A Quick Wrap and More Paris Eye-Candy


Here’s a wrap I spotted in the New York Times Style section yesterday, which you could make in about an hour:


(Photograph taken in my high-tech graphics studio, AKA the kitchen.)

Step 1: Get that piece of wool out of your stash (you know it’s in there). Figure out how long and wide you want the wrap to be and cut it.

Step 2: Give it a good steam twice over with your iron and let it dry out. I use a piece of silk organza as a press cloth to protect the fabric.

Step 3: Cut off the selvages.

Step 4: About a 1 1/2 inches (3 cm.) from all of the edges, sew it with the stitch that looks like a zigzag, but has three stitches going up the zig and three stitches going down the zag. (I would show you a picture of that stitch, but my B560, Karl, is currently on the floor while I reconfigure my growing stash, and boy, is he ticked off!)

Step 5: If you’re using a loose woven, such as a Chanel-type tweed, put a 1/2 inch (1 cm.) wide ribbon over the stitching you just made, and sew along each edge of the ribbon, to keep the wrap from unraveling. (I learned that the hard way when a Chanel tweed scarf I made for someone got returned for repairs…)

Step 6: Fray the edges by pulling out the loose threads. (Just FYI, keep your cat out of the room.) Give it a good press again with the press cloth.

Step 7: Go to a sewing or notions store and buy the kind of big safety pin we used to call “kilt pins” in the 60s. Or you can find vintage pins in this Etsy shop, which also stocks beautiful vintage trims: TextileArtLace on Etsy

Step 8: Put it on and pin it, or wrap it up and give it.

You just saved $86.50. Tell your pal you saw it in the New York Times and thought of her.

I wanted to share a few more pictures from Paris, as I continue to procrastinate about stash closet-cleaning and Christmas shopping:


I did a little window shopping at the French hat store Marie Mercie at 23 rue Saint Surplice. These French-made hats are beautifully constructed and full of whimsy.


Like Schiaparelli, right?


Merrrowww! You can now find these hats online on Avenue32.com, but be prepared for sticker shock.

Everywhere you go, you see the French penchant for choosing aesthetics over commerce. Look at how beautifully things are displayed:


Those are hair clips that look like jewelry. And here’s a beautiful embroidered bag:


(Makes me want to take up machine embroidery…)

Towers of Macarons!


I spotted this retro-looking coat with unique pockets, from Carven.



As I was looking at this Hermes home dec fabric, I kept thinking, “could I make an Hermes scarf out of that?”


How about this handmade leather retro bag?


Here’s a tiny shop that sell slices of marble, with patterns that look like landscapes:


I really laughed when I saw this tee, in a shop that stocks products made in France:


Even when things are under renovation, they’re still tidy and chic (and a little phallic, too, don’t you think?).


Here’s a favorite market street, the rue de Buci, near where we stay. It’s full of inviting food shops and cafes.



I’m mad at myself that I didn’t have any in-season oysters while I was there. I can only describe the taste as a cold starry night on the North Atlantic.

Oh, how I hate to leave Paris!!!

Speaking of wraps, just a heads up that another of my free pattern downloads will be coming your way this month on the Bernina USA website WeAllSew.com, just in time for some New Year’s #selfishsewing. (For details about how Bernina USA is assisting me with my vintage projects by loaning me a B560, click the Bernina Collaboration tab.)

The wrap is based on a 1947 design by Claire McCardell, and I tweaked it to give it a midcentury modernist “Judy Jetson” vibe, (for lack of a better description). It’s also a stash-buster that uses one yard/meter each of two different knits, and it’s reversible.


I’ll let you know when the free pattern and instructions are posted. Thanks again to Bernina USA for their assistance with my projects!

Yikes! Less than two weeks till Christmas! How’s your sewing going?

How to do a Selfie on the Chanel Staircase


Of course, the Paris Meetup wasn’t the only fabric shopping I did in France…

We landed in Marseille in the south of France on a Sunday, and headed to my husband’s old stomping grounds in Aix-en-Provence. He spent his “junior year abroad” in Aix during college/university, leaving behind an all-men’s school on a Tennessee mountaintop and landing with an old French host family that had a large villa on the outskirts of town. It was culture shock in all the best ways.


That’s a picture, probably taken by my husband, of his American student roommates and his French host family members playing “boules” on the villa’s lawn.

We visited their home once 25 years ago, and the matriarch threw a dinner party for us on a balmy May night at a table set up outdoors. She served the “spring plate” of lamb chops, flageolet beans cooked with bacon, and a “jolie” French red wine. In other words, paradise.

Check out the early-60s Kennedy-era fashion in these pictures from the yearbook, now online, of my husband’s 1964 class at the Institute of American Universities, an entity that still exists in Aix. It’s a lot of fun seeing these idealistic young American things, who came from places like Kalamazoo (third class on the Queen Mary), and landed in another world.


Duffle coats, pencil skirts, those parkas with the single kangaroo pocket worn with capris…the 60s mod “youthquake” was just about to begin.

Just a short drive from the villa where my husband stayed that year, is this view of Sainte-Victoire, a mountain frequently painted by Cezanne. Still gorgeous.


Aix-en-Provence is one of those old town that was occupied by the Romans way back when, and some of the structures still exist. My husband thinks that the main thoroughfare was designed much later by Pierre L’Enfant, the same guy that created Washington, D.C.’s circular layout, which looks stately but makes it absolutely impossible to make a left turn. However, I wasn’t able to back up that claim (in the five seconds I spent googling it).


As we were walking along the main drag of the Cours Mirabeau, my husband reminisced about how he had been standing in line at the movies theater there when he overheard that President Kennedy had been shot.

Later, we had dinner in the Grillon brasserie, which looks exactly the same as when he was there 51 years ago.


Mmmm, warm goat cheese salad with olive tapenade. Old France does still exist.

The first day we were there, I spotted this congenial fabric shop, Tissus La Victoire which had a number of printed cotton Provencal fabrics from region.


But I was afraid if I bought some, I would have to sew (shudder) home dec, so I stuck with the garment fabrics on the other side of the shop. The very patient people working there tirelessly pulled bolts down onto a large table while I hemmed and hawed, and finally I settled on a good-quality wool blend Missoni knock-off and a bonded knit masquerading as a tweed. Unfortunately, I don’t have more pictures of the shop, because my husband ran off with my phone that day!

In the same market square, there was one of those magazine gazebos you see frequently in Europe.


I looked around the shelves of craft magazines, but then had to ask the man, “Burda? Pour coudre?” And I don’t know what kind of reputation French Burda has, but he pulled it out of some hidden cupboard in the back and plunked it on the counter, like a girlie magazine.


