Last year I bought on eBay two beautiful lots of paper dolls, all cut from 1920s fashion magazines. There was a "doll" in each lot -- a woman with her torso and legs cut to about the width of a tongue depressor -- and 50 or so dresses in each lot with the original model's heads and legs cut off, so that you can lay the dress over the doll to change her clothes. I found them when searching for 1920s fashion catalogs for my research, and decided they were a perfect way to give myself a visual of my characters in various outfits. I like dressing them in actual clothing from the period whenever possible.
I decided I didn't want to take them out of the envelopes all the time to dress the paper dolls, though, so last night I scanned every last piece. Here is an example:
Gorgeous, right? These are some of my favorites!
Using the magnetic lasso tool in Photoshop, I then "cut out" the dolls and their clothes, then pasted them onto transparent backgrounds, so that I can dress them just as I would with the physical pieces. This way actually gives me more control, though -- I changed one's hair (originally black) to red for Ruby, and the other (platinum?) to more of a yellow blond for Genevieve. I can also flip dresses from side to side if it makes them fit better, like with the blue dress here. Some fit better than others, and unfortunately, as much as I love the doll I chose for Ruby, she is harder to dress than Genevieve's doll because of her high neckline.
These are dresses I have selected for actual scenes in the novel. As I go through and do revisions, I am filling in particulars such as outfit descriptions, which is why I took time out to do this last night. Now I have the ability to create beautiful visuals for myself (and for you, incidentally) to help me write!
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