Film Fashion – The Dressmaker

I just watched “The Dressmaker” on  Netflix.  This black comedy, starring Kate Winslet, just oozes with Haute Couture confections. The heroine “Tilly” (Winslet) returns to her baked dry, detestable Australian outback town in 1951 to wreck revenge on the vicious townsfolk for ostracizing her and her mother. She comes armed with her sewing machine and her fabulous haute couture style.

The film had two costume designers, Margot Wilson (won AACTA Award for Best Costume Design), who worked exclusively on Winslet, and Marion Boyce, who costumed the rest of the cast. Here, “Tilly” looks so cool and put together while she smacks golf balls into the town. The detail on her hip for holding golf tees almost looks like something for holding bullets.

Here’s Tilly in a rich, scarlet moire silk dress she wears to distract the boys during a rugby match. Costume designer Wilson said she had this fabric in her stash that she bought 25 years ago in Milan. Hey, I knew there had to be a good reason why so many of us sewists have our fabric stashes. We will use that gorgeous fabric someday!
I think this is my new favorite red vixen dress. Previously it was one of the “Joan” dresses on Mad Men.

This mustard colored bodice has really nice design lines/seam details. Here’s “Tilly” getting closer to handsome “Teddy” (Liam Hemsworth).

In the story, Tilly’s magic at the sewing machine reveals her incredible creativity and the power of costumes to change someone. The biggest transformation she does in the film is for  “Gertrude”, the shopkeeper’s frumpy daughter, and turns her into a glam doll so she can catch a husband.

And so “Gertrude” becomes “Trudy”.

The other malicious women in town also turn to “Tilly” to glam them up as well.

Tilly, about to set fire to her childhood home (behind her on the hill), is ready to leave this one-horse town in a richly tailored New Look-inspired mustard coat and feathered hat at the end of the movie.

And well, just because, here’s one last look at handsome “Teddy”, as he strips down to get his measurements taken by “Tilly” for a custom suit.

New Look 6156 in Sequins for a Dance Show

Here is my disco dress for the dance number I choreographed for my “Community Star”, middle school math teacher Mark G. I seem to be getting recruited annually for the Atascadero Library Fundraiser “Dancing With Our Stars 2017”. I may as well enjoy it while I can. It’s great fun. Looking at my calendar, Mark and I logged 120+ hours training in the dance studio.

New Look 6156

New Look 6156 is a dress with darted bodice with a slightly dropped waist and 5 gore flared skirt. I used the size 12 with just minor alterations for fit. The fabric is sequins on polyester net fabric. It is fully lined with black rayon bemberg. I did make a mock-up in muslin to test the fit and style changes I made. There was going to be no room for alterations once I starting working with the sequined fabric. Wow, is sewing with sequins is time intensive. I didn’t give myself nearly enough time to make this dress. I had to remove all the sequins from all the seam allowances with a seam ripper. This is what took FOREVER to do!!!New Look 6156 bThen I had to hand sew them back to fill in some of the bare spots along the seams. But hand sewing the sequins was taking way too long. I finally had to resort to gluing them on because I was rapidly running out of time. New Look 6156 dE6000 glue held like cement. I didn’t lose a single glued-on sequin.New Look 6156 cIt took days longer to sew this dress because of this. I made the mistake of not allowing the extra time, so I was hemming the dress in the afternoon to wear it to that night’s performance. I’m sure there are lots of you seamstresses out there who can relate. And speaking of hems, I used “Seams Great” in black by overlapping 1/4 inch on the right side of the fabric.

Seams Great

Then using a denim needle, sewed it on right through the sequins. I didn’t bother to remove them from the hem edge. I had read somewhere online not to bother with sequin removal there. Then the hem was folded, ironed with a pressing cloth and hand stitched with basically a running stitch. It turned out just fine.

NewLook6156 hem

New Look 6156 f

Style Changes: This pattern has a very wide neckline. I brought the shoulders in and made a U shaped neckline. Since I was using this dress for a dance show, I needed it to stay on my shoulders. Plus I wanted to cover up the bra straps. I also shortened the hem to above the knee.New Look 6156 e

 This dress was very time-consuming but it was worth it. It shined like crazy in the stage lights.