While we were there, we rented a car with a navigational system that gave us very polite, officious and, frankly bossy instructions in a clipped British accent, whom we quickly dubbed “Miss Moneypenny.” Using Miss Moneypenny, we were able to find this archeological site of the remains of a Gaul, then Greek, then Roman town in Glanum, near St-Remy (a male family member’s idea of course).


But while walking around there, I thought about the women who lived in these houses, cooking, weaving, sewing, and possibly hanging out in the place I’d most likely be found:


After that I got Miss Moneypenny cranked up again, while my gadget-mad husband put on the American voice from Google maps “as a backup.” Well, Miss Google Maps must be doing her year abroad from Little Rock, because she kept saying things like “turn on the “Rooo Suh-ZANE” for “rue Cezanne” while Miss Moneypenny barked at me to “PLEASE prepah to tuhn left!!” in that Sloane Ranger voice.

After some spirited back and forth between my husband, Miss Moneypenny, Miss Google Maps, and me, Miss Google was sent to back to Mayberry to study her French some more, and smug Miss Moneypenny soldiered on with the ugly Americans. Then all of a sudden Moneypenny croaked out, SZERGLSZZZZZ! and died a swift death. (Probably from some Bond villain’s leftover cold war laser). So we had to settle for Nellie Forbush again, telling us to turn on rooo dess eckol-ess militar-ess.

Suffice it to say, the 13-year-old in the back was the most mature of the bunch.


All around us, the landscape looked like every Impressionist painting, with the rounded, leaning pines and tall, straight, skinny evergreens (probably evolved like that from the winds that can be, as the road signs said, “vent lateral” which basically means “sideways winds that can blow you the hell off the road.”). As we drove through Van Gogh country in St. Remy, the road was lined with a tunnel of solitary trees. Still so beautiful. Vive la France for having the discipline not to mess up this gorgeous area.


Then it was just a short trip, less than four hours, on the high-speed TGV train to Gare de Lyon in Paris, where I ran off to the meetup.


The next afternoon, after ditching my family, instead of heading to the left bank where I intended to roam, my feet made a sharp right down the rue du Faubourg St-Honore, past the rows of tony designer shops, in the direction of the fabric store that dares not speak its name. (But I wrote about it last year here.)

On the way, I spotted Chanel on the rue Cambon, and walked into the part of the shop where her famous staircase resides. I took a picture of it last year, but this time I was determined to get a selfie. As I walked up to the stairs, I was stopped by the guard, but after asking nicely in bad French, he let me have a seat, and was friendly enough to take some pictures.


Score! (Sorry, Coco, but the Chanel-style puffer jacket I’m wear is from the Monoprix, AKA the Target of France.)

So then this happened:


There’s a reason why Susan Khalje calls Janssens et Janssens the best fabric store in the world. Because it is. Just rob a liquor store before you go.

I wanted to get more of the Italian printed wool I’d used to make things like this:

imageMy Spring Wrap

because the feel is so light, warm and luxurious when I wear them. So I picked out an Italian wool/silk fabric, with a retro print that reminds me of the Fuller Fabrics “Modern Masters” fabrics from the 50s, and decided that was enough.

But then, looking at the silks (bad idea) I found a gorgeous 30s-looking twill and remembered that I still had black Italian Chanel tweed from last year’s budget-blowing visit to Janssens et Janssens. The tweed was slated to become a little black jacket I’d dubbed “The Kaiser” (Lagerfeld’s nickname, though probably not to his face), and though I’ve already bought silk to line it, I thought this would be better. Uh oh.


Then I went downstairs to look at the sparkly stuff (not for me, fortunately) and found the trims. Nooooo!


I am just going to have to start sewing faster.


So that’s what I did when I skipped Thanksgiving! Hope your sewing’s going well!

Meet You at the Eiffel Tower


There’s a scene in the movie “Julie and Julia” where Meryl Streep, playing the legendary U.S. TV chef Julia Child, is waiting in a station to meet her longtime cookbook editor. As she looks around trying to place the editor, you realize that even though they’ve corresponded for years between France and the U.S, they’ve never met in person. Yet they greet each other as dear friends, which I always thought was a quaint throwback to that less connected time.


(Here’s a picture of Meryl Streep rehearsing that scene with writer and director Nora Ephron, who’s standing.)

But then, it happened to me.

When I first encountered Carmen Bouchard, it was through her CarmencitaB blog, where she was sewing marvelous tailored creations and quipping in English and French. I was searching for a particular rare pattern I saw that she had, so I emailed her, and one thing led to another, and before you knew it, we were gossiping via email about vintage patterns and sewing and which Craftsy classes were good and which stunk and what have you.

Pretty soon we were friends on Facebook, liking pictures of each other’s sons who are about the same age, and joking around there as well. She encouraged me to start blogging, and I’m so thankful for that.

When Carmen mentioned that she was auditioning for the French sewing bee “Cousu Main:”


I thought she had a pretty good shot, as she’s always sewing unique and difficult projects, like a plaid hunter’s vest (for a falconer) made from thrifted tweed, which she fitted via Skype, for example (Here’s that link.).

Having been a TV producer about 100 years ago, I wrote her with a few pointers for getting booked on the show, then chewed my fingernails from thousands of miles away as she made it through the sewing “audition” in Paris, where the contestants had to put together garments start to finish in several hours. She made it!

During the several weeks last winter that Cousu Main was videotaping, a flurry of emails went back and forth across the Atlantic with the same question from me over and over: “are you still in it?”

Cousu Main 1 Cousu Main 2

(These are screen shots I took while watching the show on my iPad. On the right, you can see Carmen calmly restraining herself from stabbing the “spirited” host with her sewing scissors, who is bugging her while she’s trying cut silk.)

The show itself didn’t air until months later, and I won’t reveal how much I knew about the outcome, but I did suspect that Carmen might have a reason to be in Paris in late November soon after the finale, when I was planning to be there. Of course by October, all of France and foreigners like me (who were camping on to Cousu Main via the VPN app Tunnelbear), knew that Carmen was the victor after weeks of exhausting sewing challenges!


(Carmen, you must have been so tired. Especially carrying that sewing machine around on your head!)

We set up a meeting time for Thanksgiving afternoon (with me giving thanks for not cooking a big meal that day…very un-American, I know), and then Carmen sent out one little tweet about it.

And that resulted in this!

Eiffel Tower group

An epic meetup with more than 25 international sewing bloggers and enthusiasts, representing 9 different countries!

 You can probably pick out Lauren of Lladybird, in the front with the sapphire hair, and Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons peeking out in the back right in her pink caped coat. Other blogs represented were Handmade by Freya, Sew Dixie Lou, Orange Lingerie, Once Upon a Thread, For a Craftland, Lazy Linchen, English Girl at Home, YoSaMi, Vintage Ink Fairy, Jo Sews, Jolies Bobines, Julie Peloquin on BurdaStyle, Make, Sew, Do, Paprika Patterns, Miss DeMeanour is on the Make,  Cat By Design, Sew It Anyway and Nicole Needles. What a lineup!

