Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gay Event's Walking Costume - The Wonderful Fashion Doll

A couple of months ago I introduced to you, Gay Event, The Wonderful Fashion Doll, from the beloved book by Laura Bannon (1952).  When I began Gay's wardrobe, I started by making her under garments.  These consisted of a blue silk corset, a half slip with edge and insertion laces, and tiny blue silk bows.  I also made her a pair of white stockings, and a pair of black dressing slippers.  Since these undergarments would be worn under all three of her future costumes, having them made first would allow me to design the costume patterns to fit nicely over them.  The first of her three would be The Walking Costume.

I chose the Walking Costume because it felt like a Spring outfit to me, and it was yellow, a favorite color of mine right now.  While awaiting the right yellow silk to be found and arrive here, I made Flora something yellow, and began the accessories, of which there are many, for the Walking Costume. 

The first item I "made" was the recovering of a parasol for her.  Then I made her bonnet, the handkerchief, fingerless gloves, the posies, her shoes, and finally her reticule. During this time, I was still studying the illustration(s) and deciding how I was going to approach this highly complicated little affair. 

The dress was described in the book as one of yellow silk with a white lace bertha collar.  However, I was puzzled with creating a pattern that would allow me to create a dress that would be easy for her to wear, and easy for me to dress her in - not to mention resemble the illustration closely.

If you wished the bertha to be attached, the dress would have to open down the front.  With the apron in front and closing in the back, any number of designs could have been created for what went beneath it.  The more I studied the illustrations (the black and white one in front of the book and the color plate), I decided the best approach for me would be to give her a detachable bertha or capelet.  Due to my recent experience with laces on Alice Illustrated's Sue Shanahan apron, I felt best to tackle this first - the silk had still not arrived anyway.

The detachable bertha was made in a pattern that included the length of lace panels beneath it.  This "collar" was designed to split down the center closing with tiny purple silk bows.  I have very little experience with bertha collars, but all the ones I've seen are full in the front and open at the back.  This is also why I refer to it as a capelet.  The pattern was laid out in two halves on a 6" wide piece of lace at angles, then sewn up the back center.  It is lined with a light batiste.  A lace ruffle was sewn to this to float at the bottom edge of collar, and a two-piece butterfly lace "sleeve" was sewn at the centers where they would sit over the puffs of the sleeves.  Another piece of gathered lace was sewn at the neck for the collar ruffle.  Eight tiny purple silk bows were made, then six sewn down the front, and one each tops the butterfly sleeves.  The bertha closes with hidden hooks and tiny, flat thread loops.

When the silk finally arrived, the patterns for the bodice had already been created ahead of time.  One of the things I was researching and contemplating these past few weeks, was how to make the flowers.  I could embroider them, I could try to find appliques, or I could paint them.  After purchasing and trying out several paint pens, which were all a waste of money, I found a fabric paint that I'll swear by until I die.  Its Tulip brand, Soft Matte Fabric Paint.  It comes in a little bottle. I could not believe how fine this paint is to work with.  It is highly opaque, but the best part is that is doesn't bleed on your fabric, like most wet paints will.  And, you can iron it!  Of course I used a piece of batiste over the silk to iron it, but there was no tackiness, and the paint dried in 30 minutes.

Making a grid for flower placement was something I'd a little practice with when I made the fabric for Alice Illustrated's Mabel Lucie Attwell dress.  These white flowers would be on a 3/4" grid.  Instead of free styling each flower, I thought to try and find a stamp with a similar "daisy" style.  It took me a couple of days with trial and error until I got the perfect method down and I'd like to share this.  Believe me, this is a big deal, since the entire dress depended on a yellow silk with white flowers. 

I fixed the daisy stamp to the end of a wooden rod.  I used one of those sponge brushes as my pad and tapped this into the Tulip paint spread out on a plastic dish.  The sponge pad evens the amount of paint that you'll get on the bottom of the stamp.  Then flower by flower I stamped an outline of the daisy.  When dry, I went back and hand painted in the petals finishing the centers with a mix of Tulip purple and light blue.  I cut out the pattern pieces first, marked them with the grid, then followed this process.  It took me two days just to paint the flowers.  184 flowers in all.  910 petals.  Was I nuts?!  No.  The result was everything I hoped it to be.

The gown was sewn with wide puffy sleeves and the sleeve lengths are lined, as is the bodice and skirt.  Two rows of delicate lace were gathered (50" of lace) to make the lace trimmings on the gown. 

Earlier, I had made her shoes.  While described in the book as bronze slippers, the illustration showed them as a golden tan.  These little slippers criss-cross and lace around her ankles with suede ties.

I was working on the reticule a couple of weeks ago.  While I've made little purses in the past, this one had a unique way of opening, and it also "hooked" onto her apron.  It also had an interesting center on the inside that gathered to a little button in the middle.

The reticule was supposed to hold a tiny bottle of perfume and a handkerchief, but I was having enough difficulty with the shape and complexity of the piece to grieve over it not holding anything.  Just adding the pretty gathering and button on the inside took care of the purse ever holding something, besides its value as an adornment.  Still, it opens and hooks to her apron. 

