Madeleine Rose Couture
is named after Lori Lyon's five-year-old daughter. Lori, born in Garden Grove, California,
was the first-born in her family and has a brother who is three years younger. "I
had a pretty average middle-class American life," Lori recalls, "Dad worked. Mom stayed home
and cooked, cleaned and sewed. She used to sew us mother/daughter dresses and
clothes for my Barbies. We moved to San Marcos in North County of San Diego
when I was seven. My father built the house I grew up in. Now I live in Long
Beach, California with my husband, my daughter, our two
cats Wayne Alexander and Tiger, and our beta fish Bettina. (I know they are all
male, but Maddie insists it's a girl fish)."
"When I turned seven," Lori
continues, "I expressed interest in sewing. My mom started to teach me to sew
and that was it! I started sewing Barbie® doll clothes. By the time I was
in third grade, I was making my first granny dress to wear to school. One
Christmas I received a Tiffany Taylor® doll, (I still have her!), one of the
first larger (19") fashion dolls. I started designing
and sewing clothes for her. I used to watch the Sonny and Cher show and I
would copy all of Cher's elaborate costumes. (Don't know what happened to
"I graduated San Marcos High school in 1982. (Oh, no-
-am I aging myself?) I also attended one or two classes at Palomar Junior College during
my junior and senior years, then enrolled full-time after graduation. My major? Fashion
of course! After about 3 years and not getting anywhere (well, I did win
awards in a fashion design contest), I found out about the Fashion Institute of
Design and Merchandising. I applied and was accepted. So I moved up to
Orange County to attend FIDM's South Coast Campus in the fall of 1985"
Lori adds, "I have been working retail sales since I was sixteen and
have pretty much done it all concerning retail: management, merchandising, and visual
display. While I was attending FIDM, I worked at Charlotte Russe clothing
store doing visual
display. It was like playing with dolls only, life size!"
Lori began collecting dolls in the Spring of 1998, starting with vintage
reproduction Barbies. "The wedding vintage repro Barbie redhead was
my first collectible," Lori recalls. "A Red Flame brunette bubble-cut Barbie
followed. I had always looked
at the collectibles but never bought any, and then when I started collecting
there were some dolls that I wished I would have bought. So my husband said, 'Oh, you can still get
those! Just type some words into an eBay® search!' The rest is history. He's
probably sorry he turned me onto eBay, but I have made some money (as well as
spent a lot!) I have about forty to fifty dolls; half of them are Barbies, including
Silkstones® and one Fashion Royalty®. The rest are Tylers® and Sydneys® with
four Genes® added to the mix."
"I've been designing for dolls for about
three and a half years,"
Lori continues. "After seeing other artists selling on eBay,
I started there in July of 2003. I started thinking 'I can do that' and I started selling with a couple
of Silkstone Barbie ensembles. They sold, but not for much. I did,
however, receive some good
responses from them. Then I started seeing Tyler Wentworth around.
McCall's® had patterns and I became curious about her. I already had a couple
of Genes and was starting to sew for them, but I wanted a Tyler. So I bought a
basic Signature Tyler and a RTW Glamour Tyler. I really didn't care too much
for the basic (I think it is the first Tyler made) because her hands were too big.
But I fell in love with the Glamour Tyler and the whole concept of Tyler and
the House of Wentworth. I noticed there weren't as many OOAKs offered on
Tyler as there was for Barbie, so I decided to try sewing for Tyler. My first
ensemble sold for $99. At that time, I couldn't believe it - - here was something
collectors wanted! Tyler is so much easier to sew for than Barbie.
Since then, I have continued sewing and selling for Tyler on eBay. I have recently built my own website,
http://www.mrcouture.com/Index.html, where I
also offer a few gowns for purchase."
Lori recently teamed up with
Denis Bastien of Affordable Designs®. "I have been designing some patterns
for his website." Lori states. "So far they have done quite well. It is an
exciting project and Denis is great to work with!" She also did a collaboration with Lyn Raftis.
After Lori was chosen (one of twelve proposals) to participate in the Wish Upon A
Star...With Brenda Starr Design Contest and Auction sponsored by Jones
Publishing and Effanbee®, Lori received a Brenda Starr® doll to work with.
She remembers, "Brenda looked like Cinderella but something was missing." I
contacted Lyn to see if she would be able to enhance Brenda in time. We only had two weeks to get
the doll done and back to Jones. Lyn was able to enhance her and added that
sparkle to Brenda's eyes that helped transform her into Cinderella. I also
contacted Chris and Bret of
to see if they could create a pair of 'glass slippers'. They graciously
donated a few pairs to choose from. Brenda Starr as Cinderella was on display at
the 2004 Doll and Teddy Bear Expo East and received the Judges Choice Award.
Although Lori has started
getting requests for commissions, she hasn't taken any yet. "I may select
a few to do this fall," she says. "I have
had requests for a Victorian riding habit I sold on eBay. I would do another riding
habit again but would change it slightly to keep them OOAKs."