Our lone male blogger, Joost (of Make My Pattern) was there, too, (pictured below) and we had a chance to talk about his desire to get more men interested in sewing by creating better patterns for them. Amen to that.

Carmen did a marvelous job of corralling these all of these excited sewing peeps:

Group organizing at tower (photo snitched from InstaGram)

And then started handing out personalized bags with goodies from the French needle and pin manufacturer Bohin, Macon& Lesquoy, Ma Petite Mercerie, and Peace & Wool, which led to some hootin’ and hollerin’ (though quietly, as this is France, after all).

Group meeting at tower

Initially I had trouble finding the meeting spot at the Trocodero, and arrived breathless, after about 500 steps straight up, to greet my dear friend I had never met. Ca va Carmen? We meet at last!

Julie and Carmen at Tower

 Then the fun started! Carmen had organized a map of a number of fabric stores in the old garment district of the Sentier, with the help of Barbara Cattoni, who leads fabric and needlecraft shopping tours in Paris. I’m going to give you Barbara’s link here (her company is called “Stitching Up Paris”) because I was gabbing so much with Carmen and the other bloggers that I didn’t write down any of the shop names! So if you’re heading to Paris, you can get in touch with Barbara if you’d like a tour.

There was a lot of oooing and ahhing and petting of fabric, with interjections of sewing geekery that included long discussions about how Chanel sleeves are hung and the best tutorial for bagging coat linings, etc.

More fabricAt fabric storephoto in fabric store

And, of course, everybody bought something…I’m always on the lookout for vintage-style fabric, so at Tissu Market I chose this lightweight cotton/linen knit for a summer top, and some hefty 30s-looking silk which may become a scarf for my Art Deco-nut husband.

Fabric from Tissu Market

I thought I was restraining myself pretty well until we got to Maison Sajou, who had invited us all to tea at 4:30. This jewel box of a shop houses beautifully crafted notions for hand-sewing and embroidery, including pins, needles, sewing boxes, scissors, buttons, charms, thread…all made in France!

Inside SajouLauren in SajouMore in Sajou (There’s the photo of Joost, on the right, probably looking perturbed because I had confused him with one of the spouses tagging along. I had to apologize for making such a bone-headed sexist assumption!)

The owner, Frederique Crestin-Billet, AKA “Madame Sajou,” is seen here on the left, chatting with Carmen and other bloggers:

With Madame Sajou

She revived the brand about a decade ago, and now the shop has returned to the same neighborhood where the original company was housed in the 19th century. They were very nice to host us, and we each were given a goody bag with some of their cotton thread, needles etc., which I promptly filled with purchases of my own. The packaging is so charming.

Notions from Sajou

After that the group moved on to a sidewalk sale at Les Coupons St-Pierre, which I heard was a fabric feeding frenzy, and then went out to dinner together. You’ll have to check the others’ blogs for the play-by-play, since by then I had turned into a fabric-hauling pumpkin and needed to return to my family for dinner with them. What a great time we had, though!

Fortunately, Carmen was still in Paris the next day, and was able to join my family for a little outing where we checked out the vintage originals and repros at Didier Ludot in the Palais Royal (I’ve written about that shop here). We eyeballed dresses by Balenciaga and suits by Chanel, and gabbed about dart placement, among other things.

That was followed by lunch at Juveniles Wine Bar around the corner, where Carmen was recognized by the waitress as the winner of Cousu Main, something that had also happened as we toured the fabric stores the day before. Her new sewing book has been a great success in France as well.

Carmen's book

Well, I couldn’t be happier for Carmen, to see a highly skilled and creative sewing enthusiast not only kick butt in a really tough competition, but also bring her love of sewing to France and other countries, via Cousu Main and her blog.

People can say what they want about the internet making people more distracted and less social, but I think it acts as a social connector for us “women of a certain age.” When I’m at home in the dark Boston winter, procrastinating about making dinner on a Friday, I can forget my crabby family and try to figure out Studio Faro’s pattern puzzle on Facebook (which is posted on Saturday morning in her Australian home base), check the progress of Red Point Tailor’s latest couture make in the Netherlands, chat with people around the world who are participating with me in Pattern Review competitions, or shoot my pal Carmen an email in France. And, of course, I love hearing from all of you sewing friends who visit Jet Set Sewing from your part of the world.

Carmen and Julie

Till we meet again, Carmen!

Dance & Fashion exhibit at FIT, among other things


So I hightailed it down to New York to see my sister swanning around in that Claire McCardell dress I whipped up (details here), and got a quick peek at the Dance & Fashion exhibition going on through January 3rd, 2015, at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Ballanchine costumes

Those are the “emerald,” “ruby” and “diamond” costumes from George Balanchine’s old war-horse…oops, I mean…much-loved ballet “Jewels.” They’re as gorgeous up close as they are on stage.

I don’t have many photos to share, since just as I discretely lifted my camera for a pic of those Ballets Russes costumes snuggling up with designs by Paul Poiret and Yves St. Laurent, a polite “no pictures” came out of the dark. Those museum guards are on top of it!

The exhibit compares actual dance costumes with related designer streetwear and gowns, and also features costumes that were created for dances by fashion designers. It covers everything from the romantic era of ballet into modern dance and beyond to post-modern collaborations. For example, there are several of the costumes created by the designer Halston in the 70s for the Martha Graham Dance Company, like this one:

Halston costume

(Some night I’m going to borrow that to wear around the house, just to see if anyone notices…)

Since I was there as a guest and not a journalist, I’m going to send you to this excellent article from the Wall Street Journal, written by Laura Jacobs, for a play-by-play of the exhibit. (Where The Body Can Dance With The Soul)

I will say, though, after looking at these Louboutine fetish shoes, and having been on my feet all day, I silently gave thanks that there’s no chance in hell I’ll ever have to get back in a pair of pointe shoes.

Louboutine shoes

After executing a few “pas de bourrees” around the room (not really, mercifully for the others there) I headed to the auditorium where my sister (Janet Eilber, Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Company), along with designer Doo-Ri Chung, were speaking about the collaboration of Dance and Fashion.

I was surprised to hear, even after the many years I had seen Janet perform with the Graham Company, and having studied modern dance for a summer with “Miss Graham” myself, that Martha Graham actually did much of the draping of her costumes herself, and was inspired as a choreographer by the properties of the fabric she was using.

The two Graham solo dances that were performed during the event highlighted this: Lamentation, which is performed enveloped in a tube of jersey, and Spectre-1914, about the onset of World War 1, performed in a giant skirt that spreads several yards in all directions beyond the dancer’s feet.


