Monday, June 11, 2018

Drawn to Glamour: Fashion Illustrations by Jim Howard, the must-see exhibition at the Denver Art Museum

Lucky me! In May I traveled to the Denver Art Museum to see the spectacular exhibit of fashion illustration art by Jim Howard, my dear friend, colleague and (adopted) great-grandfather.

The exhibition Drawn to Glamour: Fashion Illustrations by Jim Howard runs through August 5, 2018. Please go see it!

Jim Howard and Jenny Taliadoros in front of Denver Art Museum.
Jim and I in pose in front of the Denver Art Museum in an artsy photo by Goran Vejvoda.

I found out about the exhibition in the spring of 2016 when Jim shyly revealed the news. A long-time resident of Denver, Jim was involved with the city's fashion scene which is how he connected with the two amazing women who organized the exhibition, Florence Müller, Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Fashion at the DAM, and Jane Burke, senior curatorial assistant of textile art and fashion at the DAM.

"This is a VERY BIG DEAL," Jim told me. He had to pinch himself to believe it was real. It's not often a living artist gets to see his or her own work on exhibition at a major museum, not to mention an artform that is rarely displayed at any museum.

Jim Howard's fashion illustration work IS a very big deal. At the top of his career, Jim's art appeared weekly in the New York Times, often full page, for luxe department stores including B. Altman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bonwit Teller, Franklin Simon and Bloomingdale's. His dramatic, low-lit illustration style set him apart, creating a legacy of work that is studied in fashion schools today. Lucky for us, he retained many of his illustrations from the 1950s-'80s, and more than 100 of those works were selected for the exhibition. Jim generously donated the collection to the Denver Art Museum so hopefully the exhibition will travel. 

Denver Art Museum visitors in the Jim Howard Fashion Exhibition
Visitors enjoying the Jim Howard Fashion Illustration Exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.

Viewing the Jim Howard Fashion Exhibition at the Denver Art Museum
Some of Jim's earlier works were done in color.

Famous faces by Jim Howard
One of my favorites is the portrait of  legendary editor Diana Vreeland, top left.

Last summer, when th
e exhibition was in the planning stages, several of us in the paper doll community made plans to travel to Denver to see it. The folks at the Denver Art Museum were so pleased that they organized an event around our visit—a panel discussion with three fashion illustrators-turned paper doll artists: Jim Howard, David Wolfe and Sandra Vanderpool. The talk was scheduled for Sunday, May 13, 2018, and I was asked to be the moderator.

David Wolfe, Sandra Vanderpool, Jim Howard, Jane Burke, Jenny Taliadoros
What a wonderful panel discussion with David Wolfe, Sandra Vanderpool and Jim Howard. In the back I'm joined by Jane Burke of the Denver Art Museum.

Jim Howard Paper Doll Book Signing at Denver Art Museum
It was wonderful to see kids interested in fashion illustration! 

The "Fashioning Illustration: Drawing to Glamour Panel Discussion" was a grand success! The theater was packed and the audience enjoyed the delightfully informative panelists. Chatting like the old friends that they are, Jim, David and Sandy talked about the humble beginnings of their careers, each thinking they had their dream job only to be catapulted to greater success. Sandy's work took her to LA, while Jim's career trajectory took him to New York and David went from a small town department store to fashion salons across Europe. Eventually, they channeled their talents into paper doll art, creating beautiful books for my publishing company, Paper Studio Press. The discussion and audience Q&A revealed interesting, intriguing and truly humorous aspects of their unique careers.

Do you wish you could have been there? Well, you can! The museum generously recorded the panel discussion and it's available to view on our Paperdoll Review YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Following the talk, the book signing for Jim Howard's paper doll books and prints (sold in the museum's gift shop) had fans lined up across the stage, down the length of the theater and across the back. Amazing! That evening, the museum hosted a cocktail party for us at the chic apartment of Florence Müller and her husband, Goran Vejvoda. We all felt like VIPs.

Denver Art Museum Cocktail Party
Left: Jim Howard, Florence Muller, David Wolfe. Right: Jane Burke and Jenny Taliadoros

But let's get back to the museum where we spent HOURS in the Jim Howard exhibition. How wonderful it was to see so much of Jim's original art in one place, beautifully displayed in a multi-room space that included mannequins dressed in vintage clothes, display cases of newspaper and magazines of Jim's work and a video interview that ran on a loop. I LOVED observing the museum visitors as they took in the exhibit, so engaged with each piece, and talking with a friend or family member about their own memories of such fashions. My very favorite moment occurred as three young folks watched the video interview. At the point in the story when Bullocks was sold to Macy's, who was using photography for their advertising thereby ending Jim's career, all three youngsters expressed, in unison, a disappointing "Ohhh..."

