Sunday, January 29, 2017

Movie Review: Criss Cross (1949)


The Movie:  7 (on a scale of -10 to 10).  A man gets involved in a heist in order to win back his ex-wife.  The story was told well, the cinematography was brilliant in places, and in general, it was very enjoyable.  In a refreshing turn of events, this was a movie that went for the right ending, not the comfortable ending.

The Fashions:  9 (on a scale of 1 to 10).  The femme fatale wears some really cute outfits, even by modern standards.  One of the dresses basically looks like Vogue 8812.

In Short:  Highly recommended on both the movie and fashion fronts.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pattern Review: Self-drafted silk dupioni evening dress

I had long been a fan of a certain 1930's or 1940's velvet evening dress I saw in a book once.  I don't remember the designer, and the book is at my parents' house, but the lines were something like the dress in this photo from Vintage Textile.  I had ordered some silk dupioni from Denver Fabrics, and when it arrived, I thought the color was really ugly.  Since I didn't care if I ruined the fabric, I figured I might as well use it to try to replicate the dress in my memories.  And this is the result:
Well.  I think that worked out!  Here's the back:
And here's the front and back of the dress flat on the ground:
The construction was remarkably straightforward.  I took my favorite slip pattern, cut it off at the hips to give it a dropped waist, and added gathered rectangles of fabric for the skirt. 
I added decorative bands of fabric at the waist and neckline.  They are cut perpendicular to the grain of the bodice and skirt, and so they stand out from each other by having a different sheen, not that it shows with the diffuse overhead lighting I used to take these photos.
I used grosgrain ribbon as stays to secure the gathers, which just barely shows on the inside.
The dress is lined in black silk habotai.  The skirt lining was gathered together with the skirt fabric, but it took me forever to figure out how to line the bodice.  In the end, I had to make the bodice lining several inches longer than the dress bodice, and stitch it onto the grosgrain ribbon stays by hand.  Time-consuming, but this way the lining isn't too short and doesn't cause the dress to pull weirdly.
I experimented with several different strap designs, and ended up going with these, which are gathered in a couple different places.
Overall, the drafting was relatively easy, but construction was difficult due to top-stitching all those tiny points in the contrast bands.  Still, I consider it a success, and this is one of my favorite dresses to have photographed.
Thanks to my beloved local rock climbing gym, Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, for letting me do the photography there!
I think this is the best photo I took.  It reminds me of A Wizard of Earthsea, and the story of how the wizard Geb was pursued by a shadow, only to ultimately realize that it was a part of himself.
The black and white version is good, too, but I think I prefer the pop of the color one.
Anyway, happy sewing!

Movie Review: The Big Clock (1948)

Watching more old movies for the fashions.

The Movie:  5 (on a scale of -10 to 10).  We get to watch George Stroud's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day as he wrecks his marriage, loses his job, and gets framed for murder.  This could have been a much better movie than it was.  We watch a weak-willed man move through life doing the bidding of whoever's applying the most pressure at the moment (alternately, his boss, his wife, and some random woman who shows up.)  Since he has no real sense of agency, and no coherent plan for managing his relationships and balancing his responsibilities, he gets used by those around him (only to be discarded when someone new and more forceful comes along), and as a result, makes the perfect fall guy for murder.  If the movie had ended with him being convicted and the murderer getting away with it, this would have been an interesting movie with a strong message.  Instead, people rally around him, the real killer is caught, and The Character Who Was Supposed To Be The Comic Relief, But Was Really Just Annoying gets the final line.  The only reason I'm not rating this movie lower is that it does a great job of showcasing Art Deco architecture.

The Fashions:  2 (on a scale of 1 to 10).  Nothing horrible, but nothing noteworthy, either.

In short:  Unless you really like Art Deco architecture, I'd pass.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Movie Review: The Killers (1946)

Another old movie I watched for the fashions.

Movie:  7 (on a scale of -10 to 10).  Based on a short story by Ernest Hemmingway.  Starts out as a murder mystery, then becomes a heist mystery (is that a thing?) when it becomes clear that the murder victim was mixed up with some unsavory people.  The film was interesting and done well, and there were some really good shots. 

Fashions:  8 (on a scale of 1 to 10).  There's only one really notable dress, worn by Ava Gardner at a fancy party, but wow is it a showstopper, a black satin strapless-ish number with interesting draping around the bust. 