During this performance, dancer Blakeley White-McGuire expertly manipulated the yards and yards of black fabric, lined in red, conjuring images like the flames of war, the wings of death, flowing blood, or the shroud of a coffin.

Here’s picture of the panel, consisting of moderator Melissa Marra from the Museum at FIT (left), Janet in her McCardell (middle), and Doo-Ri Chung (right). They’re looking at a picture of Janet dancing back in the day, in the Martha Graham ballet…er…help me out, Janet…”Seraphic Dialogue”, about Joan of Arc?


During the discussion, Janet talked about how Martha Graham created costumes by pinching and draping the fabric, and in one instance, she came up with a costume made entirely from one uncut piece of  fabric. Janet remembered how, when she was dancing with the company in the 70s, Halston would collaborate with Graham, and make costumes from fabric that was far more expensive than the normal dance company budget. In one case, he used silk jersey for costumes that were like long palazzo pants, but with each performance, the drape of the fabric would “grow” and the pants would be pooling around the dancers feet! They had to trim off several inches at the hem during the course of the tour.

Doo-Ri Chung, who is known for her expertise in draping jersey, had some interesting points to make about the challenge of working with that kind of knit. She mentioned that in terms of ready-to-wear, jersey often lacks “hanger appeal” (meaning it doesn’t look that enticing to consumers on a hanger) and said that jersey also needs volume in the design, to keep it from being too form-fitting. I found that point particularly interesting, as the McCardell dress I made for Janet has loads of volume and gathers, but doesn’t feel heavy or bulky on when worn.

Here’s the report from Janet on what it feels like to wear an original McCardell design, made from new fabric: “The McCardell dress is a pleasure to wear. Getting dressed up has never been so comfortable! I’ve discovered that the wool jersey drapes itself just beautifully, no matter what I am doing. I just throw it on, wrap the bodice cords according to my comfort level of the day (hope they are long enough to accommodate Thanksgiving) and make an entrance!”

There was a spirited discussion of designer McCardell as well, who, along with designer and life-long friend Mildred Orrick, popularized the leotard-style bodysuit in the 40s, to be worn under a jumper. The idea was that the modern college girl could layer and stay warm in drafty WWII-era classes.


I was excited to see that the exhibit itself included a pair of the ballet flats invented by McCardell, in collaboration with the ballet shoemaker Capezio, which gave women comfortable cloth shoes to wear during WWII rationing. She designed them to be worn at home, then was surprised to start seeing them in the subway!

As the panel’s Q & A was wrapping up, my awesome sister, who, as you’ve probably guessed, is no shrinking violet, jumped up and said, “no one’s asked who I’m wearing! Well, I’m related to JetSetSewing.com, who made this original Claire McCardell dress for me from a 50s pattern.” You go girl!

Janet at FIT

Needless to say it was pretty exciting as a home-sewing maven to get a shoutout at FIT! You looked great, Janet!

Then the following week, I saw on Twitter that Janet was back at FIT in the dress again.

Twitter pic

It made me glad that Twitter wasn’t around when I was younger, as I’m sure I would have been busted frequently for borrowing my big sisters’ clothes.

Don’t forget that the Martha Graham Dance Company’s New York Season is coming up in February! It’s a mix of classic Graham works and pieces by current choreographers.

After I got back, I was pleased to see that Marianne, of the blog Foxgloves and Thimbles in the Netherlands, had downloaded and stitched up a beautiful holiday version of my 5os “Hepburn” scarf pattern, using silk dupioni. Thanks Marianne; it looks gorgeous!


(I snitched that picture off of InstaGram.)

The pattern is available as a free download on the Bernina U.S.A. website WeAllSew.com. It’s quick and easy for holiday sewing! For details about JetSetSewing’s collaboration with Bernina, please click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab.

And lastly, I was thrilled to see the official list of BurdaStyle’s 50 favorite bloggers, where Jet Set Sewing was nestled right below Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing. Loads of great blogs on the list; check it out:


 My thanks to BurdaStyle!

As for me and my Swiss intern, Karl the Bernina 560, it’s time for a little rest and stash closet cleaning (still waiting for you to get on top of that, Karl), as well as packing my bags for an epic sewing meetup…in Paris!

(No, Karl, I’m sorry, you’re far, far too heavy for my carry-on…please, no tears…)

Hollywood Costume Exhibit Report (Finally…)


Well, The Hollywood Costume Exhibit, in L.A. through March 2nd, 2015, is a whole lot of fun.


Housed in the soon-to-be renovated site of the new Academy Museum, there really is something for everyone. Dorothy’s ruby slippers! Superhero costumes! Indiana Jones’ jacket, hat, whip, and (an interesting detail to me) pants made of wool twill, rather than the cotton khakis I had envisioned.

Since I was there at an event as a guest, and we were asked not to take photos, I can only give you a few impressions of this comprehensive exhibit, and show photos I’ve found here and there. I encourage you to attend the exhibit yourself if you get a chance!

It is just packed with famous costumes, but it also goes beyond fashion to explain the types of collaborations inherent in costume design, in particular the interplay between a designer and director. After having labored through making this Edith Head bolero (which a woman at the exhibit told me she had just seen Chloe knock off):


I was thrilled to see an archival interview with Edith Head, talking about what it was like to work with director Alfred Hitchcock. And I absolutely loved eyeballing this costume from Vertigo:


As well as this suit from The Birds:

The Birds

Here it is in a still from the movie:

The Birds Still

It’s very much of that era, with cut-in kimono sleeves, an attached collar, and patch pockets. It made me think of another Edith Head/Hitchcock costume, from the movie “Rear Window,” and this vintage pattern that’s almost identical:

Rear Window

It’s a great look. I think I’m putting that pattern a little higher up on my sewing bucket list.

There are some amazing costumes from early film history as well, such as Marlene Dietrich’s gender-bending white tie and tails from the 1930 film “Morocco.”


Long before Yves St. Laurent made this look de rigueur for decadent disco queens, costume designer Travis Banton created his own diminutive version of “Le Smoking” for Dietrich, which worked on her thanks to a tiny cinched waistline.

Another Travis Banton creation was this costume from Cecil B. de Mille’s 1934 “Cleopatra,” starring Claudette Colbert:


I don’t think it’s historically accurate, but it is a killer dress.

And there were a number of culturally iconic dresses in the exhibit, including this one:


Apparently the designer, Gilbert Adrian, known as “Adrian”, had it made on an old-fashion treadle sewing machine, so it would look like Auntie Em had made it. Nevertheless, apparently he couldn’t resist jazzing it up with bias-cut bindings and straps.

