Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Do You Think I Should Do?


The 54" width of the fabric.

I've had this fabric, "Brunei" by Lee Behren, for over seven years as drapery rolls wrapped in plastic in my closet. I have at least six yards. In fact, I went back later and bought more so I'm not really sure how much I have now. I really loved this fabric and did make two pillows out of it; however, the motivation to make this into a coverlet/quilt like the one below passed years ago.


Detail of fabric middle.






A photo shoot in Living Room* magazine of an Anthropologie comforter.


You see how the Anthropologie coverlet has a distinct color change down the middle just the same as my fabric? I remember feeling that it was a sign and "meant to be". And it was at the time, too bad I took too long to stitch it up. Now I'm not so much into a lot of pink in my bedroom. So I'm trying to think up some way to make this fabric work by combining it with more orange and green fabrics. Perhaps a big border of another patterned fabric? Intersperse strips within the design or create a patchwork like the examples below?



Comforters from The Company Store.

However, that would mean buying more fabric and I already have enough for two coverlets! Can somebody help me with this?! Suggestions are welcome!




It's lovely though, isn't it?



*A great magazines that was canceled after only three issues.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What Was Lost Is Found!

Have no idea which machine this is.

I just heard from my older sister that she found an old sewing machine in her garage. She thinks it might be our mother's, the same one that we all thought had been sold at a garage sale years ago.

I have no idea which one it is, the Kenmore which I learned on (UPDATE: It IS the Kenmore!!!!!) or the later date Pfaff. I probably won't get to see it until later this year or at Christmas but it's nice to know that I can look forward to it coming home with me. When I get more details I'll be sure to let you know.

Now it's time for me to go sew something during this long weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Walter Plunkett - Fashion Historian

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Walter Plunkett (1902-1982) American

Gold lame costume, Christopher Strong, 1933.

Walter Plunkett was born in California. However, when he decided he wanted to be an actor, he first moved to New York and only after making that attempt did he return to California to try his hand at Hollywood. After a few bit parts, he accepted a job in the wardrobe department at FBO Studios (later RKO) which at the time specialized in Westerns. Even though he had no formal training, he was soon promoted to costume designer and he was chief designer for RKO Pictures from 1926-1939.

Lana Turner in Green Dolphin Street, 1947.
Walter Plunkett became known in Hollywood as the foremost authority on period costumes. He once said that he loved working on period films because the directors were rarely knowledgeable enough about the period-era fashions in order to argue with him.

Gone With the Wind costume sketches.
Katharine Hepburn, whom Plunkett had dressed in over seven films, was originally interested in the role of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. She recommended the book to Plunkett and after he read it he had his agents write David Selznick to suggest him as the costume designer. Producer Selznick was well aware of his abilities, as Plunkett had designed the costumes for Selznick’s production of Little Women, which had also been set in the 1860s.

Plunkett with Leigh in the "Barbecue dress."

Velvet dressing gown, Gone With The Wind.

For Gone with the Wind, he was responsible for one of the most famous movie costumes ever made; the moss green velvet dress, made from the family drapes, that Scarlet O’Hara wears to entice Rhett Butler to marry her. Plunkett contrasted the changes in Scarlet’s life circumstances by dressing her in light organdy, tulle, and cotton in the first half of the film. In the second half, in order to show her new level of affluence after her marriages, he dressed her in silks and numerous velvet garments of various jewel colors.

Silk evening gown, Adam's Rib, 1949.
After resigning in 1935, Plunkett continued to work in Hollywood as a free-lance designer and was credited with over 260 films.

Katherine Hepburn in A Woman Rebels, 1936.
His Films: Little Women (1933) Alice Adams (1935), A Woman Rebels (1936), Gone With the Wind (1939), Summer Stock (1950), Flying Down to Rio (1933), An American in Paris (1950), Singing In The Rain (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Two Weeks In Another Town (1962).

His style, innovations, and lasting influence on fashion:

Scarlett O'Hara silk satin wedding dress.
  • For Gone With The Wind, Plunkett created more than 5,000 separate items of clothing for more than fifty major characters.
  • Walter Plunkett would be nominated for the Academy Award ten times. In 1951, he was finally recognized by the Academy for An American in Paris. He shared the award with fellow designers Orry-Kelly and Irene Sharaff.
Sources: Gone With the Wind Exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin; In a Glamorous Fashion: The Fabulous Years of Hollywood Costume Design (1980) W. Robert La Vine; Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label (2008) Christian Esquevin.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Getting It Done

Oh, by the way, I received a B and a C in my spring classes, Global Ethics/World Religions and Medieval Art and Architecture. Two down, only three more to go!

My next class, Architecture in Richmond starts next Tuesday and will be two nights a week for the next eight weeks. After that class is done in July, I should be able to see the light at the end of a very long twenty-year* tunnel. The weight is slowly lifting off my shoulders.


