Friday, June 28, 2013

Fashion In Film: The Great Gatsby (2013)

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan
Costume Design: Catherine Martin

Let's say, you hear that Baz Luhrmann is beginning a new movie project, what do you expect? Well, I expected, pomp, circumstance, excess, flash, music, sound, and fury. Was I disappointed? With those elements? No. However, fashion writers and movie critics reviewing the movie have been up and down depending on what they expected. Of course, he didn't make it any easier on himself by choosing such a beloved, revered, and extremely American novel. However, it seems some people got it in their heads to expect realism and historical accuracy from this movie...from Baz Luhrmann? I guess they'd been drinking some of Jay Gatsby's bootleg hooch.

Anyone who's seen Strictly BallroomRomeo + Juliet,  or Moulin Rouge would surely know what to expect. Baz (yeah, we're close like that) makes movies that are as realistic as those of Busby Berkeley (look him up) He and his wife, Catherine Martin, (co-heads of BazMark Films), are larger than life and their movies are the same. Immense sound stages, hundreds of extras, CGI effects, amazing music soundtracks with diverse artists, incredible set designs, and sumptuous costumes, and more make up their films.

They did do extensive research; Deirdre Clemente of the blog Fitzgerald And Fashion served as one historical consultant. However, the final word on what ended up on film was always up to Baz and Catherine. But enough about all that, let's look at those costumes! Just imagine, a team of 84 people worked on thousands of costumes, 800 of them custom-made, and not including the 40 dresses supplied by Miuccia Prada from her Prada and Miu Miu collections.

Yes, the men's pants were way too tight, practically pegged.


As Catherine says in an interview at the Stylelist, "One of the other rules Baz made at the very beginning of the project was that, because the book is set in the summer of '22, published in '25, and foreshadows the crash of '29, we were actually allowed to use the whole decade as a reference base. So that gave us a little bit more scope. But what you realize even by the early '20s, just about any silhouette–from a bias cut, to a strapless, to a robe de style, had all been invented."

So basically we were going to see more than the ubiquitous fringed shift dresses, ropes of pearls, and cigarette holders. The whole of the period, World War I to pre-Depression would show up on the two female lead characters, Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker.

That philosophy is represented on screen in the fact that Jordan's and Daisy's clothes sometimes looked at odds with one another. Catherine's clothing designs had thirties elements employed for Jordan along with the more fitted silhouettes of the early 1900s for Daisy. When she was asked to contribute some forty costumes to the film, designer Miuccia Prada was surprised. Prada herself admitted to WWD of her collections that 'almost none were meant to be the Twenties when I did them', but Luhrmann and Martin persuaded her that it didn't matter. Good on you, team Bazmark! The clothes are amazing and most people wouldn't notice a thing!

My favorites were the costumes designed for "professional lady golfer" Jordan Baker. I covet her clothes. These seemed more modern in style perhaps because the expected lifestyle of this glamorous athlete would have required sporty clothes that were still feminine, sleek, and elegant. I wish there were more images of her wardrobe available.

I was lucky to come upon a Vogue article on the premiere that featured Catherine's costumes sketches for the characters. I love the antique patina on each and am very impressed with how true the final creations are to these depictions.

The only Prada-designed outfit worn by Carey Mulligan.
From an interview of Catherine at Entertainment Weekly,' “[Daisy's] party dress, when she goes to Gatsby’s party, was a redo of a Prada dress, a crystal dress, that she had done previously,” Martin said of the chandelier frock, made of crystal drops connected by a net of small metal rings — which was inspired by look 33 from Prada’s Spring/Summer 2010 runway collection.'

I love how Miuccia remade this crystal overdress with the addition of a satin ribbon closure and paired it with a champagne colored slip. The best part is that it was topped with a bi-color fur capelet edged with dangling crystal drops. In the film (not necessarily in the photo above) even though the lower section is white in some shots it took on a pale mint color while the face-framing top section looked lavender.