And then there was probably the most famous dress in movies, housed in it’s own little climate-controlled case:

Seven Year Itch

Yep, that’s the one! It’s from the movie The Seven Year Itch, and it was designed by William Travilla. It was made of ivory rayon crepe, for a petite Marilyn Monroe who looked to have a tiny waist in that voluptuous figure.

Seven Year Itch on Marilyn

You would think that this dress is constructed with a waistband going up to the bust, and halter bust pieces attached to that band, with a separate pleated skirt. That kind of pattern is available in the book “Famous Frocks”:

Famous FrocksFamous Frocks Marilyn

But in truth, the dress appears to have pleats that radiate down from the neckline, which are cinched from the underbust to the waist with long one-inch wide straps, below which the pleats open out again over the hips. So the pattern that’s in the book “Sew Iconic” is a little closer to the original:

Sew iconicSew Iconic Marilyn

But you know, the structure of the design really reminds me of this:



So after really enjoying the exhibit, it was time to hit the bar! My husband is part of the Academy team working on the exhibit, so we were included in a dinner for the people who had generously loaned items from their collections to display. I looked over at the next table, and there was George Takai! I have no idea why!

Dinner menu

Let’s eat!

I struck up a conversation with the people next to me, costume designer Mark Bridges, and his associate, Kristin (who’s last name unfortunately has escaped me, as I was on my second glass of wine at the time).

Mark was responsible for the beautiful 20s costumes for the period movie “The Artist,” as well as costumes for “The Fighter” and a number of other films. I really enjoyed hearing his take on the costume design process, and how he researches period design by doing things like looking at vintage 70s GQ magazines, for example. Then he talked about the importance of using the costumes to reveal information about the character, and support the movie’s story.

Well, in any conversation with someone of that stature, I almost feel sheepish bringing up my blog. But of course I do it anyway! And to my surprise, he was well-aware of the sewing blogosphere. His eyes lit up and he said, “I love this blog…”

And I’m thinking me, me, me! But he continued…

“Male Pattern Boldness! It’s about his projects, and how he’s sewing them, and what’s going on in his life…” And on and on!

Truthfully, I wasn’t really all that jealous, because I’m a fan of Male Pattern Boldness myself, and have stolen plenty from Peter’s friendly blogging style (I prefer to think of it as an homage). Actually it was great to know that the world of home sewing blogs is now stretching beyond people like us, and can be appreciated by professionals like Mark Bridges.

But for me, sneaking away to something like this is a bit like being Cinderella. Midnight hits, your glass slippers start to pinch, and the next thing you know you’re in that 5:00 a.m. cab to LAX.


Then it’s back pumpin’ Auntie Em’s treadle machine in Kansas.

I’m updating this post to give a little shoutout to the blogger Not Dead Yet Style, about staying stylin’ when you’ve hit those middle years (and you know who you are). Her “Visible Monday” link-ups feature women of a certain age making style statements. I’m always inspired, when I’m in France, to see that the middle-aged women there don’t throw in the towel in terms of taking style risks, and those of us in the U.S. shouldn’t either. So I’m joining in the link-up this time around!

I’ll be back soon with a report from the Museum at FIT’s Dance and Fashion exhibit event.

Claire McCardell and Martha Graham


After I got back from L.A., I meant to spend some time testing methods for constructing this Claire McCardell dress:


I intended to sew it up back in August for my sister, who is the Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, to wear to an event at the “Dance & Fashion” exhibit, (now running through January 3rd, 2015, at the Museum at FIT in New York). To have a flashback to that whole explanation, click this link. (Cue the Twilight Zone-y flashback music)
I thought Claire McCardell was a good choice for this event, because McCardell and Martha Graham are often mentioned together in books and articles as being similar in their pared-down artistic style. They did meet on at least one occasion, when they both received the Women’s Press Club award in 1950, a very big deal back then.


Here they are with President Truman (looking dapper in a tuxedo), along with a foreign affairs expert, an educational reformer, and a Hollywood actress (Olivia de Havilland), all in old-school tulle-centered eveningwear. Martha Graham is on the far left looking very chic and modern in her spare little black dress. And Claire McCardell, on the far right? Well, she’s got on one of her wrapped-bodice evening dresses of sari silk, slouchy leather gloves, no bra, no girdle, the ballet flats she invented, and a big American grin on her face. That outfit was so far ahead of its time!

I was doing a lot of thinking about making the dress, as August became September, but now it was October, and little voice inside me (either the spirit of Claire McCardell, or more probably, my Bernina, Karl) whispered, “you better get crackin’ on that dress.”

So, I chose a mid-weight black New Zealand merino knit that I got this spring from The Fabric Store in L.A. (here’s that post), because McCardell was one of the first American designers to popularize wool knits, and Martha Graham often used jersey in her costumes. This fabric is very soft and drape-y, and the quality is wonderful. The Fabric Store now has an online gallery, and will do mail order if you call them. (Here’s The Fabric Store’s USA website)
I washed the wool in cold water, tumble-dried it low, and laid it out.
As I was pinning, I was thinking a lot about Martha Graham, and how she often manipulated fabric in her dances to help tell the story.
This long piece of jersey reminded me of a moment in the dance “Cave of the Heart,” which is based on the Greek legend of Medea, and deals with revenge. It’s a favorite dance of mine, particularly now that I’m a “woman of a certain age.” Martha Graham herself designed the costumes, which makes her a “triple threat”: dancer, choreographer, and draper. The dance premiered in 1946.

In the dance, Medea learns that her husband is leaving her for a younger woman, a princess no less, who flits around the stage being innocent and adorable while she’s followed around by the besotted big lug.

Of course Medea, who’s been around the block a few times, is not happy that her husband is having a mid-life crisis, and she gets REALLY mad. Another dancer, representing the “chorus” from classical Greek theater, tries to stop Medea from exacting revenge, to no avail.

In this photo, you can see the Chorus’s robe and skirt, which remind me in particular of a 20s design by Madeleine Vionnet, shown here in the Betty Kirke book “Vionnet”:

141010_MarthaGrahamCo_CaveoftheHeart_QueensTheatre_Christopher Jones_102 (2)image

In a fit of vengeful rage, Medea gives the little homewrecker a poison crown, which of course the princess puts on right away, because she’s a princess, and it’s a crown! For a couple of minutes she’s skipping around really really happy, and then she grabs her head and eeeeeek!

After that, Medea does an intense solo about vengence, where she’s twisting, twirling and even eating a long “snake” of fabric she pulls out of her bodice, so it’s like she’s “eating her heart out.”

141010_MarthaGrahamCo_CaveoftheHeart_QueensTheatre_Christopher Jones_082

A while later, Medea walks regally across the stage wearing a long train of fabric, and when her macho husband (see below) pulls back the train, the dead princess is inside!

