Sep 30, 2017

#76 - Celebrity Coloring Books, Spring '18 Fashions, Hollywood UNdressed, TV Costume Exhibit, Denim, Emmys

Celebrity Coloring Book Collectibles

I am primarily a collector of paper dolls, but for the last couple of years, I have slowly but surely added vintage celebrity coloring books to my collection. I particularly enjoy the artistic illustrative covers of some of the books. I have rediscovered the joy of actually coloring pages (most books are partly colored by the original owners years and years ago.) Recently I received a marvelous gift of seven vintage coloring books from two very generous friends. The books are: Doris Day 1952, Ann Blyth 1952, Betty Grable 1951, Margaret O’Brien 1947, Esther Williams 1951, Jane Powell and Judy Garland 1941 (The year of my birth!). I can’t wait to start coloring! 

Ann Blyth, Esther Williams, Betty Grable Coloring Books

Margaret O’Brien, Judy Garland, Doris Day Coloring Books

A Cacophony of Color for Spring '18

The biggest news from the New York Designer Shows is an exuberant display of color, color, color! Happy days may not be here again, but spring ’18 promises an optimistic rainbow array of colors galore. In the coming spring ’18 multi-color extravaganza, the pink plethora continues, but sunshine yellow looks surprisingly hot. Red rages on and orange is fiery. Blues range from bright to soft. Although every color appeared monochromatically, more importantly, there is a veritable cacophony of upbeat color combinations. The psychological effect of so many happy hues suggests a feel-good fashion season ahead. 

Tom Ford, Prabal Gurung, Elizabeth & James

Marc Jacobs, Jeremy Scott, Fenty Puma

Derek Lam, Calvin Klein by Raf Simon, Marc Jacobs

Getting Ready to UNdress Hollywood

My new paper doll project is an unusual book, “Hollywood Gets Undressed.” Movies often have scenes featuring stars in a half-UNdressed state, often in a boudoir, on a beach or poolside and sometimes scantily clad in a sexy costume for a musical number. This new book, presently a work-in-progress is to be published by Paper Studio Press later in the year and will have three female model paper dolls and one male, all ready to dress in varying states of UNdress…negligees, nightgowns, pajamas, corsets, slips, swimsuits and sexy costumes. 

Work-in-Progress faces for the Undressed Paper Dolls

Work-in-Progress Version #2 Paper Dolls

Front Cover Art 

TV Costume Exhibit Launches Awards Cycle

The Emmys are TV’s annual self-congratulatory awards in so many categories that it seems as though everyone in Hollywood must receive one of the gold statuettes. I’ll leave the categorized confusion to others and I’ll offer my view of the Emmys presented to the costumes designers. I previewed the costumes by visiting FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in Los Angeles where the 11th Outstanding Art of TV Costume Design will be on exhibit until October 7th. 

100 costumes represent 25 shows from 2016 and include 9 Emmy nominees. Whereas television production values used to be a poor relation of the extravagant, big budgeted, big screen movies, but no longer is that the case. With so many means of accessing entertainment media, the myriad TV networks spend millions to make streaming series look as good as, as glamorous as, anything ever projected onto a movie theatre’s big screen. The scope of the stories calls for creative costuming. While there is yet to appear a fashion genius like Adrian or Edith Head, a new generation of designers is meeting the challenge. 2016 was a year of brilliantly diverse television. “Westworld” took place in a robotic theme park while “The Handmaid’s Tale” foretold a chilling rethink of gender roles in society. “Feud: Bette and Joan” turned back Hollywood’s clock and “The Crown” began the regal, epic life story of Elizabeth II. The hero-turned heroine in “Transparent” shared exposure with RuPaul’s Drag Race.” “And for sheer magic, the extravagance of “Dancing with the Stars” demonstrated that it is possible to lavishly costume a weekly television show with as much razzle dazzle as Hollywood’s heyday. 

Although it’s an honor just to be nominated for an Emmy, show biz, be it television or movie, is a competitive game. Somebody wins…and for 2016 shows, judged to be the best, the Emmy went to …..The Crown, Big Little Lies and RuPaul’s Drag Race.  

