Catwalk Couture: Paper Doll Research

lupita_01I started with a folder full of pictures of Lupita Nyong’o. The research branched out since then.

There are things for which I am a meticulous researcher. Paper dolls is not one of them. I make paper dolls for my own amusement–mindless relief from stress and a break from my other great love: writing. In writing I insist on impeccable historical detail, even knowing most of it never makes it into the narrative. With paper dolls, verisimilitude is sufficient. If I get hung up on details, I’d never get anything done. Also, without being able to study garments up close or have a record of their construction, it’s impossible to know whether you are doing them right. The best you can hope is that your image resembles what you’re copying.

And I’m just plain lazy. As I trawl through Google, I skip over cool things because of the daunting detail involved. Some patterns are too much for me since I do everything by hand. I know some of my limits. I have considered digitally managing it, but that’s stressful and therefore antithetical to the whole exercise

Picked out a handful of designers when I started but it’s exploded as I learn about the vast landscape of the fashion world: names I never heard of, styles I’ve never seen. There’s a wonderful variety of everyday wear, fancy party stuff, and that theatrical-grade haute couture in which no one is ever really seen out and about. I like it all and want to make sure I include a mix.

Me personally? I’m not a clothes-horse. My wardrobe is almost entirely black so I don’t have to think about what I put on. I like things I can’t afford but I don’t look at the labels and usually shop cheaply. I bought a silk Anne Klein scarf with my very first real-job paycheck when I was 17. It cost $45 (an outrageous sum almost twenty-five years ago). I still have the scarf and it’s still beautiful.

As I Google various designer’s names, I attach the word “runway” to the search since many look books show models sitting or turning in ways that make it hard to see the clothing. There’s no dearth of material to browse, so the hardest part is narrowing down selections (it’s easy to want to do everything!).

purple_thingFinding cool stuff for the men is harder than expected. Runway men are either dull (I see Rachel‘s point about how disinteresting men’s clothes can be), or too silly to take seriously (that purple business featured here: case in point).

Someone like Tom Tierney could reproduce unconventional male attire as a matter of historical record, but I want my guys to look good! I’m okay with challenging myself a little on color. And styles that aren’t my idea of flattering. I’ve given each doll a personality and one of my men will wear the kinds of clothes that others think are fashionable even if they make me shudder. But I’m drawing a line at making my men look like idiots. By my biases, that means you will not be seeing them in raging pinks or baby doll dresses because I just don’t find those things attractive. On men or women!

As I search, my eyes immediately go to stuff that’s black. I might have to do a whole black & white regular feature to indulge that, but I want to really work more uncommon colors and styles into my mix.  Even (faith forfend) pastels.

I mix almost all of my own paint colors. So color itself is already challenging. My perception especially of reds and purples is very poor and in the past I have had to adjust saturation and tone levels in PhotoShop when I’ve failed to mix a color properly (I had to do it on one set of my Burberry pieces already). It’s one of the things I want to get better at through this process. But more on that aspect later.

To start with I’ve picked four relatively well-known designers. Are you ready? I’m ready!