Accuracy vs aesthetics in doll clothes

Oct 4, 2020

    1. I'm working on this big project, and am giving all my dolls traditional Chinese clothing. And I can stay pretty accurate for my two bigger dolls. But once working on the MSD size, hanfu pants or overskirts, made in the traditional way, are becoming to bulky. And so I need to find a way to make them aesthetically better because now it looks like my boys all had a beer to much, or my girls are way to smooth and flat chested to even keep their clothes up.

      I'll have to work with buttons and other non traditional closings, which I can ofcourse hide in their clothing. So nobody will notice unless they do a closer inspection.

      Personally, for someone who finds accuracy really (like, REALLY) important, it bothers me that I need to cheat on their outfits to make them look aesthetically more pleasing. But maybe in the end, the overall look is the most important. I try to shift my mentallity towards the aesthetics-mindset.

      And to be honest, accuracy only bothers me when it's me making the clothes. I can love clothes not made by me that are not as accurate as all and still find them amazing.

      What are your takes on accuracy in doll outfits? And how far do you go to keep outfits as accurate to how they're supposed to be made?

      Edit for spelling
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    2. Honestly, I feel like as long as you love the look of the finished product, the journey isn't as important. Like, traditional sewing methods obviously werent designed with 1ft tall people in mind haha! And I'll bet doll clothes from the period(on like, toys and things) was probably similarly "non authentic"
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    3. I'm a person who appreciates great detail and accuracy so I may be biased with that side, especially for traditional clothing. The thought of it is romantic and you don't always get to see the "real deal". However, in my opinion, in mini scale set up like bjds, aesthetic is much more important than accuracy. If you still try to get the real thing, I guess as long as it's "represented" it is fine, may not be technically accurate but still aesthetically accurate.
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    4. I don't know how to sew, although I do try really hard most of the time, it's just something I'm not good at no matter how long (many times) I've done it. When I purchase ready made doll clothes (not for these type), I am usually bothered by all you mentioned, but mostly scale. I love in particular how realistic 1:6 action figure clothing pieces look, and Japanese fashion doll clothes are super nicely made as well, although don't always look as realistically-scaled. I never purchased clothes for my BJD for those reason, they always look super out of scale, either the trimmings, the neck collars, closures, buttons, etc. I can't justify paying for something I don't completely love. I find it less wasteful to just try to sew the items myself, although they turn out crappy, at least I didn't spend a fortune on something that I would regret purchasing later (and would probably not be able to sell and get my moneys worth).

      When I sew for my dolls it's never traditional clothes, it's always more leaning towards fantasy or (darker, Japanese) video game aesthetics, although I did try making a Kimono once for my custom OT Sesshomaru (from Inuyasha). I didn't find difficult making the Kimono, or the Hakama, but I kind of messed up the printable transfers for his Kimono and gave up finishing him. It would have probably gone wrong anyway, if I had tried making the Haramaki and other armor pieces, and the obi or tying it. I always have trouble finding the right fabrics, because I'm vegan, so I wouldn't be able to make something completely accurate even if I tried or wanted to, because there's very little that didn't historically (or even now) include something that I would be able to purchase easily, fabric wise. Most of the time I have to chose aesthetics rather than accuracy when I sew for my dolls, because I can't purchase fabric that go against my personal believes. I do try to find accurate patterns, but the fabrics are always whatever works well visually, more so for the smaller dolls, because some fabrics are too bulky to fall right or look in-scale. (:
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    5. I have a bit of experience recreating historical garments and I can safely say that it's better for the garment to LOOK realistic than to BE realistic. I always make sure to do the research and figure out how the clothing worked, but if I need to make adjustments for it to actually look good I will. You are working with different fabrics, threads, sewing implements and so on, things that worked traditionally may not work with the tools of today.
      It does not matter how technically correct something is if it does not look right. When working on small scale it is even more necessary to adjust and adapt to give an outfit the right feel - in reality no one made this kind of clothing in that scale, if they did they would have gone about it diffidently themselves :)
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    6. I also think aesthetics is most important, but then again it depends on the goal.
      If the goal is the accomplishment of making something with the right technique in such a small size then then accuracy might be more important, but if the goas is to have something to have the right look you might have to bend the rules to be able to do it.
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    7. when sewing at smaller scales you can't always do things "correctly" and have to make concessions. This is why for example, so many old Barbie suits have the shirt sleeveless because at a small scale you get too much bulk with a long sleeved jacket over the top of long sleeved shirt or blouse.

