Friday, 19 April 2013

Paper Dolls

Do you remember those paper dolls you got as a kid, the one's you cut out and then made clothes for? They came with a little stand and a choice of outfits....

Well, following my research earlier this year into costume (see Playing Dress Up and Hollywood Costume at the V&A) I decided to create my own paper dolls.

I wanted to use a subject matter that excites me and gives me the chance to focus on costume and theatrics. So I chose to make burlesque paper dolls, dolls that had all the glitz and glam of a Hollywood starlet, but with a cheeky twist that put the emphasis on taking the clothes off rather than dressing up.

My first choice was to create a doll of a vintage performer and someone that would give me the opportunity to play around with ideas without infringing upon their copyright.

I immediately thought of Noel Toy, a beautiful lady I have painted in the past and one who still intrigues me. Miss Toy was a Chinese/American burlesque performer from the 1940's and has an exotic glamour all of her own.

My design for the my paper doll based on Noel Toy. I had to really think about arm placement, as arms held away from the body would easily bend and get weakened. After lots of playing around with ideas I chose to have her hands on her hips

I began by researching the costumes Noel used to perform in, but quickly decided to add my own take on what I could do with them in order to create the idea of a full character doll. For instance I definitely wanted to recreate the Chinese style robe as seen in the video of Noel's act:

In this film you can also see her using small fans as props but I decided to enlarge these fans and create them as full scale burlesque Chinese fans in order to use them as another layer to be removed before the big reveal (images of the fans yet to be uploaded!)

The first garment to dress up/undress my paper doll, this Chinese style robe is based on the one Miss Toy wore for one of her acts, but my design was also inspired by one worn by Claudette Colbert for her role as Cleopatra as seen at the Hollywood Costume Exhibition at the V&A (see below)

I definitely want to represent the 1940's vintage era but also the individual glamour of a Chinese performer, so I am using colours and textures which are evocative and sumptuous.

This was an early design for a second costume based on Chinese style pyjamas, but I quickly abandoned this as it distracted from the idea of recreating one act.

At present I am working on background ideas for the paper doll so that even before cutting out, the piece is a complete work. I am experimenting with ideas of Chinese paper and More updates will be posted as and when. My time in the studio is pretty limited at present so this may be a long project to complete, but one I am thoroughly enjoying! More images of this project and updates as it progresses can be seen on my facebook page

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