Retro

Secret Cinema and Sewing Experiments

On my latest trip to London I attended my first Secret Cinema, an immersive film experience. While it isn’t so secret anymore (they used to not tell you the movie until you arrived), it’s still a very fun, very detailed evening out. Essentially Secret Cinema creates an environment based on a film, gives its attendees “characters” and provides a sort of LARP lite immersion before you watch the event’s film. When I found out they would be screening Blade Runner, well, I was there.

I received my character brief and set to figuring out what exactly it meant and what I should wear.

 

Upon reading more about the Job Title: Professional Friend, it became clear to me that I was a “basic pleasure model” similar to the replicant Pris. So what would an overweight, middle aged sexbot wear, I wondered?

Originally, I was going to wear my black lace fetish dress but then I thought, “Why aren’t I making a new outfit like I do for every event? Don’t be cheap and lazy!” So I set out to figure something that would be kind of spacey and future but still wearable by me.

I decided to experiment and try something I’d never done, sew with scuba. I really stay away from unusual fabrics but my idea seemed simple enough and I had a backup plan (the fetish dress). I went out looking at my retail options but ultimately found my fabric online from Fashion Fabrics Club. I found a neoprene that is black on one side and white on the other. So I decided to do a kind of 60s space take by sewing a color blocked mini dress.

I chose the trusty New Look 6889 as my pattern. It has the lines I needed and it is very fast and easy. I read up on sewing scuba / neoprene, which seemed pretty straightforward and similar to sewing most knits (use a new ball point needle). What I did not realize is that scuba fabric and neoprene, while similar in look, are not the same. Scuba is a polyester double knit fashion fabric. Neoprene has a foam core between the layers of double knit. The fabric I bought had a very thin core but it was there. That core also can make neoprene more hot to wear.

The neoprene was very easy to sew but not forgiving. It shows stitch marks but they do basically come out. Like all knits you need to make sure that you don’t stretch while you sew. I was also concerned the neoprene might snag on my feed dogs but I didn’t have an issue.

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The dress on top of other things that hang out on my dress form.

Originally I was going to leave all my edges raw but I am bad at cutting a straight line so I turned everything over and did a narrow hem. I also originally planned on making the dress more like a checkerboard so the back was the reverse of the front. I cut out my pieces incorrectly so the left side was black and the right side was white — not what I intended but it worked just fine.

To accessorize, I purchased a pink holographic harness from Apatico. I got a ton of compliments on the harness at the event and one of the immersion actors even tried to barter it off me. I turned her down.

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Zhora and her raincoat

As part of the immersion we were are told repeatedly to bring umbrellas, raincoats and to wear flat shoes due to “LA’s persistent acid rain”. This is because they actually made it rain, repeatedly, inside the immersion. I really wanted a clear raincoat like Zhora’s but I couldn’t find one in my size. I figured I’d try to make that too.

Not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I decided to make a cape to avoid setting sleeves made out of vinyl. I already had a teflon presser foot. I bought heavy duty needles and set to work.

I was shocked how easy it was to sew the vinyl together. It did not get torn up by the feed dogs. I did have to be a little careful that the vinyl did not stick to the metal plate though. It started off really great! Then I started trying to topstitch my seams and it started going wrong. I put it on. The cape flared out in a really weird way. It could have been a cool effect but I wasn’t buying it. Between the topstitch issues, the weird fit and the fact that I was trying to do this at the 11th hour, I gave up. I bought a super cute white vinyl raincoat on Amazon (it’s in the 1st photo on the dress form) instead.

IMG_8983As it turned out, London had some freaky weather while I was visiting. The day of Secret Cinema it was almost 80 degrees! Londoners were dying and it definitely was not a day for a vinyl raincoat. I was both glad I didn’t suffer through trying to make the clear one and annoyed that it was too hot to wear my white one. One of my friends was cast as a private detective and bought a super cute trench coat to wear. It was too hot for that as well.

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I bought a light up clear umbrella when I arrived on the site and boy did I need it. They were not kidding about the acid rain! It “rained” about every 15 minutes and it was not a light sprinkling. There were food stalls surrounding the rainy area and you could eat noodles barely shaded from the rain just like Deckard did in the film. A couple of times I was caught without my umbrella up and my neoprene dress turned out to be the right choice because rather than being soaked the rain just rolled off! We also had drinks in The Snake Pit after being let in the backdoor by Zhora herself.