      It's not always practical to do it the way you would at full scale. Doll tailoring is not always the same as human because of the scale limitations.
      A lot of vintage playline dolls in the 60s did TRY to use human tailoring techniques and what you're left with is clothes that are very bulky and don't quite look correct, they sort of swamp the doll.

      Much like fabric weight needs to be "scaled down" (you can't use heavy fabrics for scale dolls, it'll be too heavy and bulky with tiny seams) you also need to rethink some areas to cut down bulk. In layered items you can do "false layers" for example which cuts down on bulk. You can do false crossovers or openings as well.

      There's things you can do at full scale that you can manage at 1/3 but once you go down to 1/4 or smaller just aren't gonna work because of fabric bulk.
      IMO it's about having the item LOOK correct.
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    8. As a person who’s done costuming for theater... our mantra in the costume shop is “Looks good! Good enough!” Which means that from the audience’s standpoint, the costume looks good! And from the costuming side of it, it’s good enough! I’m talking about grand ballgowns and dresses with crinoline cages, etc: the audience is going to think that gown is one piece, but in order to change an actor quickly or in order to launder the garment, the bodice is one piece, and the skirt is another piece. Tight bodices on historical garments that have laces? There’s a zipper hidden there somewhere, so we don’t have to unlace or relace an actress.

      This translates to how i approach doll garments, as well. If i dress a doll in a chemise, stays, then a Regency gown on top of it, it’s going to look bulky and uncomfortable. Since dolls aren’t squishy and they’re in perfect “shape”, the stays are unnecessary. Because the doll isn’t going to sweat and need clothes laundered, she doesn’t need the chemise. So I’ll put a Regency gown on an otherwise naked doll, and it looks good! It’s not historically accurate, but it’s good enough for pictures! ;) Don’t think of it as cheating; think of it as continuing a grand tradition of theatrical costuming technique!
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    9. Most of my dolls wear casual clothing so it’s not too much of a problem as long as the clothes are high quality. I am super picky about jeans, though, which ends up costing me $50-60 to get that realistic look.

      Sometimes I do need a particular outfit, and then I end up making or commissioning it. In those cases, I’m ok with shortcuts as long as the final look is right.
    10. It's much more important to me that the clothes look like a tiny version of the real thing than that they are constructed exactly the same way. It sounds nice to use authentic fabrics and constructions for doll clothes... but on a 1/4 scale doll that fabric and those seam allowances are going to be four times as big as they are on the real thing, and the scale will look weird. Think about the way a dress shirt looks vs. a heavy denim jacket, even though the construction is similar.

      In an ideal world, you could find fabric and thread in the same scale that you're sewing for, use the fully accurate construction methods, and get a nicely scaled garment. There are very patient people who do amazing, fiddly work for 1/6 scale figures:
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      In general, though, we need to make some changes to the construction to compensate for the scale of the fabric.