The delicate floating peach and cream lace dress was worn during a scene where it was revealed that Daisy was already aware of her husband's infidelity. She looked so fragile and small in this dress. Isn't the lace exquisite?
Tea at Nick's cottage

This lavender, icy blue and lace outfit is color-coordinated from head to hem. Full of colorful detail, from the simple blue barrette to the fussy fringe on the shoulders, the bluish-gray lace overdress with violet slip underneath and matching delicately buttoned gauntlets. I love how the fabric details on the skirt resemble hanging rows of delicate bluebell flowers.

Though this dress is exquisite, I do not remember it from the movie. Perhaps, it is the one shown in Daisy's debut scene with her lounging on a couch purring, "How gorgeous." This is again a costume that reminds me of a delicate creature, a swan, perhaps with its layered petal/feathers and sheer illusion netting anchoring the strapless structure. Note that the fitted, natural-waisted dress is more 1912 than a waist-less, loose 1922 flapper ensemble.

While Daisy is the image of fragility and indecisiveness, Daisy's rival for her husband's affection is brassy, confident, and stylistically her complete opposite. Myrtle Wilson, "the lady in red", is from the other side of the tracks. Living with her mechanic husband above their garage business she dresses to be noticed. In her world the costumes are bold, sometimes garish in color, and more exposed than Daisy's modest and innocent pale designs. Myrtle's skirts employ slits to expose flesh and her striped red (garter-less) stockings are employed to bring even more notice to her legs. Her dresses are fashioned with low, loose necklines that expose a brazen amount of cleavage. Hers is no bound and wrapped chest of a flapper. In fact, Myrtle resembles a robust healthy woman from the 1950s more than she does those child-like waifs. The costumes of her and her friends are the most colorful, wild, and fun.

Do you want to see more?
To view close-up images of the 40-some costumes Prada furnished for the background players click on this article from the stylecurated blog and also here on Fashionologie.

Illustrations: Courtesy of Catherine Martin/Bazmark
Photos: Warner Brothers

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Follow Me on Bloglovin'

Hey guys! Google Reader will cease to exist in just 12 days. Yup.

Officially, I've never had a lot of readers following me. For the last two years the number in Google Friend Connect has strangely been holding steady at 169. Well, I know more people read me because my stats tell me so. However, I'm still scared that my readership will diminish because of this upcoming event. So please show your support and follow me. 

To follow me, just click  Follow on Bloglovin and THANKS!

If you haven't chosen a new reader, I suggest you try Bloglovin'. I don't know if this is considered sacrilege or not, but I really don't miss Reader. I'm pretty happy with the Bloglovin interface. Honestly, if it hadn't been for that topless female torso (??) logo I probably would have checked it out before. I mean, what's up with that? Couldn't she have a shirt on and still look fierce?

Signing up is more than simple. Forget about going through Google Reader to export your blogs, that involves too many steps. Go straight to Bloglovin' and create an account with log in and password like usual. The site will then asks if you want to import your blogs from Google Reader to your new account. Click the button to import and done!

See ya there!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tell It To Them Straight

After writing my earlier post I was wondering, are we actually letting the Big 4 know when we are having problems with their patterns?

I mean, besides writing about our frustrations on our blogs? I know I haven't been. I think going direct might be the best way to let them know how we feel about certain things like excess ease, finished garment measurements, more plus-size styles, a larger size range, more creative styles, etc. I think it will make more of an impression if we contact them personally.*

Update: I just sent my first email letter to Simplicity 6/14/2013. I'll let you know if/what I hear back from them.

Note: I don't have a large readership so I would appreciate it if you either link back to this page or provide this same information to your readers. I really think we can get something done.

McCall's Pattern Company

Customer service hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM Eastern time.

For a fast response they can be reached by web form; Vogue here, McCall's here, and Butterick here.