Retro fashion displayed in Jim Howard Fashion Illustration Exhibition
Giant decals of Jim's fashion illustrations juxtaposed with vintage fashions displayed on mannequins.

Vintage Menswear in the Jim Howard Fashion Exhibition
Retro menswear on display with a fashion illustration blow-up.

Valerie Keller views newspaper and magazine fashion illustration
Valerie Keller views a display of work with a giant cowboy looming over her shoulder.

Jim Howard Video Interview Denver Art Museum
LOVED seeing museum visitors so engaged with Jim's artwork and video. 

We also spent lots of time in the museum gift shop talking to patrons near the display of products featuring Jim's work such as tote bags, mugs, posters, pencils and of course paper doll books. It was also very exciting to see Jim's art displayed on giant banners around the museum and even on the elevator doors.

Jim Howard Fashion Banners at the Denver Art Museum
Featured on the museum banners and elevator, Jim Howard's "Womens Sunnies," 1981, Charcoal on paper; 23 x 16.

On Monday, Jim treated us to brunch in his beautiful apartment, elegantly decorated with antique pieces and his own artwork, varying in subject and style including southwestern landscapes, brightly colored portraits and sophisticated fashion collages. Jim and I even conducted a business meeting, going over ideas for his next paper doll book and reviewing the progress on his soon-to-be-launched website. 

Paper Doll Brunch with Jim Howard
A paper doll brunch with Jim Howard! Micheal O'Hara, Valerie Keller, David Wolfe, Kwei-lin Lum, Betty Kappel, Jim Howard, Jenny Taliadoros, Sharry O'Hare, Ron Fong. 

Jim Howard's various painting styles and subjects.

Remember how I mentioned that Jim saved some of his fashion illustration work? Well, a few of those pieces will be available for purchase on Jim's website! He provided a few examples to show you here. If interested, please email Jim Howard. Once his website is live, I'll be sure to let you know.

Jim Howard's original fashion illustrations for sale
Jim Howard original works for sale, prices range from $700-$1400. Email Jim Howard for more info. 

And let's not forget that Jim's work is easily accessible (and affordable at just $12/book) in the form of paper dolls! Please look for Jim's books on, eBay and

Jim Howard's paper doll books
Shop for Jim Howard's beautiful paper doll books at!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

That New Book Smell... New Paper Dolls Fresh off the Press!

Remember that new book smell? That slightly dusty, slightly soapy aroma that hits your senses as you crack open a new book? As a kid I distinctly remember the arrival of the annual edition of the World Book Encyclopedia. My mom taught me to carefully open the book in several different places to gently break in the spine, and once limber we could dive in. Today we just look up stuff online, but back in the 1970s those books were my ticket to the world. My favorite volume was the Letter D because it contained a big section on dogs. I logged in countless hours looking at the little pictures of dog breeds and dreaming of having my own one day.

Now in my 50s, that new book smell is an integral part of my life and livelihood through my publishing company, Paper Studio Press. I’m lucky to have an amazing printing company here in western Maine. After each new print-run, I fill up our van with boxes of books and drive back, heady with the aroma of that new book smell.

New Paper Doll Books
New Paper Doll Books! Silent Screen Stars, Ladies of the Titanic, My Dolly and Me

Fresh off the press this month are three amazing new paper doll titles, Ladies of the Titanic by Norma Lu Meehan and Randy Bryan Bigham, Silent Screen Stars by David Wolfe, and My Dolly and Me by Eileen Rudisill Miller. I’m so proud of each book and I so enjoyed working with our talented artists and contributors. I hope you’ll add these special titles to your collection! They’re all available on and As publisher and editor, I was integrally involved in each project and I’m happy to give you some behind-the-scenes scoop on each of these special books.

Ladies of the Titanic Paper Dolls
by Norma Lu Meehan and Randy Bryan Bigham 

Ladies of the Titanic was suggested to us by Randy Bryan Bigham. An expert on early 20th century fashion, Randy offered a wealth of reference material to represent real women who traveled aboard the ill-fated ship. Based on the format of our paper doll books, we felt we could represent six ladies, four from first class and one each from second class and third class. Randy curated a collection of photographs and fashion notes for our artist, Norma Lu Meehan, who so lovingly illustrated the figures and their costumes.

