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 CafĂ© 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 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

 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!