This Feature Story appeared in the Keeping Ken Ken News! on June 17, 2003.

Keeping Ken  Ken News Feature Archive 

Create Outrageous Fashions!

Ken® Cool Creations™ Paint 'n Dazzle™ Fashions!

Totally cool outfits you design!

Pictured Above:  Paint 'N Dazzle Ken doll fashions pictured on the packaging back.

Historically, fabric painting has been popular in the Far East for many centuries. Although dyes were first developed around 1850 that were appropriate for dyeing silk, it was not until around 1920 that silk painting started to develop as we know it today. Interestingly, Russian emigrants who had fled to Paris earned a living designing and painting exquisite men's silk handkerchiefs. Experimenting, they began to paint on silk fabric in the hopes of developing other items for sale and silk painting was born. It soon evolved into painting on other items such as scarves and wall hangings and grew from there.

At the end of WWII, with supplies scarce and money tight, designers and the French women for whom they designed looked for ways to express their delight in the achievement of peace. They turned to decorative scarves to symbolize the times. Famous artists were commissioned to design silk: Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Henri Matisse and many others. This creative and competitive pressure to produce fresh new ideas for the textile and fashion industry was the main ingredient needed to develop the medium of silk painting. Artists constantly experimented, manipulating the techniques and sharing knowledge, until silk painting emerged as a popular creative expression. Today, it appeals to many because it allows everyone to create their own original work and does not necessarily require refined drawing skills.

A surge in interest by Western artists has generated a bonanza of new products designed to make the process easier and more attractive to the novice. Faster, less involved dye setting and easier creative tools have helped to make silk painting one of the most popular fabric-related art forms today.


Western novice artists weren't limited to silk as a backdrop to their artistic endeavors.  For a small outlay on a few colors and a suitable brush, fabric painting opened up endless opportunities for transforming your wardrobe and your home. It enabled the artist to create one-of-a-kind pieces of wearable art (t-shirts are the most common) or to design some special cushion covers, curtains, or a wall hanging.

Fabric Art hit its most popular peak during the early 1990's.  Suddenly, t-shirts with artistic expressions became part of most women's weekend apparel.  Fabric Art would follow earlier novice art expressions like paint-by number in the fifties, macramé in the seventies and ceramic art in the eighties...and become just as popular.  But Fabric Art took the artist to a more personalized level, because the canvas to create your masterpiece was a blank piece of material.  Not only that, it was "wearable art".

Mattel jumped into the Fabric Art popularity by creating canvases for their novice consumer artists as well.  Four Paint 'N Dazzle Barbie® dolls were produced (Box date 1993) .  You could choose from either three Caucasian dolls with different color hair (Blonde, Redhead and a Brunette) or a Black doll.  Each doll wears a different fashion and every doll has her own unique accessories and Tulip Fabric Paint for a different way to decorate. "Squiggle on the paint. Then add some decorations. It's easy! It's fun! And, best of all it's yours. You decide how you want Barbie to look!" A Paint 'N Dazzle Barbie® convertible was also available.  It came with two pieces of jersey like material (pink and blue) that could be decorated then stretched over the convertible.  Then you put a clear top over the fabric to hold it in place.

Pictured Left:  Paint 'N Dazzle Barbie (Redhead).  Below:  Paint 'N Dazzle Car.

Three different Paint 'N Dazzle fashions were available for Ken® doll in 1993.

Paint 'n Dazzle Fashion #10073

This knit separates fashions features a brunette doll with a 1991 Modified Alan™ head mold on the packaging front.  The lime green pants are paired with a turquoise long-sleeve shirt and a multi-neon color baseball cap.

Fabric Art Accessories:

Multi color "jewels".  

Fish shape sponge.  

Neon yellow Tulip brand fabric paint.

Paint 'n Dazzle Fashion #10074

This three-piece fashion features the same brunette doll with a 1991 Modified Alan™ head mold on the packaging front.  Acid washed "jeans" are paired with a neon orange tank and white jacket.

Fabric Art Accessories:

Silver rectangle shape confetti.  

Light blue "jewels".  

Sparkle blue Tulip brand fabric paint.

Paint 'n Dazzle Fashion #10075

This woven/knit combo fashion features a blonde doll with a 1990 Alan™ head mold on the packaging front.  Black/hot pink print pants are paired with a black short-sleeve t-shirt and a black/white check waist pack.

Fabric Art Accessories:

Multi color star shape confetti.  

Palm tree shape sponge.  

Green Tulip brand fabric paint.