Mark & Christina 6

Tear-Off Costumes with Burda 7057 & McCalls 9235

I needed a pair of tear-off costumes for my dance routine for the Atascadero Library Fundraiser “Dancing With Our Stars 2017”. This year I had another middle school math teacher for my “Community Star”.

Our dance routine starts out with the overture to “The Sound of Music”, so I needed a couple of Alpine looking outfits. I used Burda Young 7057 for the dirndl dress and McCalls 9235 (a re-issue of Kwik Sew’s 3422) for Mark’s shirt.

I did some research about tear away costumes (mostly by male strippers) and it was the general opinion that it is easier to have the tear away section on the back of the garment and pull it off by grabbing the front rather than popping it open from the front and struggling out of the sleeves.

McCalls 9235 a

Mark’s shirt is a cotton gingham from I cut a size medium even though Mark has a very slight build. The shirt needed to cover up his disco shirt underneath, so I deliberately made this shirt roomy.

I cut the back pattern piece into 2 sections down the center back and added an inch to the seam allowances so I could overlap the center seam with 2 inch long Velcro strips, for tearing off quickly. I sewed the velcro pieces about 3-4 inches apart. I had to make the collar in two overlapping pieces at the center back as well.

It worked great for the dance performance and Mark was able to get out of it in 2 seconds flat.

Burda 7057

Burda 7057 bSorry the photo is so overexposed. It is a bright sunny day. My dress was a bit more complicated. The fabric I used for the bodice and dirndl is quilting cotton “Bryant Park” by Exclusively Quilters, which I also used to line the bodice. The blouse is an embroidered eyelet with scalloped borders on both selvedges. The apron is organdy. The laces and the lace eyelets are just a package of double fold bias tape. I have a set of decorative metal eyelets that I got from an Etsy vendor in Germany, but I decided not to use them since this is a costume that will be worn for 3 shows and then donated to my local dance studio.Burda 7057 a

I altered the neckline of the blouse to a round neckline for more coverage. I cut the sleeve hems right on the edge of the scalloped eyelet, which not only is a pretty detail, it saved some hemming time. I also cut the other scalloped edge off the fabric and used it as the ruffle piece for the neckline. The sleeves are super poufy, but since this outfit is meant as a visual joke, it worked for me. If I were to make this for an actual Oktoberfest party, I would pinch out some of the poufy fullness in the tissue sleeve pattern.

Mark & Christina 2

For the dirndl dress, I replaced the gathered skirt with a circle skirt. My post-menopausal waist has thickened (darn it!!!) plus I am short-waisted as it is and I do not need more fabric bulk there. I cut the center front bodice panel on the fold to eliminate the front zipper. I added width to the center back pieces so they would overlap by 2 inches, and sewed pieces of Velcro every 3-4 inches down the center back. It stayed securely closed even with all the silly spinning. I did tack the blouse and apron to the dress so it all comes off in one piece to reveal my disco dress, New Look 6156.

Burda 7057 d

You can see the Velcro strips along the back edge in the photo above. It took me about 3 days to cut and sew this dress. I deliberately took my time since I had some figuring out to do to make this work as a tear-off.

Mark & Christina 4

I would like to make an actual Oktoberfest dress sometime, but that can wait until next October.

Vogue 1192 – not worth the frustration


I had a wedding to attend this last weekend and for a long time I had this dress in mind from the Threads Sept. 2012 issue. This gorgeous silk shantung dress on this full figured gal.


Now I did do some research of other reviews of this pattern on the web, but so seduced was I by this magazine siren, I ignored the warnings of the other sewists, including a professional seamstress. Now I did make a muslin from the size 14 and had a few adjustments to make, but nothing major. So far so good. So out comes my gorgeous hot turquoise 100% Silk Dupioni and teal 100% Silk Habotai for the lining.