In short:  This one was actually pretty good and is definitely worth watching.

Movie Review: Black Angel (1946)

I've been watching old movies to see the fashions.

Movie:  4 (on a scale of -10 to 10).  A man is wrongfully convicted of murder, and his wife and the victim's husband team up and make a lounge singer/pianist act to clear his name.  It has a stronger start than The Blue Dahlia, but the ending is incredibly lame.  It's interesting to see movies from the past that are basically fantasy wish fulfillment vehicles-- a housewife becomes a sexy lounge singer working with a desirable (?) man while still retaining her wifely virtue!

Clothes:  4 (on a scale of 1 to 10).  The murder victim, also a lounge singer, has some nice eveningwear at the beginning.  The housewife wears really frumpy clothes at the start of the movie, but has some good stuff once she becomes a lounge singer.  Still, nothing really stood out in my mind.

In short:  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really memorable.  There are better choices in this category.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pattern Review: Self-Drafted Dirndl Skirt

This is pretty much the easiest skirt I ever made.
I loosely followed the directions from Gertie.  It's basically a dirndl skirt, just two gathered rectangles of fabric.  The fabric is by Carrie Bloomston--I really liked the newspaper strips print.

I figured out the length of skirt I wanted, and cut two rectangles the width of the fabric.  I measured myself to figure out the circumference of the waistband, and stitched the gathered rectangles to grosgrain ribbon stays of the appropriate length.  I cut a waistband of the appropriate length and interfaced it, then assembled the skirt in the usual way.
Overall, a very quick and easy project.  Highly recommended!

Movie Review: The Blue Dahlia (1946)

Reviewing old movies for fashions.

Movie:  3 (on a scale of -10 to 10).  A husband and wife have a dysfunctional, abusive relationship and the wife ends up murdered.  Murder mystery ensues.  There is a nightclub involved.  The movie took far too long to get to the murder, and the pacing was slow for my taste overall.

Fashions:  7 (on a scale of 1 to 10).  The women have plenty of excuses to wear spectacular evening dresses.  Also, it's fascinating to see 1940's evening dresses, which tend to be floor-length and cover the arms-- such a contrast from modern red-carpet wear, which often tries to get away with as much nudity as possible.  Watch and ruminate on the question of what makes a dress sexy, if it's not strategic exposure of skin.

In short:  Solid pick for fashions, movie a bit dull.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Movie Review: Phantom Lady (1944)

More reviews of old movies mostly for the clothes.

Movie:  8 (on a scale of -10 to 10).  A man picks up a mystery woman in a bar.  He's later framed for murder, and there's no trace of this woman who is his only alibi.  It's a good movie, and the script, acting, and cinematography were all well-executed.

Fashions:  6 (on a scale of 1 to 10).  The protagonist is a secretary, and some of the suits she wears fit like a dream.  On the other hand, some of her other clothes are rather frumpy.  There's also a fun scene where she dresses up as a really trashy woman.

In short:  It's a good movie, but I wouldn't watch it just for the clothes.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Movie Review: Double Indemnity (1944)

Another movie review based on both the film and the vintage fashions.

Movie:  10 (on a scale of -10 to 10).
An insurance salesman falls in love with a married woman, and they conspire to kill her husband.  The plot is gripping, the acting is excellent, and the cinematography is superb-- I learned so much about photographic lighting just from watching this film.  Plus, as a former Angelino, I'm always curious to see what Los Angeles looked like in an earlier age.

Fashions:  7 (on a scale of 1 to 10).
A lot of the fashions are the sort that look dated and unappealing to a modern audience, but I wonder how much of that was changing fashion sensibilities and how much of that was a deliberate decision on the part of the filmmakers to make Phyllis look cheap and seedy.  Still, I love the seaming on Phyllis's trench coat, and Lola's wool skirt reminds me of the one from V2885, except that the inverted pleat is on the skirt front.

In short:  Maybe not worth watching for the fashions, but definitely worth watching for the movie.

Movie Review: The Glass Key (1942)

Another review of an old movie for plot and fashions.

Movie:  0 (on a scale of -10 to 10). 
Utterly forgettable.  There are a bunch of people in politics, and...a murder happens?  And they need to solve it?  Nothing really grabbed me here.

Fashions:  3 (on a scale of 1 to 10).
Veronica Lake is hot, but none of the clothe she wore really stood out to me. 

