Vintage Lady of the Week: KATHARINE HEPBURN

Katharine Hepburn was an odd duck. From her deep, husky voice, to her handsome (but not beautiful) looks, to her bizarre behavior, she remains some one who defies conventions. She was alternately described as strong, and stubborn; independent, and pig-headed. Besides being a phenomenal actress, she is next best known for her unofficial relationship with Spencer Tracy.

The story of Katharine Hepburn’s life, her rise to stardom, and her dalliances, is a long and twisting tale. You can find it on Wikipedia, or in a plethora of biographies. I’m just going to focus on her costumes! And -oh!- what costumes she had!

First up is this feminine tuxedo, from “Woman of the Year” (1942). Katharine Hepburn was infamous for her pants. At the time, pants were far from the norm in women’s wear. I read once that she showed up to a rehearsal once in blue jeans (gasp! the scandal!), and the director absolutely lost it. He apparently banned her from the theater until she put on a skirt, so she wrapped a burlap bag around her waist. Is it true? I have no idea, but given everything I’ve read about her behavior, it really wouldn’t surprise me.

Woman of the Year

Second is this dress from “Holiday” (1938). The dress itself is simple, not particularly close fitting, and rather plain, besides the scarf. What I find so appealing is that she was able to do a somersault from Cary Grants shoulders, and landed it! In a full length dress!!!! Mind boggling.

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This stunning evening dress showed up in “The Philadelphia Story” (1940). The bead work alone makes me absolutely drool. What I wouldn’t do for this dress? The sleeve are interesting as well. This is definitely on my list of things to recreate. It’s just STUNNING!!

KH Philadelphia Story

Next is this stunning lamé gown from “Bringing Up Baby”(1938). I adore this fabric, but hate working with it, so this particular dress is not really on my sewing list. The cut and construction are beautiful, and you can see the attention to detail present in it. Look at the fringe on the bodice. And, if you have seen the movie, how about that tear away panel on the skirt! 🙂

KH Bringing Up Baby

I  have this dress last, because I feel that although it is an absolutely stunning dress, it just doesn’t seem to fit with Katharine Hepburn’s personality. It seems entirely to structured, and not at all in line with the fiery independent spirit seen both in her personal life and in the character she played in “Adam’s Rib”(1949). I couldn’t find any good images of this costume in the film. But you can see how sumptuous construction is!

KH Adams Rib

Well, that’s all I have for this week. What do you think of Katharine Hepburn? What do you think is her best film?

 

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Vintage Lady of the Week: MYRNA LOY

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The first black-and-white movie I ever saw was “After the Thin Man”. It would be another five years until I got cable, and discovered the Turner Classic Movies channel (as far as my mother is concerned, my discovery of said channel was possibly the worst event of her life- she now has to stipulate “Made after 1986, in color, with living actors!” when I turn on the TV). But the image of Myrna Loy, with her elfin face, smartly curled hair, and witty lines, stuck with me. Imagine my glee when I found out that she had made many, MANY movies, and many of them with William Powell, who I feel is absolutely the best of her co-stars!

Myrna Loy started off her career as a dancer, and entered Hollywood before “talkies” had started. She frequently played Asian characters, or nominal chorus characters. As a matter of fact, you can spot her at the end of “The Jazz Singer”, which is a sort of bridge between the silent movies and the “talkie” movies. It wasn’t until she was cast in “The Thin Man” that her career really took off.

One thing that I hadn’t know, and that made me really happy, was that she was the first celebrity to get involved with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and was also a co-chairman of the Advisory Council of the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing. While it is nice when celebrities get involved with animal rights, there is something incredibly heart warming to me about celebrities who were involved with human rights causes, before they were de rigueur.

Which is absolutely not to say that I’m not all for animal rights, too.

But I digress.

I now present you with absolutely my favorite of her costumes. Few and far between are the Myrna Loy costumes that I don’t like, so this took some concerted effort, to not just present you with a catalogue of all 500 of my favorite costumes.

The first one I have for you just has to be this lounging ensemble from “The Thin Man” (1934). I love 1930’s fashion, and I would dearly love to one day make a replica of this set. It is a silk dress with a frilled collar thing and cuffs, underneath a robe. How do I know this? At the very beginning of “After the Thin Man” (1935), we see almost the exact same robe (there is a change in the collar style), while the dress is being used to wrap a martini shaker. You can tell by that frilly collar thing. …Yes. I have watched “The Thin Man” movies so many times that I have commited them to memory….

