Saturday, December 28, 2013

VMFA "Hollywood Costume" Exhibit

On December 14, 2013, I attended the Hollywood Costume exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I had been looking forward to this show for almost a year only to move out of town a week before it opened. Then, when the scheduled day finally came, I ended up feeling ill and almost canceling (if I had not had people expecting me to be there.) I'm glad I went after all (we had our tickets changed from 10am to 11am after I was over 20 minutes late!*
Funny Girl

The exhibit, on loan from the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum in London, England, explored the important role that costume design plays in character and story development. This particular show differed from the private collection I saw at the James L. Michener museum in Pennsylvania a few years ago, in the fact, that the majority of costumes were more modern. The most represented decades were the 80-90s. However, I was not disappointed.

The exhibit was arranged into small themed sections, complete with movie soundtracks, still shots of the costumes on actors, and film clips. Also present were video interviews with directors, actors, and costume designers, such as Tim Burton, Meryl Streep, and designer Sandy Powell.

A few costumes that caught my eye because of their details:
  • Marilyn Monroe's The Seven Year Itch dress, though copied many times, I was still surprised to see the crossed straps and tied bow detail on the midriff waistband. I had not seen many of the replicas include that detail.
  • Johnny Depp's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ensemble with a worn waxed cloth jacket with wide, strangely high breastbone pockets (I suppose made for his razors)
  • Sandy Powell's costume for Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York a perfect example of distressed clothing, no lining, and with no finishing except a zigzag stitch.

There were three costumes I was pleasantly surprised to see, from three of my favorite movies, a cozy green secretary ensemble from Vertigo (1957), a purple sequin and silk flower covered 1930s-inspired frock from Funny Girl (1968) and an exquisite hippy-chic wedding gown from Camelot**(1967).

*Sorry, Audrey!
** Expect to read more about the costumes from this movie soon.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Update: Counting Down The Year

Wow, last time I wrote was almost a month ago. Here is what has happened:
  • I had my first eye exam in four years at America's Best and ordered two pairs of glasses. I hope they turn out cool enough that I no longer feel like an old-school librarian when they're on. Nothing wrong with librarians, some of my best friends are librarians. However, I think of the old stereotype, tight bun, horn-rimmed glasses, pursed lips, and most likely a bitter old maid.
  • I had the internet enabled in the house via Cox Cable, bought a USB wireless adapter at Wal-Mart, returned it after ordering a much better and cheaper one over the Internet, and just ordered 1 GB of memory. Hopefully, after install, searching the web won't take as long as it does now.
  • I am working on my next sewing project, which will give me 12 finished projects for 2013. I even challenged myself because it involves stripe matching in chevrons!
  • Downloaded eight Burdastyle patterns that I wanted from the 10/2012 issue via the new North American version of the magazine. All of them are from the only issue that I've felt was worth the international expense because of the ratio of me-style patterns inside.
  • Had my hair cut short at my Dad's barber shop. It now looks better than my prior self-done haircuts.
  • Helped my dad out with raking the leaves in our large yard. Hard, sweaty work that I did not like when in the middle of it, but love the feeling afterwards. I guess I should exercise more often, huh?
  • Attended the Virginia Museum of Fine Art's Hollywood Costume exhibition on December 14. Unfortunately, I was ill and arrived late but they graciously changed the time of our tickets. It was worth it to me. There were not as many vintage iconic costumes as my last costume exhibit but there were many surprises in this V&A museum show from London, including costumes from Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese movies. I also loved the addition of director, star, and costume designer video interviews.
  • That same weekend, I attended a performance of Mulan put on by the students of Richmond's Fox Elementary school. I have attended all of the performances that my friend's children have participated in and have had a blast. What a great Richmond public school and what a fabulous school program.

I am looking forward to a fun, educational, and prosperous 2014 next year!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Book Review: Wordbirds by Liesl Schillinger

A few weeks before my big move, Simon & Schuster sent me a newly published book, Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century (2013) by Liesl Schillinger and illustrated by Eliza Zechel. The book is a little over 200 pages.

It is written as a dictionary, complete with phonetic transcription and part of speech, that examines the concept of Wordbirds = word combinations creating a new word with a new meaning and then illustrated by a bird-related image. The images are delicate and in the cataloging style of bird watching journals

Goods one such as:
  • Hyperscentilate (v.) To apply too much perfume, surrounding yourself in a thick, aromatic mist that causes people to choke, sneeze, and cough, (p. 8).
  • Shoeicide (n.) The act of destroying your feet by deliberately wearing shoes you suspect or know to be excruciatingly painful, usually out of vanity, (p. 15).
  • Tyrannitot (n.) Child who is permitted (or encouraged) to dominate adult social gatherings and indulge its whims in all particulars, (p.164).

