A Year in Review: 2014

At the risk of my “year in review” posts being my most frequent kind of post, here is a quick round-up of 2014, so I can move on to my next most frequent post, my Academy Award predictions for the Costume Design category.

In February I started off making my first vintage-inspired piece, a skirt based on McCalls 6667 from 1946. I didn’t actually have the pattern or anything I just made is after being inspired a picture of the pattern I found through a random Google search.


In March I visited the Downton Abbey exhibit at the Spadina House. And in April I attended Costume Con 32, sporting a vintage look (including my 1946 skirt above).


In July we took a cruise to Iceland and Norway and stopped off for a few days in London. I was able to sneak in a little costume spying too. Including most notably a trip to the V&A for the exhibit: “The Glamour of Italian Fashion – 1945-2014“. Unfortunately no photos (or sketching!) allowed.

In September I made the Bluebird nurse’s uniform. And the missing collar and cuffs were added in October. Also in October I made a Halloween costume, for the annual dance I attend, that intertwined a Venetian masquerade ballgown style with Marie from the Aristocats.


And I got to don my 1912 dress again for the annual Haunted event. This time with wig and fur.

Bryan and Nicole, inside, Haunted Mississauga 2014

In November I helped celebrate local history by donning an 1812 dress. This one wasn’t made by me, but I put together the turban-style headpiece to match.


In November and December I made two museum costumes one 1830s dress and one WWI era. These combined Past Patterns and original pattern drafting by me.

DSC_0176 DSC_0174

And post-Christmas I bought a pair of Miss L Fire 1940s-inspired heels to continue my foray into making vintage a larger part of my wardrobe.


In the meanwhile, we also bought and moved into our first house and adopted two kitties. And I started a dress that’s still lost in the packed boxes.

It was a busy year, but here’s to a much busier next year. (And I think it will be, because I’ve already completed a 1940s plaid skirt and 90% completed a Vionnet-inspired gown! Hurray!)

Hopped-up Honey Hallucinates Old Hollywood Horror: Pretty Little Liars Goes Noir

Here at the offices of the Daily Dandizette (the living room) Pretty Little Liars is a staff favourite.  While some teen shows try to be hip and “with it” by chasing trends and dating themselves immediately with au current pop culture references, PLL has always felt out of time.  Its central town of Rosewood is a lot like Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow if you replace dance marathons with film noir film festivals and whimsy with murder.  We marvel at the adventures of besties Spencer, Aria, Emily and Hannah as they navigate the perils of high school and the murder of their best friend.   It’s the kind of trashy genre fare that teen TV does well these days.  And yet the plot twists and melodrama always take a backseat to the more sartorial aspects of the show, so it was no surprise that the show just went straight up noir homage for an entire episode.


Back in September, while I was working away at my Snow White costume, I perused Netflix in the hopes of finding some mindless TV show to play in the background of my sewing. I decided to put on Pretty Little Liars. I had heard the title before, but I basically knew nothing about the show. I was quite surprised to find a few episodes in that I was more focused on my mindless TV show than my actual sewing!

Pretty Little Liars has its issues, it’s not a perfect show: it tends to spin its wheels (as is common in most North American TV) and draw out a season into 24 episodes, when it easily could have been three. But aside from that, it is the kind of show I’d like to see more on TV. The show draws heavily on Hitchcock, notably one Halloween episode when the main characters are caught unwittingly in the story of Psycho. Despite its shortcomings (as mentioned above), this show does not dumb down for an audience that probably misses half the old Hollywood horror/thriller references.

So, the moment I heard about “Shadow Play”, I was excited. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, “Shadow Play” went beyond the neo-noir genre and straight into the noir! It pays a homage to the noir genre in a way that actually seamlessly blends into the actual plot of the story, and it’s not poking fun either. This is a serious noir genre episode. The episode drew inspiration from Laura, Cat People, The Big Combo, and several Orson Welles’ projects. Serious attention is given to chiaroscuro lighting. I’d say the only fault of the episode is that sometimes the actors fall flat, not able to shape their delivery of the lines in a way that suites the mood of the genre, but which would otherwise be fine in a normal episode of PLL.

