The “Rose arrives at the Titanic” suit

Fabric: Striped linen, interfacing, interlining and lining from stash, dark blue linen from Joann’s ($8.19)
Pattern: Vogue 8633
Year: l955
Notions: Zipper & self-covered buttons from stash, ribbons on hat ($21.84)
Accessories: Hat ($16.02)
Time to complete: 12 hours
First worn: February 2012
Wear again? Yes but probably as separates

Total Cost: ~$46.05 + $3 for linen shirt at Salvation Army

There are moments in movie history where an image, or a short series of images, takes your breath away. These are the moments that a Costume Designer lives for, plans for, hopes and prays for…

This was one of them : )

I have to confess when “Titanic” first came out I was loathe to see it. Not only was it HUGELY popular, especially with the teen/twenty-something set, but it was directed by James Cameron whom I…well, let’s just say his ego is a little off-putting and move on. It was probably 10 years before I saw the whole thing and on TV WITH commercials no less : ) But when Rose first arrives at the Titanic and gets out of the car is one of those moments that live in a Costume Designers soul. Stunning work by Deborah L. Scott, she was pitch perfect with this movie and I knew one day I’d have a suit like Rose’s. (Too bad the rest of the movie didn’t measure up to the costuming!)


When I first read through the list of challenges and saw the Oscar challenge, my mind went blank. Being an Historic Costume major most of the movies I love are period pieces AND I’ve made outfits from almost every era so what to do??  As I would check out the Sew Weekly page I kept scrolling past the “Last Dinner on the Titanic” event and couldn’t shake it. Titanic…Oscars.. Titanic…Oscars…and here we are : )

I had a big hunk of white linen with a navy/black pinstripe so we were half way there. I dragged my mom up to Joann’s to look for a piece of navy linen, thinking I’d have to dye it to get the right color but lo and behold, what they had was perfect! One yard later I was set. I needed a pattern that had the semi-princess seaming and found this lovely 1955 gem in my collection. I used the basic cut of the pattern, redrafted the front for the double-breasted lapels and made a muslin. I had to trek to my girlfriends house (with the horrendous cold of last week) to do a proper fitting. Back home, it took me 2 episodes of “Big Bang Theory” to get everything cut out.

A couple hours of sewing a night, a day off to fight off the worst of the cold and then back to it and I was cruising. I decided the WHOLE outfit needed to live and a random stroll through Forever 21 (can you believe it??) produced the hat! When I had met up with some of the Bay Area Sewists at Britex I had bought some ribbons on the off-chance I’d figure out the hat issue and, as my daughter pointed out, the ribbons cost more than the hat. That’s ok, they are pretty fabulous : )

The hat : )

It’s not an exact reproduction of the movie, and it’s not meant to be. I want something I can wear out into the real world and be close enough that you get what I’m going for without looking like some Faire geek who got lost in time : ) The real test will be if I can wear this on BART to work this summer.

I pulled out a men’s tie pattern from the early 80′s and made the tie on my lunch hour at work. Friday night I decided to make the skirt so another episode of “Big Bang Theory” and I was ready. Saturday I put in “Julie and Julia” and finished the jacket handwork. “The Help” and the skirt and hat were done. The shirt is a $3 find at Salvation Army and 100% linen.


After the unmitigated success last week with cars this week we trotted out to Jack London Square for the boats!  This whole picture taking thing is getting easier but its SO much easier when you’re not sick and cranky…

Neither sick nor cranky : )

I suppose if I had corseted myself I could have gotten a *little* closer to Rose’s look in the movie but the whole point was to make this wearable today. Here’s the irony – I made this entire outfit in LESS time this week than last weeks dress and petticoat AND I like it better! C’est la vie…

The “At least it’s Red” dress

Hallelujah for the car : )

Fabric: Red Rayon gabardine from stash, print rayon challis from Stone Mountain Daughter
Pattern: Butterick 7239
Year: 1955-ish
Notions: 2 buttons from stash, belting from Stone Mountain daughter, buckle & zipper from stash and one brand-new-just-built petticoat!
Time to complete:  A million years (probably somewhere around 15 or so including the petticoat
First worn: For this photoshoot
Wear again? Probably not
Total price: Dress ~ $10 (including pattern from flea market), Petticoat ~ $31

I don’t even know where to start with this one! Had this pattern not had serious charm I wouldn’t have considered it but start it I did and boy oh boy…

I’ve made hundreds of vintage-style dresses from vintage patterns, they aren’t rocket science : ) The rocket-science part comes when you try to dress a 20 year old who is used to wearing jeans with zippers that are six teeth long, tank tops and hoodies into something where nylons and a bra are mandatory and the belt goes AT the waist, not eight inches south…

So the fact that the pattern was complete as in all the pieces were there was fine, there were just no directions. And really, there are SEVEN pattern pieces, including the belt, how hard can it be?

