Make It Your Own: "Hard-Hearted Hannah" Marries a Millionaire

"Hard-Hearted Hannah" (to the right of the puffy-sleeved pink and
white outfit).from 20th Century Fox's How to Marry A Millionaire.

One of our all-time favorite movies is 1953’s How To Marry A Millionaire, featuring Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Bette Grable, which is lots of fun beginning to end as these ladies set out to marry a man with money – lots of it. Each of them are what we would consider “super models” today, but they didn’t make the kind of money we associate with modeling. They all wear fantastic clothes, of course (Lauren Bacall’s jumper worn over a sparkling white blouse with voluminous sleeves is a stand-out), but the real centerpiece of this movie is a private fashion show requested by one of their intended mates that features a pants-and-shirt outfit entitled “Hard-Hearted Hannah.”  This outfit is a true classic, and one that is near and dear to my heart – but the dazzling spin these folks put on it raises it to a new level.  The fashion show narrator in the movie describes the shirt as being made of black-and-white silk, cinched at the waist by a wide black belt, over “mustard” crash pants.  I’ve worn several incarnations of this outfit many times over the years and it never looks dated.  It’s also something you can easily create with your trusty sewing machine at home. 

"Hard-Hearted Hannah" from head-to-toe!

For those who don’t know, crash is a linen/cotton blend with a soft, yet crisp hand that originally was used for dish towels, no less! I can’t imagine making pants out of dish towels, but the fiber content does give us an idea of the type of fabric we might want to consider when making our version.

First, though, let’s talk patterns.  For the shirt, we like McCall’s 5052 (M/MP 6-20) and 5145 (W/WP 18-32); both are classic, universally flattering styles that call for cotton/cotton blends, silk, crepe and other similar options.  For the pants, we chose two patterns, again of a classic design, but offer various lengths (the pants featured in the movie appear to be rolled up to capri length).  Both are Butterick patterns – 5614 (M/6-22) and 5222 (M/XS-XL, W/XXL-6XL), which call for fabrics including linen (or a linen/cotton blend, if you so choose!), twill, gabardine, lightweight denim, and crepe.  As you can see, there’s lots of room for individuality and self-expression with these patterns, which is one of the great things about the outfit.  You can sew these styles with confidence knowing that the result will be smart and timeless, yet very much YOU!

Preview for next week: Christina tackles Lauren Bacall's suits. Should be interesting...


Popped Seams: Of Machine and Hand-Sewn Zippers for Vogue 8409

Vogue 8409. The drawing doesn't look like
 much, but the pattern is well-drafted.
 I had high hopes for this one.  I really did.

Well, I did after seeing it here. The drawing doesn't appealed to me, but it looks really good after it has been made up.

I started this in April, using a dark brown polyester/rayon/spandex (I believe) ponte roma double knit from Haberman Fabrics. I love ponte roma, which, for those who don't know is a very stable knit with a very small amount of stretch, and was excited to use it. The dress came out well and I put it aside for a long time until last week.

This is the partially finished product. You can't see
much detail, but it came out well.
Last Friday, after debating whether or not to install the zipper by hand or by machine, I attempted to machine sew the zipper into the dress.

Big mistake.

Now, I know how to put both standard and invisible zippers into a garment; neither are that hard. In fact, I prefer invisible zippers if you're planning to use a machine to install them. But this zipper installation went very wrong very quickly. Everything was going well, until I came to a very thick seam and then my needle veered off to the right. See the picture below.
Detail of the zipper at the back waist.
You can't tell in this picture, because I'm not the best photographer in the world (sorry!) but there is a seam going down the center of the back. To the right of that seam at the bottom is where I was sewing the zipper in place, but if you look up, you see alot of puckering and an uneven seam to the right of the center seam. Why? Because at that point, I was stitching through six, then four, and then six layers of double knit because the midriff piece (that part in the middle) that you see has a facing, or a sort of cover to keep the yucky raw edges under wraps, on the inside of the dress. So that means alot of fabric piled up, which creates a hump that is very difficult for the needle to work with.