Lori currently works
20-30 hours per week in retail, but has been trying to cut her hours in order to
do more designing. While she currently only has time to work on her designs for
10-20 hours per week, she hopes to eventually spend all her time on her doll clothes design
business. While she intends her business to stay small and personal, she's
not completely averse to the idea of consulting with an already established
company! (Tonner - are you listening?)
Asked about what inspires her,
Lori replies, "I get inspiration from Haute Couture of the past, and old
movies of the 50's and 60's. I love retro fashion. It was so classy back then.
I also have been reading about fashion history (the 18th and 19th centuries) and
am inspired by the historical fashion as well. I keep a small sketch book in my
purse so I can quickly jot down any ideas I may get. For any historical design,
especially the 18th-century gowns, I research quite a bit. I always like to
change the style a bit to make it modern, but I also like to keep certain details
as authentic as possible." Most of the time, Lori is
inspired by the fabrics that she finds. Occasionally, though, she'll have
a design in mind and have to go out looking for the perfect fabric.
For the most part, Lori seems
to be able to makes outfits fairly quick. "The length of time for an outfit to be finished
depends on the amount of time I have to do it." Lori notes. "Rouge took
me one week since I was on a schedule to get it done for charity.
Sometimes I can get a gown done in one to two days, depending on the complexity
and if I have a substantial block of time to work on it."
"When I am ready to do a new
ensemble," Lori continues, "I'll refer to my
sketchbook of designs (croquis) and one of the designs will stand out, shouting
to be made! (I am usually thinking ahead, so I
know the next gown I will be making before I am finished with the last one.) Most
of the time, I already have fabric. (I am a fabric junkie - I buy it all the
time.) Then, depending on the design, I either start draping on the Tyler
form or will be able to adjust an existing flat pattern. From there I make a sloper
and a sample to get the fit correct. I am starting to make slopers of all my
designs so that I can use them in the future. Once the fit is established, I
make the tissue or final pattern and the prototype. I am always playing
things out in my head, so by the time it comes to sewing, I have already thought
out the construction."
Lori is also inspired by movies
and actors. "One o f my favorite movies is Pillow Talk," Lori
states. "In it, Doris Day wears some of the chicest
suits. How to Marry a Millionaire is another favorite of mine that has some great
fashion. And of course, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Audrey
Hepburn was a classic beauty with style and grace, while Cary Grant was debonair,
charming, and good looking."
Asked which part of the design
process Lori likes most, she responds, "The part I love best is having a design on paper that
all of a sudden you are creating and bringing it to life. To have it actually become a garment that fits and
flows: a piece of miniature haute couture!" While Lori spends a
great deal of detailed time and effort on getting her patterns to fit perfectly,
she doesn't really enjoy doing so! But, given the chance to just draw the
designs and have someone else do the fit, patterning and sewing, Lori declines
this option, noting that she loves the whole creative process and doesn't want
to let go of any of it.
Lori always draws an outfit
first so that she has something to refer to while going through the fit process.
"Usually these are just quick sketches in my sketchbook," Lori observes.
"I've taken art most of my school years. Although I haven't practiced it for the
last seventeen years, I am now trying to do some fashion drawing
again. Even after all these years, some things never completely leave you."
Lori finds that the Internet is
a great source for
materials but also notes that she's lucky that she lives in Southern California,
where the Los Angeles garment district is close by. While she currently uses
Tonner® and Kingstate® shoes to accessorize her outfits, she has also purchased
custom-made shoes on eBay. Eventually, Lori would like to starting making
her own doll shoes. Lori recently had Madeleine
Rose Couture garment labels made which will be sewn into all her future
garments. While she doesn't do story cards for her outfits, she does write
out a small story for each of her OOAKs.
Lori also takes great care in
her packaging. "I want my OOAKs to be collectible in or out of the box,"
Lori says, "so I have them on cardboard with cut-out shapes onto which the garments fit,
similar to Gene
packaging. That is placed in a box with tissue that wraps over it,with an organza
ribbon tied on top and a small silk rose. I place a customer satisfaction card
on top of the tissue and then the lid of the box goes on. On the top of the box,
I have a fashion sketch of the design done in marker and the whole box is
wrapped in tissue that will go into a shipper box. Limited Edition gowns are
wrapped in tissue with a band of vellum that says Madeleine Rose Couture wrapped
around them. Then they are placed in a plastic bag and in an
appropriately-sized shipper box."
To advertise her outfits, Lori
has a "first to know" mailing list. Once those who have signed up on her
list have been notified, she posts her outfits on the doll message boards,
including Prego®. Additionally, she has regular contact with many of her
While Lori has not yet attended
a doll convention, she does plan on going to the October Gene's Hollywood Memories®
convention at the Biltmore in Los Angeles, since it is local for her.
Unfortunately for potential buyers, at this convention, she's just attending to get a feel for what
conventions are like and doesn't plan to sell her outfits there.
Along with sewing and collecting,
Lori's hobbies include scrapbooking
with Creative Memories® and interior
design. Within the next few years, Lori hopes to be very well-known as a
miniature couture designer. By the time she retires, she hopes to be
"lounging in luxury."
Maddie Rose & Lori