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I had a great time during my trip to 2019 Los Angeles. That’s next year! Wow.

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Oscar Party dress, or I finally managed to sew a thing!

My first post of 2018 was an ambitious list of my sewing hopes for this year. So what did I not do at all in January and February? Yep, no sewing at all.

I finally was able to get back behind the machine to make a formal dress for an Oscar Party.

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I was very excited to give Simplicity 2506 from 1958 a spin. It was a good score to find this pattern in a 24 1/2 (45 bust). That’s actually a size too big for me but I made the dress with no alterations. This turned out to be a mistake as it was too big in the shoulders and at the neckline. I can make a fast and dirty fix on the dress I already made. I should take a wedge out of the center front and redraft that piece before I make this again.

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Originally I was going to make this dress in a sort of tiki inspired fabric of tan tropical leaves and flowers on a black ground. I misread the pattern however and after I had cut several pieces I realized I was at least a yard short of fabric. Since that fabric was essentially free, this error turned out to only be extremely annoying versus tragic or expensive. I didn’t have anything appropriate in my stash with enough yardage so I went out the day before the Oscars to try to find something else.

I, like most people, was totally thrilled by Black Panther. After watching, I immediately put a vintage dress out of African wax cotton on my sewing list so I’d have something “Wakandan” for DragonCon. I was striking out with Oscar dress fabric but the shop I was at has a wide selection of wax cottons. I immediately fell in love with this one. I love all the colors and the almost tech or cellular look to it. I also didn’t realize that African wax cotton prints come in set yardages. So I was a little worried about making that work with my big skirt pieces but bought a little extra it turned out fine. I was a little worried with how stiff the wax cotton was but I figured it had to soften up with washing. It softened up and had an almost brushed texture after a trip in the washing machine. It was a dream to work with and very easy to sew.

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I finished the dress at 7:30pm the night of the party. The red carpet started at 7pm so by the time I got dressed and ready I made a very late entrance. But, I did finish the dress, I did make it to the party and in addition to looking fab, I was super comfortable. I also had pocket since I put one in! I accessorized with an earring necklace combo from Dames a la Mode. While you can’t see them I’m wearing very cute blue suede heels I just rediscovered after several years being lost under my bed. This dress would look even more period with a small crinoline underneath. I actually have the perfect one, but in my rush to get the party I totally forgot about wearing it.

While I now I have the perfect gown for next year’s Oscars (I’m sure Black Panther will win something — costume design seems obvious), I’m still planning to make another more casual dress as a Black Panther homage. I’d like to use a print that is a little more traditional. Also, African wax cotton was a dream to work with and affordable so I’m completely down with sewing it again and often.

1980s McCalls into 1920s Garden Party

Ah the 1920s! Jazz Age Glamour! The Black Bottom! The Great Gatsby!

Fashions that look terrible on people with tits and ass.

Le Sigh.

In keeping with the 100 year rule (people get excited and nostalgic when things are about 100 years old), the decadent Jazz Age is back in style. I’m sure the impending doom that it seems like our county is hurtling towards is helping that Weimar Cabaret feeling. But for whatever reason, the 1920s and associated events are everywhere these days.

The 1920s is a decade I have never been super enthusiastic about costuming. The boyish flapper figure is really far from what I have. I’m much more about that hourglass. A couple of years ago I tried to make the One Hour Dress and that was a fugtastic fail. Despite my dislike of the era I was joining a bunch of friends at Dardenella’s Atlanta Gatsby Garden Party. I had to figure it out so I’d have something to wear.

This photo of my grandma with her grandma was my inspiration. This photo is probably from the later part of the 20s.

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As cute as my grandma was, and as cute as I bet that dress was, there’s sure something wonky going on with the fit. It’s not my grandma, it’s the style of the 20s.

Check her out just a few years later in the 30s:

Photo Mar 23, 1 08 00 AMAdorable! What a difference!

See what I was up against?

Looking at other photos from the 1920s, curvy and bigger people just looked frumpy. You needed to have tiny ankles and no discernable bust like these gals. Photo Apr 17, 12 01 55 AM

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But then again, Queen Latifah looked damn fabulous in the Bessie Smith biopic so being curvy and looking good in 1920s fashions could be done.

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I was doing my usual troll of eBay and Etsy for vintage half-sized patterns when this 1985 relic came up in my search.

Photo May 14, 12 32 16 AMMinus the hair and the shoulder pads, McCalls 2276 seemed pretty close to a 1920s dress.

