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Paper doll collection,

A little bit of nostalgia: paper dolls

I had friends over for a ‘sewing’ afternoon (the closest we got to sewing was them trying on upcoming Scroop toiles to check the fit) a few days ago, and we ended up chatting about our childhood toys.

I still have example of one of my favourite types of childhood toys, so I had a rummage in the boxes of semi-stored things, and unearthed my paper doll collection:

Paper doll collection, thedreamstress.com01

I collected paper dolls from the time I was 8 or 9, when my parents let us choose any two things we wanted from the Dover catalogue for some special event (oh bliss!), all the way until university.

These were the first two that I chose.  My interest in historical fashions was already clearly established!

Paper doll collection,

(I have my doubts about women wearing bustles under their bathing costumes in the 1880s though!)

From then on, I got at least one paper doll book almost every birthday, Christmas or Ayyam-i-ha for years.  They were mostly the Dover Tom Tierney paper dolls, but there were a few other brands and artists that I loved as well.

My parents believed in giving gifts that encouraged creativity and learning, so we got lots of art supplies and sewing supplies (good quality stuff too – I still have both the watercolour pencils and the stork scissors I was given at 12), interesting books, and things you did things with.

Luckily for me, the paper dolls qualified, especially if they were about historical figures.  I suspect 11 year old me would have gone for more pretty Victorian fashion paper dolls under her own steam, but now-me is prefers the Notable American Women, and Famous American Women that I was likely to get instead.

Paper doll collection,

And I certainly learned a lot from them, they featured not only the women you’d expect, like Amelia Earhart, but ones you were less likely to be introduced to as a pre-teen in the Hawaii public school system, like Edna St Vincent Milay, and Clare Booth Luce.

Paper doll collection,

I also learned not to depend on any historical source that wasn’t a primary source.  Most of Tom Tierney’s research was pretty good, but pre-teen me knew immediately that his outfit for Queen Lili’u’okalani is a historical and cultural travesty (as is his terrible ‘hula’ pose of her hands), so everything else had to be taken with a grain of salt.

Paper doll collection,

And I learned lots of fashion history, and fashion terminology.  This doll was undoubtedly my first introduction to a burnous:

Paper doll collection,

And the Colonial Fashions dolls may have sparked my love of 16th and very early 17th century fashions:

Paper doll collection,

Paper doll collection,

(though it is funny how not-quite-right historically they look with my current eyes).

While not as pretty, my absolute favourite paper dolls for learning history were the colouring-book paper dolls from Bellerophon Books:

Paper doll collection,

Especially the Infamous Women paper dolls.

Paper doll collection,

To the horrified delight of my classmates, and just plain horror of my teacher, I picked Empress Wu and Roxelana when we had to present on historical figures in a middle-school class, and proceeded to recount their mis-deeds with great relish.  To the credit of that teacher, she did not send me to the principal’s office for the presentation  (I got scolded a lot for transgressions that can all be described as ‘knowing stuff my teachers didn’t think I ought to’).

I was absolutely delighted to find, in researching this article, that you can still buy Infamous Women, if you too would like to expose your 13 year old to all the women whom history has seen fit to repudiate, deserved or not.

Paper doll collection,  It’s easy to tell which paper dolls I got as a child and pre-teen, and which I collected later.

Paper doll collection,

My teenage acquisitions are pristine and uncut:

Paper doll collection,

Paper doll collection,

Paper doll collection,

The early ones are cut out, bent, battered, and played with:

Paper doll collection,

Paper doll collection,

I made stories for the early dolls, rearranged them into different ‘families’, drew them new outfits for specific adventures, and generally just loved them.  They aren’t nearly as pretty as my more recent acquisitions, but I remember them so much more.  I could still draw almost every one of the dresses from my first six or so books to this day.

Preservationist me rather wants to see if I can find new copies of some of the most battered books though!

I hadn’t bought any paper dolls since moving to New Zealand 11 years ago, as they are too hard to find here, and too expensive to import, but just a few weeks ago I happened upon this beauty at an op-shop:

Paper doll collection,

Paper doll collection,

I guess the bug isn’t entirely dead!

I do hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane!  Did anyone else have paper dolls, particularly the Tom Tierney ones?

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

Tutorial: How to make a skirt slip from the Scroop Wonder Unders Dress Slip (the super-easy way)

The Scroop Wonder Unders Knickers, Singlet Camisole & Slip pattern doesn’t come with a skirt slip piece, but it’s super easy to make a skirt slip from the pattern.

Scroop Wonder Unders

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

Here’s the quick under-1-hour way to make a skirt slip from the pattern.  Next week I’ll show you the fancy 2-hour lace edged, side slit version.

Fabric & Pattern Size

You’ll want to use the same type of fabric you use for the Scroop Singlet Camisole or Dress Slip.  If you want to wear your skirt slip as an under-layer, you’ll need to pick a slippery, non-static stretch fabric, such as a lingerie tricot knit, or a stretch satin.