Personally, as a person who talks about my love of dogs and how I want one so bad, yet still have not brought one home, I feel a deep affection for Dawgle (p. 148) and Procrastidate (p. 119) having used my returning to school later in life as an excuse to put off dating. Other great words to check out would be invipaytion (p.45), polterguy (p. 118), phonedeaf (p. 98), and the highly accurate GP-Ass (p.175).

Until I selected the above list of words I had not realized how many of these could easily be used in conversation. Knowing that the book originated from the Ms. Schillinger’s popular tumbler site, I wonder now how many of these have already entered the modern vocabulary.

I find the words and definitions clever and enjoyable; however, I am less a fan of these particular illustrations. While they are definitely gorgeous and finely detailed, the style seems at odds with the youth and irreverence of the text.

I see the images more suited for a tome of poetry or a novel. If I had read the text alone, I would have suggested something younger in feel, a bit less realistic with more whimsy and humor. The text is the most important element. However, the images are what gave the book its title…Wordbirds; therefore, they are an intractable part of the project. Therefore, my suggestions about the ornithology images are moot and just my humble opinion.

Overall, I can see this book as a great holiday gift for someone with a keen sense of humor.

Illustrations: Eliza Zechel

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Absence

Sorry, I have no access to a computer except the 1 hour allotments you get at the public library. SO NOT working for job hunting. Then my father still thinks that you walk into businesses and hand over your resume. I'm going crazy, I want a job but my known way of going about it is gone.

Give me suggestions, what should I do? Is that even done anymore, or do most companies want you to submit resumes online? Thanks.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

How Little Can I Live With?

Much more than I thought or want.  Really.

My thought was to purge a lot of unwanted stuff and start over this part of my life by living more simply but I still ended up with...say it again?  Much more than I wanted.  This is what was left after a packed-car trip to the new place!

Does not include the furniture that I will take! 

The biggest space hogs among my moving boxes are the six and a half boxes and plastic totes devoted to sewing books and fabric.  That is even more than the space devoted to my finished items of clothing!  That does not even include the two sewing machines, a table and a wardrobe dedicated to hold everything.  For sure, this is not a hobby suited for minimal living!

I guess I will never be able to live like this:
All-in-one unit. Designer unknown.

let alone this apartment in 300 square feet.

The funny thing is that I really thought I had less sewing "stuff n' stash" than most  bloggers I read until I combined the stuff from my bedroom closet, under the bed, in the wardrobe/armoire, on my bookshelf, and next to and in the sewing table. Yes, in denial, was I.  So can anyone show me a seamster/sewist* that does live minimally?  I'm serious, I dare you!

*Of adult garments, not quilts, children clothing or stuffed animals.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Purple Top Revisited - New Look 6977

This project was created from remains of a 2009 top that no longer fit, New Look 6807.

Pattern: New Look 6977, c. 2010

Pattern Description: Misses' top, pull-on full/slim skirts and pants. A Just4Knits pattern.

Pattern Sizing: Size A (6-16) I originally cut a size 14 according to finished garment measurements.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, though I did make two small alterations.

New Look 6807 to New Look 6977

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very much. There isn't much to them but I did appreciate that the pattern begins with some tips on sewing knits. Therefore, I used a combination of straight and zigzag stitches.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The shape seemed very flattering. I chose it because it had a similar neckline and sleeves to a top I made in 2009 that had stretched so much that I could no longer wear it. However, this was more form-fitting and its pieces could be cut out of the original. The only change was I eliminated the gathering detail at center front.

Fabric Used: A rayon/Spandex knit in Potent Purple from Jo-Ann Fabrics and Gutermann polyester thread in #447, Mulberry.

Now - Then

Now - Then

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I liked the neckline and drapiness of the original design (New Look 6807). Unfortunately, this jersey knit kept growing so much that I had not worn it for months. One night, I went out with some friends and had to keep adjusting it every time I moved. It was falling off my shoulders so much that within 10 minutes of getting home I had my seam ripper out and started ripping! I was able to completely cut the new pieces out of the old ones, no additional fabric needed. I even reused the old neckline for the new one.

I used the pattern's finished garment measurements to select the size and of course it was STILL too big!! Luckily, the armscye was large enough (!) that I could safely cut the sleeve in a smaller size; therefore, decreasing the length between shoulder and the bust. It eliminated one inch of length on each side. I then had to taper the top bodice line from a 14 at the armscye notch to a size 6! at the neckline.

At this point, fearing the fabric would stretch even more I fused knit interfacing to the neckline and sleeve openings. At that time, I chose to use a different method a la Alabama Chanin. Using the single-fold binding from the original top I encased the raw edge inside the fold and hand stitched around the neckline with fuchsia thread.