141010_MarthaGrahamCo_CaveoftheHeart_QueensTheatre_Christopher Jones_113

In the end, even though Medea has clearly gone mad, she still looks kind of, well, let’s say satisfied. And that’s what I love about Martha Graham’s dances; they really get to the emotional core of these classic stories. Seeing them is so cathartic!
(Okay, I know I’m in trouble with my sister for being flip about this great Martha Graham work, but Cave of the Heart is prime example of how Graham was inspired by fabric and costumes, and used them to advance the story of her dances.)

Just FYI–the Martha Graham Dance Company New York season will be running February 10-22, 2015, at the Joyce Theater. Tickets can be purchased here: (Link to Martha Graham Company tickets). The Graham photos above are by Christopher Jones, and the dancers are:  Medea: PeiJu Chien-Pott, Jason: Ben Schultz, Princess: Xiaochuan Xie and Chorus: Natasha Diamond-Walker.

When it came time to construct the dress, I looked inside an original McCardell that I have in my collection, to see how the seams were finished. I was surprised to see that the finishes were different in different parts of the dress, leading me to believe that several different people worked on the dress using their own methods.

The center back seam allowances were folded under and sewn:


The pockets edges were finished with pinking shears (kind of sloppy, too):


The armscye seams were double-sewn on the inside, but not top-stitched.


Several seams were reinforced with bias tape, which is typical of McCardell dresses, as they are often are cut on the bias and need the tape to stabilize the seam.


Meanwhile, the “let’s get crackin'” concept was still in my head, so my Bernina 560, AKA Karl, whispered, “how about forgetting the seam finishes and using the overlock stitch, sister?” This would have been heresy to me as a vintage purist, except I had recently read this post by The Vintage Traveler talking about how overlock stitches were used on sportswear as early as the 1910s. That was my “Get Out of Jail Free” card!

Using the 2A foot, and the #10 overlock stretch stitch, I got cranking. The foot shoves the edge under the needle, so you don’t need a serger for a finished edge.


Looks great, no? The wool jersey sewed like a dream.

I was having problems with the pattern instructions, though. The blessing and curse of these early patterns released by Spadea is that they were not taken from designs developed for the home sewing market. These patterns were drafted in reverse: a retail garment was given to the patternmaker, who took apart the garment, drafted the pattern from the pieces, graded the pattern for different sizes, then wrote up the instructions for the home-sewer. I soon discovered that these instructions didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The beginning of the instructions tell you to construct the back and side seams of the entire dress, so as you’re doing the more difficult parts, such as attaching piping to a 7″ neckline slash, you have the entire four yards of dress sitting in your lap. I began to feel like I was doing my own version of Martha Graham’s iconic work “Lamentation,” surrounded as I was by what was basically a tube of jersey.


I made the piping for the neckline using Bernina Bulky Overlock foot number 12C.


That foot absolutely saved me during this project! After I made the piping, I hand-basted it to the neckline slash (which I reinforced with knit fusible), then used the foot again to sew it on.


I used silk strips to face the armholes, to make it smoother by my sister’s arms, and to keep the armholes from stretching.

I was so proud of how I had inserted and edgestitched the two famous McCardell pockets in the dress (because McCardell wanted to free women from relying on evening bags), then discovered that I had put one in upside down! The dress was so big at this point, it was hard to keep track of what was the top and what was the bottom.

After a quick hack, Frankenpocket was born!


Then I had to cut another strip of fabric for the neckline, which was to function as both neck binding and cloth ties. The patternmaker must have just been ball-parking the measurements, because the strip was way too narrow to get over the neckline gathering. So it took another hack to fix that!

I used this little thingy to turn the ties right-side out. You put a big tube in the casing and use a smaller tube to push it through.


At this point, I tried on the dress, and in the silhouette, I saw this:



That’s Claire McCardell herself, in a dress known as the “futuristic dress.” One of these dresses is in the Metropolitan Museum’s online collection. The dress I was making had a very similar cut, so I had an “aha” moment about how the futuristic dress was constructed.

Now I really had to crank to get the dress done in time for my sister’s event. I gathered the dress in the front and reinforced the gathering with Hug Snug rayon bias tape.



Then I looked at these instructions. Eeeek!


Well, there was no way I was making the 15 feet of corded string ties I needed using that crazy method! Instead, I used the bulky overlock foot again, and basically made the ties by running an overlock stitch over the piping and then trimming it, so I didn’t have to turn anything right side out.


I used the same foot to attach the ties to the front of the dress, rather than hand sewing. It saved me so much time!


I threw on a blind hem, pressed and defuzzed the whole thing, and then right before I put it in my suitcase to New York, I tried it on one last time.


Why am I giving this to my sister!?!?! (Actually, I would adjust the fit for myself anyway, as it’s a little tight in the ta-tas, so let’s just say I’m giving Janet a “wearable muslin” for my dress. Shhhh!)

I put the dress in my bag and headed to New York, where I was attending a memorial service for legendary jazz singer and family friend, Jimmy Scott. While seated in the pews at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, I handed my sister a bag with the dress in it. Would she like it? I was sweating that one.

We parted ways after the service, and not long after, a picture popped up on my phone with the caption “It’s mine now!”


Score another one for stunt sewing! Looks great on her, doesn’t it?

In my next post, I’ll be writing about the event where she wore it, and give a report about the Dance and Fashion Exhibit at the Museum at FIT, as well as (finally) details of the Hollywood Costume exhibit.

Hope your sewing’s going well. I’m cooked!



Long Live Edith Head!


Well, Edith Head and I made it to the Hollywood Costume Exhibit dinner with only minutes to spare.

(I believe that’s Faye Dunaway doing a photo bomb in back of me.)

After I finished wrangling with the difficult neckline on this #$&?! pattern, I got a comment from reader Mary Ann Kiefer about how she’d made this pattern back in the day, and her mother had had to help her with the bolero because it was so tricky. So that made me feel a little better about my struggle with the extremely brief instructions. Mary Ann, I wish your mother had been around to help me!

Once I completed construction of the exterior, I tested the fit again, and saw that my muslin fitting had been correct. Phew!

Godzilla! (Oh Gawd, you can see my bellybutton.)
At this point it dawned on me that what I was making was not a simple bolero, but was actually a backwards lined jacket. So I had to get moving!
There were several points that had to be turned on the jacket, so I used a technique I think I read about on the Sew Maris blog, which is full of handy tips. Once you’ve sewn the corner, you clip it, then put a needle and thread through the inside of the point, pull the thread through for a couple of inches, and put the needle back in again.


IMG_3683.JPG Then you take both ends of the thread from the inside, pull them at the same time, and the point comes popping out!