If you would rather write them:
  • Vogue Patterns
    120 Broadway, 34th floor
    New York, New York 10271
  • McCall Patterns
    120 Broadway, 34th floor
    New York, New York 10271
  • Butterick Patterns
    120 Broadway, 34th floor
    New York, New York 10271

Simplicity Creative Group

By Phone:
  • 1 (888) 588-2700
  • Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, EST
  • Leave a message if calling off-hours; one of their reps should return your message as soon as possible next business day.  
By E-mail:
  • Include a subject line to let them know which department to send your inquiry.

*I used to be "that" person who sent hand-written letters to companies and editors when something didn't feel right and most of the time I received satisfaction. In fact, with one letter and two photographs I was able to get out of a $100 parking ticket in Washington, DC! It really works.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Deciphering the Big 4 Ease Charts

As a sewing blogger I am very aware of the problems involved in fitting garments made from Big 4 pattern company patterns: Simplicity/New Look, Vogue, McCall's, and Butterick.* It's well known among us sewists (see recent posts from Shams and Robin) that if you go by your actual body measurements you will most likely end up with an oversized garment. This is because these pattern makers are notorious for ridiculous amounts of ease in their patterns.

A typical sewing pattern includes both wearing and design ease. Wearing ease is minimal and exists so that one can actually sit, stretch, and move in a garment. Design ease is what makes the difference between a dress skimming the body's curves or billowing around them. Design ease is calculated by the designer/maker of the pattern to give the finished garment a specific look. However, it seems the Big 4 likes to overcompensate on the wearing ease issue. I can only guess it's to allow for more women to fit into each size? Why that is, don't ask me.

Therefore, to fix the problem many sewists automatically cut a smaller size than the pattern measurements recommend. Unfortunately, that still might not guarantee a good fit. It might be better to note how each company describes the final fit of the individual garment in their pattern descriptions. These following terms correspond with their published ease charts. The charts, available in the back of Vogue Pattern magazine and on their website work for all three brands of the McCall Pattern Company; Vogue, McCall's and Butterick. They give you an idea of what to anticipate when it comes to fitting their garments. Check out the details for Butterick patterns below.

Blouses/Shirts, Dresses
Close fitting = 0-3"
Fitted = 3-4"
Semi-fitted = 4-5"
Loose fitting = 5-8"
Very loose fitting = 8" and more of ridiculous ease!

Pants, Skirts
Close fitting = 0-2"
Fitted = 2-3"
Semi-fitted = 3-4"
Loose fitting = 4-6"
Very loose fitting = 6" and more

Therefore, if you choose a Loose Fitting pattern cutting a size smaller may not make you happy. It may still be 3-4 inches larger than you would like. I also would suggest going by those ease charts and descriptions first because those pattern illustrations might not be accurate and in the photos the garments may have been altered by clothespins pulling fabric and distorting the completed garment.

Update: I found a great example on Pattern Review, Vogue 1287 which is described as "very loose fitting." Read the reviews and what is the only problem most had with this pattern? The huge amount of ease. Which according to Vogue's chart would mean 8" or more. However, looking at the pattern photo, that is not what it looks like but that's what everyone expected. Therefore, to save yourself the frustration that these nine women experienced, definitely start to keep these descriptions in mind because it will help you even if you can't get to the finished garment measurements that you need.

Unfortunately, this kind of detailed ease chart isn't available for the Simplicity Creative Group brands (Simplicity, New Look) but there is this helpful fitting guide** and this handout** for choosing the correct pattern size. Therefore, for these patterns you will have to consult the finished measurements on the pattern's back and on the pattern tissue. Unfortunately, some stores frown on you opening up the pattern tissue in the store before you buy! (Shocking, right?) I've many a time opened up a pattern at home and realized I should have bought another size. At least they'll do an exchange if you have a receipt but it's a pain to go back when you really wanted to start on the project right then.

