A Bit Of Southwestern Style


Do you like a bit of Southwestern style?  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.”

The link is an informative read if you are interested in the Southwestern take on Dior’s New Look. I’ve personally always loved the look of broomstick skirts, cowboy boots and lots of silver and turquoise piled on. It’s not one which blends in easily with wellington boots, grey skies and the general drift of what many  most other people here in Southern England wear…. but I’m not one to let little things like that stop me. So 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.

“Emily Ann had a dress shop in Old Town, and her specialty was fiesta dresses. You could get a fiesta dress made in your choice of colors and sizes.” quoted from ‘Fashion in 1950s Albuquerque’.

Some images to set the Southwestern scene.


Then 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 am very happy to have added this skirt into my collection.

Appliqué tutorial available on my VV Free page


On the hem in a couple of places ‘Monica’ is printed. If this mean anything to anybody I’d love to hear!

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.

VVappliqueBlouse VVappliqueSkirt

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-teethgritting-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.

Maids stage photographs by Marc Brenner. Houdini & Doyle images via Fox


My Pattern Poll: PDF or Paper  is done now. Thank you to the 223 who voted!

104- Printed paper

114- PDF (tiled and full size together print yourself)

5 –  “It depends”

So almost even…I expected the results be more heavily weighted in one or the other direction. Interesting.



16 thoughts on “A Bit Of Southwestern Style

  1. I’d never heard of a broomstick skirt, always interesting posts Jeanne! Maybe you should take a quick trip to Spain, in order to properly launder your vintage skirt. Given your line of work, surely that’s tax deductible?

  2. I’ve been enjoying watching Houdini & Doyle here in Ottawa, Canada, and always check the credits for the costume department for shows that require custom made designs. Did you realize you are not listed under the credits at IMBD under the costume and wardrobe department (unless it is listed as something other than Jeanne……….)? There are several others named, along with the main costume designer. Please tell me you go by another name and this isn’t a case of Edith Head syndrome.

    1. Edith Head syndrome, lol no.

      90% all of the costume work I do is uncredited because as a freelance ‘maker’ I get contracted through a either a costume supervisor, costume house or sometimes directly by a designer. In this case it was the costume house for whom I regularly freelance that produced and/or hired much of the costumes for the H & D series designer. They themselves only get on screen-credit if it has been agreed with the tv/film producers and designer. Only readers of my blog, my husband and mom know some of what I’ve done. Even when I do full design work, if it is subcontracted, no credit goes to me, just to whomever contracted me. Many types of industries work like this. In a couple of instances when doing work for mega companies I’ve had to sign non-disclosure-ever-anywhere contracts. I get paid decently so that’s fine.

      In general how I work as a ‘maker’, like with Adelaide’s suit, is I generally just get a sketch: sometimes very beautifully illustrated and detailed… sometimes all the way at the other end of the spectrum as in literally a scribble on a napkin and a verbal ‘wish list’ from the putative designer. Mainly I get something in the middle. Some designers want a lot of involvement with the process, some just want the job done. A designer often gets to know and to prefer to work with particular makers as they know their ideas will turn out well in that makers hands. Makers are their hidden asset.

      Sadly because of google and the ease of searching for image references fewer designers seem to sketch these days. Sometimes a production company will try to save money by not paying for a designer. Instead a bod from the production office will put together a mood board from googled images and costume supervisors/costumers have to work from that. It is easier to work on jobs where there is an official designated designer otherwise it can get very muddled as to who wants what. I dread designed-by-committee jobs.
      Very different from the days of Edith Head… I would have loved to work with her.

      Probably too much info there…. but the caffein just hit!

  3. I cannot take your poll about pattern formats because my answer depends on the kind of project. For a project with small pieces, a pdf works perfectly. For a project with large pieces, I prefer to draft it myself or to have a tissue pattern. (I live about 50 miles from a copy shop!)

  4. Adelaide ‘s suit in Houdini and Doyle is gorgeous, and believe me, I’ve noticed how beautifully the stripes are matched on our HD TV!!

    1. Thank you! Lol, I guess not much can hide on HD. It wouldn’t have been the first time I worked really hard on a costume only for it to have about 30 seconds of screen time…. and then only from the shoulders down.

  5. So good to read your post, Vera. I like this Southwestern look. With inspiring ideas to make the look our own.

  6. Beautiful skirts! I live in the Southwest US, and I wear broomstick skirts all summer long. I don’t do the turquoise and boots thing, it’s really more that the light, crinkly cotton is a survival necessity when the temps get up to 120 F (48 C).
    I don’t take any special precautions in washing, but to dry them I crinkle them by hand and then twist them tightly into a big knot. I washed one yesterday and with our low humidity it dried in less than 24 hours!

    1. Wow, 120F …. I feel faint just thinking about that, and wet clothes certainly must dry in no time at all! Do the pleats come out looking reasonably vertical with the twist and knot method? I’m not sure that this Emily Anne skirt will work well like that as the cotton isnt as thin as one would expect but I may give it a go (but put it in the dryer) thank you!

      1. Yes, it’s a bit scary to experiment with something 60+ years old! My skirt pleats are nicely vertical, but not nearly so tiny or regular as the ones on your cream Emily Anne. This may be due to my lack of precision in the crinkling process, plus I have washed it at least 20 times over the years.

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