Do you like a bit of Southwestern style? I do! It’s one of my favourite looks. Here is a quote is from “Fabulous! The New Look of the Fifties in Albuquerque,” an exhibition from 2003. “Inspired by the blending of traditional Native American and Hispanic dress with a romanticised and somewhat mythical “Western Style,” New Mexico invented its own “new look,” which fit perfectly with the primary components – the long, full skirt and nipped-in waist – of the New Look. Its key elements included “broomstick” (twisted), pleated and tiered skirts, fitted blouses, plenty of Native American jewellery, fringed or woven jackets, cowboy boots and hats, bola ties, and blue jeans. Today the look is described as “Southwest Style,” ““New Mexico Style,” “Santa Fe Style,” or “Albuquerque Chic.” If you are interested in the Southwestern take on Dior’s New Look do have a look at that link. Broomstick skirts, cowboy boots and lots of silver and turquoise piled on- it stands out a bit here in Southern England …. but I’m not one to let a little thing like that stop me. Needless to say I was thrilled to find this cream cotton broomstick skirt in one of Carlsbad New Mexico’s finest thrift shops for the bargain price of $10. The Emily Anne label meant nothing to me when I first saw it so I hit Google and the museum page is what came up. So that was all very nice to find out about.
Next I needed to know how to wash a broomstick skirt. Sew West blog has good instructions should you also find yourself needing them. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to wash the skirt before heading home (it isn’t really in need of one… it’s just the principle). But now I’m back in Blighty without that hot NM sun and I just know it will probably go mouldy before it ever dries. Cue lots more time spent on Google and what came up somewhere was the suggestion to get the wet skirt into a couple of stockings, one from each end and of course in this instance without wrapping it around a dowel or broom handle first, then chuck it in a clothes drier until just slightly damp, next removing the stockings and finally hanging it ’til dry. I’m really not sure I can see myself wrestling 4 metres of wet cotton skirt into a couple of stockings. Who knows, it could be a genius method. Or I can just wait until the central heating is back on, follow Sew West’s method and prop it on top of a radiator until done. Still, I nice addition to my skirt collection.
This sequinned circle skirt beauty also came from New Mexico, Double Take in Santa Fe to be precise. Sadly the label had been cut out but I suspect it is also late 50’s, it’s just something about the quality of the cotton corduroy fabric that leads me to that thought though I could be dead wrong. The design under the silver sequins is an engineered circle, printed in two halves. When worn in sunlight it is nothing short of blinding. I love it!
Which brings me around to the appliquéd shirt in my photo. It is, or was, a plain white bought shirt that I added the appliqués onto as well as adding a new top collar and new cuffs. It’s become one of my favourite shirts since I made it a couple of years ago as a project for a now defunct craft magazine. I’ve refreshed the tutorial and that, complete with the design template, can be accessed here or on my VV Free page. Some might say it’s a cheat using Bondaweb but sometimes life is just too short to fiddle around turning tiny seam allowances under…. in this instance I feel its the result that counts. So there. I used the same technique on my silk crepe skirt and blouse made from vintage kimono lining fabric too. As up-cycling goes this is an easy and satisfying way to style-up a plain shirt or whatever.
On the costuming side of my work I’ve had a couple of making jobs in recent months that I was really happy with how they turned out: Adelaide’s suits for Houdini and Doyle were a bit stressful to cut and sew to say the least as the pin-stripes in the duplicate suit had to match the exact placement of the first suit but it was also rather fun in a challenging-teeth-gritting-lots of re-stitching kind of way. I even made a period corset and petticoats for her to wear underneath. The red dress and silver suit for a production of “The Maids” that was recently on in London were another challenging job. While doing the costume fittings for that I recognised Uzo Aduba who I just loved in ‘Orange Is The New Black’ and Zawe Ashton from ‘Fresh Meat’ but just couldn’t quite place the blond actress. Then it hit me…. OMG IT’S LADY EDITH. She’ll never see where I wrote “I heart Lady Edith” inside her suit lining either. Just kidding. Maybe. Downton Abbey fans will understand.