Design Paper Doll Clothing Based on Real Outfits

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Maybe your grandma rode bareback on a white horse at the Chicago World's Fair, or maybe she bakes the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in the world. Whatever her special talent, recreating her stories in miniature is a lovely tribute! You can create new pattern pieces, using paper dolls, family photos, or fashion photographs as templates.
In this how-to, excerpted from "All Dolled Up: Creating a Paper Fashion Wardrobe for Paper Dolls," author Lauren Delaney George explain how to create original fashions. You can find her designs in All Dolled Up!

Step 1

Since you will need to trace over your photograph, you may want to use a copy rather than the original, especially if the original is old and fragile. If the photograph you have chosen is small, you can use your photocopier's enlargement settings to make it bigger.
When designing a paper dress from a photograph, it helps to have some sense of the original dress's construction—photographs of the garment from different angles will be helpful. Better yet, take a look at the actual dress, or look for images of similar clothing from the era. The way clothing is constructed is particular to its time, so other garments will provide clues. Where is the garment fitted or full? Where does the waist fall? Old sewing patterns can help this process.

Step 2

Use a pencil and tracing paper to make a basic outline of the garment.

Step 3

Transfer your outline to cardstock by tracing it and cut it out. This will be the foundation to sculpt your design. You can always sculpt your creation directly onto copies of Lucille and Reo, as you did in the How-Tos, but this method will let you experiment with body shapes and replicate the pose from your chosen photograph.

Step 4

Place a fresh piece of tracing paper over your outline from step 2. Now is the time to put your fashion research to use, adding the dress's technical details. Think of the garment you are copying as a puzzle whose pieces are fabric. You are working backwards from the complete "puzzle" in your photograph, trying to determine how its shapes fit together to make a whole. Wherever you see sewing in the original garment, add a corresponding pencil line to your outline.
Mark things such as where the sleeves are sewn to the bodice and where the bodice attaches to the skirt. If the skirt is full, you can add lines where there are large folds, or keep it a simple bell shape (see the Family Parlor and Reds New Orleans How-Tos for their approaches to skirt construction). The placement of any darts in the original garment is a good guide for retaining dimension in your paper version.

Step 5

Now with your understanding of the garment's construction, you will create the individual pattern pieces.

Step 6

Go over your technical outline from step 4 using a fresh piece of tracing paper to duplicate each segment, tracing (separately) the sleeves, bodice, skirt, and other details you want to include.

Step 7

Select materials for your design. For the bodice, in step 6, I chose iridescent white paper; for the sleeves and neck-line (step 5), a fine lace. When you trace and cut your dress pieces, allow space to sculpt them away from the body for dimension. You can trim any excess after the piece has been glued.

Step 8

Sculpt the original design!

Step 9

Designing your paper dress will require trial and error. Whenever I tackle a new garment, it takes several tries to get the pattern pieces and materials just right. But it's always worth the effort!

Step 10

This how-to is excerpted with permission from "All Dolled Up: Creating a Paper Fashion Wardrobe for Paper Dolls."

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