*My original graduation date if I had attended full time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Helen Rose - Mistress Of Chiffon

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Helen Rose (1908 – 1985) American

Grace Kelly on her wedding day, 1956.

Helen Rose, like Edith Head and Irene was one of the rare women who became chief costume designer for a major film studio. Her style was elegant and understated but still innovative and natural looking. She was an expert at working with chiffon, a difficult fabric for some. It was said she favored the fabric because of the way it moved and picked up the light.

Yellow and cream chiffon costume, 1953.

Helen Rose studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and from there was hired by the Lester Costume Company to create costumes for vaudeville such as dancing cupcakes or flowers. She was hired away at double her salary by Ernie Young. Eventually she moved with her family to California and was offered a job at Fox Studios. However, the job only lasted a few months and she returned to theatrical design.

Father's Little Dividend, 1951.
At that point, she was hired as head designer for the Ice Follies, a job that she continued even after she returned to designing for films with her next job creating costumes for musicals at Twentieth Century Fox in 1942.

Doris Day, Love Me or Leave Me, 1955.

In 1943, she was hired by Louis B. Mayer at MGM as one of the staff designers after designer Adrian had resigned. Four years later, when head designer Irene also resigned, the job of chief costume designer was given to Rose. During her time there she dressed the likes of Grace Kelly, Deborah Kerr, Esther Williams, Elizabeth Taylor, and Lana Turner in over 200 films from 1947 to 1966.

Chiffon dress in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.

Rose not only designed Grace Kelly’s costumes for four films including The Swan and High Society but also created the two wedding ensembles worn during her 1956 wedding to Crown Prince Rainier III of Monaco.  Her civil ceremony outfit was a full-skirted suit of dusky rose pink taffeta with beige Alençon lace overlay.  In addition, the floral patterned lace was re-embroidered with dark pink silk thread. Her formal wedding gown was constructed of 25 yards of vintage Brussels rose point lace and silk faille with a high neckline, bell-shaped skirt, long sleeves, and a chapel length train. It had an understated feel not at all expected from a film star but very appropriate for a future member of royalty. Curiously however, it was loosely modeled on another wedding dress created by Rose for the movie Invitation in 1952 that also consisted of a rose point lace blouse attached by a cummerbund to a full skirt.

Grace Kelly civil ceremony suit.

In 1958, she opened her own ready-to-wear label and sold her designs in exclusive department stores such as Bonwit Teller, Marshall Fields, and Joseph Magnin.

Layered chiffon gown from High Society, 1956.

Her Films: Father of the Bride (1950), Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958), High Society (1956), The Swan (1956), The Merry Widow (1952), The Harvey Girls (1946), Designing Woman (1957).

Angela Lansbury, The Harvey Girls, 1940.
Home Sewing connection: She allowed some of her designs to be distributed through Spadea and Advance patterns in the 1950s.

Advance 5422.

Her style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
  • Authored the book Just Make Them Beautiful: The Many Worlds of a Designing Woman in 1976.
  • Won the Academy Award for The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955) along with eight Oscar nominations.
Wedding dress, Father of the Bride.
  • Both Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly were married in her gowns, Elizabeth in an adaption of the one she wore in Father of the Bride (1950).
  • The pale yellow silk organdy and taffeta gowns of Ms. Kelly’s bridesmaids were designed by Joseph Allen Hung, a 25 year old designer of Chinese and Mexican parentage.
  • An early boyfriend of hers that she knew as “Babe” would turn out to be Nathan Leopold Jr., one of the infamous Leopold and Loeb murderers on whom the Alfred Hitchcock film “Rope” was based.
Images: The Vintage Film Costume Collector

Sources:  In a Glamorous Fashion: The Fabulous Years of Hollywood Costume Design (1980) W. Robert La Vine; Grace Kelly: Icon of Style to Royal Bride (2006) H. Kristina Haugland.

In the Details: More Popular Than I Thought...


McCall's 3087, Advance 5062

Remember this first pattern from this post? It was also featured here on the Male Pattern Boldness blog and Noile showed a Japanese version made out of a knit. Man, it was just raining men's pullover shirts then.

Look at that one on the right. This pattern didn't show up on my radar until later, but it should not be forgotten. Just look at that hybrid cowboy/medical internist flair! Oh, and the puffy gathered cuffs! Ooh wee, that's stylin'!

So guess how surprised I was to find that apparently this style was considered unisex and just as popular with the ladies. Behold:


McCall's 3126

So close, even down to the red vertical stripes and matching pocket. No doubt this is the same design, same company, and from the look of the package, probably the same year.

Advance 6934

Am I mistaken but doesn't that red version look kind of hot? Maybe it's the pairing with black, the belt, the bangles, or the popped-up collar but that would look right at home on Leslie Caron. The blue one; however, gives off a nautical vibe, right?