Seriously? I decided to make the two unfunctional buttonholes bound. Took me three tries to get the first one where I liked it. That would probably account for 2 hours worth of “Seriously?”. The second took less than 10 minutes. Then the fake bolero top looked like it should just line up so easily…and that was probably 3+ hours of “Seriously?”. I ended up taking the whole top apart twice and finally re-draped it on my mannequin and then we were as good as it was going to get. By this time I had come down with a nasty cold that s l o w l y makes its way from your sinus’s to your throat to your lungs and I felt like serious crap and more than once I thought about just throwing this into a bag, into a box and taking a break.

But no! This isn’t what the Suburban Sewing Dominatrix would do!! This dress was NOT going to win! I figured I had an hour or so left to finish it and then it occurred to me I was going to need the proper undergarments. Out to the boxes of old costume parts and pieces and TWO, count them two, hours later…no petticoats. At one point I had about 16 and knew I had sold most of them but thought for sure I’d kept my vintage turquoise silk petticoat. Apparently not, so off to Joann’s to buy parts and pieces. Can I make this any more tedious? Seriously.

The time I thought I was going to spend coughing and napping on the couch was spent gathering layer after layer of stiff petticoat tulle. The cats thought they had a new toy, I thought I had lost my mind. I figured once it was sewn I’d have it for other fabulous outfits so I kept going. Finally it came time to try it all on and …Oh My Goodness! The ^%$* thing is TOO BIG! I cut it out a month ago so back to the sewing machine. I was SO NOT feeling the love about this red wonder : (

The only thing that saved the day was the last-minute inspiration of the cars. The ladies on the pattern look like they’re going to church or a social (why else wear gloves?) so I thought, in which would I go visiting? The truck?

Fab truck : )

I’m loving the truck, but is it fancy enough for the dress?

Oh the car …

In between the coughing and the blowing of the nose I was able to finally see the dress doesn’t totally suck but if it was a piece of sand and I was an oyster we’d have a pearl by now…that’s all I’m sayin’.

Top close-up

It’s been a while since I was this happy at completing something that made me so unhappy. I’m still not convinced I’ll ever wear this again but by the end of the day I found a smile : )

Sort of a smile

The “Polka Dot Madness” outfit and a bonus : )

Polka dots galore!

The Facts

Fabric: Cotton print from stash
Pattern: Simplicity 5059 & online tutorial
Year: Contemporary
Notions: 5 buttons from stash
Time to complete: 2 hours
First worn: January 2012
Wear again? yes!

Total Cost: Free…plus $5 for the waist cincher

I bought this pattern somewhere around 2005/6 thinking it would be a cute work-shirt. Then I changed jobs and wore a uniform of sorts everyday so this fell down….down….down….the stack. About a year and a half ago, while researching some online corset patterns I came across a tutorial written by a woman in Finland (!) for an underbust corset/waist cincher. It took me about 30 minutes at lunch to draft it to fit MY measurements and then I hopped off BART on my way home from work and went to a little fabric store in the Mission and found my fav – polka dots. Shocker huh? Went home, cut it out, did a basic fitting and then….

A year later, I pull the cincher out of the back of the closet and say “Oh yeah…but I need something to wear with it”. I’m an outfit girl – so I plowed through the first dozen or so boxes of patterns and here’s an old friend – cute collar, sleeve choices, fitted body, PERFECT! I cut it out, even went to my girlfriends house to stitch it up, got it to the point it just needed button loops, hems and… it sat : (

OK, this is why I wanted to do this whole Sew Weekly thing. Clear out this traffic jam of good intentions!

Suck it in and up!

This turned out to be a VERY good week to finish this up! This kind of sewing isn’t hard, just precise. You need to pay attention and I needed something to pay attention to. It probably took me half an hour to finish up the shirt (not precise sewing!) and then about six hours to finish up the waist cincher. I was able to combine my last weeks last-minute run into Stone Mountain Daughter with a stop at L’acis for grommets. It did take me about an hour to cut, round the ends and dip in tipping fluid the 24 bones in that sucker. I suppose had Ashton kitty not grabbed one of the finished bones and run off with it (we still haven’t found it) then I might have finished up a day before.

The back

This week was just “one” of those weeks – from the Susan G Komen mess to a friends’ 13 year-old-daughter being scheduled for her second brain surgery in 9 months to the McDonald’s gaffe – by the time Saturday rolled around I had some frustrations to work out. What better way than pound the living crap out of some small pieces of metal with a hammer? HAH! Take that!! Hint – when it starts to get dark, its time to stop : )

What’s up?

