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

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.