The line art makes the 20s potential even clearer. The shoulder treatment is very similar to Decades of Style Isabella dress and the collar options also had potential. I decided to go with a short sleeved version of view C with a hip sash.

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My cotton fabrics were pretty cheap to begin with and then I bought them in a Joann’s mega sale at 50% off. Because of this (and because I ran myself out of time) I decided not to make a test and just sew on the fly. I wasn’t super invested in the the fabric or honestly the final dress so I wasn’t afraid of a fail. I dug around in my closet for an acceptable backup outfit just in case, so I was set either way.

With no darts and hardly any shaping I didn’t see any point of putting in the zipper. Since that left the back wider than the collar I probably should have made an adjustment but I didn’t. I took very small seam allowances on the facings to make up the difference. I took a smaller seam allowance from waist to hip on the side seam but otherwise did not adjust the sizing.

I had planned on doing the pleated skirt but since I was at the 11th hour I was feeling lazy so I got out my ruffler foot. I ruffled the three skirt panels and just figured I’d attach it and hope that it fit. When I tried the dress on I realized that the dropped waist was too low even for the 1920s and the overly full skirt was super 80s. I raised the waistline between three and four inches (I did it by eye), took out most of the 3rd skirt panel, and took about another 3 inches off the hem. I hand tacked the sash and added two vintage pink buttons as a detail.

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I tried the dress on with my other accessories but no shapewear. A distinct lack of fug was detected. 1920s success!

With my parasol mended, bust flattening shapewear on and picnic packed we were off to the event. It was held on the grounds of The Wren’s Nest, the home of Joel Chandler Harris. We were able to take an interesting short tour of the house which was a real treat!

I didn’t take a ton of photos but I here are a few.

Photo May 13, 1 04 52 PMSunglasses – $16 Amazon Prime!

Photo May 13, 1 08 48 PMMy husband, left, is wearing a bowtie I made for him. Don’t you love his oyster belt buckle?

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Megan made the Decades of Style Isabella for the occasion and I just love Rob’s swami getup!

One of our party, Rebecca (Swami Rob’s wife), was named best dressed at the party. She won a gift certificate for any dress from the new opened Trashy Diva boutique. This pretty much made the event for me!

Photo May 13, 1 03 01 PMThe win was foretold!

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As is prone to happen in Atlanta, a much feared for thunderstorm popped up halfway through the afternoon causing a scramble and a soaking. That pretty much ended the event as they had no rain plan (poor planning in my opinion). We never got a group photo and I was soaked through before I got my own photos.

Photo May 13, 4 22 58 PMMy coordinating bracelet and brooch, possibly by Neiger, are of the era.

Photo May 13, 4 23 23 PM My faces are of the era too. Pure silent film overacting.

All’s Well That End’s Well?

Bow Tie Bonanza

815r7ax5JnL._SY550_I’ve been playing around with another 70s patterns. This time it’s Kwik Sew 352, Tie Variations. I’ve been been making bow ties. I wanted to make my husband a bow tie or two, specifically for him to wear to an upcoming Gatsby picnic. Due to the vintage of this pattern I was wondering what the finished look of the bow tie would be. Would it be like a 70s prom tie or something a bit more timeless?

IMG_4063My initial tie was a bit too wide so I’ve taken a greater seam allowance. Opting to top stitch was really a mistake. I was also kind of stumped on what stiffener to use. On the first attempt I used sew-in interfacing that ended up being too heavy and stiff. My second with no interfacing and starch was not stiff enough. I did a little googling around and found this helpful blog post which suggested lining with muslin. That seemed too do the trick! The third time was the charm.

Despite having sewn a bow tie, I didn’t know how to tie one. I looked around at several tutorials but they all seemed kind of confusing. I found one that after an extensive step by step how to rounded out the tutorial by declaring that if anything was confusing just to remember that the most common knot used for bow ties is the same as the one you use to tie a shoe. Really? So I went through all of that when all I needed to know was “tie in bow”? Fucking hell people. No wonder the clip on ones became popular.

18235921_10154532898787337_567025972_oWhen I posted my first attempt photo on Facebook, a friend from my Chicago days declared that he would be proud to wear said tie. So I sent him my 3rd, perfecting attempt. Looking dapper, Alan!