"I used two metal rings from a string of them that I guess were designed to make "charm" bracelets.  Covered cardboard rounds of silk were glued to the rings, and a ruffled length of the yellow silk was fitted around the back cover.  I had a tiny pink rose pendant for a doll, and turned it into the center piece of the reticule.  And how does it close?  With two of those tiny magnets you can purchase now for jewelry. 

Even though the apron was the last thing I made for this costume, because we're discussing the reticule, this is a good time to share how it was "looped" to the waistband of the apron.  I'm laughing as I write this because this caused me some real consternation two nights ago.  If you look at the original illustration, such a "looping" would simply be impossible as drawn.  I won't go into this, but you might have fun thinking about how you would have a approached this.  I tried several ideas, and settled for a little button on the inside of waistband, and a tiny thread loop at the top of the belt loop of the reticule.  This belt loop can now also be used as a handle so Gay can carry it separately. 

Three other accessories were made while awaiting that yellow silk to arrive from Bangkok.  There was her bouquet of posies, a handkerchief and her fingerless gloves.

The posies are those little vintage "velvet" flowers and I repainted the center stamens yellow.  I took millinery leaves and cut them down into tiny leaves and added stems to them.  So, yes, I made the leaves by hand.  Scale is everything.  I tied some thread around the posy bouquet and it places well in Gay's hand to hold.

The handkerchief is a square of batiste with sweet lace hand sewn to the turned-under edges, and mitre folded at the corners.  A tiny thread loop was sewn into the center so Gay could hold it on a finger.

The fingerless gloves are made from fine black netting.  I had to buy half a yard of this netting to make them, but I think I'll find other uses for it in the future.  I gathered 1/4" black cotton lace and hand stitched this to the top edge of the gloves.  A couple of stitches at the bottom edge made a nice thumb section.  I wish I could find stretch netting this fine, but she is just a doll.  Right?  The detail is there and accounted for.

Her parasol was a recovered Doll Masters parasol.  I won't advise you to try this, but I enamel spray painted the frame, and it took several sprays to cover all the nooks and crannies.  When you do this, it can gum up certain areas and even prevent the umbrella from sliding down over the stem.  However, I got enough good coverage to make the stem and ribs black.  It does open and close.  I made a pattern from the original covering and made a new one in the purple silk that was also used for the reticule.  Gay's parasol is a simplified version of the illustration.  Would it help if I told you I tried it with ruffles?  It was overbearing.  Chunky.  This is much nicer simplified.

Gay Event's bonnet began as a PNB hat mold.  It was modified with more rows around the front, and shortened on the side edges.  This was not an easy hat to do.  Many of Nellie's molds use the method of winding the straw round and round.  This was made by clipping it in sections with each band.  At least I know how to do these now.  The directions were useless to me. 

The flowers were hand made from other flowers in my vintage stash.  The purple center flower was painted using those marvelous alcohol markers (thanks, Jean!).  The Bonnet's pleated edge ruffle is of silk chiffon, as is the band/ties.  I purchased this silk chiffon for her ball gown.  Horrid stuff to work with.  There is a Youtube on working with it, including how to lay a pattern on it.  I will address this again when its time to make the ball gown.  Beautiful feel, but nasty to work with.

The ties may be long, but they are easy for me to work with and could also be worn wrapped around her neck once for warmth.  A different look.

Finally we come to the apron, which was the last piece I made.  After the success with the Tulip brand paint, I was tempted to paint the Jacobean embroidery design of the apron.  However, knowing that the apron would have been lovingly and painstakingly embroidered in 1830, I felt it best to be "authentic". 

I know this is a long blog post, but this outfit has so many features and details.  Please bear with me a little longer.

The apron is made from white silk taffeta and lined in my Swiss Batiste.  I chose silk because the dress desired something a bit loftier than cotton.  I also felt this would be best since there seems to be a sheen on it in the illustration.  It proved the right choice as it was stable enough to embroider on.  I used silver-grey silk embroidery thread, and outlined the design using only one thread of the six that come with the strand.  While contemplating the apron design, I decided to look up embroidery patterns on Pinterest.  This is where I found the Jacobean embroidery designs.  I was so excited to see Laura's design was true to the Jacobean ones.  I'd never heard of them before.  They were done with crewel work, but the patterns, the birds, the flowers and swirls are all true to Jacobean embroidery designs.  Imagine!

I don't fancy myself an "embroiderer", but after finishing this apron, I think I can add, at least outlining, to my accomplishments.  I refer to this as the "wedding apron".  The silver on white silk is so elegant.  Who would have thought that a stylized illustration of a Fashion Doll done in the 1950s, brought to life, could be so elegant and charming?  A lot of work went into Gay Event's Walking Costume, and I'm taking a little break now.  My breaks don't last long, but my doll rooms are in dire need of tidying up.  It is still Spring!

Miss E. Mouse


  1. I adore this little dress! So much delicate work and it's perfectly like the illustration. Amazing.

  2. Amazing work, Melissa. A joy to behold