There’s something truly beautiful about a bride, and whether it’s a female or male bride doesn’t really matter. There’s a certain joy you can see in the hopeful light of a bride’s eyes – one they carry as a beacon toward an unknown future together. For those that choose to embellish the matrimonial celebration with loads of frippery, you’ve got more balls than most. Still, bringing about a choreographed staging of various teams and family members into one setting takes great savvy, but at the end of the day, we are all left with one single question: “What did the bride wear?”
And so it came to pass that my client requested a vintage-inspired wedding gown for Mel Odom’s Gene Marshall. How could anyone pass up the opportunity to make Gene’s wedding dress (though others have been manufactured, I can assure you none were like this)? I wanted the model to match the sublime beauty of the ensemble, and unable to secure a JAMIEshow Gene Marshall doll such as the gloriously elusive Phoenix, JAMIEshow generously loaned me a model with the perfect Scheherazade wig cap in strawberry blonde. Thank you to JAMIEshow – you have truly given Gene a new life and a lasting legacy of elegance.
For the vintage bride, I struggled with simplicity. You know how I love frippery in all its glory – but this needed to be an architectural piece, using simple lines. I scoured through images of 1950s wedding gown…and then came across this:
I liked the lines of this dress…but added a plunging neckline. The top was interpreted as a bolero, but as I found out with the lace choice I made, inset sleeves were not practical…but I get ahead of myself…
Of course, there had to be a sweeping train – they are somewhat hit or miss with the 1950s dresses – but add the train I did, because I had to add my own touch to the en-sem…
Through all the cleanness of the gown, there was still time to whore it up just a bit…with her underwear…and that’s where I could really make it sing. Yes, yes…I know it’s all covered up – but even with human wearing apparel, there’s a certain satisfaction of knowing what’s underneath – and dolls are no exception.
I believe this type of teddy is called a ‘merry widow‘ – and for a miniature variation, it was necessary to make sure the bulk and lines stayed cleanly under the garment. I chose a lovely French embroidered lace I picked up in Lyon, and added pale blue silk shantung – the images barely show the blue, but it’s there, trust me. Something blue, indeed… To begin the corset, I needed a fit pattern – and since I had none that would work with Gene’s proportions, I started from scratch… The lace was like sewing air – and I should have used tear-away backing as I would with the bolero – but it had enough traction under the presser foot, so I proceeded… And to borrow a phrase from The Women, voilà! Our new lace foundation garment – zips up the back, and no bones… Moving on to the embellishing, lace trim was added, then garters, lace-trimmed hose…and of course, beading… I ‘cheated‘ a little with the hosiery, absconding a manufactured pair from some generous doll – and added the lace, sewing it while on a leg form… I was pretty amazed a the amount of scraps that were piling up…and I still had the petticoat to make… And oh…what a petticoat it was… Horsehair braid gave delicious shape to the skirt, and a rich lace trim almost made this a dress in and of itself – with a rather daring display of her ta-tas, that is… But this is what makes it an all-encompassing vision – the undergarments. It’s rare enough that we see them so beautifully realized in manufactured form, especially with the rising costs of overseas factory work, and the ever-fading doll accessories from leading doll makers. Lingerie like this not only brings an authentic touch, but they do actually serve a purpose in bringing shape to the final look – despite it being miniature. Who cares that you can’t see and appreciate them…she knows they are there. Now it was time to drape the toile in muslin… The first set of pin tucks worked, but on the side front and side back panels, the line was skewed. To correct this, I discovered that a slight curve in the tuck would straighten the appearance in the final… So before finalizing the pattern, I cut one more truncated version to test the new tucks… Now we were ready to roll. The client asked for ‘true white’ – that is, a white fabric that had a bright, almost bluish purity to it. There are a million shades of white commercially available – and silk was a big problem, because you just can’t get it that white (well, that, and it will age over time, dulling the brightness). I turned to my friends at Mood Fabrics for the final solution (and a HUGE shout out to Ginny who was so patient with me via text message as she sourced silk samples from Paula’s Fine Fabrics in Jacksonville, FL – it helps to have friends in strategic places). Both Mood and Paula confirmed my fears – you just can’t get silk in a bright shade of white. You can get it pretty pure – but not that blue-tinted, bright white that I needed. Mood (and Ginny) sent me several swatches of silk and synthetic fabrics to compare:
We chose a rayon/poly blend taffeta by Vera Wang that had the desired brightness, and wouldn’t fade over time. It had a lovely rustle to it – and a sumptuous hand, considering its synthetic nature. I couldn’t help thinking of art paper when I first started working with it. But as the client pointed out, it was rather ‘period‘ to use a rayon blend for a 1950s wedding gown.
Meanwhile, while the wig was ordered from the multi-talented Ilaria Mazzoni. I have admired her work for Kingdom Doll, Numina and others…and felt she was the only choice for this project: To clarify the wig shape, I sent Ilaria sketches: And this is the mastery she created:
The idea was to permanently sew the veil/skull cap to the wig, so the doll could be dressed in a complete look, and it could be stored together. And as I awaited the wig’s arrival, the dress began to bloom… In many of my gowns, I add a panel to the zipper assembly to hide the gap between the hook and eye at top, and the beginning of the zipper…it’s a nice touch… With the lining in place…and final fittings over the lingerie (yeah, it’s under there)…the bride truly began to glow. Now…about that pesky bolero…. The French lace I wanted to use was too open in its structure, and it precluded elaborate seaming. I could have used a stabilizer, but that would inhibit the transparency over the skin. With this in mind, I approached a shrug-style solution… To assist with the machine seaming, I used paper as a stabilizer that I could tear away – there are specially made paper materials specifically for this purpose out there – but I used regular typing paper – hey, it worked. The sleeves and bolero edge were unfinished, using the pattern of the lace as a guide, and reinforcing with fray check to make sure it wouldn’t unravel. The neckline was beautifully realized from the finished selvage. And we all know this little trick when getting tricky sleeves on a doll:
Finishing the bolero with the closure and bow made it complete. I will say a friend pointed out that the bow is too big – and I did give the client the option of re-making the bow if a smaller version was desired…because it’s all about making my clients happy, right? Topping Miss Marshall off for her final nuptials was a simple layered veiling, finished with a serger (creating an interesting, almost lace-trim effect, also used in the petticoat underlayers) – spot beading was added to the final for added sparkle… And just when you thought it couldn’t go any better…and after sending progress pics during all steps of the construction to my client with nothing but accolades on the results – I send images of the finals as you see above, and the invoice for the balance – and the client rejected it. In all fairness, the client did send the balance payment, but expressed disappointment over the final design, saying it was too contemporary, and it didn’t really look like he expected a late 40s/early 50s wedding gown would look..perhaps I could sell it, or he would take it and sell it? Really. I don’t know…maybe it was the bow…? And so it is with a resounding ‘fuck you‘ I say to that client – I’m happy to refund your payment. What once began as a triumphant beginning to the Tommydoll Club, now has it’s Inaugural Member of the Tommydoll Blacklist. And note that my terms and conditions for commission work is now updated to say there will be a non-refundable deposit. I will honor the original terms and conditions of those that commissioned work and promptly sent a deposit – but I will caution all you once again – don’t fuck with me. And so…I am happy to announce that this outfit is now SOLD to another buyer.
Amour – to fit JAMIEshow’s Gene Marshall – ensemble includes gown, teddy, hosiery, bolero, petticoat and veil (necklace and bouquet are not included – unless you just have to have them). If you’d like to see more images of Amour – click here.