For those of you who follow the show, Spencer  is the only one of the quartet who bothered with historical accuracy when dressing up for an historic ball.  She is the smart one, after all.  By contrast, Aria thought it would be nice to wear her underwear over her dress.   So it was nice to see the episode stay true to her character’s sense of being right, damn it, by accurately recreating the genre.  The integrity with which the creators approached the episode is admirable.  It wasn’t just a pastiche of well-worn noir tropes; in the costumes, hair, make-up, cinematography, and set design, it was a love letter to the genre.

PLL - 001 Barbara Stanwyck / Troian Bellisario

PLL - 005Troian Bellisario and Keegan Allen / Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep

PLL - 004Teresa Wright in Shadow of a Doubt / Lucy Hale

PLL - 003Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death / Ian Harding

PLL - 002Dana Andrews in Laura / Keegan Allen, Troian Bellisario (Sasha Pieterse in portrait)

Also, if the show is trying to say that taking drugs will turn your life into a stylized film noir, it’s not exactly the most effective anti-drug message.

Source / Source / Source / Source / Source

Vintage on My Mind

I was in the car with my husband last week, he was driving us home from dinner with his family. I was doing my best impression of 1940s/mid-century fashion with whatever I could find in my closet: fitted black sweater and brooch, tan knee-length straight skirt, belt above the natural waist, black faux-fur coat and the vintage cocktail hat I found in my parents’ basement. I felt extremely well put-together. At the restaurant, despite wearing a simple black sweater and corduroy skirt (and my husband in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt beside me), the waitress asked us what we were celebrating. Well… nothing.

(This is not going to turn into a social commentary on how people dress, though I certainly have plenty to say on that topic!)

Back to the car ride home. I turned to my husband, and asked: Can I ask you something weird? How would you feel if I started dressing like this all the time? What would you think if I stopped following modern fashion trends and started wearing vintage-inspired only?

Has anyone seen TLC’s show Wives with Beehives? The show itself is a horrible mockery of reality, but the gist is a group of people/couples who choose to live a rockabilly lifestyle, and do things 1950s style. Well, I’m not sure I want to live a 1940s lifestyle, just wear some 1940s fashions, like hats and peep toe shoes. Would such fashion “subversiveness” be respected or ridiculed? And, more importantly, how would it feel to probably always be the most over-dressed person in the room? According to Oscar Wilde, “you can never be overdressed or overeducated,” but I’m sure there are plenty who would beg to differ. Ultimately, should I care?

It takes a long, long time to transition a wardrobe. But you have to start somewhere, so with that in mind I raided my fabric stache looking for usable pieces. To sum up the long-winded introduction, I want to charge up my wardrobe with some vintage fashion stables. Real vintage pieces are a little out of my price range, and can be hard to find in my size (i.e. larger than a size 4). Unfortunately my current fabric collection left me a little underwhelmed. I found some leftover black wool crepe and black twill which would makes some nice skirts, but I was hoping for something a little more interesting.

On the weekend I hit up the local fabric store, with high expectations. My expectations are always  too high when I go to this store, because generally all they have is crap (“100% Unknown Fabric Content,” anyone?). But they had a sale on! In the end I didn’t actually get anything that was part of the sale, and not a single toile de jouy which I was specifically on the hunt for, but I did find some interesting prints at reduced prices.

Fabric One:


Red and Gold deco print in cotton with a seriously luscious sheen. The photo reads more pink, but it is a true candy apple red. I saw this and instantly knew I had to have it. I’m picturing something a little more evening for this one; I had this design in my head while browsing at the store and this fabric may work if nothing else inspires me.

V8850Source: Vogue Vintage

At $8 per meter this one was the least on sale, but at least it’s all natural!

Fabric Two:


Green “European Designer Fabric” in probably cotton. This one has a very soft hand. I think it would make a really nice 1940s day dress. The fabric jumped out at me, but I really see-sawed on it. It’s a dark grey-green, not a colour I typically gravitate towards, but I liked the print. It was $4 per meter.

This fabric on Reproduction Fabrics is similar in design

Fabric Three:


Black and Floral poly fabric, probably. I also see-sawed on this. But it reminded me of some prints I saw on Reproduction Fabrics in the 1930s-1950s. Small dots or thin grid with large print, specifically flowers superimposed on top. The actual flowers are more realistic and the print more organized than most period prints, but I’m okay with that. Anyway, I’m also thinking some kind of blouson day dress for this. $3 per meter.

Next step is working on sketches and designs. And I have another project idea (re: the toile de jouy), I will get into that later.