Recent Vintage Sewing: Fetish and Finland

While I definitely just make things, I more often than not sew for events. Last year I was invited to a fetish night to see a friend perform. The days where I had a closet full of club wear have long gone so I struggled to figure out what to wear. I decided to sew a dress of black lace and pleather from my go to vintage pattern, Simplicity 1577 from 1956. I figured the mix of materials and the vintage styling would work in a “Mummy, I’ve been naughty” sort of way. IMG_0309I got most of the dress done. I just needed to sew the collar and the hems. But scheduling conspired and I ended up not attending nor finishing the dress.

Another similar event came up again recently and I was again asked to attend. Knowing that I was very close to having something to wear and also up for a nightlife adventure, I said yes and finished this dress. FullSizeRenderI love how it turned out. Just the right amount of class and the right amount of sass. I coordinated with a vintage hat I got in Las Vegas and shoes from TaoBao.IMG_3845I was also super happy with how my makeup turned out. I went for a colorful but soft look versus the more expected heavy goth with red lipstick. My eyeliner matched my hair.IMG_3859My date, Ms. Megan Maude, opted to make a companion piece to my dress so we had kind of a good / evil, yin / yang thing going on. We looked pretty damn fabulous I have to say.IMG_3857

The other vintage dress I’ve completed recently was made for a tiki-themed wedding. I was on the fence about sewing something. While I didn’t exactly have anything tropical, I definitely have other very good dresses in my closet that would have fit the bill. Then I saw the crazy fabric that Megan was using for her new dress. It has tropical leaves, birds and…tigers. Well, honestly, I got jealous. I wanted a new dress too.

I pulled out my tropical and atomic stash fabrics but nothing was really speaking to me. But then I remembered that I had this:IMG_4200I really have no idea how old this fabric is. It’s super polyester and I got it for a song. My original thought for it was a jumpsuit. Sure, it’s not tropical but one of the grooms is a Tom of Finland fan. I mean, yeah, these sailors are way more, eh, restrained than Tom’s but it still seemed like a match to me.

IMG_3933In keeping with the vibe of the fabric, I made a suitably disco, maxi dress complete with flutter sleeves from the 70s era McCalls 5337. Since I already knew I had something to wear to the wedding and because I was not overly emotionally attached to my fabric, I just dove in without making a test dress. Not that I really left myself the time to do that anyway!

IMG_3928The dress turned out just fine and was frankly too big. I had a suspicion that it might be but with the cling factor and drape of this polyester I didn’t want to take any chances on it being snug. I omitted the zipper. I just didn’t need it. I think my serger tension was set a little too tight but it turned out OK. The flutter sleeves really make this dress. I just know I might need to tweak a little for any future makes.

IMG_3925The wedding was a lovely intimate backyard affair on a warm and sunny April 1st. The photographer, also a friend of mine, arrived a little too early due to a miscommunication. Seeing no other guests he had a sudden fear that this was an epic April fool! But it wasn’t. It was actually an homage. The grandparents of one of the grooms were also married on April 1st. Sweetness!

Patriotic Protest Pantsuit

Ever since I got into sewing with vintage patterns I’ve been fascinated with the tunic pantsuits that seemed to be a part of every casual wear pattern in the 70s. I was born in 1973 and while I don’t exactly remember these garments from my childhood, they can be found all over my family photos and media from my toddler years. img_6576I’ve had a plan to sew my own version just for kicks for at least a year and a half. I decided to use Simplicity 5556, also from 1973, after making two versions of the dress from that pattern. Somewhere along the line I acquired a huge and cheap piece of blue and white double knit perfect for this project. I just needed to get around to sewing it.

In the run up to the election I was tentatively swept up in “pantsuit fever”. Despited my dearest hopes, I had my misgivings on how the election would really go. I considered trying to sew the pantsuit in time for Election Day. It would have been a crush but I could have done it. A friend suggested that I could wait and have it ready for The Inauguration. Since I was worried how I would feel if I burned the oil and it all went pear shaped, I took her suggestion.

And, as we know all now, it most certainly went pear shaped.

As soon as the Women’s March was announced, I considered going to Washington DC. In the end, I stayed and marched in Atlanta with old and dear friends who happened to be in town for the American Library Association convention. This was the time to make my pantsuit.