So much cleaner and easier than trying the shove the point out from the inside.
I was mystified as to why the bottom of the bolero was finished with a facing, rather than a turned up hem. But once I made the facing, I saw that it was because the facing needed to curve outward to accommodate the extension at the bust. Very clever!

After I attached it, I understitched the facing to the seam allowance to keep the facing from popping out.

When it came time to make the buttonholes, I used a feature on my darling Karl, the Bernina 560, which automatically sets the buttonhole length by measuring your button. I just hold up the button and twist the knob until it matches the size of the button.

(For details about how Bernina USA is supporting my reconstruction projects, click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab above.)
I spaced the buttonholes using this vintage “Slimflex” expandable sewing gauge I got from Ebay. The box looks like it’s from the 50s or 60s. Recently I’ve seen modern versions of this gauge on websites such as RichardTheThread.com and Nancy’s Notions. Same thing and same brand after all of these years!

Karl was good to go, so we (actually he) made corded buttonholes.


Then it was time for my least favorite part of any jacket project, the lining! Since I was using slippy-slidey rayon challis, I used my Bernina walking foot to keep the layers from sliding around.

Then it was time to pack Edith up, still full of pins, (ignoring the sniffling and blubbering coming from Karl’s direction, where I heard “don’t take Edith, take MEEEEEE!”).

How do you like my classy Ziplock hand-sewing kit? I managed to get more of the lining sewn in on the plane.

Then I finished the rest of the handsewing at the hotel, looking out over this film noir view of L.A.

(The hotel iron was something out of “Psycho,” which was costumed by Edith Head, by the way.)

After I put on the buttons, I realized that I needed one snap. My excuse to go to a fabric store! I high-tailed it to International Silks and Woolens on Beverly.

It’s one of those completely overwhelming places with a lot of everything, and it takes patience.

(Look on this table if you want “Liberty (like)” fabrics.)
There are also a lot of pictures of marginal stars on the walls. Is that Prince? No wonder they had so much metallic purple spandex.

Don’t get me wrong, you can find good things here. They have a good notions department, where I got my snaps:

And on the third floor, they have a very eclectic collection of vintage fabrics, some of which appear to be from as early as the 40s.

During the spring, I used some vintage wool challis from this store to make a crushed boatneck shell. When we got to L.A., I wore it over to the Academy Museum when I was tagging along with my husband. I’m always amazed at how things made out of quality wools, lined with silk crepe de chine, literally jump out of my carry-on without a wrinkle.

With the snap in place, the bolero was finished! For those of you who weighed in on the button choice, I went with the overwhelming favorite of the green buttons.

I got ready to go, put on the bolero, and everything was copacetic. After we walked up the red carpet, the first thing we saw, upon entering the exhibit, were all of Edith Head’s Oscars lined up in a row.
As for the other thrilling pieces of Hollywood fashion history I gawked at in this comprehensive exhibit, that will have to wait for next time. No photos allowed, but I have plenty to tell you.

50s Scarf Free Downloadable Pattern, and my nemesis, Edith Head


I have some fun news to share! I know it looked like I was just sitting around at the beach for the latter half of the summer, but in truth, I was in my sewing Batcave (occasionally) cooking up a 50s scarf pattern, which is now available as a free download on WeAllSew.com. Here’s where you can find it: Hepburn Scarf Pattern

The pattern’s based on an authentic 50s design, and it holds it’s shape with some little tucks and a big buttonhole that you tuck one end through to make the knot. You can cut the pattern on either the lengthwise or crosswise grain, so it’s easy to make from a remnant.

Here’s the glamour shot:


And here’s how the scarf looks laid out:

Scarf Extended #1

It’s quick and easy, so I hope you’ll give it a try! If you’re a beginner, you can make it without the tucks, and it will still look fine. The pattern is part of my collaboration with Bernina USA, and once again I have to thank them for the generous support of my vintage reconstruction projects. I couldn’t do it without you, Karl! (For details, click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab above.)

If you end up trying the pattern, please send a photo my way so I can post it here at Jet Set Sewing. I’d love to see how it turns out.

As for current sewing, I’m still plugging away on this Edith Head bolero:

IMG_0540 (details of the muslin version I made of it are here.)

I was still a little unsure of the fit, so rather than cutting the pattern at the cutting line, or thread tracing (baste loosely to mark the seamline on the fabric, a technique used in haute couture), I went with a method known in France as “Le Rig de Jerry” (or jerry-rig in English, probably named after Jerry Lewis), which is to say I faked it.

I was inspired by this recent post by sewing penpal Carmen of the CarmencitaB blog, about how there’s no absolutely “right” way to sew any given thing. Carmen is currently competing in the French sewing bee show called “Cousu Main,” which I’ve been watching on the sly here in the States (via an internet jerry-rig). Go Carmen!

So I used large sheets of wax tracing paper and my tracing wheel to mark the seamlines and darts along the back of the fabric. You can find this big tracing paper at RichardTheThread.com and SusanKhalje.com. It helps to have several different colors for different fabrics.


Big caveat here (that’s legalese for “Warning, Will Robinson”), the wax tracing paper marks can become permanent on the fabric, so only try this if your fabric is thick, and only mark it on the wrong side. (The white tracing paper will come off easily with an iron, but it wouldn’t show up on this fabric.)
Once I was done marking the fabric, I machine-basted just outside of the tracing marks, so I would see the seamline on the right side of the fabric. This stitching will also function as stay-stitching (I hope).

The reason I went through this whole rigamarole was so that I could cut the fabric with large seam allowances, leaving room beyond the seamline to make the bolero bigger if I needed to.
After that, the construction was pretty much smooth sailing with this study, easily sewn and formed silk.


The easing in the shoulder went smoothly, the darts stitched up nicely, and I cheated and used fusible for the interfacing instead of organza (because I knew it would be fine, and the fusible was higher up on the stash pile than the organza). I’m using Pro-Weft Supreme Lightweight Fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, which is a high-quality fusible with some loft. It works well for soft tailoring on Chanel-style jackets or something like this.

La la la down the primrose path, and then…

Looks easy, right? Except the collar edge is straight, and the neckline is curved, Edith Head!!! True, the straight edge is on the bias and stretches, but just to be safe, I hand-basted the two edges together before I stitched. Worked like a charm:



So, there I was, back on the primrose path, la la la…until:

So perfectly clear and not all that complicated, I kept telling myself during Shavasana at yoga, when I was supposed to be meditating but was grinding my teeth instead.
And here’s how it looked in real life:

(When I posted that photo on InstaGram, the hashtag was #seeyouinhelledithhead.)
But this is why we’re doing these hard projects, right? To understand how they’re done? So after quite a bit of monkeying around, revisiting the instructions, and visualizing the construction, the design started to make sense and I was able to tame the beast:

See, docile as a lamb. And such a beautiful design.
Tomorrow I’ll cut and construct the lining, which I’ll probably be hand-sewing in on the plane to Los Angeles at this rate. But I feel like the major problems have been solved. (Famous last words.)

