Monday, July 31, 2017

Making the Star Dress Inspired by Hedy Lamarr

My theater group has had several photo shoots over the years. This year we wanted to do one based on tarot cards. I was very excited as I had a brilliant idea for an outfit. I decided I would do the Star, inspired by the glorious sparkling gown worn by Hedy Lamarr in Ziegfeld Girl (1941).

There are several other star dresses in the film. The one worn by Lana Turner is not quite as spectacular in my opinion.

And the one worn by Judy Garland is downright silly. That is a lot of tinsel!

So I decided to create an approximation of Lamarr's gown and headdress. Though, I simplified a lot of it.

I was lucky enough to find a white dress from a thrift store for 12 euros and then some light fabric that had already been decorated with small clusters of silver and gold stars. I also spent a small fortune on sequin and glitter glue. But the dress turned out very beautiful.

(I know it's hanging from a lamp, but I don't have a dress form so I had to make do. :) )

Since I had all these sequin and glitter, I decided to jazz up my fabric a bit and add some more stars in various sizes. Lamarr's dress seems to be decorated with sequin stars and then larger stars covered in sequin.

So I cut out a few smaller stars from Aida cloth and covered them with several layers of silver glitter glue. I then cut out paper stars and covered them with sequin using normal glue and glitter glue as adhesive. The effect was lovely, but it did take a lot of work.

The piece of poly fabric was attached to the gown around the collar and at the bodice. I miscalculated how much room my head would need, and ended up having to leave some fabric hanging loose in the back.

Originally I was going to sew on all the sequin onto the poly fabric but that was just taking too much time. So out came the glue and, miraculously, it held up rather well.

The headdress was made for me by my friend Lotta. She took a metal head band and attached wires to it. And to the wires she attached some stars cut out of silver paper and then covered with some silver glitter.

The makeup for this look is a mix of Lamarr's very 1940s look and my own desire to add glitter to everything.

I couldn't get anyone to take a photo of me as I was trying out the makeup, and so the best I could manage was this rather artsy photo of myself in a mirror.

The glitter around my eyes and on my forehead did not show in the picture, which is a shame becasue it looked rather nice in real life. I also attached some sequin to my face with eyelash glue but in the end decided to remove them as they looked a little silly with the gown.

I will post pictures from the photo shoot as soon as they are ready.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sewing Projects for the Summer

I have a very ambitious plan - I want to make my entire summer wardrobe myself. Yes, I know it's July and I've only just started. But in my defense, I live in the north, and it has been rather cold. It's hardly the time to wear play suits or sundresses.    

First up, the lounging pajamas. I've been meaning to make something like this for a long time.

To be fair, I'm only making the pants. I have a pink silk button down shirt, which is a little too big for me. I removed the collar and the pockets and now it looks like a lose top with something resembling a Chinese collar. I am making the pants. I bought a very nice green cotton fabric with just a bit of a sheen to it. And I'm using McCall's Costume 2940 pattern.
The pants turned out a little bulky and heavy. But I've never made pants before and did not dare make them out of light or slippery fabric. Now that I'm a little bit more confident, I'll make the next ones out of viscose (it's cheaper than silk).

Second, I will make a play suit based on Simplicity 9138 pattern. It's meant to be a swimsuit, but I thought a cute little sundress/play suit  would be easier to make and more fun to wear. The fabric I picked is a lovely light blue cotton with white flowers. It has a bit of stretch so it would be pretty comfortable to wear. 

I got the fabric from Eurokangas. Unfortunately, they no longer have it on their website and the only picture I could find was of a dark blue version, but you get the idea. I will post pictures of the finished dress and my thoughts on the process very soon.

Third, I'm making this Butterick B5209 dress, view B. I have seen a lot of pics of this dress online which tells me that it's a good pattern. There is also a wonderful step-by-step video on making it. I'm working on a mock-up at the moment. In my naivete I thought this would be an easy project, but the dress turned out a bit more fiddly than I had expected. I was also a little unsure about the fabric. I wanted to do something floral, but the only affordable fabric I could find from Eurokangas is a brown polka dot cotton. It will have to do.  
I know that this doesn't sound like a lot of sewing, but I have a photo shoot with my theater group based on tarot cards this summer (I will post pictures, I promise) and I need to make two costumes for that. 

One will be a simple linen tunic made out of an old bed sheet I picket up from the UFF thrift store. It is pretty easy to make. I based it loosely on this pattern.  

But to make it a little more fancy I will decorate the collar and the sleeves with some embroidery. 
The second costume is going to be for tarot card the Star. And it's based on this lovely piece worn by Hedy Lamarr in Ziegfeld Girl (1941). 


I bought a white dress I will use as a base and then some lovely poly material with silver and gold stars. I will add a bit more shine to it with sequin and large fabric stars covered in silver glitter. My friend is making a head piece for me.  

Since I'm moving at a glacial speed, these will last me until the end of summer.   