Since I had used part of the pattern before I felt like I had a decent chance of success without a mockup. I was a little concerned about the fit of the pants though. I measured my rise versus that of the pattern. It seemed like it would work and the tunic would come to the tops of my thighs anyway.img_2159It went together pretty quickly but it was looking pretty blah. I decided it needed a little jazz so I used my newly learned double needle trick to topstitch the neckline, all the hems and the tie belt with red thread. img_2160The pattern suggested that you could add a crease to the pants. I thought this would help tailor my look. To really accentuate the crease, and make life easier after washing, I sewed the pleat in, also in red. The only real problem was that somehow I managed to get one leg an inch shorter than the other! I’m not really sure how that happened. Maybe I am out of alignment these days? I’ve never noticed this on any other garments though. How odd. I had to make do since I didn’t quite have the extra inch to spare on the shorter leg. See if you can guess which one it was!img_2163In the end I wore my pantsuit with my 1976 bicentennial liberty bell pimp chain and a button I received with an Etsy purchase the day before the march. It was tucked in with a vintage pattern purchase. The button had clearly seen better days and its original pinback had been replaced with a safety pin. It reads “I Support America”. When I found it in my package, I really did not know what spirit the button was sent in but I took at as an omen and wore it.img_2208The day of the march it poured. We had scary storms and thunder so intense it knocked pictures off my neighbors’ walls. The start of the march was pushed back by 30 minutes. I debated on wearing my pantsuit in the pouring rain. I certainly gave up on any effort with my hair. I pushed the meetup time with my friends back and somehow, we managed to avoid the worst of the rain. Then the rain stopped. It was gray but we were ready. The estimate was 60,000 people marching, many of whom had come in the worst of the weather to get there. I certainly don’t blame people for not being sure. The storms that morning were downright frightening. I can only image how many people we might have had on a bright sunny day.img_2162I think in some ways my bling, button and pantsuit kind of confused my fellow marchers. I didn’t have a pink pussy hat or a protest sign. I could see how my oddly aggressive groovy patriotic garb might not “read”. Even if it didn’t resonate for others, it reminded me of everything that was a new step forward in 1973, everyone who had fought before and how we have to keep fighting. It was also really comfortable. Never hurts to have a comfy outfit for a protest!

As great as the Women’s March was, it was only one event. The hard work of fighting for and keeping rights was and is on going and is done generally without regard to glamour. But if you can make it a little glamorous by marching with friends in a handmade double knit pantsuit, it’s just that much better.

2016 Sewing Roundup, Part 1: Vintage Pledge

It’s New Years Day. Some of my decorations are down. I’ve spent my day relatively hangover free in my pajamas. Soon I will be eating cornbread, black eyed peas and collards, the traditional southern New Year’s meal. Tomorrow it’s back to reality but today is for relaxing, prepping and taking stock.

I’m pretty shocked how much sewing I actually accomplished for the Vintage Pledge! My 2016 goals were are follows:

  • Sew five different vintage (not repro) patterns
  • Make one item from vintage fabric
  • Sew my vintage UFOs from 2015

And here are my final tallies:

  • Sewed eight different vintage (not repro) patterns / one repro pattern
  • Made two garments from vintage fabric
  • Sewed two of my vintage UFOs from 2015 (I think there is only one left!)

In the end, I made 13 dresses, 3 blouses, 1 kid’s jacket and 2 hats. That is only what applied to the Vintage Pledge! I also made a couple of other garments and historical gear that I will cover in Part 2.

So what were all these things?

Kid’s Jacket for a little girl named George from vintage 70s George Washington fabric and a modern Burda pattern.george coatSimplicity Dress from 197370s heart dress on formBoth views of Simplicity 3010 from 1959IMG_9953IMG_9977Simplicity 4777 from 1963IMG_0587Simplicity 9562 from 1981IMG_0390Simplicity 5940 from 1965img_1249A Star Wars Patio Dress based off of Simplicity 594014522035_10210701382035386_897108728_oA vintage Princess Daisy Cosplay from based on Simplicity 3442img_1064A vintage Pokeman trainer / Aqua Scout Uniform from Patt-O-Rama 8311 and an 80s garrison cap tutorial. I’m here with my whole troop.68004821-mechanicalmasquerade2016-83McCalls 3053 from 1953, a 2015 UFO which was also a fail dress.img_1305Simplicity 6243 from 1965, a 2015 UFO made from a vintage sheetimg_1612A formal version of Simplicity 6243img_1506Mod Christmas dress from Simplicity 8844 from 1970img_1893Hat from McCall’s 8452 from 1966img_1900Three blouses from Simplicity Retro 2154IMG_9875IMG_0105christmas-blouse-pussy-bow

I’m surprised at my totals. I was really prolific in 2016. I had no idea!