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Feud: Bette and Joan

The Crown 


The Handmaid’s Tale

My First Dreamgirl: Betty Grable

I fell in love with Betty Grable when I was barely able to talk. My parents told me that as a toddler I called her “Betty Dwable” and used to sit spellbound in the dark movie theatres watching the most famous pin-up girl in the world. Of course I had coloring books and paper dolls of my dreamgirl. (OK, so I probably should have been learning to pitch a baseball, but I didn’t.) At the recent Philadelphia Paper Doll Convention, for the second time in my life I bought my favorite movie star coloring book totally UN-colored. I remember buying it when it was first published by Merrill in 1953. The lush cover captures Betty’s peaches and cream, down-to-earth beauty that once brilliantly described her as "a celestial waitress."

The coloring book is a splendid example of how the old Hollywood Studio Star System perpetuated the myths it created. The book is divided into “concepts,” the first being "Beautiful Betty Grable" and includes her 112 pound weight and diminutive 5-feet, 4 inch height. Next, “Betty’s Exciting Career” declares that she is “famous for her gorgeous costumes." Also revealed is that “She likes to be on time…and likes others to be.” While coloring the well-drawn pages, the kid colorists learned that Betty like dogs, horses, bowling, football, gardening, visiting children’s hospitals and lots of other wholesome activities including breakfast in bed with her mother! 

Such a saccharine story was obviously calculated to turn impressionable kids into lifetime loyal fans, a marketing ploy that worked (…at least on me.) To this day, my must-see stars on Turner Classic Movies are Betty Grable, Doris Day, Esther Williams, Rita Hayworth and Greer Garson. Can it simply be a coincidence that I had coloring books and paper dolls of every one of those lovely ladies? Or was I brain-washed at a tender age by M-G-M? Perhaps other starstruck kids dreamed of becoming movie stars, but I fantasized about being the head of a studio…just call me “Louis B. Wolfe!” 

Betty Grable 1953 Coloring Book

Pages colored today by David

New York Fashion Week Revitalizes Fail-Safe Denim

Once, long ago, down-to-earth blue denim was not considered designer level material. That was then. This is now and the New York runways were populated with denim designs in collection after collection. Some designers remained loyal to faded denim destruction with overly familiar slashing, rips and fraying. Dark indigo denim looked fresh again, taking the fabric right back to its raw roots for innovative designs as well as almost-basics. Denim, a real people-pleaser, deserves its star place as an ever-popular designer show fabric. 

Tom Ford, Tom Ford, Elizabeth & James

Alexander Wang, Carolina Herrera, Colovos

Oscar de la Renta, Anna Sui, Coach

Mixed Bag of Fashion at the Emmys

Politics and diversity got more attention than red carpet fashion at the recent Emmy Awards, a three-evening affair. Two evenings of “Creative” awards including costume design were not televised. “The Crown” won for Period/Fantasy. The winner for Contemporary costumes was “Big Little Lies” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” won in the Variety/Non-Fiction/Reality category. (Reality? Yes.) 

CBS aired the big prime time awards but skipped the usual pre-show red carpet parade. Perhaps that’s just as well as the fashion quotient was hit and miss, depending on the star’s stylist. There was glamour galore thanks to plenty of sparkling sequins and beads plus a few feathers on Tracee Ellis Ross and Zoe Kravitz. Transparent fabrics, usually embellished, were favored by many including Ellie Kemper and Gina Rodriguez. Probably the most beautiful look of the evening was Jessica Biel’s artfully draped sparkling transparency. The old “New Look” above-ankle ballerina length made a comeback on Nicole Kidman and Elizabeth Moss. 

Sex appeal appeared as necklines plunged and backs were bared. Red on Issa Rae and many others replaced the usual black as the repeat favorite. Jane Fonda in hot pink looked astonishingly ageless and Viola Davis was a knock-out in sizzling orange. Tessa Thompson wore a whole rainbow. The Emmys kicked-off the Awards Season without making any surprising fashion news but with stylish diversity as the major message. 

Nicole Kidman, Gina Rodriguez, Issa Rae

Jane Fonda, Jessica Biel, Elizabeth Moss

Tracee Ellis Ross, Viola Davis, Ellie Kemper

Aug 21, 2017

#75 - 2017 Philadelphia Paper Doll Convention Review, Halston, Tom Tierney, Paris Haute Couture

Honoring Halston's All-American Style

The Nassau County Museum on Long Island’s Gold Coast is housed in an elegant traditional mansion set in a huge, glorious green park-like landscape. It recently housed a major fashion exhibition displaying the genius of Halston, the designer whose work in the 1970s did so much to bring global recognition of All-American style. His designs were simple, yet spectacular and they suited the emerging liberated woman who needed comfort and modernity yet also yearned for glamour and sex appeal. The exhibition featured 60 outfits from the designer’s own archives and they were spread throughout the mansion. Also displayed were many watercolor illustrations by Joe Eula and design sketches. There was also a screening room that showed a lengthy tribute filmed shortly after his death. 