Start with the Scroop Wonder Unders Singlet Camisole & Dress Slip pattern pieces:

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

If you’re using a fabric with the same stretch as called for in the rest of the Scroop Wonder Unders pattern (30%-50% stretch in one directions (two-way stretch), or 25%-45% stretch in both directions (four-way stretch)) you can use the pattern in exactly the same size as you’d use it for the dress slip.

If you’re using a low-stretch (under 25%) knit, such as a tricot, you’ll need to go up a size or two (depending on how slim fitting you want your pattern to be over the hips) in the pattern, or you’re going to end up with a VERY snug slip.

I’m making this one for a friend who is smaller than me, so I’m sticking with a size 38.


Use the waistline marked on the pattern piece if you want your pattern to sit at the natural waist, or measure down 2″/5cm, if you want a pattern that sits a little lower on the hips.

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

Measure down from your chosen waistline 1.5cm/5/8″ in the centre of each pattern piece, and draw a curved line out to meet the waistline at the the outside edge of the pattern.


Shorten the skirt slip as needed.

It measures just over 27″ from waist to hem, and that’s a lot longer than the dress my friend wants to wear it under.

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

So I’m measuring up 4″/10cm from the marked hem, and drawing a new hemline.

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial


Fold down the top of your pattern pieces, and up the bottom of the hem:

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

And cut your fabric!


Sew up both side seams.

Hem just as with the Dress Slip:

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

Use the waist elastic measure given for the Knickers, or wrap a piece of elastic around your waist so it is comfortably snug to gage the measurement.

Sew as per the waist elastic instructions for the Knickers.

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

Ta da!  You’re done!

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

Don’t have a Wonder Unders Pattern?  Buy it here!  

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

Scroop Skirt slip tutorial

Rate the Oscars 2017

It’s that time again!  The one week of the year when I let you off the pressure of rating the dress, and do it myself, as I Rate the Oscars.

As usual, I’ll go from best to worst, so keep scrolling to keep cringing (or not, you’re totally allowed to love the things I hate and hate the things I love!)

A note:  I take quite a lighthearted approach to my own clothes, and will happily admit when I create outfits that just don’t work out.  My critique is meant to be an amusing take on how I viewed the Oscars fashions, and includes only comments that I would find hilarious, rather than insulting, if they were applied to me.

Oscars 2017 Auli’i Cravalho

Auli’i Cravalho’s is the only dress of the 2017 Oscars that I looked at and instantly loved, and looked a little closer, and still loved.  Yes, it’s a little bit prom, but she’s what, 16?  So prom meets Oscars is perfect!  And it looks likes shells, and seafoam, and fans!  How divine for the actress who voiced Moana!   16 year old me would have died of happiness if she could have worn this to prom, or the Oscars, and mumble-mumble-30-something me wouldn’t be ashamed to wear it either.  10/10

I LOVE a super-intellectual, super wacky, and super fabulous dress on the red carpet, but it’s really hard to pull all three of those off and succeed.  Quite a few actresses attempted it this year.  Who pulled it off?  Only one of them, but the next one came SO close, loosing, not by a hairsbreadth, but by the width of a layer of illusion mesh.  That stuff will trip you up every time!

So who succeeded?

2017 Red Carpet Priyanka Chopra

Yep.  Priyanka Chopra has managed to make a dress that could, by that proverbial hairsbreadth, look like a primary school craft project made from woven Christmas ribbons, with an apron front that is, as far as I can tell, help on by glue, the gravity-defying powers of boning, and hope, look amazing.

OK, possibly there is some illusion mesh in there, but it’s doing it’s job because you can’t see it, and that’s the important thing for illusion mesh (otherwise it ruins the illusion).  9/10

Speaking of intellectual fashions attempts and illusion mesh…

2017 Oscars, Janelle Monae

Things I’m loving about Janelle Monae’s outfit:  the super modern take on 18th century skirt; the crazy collar, which also looks like a nod to 18th c pleated ribbon chokers; the headband (love a good diadem-esque headband); the rows of embellishment on the skirt, which have convinced a small portion of my mind to skip off and sit on a hill in the moonlight, blowing dandelions, in the firm and happy conviction that her skirt features little rows of stormtroopers chilling out and shooting the breeze while they wait for deployment AND DON’T YOU DARE TELL IT THAT’S NOT WHAT THEY ARE.

Things I’m not loving about this: the illusion mesh bodice with the giant mutant birds attacking her boobs while a nuclear bomb (so we know where the mutant birds came from) explodes beneath the left one.  And the too harsh belt.  That sucks too.  But mostly the illusion mesh.  Blech.  It’s just about impossible to combine super-intellectual and illusion mesh, and while this is still fabulous, it’s loosed 2 points for the evil IM.  8/10

2017 Oscars Leslie Mann

Some commentators have compared Leslie Mann’s frock to the iconic yellow dress from Beauty and the Beast, and said that when they saw it ‘A Tale as Old as Time’ started playing in their head.

When I saw it my brain started singing:

It was a…droopy, drapey, swoopy, swoony, yellow taffe-ta balloon-y, that she wore for the first time today!