      Like @Enzyme said, I've found that makers of 1/6 scale figure clothing are much more diligent about using fine, thin materials and small details to make very realistic clothes. I have an extremely hard time finding nicely scaled clothes for 1/4 BJD boys because most makers of clothes that offer them in different sizes don't make any changes to the fabric or construction for the smaller sizes. I've bought a few shirts and suits that look nicely scaled on the SD models and come in MSD size looking bulky with giant collars and buttons.
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    11. There just isn't any way to get a fully detailed and realistic look on a doll while completely replicating all the methods and details of human clothing construction. Dolls being rigid and not able to be squished by their clothes like a human can is one thing that will affect how you have to make something so that it will lay/fit right on a doll, depending on the type of garment. Bulk in seams, linings, and other finishing techniques is another. It's always the better choice to sacrifice accuracy in copying a human garment in order to reduce bulk and get the doll version to lay and drape realistically. After all, dolls are basically little mannequins that we dress so that we can look at them wearing those clothes...they don't need the clothes to function the way a human does. So it's definitely looks over accuracy in my opinion. And fabric choice is such a huge factor. Finding fabrics that are thin, soft and light enough to drape realistically without being stiff, awkward and bulky is one of the biggest things about making doll clothes look right.
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    12. I definitely lean towards the aesthetic side of this coin. I often take shortcuts in the outfits I construct for my fashion doll repaints. For a bjd I doubt I would change :)
    13. If you want to put it like that, you are in the realm of modelmaking. IMO, it is more important that things look "believable to the human eye" than to be real. That means, it is better to look real than to be real.

      As an example, I am about recreating a medieval Gothic armour. Armour was made of steel, which is processed iron - it can rust. In order to prevent that, you have to oil the iron and the leather which connects it regularly. That along is a big no-no for our resin friends. So I made a compromise and used aluminium. It is still metal, but easier to work on and does not need oil. Regarding the leather, it does not really need to be oiled if not used in extreme circumstances.

      Regarding the undergarments, I also cannot create an arming jacket or pourpoint with the real number of linen layers. Then my doll would get VERY voluminous. So I just use a top and bottom layer, sewn together with some hint of wool stuffing. Not like the real thing, but looks the part.

      I think it is no problem to do the same with any kind of traditional clothing. E.g. for rococo ballgowns, it is hardly possible to use the exact same layer number and fabrics as for the original. For dolls, even SDs, you have to make compromises, be it in the layer number or in the fabric used.
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    14. I want them to look accurate and contain as many accurate elements/layers as possible without losing the look to bulk.

      - I don't bother corseting under the historic styles because resin doesn't squish to the correct silhouette, so all the corset does is add bulk around the body.

      - I will put multiple petticoats in staggered layers onto a fitted yoke that extends down toward the hips from the waist, rather than each having their own waistband to add bulk around the waist.

      - I will "cheat" by adding the trim from the edge of the underlayers to the neckline and wrists of the bodice (where they would show) if having the actual underlayers would add to much bulk (I'd probably also make the underlayers in that instance for times when they don't need to be fully layered-up for company or going out).

      The smaller the doll, the more I have to resort to these "cheats" to do away with the bulk of including all the correct layers.

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    15. Sewing for dolls and cheating in some way is something forgivable I think. My boy's t-shirts are made from long sleeve t-shirt's sleeve. Less sewing on the bottom, and fits perfectly. You can think that it is lazy, but I don't care because I like them very much. So if I can save some work on this, why not? It looks good on him, and fairly looks like a human t-shirt. And yeah. It must looks real, but some details are too small to copy on doll clothes. Important thing is, if the results are satisfying for you, you can do anything in your creations.
    16. I kinda like to think of it this way... traditional clothing is the way that it is in order to achieve and maintain a certain silhouette on moving human bodies. For example women’s obi is traditionally larger than men’s in order to keep the kimono from slipping on our differently shaped bodies. If you are having to modify that for your dolls you are just keeping with the theme of achieving and maintaining that certain silhouette on the chosen body.
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    17. I'm fussy about scale, clothes where the weave of the fabric is too big, oversized embellishments, buttons, jewellery things like that bother me. I see quite a lot of it on commercial clothes that are otherwise well made. Having stuff like historical stuff made the right way, correct number of layers, underwear, whatever is less important if it looks good.
    18. Unfortunately, resin isn't squishy, like flesh is. The dolls are smaller too.

      Human clothes take the squishiness and size of the human body in account. There may not be always a way to replicate it in doll form.

      It's not so much a matter of accuracy than it is of adapatation.
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