Adjustments I made: pinched out one inch/2.5cm in the neckline of each of the front pieces, and pinched out one half an inch/1.3cm out of each back neckline piece. I cut the shoulders at the size 12 line because I tend to run short from the top of my shoulder to the bottom of the armscye. I lowered the top point of the dart by 1 inch to match my bust point in the left front bodice piece and changed it to an “S” dart shape to try to avoid the pointy tip which worked moderately well.

First disaster: it was late at night and I should have stopped earlier. I ended up cutting out the pleat portion in the left side of the fashion fabric and not the lining like the instructions said to do. So I inserted a set of pleats to replace the vent using Lekala’s Pencil Skirt With Pleats Pattern #S3013. Luckily I had lots of leftover fabric. This fix worked perfectly and looked like something I added on purpose.

See my wrinkled pleats:

The lining is where it becomes a NIGHTMARE. The instructions were VERY difficult and took several readings to work it out and I’m a very experienced seamstress. If you are making this dress out of a woven, you have my sympathies. Because of the crazy lining, I was not able to refine the fit in the actual garment, which I really wish I had been able to do. The finished dress is not quite right and the cross over neckline still gapes even though I took the recommended precautions of stabilizing the neckline with stitching and interfacing. Plus I cut the lining piece 1/2 inch shorter than the fashion fabric and eased it in. Other reviewers who made it out of a knit had far better success. Avoiding the lining seems to be the key. I had to line mine because Dupioni FRAYS!!!

You can see here where the left bodice piece shifts and the bust dart is no longer centered under my bust and is tucking into the side seam under my arm.

The dress was okay and it worked for this event, but I won’t be wearing it again. I love the side draping but there are way easier patterns out there with this kind of detail. This pattern got pitched immediately into the trash. By the way, the bolero is this really great FREE pattern from Integral-T here.

Vintage Pledge – Second Project Done

Here is my Anne Adams 4402 swing dancing dress. Eagle Field 2

Anne Adams 4402A small group from my swing dance class, Creston Swing Dancers, flew over to Eagle Field in Los Banos for the 30th Annual Eagle Field Fly In event. My co-teacher and one of the students are pilots, so the guys flew us in two small planes from the Central Coast (Paso Robles) over the mountain range to the San Joaquin Valley.Christina and the Officer The group at Eagle Field put on a WWII reenactment on the air field and held a dinner dance with music from a live big band. It was a blast! Here’s a quick Youtube clip of my teaching partner and I in that night’s dance contest. We had been dancing for hours already and were pretty exhausted by the time the contest came up, but my dress is nice and swishy!


Vintage Pledge – First Project Done – Dubarry 5747

I finished up my first Vintage Pledge – an easy project to get me rolling – this 1940s apron by Dubarry 5747.Dubarry 5747 dThe fabric is a novelty cotton from Joann’s. It’s a quilting weight cotton and works well for this project. It would be too stiff for any sort of dress with drape.Dubarry 5747 aI made my own bias binding and the ruffle around the heart shaped pocket from “On the Dot” by Greta Lynn cotton. I tilted the placement of the heart pocket on an angle to match the natural angle of my arm and hand. It was quick to make. The longest part was all that bias tape. Dubarry 5747 bI’m noticing that many patterns from the 1940s use bias binding instead of facing in garments. Maybe to save on fabric during war rationing? Anybody know?

The Ubiquitous Poodle Skirt

When most people think of a 1950s themed party, the ubiquitous poodle skirt comes to mind. My mother, who was a teenager in the 1950s, said EVERYONE had a poodle skirt. bw poodle skirtHers was a handmade one, sewn from pre-printed panels. She said it was black with a printed pink poodle on it. The poodle skirt was so common, she didn’t consider it photo-worthy, so therefore no photos of her wearing it, darn it!

vintage skirt panels

Juli Lynne Charlot is considered the originator of the poodle skirt. In 1947, the 25 year old former actress/singer wanted to an outfit to wear to a Christmas party. Since she didn’t sew, she simply cut a large circle of felt, with a smaller hole in the middle for her waist, and appliqued Christmas trees onto it. Charlot’s mother owned a factory which used felt, so she was able to cut a complete circle skirt without needing any seams. She received so many compliments at that fateful party that she made two more skirts and took them to a Beverly Hills boutique and the rest is history.Juli Lynne Charlot

Charlot’s first doggie skirt had dachshunds and it wasn’t all that popular, so she tried poodles and bam! The poodle skirt became a phenomenal success. She didn’t limit herself to poodles though. She designed circle skirts with all kinds of themes.Juli Lynne Charlot6 Juli Lynne Charlot5bw embellished skirt

Of course sewing pattern companies took note of the popularity of the themed circle skirt and came up with their own versions for the home sewist.