Despite this, I like it.  It’s FUN.  It’s not boring (and so much of the red carpet was boring).  I’m not entirely convinced by the ‘Hey, let’s take a 1940s sarong set a la Wearing History’s Sunkissed Sweethearts pattern, and turn it into an Oscars ballgown’ brainwave that seemed to have inspired it, but I definitely won’t be putting it on a Worst-Dressed list.  7/10

(and this from a person who usually loathes pickups with a passion only otherwise reserved for thigh-length neon-purple fringe-covered spandex ‘Authentic 1920s Flapper Great Gatsby Deco’ dresses on etsy)

2017 Oscars Ruth Negga

There is a lot I love about Ruth Negga’s outfit.  The makeup is the best-possible take on the red-eyeshadow trend (not the biggest fan), I ADORE her modern-take-on-a-Regency-diadem headdress, the fit of her dress is spot-on, and it’s a really nice change from the usual ‘Hey, have you seen my boobs!  What about the flesh between them and my stomach to my navel?’ (especially this season, when half the dress bodices seem to have been made from two tiny handkerchiefs of dress fabric – yeah, I’m looking at you Michelle Williams and Emma Roberts – at least ScarJo had a last minute panic and pinned her bodice together).


No matter what you do to it, even if it’s made of silk, bright red lace just looks like it came from the $2 shop and was super-glued on.  It has the magical ability to make any dress look like one of those frocks from the really dodgy Chinese knock-off sites.  In fact, give it a week and those sites will be selling this ‘exact’ dress, and when you get it it will look just like Ruth’s frock, only the lace will be so itchy you’ll scratch your upper chest until it’s so red you won’t need the bodice-filler net, and the bodice will fit a 4 year old, and the sleeves a 14 year old chimpanzee.


2017 Oscars Naomie Harris

Naomie Harris wins all the points for cosplaying as that time Jabba the Hutt decided to make his own Stormtrooper clone army (his own clones, ‘natch).

Naomie Harris also looses all the points for cosplaying as that time Jabba the Hutt decided to make his own Stormtrooper clone army.  This is the Oscars, not a Cosplay Convention (but if she wears this in a CosCo CosCom she’d better win!)

So…that makes it 5/10?

2017 Oscars Darby Stanchfield

Darby Stanchfield laser-cut pleat-layer-thingees are amazing, and the illusion tulle is fine, because it’s tulle, not mesh, and loose, not skin tight, and I desperately, desperately, want to see her spin, and those earrings are fabulous (if slightly painful looking), but the overall look is just a teeny-tiny bit obvious.  It’s the pose and the hair.  It needed sleek hair pulled back in a bun, and Janelle Monae’s pose.  She couldn’t quite commit to being intellectual, and had to shove in a big dose of sexy, and that just ruins it.  I’d still totally wear this in a heartbeat if I was getting married again though.  4/10

2017 Oscars, Emma Stone

Emma Stone got criticised for being too literal in her star covered frock at the Golden Globes (personally, I loved it, just fyi), so instead of going as the Oscar statuette to the Oscars she channelled Old Hollywood and came as the fringed lamps that Joan Crawford had in her dressing room before her Baby-Jane career revival.  Her makeup (which was apparently based on Dante Gabriel Rossetti paintings, because she’s a readhead, and he liked to paint them, ‘natch) is also giving me creepy Baby Jane era Joan Crawford vibes.  I feel like we just got a glimpse of what Emma will look like in 40 years.  It’s pretty good for 60+ years old, but it’s weird now!  So, lampshade dress, ageing makeup, and yet…it’s not even interesting terrible.  It’s just boring.  3/10

2017 Oscars Brie Larson

Brie Larson’s dress is an obvious nod to Sargent’s Madame X.  From mid-thigh up I love it.  From mid-thigh down it all becomes obvious and boring.  So boring that if it wasn’t for the Madame X nod I wouldn’t have bothered including it, because boring is almost the worst fashion sin of all.  2/10.

2017 Oscars Dakota Johnson

I suspect this is hardly an original positioning of this outfit on a best-to-worst dresses list for this year, but oh, my, it’s so bad…  Poor Dakota looks like she spent so much time with her kit off, and was so desperate to get anything on, that she picked the primmest dress possible, and then accidentally put the top half of her dress (with attached supposed-to-be-a-butt-bow) on backwards, and forgot to do her hair.  Apparently the dress is a nod to the famous Faye Dunaway ‘morning after’ photo, but Faye’s warm cream was right for her colouring: this pale gold is all wrong on Dakota.  Just a little too try hard ‘I’m a serious fashionista’.  1/10

And a final bonus shout-out to Allison Schroeder’s (she’s the screenwriter behind Hidden Figures, in case you’re wondering) dress, which has a lovely backstory, and which makes me really happy because it reminds me of a slightly in/famous Annie Bonza dress.  I’m not rating because it would get a super-high rating if it didn’t have a train, but it does have a train (and shouldn’t), so I’m so conflicted.  Also, I thought I’d leave something for you to rate 😉

2017 Oscars Allison Schroeder