The thin Man 1934

The Thin Man (1934)

After the Thin Man (1936).

After the Thin Man (1936)

 

Second up, I have this simple gown that looks like it has been painted onto her body with liquid latex, from “Libeled Lady” (1935). I love the fit of this dress, and the metallic sheen it has. And on Myrna Loy, it looks dynamite! If I wore it, I’d look like a stuffed sausage. ::le sigh::

ML Libeled Lady
Next I have her wonderful costumes from “After the Thin Man” (1935). She wore a few dresses that had sheer over lays dripping with embroidery. I like the way it looks, very ethereal, which seems almost contradictory in a tailored garment. I also love the hats she wears. They are … well they certainly are screwy, aren’t they!

ML Shadow of the Thin Man
Finally, I have this dressing gown, from “Third Finger, Left Hand” (1940). I always drool over beading on vintage costumes, and I am working on convincing myself that this particular beading pattern might not take TOO long. Not that I know anything about beading, but I feel like it’s good to have insane aspirations, like reproducing this piece!

ML Third Finger Left Hand

 

Is that it? It is for today. I could probably keep going, but this seams like a good stopping point.

What about you? Do you like Myrna Loy? What do you think is her best movie?

Vintage Lady of the Week: DORIS DAY

I adore Doris Day. Her spunky characters never ceased to amuse me, and I love her voice. I have to be honest, I once spent an entire summer, after watching “Romance on the High Seas”, belting out “Put ’em in a Box, Tie ’em with a Ribbon and Throw ’em in the Deep Blue Sea” over and over and over again. I’m not sure that my neighbors were too thrilled with this, but maybe they welcomed a break from my waaaaaaaaaaaay flat-and-sharp rendition of “Phantom of the Opera” songs (I sing while I work, partially to humor the green monster, Jack, and partially because I just love to sing.)

Jack demands more singing!!!

Jack demands more singing!!!

The story of how Doris Day  ended up in Hollywood is both heart warming and comical, much like many of her movies. She was originally a singer with a band. In 1947, she did an audition for “Romance on the High Seas”.  According to an interview I heard, when she got the call telling her she had been cast, she thought it was a joke set up by her manager! The role of Georgia led to a 20 year career in Hollywood, during which she made 39 movies. Now there is a woman who kept herself busy! I can appreciate that. 🙂

When I first saw “Romance on the High Seas”, I fell in love with her wardrobe, her voice, and pretty much everything else about her.  But enough about that! Here are my top wardrobe picks !

First up is her zany “Matahari”-esque costume from “The Glass Bottom Boat” (1966). It was a toss up between this one and her orange mermaid outfit. Both of them are over the top, colorful, and hilarious. While I’m not exactly dying to make a reproduction of this, it never ceases to put a smile on my face! 🙂

The Glass Bottom Boat (1960)

Second is definitely the blue dress from “Romance on the High Seas” (1948). The bead work is stunning, and it fits her like a glove. If you watch the movie carefully, you may notice that she seems to move from her hips, and her torso seems to sway, a fraction of a minute behind the rest of her body. This sometimes happens with a rigid internal structure, like a corset, or lots of boning. It would have helped provide support (let’s face it, sleeveless bodices sometimes need more than wardrobe tape to stay up), and also shaping, for that beautiful silhouette she had. Also, I am IN LOVE with that little shoulder cape!

Doris Day 1

 

I’m starting to notice that many of my favorite costumes for Doris Day are blue. She just looks fabulous in blue! This is third on my list, a wonderful gown from “Love Me or Leave Me” (1955). I love formal gowns from times gone by, the beading, the layering in the skirts… the cunning use of high slits that do not scream “I”M A TRAMP!!!!”. Of all the blues I’ve seen her in, I think this shade looks the best. She almost looks like her skin is made of porcelain!

DD love me or leave me 1955

Fourth up is one of the first costumes she wore in “Please, Don’t Eat the Daisies” (1960). The dress itself is simple enough, but that great big flower on the front makes it a show stopper. Or a conversation starter. I  think maybe I like the idea of this dress, combining an eye-catching adornment with something sleek, to keep it from being boring.

