Hollywood Costume at the V&A Giveaway

If you’re in London this week, it’s your final chance to catch the Hollywood Costume at the V&A exhibition.  The bad news is that it’s a sold-out show but if you’re one of V&A’s 33,000 members, you can get in any time without booking and take one guest (which is how I went, thanks Carol!).  Thinking of becoming a member and got some Christmas gift money to spend?!  This might be your ticket!

Anyone who loves film will find one of their favourite characters.  OK, so the stars may be missing but there’s none of that deadness of a wax museum here. There’s music, movie clips and, in some cases, screens of actors’ faces poised just above their outfits.  Best of all are the write-ups explaining how the costumes were made and by whom, and giving other info such as what the criteria for designing them were.  For a seamstress like myself, this more than adequately fleshed out the material content, e.g did you know that the crown of Indiana Jones’ Fedora had to be altered as the original shape didn’t flatter Harrison Ford’s head (now, what does that remind me of?  This!) whereas the brim had to be shortened so that the camera could peer under and catch the face. 

Photography in the exhibition is not permitted but I have some of the films at home and so took stills to give you an idea of what’s there:

Dorothy’s blouse and dress, rather modest and faded-looking, and quite unlike the garish fancy-dress versions we’ve become accustomed to.  The shoes are just as red and sparkly as you’d imagine though.

Designed by Edith Head, this lovely two-piece eau-de-nil suit worn by Tippi Hedren in The Birds.  Hitch apparently didn’t like costume to compete with the content of film.

Cleopatra‘s black chiffon gown, embellished with hundreds of coral and pearl sequins.

This white linen dress, worn so very briefly, but made exquisitely and fit for a goddess.  The third Cleopatra item in the exhibition is the green silk dress at the top of this post which happens to be one of my favourite exhibits: worn by Claudette Colbert in the 1934 film.  It owes less to Egypt and more to the Art Deco style lines of of the time.  Also here is Guinevere’s dress from Camelot, a film which I never thought I’d want to see again till now I’ve seen a close-up of the most interesting wedding dress ever, made by hundreds of skilled cutters, embroiderers and seamstresses and sewn in with thousands of tiny, translucent shells and pumpkin seeds

I noticed as I walked around Hollywood Costume that the visitors to this exhibitions were pretty much divided 50:50 along the male/female lines (this isn’t something I would have said of Ballgowns or Quilts!)  Ladies, this is a testosterone-tolerant show alright so if you have a dad, son or a date, bring along!  You can marvel together at the slimness of Travis Bickle‘s waist.  Or laugh at Borat‘s 1980s-inspired suit (“It had no style whatsoever!” boasts the designer).  Or maybe pay homage to the dressing gown of The Dude, the overly-comfortable garment worn for the writing of the $0.67 cheque scene.  Question: why did the designers have to procure 4 dressing gowns for The Dude?! A. ‘Cause he had to keep getting his bonce shoved down the bog!!

The Gift Shop Goodies Birthday Giveaway 

This blog’s 1st birthday is soon coming up and on the 8th Feb I’ll be celebrating by giving away 3 V&A/Hollywood Costume prizes: 

1. V&A magazine, the winter edition, including an interview with the costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who is also the curator of this exhibition.


 2. A Hollywood Shopper

An A4-sized shopper of the kind you sewistas could knock off in about 5 mins, but it’s very starry and it’s nice to win sometimes, right?!

3. Postcards from the exhibition (plus sparkly pencil)

Kim Novak’s Vertigo outfit designed by Edith Head (and not unlike something out of a Boden winter catalogue), Scarlett O’Hara’s velvet curtain dress designed by Walter Plunkett and Dorothy’s red shoes, which apparently had to make themselves absent from the exhibition for a week during Thanksgiving last year when they were returned to the U.S.  (they must be magic!)

To win one of the above, enter the draw by commenting below.  Tell me what your all-time favourite Hollywood costume is and/or answer this question, however wrongly …

Q Who am I?

a) My costume is at the V&A

b) I wear leather jeans à la Jim Morrison (PHWOAR!!)

c) … and a Nazi helmet ( … 😯 )

d) … and World War I trench armour (…. 😕 )

e) … and a big plastic calculator (…. 😀 )

And don’t even think about typing the above into Google as you’ll probably break the Internet…


Vogue 1247 Winner

So, all the names were entered into the Cossack hat (it took ages! lol) and the winner of the Vogue 1247 Pattern Giveaway is……………. Tulle and Tweed!

