaiting the sudden bolt of inspiration out of the blue. Inspiration was sourced from strictly defined arenas. Fine art, classical music and opera were deigned to put designers in the mood to lower or raise hemlines an inch or two. Travel to exotic climes fulfilled inspired editor Diana Vreeland’s decree that “the eye must travel” and travel it did as the jet age arrived and every inch of the globe became accessible. Natives beware! There goes your sarong, sari, serape and every accessory. 

The thought-to-be-vital role of the inspirational muse was filled by very special women, sometimes great beauties, sometimes not. Royals were understandable muse material as their status and wealth also made them good customers too. When High Society was replaced by Café Society in the 1930s, the scope of the muse increased to include the addition of entrepreneurs and entertainers, poets and painters, authors and athletes and of course, fashion models. The last gasp of fashion dominance by society occurred in the ‘80s financial boom when inspired designer Christian Lacroix’ fevered fantasies inflated bubble skirts that deflated as did the nouveau riche economy. There remain a few vestiges of the bygone system. Raf Simons’ penchant for paintings in the current Calvin Klein ad campaign places him in the hierarchy of designer-as-inspired-artiste. 

If the century-old system of the designer and muse high in the social stratosphere no longer rings true and resonates with a non-aspirational consumer, where is today’s young designer to find inspiration? The answer lies clearly in the age-old adage, “Fashion is a reflection of the society that wears it.” It is a response to the world in which we live. 

So much is happening in the world on any given day, that it may seem impossible to keep up with so much more than the Kardashians. It is necessary today to be informed as well as inspired because we are living in the Selfie Era, a time of interaction and participation. Living large, indeed. A fashion designer today has to be trend sensitive to far more than mere fashion trends. The advent of a major trend with more staying power than a passing fad may very well not pop-up in a designer’s usual sphere which could, for some, be limited to the Twittersphere and SnapChat. That is not to infer that cyber fluff fun isn’t important. It is, but it’s just a part of the humanity mix that demands constant attention. The cool customer today is bombarded with information that can be considered inspiration because every nuance of life is absorbed into the psyche. 

Take a case in point. Gucci. A successful brand when Tom Ford was at the helm, but without his genius, it slipped dangerously. Enter designer Alessandro Michele with a new point of view that is tuned-in and tailor-made to reflect and respond to stimulation overload and stress mismanagement, the human condition these days. The Gucci “look” is indescribable because it is the mix that matters. Individually, each and every item stands alone as a singular thing of beauty executed with Italian excellence. Put the items together in a hodge-podge mix never before seen. Is it new? Yes and no. Is it like most people’s day-to-day lives in the 21st century? Yes. For sure. Is it inspiration or desperation? 

Perhaps innovation is more in tune with our time than inspiration. From where does the inspiration come for a self-drive car or heat tech t-shirts? Is inspiration today a 24/7 google search that feeds data and more data to the fertile mind of a modern designer? The science of technology wed to the artistic imagination produces a new power course for creativity, inspiration appropriate to the 21st century and beyond. 

Inspired designer Charles Frederick Worth and his work.

Inspired designer Paul Poiret and his work.

Inspired designer Christian Lacroix and his work.

Inspired designer Raf Simons and his work.

Inspired editor Diana Vreeland and her work. 

Slip Liz Taylor into Something Stylish 

Jenny asked me to create an Elizabeth Taylor paper doll for the next Dress-a-Doll issue of Paper Doll Studio, the quarterly OPDAG magazine. Of course, it was obvious to dress the doll in a sexy slip since two of Liz Taylor’s biggest movies were publicized by images of the slip-dressed star. I hope all the OPDAG contributing artists are inspired to dress Liz. I’ve already decided the outfit I’m going to do for the issue, a high fashion Paris Haute Couture creation that made news when Liz wore it. Why? You’ll have to wait and see it in the Liz Taylor themed issue. If you don’t already subscribe to Paper Doll Studio, a 4-issue subscription is $28 or a single issue is just $8. Visit paperdollreview.com for more info.

