27 April 2010

Odeon chic

A couple of weeks ago I spent a very happy Saturday morning with a bunch of other film nerds on a bus tour of 1930s Odeon cinemas of Birmingham, organised by Flatpack Festival (Oscar Deutsch, who started up the Odeon chain of picture palaces, lived in Birmingham, and some of the earliest venues were built here). I found some wonderful images of Odeon staff fashion, architecture and interiors on the English Heritage photo archive website and thought you enjoy these examples of fantastic 1930s design.

Not unlike this gorgeous dress on Burda Style. 
Extra fashion points for pulling off the bow tie.
[Ushers, Leicester Square, 1937]

Loving the style of the lady seated on the right of the sofa.
The men in white coats are the projectionists.
[Staff, Colindale, 1935]

Fab white collar and buttons on the blonde lady.
Also check out the carpet - the fan motif was used in lots of Odeon sites, apparently.
[Staff, Isleworth, 1935]

Most of the Odeon buildings were designed by architect Harry Weedon, who created a distinctive house style. Odeon Kingstanding is a good example, with its deco curves and prominent fin leading eyes down to the advertising.
[Kingstanding, 1935]

The interiors, overseen by Oscar's wife Lili, were no less impressive. 
The walls and ceilings often lead the eye towards the screen.
[Leicester Square, 1937]

The seats at the flagship Leicester Square site were upholstered in synthetic leopard print. Snazzy! The plush furnishings distinguished Odeons from cinemas that came before, providing a sense of respectability for middle class audiences and offering a place of fantasy and escape for the working class or unemployed.
[Leicester Square, 1937]

[Barnet, 1935]

This looks like the foyer of a posh hotel.
[Barnet, 1935]

I love this pic in so many ways.
[Organist, cinema unknown]

While a few of these cinemas are still standing (albeit with new facades), many are now used for other purposes. For example, the tour took us to the Kingstanding site, which is now a bingo hall. This didn't prevent the group from marching in to admire the ceilings, much to the bemusement of the grandmas trying their luck on the early bird game (I've never felt more middle class in my life). Having been round Birmingham sites, I must take myself on a tour of the London suburbs to see how much of the original architecture has survived. And I may just have to stitch an usher homage outfit...

[Images reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR]

18 April 2010

Hollywood starlet dress

Hoo-rah! Ceylon is finished! Just in time for my friend's wedding - I was up until after bedtime the night before (hardcore, I know) blind stitching the hem, was taking out pins on the tube on the way, and didn't have time to wash it so the pen markings were in full view. I made it in red gabardine - I initially hesitated about wearing red to a wedding but the bride encouraged me to go for it (she wore green). I love how it turned out - thanks so much for your help and encouragement with this project!

The wedding was gorgeous and had many a crafting element. The bunting in the top picture was made by the bride's sister, as were the napkins with each guest's name on them. All the food was made by family and friends.

Yum yum yum!

4 April 2010

First foray into sewing vintage patterns

Praise be, I have FINALLY finished my first vintage sewing project!


I used Simplicity pattern 4255, from 1953, with some £4/m poly-cotton lawn from John Lewis. My parcel tape dress form came in handy for checking the bust and waist size on my Swedish tracing paper muslin, which I had to take out by 2cm. Using the tracing paper as a middleman did lead to Chinese whispers between the original pattern and the cut out fabric, particularly as I'm not a very accurate cutter. Is there a secret method to cutting out fabric? When wielding scissors is it better to be bold or careful? Don't worry about your responses sounding too obvious (I realised for the first time that I was holding the scissors upside down - oops)!

The main stumbling block I discovered with working from vintage patterns is the language that they use. I wasted a whole precious free evening after work staring at one particular sentence in the instructions, reading it out with different intonations and in different accents to try to make it make sense. In the end I just ignored the instruction, carried on and worked out what it meant by which bit of the blouse was left flapping about (turned out to be the bit where the top of the front facing met the shoulder seam).

Another thing that took three million years was finishing the edges. The brevity and flippancy of the instruction "slip-stitch bias facing in place" belies the toil that such work involves. First I had to figure out how to make bias tape binding (my first attempt wasn't cut on the bias - doh! The clue is in the name!); then baste it to the edge (which I read as "sew", hence the tiny stitches - no biggie); then slip-stitch - by hand, it turns out - the other edge of the binding to the inside, which took forever - one sitting of Wim Wenders' Alice in the Cities and a couple of episodes of Seinfeld, to be exact. But I admit that it does look rather neat. Are there rules for when to cut corners and forego the bias binding for a quicker method?

And here's the finished blouse! The problem with the early 1950s V-shape is that - unless I walk around with my arms sticking out like the good ladies on the front of the pattern, it bunches up at the sides. I don't really want to take it in though as it'll diminish the drama of the shape. If you look at the pattern you may also notice that the collar is supposed to be more Elvis and the cuffs were originally twice as big. But when I styled it like that my loving boyfriend said I looked like "an alien queen ... in a good way", yet as that wasn't quite the look I was going for I toned it down with the help of my trusty iron.

I also baked this weekend - a sewing enthusiast cliche, perhaps, but not something I do very often, honest! Mmm... cakes...

[Soundtrack: 'Devil's Spoke' by Laura Marling / smelltrack: daffs]