I'm pleased to announce that Ladies of the Titanic Paper Dolls will be sold at the Titanic Branson Museum, the Titanic Pigeon Forge Museum and the Molly Brown House Museum in Denver, Colorado.

The doll on the cover is Dorothy Gibson, age 22, film actress and artist’s model. She and her mother, Pauline, escaped on the first lifeboat launched after the ship struck the iceberg. She went on to star in the first motion picture made after the tragedy, Saved From the Titanic, released a month after the sinking.

Ladies of the Titanic
Dorothy Gibson, featured on the cover, is wearing a pale pink chiffon and satin evening dress, trimmed with gold metallic lace, cream net lace and silk flowers.

The three dolls on the back cover represent millionairess and suffrage advocate Margaret “Unsinkable Molly” Brown, fashion writer and importer Edith Rosenbaum Russell and acclaimed fashion designer Lucy Duff Gordon (working under the name Lucile).

Ladies of the Titanic Paper Doll
Ladies of the Titanic Paper Dolls, Margaret Brown, Edith Rosenbaum, Lucy Duff Gordon

With her husband, Albert, Sylvia Caldwell, age 28, was a teacher at the Bankok Christian College for Boys in Thailand, but her ill health forced the couple to return to the United States with their young son, Alden. The Caldwells were second class passengers on the Titanic and managed to escape together in a lifeboat. Sylvia is best remembered in Titanic lore for asking a crew member on deck if the ship was really unsinkable. He replied, “God himself cannot sink this ship.”

Sylvia Caldwell, Titanic Survivor
Sylvia Caldwell, her husband and young son, all survivors of the Titanic.

Catherine (“Kit”) Buckley lost her life in the Titanic disaster, the fate of many women in steerage. At age 22, Catherine was immigrating from Ireland to join her half-sister as a servant in Massachusetts.

Catherine Buckley, Titanic
This photo of Catherine Buckley was taken shortly before sailing on the Titanic.

Silent Screen Stars Paper Dolls by David Wolfe

The lights dim, the piano plays and the film projector clicks as the first title card appears on the screen. It's the silent film era—the three-decade period at the beginning of the 20th century that gave birth to the film industry, Hollywood and movie stars. Silent Screen Stars, the 5th in "David Wolfe's History of Hollywood Fashions" series celebrates six of our earliest stars—Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, and Greta Garbo—and costumes from their silent films.

This super-sized volume provides 6 paper dolls on a cardstock centerfold and 10 pages of costumes for the silent screen stars, plus authoritative commentary by David Wolfe, the popular artist and Hollywood fashion historian. This is my favorite David Wolfe paper doll to date!

Silent Screen Stars Paper Dolls
Dynamite dressed dolls from David Wolfe's Silent Screen Stars
Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford, Lilian Gish, Louise Brooks, Greta Garbo and Clara Bow.

Silent Screen Stars
David’s cover design captures the over-dramatic acting in silent films.

Silent Screen Stars Paper Doll Costumes
For each of his paper doll books, David sketches the costumes and like a puzzle, determines how to make the clothes fit on each page.

Lilian Gish Portraits
Always on a quest to perfect a likeness, David often draws several portraits before choosing one to attach to the body. For the final Lilian Gish doll, he chose the portrait on the right.

My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Book by Eileen Rudisill Miller

With two grown-up boys of her own, Rudy never had a little girl to shop for and dress, so creating the My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Book was a dream assignment. Because we are often asked for more African-American paper dolls, Rudy put beautiful Maia on the front cover along with her little doll Harper. Maia’s best friend is cute, blonde Caya. The girls have a fun wardrobe of clothes to wear for all kinds of activities. Not only do the girls have matching outfits for their dolls, but the dolls can swap outfits, too. I hope this will inspire little girls of today to play with paper dolls. In this easy-to-cut book, the dolls are around 9 1/2 inches high and the dollies are around 4 3/4 inches high. There are 32 outfits in all!

My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Book
Rudy’s preliminary cover sketch and the final cover.

