Thursday, 26 April 2012

Simply Stylish

Now that the cooler weather has finally arrived, I've been feeling much more inspired to work on my winter wardrobe. First up, a 1950s skirt...

Butterick 6188
"Sleek-as-a-pin tailored skirt with side button-closing and an interesting side-pleated detail. You'll find this the perfect foil for your smartest tailored and soft blouses. The back hangs smoothly without pleats."

I had some beautiful wine coloured crepe in my stash which had been ear-marked for a skirt of some sort; it would be perfect for this project.

What do you think?

This skirt was fairly simple to put together - all straight lines! - but it took me a bit to work up to the pleats and buttons. The previous owner of the pattern had used a tracing wheel to transfer the markings and had pretty much shredded the entire left front pattern piece. It was in a bad way and I was concerned about making it worse. Fortunately, once I worked up the courage to use the pattern - yes, I use my actual vintage patterns, I'm too lazy to make a copy - it was smooth sailing.

I did consider using some flashy buttons for the hip closure but the covered buttons will give me more freedom to pair it with different coloured tops. Plus, I prefer that the side-pleat detail have all the glory. It's so simple, but so very stylish!

On another note, you may not have noticed but I've gone a different hair colour. I've been varying shades of red for at least 15 years and I had gotten tired of the latest one fading. It was time for a change, so I found a brown which I liked - golden mahogany brown - and went for it.

I had a quiet heart attack when I took off the towel, it looked drastically different and really dark, but I'm really pleased with how it's washing in. It's actually quite close to my natural colour, just a little warmer. I think I might keep it for a while.

- Tamara

Monday, 23 April 2012

Grey Old Days

Lily Pads, Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne.

Just a quick post to say welcome to my new followers and send out a big thank you to all who commented on my 'Out of the Ordinary' outfit.

Last week was particularly trying for me - job hunting sux! - and I can't begin to tell you how much I needed to hear your positive thoughts. They brought a little bit of sunshine into what had been a couple of grey old days indeed. But, that was last week and it's now time to pick myself up and begin again.

In sewing news, I started a 1950s skirt with a lovely side detail over the weekend. It's likely to be finished in the couple of next days so I'm hoping to have some pics before week's end. Oh, and the weather here has turned decidedly chilly, perfect weather for sitting inside listening to some cruisey, bluesy jazz tunes and sewing up a storm.

Thanks again everyone!

- Tamara

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Secrets of the Great Hollywood Portraits - Part 2

Welcome back!

First up, I'd like to mention that before I read 'The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photographers' it had never even occurred to me that these screen goddesses might have needed a little help to keep them looking their ethereal best.

Although the stars had final approval of the prints, they relied on the photographer (and retoucher) to remove any visible defects. From the moment the star stepped into the gallery, the photographer took into consideration the work to be done later in the darkroom, and by the army of expert retouchers on the large format negative, at which time any mistakes in posing or lighting could be corrected.
Joan Crawford, 1930.
Photo: George Hurrell, for MGM.
Publicity shot for Paid.

Using a fine point on a special pencil, the retouchers lightened spots and wrinkles by adding lead to the target area on the negative. Darkening an area was achieved by carefully scraping the emulsion from the dark areas with a knife.

The retouchers also required specific instructions on each negative so the stars wouldn’t all come out looking alike. The retouchers were paid by the hour so it was in their best interest to do as much as possible. The less precise the instructions, the more likely it was that the face would take on a lifeless, enamelled look. Thankfully, George Hurrell's retoucher was an expert and red-head Joan Crawford's face still retains its beautiful contours.
Joan Crawford, 1932.
Photo: George Hurrell.
The retouchers cleaned dirty teeth, replaced missing ones, and straightened crooked ones; they cleared the eyes if they were dull or bloodshot; they lengthened necks and eyelashes, whittled waists, and exercised ungainly pounds.
Ida Lupino, 1940.
Photo: Scotty Welbourne for Warner Bros.
Costume by Orry Kelly.
Publicity shot for They Drive by Night.