DD Please Don't Eat the Daisies

 

Well, that’s all. What do you think of them? What costumes of hers do you like?

 

 

Sweet Betty Blue Kimono – Part 1

I made a lot of New Years resolutions. Like most people in the world, most of these resolutions fell through the cracks in the first five days.  However, one thing that I refuse to let fall apart is my new and improved sewing schedule. I’ve decided to start working with me archives. Between vintage patterns, vintage pattern magazines, and some really stunning (I think) vintage pieces I have salvaged from attics and thrift stores, I have a pretty good base to start from.

Most of the vintage dresses, coats, etc. in my archive are more involved than I would like to start off with, so I’ve decided to finally finish a project that I swore I would make- this awesome 1920’s kimono robe!!! (I bet you remember it! Don’t you?)

The Betty Blue KimonoWell, to refresh my memory, it’s this little number, from the 1925 Spring Fashion Services Magazine. Kimonos are fairly straight forward in their construction; they are just rectangles of fabric sewn together in a specific way. The instructions for this one say to use McCall pattern #3825. Given that this would have been in the 1920’s, and that it has long since been out of print, I have instead decided to use the kimono pattern in my go-to lingerie sewing seer: Sewing Lingerie, from the Singer Reference Library.

Sewing Lingerie

It’s should go together pretty quickly. And I even have the fabric for it! It’s just a polyester crepe that I picked up at Ye Olde Jo-Ann Fabrics, but I think it will work just fine. For the closures, I think I’ll see if I can pick up dome wooden or metal hoops at the craft store, and wrap them with ribbon. But we will see.

Betty Blue embroidery

I’m also finally going to be trying my hand at embroidery. This pattern is from “Pretty Pretties”, a wonderful little e-book available on Etsy, from MrsDepew. If you haven’t checked out her store, you should! She has an absolute treasure trove of vintage patterns, magazines and digital reproductions!  Anyway, it needs a special needle, which I have, and I even picked up two different shades of blue that will look lovely with the fabric. I think I might put it on the tails of the sleeves.

Well, check back next week to see if I have made any progress! 🙂

 

Lady of the Week: Marilyn Monroe

To get my semester off on the right foot, I decided to do some serious research into Marilyn Monroe. Mostly as an excuse to look a pictures of her wonderful wardrobe, to slap a lot of make up on my face, and to watch all of her movies! 🙂

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To save all of us from a heavy dose of depression by telling her bio (which you can read here, but, WOW, have some Prozac on hand!) I’m just going to show you what I think are her absolute BEST costumes and looks!

First up, the sassy orange dress she wore in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953). I know most people immedeately think of the white dress (you know the one), but for me it’s this dress. So few people are able to wear the color orange, with out looking sickly. Marilyn not only pulls off the color wonderfully, it’s a fabulous dress design. Other notable things about the movie (besides the costumes) are the song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, and… well, the copious amount of sparkley jewelry in the film! 🙂

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Second on my list is the white foofy dress from “The Seven Year Itch” (1955), for no other reason than that it’s become such an iconic image. On a quick side note, I had a dress like that once. When I moved to Philadelphia, I stopped wearing it, because every time I walked up the steps from the subway station, my skirt blew up over my head. It looks super hot in the movie… but when you’re juggling a book bag, a purse and a mug of coffee, it’s down right humiliating.

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Third is her entire wardrobe from “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1953), but most especially this stunning evening dress. WOW! This film holds a particular place in my heart. It was the first time I ever saw an actress who was portrayed as glamorous, even though she wore glasses. Having had a bespectacled childhood myself, I always knew exactly what drove the character to take off her glasses in an attempt to look beautiful, despite the fact that she would walk into things.

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And finally, the costumes from “Some Like it Hot” (1959). Let us pause to take a moment here to recount some of the fashion atrocities committed on the red carpet in the past ten years. Like the scrap of fabric Jennifer Lopez wore, back in the day. Or, more recently, some of the stripper-ific get ups Katy Perry has been seen in. Some times these ladies have no shame, right? If only they could take inspiration from the more tasteful and glamorous times gone by!