So with my plethora of polka dots you can barely see the collar but it’s there. I love the fact that the buttons have loops instead of holes and the sleeves are cut as part of the top. Here’s the other problem with letting something sit this long – it’s now too big : ) Yes, my resolution to get into shape and lose weight is starting to work. So the whole thing, which fit a year ago, is now too big. I’ll get over it. And just so you don’t think that for one week I gave up my beloved red OR cherries–

The lining : )

This is the lining (she says giggling like a teenager). I gave up NEITHER red nor cherries!

Nice kitty…

I need to thank my lovely daughter, Brittany, for taking time out of her painting project at school to keep taking my pics. It was her idea to use the lion here and the art installation with the tree with the boxed leaves above. I have come to look at the weekly OMG_do-we-have-to-take-pictures-of-me-AGAIN part of this as an acting exercise. This week I’m channeling a suburban sewing dominatrix : ) Take THAT, grommets, get in line, lining!

AND NOW THE BONUS – I actually had TWO corset-y projects laying about, desperately needing finishing. This is a sneak peek at one of my little side projects that I finished up this week as well:

My “Ariel” corset

I had made the body of the corset but needed to finish inserting the busk (center front closure), all the boning, do the top and bottom finish work and grommets. My actual costs on this were only for the interlining and lining since the top is made entirely from SCRAPS from various projects. While not a hoarder (yet) I did run a costume shop for years. At some point I had an idea to do a crazy quilt with all silk scraps, so I saved a few pieces here and there and this is one of the projects I made with them. I did buy the sea horse charms ($5 for 20) and the octopus ($1) after re-reading “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. One day, when this is done, I’ll be able to go to a Steampunk event in fine style, and there will be an entire outfit with skirt, blouse, jacket and hat.

All those grommets : )

For this week, just being able to pound in all those grommets was good enough. Let’s do more UFO’s, this was GOOoooooooD!

The “Cherry Pie” dress


Fabric: Cotton from stash (bought at Stone Mountain Daughter last year)
Pattern: Marian Martin 9149
Year: Late 40′s, early 50′s?
Notions: 3 buttons from stash, zipper
Time to complete: 3 hours + 2 hour trip to Stone Mountain for an extra half yard of fabric so 5 hours total!
First worn: January 2012
Wear again? Yes 🙂

Total Cost: ~$4.50

I’ve used this pattern countless times and have always loved the simple grace in the cut of this dress. It doesn’t take a ton of fabric, and the pattern isn’t printed, its one of the early “circle punched” ones which makes me think more late 40′s than 50′s.

At the end of last summer I was fabric shopping with a friend and found this fabulous cotton print. I don’t normally buy fabric (any more!) without a specific purpose in mind but this was so striking that I just *had* to get it. She even said to me “If you don’t get it then you’ll have the perfect occasion to wear something made out of this, come back to get it and kick yourself forever because it’ll be GONE.” How can you argue with logic like that? Clearly I couldn’t so I bought 3 yards, put it in my closet and promptly forgot about it.

When I saw the “opposite season to you” theme I knew I wanted a dress and as I opened up my sewing room closet this piece of fabric, literally unheard from and unseen for months, plopped on my head! I think there was a cat involved but it seemed like a message…and who am I to ignore such things? All I needed was the right pattern…

Can she make a cherry pie?

VOILA! Perfect fabric, favorite pattern and some red accessories. If only it ended there…

Because I bought the fabric with no pattern in mind I didn’t really have enough. Had I thought about it some (or even at all!) I *could* have shortened the skirt a few inches and managed to get the collar and cuffs out. As it was, I put my mind onto auto-pilot, a habit of old, and cut blithely. Ooops…only one side of the collar and no cuffs…I briefly considered asking my Mom to run into Berkeley for me since I can’t get there during the week but I knew if she couldn’t find the fabric in about 40 seconds she’d just say they were out. So I waited until the weekend and made the special trip in. Now to be fair, this is a fast and easy dress to put together. And Stone Mountain Daughter really is only 20 minutes door to door (as long as the tunnel is clear) and it really is a pretty nifty fabric store so what’s the problem? The problem is the hour later and extra $70 spent on goodies for many future projects : )

In the end I LOVE this dress! It’s soft, it’s fun and feminine but makes me feel more like the fancy farm girl I want to be. I live in a small farmhouse that was built in 1925 and this just makes me feel at home.

My red suede Mary Jane’s

Every farm girl needs red shoes, right? You can also see the vintage-inspired fabric, right down to the cherries!

Red accessories!

I thought maybe wearing my cherry necklace two weeks in a row might be a little much so I settled for bakelite buttons and bracelets today! There is a cherry pie in that vintage tin – want to join me?