In 1960, along with the release of the film La Dolce Vita, came the arrival paparazzo and the end for the studio photographers. The last of the studio galleries closed in 1961 and all the publicity material, including negatives, were being thrown out! Sadly, this seems to be fairly common practise across the board.

Lucky for us, long time movie fan Mr John Kobal was on hand to dig through the trash and rescue this precious memorabilia. These days, the John Kobal Foundation holds over 22,000 original black & white negatives from 1920 - 1960 and features Hollywood star portraits, scene stills and production and publicity images.

'Made in Hollywood: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation' exhibition will be showing at the Toledo Museum of Art, USA, October 2012 -January 2013.

- Tamara

All information & images sourced from the following books: The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photographers; Hollywood Glamour Portraits: 1926 - 1949; Movie Star Portraits of the Forties.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Secrets of the Great Hollywood Portraits - Part 1

I've been meaning to do this post for months now but I've been too lazy to pull it all together. With very little sewing going on this week, I thought it the perfect time to get onto it. Turns out I've gathered so much information I'm going to need to post it over two days.

Earlier this year, I took a trip to the Bendigo Art Gallery to see 'Made in Hollywood: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation'. Coming from a photographic background - I was a printer for 10 years, working in mini labs printing happy snaps, through to working with artists in a professional lab - I was really excited to see what was on offer at this exhibition and couldn't wait to check it out.

Lana Turner, 1939.
Photo: Laszlo Willinger for MGM

It could have been my high expectations, but I found the exhibition lacking something. I couldn't quite put my finger on it so I  attended the corresponding lecture held towards the end of the exhibition. Unfortunately, it still didn't quite fill in the gaps so I decided to do some research of my own. I was interested in more information on how the photographers worked within the confines of the studio and were still able to produce such beautiful images.

Lucky for me, I received several wonderful books on the Kobal Collection for Christmas this year - Mdblm knows me well - and 'The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photographers' was a wealth of information.

Vivien Lee, 1940.
Photo: Laszlo Willinger for MGM
Publicity shot for Waterloo Bridge
Work of the studio portrait photographers rarely featured in the pages of prestigious magazines such as Vogue or Harpers Bazaar and as a result was not taken seriously. Photographers were just studio employees, they didn’t own copyright or keep their negatives. Their photographs were given away to motion picture magazines, newspapers, and any fan who cared to write for one. It was purely publicity material. The newspapers and magazines clamoured for the stills and portraits that the studios provided free of charge in return for a caption that credited company and product. It was the subject matter that counted, not the person who photographed it.

There were also photo services that employed photographers who did nothing but cover the nightclub scene. Though not employed by the studios, the photographers still had to abide by certain rules. One of these was no matter where they might be, female stars were never to be photographed with a drink or cigarette. The stars couldn’t have cared less but the photographers knew that the studios would object. The photographer’s job was to show the stars as everything the publicity department had made them out to be.
Maria Montez, 1943.
Photo: Ray Jones, for Universal.
Publicity shot for White Savage.
Photographer Laszlo Willinger said when he arrived in Hollywood in 1937, you couldn’t show cleavage. “There was a whole group of retouchers at every studio who did nothing but take the cleavage out of the breasts. In those days the stars had one breast that stretched from shoulder to shoulder, creating a new breed of Cyclops-chested women. And, if you shot a man in bathing trunks or a gymnasium outfit, there couldn’t be any unseemly bumps, and the body hair had to be retouched.”
Armed with that little tid-bit of information, take another look at the images above...
I've been finding them everywhere!

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.

- Tamara

All information & images sourced from the following books: The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photographers; Hollywood Glamour Portraits: 1926 - 1949; Movie Star Portraits of the Forties.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Out of the Ordinary

A couple of weeks ago, while looking for some inspiration for my next sewing project, I came upon a fantastic idea posted by Lladybird on the We Sew Retro site. She had made a lovely 1950s top using fabric from a full length silk skirt she had found in a thrift store. I'm always looking for interesting fabric so I set out for the op. shop with this in mind. It was slim pickin' I'm afraid, but as I was about to leave I spied this fairly ordinary looking top (dress?).