Edith Head Bolero Getting Ready for Its Close-Up, Mr. DeMille


So I got going on that Edith Head bolero I’m making to wear to the Hollywood Costume exhibit in L.A.

First I prepped the silk (which feels like a heavy silk duppioni) by throwing it in the bathtub.

My experience is that it’s better to handwash silk first, so you don’t have shrinkage issues or nasty spots when your iron spits, but it’s a personal preference. I always test wash a 4″ x 4″ swatch first, with any fabric.
I went back and forth about what lining to use, because, though my first choice is usually silk crepe de chine, it could be 80 degrees F in L.A., and I didn’t want to have a hot flash in front of my husband’s clients. In the end I ordered a vintage rayon challis from Etsy.com, which I think will be comfortable and cool. The print has that late 50s/early 60s Doris Day vibe I’m going for (Karen of the blog Fifty Dresses brought that reference to my attention).

My adorable Bernina 560, AKA “My Swiss Intern, Karl,” has settled into his new Boston digs, in what I shall refer to as the sewing “nook,” as basically only me, Karl and a squirrel could fit in it.

IMG_3515.JPG That’s urban sewing for you! (For details about the Bernina USA/Jet Set Sewing arrangement, click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab above.)
(As an aside about this post’s title, it refers to Billy Wilder’s dark comedy “Sunset Boulevard” when, at the end, Norma Desmond is led off to the asylum having gone mad from basically not being able to work in Hollywood anymore. Her character is 50. 50!!!!)

You know the old Hollywood saying, “Better to be nuts with style than to have never had style at all…” Or something like that.
Since this pattern is not that hard to find on eBay and Etsy.com, (I have three copies in different sizes, speaking of being nuts over 50) I decided not to trace it, and just go ahead and cut it. First I used a giant sheet of wax tracing paper and roller to mark the pattern onto my muslin.

Little Miss In-A-Hurry did a lousy job of telling the cutting line from the seam line (it’s supposed to be the seam line) but I could still tell what was going on.

Of course these vintage patterns are always full of surprises, and on this one, it was that the roll-collar neckerchief thingy had a straight line that needed to be connected to the curved front neckline. What the what?

I have been wondering why the collar piece had been cut on the bias (I thought it was just an aesthetic element) but then realized that it gave it some give to go around the neckline. At least the two pieces weren’t curved in the opposite direction, like the Charles James pattern!

Kimono sleeves with two darts; be still my heart. I love the attention to detail in these vintage patterns.

Since the pattern was close to my size, and the sleeves were cut-in, I was happy to see that the muslin didn’t need much fitting.

Being married to a vintage (literally) man with OCD (Obsessive Collecting Disorder) all I had to say was “Honey, you still got that box of vintage buttons?” and a few minutes later, I had three choices.

Any opinions on which I should choose?
Right now I’d better get that fashion/lining fabric cut, I need to wear it in a week! How’s your sewing going?

Hollywood Costume Exhibit and what I’m making for it…


Here’s a piece of good news…later this month, my husband and I are invited to a soiree celebrating the opening of the “Hollywood Costume” exhibit, featuring a number of classic movie costumes that I am very eager to eyeball.

So of course my first thought was, what am I going to make? I’ll get to that.

The exhibit is presented by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the folks who bring you the Oscars), and it will be held at the historic art deco Wilshire May Company building in Los Angeles, soon be the location of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The exhibit runs from October 2nd, 2014, to March 2nd, 2015. (Here’s more info about the exhibit, from the Academy’s website.)

There will be more than 150 movie costumes to ogle, by revered designers such as William Travilla, Gilbert Adrian, and of course, Edith Head.

Yes, I’m excited.

In my overflowing stash of patterns, I have a few that were released by the better known costume designers, some of whom had their own ready-to-wear lines at the time.

This pattern, released by Spadea:


was designed by movie and television costumer Travilla, creator of Marilyn Monroe’s famous “Seven Year Itch” dress.

Seven Year Itch dress

Marilyn’s dress, which became part of Debbie Reynolds’ costume collection, was recently auctioned for $4.6 million, according to the L.A. Times blog.

Another Spadea I have in my collection is this pattern designed by Charles LeMaire, known for costuming movies such as “All About Eve.”


On the pattern it says “Katherine Hepburn wears it in a film, but it has a place in everyday life.” It appears to be this dress from Desk Set.


Katherine Hepburn could make a librarian look chic. I wonder if I have enough of that gold Tyvek in my stash to pull it off?

The designer known as “Adrian” released at least one pattern in the 50s, which is on sale on Etsy now, for $175! (Pattern by Adrian) At that price, you can see why I’m reluctant to share details of my rare patterns.

The ruby slippers that Gilbert Adrian designed for Wizard of Oz will be featured in the exhibition as well. A girl knows she’s not in Kansas anymore, when she’s got those glitzy pumps on her feet.


According to the Hollywood Reporter, Leonardo DiCaprio helped the future Academy Museum of Motion Pictures acquire the shoes for their permanent collection.

Several costume designers created patterns for an obscure mail order line called “California Couture,” including Jean Louis, who designed Marilyn Monroe’s dress in which she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to JFK:


That pattern would make a good “Megan” dress for next year’s “Mad Men Challenge” hosted by blogger Julia Bobbin.

And Helen Rose, who designed, among many other things, wedding dresses for both Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor, released several patterns for Spadea and California Couture:

Helen Rose Spadeaimage

There’s lots of information about Hollywood costume designers such as Adrian, Helen Rose and Jean Louis in this fun book about the vintage California look (I think I found it on Amazon):


I’ll admit, having grown up in snowy northern Michigan, watching “Wonderful World of Disney” and dreaming of sunny California, I have a highly romantized view of vintage Cali style.

And, of course, no costume exhibit would be complete without the diva of Hollywood costume design, Edith Head.


She put out a number of sewing patterns from the 50s through the 80s, like these “Hitchcock Blonde” suits:


Ooo, I’m going to make that turban!

Among those patterns is this fab “reverse shrug” with a pointed fold-over collar and buttons in the back, which I’m going to attempt to make for the event, to wear with a little black dress.


I’m torn between using this 50s-looking raw silk I bought from Mood in L.A., underlined with 60s silk organza, (requiring seam finishes, grrrr) or some drapey gold Italian wool-viscose from Elliott Berman Textiles, lined with something or other. The wool might be too hot for fall in L.A., though.


Whatever way I go, I’ll be busting my stash, and I get to pick out buttons!

More to come on this exciting exhibit!