In short:  Not bad, but probably better options in this category.  I wasn't paying close attention to the film, though, so my assessment might be off.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Movie Review: Libeled Lady (1936)

Continuing my tradition of rating old movies both for the fashions and for their quality as movies.

Movie:  8 (on a scale of -10 to 10).  A wealthy young lady brings a libel suit against a newspaper, and the newspaperman attempts to fight the suit by hiring a man to marry the newspaperman's fiance and  woo the young lady.  Hijinks ensue.  I mean, it's got William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Jean Harlow all at the height of their powers.  What more do you need to know?

Fashions:  9 (on a scale of 1 to 10).  Two female leads, everyone's wealthy, and social situations keep coming up that require everyone to wear fancy dresses.  Pretty great, if you ask me.

In short:  Yeah, you should watch this one.

Movie Review: This Gun for Hire (1942)

I'm reviewing old movies for how good the fashions are, since that's the main reason I watch movies.  I'll be reviewing the movie as well, since not everyone wants to watch a terrible movie just in the hopes that there might be a really snazzy dress.

Movie:  7 (on a scale of -10 to +10)
It's WWII, and a lounge singer gets recruited to bust a group which has been selling American industrial secrets to the enemy.  The pacing was slow by modern standards, but many of the main characters were interesting and three-dimensional and the plot was more complex than I've come to expect from such films.  Solid seven out of ten.  Plus, there were cute kitties.

Fashions:  7 (on a scale of 1 to 10)
The protagonist is a lounge singer, so naturally she gets to wear some pretty awesome clothes.  Unfortunately, the other female characters don't get much screen time, but still, definitely worth a watch.

In short:  Decent movie with decent fashions.  Not the best ever in either category, but definitely a solid choice.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Movie Review: A Fool There Was (1915)

I watch a lot of old movies just for the fashions, so why not review them?  I'm starting with A Fool There Was, a silent film from 1915 starring Theda Barr.  I'm going to rate the movie and the clothing separately-- if you're like me, how good or bad the film was isn't a huge factor in your decision about whether or not to watch it, but if you're having Movie Night with your significant other, they might not put up with a terrible plot and terrible acting.

Movie:  -5 (on a scale of -10 to +10)
A wealthy and accomplished family man is seduced and ruined by a sexy evil woman, the Vampire.  This being a film from 1915, they hadn't yet worked out all the details of acting, storytelling, and cinematography in this new medium, and it shows.  The first part of the movie drags, I kept wishing for more scenes with the Vampire, and in general I had trouble telling what was going on.  The film hinges on the Vampire being transgressive and seductive, and much of what would be transgressive and seductive to a 1915 audience doesn't register as anything unusual to a 2017 audience.  For example, the line "Kiss me, my fool" was considered scandalous at the time, and to us...it doesn't even rate.  One wonders what these people would make of Cards Against Humanity.

I also took issue with the film's approach to its subject matter.  I'm familiar with the way people like the Vampire operate-- they are skilled manipulators who cut their victims off from their family, friends, and normal life.  Eventually the vampire becomes the victim's entire life, to the point that the victim can't see a way out, if they were even capable of wanting out.  The film keeps emphasizing that the wealthy businessman so seduced was "a fool."  He wasn't a fool.  He found himself in a vulnerable position-- traveling abroad without his normal social network-- and was hopelessly outclassed by a predator who specialized in capitalizing on these situations.  This was a film from 1915, so we can't judge it by today's standards, but................the idea that men can't be victims of domestic abuse is still widespread.  For shame, people, for shame.

In short, the film is fascinating on a historical level but difficult to enjoy as a movie.  The only reason I'm not rating it lower for its takeaway message was that the poor quality of the movie obscured the relationship dynamics and made it challenging to understand the situation as presented.

Fashions:  7 (on a scale of 1 to 10)
The poor visual quality of the movie made it difficult to see much detail in the clothing, but there were some interesting evening dresses (thank you, scene where the Vampire throws what must have been a crazy wild party for 1915).  Given that there aren't many surviving films from this period, I'm giving this movie a 7 out of 10 for historical interest.  Also, props to the costume and makeup department, which did a good job giving the Vampire a different visual style from everyone else-- dark and slinky versus everyone else's light and structured clothes.

In short:  Worth watching if you care about Edwardian fashions or silent films, but probably not otherwise.