Oscars Report: Karl’s Feud With Meryl (and Georgia O’Keeffe, sewing peep)


Remember a couple of summers ago when my blog post about UFOs (“Unfinished Objects” in sewing lingo) got picked up on that alien conspiracy theory Twitter feed? Which made Jet Set Sewing the first official intergalactic sewing blog?


Well, apparently I’ve been in outer space for quite some time because the Oscars were ages ago! Here’s the full report:

Usually about a month before the show, Karl and I are muslining, cutting, stitching, swearing and shrieking as we try to whip up something red carpet-worthy, while it’s snowing and everybody else in the household is crabby.

I’m always fell-stitching trim or sewing on hooks and eyes on the plane to L.A. at absolutely the last minute, like when I made the Madame Gres dress from hell, or the Claire McCardell meets Chanel jacket:


Well, this year, I was spending so much time in outer space, and still so grumpy from the election, that I completely cheated and wore a me-made skirt that took me about three hours to make!


But what about Meryl’s feud with Karl? Not Lagerfeld, who accused her of blowing off a Chanel haute couture dress for the Oscars that he’d stitched with his own widdle hands (probably), but my Bernina, Karl, who’s had issues with Meryl for several years.


Karl reads all the tabloids, and noticed that Meryl was showing up on the red carpet in outfits suspiciously similar to mine. For example, that time I wore this me-made 60s “crushed” boatneck top (with pleats at the shoulders, courtesy of House of Frankenpattern) with a long black skirt to the Oscars:



Meryl showed up in this boatneck and long black skirt:


Not long after I posted a tutorial for an asymmetrical wrap like this: Festive Wrap Tutorial


She showed up at the Golden Globes in a dress that clearly knocked-off my pattern:

Meryl Streep Golden Globes

I told Karl it was probably just a coincidence, or perhaps an alien mind-meld. But he got on Twitter and said some trashy things about her, and I swear they’re still going at it.

This year I was a little nervous, as I’d only spent three hours making my skirt, and Meryl had probably been scheming and stitching for months.

To my chagrin and shame, not only did Meryl pull off a look not even remotely like mine, but she showed up in a Elie Saab HOSTESS SET!!


Well played, First Lady of American Cinema.

You know what a hostess set is, right? It was a 50s cha-cha-cha outfit with capri pants under a big swishy skirt. It’s a look that needs to come back immediately! And Meryl scooped me!

Hostess Set pattern

Let’s go out on the patio to do the Bossanova and have martinis…Meryl.

Even though I didn’t get to see many of the other dresses up close (to finger the fabric, tug on the embroidery, and flip up the hem to check the underpinnings, as I normally do), I noticed that they fell in the following categories:

A sheath with stuff on it:

hbz-oscars-nicole-kidman Armani Prive

hbz-oscars-laura-dern rodarte

hbz-oscars-emma-stone Givenchy Couture

Miss Kitty’s Saloon Girl:

hbz-oscars-ginnifer-goodwin Murad

Miss Kitty’s Saloon Girl by Gunne Sax:

hbz-oscars-ruth-negga Valentino

Cosplay Miss Kitty’s Saloon Girl:

hbz-oscars-alicia-vikander louis vuitton

Cosplay Madame X goes to the Moulin Rouge:

gallery-1488157398-hbz-oscars-brie-larson Oscar de la Renta

Some 80s thing from Mom’s closet (with a French maid’s apron):

Dakota Johnson Gucci

and the ubiquitous Hollywood Goddess Default Gown:

hbz-oscars-charlize-theron dior couture

hbz-oscars-isabelle-huppert armani prive

gallery-1488151532-hbz-oscars-teresa-palmer Prada

But there were a few outliers:


hbz-oscars-halle-berry versace


gallery-1488152654-hbz-oscars-leslie-mann Zac Posen



And the winner for “Classiest,” both for the outfit and her grace at being passed over for Best Actress in Hidden Figures:

taraji in Alberta Ferretti

If you haven’t seen Hidden Figures, go see it for the retro costumes, uplifting story, great acting, script, music, art direction, and production. I was rooting for it.

I had one direct celebrity encounter when my fearless husband, who is apparently an aging fanboy of Janelle Monae, mortified me by running up to her and starting to blab. She was extremely cordial and shook both of our hands, which was very nice considering she was about to get onstage in front of a billion people. She has a very fashion-forward style and really made this heavily embroidered meets sheer dress work:

hbz-oscars-janelle-monae elie saab

But enough with the Oscars! What about the fabric shopping? Well, of course I didn’t need any more fabric — who does? But in the interested of research, I checked out this gorgeous lace/embroidery confection at Mood Fabrics in L.A.:


Then I succumbed to some delicious wool knits and Liberty silk at The Fabric Store:


How do I get it home?!


(I had to do a little KonMari to pull it off.)

Meanwhile, for about five minutes I was so blissfully alone and family free in my hotel room (a couple of blocks from Sunset Boulevard) that I did a Norma Desmond “aging broad losing touch with reality” selfie showing my latest Claire McCardell reconstruction of a 40s cape she designed:


I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Once I was in the groove, I’d gotten a little crazy making them. The short version is above, and the one below is more like the original, fastened with a humble safety pin just as she did:


In a bit of kismet over the holidays, the Museum of Modern Art had gotten in touch with me via my blog, because, as you know, I have a complete girlcrush on McCardell and have been researching her life and designs.