It's made of a lovely, soft spun rayon and only cost me $1.50! There's a seam below the bust and I figured once I unpicked it there'd be enough fabric in the bottom half to make a top of some sort.  I didn't really have anything specific in mind and this 1950s 'one yard' blouse from my pattern collection looked promising.

Simplicity 3169
I originally chose Style 1 with the faux button front and peter pan collar but found I didn't quite have enough fabric so a little improvisation was in order. I have several pieces of rayon in my stash - it's lovely to sew and difficult to find so I stock up when I can - and found a black & white piece which would be perfect for the shoulder yokes. I had hoped to use the plain black for the collar but found it got a little lost against the rest of the top.

The top has two zipper openings - one at the back neck and one in th side seam - and is fitted at the waist with darts. As promised, it was simple to make and only took me a day or two to complete. I'm really pleased with the result but I now needed to make something to wear with it.

I think it was Shannon of Hungry Zombie Couture who said: Never make an orphan, make an outfit! It's something that is always in the back of my mind when I sew but who has the time? At the moment, me. My first thought was a black skirt but I felt the outfit would end up being too dark, so I went with more of the black & white rayon and whipped up a 1940s skirt to match the accents in the top.

Du Barry 5510
This six gore skirt was really simple too and the majority of it was finished in one evening. I also added belt loops and remembered to attach them as I was sewing on the waistband so they look really neat and tidy. Smart move.

Now, on to the finished product!

I love that these two pieces worn together look a bit like a dress and the skirt has such a lovely 'flick' to it, I might need to make another one. I also really like the way the covered buttons lighten up the front that little bit and make the collar more defined. 

As you can see from the pics, we are still having some lovely sunny days so I'm hoping I'll get at least one more chance to wear this outfit before winter settles in.

What sewing projects have you guys been working on?


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Winter Wishlist

Seeing as though my last post was about me giving in to temptation, I thought I'd continue on a similar path.

This weekend, there was a 40% off sale at Spotlight and with such a generous discount, how could I say no. Who am I kidding? I didn't even give it a second thought. I did plan ahead however and made sure I left the house armed with a shopping list. My main aim was stock up on some winter weight fabric and buy some of the more expensive wools which I wouldn't even dare look at, let alone cut. And I must say, mission accomplished!

Here are a couple of ideas I have for my purchases:

This 1940s Vogue jacket pattern has been wanting to be made for some time, but I've never found the right fabric. I don't think this red & black wool is perfect but it will give the jacket a bit of a 'Pendleton' look which I'm quite keen on. 

There was still at least half the bolt left of the navy wool-blend fabric I used for my 1950s pants, so I bought myself another 3 metres with this fabulous 1930s dress in mind. Knowing how beautifully it falls, I think it will make a lovely skirt and I'm picturing red piping and buttons for the bodice detail. Classy!

When I spied this awesome purple & grey knit jersey on the racks, I snatched it up quick smart. This  1930s pinafore is gonna rock so hard this winter, I can hardly wait to get started!

These three are for my stash. I'm picturing the printed chiffon (left) as a blouse with floaty sleeves and maybe a bow; the purple & caramel spot (right) is also a blouse, likely to be something with puffy sleeves; and the lovely aubergine double knit jersey might be a dress, I haven't anything specific in mind.

Hmmm, where to begin...?

- Tamara

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

In to Temptation

You may recall, while I was making the Birthday dress, I was desperate to cut out something new. Well, I'm ashamed to admit, I gave in to temptation. I couldn't help it. I'd gotten what I thought was the point of completion with the dress, but when I tried it on the neckline still wasn't right. It was at this point I threw it down in disgust.

It was time to move on to the project which was demanding to be made.

Vogue 7060.

When I saw this 1950s pants pattern on eBay, there was something about the simplicity of the design that really appealed to me and within a week the pattern was in my hot little hands. Now for some fabric... The treasure trove that is the discount table at Spotlight offered up a lovely, light-weight woollen in my favourite shade of navy, and at $5 a metre it was a steal. Not to mention, a dream to sew too!