Vogue 8449

Same design but this one looks sporty, note how the back views look more like rain slickers. Also check out the even larger collar and the two hip pockets on the striped version. I have to admit I'm really loving the chartreuse one with the gathered sleeves.

Images: Vintage Patterns Wiki

Monday, May 16, 2011

Free Vintage Sewing Tutorials

*This post has been in draft form for about six months now. Only after seeing Vintage Notions by Amy Barickman in the bookstore did I realize I never published this and that someone besides me might be interested in what I found. So...







Once I found a document on Sewing Vintage's website with instructions on how to draft your own blouse from the 1930s I started to wonder if more of these pamphlets or the directions sometimes detailed in magazines could be found on the web for simple projects like these. Well, they could! These articles provide instruction on creating your own pattern with measurements, a ruler, and tracing paper, though I use butcher paper instead. To save you some trouble, here are the ones that I was able to find: If you know of others, please let me know! Enjoy!

Australian Home Journal, January 1926 1926 beach wrap/cape dropped waist tea frock with flared skirt ladies "jumper" (tunic) with middy collar


Not only that but you can see complete issues (April 1 1949 - Sept 1 1952) of the Australian Home Journal on the Internet Archive here. Bizarre vintage ads, questionable recipes and knitting patterns included.


Woman's Weekly, June 27, 1936 A simple tea frock with cut-on (Magyar) sleeves and an inverted pleat in the skirt, and variations


Fashion Service magazine, August 1931 The Magic Bias slip


Draping and Designing With Scissors and Cloth, a WIDIS (Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences) publication, Simple draping instructions for a dress


Fashion Service Magazine, September 1928 A fairy-like dance dress


Source: Christine’s Costume page; Dressmaking Research

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beware, Politics

I normally don't talk about anything that could be considered controversial on my blog. I hope you don't mind.

For my Global Ethics and World Religions class I wrote my final paper on morality. We had to find a situation (abortion, child labor, privacy laws, etc.) and deem it either immoral or moral and then in the same paper debate it from the other side of the issue. I chose for my paper, Same-Sex Marriage is Moral. This is something very important for me, since I have known many long-term (I'm talking 15 years+) homosexual couples. Well, I finished the paper last week and got a 93 on it.

Then today I just saw this wedding story on the New York Times website of a male couple, together 25 years, who traveled around the country and held wedding ceremonies in all of the states that allow same-sex unions. Yes, all six* of them.

Oh, and perhaps to be cheeky, they staged a guerrilla wedding in California, a state that once did but now doesn't allow them.

Read the story here.

*Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, in case you wanted to know.

Orry Kelly - Master Of Form

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Orry Kelly (1897-1964) Australian

Ava Gardner in One Touch of Venus, 1948.

Orry-Kelly was considered one of the top three costume designers in the 1930s alongside Travis Banton and Adrian. Before being hired by Warner Brothers in 1932, he had designed costumes for Broadway actresses. During his career in films, he dressed numerous studio stars such as Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Kay Francis, Ingrid Bergman, and Rosalind Russell.

Actress Kay Francis in Orry Kelly.

Born John Orry Kelly, he grew up in Australia with his Irish parents. In 1923, he immigrated to New York hoping to be a Broadway star. He worked a variety of jobs, including a successful stint as a mural painter. He also designed for vaudeville as well and more highbrow theater. Originally hired to design theater sets, he was offered a job at Fox in their New York studio art department.

Actress Dolores Del Rio.

Once in Hollywood, he was hired by First National Films (later owned by Warner Brothers) and soon changed his name to Orry-Kelly. On his first film there, The Rich Are Always With Us (1932) he began his long and successful working relationship with Bette Davis. Orry-Kelly was known as the one designer who could satisfy and flatter her figure and personality. He specially designed corsets and brassieres to mold Davis’ figure for period film roles. However, for modern-set films, she refused to wear these types of supportive garments. Instead, Orry-Kelly relied on cleverly cut, well made garments and when dressed by him, Davis seemed elegant and at ease.

Glenda Farrell in Orry-Kelly, 1933.

Orry-Kelly also took historical accuracy more seriously than most of his peers in the shape and scale of the decorative trimmings he used on his costumes. He bridged the gap between realism and the exaggeration needed in movies.

Bette Davis in Jezebel, 1938.

Before color film, black and white films had to suggest colors by using various shades of gray. In reality, the costumes would sometimes be constructed in bizarre color combinations such as lavender and orange or magenta and lemon yellow in order to represent what was desired on screen. In Jezebel, the famous red dress that Bette Davis wears; when created out of bright red satin actually looked dull on film. The final dress ended up being rust-brown in color to appear “red” when rendered in black and white. Orry-Kelly was known to have said that his color range consisted of “varying shades of muck.”

Bette Davis in Dark Victory, 1939.