Roy Halston Frowick was born in Iowa in the midst of the Great Depression but he grew up keenly aware of beauty. While attending the Chicago Art Institute Halston worked at the prestigious department store, Carson Pirie Scott. He displayed his creative millinery in a beauty salon and in 1957 he went to New York to work for Lilly Dache. Within a year he became head milliner at Bergdorf Goodman where he created Jackie Kennedy’s famous pillbox hat for JFK’s inauguration. In 1966, he started to design women’s clothing that resonated with the modern woman and celebrities like Liza Minnelli and Elizabeth Taylor. In 1972, he introduced the Ultra-Suede shirtdress, a huge success that was followed by his iconic halter dress. Halston was the first American designer to extensively brand himself but when he made a deal with middle-class retailer JC Penny, his private clients and high-class licensees were horrified. (Of course, such strategy is common today.) His fast lane personal life and questionable behavior undermined his business and he was fired from his own company and lost the right to use his own name professionally. Halston died of AIDS in 1990. 

Halston’s halter gown, Jackie’s pillbox and super-successful Ultra-Suede dress.

Sheer glamour, silk jersey and cashmere knitwear. 

Paying Tribute to Tom Tierney

Back in 1974 paper dolls were endangered, almost extinct. Gone were the glorious movie star paper dolls of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Then Tom Tierney appeared like Superman and saved the day! “Thirty from the 30’s, Costumes of the Great Stars” was published and billed as “paper dolls for grown-ups.” It was a big book, printed in black-and-white for coloring fun and calling attention to Tom’s stunning talent and knowledge of Hollywood fashion. Of course, I bought the book and treasured it for decades, coloring a few pages. The star line-up featured Garbo and Garland, Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard and Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Jeanette MacDonald and many more. Tom also included leading men (being one of the few fashion illustrators whose brilliance embraced both female and male genders). The most surprising and amusing figures are The Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy plus W.C. Fields and Boris Karloff. Tom is gone, of course, but his genius talent and his sense of humor will stay with those of us who enjoyed the pleasure of his company. Every artist and collector owes Tom Tierney full credit for saving the wonderful world of paper dolls. 

Tom Tierney, star paper dolls
Thirty from the 30’s Cover and Greta Garbo paper dolls. 

Tom Tierney, classic star paper dolls
Claudette Colbert and Fredric March paper dolls by Tom Tierney. 

Vive Paris!

The recent Paris Haute Couture collections for Fall 2017 did just what they are supposed to do. Unleash the imagination, reveal the incomparable artistry and honor the meticulous craftsmanship that is an irreplaceable tradition of French fashion. What the collections did not do was set a new trend that will sweep the world. No Dior “New Look.” No Courreges “Space Age.” No Saint Laurent “Rich Russian Peasant.” Now we have a dozen or so talented designers each creating an individual vision of fashion du jour. The big names demand singular attention. 

Karl Lagerfeld re-sculpted Chanel’s timeless tweeds into a new shape and proportion with exaggerated arched shoulders. A bit heavy-handed, but significant. Maria Grazia Chiuri celebrated Christian Dior’s 70th anniversary by revisiting the 1947 then-revolutionary long full skirt with yards and yards of fabric for daywear. Her theme was inspired by a lady explorer on safari, but only the jungle setting seemed related to the theme. Pier Paolo Piccioli’s Valentino collection married sacred religious ritual raiment with couture drama inspired by cardinals, bishops and nuns. Jean-Paul Gaultier’s always playful and camp collection hit the ski slopes for a snow bunny winter festival. John Galliano’s collection for Margiela Artisanal looked as if garments were taken apart and incorrectly reassembled, a fashion autopsy gone awry. The models’ hair was sudsy, interrupted mid-shampoo. Armani Prive, a frequent red carpet choice, looked slim and simply shaped (superb jackets as always) with intricate embellishment and sexy scooped necklines. Elie Saab evidently couldn’t wait for “Game of Thrones” to return so he whipped up a medieval collection of regal gowns fit for a glamorous warrior queen. Giambattista Valli remained true to his pretty, pretty, pretty look with micro-mini dresses often made of clouds of tulle and encrusted with flowers, sometimes with a long train in the back. Fendi’s fur couture parade was a prime example craftsmanship such as appliqued blue poppies made of shaved mink. The most inexplicable show of the season was Viktor & Rolf’s parade of extreme creations topped with giant anime cartoon heads which were removed mid-show when the clothes were unzipped to reveal denim jeans and shorts. The most original and artistic collection was the inventive work of Iris van Herpen, the techno-designer who is pushing fashion into the future. 