Congratulations Annie.  Please email me a postal address.  I look forward to seeing what you make of this pattern!

Everybody else: it’s this baby blog’s 1st birthday soon and I’m planning a special giveaway so do tune in the next few weeks!

Those thinking of making the V1247 skirt: you have my blessing.  My daughter says it looks like a “work skirt”, possibly because I used pinstripe.  But the fabric is actually a stripe-print moleskin so though I look like a bossy-boots, I feel quite soft and cuddly!  And unlike wool pinstripe, I don’t see this one wearing out or going shiny with wear.

But was it worth buying a fairly expensive pattern for a skirt that I’ve made before using my Basic Skirt Block,  a bit of guesswork and an old IKEA curtain doubled up at the front?!

Well, yes and no.  There wasn’t much construction difference between them.  Here’s old, inside out:

And here’s new:

The case against:

  • I had to do the usual pattern adjustment of changing the outward curve on the sides, i.e. I changed the line from waist to hip to a straight, not curved, diagonal.  Is this a common alternation, I wonder?  Do my readers do this or am I the only one who tries on skirts and finds pouches of excess fabric some 3-5cm below the waist?!  However, I was impressed by how much size 12 of the pattern fitted my shape at the waist and the widest part of the hips, with an ideal amount of ease.  Not that I’m giving Vogue the credit for that: it’s all my own good work in eating the right amount of pies!
  • The pattern had to be lengthened to make it more of a skirt and less of a … belt?
  • The waistband: the pattern was cut too small to fit the skirt IMO.  I made two waistbands thinking I’d mistraced the pattern the first time.  At the second go, the waistband was still 4cm too narrow to fit a tab with hook and eye.  Luckily it was salvageable (by skin of teeth).  Recommendation: before cutting the waistband, measure twice, nay, thrice!
  • The other disadvantage of a waistband is that it’s relentlessly fitted at the waist.  When I pull in my stomach muscles – which, being a former student of Greenwich Pilates, I remember to do every now and then –  the once-perfectly sized skirt becomes too big as the waistband moves away from the body.  This wouldn’t happen if the waist had been finished off with facing: the skirt would just slide down slightly.  See what I mean?
The case for buying the pattern:

This skirt is so good-looking on the inside that I’d rank it as one of two most pro-looking garments I’ve ever made (the other is Julie’s dress).  Now I’ve had a go at seam binding, I’ll be looking for any other opportunity to incorporate it: a real means of progressing to couture.  But a Recommendation: if, like me, you’re using thick fabric, you’ll probably want to press the side seams open and not bind them together as instructed – that’d be way too bulky at the hips.  In which case, I suggest you make 1.2m more bias binding than specified.

Shame that photos of a black skirt taken in our winter gloomph don’t show it off well, but here are the pics of me getting high on its awesomeness.  Ok, so maybe the sexy fumes of our newly varnished floor helped…

Vogue 1247 Giveaway

This is the Vogue 1247 top, designed by Rachel Comey and sewn hurriedly by Marianna as she felt an immediate need for a garment that would disguise her mince-pie-thickened, post-Christmas waistline!

Today was an unusual day in that it rained less and actually dawned.  After going stir-crazy from eating and drinking solidly for a week, we took our sluggish selves for a walk along the Thames Path in Greenwich (and a long walk, I may add, hence the trench boots).  From the scandalized-looking faces of the passers-by, I got the impression that standing in the cold wind with one’s coat off posing for photos is not the done thing these days….  😯

Was it, I wonder, that strikingly revealing gash of a neckline?  Not my favourite feature of this top.  I wonder if it looking like a shark bite wasn’t something of an oversight after the interesting design that went into the front, the shoulder pleats and the sleeves?

Or maybe the aghast glances were aimed at my fishnets, i.e. Mary Portas for Charnos fishnet Armery, a Christmas present from a friend.  Though a very warming addition to the outfit, I can see from the black-pink sausage arms in the pic that fishnet doesn’t photograph well!

Quick Capsule Pattern Review for the V1247 Top

Accuracy of difficulty rating:

They got that right!  The pattern is “intermediate” for a reason.  It takes the attention to detail of a rocket scientist to line up the back and front shoulder pleats and the French Seams connection at the front.  The best my patience could afford was this:

If I make this top again, I’ll first invest in a walking foot!