Dress-a-Liz in Paper Doll Studio Magazine.

Slip-dressed star in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Butterfield 8.” 

Sneak a Peek at My Convention Souvenir

The annual Paper Doll Convention means lots of pre-planning and that includes souvenir paper doll book by many artists. I’m honored to be included as a contributor and I was inspired by the “Swinging 60s” theme. I designed a book with seven dolls, three of them previewed below: Petula Clark, Julie Christie and Mary Quant. If you want more information about the convention to be held August 9-13, 2017 in Philadelphia, visit opdag.com

 Previewing a trio of trend-setting ‘60s swingers.

Coloring the Roaring Twenties

In 2013, Dover Books published a coloring book, Fashions of the Roaring Twenties by beloved Tom Tierney. As always, his draftsmanship and fashion knowledge produced a terrific book and I enjoyed coloring several pages to share with you in this month’s blog. Unfortunately, the book was printed on a smooth light coated paper that made it a challenge to color. Wax crayons did not work well and Tom’s fine detail work was a challenge that called for pencils that could be sharpened to a finer point than a crayon. Markers were out of the question as the book pages were printed on both sides and the marker color bleeds through. Carefully coloring the marvelous Tierney artwork reminds one of his supreme skill. Like most artists, Tom had his unique quirks. He didn’t draw fingernails. I don’t know why and never asked him. I wish I had. He is missed. 

Fashions of the Roaring Twenties” by Tom Tierney.

Flapper fashion colored by me. 

Dressing Stars of the Silent Screen

I’ve finished my work on Silent Screen Stars which will be published by Paper Studio Press later in the year. The 6 star paper dolls look glamorous in costumes from their silent films. Here they are, wearing a few outfits from the book. 

Fashions worn by Gloria Swanson
Gloria Swanson, Hollywood’s great clotheshorse. 

Greta Garbo Movie Clothes
Greta Garbo, before she talked on the screen. 

Film Fashions for Louise Brooks
Louise Brooks, a unique beauty. 

Lillian Gish Silent Film Star
Lillian Gish, a sentimental sweetheart.

Silent Star Clara Bow
Clara Bow, the naughty “It” girl.

Silent Star Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford, the biggest star of her time. 

Four Faces of Queen Elizabeth II

Now it begins. The creative joy of researching, editing and painting a new paper doll book for Jenny Taliadoros’ Paper Studio Press. She and I discussed several ideas and we both agreed that it’s time to honor the long life of the greatly admired monarch of the great British Empire, Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. I have always been fascinated by her iconic image and how she understood that she dresses as a symbol, a personage beyond fashion. I decided that four paper dolls would allow me to show how she always had her own style as a little girl, a young Princess bride, a dutiful Monarch and a dignified, mature ruler of the realm. Here are four studies for the paper dolls, the start of my creative process. In researching I often uncover fascinating tidbits about the personalities I’m turning into paper dolls. I already learned that the Queen’s 6.5 shoe size was kept a state secret for most of her life and one of her maids nicknamed “Cinders” has the job of breaking in Her Majesty’s new shoes. God Save the Queen! Here is the first round of rough preliminary studies of the Queen over the years, from little girl princess to beloved long-reigning Monarch.     

Paper Doll Portraits, Young Princess Elizabeth, Royal Princess Bride
Little Princess Elizabeth and the Royal Princess Bride.

Majestic Queen Elizabeth, Long Reigning Monarch
The majestic Queen and the long reigning Monarch

New! Video Preview Guide to Hollywood History Paper Dolls

Jenny Taliadoros, publisher of Paper Studio Press paper dolls, now comes to life via video and gives you a guided look at the latest books of my History of Hollywood series: Elizabeth I On Screen, Classic Drama Queens, Classic Singing Stars and Classic Dancing Stars. To view the videos, visit the Paperdoll Review YouTube Channel

Classic Hollywood, Film Fashions, David Wolfe, Paper Dolls, Paperdoll Review
Visit the Paperdoll Review YouTube Channel!