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Great Superheroines of the Past

Image via Jason Ratliff
The other week I went to see the Wonder Woman. And boy-oh-boy, did I enjoy it! Growing up I mostly read the Batman family comics, Batgirl and Birds of Prey being my favorites, but Wonder Woman with her Greek mythology backstory (I admit to being a huge mythology nerd) and really fun powers (lasso of truth, anyone?) always had a special place in my heart.

And to see her for the very first time on the big screen was exciting. I'm not going to lie, I did bounce up and down in my seat when I saw the Amazons riding out on to the beach (that's as spoiler-y as this post is going to get, I swear). But it got me thinking, there are so many wonderful comic book superheroines of yesteryear that are all but forgotten. So I thought I'd put together a list of my favorite vintage ladies who kick butt. This is not a an exhaustive list by any means, but I thought I'd pick the ones I think would make for great movies or TV shows. And though not all of them have super powers, they are all pretty super.

Black Cat
Possibly my absolute favorite of the vintage comic book crime fighting gals. Black Cat aka Linda Turner is a stunt woman who becomes a Hollywood actress. But she is bored with the glamorous life of a starlet and when on a picture she encounters possible Nazi spies, she puts on a costume and uses her stunt woman training to bring evil doers to justice. With Old Hollywood setting and a lot of stunts, this would make for a great movie. 

Zaza the Mystic
Before there was the Mentalist, there was Zaza the Mystic. Zaza is a fortune teller and a psychic. Or is she? Her friend and admirer Lt. Bob Nelson cannot quite tell. Zaza seems to be able to predict the future and she uses this gift to help Bob solve crimes. Perhaps the source of this gift is just a keen eye and intuition, but maybe there's more to it. This would make a great TV show à la the Mentalist.

Girl Commandos
I'm cheating a bit here, because the Girl Commandos are not one  but five brave ladies. But no list of this kind can be complete without them. This title is unique even by today's standard because of its incredible diversity. The team consists of Pat Parker, the leader of the group, Ellen Billings, her second in command, Tanya, a photographer from the Soviet Union, Penny Kirk, an American radio reporter, and  Mei-Ling from China who joins the group to avenger her family who had been killed by the Japanese. Though there is some stereotyping in how the characters are portrayed,they are still shown with respect, their opinions are valued by other members of the group and there are no cruel jokes at their expense. I would love to see this group in a movie or a TV show, going behind enemy lines on daring rescue missions or foiling the plans of saboteurs.

Phantom Lady 
Sandra Knight, daughter of the Senator Henry Knight, is dissatisfied with a life of a socialite. And so she starts fighting crime as Phantom Lady using her martial arts skills and a blacklight ray that can blind her opponents or make her invisible. She must have had some other magic to go with the ray since even though she did not usually wear a mask no one seemed to recognize her. She also had some of the best named foes - Subway Slayer, anyone? I would love to see her in a TV show fight crime and corruption in Washington.     

Senorita Rio
She shares some similarities with the Black Cat: Rita Farrar is also a Hollywood star and a former stunt double. She is a spy and uses her acting abilities, fighting skills and extensive knowledge of languages to infiltrate enemy cells in Central and South America. I honestly do not know why there isn't a TV show about her. It would be perfect - glamour, action and adventures.  

There are more, so many more unstoppable heroines. If you want to learn about the super ladies of the pasts I can recommend Mike Madrid's Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics (if you want to find out about vintage female villainy, there's also Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics) or Hope Nicholson's The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History. Do you have a favorite vintage female heroine that you would want to see in a film or a TV show? Let me know.    

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Summer Wardrobe Inspiration from 1946

I don't know about you, but I'm definitely ready for the summer. Yes, I know it's July. But around here it's about 15 degrees. Which means that all I can do is fantasize about the perfect summer wardrobe, while wrapping myself up in three layers of wool. Fortunately, here is Alexis Smith, star of Gentleman Jim (1942) and Here Comes the Groom (1951), to give us her fashion advice. The photos and descriptions are from Screenland magazine from July 1946.

Clothes for fun in the sun should be gay, says Alexis. She lives up to her convictions in this off-white print frock with bands of brilliant red edging the front closing and skirt, which is slashed at either side.   

Black and white stripes make a gay summer frock, topped with huge cartwheel accessories with dotted veiling. From Saks Beverly Hills. 

 Star of Warners' "One More Tomorrow" selects her favorite play suit to model for us. The long-sleeved blouse of aquamarine and white striped rayon may be combined with a white shark-skin shorts or the nicely cut skirt.  

Brown and white print, styled with an unusual flange drape, fashions this becoming tow-piece dress which Alexis enhances with a long brown jersey gloves and saucy burnt-straw sailor.   

Black and white for the beach is always dramatic and daring and especially smart with white pique edging as carried out in this suit from Catalina. The shorts have an apron front and back. 

Lounge pajamas of black jersey trousers have a have a deep U-necked bare midriff top, which is reversible, showing white and black stripes on one side, and green and white on reverse.     

I love all the outfits, but the my personal favorites are the black and white stripe dress - check out the buttons on that one; the play suit with the white and aquamarine striped blouse - that would look so pretty on the beach; and the lounge pajamas - I really love the reversible top, you get two tops in one.

 Which is your favorite?     
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