I was able to help find some McCardell shoes and photos for their upcoming exhibition Items: Is Fashion Modern? and then they posted an article about my reconstructions on their blog!  Here it is: Claire McCardell Article.


Of course, it wasn’t until I made their Twitter feed that my 15-year-old actually was impressed. As he said of my obsessing: “after all, you’re going to need something to do in your golden years.” Oh. Thanks hon.

Speaking of McCardell, I was tipped off by my sister, New York City bureau chief for Jet Set Sewing, that there’s a McCardell dress, along with a photo of Georgia O’Keeffe wearing it, and lots of other cool vintage fashion in the current exhibition “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” at the Brooklyn Museum. The show is about O’Keeffe’s unique modernist sartorial style, and features her paintings along with items from her wardrobe – some of which she sewed herself. Here’s a photo of O’Keeffe wearing a McCardell, with a Hector Aguilar Mexican Silver belt, from the excellent accompanying book by Wanda M. Corn:


While I was distracted with all of that, Karl was busy coming up with creative ways to use our favorite presser foot, Bulky Overlock #12/12C, which makes fab piping BTW. You can see him doing the hokey pokey with the foot, among other things, in this tutorial: WeAllSew.com. It’s part of our collaboration with BERNINA of America, and all of the details are in the tab above.


As for my next sewing adventure… well, I will be needing an outfit to wear to the opening of that MoMA exhibition!

Hope your sewing’s going well!

Vintage Couture Heaven


I was searching online about my favorite vintage dealer, Didier Ludot, and stumbled upon this new video series by Hamish Bowles, world-class couture collector and Editor-at-Large at US Vogue Magazine.

It features Hamish traveling the world and visiting many of the top collections and vendors of vintage haute couture and ready-to-wear, curated by a true connoisseur. The series includes a visit to Didier Ludot’s shop.

You can find it here: http://video.vogue.com/watch/vintage-bowles-shopping-at-didier-ludot-in-paris?c=series

The series is classy and worth a look. I always enjoy Hamish Bowles’ writing in Vogue.

Didier Ludot’s tiny shop in the Palais Royal in Paris can only be described as a crammed museum of fashion, and if you’re lucky enough to charm him into having a look you can see some of the great works of 20th century haute couture. Across the courtyard, (former home of the author Colette, and a place with a checkered history that includes a number of duels) you’ll find Didier Ludot’s other shop, “La Petite Robe Noire” (The Little Black Dress) which sells vintage designer black dresses and his own line of clothing–a modern takes on vintage cocktail numbers. When you see stars on the red carpet coyly saying they’re wearing vintage “from Paris”, it’s probably from his shop.

Part of my story is that, as the wife of the lawyer for a number of big show-biz events, a couple of times a year I need to don a gown with a capital “G”. Shopping that should be fun is actually a pain, because modern eveningwear is expensive and awful.

About 15 years ago, my husband, (who unlike most American men has a good eye, an appreciation for good design, and no intimidation about shopping for his wife) spotted this dress as we were walking by Didier’s shop on the way to Juveniles Wine Bar, which is around the corner from the Palais Royal:

Late 50s Jean Patou Dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld.

Late 50s Jean Patou Dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld.

It was on a Barbie-waist-size mannequin, which coincidentally is not my size. When we looked in the shop, Didier, clad in what appeared to be Louis the 16th’s striped pajama bottoms and dancing slippers, was negotiating with a couple of Japanese guys over a 60s Hermes Kelly bag. My protests about the dress not fitting and being mortified went unbidden.

My husband shoved me in the shop, charmed Didier, and before you knew it, I was being shoveled into the hidden interior mesh and boned corset onto which the dress is loosely tacked. The dress itself was made of a heavily-woven iridescent aubergine silk, lined with silk organza, and it was so stiff it could almost stand by itself. The label was Jean Patou, which at that time was designed by Karl Lagerfeld, just starting his career.

Inside the streamlined exterior of the dress was miles of hand-sewing and more engineering than the Golden Gate. To get the corset closed, I would exhale forcefully, then have my husband do up the band of hooks and eyes on the back. After that he would zip up the zipper on the dress over the corset, and from then on I would not draw another full breath until the dress was off again.

I wore that dress to at least 10 events, because, unlike the very American concept of being cool by wearing “something new”, a dress that distinctive can be worn repeatedly, in the more European concept of something being a signature of your taste. The corset gave me a wasp-waist, wonderful posture, and then incredible internal distress as soon as I would eat something at dinner after the event. The last time I wore it, my son was three months old, and upon returning home to a squalling, hungry child and a dress that required ten minutes and a lady’s maid to remove, I hung it up for good. Oh, how I wish I had taken a picture of the interior before I sold it!

Since then, I’ve always made a point to peer in the vitrine of Didier’s shop while walking through the Palais Royal on the way to Juveniles, and once in awhile, I go in and pick something up.

I’ve seen that my blog has had visitors from Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the Netherlands and other points in Europe, New Zealand, Australia, India, Asia, US, Canada… Thank you for stopping by! Do you have a favorite “vintage” shopping place in your area? Please leave a comment; I’d love to hear about it.