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Well, considering that some of the costumes Marilyn wore in this movie  really WERE just scraps of fabric, with some strategic sequin placement, I’m suddenly seeing the fashion faux pas of my generation in a whole new light. Although, I can not lie. I have a pretty good approximation of this dress.

And I’ve worn it.

In public.

On multiple occasions.

Of my own free will.

I hope you have enjoyed my top favorite Marilyn looks. What about you? What do you think were her top looks?

Knitting Thursday: The Red Velvet Cupcake Clutch

Ahh, how I love apocalyptic storms! For the past week, every single day, there seems to have been a disaster warning: Floods, tornadoes, twisters, hail, lightning storm, the Four Horsemen- you name it, and there’s been a warning for it. So the weather has been horrible, and since I run amok using SEPTA, I’ve pretty much been hiding out in the house. As if the weather and sudden lack of mobility weren’t bad enough, yesterday I snapped my only pair of glasses in half. I hot glued them back together, since with out them, I can only see three inches past my nose… But it’s only a temporary solution. SO this week, the stress has been high, the flood waters have been high, and Murphy’s Law has reigned supreme.

But enough about me! How many of you guys tried on the crochet pattern? ::waits patiently::

Hiawatha crocheted clutch

Well, that’s okay, because I tried it out, multiple times, with different yarn weights. I had trouble getting it to look like the picture, mostly because I had never crocheted before, but considering that I learned to crochet on this project, it’s not too terribly difficult, and it comes together faster than I thought.

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This was the first one I made- I chose yarns that would match a dress sample I planned on shooting to put in my store. I knitted the entire thing with double strands, using medium weight 1.75 oz. yarn. SO I ended up with a REALLY chunky purse, that reminded me a whole lot of the red velvet cupcakes my boyfriend makes me on my birthday. Because it was so big and bulky and floppy, it doesn’t really hold it’s shape very well. So I’m going to line it with stabilized fabric, so it doesn’t stretch out when I use it. It only took about five hours… and two of those hours I spent cursing the skies because my yarn kept getting snarled and tangled.

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This was the second one I made, using a fairly thick crochet yarn. It took a lot longer, since the yarn was finer, and I had some trouble with my ability to use a measuring tape, so it ended up being two inches short of how wide it was supposed to be. But I like how it ended up. There wasn’t any instructions for a wrist strap, but it wasn’t really that difficult to figure out. I just lined it with some scrap fabric from the dress, and am going to sew a little zipper to the top.

The great thing about this pattern is that it can be used effectively with many different yarn weights and yarn types to make different sized bags, without having to change the directions. Assume that a larger yarn will give you a larger bag and proceed from there!

For new readers, here is the link for the pattern: http://www.flickr.com/photos/96766844@N02/8905422138/

If you have any trouble viewing or copying it, just email me and I can email you a copy of it!

Happy crocheting! 🙂

The Fine Art of Frolicking

There is something magical about a full skirt with a flouncy petticoat underneath it. It evokes the fairy tale princess, dreams of Cinderella and Prince Charming, and the delicate femininity of the 1950’s fashions.

I have been working on a 1950’s style dress for this Sunday, and, as luck would have it, unearthed a black net petticoat from the maelstrom that is my costume shop. I pressed it, tried it on, and swirled through the shop in a tee-shirt, beat up jeans, my petticoat and sandals, like a little girl at the holidays.

Having finally finished my dress (by finished I mean that it’s not held together with pins, and has a functioning zipper, but still requires hemming and a few fitting alterations), I was determined to try it on with the petticoat underneath.

The result was fantastic. it added just the right amount of body to the skirt, and gave a wonderful twirly effect when I turned around to show my patient mother. I jumped up and down, and swirled the skirt.

“That’s not how you frolic!” my mother admonished.  “Stop looking down at the skirt! Stand up straight! Now you can frolic!”

I followed her directions, and frolic, I did, through the living room, and the dining room. And then, having entirely too much fun, I careened into a table in the kitchen and knocked over a bowl full of fruit.

The moral of this story is that as much fun as it is to prance and dance around in a full petticoat and skirt, it is important to keep one’s surroundings in mind. you must be graceful and princess-like… and princesses DO NOT slam into tables! 🙂 Also, remember that a full skirt can knock things off coffee tables… like your coffee mugs! BEWARE,  and, most importantly, have fun!! 🙂