We may all have our specific problems (see Shams and Robin) that we wish these companies would change, style or otherwise. However, I understand that addressing all of our issues would be a huge financial and logistical undertaking for the Big 4. Perhaps, we can take it one step at a time. What if they could agree to print finished garment measurements on the outside of all pattern envelopes (as well as on the tissue)? Most patterns do print some on the envelope but for fitted dress or wardrobe patterns we need the "Big Three": bust, waist, and hip. Can we all agree on that? What do you think?

*Called the Big 4 but only two actual companies, the McCall Pattern Company (Vogue, McCall's, and Butterick) and the Simplicity Creative Group (Simplicity and New Look).

**Update: Simplicity has a new fitting handout available for download on their website!!!

Images: Examples from Banana RepublicEloquii (Did you know The Limited had a cool plus-size line?), and The Gap.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Little Red Scout - Grainline Scout #31002

Yup, I made two Scouts in a row!


Pattern: Grainline Studio Scout Woven Tee #31002, c. 2011

Pattern Description: Woven t-shirt with capped sleeves, scoop neck, and a loose shape below the bust.

Pattern Sizing: Sizes (0-18) Neck, shoulders, and armscye cut in size 8, rest in size 10.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, with modification.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very simple.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I like everything about this pattern, it fit and looked great with no needed modifications.

Fabric Used: Red brushed twill from Joann Fabrics, and a wee bit of Flea Market Fancy from here for the facing.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I adapted the pattern to have a fuller back using this tutorial from Grainline studios. Whereas, Jen added 6 inches to the back width, I added 1.25" between each piece resulting in 7.5 inches added width. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out the way I thought it would. I should have added much more to the back width. I'm the only one that can tell the difference between this one's width and the other two Scouts I have. Also, instead of the fullness being in the back, it instead moves to the front as the side seams  slant to the front instead of hanging straight. Next time, I'll cut a yoke across at the armscye and add about 12 to 15 inches in width to the lower panel.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes. This is a great pattern and it can be modified easily into many different looks.

J. Jill

Complex Geometries "Orbit Tee"

Conclusion:  My goal was to create a cross between a J. Jill "artist" shirt that I've coveted for over five years and a Complex Geometries top I first saw on Totokaelo. My shirt ended up much more conservative than desired.

Images: Angie Conner, J. Jill, Complex Geometries, Totokaelo

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Me-Madeness of it All!

I know I've given you no proof of this but I participated in Me-Made-May.

I actually wore at least one me-made item of clothing every day, but I didn't really plan it. It just happened. Looking at my closet today, I fully see why it was possible. I finally have enough clothes, at least for this season's warmer weather. When I open the closet door, right off the bat, I can see that at least 50% of the contents in immediate view were made by me.

A quick inventory of items worn in May:

  • 1 mustard asymmetrical knit top - Burdastyle
  • 1 multi-colored long sleeve twist top - Butterick 5429
  • 1 black knit boatneck tee - New Look 6838
  • 1 red, black, and white long sleeve knit boatneck top - New Look 6838
  • 1 blue patterned long-sleeved cotton Scout - Grainline #31002
  • 1 neutral cotton print Scout - Grainline #31002
  • 1 red brushed twill Scout - Grainline #31002
  • 1 floral gathered sleeve cotton top - Simplicity 3835/Vogue 8392 combo
  • 1 neutral twill cap-sleeve top - McCall's 4632
  • 1 black corduroy skirt - Sew U
  • 1 grey wool suiting skirt - Sew U
  • 1 blue denim wrap skirt - Simplicity 8126  (weekends only)
  • 1 gray cotton gathered skirt - Pattern Runway
  • 2 slips, pink and blue
  • 1 belted brown cotton dress - Simplicity 2406
  • 1 green linen shift dress - New Look 6939
  • 1 off-white shift dress - Burdastyle
  • 1 autumn floral belted dress - Simplicity 5190
  • None. Zilch. Nada. (need to remedy that)
As you can see, it was basically all upper body participation, pairing me-made tops with ready-to-wear bottoms. I did get it done though. It counts.

Now on to make more items...