McCalls 2252 Simplicity 3953 Simplicity 1664

Mccalls 3591 Simplicity 4884 Simplicity 4957 Simplicity 4784

And the teens came up with their own creations too.

bw elvis skirtKind of reminds me of the themed Christmas Sweater. It was a great “canvas” to go crazy creative on.

Finally starting on the Vintage Pattern Pledge

I finally have a nice block of time to start on the Vintage Pattern Pledge. I’m going to start with the easiest project first – Dubarry 5747, an apron from the 1940’s.Dubarry 5747

I’m going to use this cute “Skirts and Boots” fabric I found at Joann’s (USA):skirts and boots

Then next in line is this dress from Anne Adams, again from the 1940’s:Anne Adams 4402

With maybe this vintage Rayon from my fabric stash:Aqua w heartsLast night while my husband watched “Alias” on Netflix, I traced out the patterns onto spa paper. This is the most tedious part, in my opinion, of working with actual vintage patterns. The apron I’ll just go right to the fashion fabric. But for the dress, I’ll mock up a muslin first. I tend to have lots of fitting adjustments with vintage sewing patterns.

My Adventures in Bollywood

Each year my local library hosts a fundraiser show called “Dancing With Our Stars”. It’s the same premise as the TV show “Dancing with The Stars” where local ballroom dance teachers team up with local “Stars”, like the mayor, chief of police, bank manager, etc…, and teach them to do a dance routine. This is all for charity and the “Stars” are responsible for raising money. Us teachers just get to be creative. This year I was requested to do a Bollywood number (yes, we are allowed to go outside the “ballroom box”) since the head of the Friends of The Atascadero Library board knew that I’m a licensed Zumba instructor and have taken many workshops with a Bhangra & Bollywood teacher in San Francisco. Plus the board president just really digs Bollywood. So my first step for costuming was to take a look at my Burda 7701 pattern.Burda 7701 I used this pattern to make petticoats and choli tops. Then I found an excellent youtube clip on how to do those complicated saree wrappings. I needed some sarees, so I immediately hopped onto Ebay to search out some pretty ones at a reasonable price. There are some really beautiful ones out there and I was surprised at how quickly they shipped from India to California. I got these from this Ebay Seller:Saree group 1 And I bought this group of Sarees from this Ebay seller. These are the ones we actually wore in the show:Saree group 2 And here we are in the dance studio for a trial dress rehearsal. So far so good. We were able to dance in them and I taught the girls how to wrap sarees.IMG_0439 Then at the official dress rehearsal of the show, to my dismay I discovered that since I was in several numbers, I had many costumes changes and not much time to do it in. I  didn’t have time to wrap a saree and make it in time for the next cue. Yowza! So then I had to turn my saree into a Lehenga style outfit, meaning a skirt with a separate stole. I pulled Simplicity 5914 out of my pattern stash to make a skirt with a few modifications.Simplicity 5914I made View A and underlined the saree fabric with a red china silk.IMG_0104I had to cut off the gold border from the saree fabric and re-attach after the skirt was sewn (and hung for 48 hours to allow for stretching along the bias areas).IMG_0106On the inside waist band, I added a double wide bias tape channel and threaded a drawcord through it. That made it more secure to wear dancing with no fear it would slide down to my knees. Plus, I can use it again even if my weight fluctuates, which it is prone to do.IMG_0113Then the remaining saree fabric is used as the stole wrap. Thank goodness sarees have many yards of fabric!IMG_0110 Voilà! A Bollywood outfit I could put on in just a couple of minutes.Bolly Bolly Julie Dunn & Christina Troxel By the way, we raised $90,000 for our local library with this show. Wahoo!!!