Dior’s safari setting, Christian Dior, Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld.

Giambattista Valli, Iris Van Herpen, Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Valentino, Armani Prive, Fendi.

Margiela by John Galliano, Elie Saab, Viktor & Rolf.

Fun Times in Philly at the 2017 Paper Doll Convention

The recent Paper Doll Convention held in Philadelphia was a fun time for all attendees, over 100 collectors, artists and enthusiasts. Organizers, Linda Ocasio, Valerie Keller and Rudy Miller plus all their helpers, did a great job of organizing and executing the 5-day event that was jam-packed with presentations, workshops, a raffle, an auction, a museum outing and scrumptious meals. I had the honor of being the emcee, a task I enjoy immensely. This year’s theme was the Swinging ‘60s, an era that brought back memories for most of the attendees. Every night was a gleeful costume party with outfits recalling Hippies, Psychedelic and Mod fashions. 

The first event was a bus trip to the famous Art Museum where we were given special treatment viewing noteworthy fashion items from the 30,000 pieces in the museum’s collection. Visiting the fashion library where books and magazines had been specially laid out for our inspection. The rest of the convention days followed a familiar plan, carefully scheduled workshops and presentations plus a day of sales. I bought a mint-condition Betty Grable coloring book that I intend to enjoy coloring even though that will diminish its value as a collector’s item. I don’t care! One of the highlights of the convention was a musical extravaganza starring the super-talented Sharry and Micheal O’Hare/O’Hara, featuring songs from ‘60s Broadway musicals such as “Hello, Dolly!” and “Gypsy.” The raffle room under the management team of Sondra Leeds and Debra Van Dyke was filled with treasures that generated the sale of hundreds of tickets, helping to fund convention expenses and delight lucky winners. 

When my friend Scott Jorgenson had a dental problem and had to miss the convention workshop he chaired, Penny Arrowood and Kim Cataldo stepped in and ably assisted in the construction of silver “paper” dresses designed and devised by Scott. The highly creative creations appeared at Saturday night’s dinner. A personal highlight for me was the ‘60s fashion presentation given by my daughter Amanda Hallay. She’s a professor of fashion history in Manhattan and a talented speaker. (Check-out her “Ultimate Fashion History” videos on As always, the souvenir paper dolls are coveted collectibles and this year’s ‘60s themed books, organized by Rudy Miller, were very exciting. 

Of course, as soon as one year’s convention ends, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s. 2018 will be held in the Northwest, chaired by Sharry and Micheal who are already planning themes, events and entertainment. Early registrants get a discount. See below for details and start to plan attending now! Visit OPDAG's website for more info.

My Souvenir Booklet “Swinging London."

More of My Souvenir Booklet.

Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton Souvenir by Eileen Rudisill "Rudy" Miller.

James Bond Souvenir by Bruce Patrick Jones.

Pierre Cardin Souvenir by Jim Howard.

My newest book, "Hollywood Gets Married," available from

My daughter and I, '60s fashions on Jenny Taliadoros, Linda Hoerner and Amanda Hallay.

Working on the paper dress creations.

The paper dress designers wearing their creations.
Paper Dolls, 2018 Paper Doll Convention, Collectibles
Be sure to sign up for the 2018 National Paper Doll Convention in Seattle!

Dressing the Convention Dress-A-Doll

One of the many fun things about the annual paper doll convention is the opportunity to design an outfit for the convention’s “Dress-a-Doll.” This year’s doll, beautifully illustrated by Valerie Keller, is Donyale Luna, the extraordinary model of the 1960s. Designing an outfit was great fun. I wanted it to be something really avant-garde and extreme so I designed a black-white-pink creation. If Donyale had worn something like that in the ‘60s, I imagined she might have been photographed on a zebra, so that’s the way I did it. 

My outfit for Donyale Luna, the convention’s Dress-a-Doll by Valerie Keller. 

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, 

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

Celebrity Scenes cover and make-up page.

Celebrity hair-do and gown make-over pages. 

Esther Williams - New on! 

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 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