Looking at the pattern, I thought these pants were going to be a snap to put together. But, on further investigation, the pockets were going to be a challenge. Here's the reason: the zipper is inserted inside the pocket, rather than into the side seam which means cutting into the pocket. Vintage patterns tend to use this technique a lot and no matter how many times I do it, I'll never get used to cutting into a major piece of fabric.

The other problem I had was imagining how the pocket would work and the instructions really weren't helping. There are facing pieces on each edge and these are sewn in between the pocket and leg piece - I can only assume they're to help the pocket keep its shape after sticking your hands in 'em on a regular basis. Along with the cotton lining, they created a whole lot more bulk at the front but tacking them down solved that problem.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the giant 'IN' on the pocket, I was getting confused as to which side was the 'right' side of the fabric. To me, the right side of the fabric is always the outside of the garment, but in this instance the right side is inside. Marking it on the fabric in chalk was the only way I could get my head around it.

Now, on to the results...

And here's the awesome design of the hidden fastenings, they were so worth the effort.


I'm so pleased with these pants, they're so comfy and warm, not to mention flattering. 
I think they're going to get a lot of wear this winter.


Monday, 9 April 2012

An Easter Fair

The Bendigo Easter Festival (Fair) has been in existence since 1870, and is the oldest community festival in Australia that occurs at Easter each year. It includes the Chinese Spring Festival, carnival rides & attractions, a Torchlight Procession, and the Easter Gala Parade which sees Sun Loong, the longest imperial dragon in the world, dance through the streets.

We had planned to head to the Festival but the weather here has been fickle to say the least. Plus, Mdblm & I are both busy with other projects so we decided our time would be better spent at home. I've been very productive in the sewing dept and I hope to be able to show off some of my creations later in the week.

Anyhoo, with no outing this weekend I've had to delve into my image archive and it just so happens that I have couple of lovely pics from the Easter Fair from the early 1950s. Unfortunately, I can't locate the caption at this point in time, so all I can tell you is it was taken at the Chinese Spring Festival.

Happy Easter!

- Tamara

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Birthday Dress - Part 2

Regular readers will recall I started this dress to wear out for dinner for my birthday but I ran out of time to finish it properly.

Although the occasion has come and gone, things were going far too well to add this dress to the UFO pile. It was looking pretty good on the dress-form and all I had left to do was attach the sleeves and the hand sewing. You'd think it would have been smooth sailing, right? Well look what happened when I tried it on...

It's difficult to see in photo but the neckline is bagging open in the front and it's sticking out where the shoulder seams meet. Arghhhh!!! Shoulder pads helped a little but fixing this would require unpicking and taking nearly an inch out of the bodice at the neckline.
The alterations to the Birthday Dress have been pinned together for a week now, so instead of sewing the bound buttonholes in my next project, I procrastinated by finishing it off this afternoon.

As you can see, the bodice fits across the bust but neckline still isn't sitting properly. At least the back hangs nicely...

I'm not normally a 'near enough is good enough' kinda gal but I can't think how to solve the neckline issue so I think I'm gonna have to leave it as is. Or, I can pin the excess fabric down with a dress clip or clip-on earring like so...

Problem solved!
BTW - Just in case you were wondering, those little beauties on my feet are one of my many pairs of Fluevogs

Malibran - Operetta Family

Now, back to those buttonholes...!

- Tamara

Monday, 2 April 2012

Shoes, Glorious Shoes!

I have been a fan of Fluevog shoes for many years now and while I receive their regular John Fluevog newsletter, I try not to look at too closely. For you see, if I am completely honest, I'm a bit of a Fluevog addict. At last count, I own seven pairs of these beautiful shoes and I really don't need any more. That said, the newsletter was introducing the new spring range and boy oh boy, it's going to be hard to resist adding at least one more pair to my collection.

Here are some of the new styles that caught my eye...

Baroque family: Caravaggio (Burgundy)
Wonder family: Everest (Black & White)

Mini family: Elif (Grey, Purple & Pink)

Bellevue family: Etta Place (Black & Red)
And when you're done shopping for yourself, if you're feeling generous, here's a funky pair of runners for the man in your life...
Flyvog family: Gatzz (Black & White)


- Tamara
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