It is interesting to note that a Paint 'N Dazzle Ken® doll wasn't included in the domestic market line, but Paint 'N Dazzle Ken® fashions were produced anyway.  It is probably fair to assume that one was designed, put never produced for the domestic market.  The design may have been transferred or incorporated for Visual Jeans Ken (Brazil) Model # 10.56.27 (Box date 1993).  This doll was available the same year as the Paint 'N Dazzle Barbie® dolls and Paint 'N Dazzle Ken® doll fashions were available on the domestic market.  Made by Estrela in Brazil under license from Mattel, a Visual Jeans Ken® and Barbie® doll were produced.  Both dolls were only available in Brazil.

Visual Jeans Ken® doll has painted blonde hair and uses the  1991 Modified Alan head mold.  His outfit consists of medium purple single pleated pants with white stitching and a matching jacket.  A sleeveless white knit turtle neck shirt is also included with white lace-up Tennis shoes.  The Visual Jeans Barbie® doll has a matching outfit (vest and skirt) made of the same with the same purple fabric with a white lace top.

While Fabric Art was still the theme, a yellow flower shaped sponge with white chalk center replaced the Tulip Fabric Paint.  When dampening the sponge, you can apply the chalk to the fabric.  This effect made the purple outfit look more "broken-in" or worn.  Two sheets of prismatic stickers with red or green shapes were also included to add more dramatic effects the the outfit.

Pictured Right:  Visual Jeans Ken.  Below:  Visual Jeans Barbie and Ken dolls, pictured on the back box packaging.

With the 1993 Paint 'N Dazzle line, Mattel proved once again that the were "in-the-know" about the latest fashion trends.  While these fashions may seem over-the-top by today standards, remember, this was only 10 years ago.  Like most Barbie® and Ken® dolls, this important, piece of fashion history craze will forever be captured in this line.

Want to relive the Fabric Art craze all over again? Here are some tips to reacquaint yourself.

10 Tips for Fabric Painting by Marion Boddy-Evans at


Fabric Painting Tip 1. Will anything less than 100 per cent do?
Purists say the best fabric for painting on is 100 per cent cotton with a tight weave (an off-white or cream fabric will dull the paint slightly). But good results can be obtained with rayons and silks too. The best is to try a sample square to check the results.

Fabric Painting Tip 2. Tight is bright
If a fabric is loosely woven, paint tends to seep through the treads before it's dry. This tends to reduce the intensity of the colors. A finely woven fabric is also easier to paint detail on than a loosely woven one.

Fabric Painting Tip 3. To prewash or not to prewash?
The reason for prewashing fabric before painting on it is to remove any sizing added during manufacture which may prevent the paint from adhering to the surface. It also gives it a chance to shrink, if it's going to. To test whether a piece of fabric really needs prewashing, drop a little bit of water on it. If it beads up on the surface, it needs washing. If it sinks in, so should paint okay.

Fabric Painting Tip 4. Skip the softener
If you do wash a fabric, don't add fabric softener! You're trying to get rid of chemicals, not add new ones.

Fabric Painting Tip 5. Get rid of wrinkles
Take the time to iron the fabric well. Wrinkles can create havoc on a design.

Fabric Painting Tip 6. The heat is one
The easiest way to set fabric paints is to iron it for a few minutes (check the manufacturer's instructions). If you iron on the wrong side of the fabric, the paint will still set fine and you don't have to worry about it rubbing off onto the iron or the colors bleeding into each other. Alternatively, use a press cloth. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly before ironing – at least 24 hours. If you've a large project, you may want to try your tumble drier – tumble a sample piece on high for half an hour, then wash it to see if your drier was warm enough. If you're really brave, you can try setting it in your oven.

Fabric Painting Tip 7. Go with the flow
Wetting the fabric with clean water before painting it encourages colors to flow into each other, like in a watercolor. But don't add too much water, as it'll dilute the colors; the fabric should be damp, not soaking.

Fabric Painting Tip 8. Tread softly
Stamping and stencilling on fabric work best if you're working on a lightly padded surface – an old towel works well. Or if you don't want to sacrifice a towel, cover a sheet of thick card with waxed paper (so it can be wiped clean).

Fabric Painting Tip 9. Bleached-out colors
Bleach can be used to remove (discharge) the dye in a fabric, with unexpected and unpredictable results (do a test square!). Obviously it works best with dark colors. To stop the action of the bleach, rinse in a mix of one cup of white vinegar to half a bucket of water, or wash the fabric straight away. Use a cheap brush to apply bleach, as it'll quickly ruin it.

Fabric Painting Tip 10. One-sided designs
Remember when painting a t-shirt to insert something – a few sheets of newspaper, a bit of card or plastic – inside the shirt so the paint doesn't seep through onto the back of the shirt.