The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Movie Greats….

In honor of the upcoming Oscars, it’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane.  Here are some of my fav costumes of all time….

First I start with probably the first movie that made such an impression that when I think of designer, this is the vision I have first.

Maggie Prescott……

This was, is and always shall be in my mind what fashion and the fashion editor/icon is….even though in reality it’s more like…..

Although I thought at the time, what a preposterous position…so Maggie still stuck in my mind!

The next thing I remember about movie fashion was this risque outfit:

It was more than a young girl should ever see, even though I had seen my mom plenty of times in her full slip, it was still unheard of!!!!


After that it was a series of fantasy flowing ball gowns with fitted bodices and skirts that must have taken hundreds of yards to make them as full as they were in my fantasies.  This was the beginning of my Barbie period!!!!

And my Barbie went to all events, even the opening of an envelope!!!

Thus entered movies that really spoke to me….my first one was Sabrina.  And even today when I think of the most impressive dress of all time in film, I think of Givenchy & Sabrina, yeah, I know Head got the Oscar, but this was the beginning of a camaraderie that was to delight fans for ages!

The fun thing is that I actually got to recreate this dress for a client – albeit not this elaborate fabric….I did the main dress in white velvet and the skirt in white satin – it was a killer look!!!

I flirted with some other styles, but this look soon developed into a more mature and yet just as sophisticated look:

This isn’t the dress from the movie, but it is my favorite. When Holly came out dressed up to go see Sally Tomato at Sing Sing, I nearly fell thru my seat!  Not only was it the most glamorous transformation I had ever seen on screen, but it was so elegant in it’s simplicity.  By this time I knew how to sew, and I knew what good design was, and here it was like magic – POW!  Right in my face!  I had no idea who Hubert de Givenchy was and really didn’t care, but I was going to find out!

This kind of clothing became my mainstay and even today, when I’m at a loss as to what to do, this is the stlye that I keep coming back to.  It had an indelible effect on me for the rest of my life.  Charade and particularly How to Steal a Million, were too contrived, but Funny Girl, Breakfast at Tiffany and to a lesser degree Charade were imprints on my fashion psyche.

But styles do change and sometimes for the better….or maybe they are just old and come around again….like the song says, everything old is new again!

When I first saw this film, I thought it was exactly what it was, the premier of a fresh but very new actress.  But the clothes – that’s what caused me to watch it over and over again.  Still part of that “post war” tiny-waist, fabric over done extravaganza that was going on at the time.  And this is my generation;s flirtation addiction with shoulder pads.

I made this suit!  The buttons, the close fit, the great huge lapels, those shoulders!  I found an absolutely gorgeous tan, saddle and olive green (of course I had to have green) check that was perfect for this jacket.  It even had  the little flirty peplum in back.

And this is when I first realized about good quality clothing and clothing in classic style.  Those pads and shoulders eventually went with GWTW, but I cut the shoulders down and brought in the sleeve head with a smaller pad (and it wasn’t as hard to do as it sounds), and wore it for another couple of years, till finally the waisted look became so passe in the Grunge period that I had to let it go.  But it lasted a good 17 years.

That’s when I figured out that this sort of fitting out a wardrobe is not only fun and great to wear, it was really easy on the wallet!

I never understood the fascination with this dress, unless it was to make the girls look extra full and large, which it does, but I remember the rage that followed this movie.  This may have been the first time that movie so clearly affected fashion outside of the fashion trends of Paris and New York.  But it did.  For that year after the movie was release, all I knew is that this was all anyone wanted to wear to the prom.  And as sewing was still very much in vogue, there were gobs of stores trying to get this fabric or something like it and trying to do this dress justice.  I’m sure a gob of variations ensued, but fashion began to realize the power of film with the help of this dress.

At the time Liz was more known for the outfit she wore for her Cleopatra entrance into Rome:

Holy Cow!  I hope there were not small children or animals around during the filming of this thing, cause that top-heavy hat doesn’t look all that stable!!!  Talk about contrived – which was the whole point of the whole scene, but nevertheless, there was a lot going on here – it just was an OK you made your entrance and now what? moment for me!

Now this is my kinda entrance!  Even though there were other more glamorous dresses in this movie, this is the one today that sticks in my mind the most, and it did the first time I saw this movie.  Honestly when Frances Stevens comes off the elevator and promenades (she does not walk in this scene) through the lobby of the über-glamorous hotel, I thought – that’s how I wanna look!!!  And even though Ms. Head may have had her ins and outs with Audrey, she had some other great moments, and this was one of them.

For my generation Annie Hall was a watershed moment that affected fashion in a way that was hard to explain at the time.  There were not really any strong trends for this sort of style, but once the movie came out, folks were wanting it and this is a case of designers responding to the movies instead of the other way around.  For some designers it was an easier jump, like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein – for others it was a real turnabout.

I thought it was a look but that’s about it, and as far as anything classic or sticking, probably not.  It was a fad for me, and although I wore some Annie Hall type things, it wasn’t really my style.  I did love how Diane Keaton seemed to be able to put this look together and does a good job of updating it today.  She has her own style, which is not mine, but I appreciate that she has the artistic wherewithal to do this and does it seemingly effortlessly.

I really loved the original of this movie, and didn’t think the remake could do justice to such an iconic movie….el wrongo!!!!  I went berserk immediately over Ms. Russo’s wardrobe – most her day and office clothes were what did it for me.  We were just coming out of the Grunge Look, and I had, had my fill of ugly, and was dying for someone somewhere to do something pretty, beautiful and interesting.  And here it was.

This movie had an effect on me that showed me 1.) that pretty was coming back (although it was taking its sweet little time about it), and 2.) there were styles that were out there that were respectful looking, gorgeously made, fabulous detail, and totally  wearable for a professional look.

And then there was this…..

What could this possibly have to do with fashion?  When this movie came out, I loved the whole look of it, and the costumes were extraordinarily well designed and made.  I kept thinking who in the world was doing this and how come I didn’t know this movie designer before hand?

This was one of the dead giveaways on this movie…..that collar execution and the jacket/coat that the villain Zorg wore was too masterfully tailored to be just the run-of-the-mill sci-fi movie costume.  Some of them are so poorly made that you can tell in a drawing they look spectacular, but in real life, they are anything but.  A little rewinding back to the beginning and the culprit is discovered:  Jean Paul Gaultier.  I knew who he was  (the notorious enfant terrible of Paris!) and understood completely.  It explained how Major Iceborg (above in the immaculately tailored garment that fits her to a tee) and Gary Oldman were so gorgeously and beautifully fitted, making my point that every shape can be fitted!

Most of my inspiration today comes from TV.  Sometimes this isn’t as practical as Hollywood or movies, but it does reflect trends and portend what is the air in fashion. Jessica Pearson on Suits is one of my favs:

 What designers send you immediately to the pattern book, or drawing board to get your own take on their design?

This can be one of the richest and most valuable sources of clothing ideas out there.  Like pictures of society and notables, and the fashion publications,  movies are usually a reflection of what is going on out there in the fashion world – even period pieces.  And sometimes, they even affect the fashion trend itself.  More often than not they are an inspiration for a lot of designers and artists.  For me, the enjoyment is seeing so many beautifully and carefully made garments that fit and work.






















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