I took note of a suggestion by grays08 on Pattern Review about gaping back armholes. I made sure to baste the top together and try it on again after my alterations; however, I didn't have that problem.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes. but only because I have successfully adapted the sleeve pieces and altered the body shape to fit me. I am unsure about recommending the pattern because I don't know how much of my problems were due to the fabric or to the pattern. I suggest not only measuring the flat pattern but to also construct a muslin in suitable and similar fabric.

Conclusion: I love the finished result but to get there I needed to make multiple alterations to this pattern. Though not ideal, I do now have a custom pattern to make as many of these as I want and I definitely want more.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Change In Plans

Due to circumstances that were unfortunately under my lame control, my life is about to change.  Hopefully for the better.

I am leaving Richmond and moving back to my hometown.  I'm sure long-time readers have noticed an underlying theme running through this blog for a long while, the fact that there were many things I had to deny myself because I lacked the money.  I have some financial issues to clear up as I have been running on fumes for quite a while.  For the last five years I found myself in a job that was meant to have been temporary, which I took to gain experience but for very little money.  At some point, I lost the motivation and confidence to move on and get a job that fully utilized my skills and challenged me.  School loan payments, medical bills, and the misguided notion of living alone drained my resources and filled me with constant stress.  So my goal is to not only pay off debt but to shore up my confidence, and improve my allover health. 

So wish me luck.  Actual sewing by me will be sporadic but what else is new?  I have many (oh so many) draft posts on fashion and style to publish on this blog, so don't go anywhere. I actually have two finished items to show you but packing has gotten in the way of photo shoots and one of the projects is still embargoed.  I do hope to make it back for the Hollywood Costume exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in November since I'll only be 90-some miles away, so perhaps I'll see a few of you there?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

This May Be The Lavender Dress Of My Dreams

In an earlier post, I wrote how I was having a craving for a lavender or periwinkle blue dress.  Some time after that I saw a video of a Florence + the Machine performance where Florence wore the most beautiful and expertly fitted dress in a very similar color.  The dress had a very strong 1930's feel which made it all the better in my mind.

Florence + the Machine, MTV's Unplugged, December 2011.

I could not find any identifying information for who designed the dress but after some research (perhaps too much time was devoted to this task...) I believe this dress to be a Valentino from the 2011 collections, because 1) Florence has worn Valentino before and had attended the 2011 Pre-fall collection as an invited guest and 2) the style and coloring matches that of items within that same Valentino collection.  I hate the fact that I can't find any confirmation of this.  Almost all of her other performance outfits are sourced somewhere on the Web but not this one.  Arggh.  Why is there no "What Florence Wore" site when there is one for Emma from Glee?

This is the only picture I could find to get an idea of the skirt's sweep.  It reveals a slight train in the back with the fullness flowing down from a form-fitting silhouette at waist and hips.

This picture reveals the many seam lines of the dress.  There are four tucks released right underneath the bust; two to each side, that shape the waist and then meet another seam coming from atop the hip bone that leads down and meet directly in the middle of the body. 

The flutter sleeves, clearly referencing the 1930-40's emphasis on the shoulders, are layered atop one another with the upper tier larger in width and placed nearer the dress center than the lower one.  Both seem to be placed in order to droop down the arm rather than hang level or extend out (see below).

This picture reveals how the sleeves seem to be ruched at the top, perhaps even smocked at the shoulder, resembling epaulets which is reminiscent of the 1940s military-influenced styles.  The bodice is then fashioned with a simple bateau neckline.

Looking through my files and pins of 1930's dresses I found a few images that incorporate similar sleeves:

National Recovery Administration patterns from 1933-35.

I am also aware of two FREE patterns that could be used to create the body portion of the dress.  However, for practicality and more opportunities to wear I would hem this dress just under the knee or at mid-calf length for period authenticity. The Your Style Rocks' Eva pattern would look lovely in a silk stretch jersey, crepe, or charmeuse and so would the Vera Venus Little Bias Dress made up in a silky woven placed on the bias.

Photos By: PictureGroup

Monday, October 07, 2013

Quick Draw and TV on the Internet

I have become pretty obsessed with watching Internet program providers like Netflix and Hulu. Every night I have to remind myself that I still own a TV set. For example, even though I'm a huge fan of ABC's Scandal I had a hard time pausing a new program to watch the season premiere. That's big.

That program was Hulu's original series, Quick Draw. Please check it out, it's awesome. It's in the vein of similar late 1800s-set series The Wild Wild West (1965), The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993) and futuristic Firefly (2002) set in 2517; Westerns combined with elements from Bond-like spy thrillers, steampunk, or sci-fi.

