Pepperland – Carnaby Street inspired creativity

Pepperland by Mark Morris Dance Group

This looks rainbow enough for me – and very much how Sindy, Barbie and Ken might look, if they formed a dance troupe and synchronised like Pans People.

Here are Pans People, silver booted in 1970

and rainbow in 1973

The crumpled silver foil on the Pepperland set reminds me of the lo-fi dioramas in Sindy knitting pattern illustrations.

Robin Sindy doll swimsuit and cape knitting pattern 13248

Might catch Pepperland this week at Sadlers Wells dance theatre in London’s Islington. A show “visually on the cusp of Carnaby Street and Woodstock” and a “tribute to of one of the best-selling albums of all time: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

The Mod era seems to be all the rage again – Carnaby Street is also the theme for this year’s Fashion Doll Festival (second weekend of June this year at the V&A Museum of Childhood).

NOTE 21 March – went to see Pepperland yesterday. It was nice but I wouldn’t especially recommend it. The costumes were good but no surprises – all was revealed in the trailer. Likewise the set was the tinfoil around the edge and didn’t change. The music was a rough re-make of the Beatles album which was a bit disappointing. However, soundwise  the warpish sound of a theremin was a highlight and we could see it being played from our lofty location in the second circle. The dance seemed technically amazing with a slightly floppy style (can’t think of any other way to describe it). Some fab bits which are hard to describe. Good but I wouldn’t shout about it from the rooftops.

First ShimmyShim T-shirt designs

First ShimmyShim fashion doll T-shirt designs

This week I designed and made up a couple of fashion doll T-shirts. This is the classic example, modelled by Barbie friend Deluxe Quick Curl Christie.

The slogan is “One of the Girls”.

Barbie Christie Deluxe Quick Curl wears ShimmyShim T-shirt

And this is a cap sleeve version on 80s Sindy.

Sindy wears ShimmyShim T-shirt cap sleeves

It’s made from one piece of cloth, which was an idea suggested by Ruth Gadsby, as a simple solution to avoid fiddly shoulder seams. On such a small scale, the fabric is strong enough to hold its shape on the shoulders, which creates something of a Star Trek look. I was quite excited about the style as I haven’t see one quite like it. For a human sized garment I wonder if you could create the same effect with something like neoprene fabric.

The first time I made up a T-shirt it went a bit skewiff, with the hem wavy and the sleeves (intended to be the classic shape) too wide.

Doll T-shirt first attempt with transfer

So, a few problems resolved with help and advice from Sindy collectors (thanks if any of you read this). I prevented the hems waving by placing a sheet of tissue paper under the fabric as I sewed it. This also gives you something to hold onto, so that you can manoeuvre the fabric left and right as it runs under the machine foot.

Machine sewing doll T-shirt side seams

The sleeves are impossible to sew in using the traditional method I learnt at school (make the sleeve into a tube and then slot it into the armhole). But manageable if you sew the open sleeve into the shoulder before the side seam is closed.

The stretch on the badly made sleeves had been caused by cutting the sleeve along the ‘wale’ of the weft knit jersey fabric, rather than across it, in line with the weft or ‘course’.

I tacked all the seams for my second attempt (tack a long way from the edge to avoid machining over the tacking). But for the third attempt, with speed in mind, I used pins to hold the seams together (pin at right angles to the seam and not too close). Only the very tight neck edge needed tacking. And I might try glueing that next time using a Prym Aqua Glue Marker (florescent when applied, dries clear and washes out).

Despite all my best efforts at speed I timed the making at over an hour with the press studs still to be sewn on!

iPhone stop watch display

Hopefully, to make these cost effective I’ll get faster with practice.

I ordered some Prym mini rivet press studs and started to experiment with them. They seem a bit tricky and the instructions aren’t clear. I crushed one set of studs because I’d used a wrong attachment (they’re not marked). Studs were skidding across the floor like meddlesome tiddly winks 😉 . I’ve put them aside for today as I’m not happy with the size either – 8mm is a touch too wide for a fashion doll T-shirt.

Image result for vintage tiddly winks

I’m currently working on the packaging for these T-shirts. Display cards are part of the whole experience of collecting and enjoying micro size fashion and I love them! Also, of course there must be a code number. 001 and 002?!

States of Undress TV series

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been captivated by this TV series by VICE – presented by Hailey Gates. If it had cliffhangers I would probably have binge watched the whole box set back-to-back. Luckily it doesn’t, but it’s still a white knuckle ride.


It’s as much a travel series as a fashion show. Grass roots, rather than snobbish safari.

Hailey takes you right to the front line, literally: in the Palestine episode (Series 1 episode 5), she interviews a young man who describes the invisible boundary at the end of his road, marked only by a shadow. If he traversed it he would be shot. Hailey interviews the lively spirits and businesses who strive to push up through the concrete weight of curfew and constriction in Gaza and the West Bank: The Speed Sisters who dress-up-to-the-nines in glossy lipstick and wrap around shades whilst screeching down a drift racing track. The fashion designer whose search for local female catwalk models is repeatedly thwarted by worried parents, until finally one single model is available for a shoot and she’s never posed before but carries it off with aplomb. And the high street store stocked full of racy underwear for newly wed brides.

What’s so fascinating is how essential fashion is. Every person makes a choice, or has a choice imposed upon them by someone else. What we choose is so influenced by our society. And when different cultures exist in the same society there can be these conflicts of choice. Hailey sits on a French beach with a woman wearing a burkini, only a few feet from topless sun bathers. I would have been very confused on that beach. I don’t see myself as especially conformist, but I’ve been on a beach in Morocco and felt under-dressed and I’ve been at a swimming pool in the UK and felt over-dressed.

If Hailey made an episode in the UK, would she interview Stephen Gough? He is a British activist nicknamed the Naked Rambler who believes in the freedom to be naked in public. He refuses to conform to a getting dressed code. In a 2015 BBC interview, he guessed that he’s been arrested around 40 times for being naked in public. Since 2006, his stubborn fashion statement has dealt him many years in UK prisons, with a large chunk of the time served in solitary confinement.

Next on my list to watch:

Series 2 Episode 4 – Thai Transgender Beauty Pageant
Hailey travels to Thailand to see how transgender models are redefining fashion.

Episode 6 – Packing Heat in Heels
With women the fastest growing group of US gun owners, Hailey goes shooting with grandma.

States of Undress IMDb entry 8.5 rating