How much did the result look like the pattern cover:

Nah.  My Liberty-style lawn wasn’t slinky enough and neither was my figure!

Were the instructions easy to follow:

Yup, even for a panic-lover me.

Getting away without modifications

Er, dream on…

  • Firstly, drop some sizes (I made 8 and I’m a 12 top).
  • I would make the neckline narrower and less plunging.
  • You might feel the need to add contour darts to an otherwise shapeless back.


Yes, but not for hourglass figures: this top does now’t for poor Anne, she of the wasp waist!!

The Story of the Skirt

The skirt pattern has received some rave reviews and I’ll be making it soon as I find some good pinstripe as Sew Ruth did here.  The denim skirt I’m wearing above is actually a copy of the V1247 design where I used my Basic Skirt Block instead of the patternI’m especially pleased with the zip at the back, made by following Gertie’s exposed zipper tutorial.  It’s given the skirt a RTW look, though those metal teeth and in-yer-face-stitching creep the hell outta the kids!  🙂

It’ll be interesting to see how the two versions compare.

The Giveaway

For a chance to win one of the most blogged about patterns of 2012 (sized 6-12),  leave a comment below by January the 10th midnight (Greenwich Mean Time, natch!).

Iris Winner

Thanks so much for your comments on my holiday wardrobe and for entering the Iris Giveaway.  The winner of the draw is Susan.  Susan, I’ve emailed you.  Enjoy the shorts!

Nane guessed I was in Croatia.  Lakaribane, you must be a detective! 

Split was the retirement home of a Roman Emperor and later a part of the Venetian republic so the Roman and Italian influences are strong. 

The waterfalls are on the River Krka, a short drive away in Central Dalmatia.

A note to Mary: I think it’s wonderful you’ve got yourself some Viva Frida fabric.  Please let me know when you make your dress!

Marianna xx

Colette Iris Giveaway

Prompted by Jennifer’s Make it, Wear It Summer Holiday challenge, I’ve made a gallery of my holiday wardrobe pictures.  But can you guess where I am?

Here are the Iris shorts worn during a spot of site-seeing, to give you an idea.  When I made them last month, I traced the pattern so it is intact, sized 0-18, and ready to be dispatched to one lucky reader who leaves a comment below telling me:

a) where do you think I went (I don’t expect you to guess but would be interested in your impressions!)


b) which outfit you like best.


Here are the clues/contenders:

Burda 7378 proved the most worn outfit: not too clingy in the midday 32°C+ (90°F) temperatures.  Also, I suspect the lime colour creates a welcome refreshing effect.

I swam just below that waterfall, btw!

 Here I am consoling an over-dressed doggy.

Here, I was looking out for a spotty doggie but instead found this funny-faced fella made of stone.

Also popular was my Zen Charmer skirt, worn here with the Pleated Neckline top.  I’d carried a heavy bag just before and rubbing against it, my skirt had worked its way around till it was completely back to front (no, my photographer couldn’t have cared less to tell me…).  Isn’t it infuriating when skirts do that?!

Doesn’t the Pleated Neckline match my lunch nicely?  A warning to anyone on a date: Black Risotto is not a suitable choice of dish.  The squid ink dyes your teeth black!  And that is not all…

If, on the other hand, your date is Rob Zombie

Being away from my sewing got me feeling creatively frustrated till I had the brilliant idea to draw on a wall.  Whilst wearing my New Look 6459 hybrid.

Someone called the police and I thought of a quick getaway on this bike…

But my skirt was too tight: from the waist down, the dress is a Basic Skirt Block so saddles aren’t an option…  Luckily, the local policemen, who looked young and at the same time….antiquated, were too encumbered by their uniforms to catch me.

I only wore the beloved Jasmine once: it was too hot for sleeves!

My own prize for the Feelgood Dress of the Summer goes to Viva Frida, worn just once to a reunion at my primary school. 

The colours looked deep and gorgeous at dusk and lost none of their saturation after it got dark.  Though I got home at 1:30am, I managed to extract myself from the bra diverters without too much hassle…

Can’t wait to wear the dress again: Indian summer anyone?!

The Iris Giveaway Draw

I’ll be drawing the winner on Monday 17th September.  When you comment, please ensure I have your email so that I can contact you if you’re the one! 

Good luck!!

P.S. That ghostly graffiti isn’t really my own work, you know…