Quick synopsis: College educated John Henry Hoyle, fresh from studying criminal investigation at Harvard University becomes sheriff of Great Bend, Kansas and fights Wild West crime with his dim deputy, whorehouse/saloon owner/girlfriend, and newly-discovered step-daughter (from his marriage to outlaw Belle Starr).

In addition to the episodes being created completely from improvisation, the show has its own drinking game based on an authentic recipe book of saloon drinks. Separate 2-minute videos instruct how to concoct the drinks (with names such as Whiskey Cobbler, Gin and Pine) and then provide a "word-to-drink-by" for each specific episode.

Also enjoying:

Miranda, starring Miranda Hart (Chummy from Call The Midwife)
Moone Boy, written by and starring Chris O'Dowd of The IT Crowd and Bridesmaids

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fashion In Film: Irma la Douce (1963)

Director: Billy Wilder
Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Jack Lemmon and Shirley Mclaine
I have always been intrigued by this movie. I found out about it years after watching these two actors in the an earlier Billy Wilder-directed The Apartment (1960). Finding these two very American actors starring in a French sex farce with Lemmon as a policeman and Shirley as one of the best prostitutes in France sounds like a huge mismatch. Here is a discussion of the film on Adapted from the 1956 Broadway musical, the movie was a hit and I'm sure I wasn't the only person who loved the interaction of these two actors together. I wish they had made more movies together. Can't you imagine them in an incredible (but offbeat) production of Taming of the Shrew?

The costuming of this movie is another reason to love it, Irma's wardrobe in particular. In the movie, Irma La Douce (aka Irma the sweet), has a favorite color that is represented in her wardrobe at all times. Her stockings, lingerie, and even her eye shadow come in the same lovely billiard table green. Her precious pooch, Coquette, is always sporting a green bow to match.

My favorite movie costume designer, Orry-Kelly, created some great outfits for this movie, which also included cool costumes for the many ladies of the night, sailors, pimps, eccentric gentlemen, and police (gendarmes) characters in the cast.*
Shirley on the cover of LIFE magazine, June 21, 1963.

When we first meet Irma she is not dressed as provocatively as her friends and competitors, though later oufits make it pretty clear what she does for a living.

Loving the see-through raincoat and the matching green barrettes on Irma and Coquette. A quick look at other images from this scene show that the dog is wearing her own translucent rain slicker too!

The suit looked black in the movie, but I have a feeling that it might have actually been a very dark green, as in the first photo above.

Is that apartment for real?!

I included so many pictures of this negligee because it is so amazing. This piece and the green lace top/bra below were my lasting visual memories of this film. Though it is see-through it reveals nothing but the belly button and cleavage, yet it is sexier than a skimpier outfit would be. I wouldn't be surprised to find that Shirley kept this after the filming...I would! Note the matching billiard green marabou mules. I've always found boudoir shoes decadent...but I guess that's the appeal. The use of the green lace and sheer net is genius. I wonder if you could find those materials in that particular shade of green today? Another amazing thing about the lingerie in this movie is how well it shows off MacLaine's dancer figure and that the engineered structure of the bras were giving her "girls" LIFE!

On the set.

Another fashion-filled Shirley Maclaine film to check out would be the amazing What A Way To Go(1964) with costumes by Edith Head. There are seventy-three!! different costumes for Shirley's character alone! One day I'll try to chronicle the fashion from that movie, though it might take a long time and will probably be in installments! 

* Watch out for cameos by Bill Bixby and James Caan.

Images: Leo Fuchs, Gjon Mili (Life photo)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hey, Hey, Pantone, What D'ya Know?

Hey, even if I didn't mean to participate in any of the Pantone sew-a-longs, it seems I subconsciously did anyway.  However, I did my sewing for summer instead of fall.

Fall 2013 Pantone Color Report

Shorts, A-line skirt, pencil skirt

Look at my last few finished objects:

Vogue 2532 Shorts: In this fabric alone, there is Turbulence, Acai, Linden Green, Mykonos Blue, and Deep Lichen Green.

Simplicity 2152 Skirt: In real life, the color is closer to Acai than Vivacious, but in the men's color report the Beaujolais shade is right on the money, pretty much a perfect combo of the two.

The second "mystery" skirt (not photographed for the blog yet), is Mykonos Blue with design accents in Vivacious.

Spring 2014 Pantone Color Report

Checking out the colors for next spring (so far awaaayyy) I see a few that I could see in my wardrobe. However, I would have to boost the intensity of a few because I don't wear many pastels. Of course, this all will depend on fabric stores stocking desirable fabrics in these colors. Which colors do you see yourself wearing?

Images: Pantone color report, my own photo.