A Bit Of Southwestern Style

 “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.”

That quote is from “Fabulous! The New Look of the Fifties in Albuquerque,” an exhibition from 2003. 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.

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“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’.

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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.

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Appliqué tutorial available on my VV Free page

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Monica

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Something For The Weekend: a vintage styled sundress pattern.

It is the hottest summer here for 7 years –  sundresses needed fast!

This cotton swimsuit (still my fave) I made from a vintage Butterick pattern a couple of summers ago provided the inspiration. I re-drafted a similar style bodice (bust 35-37ins/89-94cms) and the pattern is now up on the VV Free page for you to download and use with just about any skirt pattern you like or even sew it onto shorts or bloomers for a cute swim/play suit similar to the Butterick one. More

Singing the Blahblah Bloggin’ Blues

Had a bad case of the blogging blues these last couple of months and had to just walk away and think for a while. Blogging was supposed to be an enjoyable thing but became a stress and an obsession instead. I have enough of those already. It got so I couldn’t make anything without thinking about whether or not I ought to be photographing my progress, jotting down the steps and writing a tutorial. And how often did I check my stats?? Sheesh, talk about a creativity killer. Can’t say I’ve come to an understanding with myself about what I’m doing here on WP or why or for whom… but hey I didn’t hit ‘delete this site’ so even if not exactly back in the saddle at least I’m walking alongside the horse. And I have been sewin’ up a storm while singin’ those blues and at the end of the day making clothes is my passion and I just have to keep sight of that.

So.

A while ago while idly perusing vintage dress sites looking at pix of dresses hoping for some inspiration I came across this red beauty on FabGabs.com (site now under reconstruction) and it was love at first sight!

photos by FabGabs.com

So I made a version for myself. It’s made from a heavy silk crepe I’ve been hoarding for years just waiting for the perfect moment to use it and has a velvet yoke, sleeves and pockets. The embroidery is cut out from an upholstery sample, first BondaWeb-ed to stabilise it and help stick it in place on the velvet and then blanket stitched with silk buttonhole thread all around the edges. The pattern itself is a cobbled together job- draped bias sleeves from a 1940’s style evening dress I made a private client a couple of years ago, skirt, also bias is a lengthened version from the 30’s pj top I put a pattern up for (DIY page) and the bodice was adapted from a fitted shirt block. The 4 rows of shirring at the top and bottom of the bodice to control the fullness is a technique I really like and don’t use enough. In a panic I discovered I was down to my last fabric buckle covering kit and they are so hard to find these days… Vogue Fabric site has them in USA and Amazon.com. But they won’t ship them to the UK for some reason so had to warn my Mum in New Mexico a packet of a dozen is headed her way which I’ll collect in January. Phew, panic over 🙂

I’ve used the cut-out embroidery technique before on this georgette and velvet kimono I did for Making Magazine (a UK craft mag I do sewing projects for quite a lot)

That’s a pic of one of the  18″ square upholstery fabric swatches a friend who works in a posh interior design shop gave me and the image below shows how I machine stitched it on. Going around all the edges with blanket stitch is somewhere on my to-do list….. someday. Anyway I think it’s a good cheat for adding embroidery onto clothes for those of us who don’t embroider.

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