He was known for being temperamental and argumentative as a result of his alcoholism. He had been discharged from the Army in 1942 for his drinking. During his time at Warner Brothers he was notorious for arguing with his boss Jack Warner and walking out, returning after a few days. In 1944, he was finally fired from Warner Brothers and worked for 20th Century Fox until 1947 and from 1950-1964 he freelanced for Fox, Metro-Goldman-Mayer, and United Artists.

Marilyn Monroe, Some Like It Hot, 1959.
His films: Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939), The Little Foxes (1941), Casablanca (1942), Now Voyager (1942), Some Like it Hot (1959), Baby Face (1931), Auntie Mame (1958), Irma La Douce (1963), and An American in Paris (1950), and Oklahoma (1955).

His style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
  • Former roommate Cary Grant presented his design portfolio to First National Films and won Orry-Kelly the introduction that led to a job offer.
Academy Award winner, Les Girls, 1957.
  • Orry Kelly won three Academy Awards for Les Girls (1957), Some Like It Hot (1959) and An American In Paris (1951), which he shared with Walter Plunkett and Irene Sharaff.
Rosalind Russell is Auntie Mame, 1958.
  • He designed Rosalind Russell’s fabulous, ever-changing wardrobe for the 1958 screen version of Auntie Mame.
  • Orry-Kelly covered his salon reception room with expensive silver leaf and requested a portable bar on wheels for himself and his guests.
Sources: In a Glamorous Fashion: The Fabulous Years of Hollywood Costume Design (1980) W. Robert La Vine; Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label (2008) Christian Esquevin.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Some Pretty For Today: Alabama Chanin



A close-up detail of Alabama Chanin's "Maggie" dress and it's amazing applique technique. See more of the dress here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Jean Louis - Nude Illusionist

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Jean Louis (1907- 1997) French

Marlene Dietrich in Jean Louis.

Jean Louis Berthault attended the design school, Ecole Decoratifs, in France and worked for the fashion house of Agnes-Drecoll. While visiting New York, a friend suggested that he present his sketches to New York City designers. He was eventually hired by Hattie Carnegie and worked with her until the early 1940s when he was hired away by Columbia Pictures in 1944 as assistant to chief designer Travis Banton. After Banton left Columbia for rival studio Universal Studios, Jean Louis became chief designer in his place. Interestingly, his assistant was James Galanos, who in the future would be known as the favored designer for First Lady Nancy Reagan in the 1980s.

Metallic dress, 1960.

Jean Louis (he eventually shortened his name) was known for his sleek, simple, and elegant designs that were free of extraneous details. His clothes had a modern uncluttered silhouette that achieved an undated look and many of these gowns could be easily worn today.

Rita Hayworth in Gilda, 1946.

In 1958, like Travis Banton before him, Jean Louis left Colombia Pictures and defected to Universal Studios for a few years and then worked freelance. During his time at Universal he worked with Rita Hayworth on ten films, among them Gilda (1946), The Lady From Shanghai (1948), and Pal Joey (1957).

Marlene Dietrich on stage.

He went into ready-to-wear with his company, Jean-Louis, Inc. around the time that he started to design and construct stage wear for Marlene Dietrich and her nightclub act. These dresses were feats of engineering, as he, like Christian Dior before him, would create a foundation within the dress so fitted that Ms. Dietrich seemingly defied gravity for many years. He also designed her dresses so that they appeared as if she were only wearing sequins and beads on her bare skin. He achieved this by dying the fabrics to match her skin tone. This was also how he created the famous dress that Marilyn Monroe wore to seductively serenade President Kennedy with “Happy Birthday” in 1962.

"Mr. President" dress.

He eventually designed for television most notably for The Loretta Young Show which was famous for showcasing Ms. Young in one fabulous gown after another every week for a total of 52 gowns a year. After the death of his first wife, Maggy Fisher, Jean Louis eventually married his long-time friend Loretta Young in 1993, with whom he lived until his death in 1997.

The Loretta Young Show opening.

His Films: Pillow Talk (1959) with Doris Day; Gilda (1946) with Rita Hayworth; Bell, Book and Candle (1959) with Kim Novak; Gambit (1966) with Shirley MacLaine; and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) with Mary Tyler Moore, Julie Andrews, and Carol Channing, and The Monte Carlo Story (1957) with Marlene Dietrich.

Julie Andrews,Thoroughly Modern Millie, 1967.
His style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
  • Though he was nominated for an Academy Award fifteen times, he only won once for 1956’s The Solid Gold Cadillac.
United Airlines air hostess.
  • In 1968, he would design the “skimmer” uniform wardrobe for the female flight attendants of United Airlines
Sources: Contemporary Fashion (1995) Therese Duzinkiewicz Baker; In a Glamorous Fashion: The Fabulous Years of Hollywood Costume Design (1980) W. Robert La Vine.