My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Sketches
More preliminary sketches for My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Book.
My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Book
Front and back covers and some of the super charming clothes pages.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Take Two MGMs and Call Me in the Morning

“Take two MGMs and call me in the morning.” That’s my preferred prescription when I’m feeling under the weather. My favorite MGM medicine is in the form of any movie starring Esther Williams, Hollywood’s swimming sensation of the 1940s and ‘50s. It’s so very soothing to watch beautiful Esther in those spectacular water ballets. This week, however, as I prepared for my first colonoscopy (yes, the prep is just as awful as everyone says), I took one MGM starring Jane Powell. Thanks to a recent Jane Powell movie marathon on TCM, I had four excellent options on my DVR: The Girl Most Likely (1958), Nancy Goes to Rio (1950), Hit the Deck (1955) and Two Weeks With Love (1950).

My choice was easy—Two Weeks With Love, my all-time favorite. 

The plot is simple and sweet. Taking place at the turn-of-the-century, 17-year-old Patti Robinson (Jane Powell) is miserable because her mother (Ann Harding) doesn’t see her as being grown up enough to wear a corset. During a two-week family vacation in the Catskills, Patti quickly becomes infatuated with a newcomer to the summer resort in the form of Ricardo Montalban as Demi Armendez, the nephew of a regular patron. But Patti’s rival, the slightly older, corset-wearing Valerie Stresemann (Phyllis Kirk) wants Demi for herself and manipulates Patti into acting silly in the hopes that Demi will see Patti as a child. But Demi is delighted by Patti and her antics. She agrees to dance with Demi, but keeps his hands far from her torso so he won’t notice the embarrassing absence of a corset.

Dashing Demi is charmed by sweet Patti, milk mustache and all.

Patti prefers dancing arm-to-arm in hopes that Demi won't notice her corsetless attire.

Things get worse for Patti when mean ol’ Valerie reveals her secret to the other young folk and they instantly taunt Patti, calling her a baby. Her subsequent fit of tears plays on her father’s (Louis Calhern) heartstrings. Accusing his wife of not doing a proper job of parenting, he takes it upon himself to buy a corset for his troubled daughter. Unfortunately, the ladies’ shop is closed so he buys a corset from the nearby drugstore, not realizing it is medical garment re-enforced with steel. But Patti is thrilled and dresses up for the evening’s festivities in her new corset and one of her mother’s dresses. Demi is the first to see the new Patti, so shapely and mature. They are whisked off to do a dance number in the fund-raising variety show. All is wonderful until the dip at the very end when her corset locks her into a backbend. Her family rushes onto the stage and she is released from the stranglehold. Finally, her mother acknowledges that it’s time to let her little girl grow up and agrees to buy her a fashionable La Belle Mode corset the very next day.

It is indeed a happy ending as we see Patti and Demi walk off into the sunset, with plans to court (with Father’s permission of course) when they return to the city. Now that you’ve got the main storyline, I must share some other endearing parts of this movie.

No. 1. Debbie Reynolds as Jane’s kid sister Melba 

Debbie is DARLING in this role! She sings, she dances, she charms, she wisecracks, and she has a big crush on Billy Finley (Carlton Carpenter), however, he has a crush on Patti. Melba and Billy have several fun song-and-dance numbers together, and if you don’t take the time to watch the entire movie, search on Youtube for “Abba Dabba Honeymoon” and “Row Row Row.” These numbers were such a hit that MGM sent the Debbie and Carlton on a cross-country tour to perform songs and promote the movie.

Debbie Reynolds is DELIGHTFUL in Two Weeks With Love!

A fun song-and-dance number with Debbie Reynolds and Carlton Carpenter

No. 2. Patti’s dream sequences

One evening the guests pair up for boat rides (and of course they are all singing “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”). Valerie has her hooks into Demi, leaving Patti in a canoe by herself where she fantasizes that Demi is with her. She becomes so dramatic with her imagined scene that she falls overboard, only to be rescued by Demi. Bummer for Valerie. The second fantasy sequence puts Patti in the corset of her dreams—a frothy pink confection—and she parades herself, singing and dancing, in front of all the hotel guests. 

No. 3. Busby Berkeley

The song-and-dance routines are extra cheeky and charming thanks to the brilliance of the famed choreographer.

No. 4. Super dorky scenes 

Like the accidental fireworks display emanating from under the bed of Patti’s brothers, or Patti enlisting her siblings to bury her in the sand so Demi can’t see her in her unflattering bathing costume.

No. 5. Everything Jane Powell

I love every single nuance of her performance—her furtive glances with those bright blue eyes, her awkward attempts at being sophisticated, her dramatic outbursts, and her song-and-dance numbers. Mary Poppins may be practically perfect, but I think Jane Powell is absolutely perfect. 

Happiness is spending an afternoon with sunny Jane Powell

And guess what? I met Jane Powell in real life! In 2008, Jane was the special guest of our National Paper Doll Convention in Piscataway, NJ. She and her husband Dickie Moore were lovely and of course I took the opportunity to ask if we could publish a paper doll book of Jane. She said yes! Popular paper doll artist Marilyn Henry created a gorgeous book filled with Jane’s movie costumes. A few years later we got in touch with Debbie Reynolds, and David Wolfe illustrated a wonderful book of Debbie and her movie clothes.

So next time you’re under the weather, I recommend you take two MGMs and in the morning call your best friend and talk about classic movies… and maybe even paper dolls! 

This Jane Powell Paper Doll Book is a treasure! Illustrated by Marilyn Henry, there are 2 Jane dolls and over 40 fashions from more than a dozen films of the 1940s and 50s.

Marilyn Henry's Jane Powell dressed in the corset of her dreams. 

David Wolfe included Jane's frothy corset in his delightful Hollywood Gets Undressed Paper Doll Book.

Darling Debbie Reynolds is the subject of this charming 2011 paper doll book

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

You Can't Take Yellow for Granted – Documentary and Paper Dolls Inspired by Nature

Leaning Into the Wind Documentary

I was not blown away by Leaning Into the Wind, the 2018 documentary about nature artist Andy Goldsworthy. In 2002, however, I was spellbound by his first documentary Rivers and Tides, bearing witness to poetic art forms created in nature with nature—a bright red poppy petal covered rock nestled among a pile of boulders, a spiral made of broken ice, or a collection of red berries nestled inside geometric shapes of leaves floating down a river. But this new documentary did not give me the same harmonious feeling. His art creations were more strange and I found the score to be eerie and unsettling.

Nature Art by Andy Goldworthy

I didn’t dislike the documentary. It was truly fascinating to see the world through the eyes of an innovative artist. Goldworthy explains, “There are two different ways of looking at the world— you can walk on the path or you can walk through the hedge.” And indeed several times during the film we witnessed Goldsworthy painstakingly navigate through a bramble of hedges next to a sidewalk or alongside a country road. He is also fond of lying on the ground when it starts to rain, staying long enough to create a dry shape of his existence, visible for a matter of seconds until the rain blots it away. Much of what Goldsworthy does is ephemeral, taking hours or days to carefully create an artistic expression only to be washed away, blown away or melted. Color in nature is often temporary, especially yellow. Fall leaves can so quickly change from a yellow green to the perfect vivid yellow and then one cold night can turn them black. “You can never take yellow for granted,” he says.

Throughout the film I wondered what it would be like to spend an entire day outside creating art with nature. Could I have that kind of patience? I thought about people who do gardening or landscaping and the gratification they must feel working with elements of the earth. I thought about our own innovative paper doll artist, Kwei-lin Lum, who infuses her background in biodiversity with her paper doll art as evidenced in this example from her self-published Wonder Garden Paper Doll Set.

Wonder Garden Paper Doll by Kwei-lin Lum
Pages from “Wonder Garden Paper Doll Set” by Kwei-lin Lum, 2013
Kwei-lin is truly one of the most interesting people in my life and I’m grateful to have her as a friend and as an artist for my publishing company. I’m wild about her MOD POP Paper Dolls, a Paper Studio Press title published in 2012. She’s also done some terrific books for Dover Publishing including Day of the Dead, Chinatown, Voodoo, Speakeasy and Twisted Fairy Tales.

Her paper doll art is both whimsical and intelligent, each page a cacophony of color, design and pattern. Kwei-lin is not afraid to use strange shapes and whacky patterns for her paper dolls, costumes, scenes and props, and it’s easy to get lost in the details on each intriguing page. Kwei-lin Lum’s paper doll books are available on and And I encourage you to visit her website, for her wild and wonderful self-published paper doll sets.

MOD POP Paper Dolls
MOD POP Paper Dolls by Kwei-lin Lum, Paper Studio Press, 2012

Innovative paper dolls by Kwei-lin Lum
Intriguing subjects and innovative designs in Kwei-lin Lum’s paper doll books for Dover Publications