A sort of perfectionist, I wasn't pleased with this and attempted to take the zipper out, but because the fabric is so thick, it is impossible to see the stiches and pop them without damaging the fabric.

You win some, you lose some. This one, I had to take a loss on all because of the zipper, which is very sad because it's a nice, easy-to-use pattern and I'm sure that it fits well. I might give it to my cat or my dad's kittens to use as a mattress or something. That's just about all it's good for now.

On the bright side, now I have more time to work on another Vogue dress. This time, I'm hand-picking the gosh darned zipper. 



Make It Your Own: Bette Davis' Defiant Dinner Dress

Hi, everyone! Since this is our first real post and not an introductory one, we want to start out by saying thank you to all of the people who have been poking around the blog for the past few weeks and for our two followers. Special thanks go to our friends in the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands. We appreciate your support!

When we set out to start this blog, we knew that we wanted a place where we could showcase our progress with our various sewing projects and generate discussion, but seeing as though we’re both busy for a great deal of the year (I’m a college student, but this coming school year will be my last (!) and my mother works full-time) we knew that would be a challenge. However, our work doesn’t stop us from thinking about sewing!

This post, and future ones like it, is dedicated to showing what is going on in our minds when we see outfits that we find particularly inspiring, which usually includes the question, “How can I make this myself?”

This week’s inspiration comes from Warner Bros.’ 1942 film, Now, Voyager, starring Bette Davis. Now, Voyager is a favorite movie of ours as it involves the transformation of a woman who overcomes adversity. Second only to La Bette are the clothes she wears that signifies the transformation. The centerpiece: the long, dark evening dress with the camellias at the apex of the plunging neckline that Davis, as Charlotte Vale, wears after she returns home from her transformative trip to Rio d Janeiro. The dress, of which her mother disapproves, is the symbol of Charlotte’s independence and rank disobedience towards her mother. For the purposes of this post, we will call it the Defiant Dinner Dress.

Bette Davis as Charlotte Vale after her transformation and South American
cruise in Now, Voyager. Photo obtained from thefoxling@Flickr.

This gown, along with others worn by Davis’ female colleagues, was designed by Orry-Kelly, a Hollywood designer who worked for all of the major studios and was responsible for dressing some of Hollywood’s most popular actresses during the pre-code era through the 1960s. Kelly was also the recipient of three Academy Awards for Best Costume Design for An American in Paris (1951) (another favorite of ours), Les Girls (1957), and Some Like It Hot (1959).

Kelly was the costuming genius behind the majority of the films Bette Davis made while under contract to Warner Bros. He is perhaps best known for his work in Jezebel (1938), Warner Bros.’ answer to David O. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind (1939).
Bette Davis as Julie Marsden in Jezebel. This is a photograph of the
scandalous red dress that Julie wears to the ball.
Photo obtained from kndynt2099 @Flickr.

But while the costumes in Jezebel are magnificent, we feel that the simplicity and clean lines of the Now, Voyager evening dress far outshine the clothing of the antebellum South. It is the timelessness of this design tells us that it can be worn and be equally elegant today, and also makes it so appealing to us that we’ve decided to show you how to replicate it.

As we mentioned before, the dress in question is a dark-colored evening gown. We aren’t sure what the color of the dress was in person, the actual color of the dress could have been dark green, dark blue, or black, all of which would appear black on black-and-white film. It also seems that the dress either wraps or has a tie-belt at the waist (you’ll notice in the picture below with Bonita Granville that there is a tie hanging from the waist of Davis’s dress).

Charlotte (Davis) and niece June (Bonita Granville, right) at the
 family dinner party in Now, Voyager.  Photo obtained from thefoxling @Flickr.

So, after a day-long search for dress patterns that emulate the design, we settled on two: Simplicity 2145 and McCall’s 5974. Both patterns feature v-neck, long-sleeve dresses with a sort of wrapping element at the waist.

Simplicity 2145 requires roughly 3 ½ yards of  60” fabric for a size 14. The reason I say “roughly” is because this is a Project Runway pattern. For those of you who are not familiar with this subgroup of patterns, the yardage is non-cumulative. Therefore, you can add the yardages of each of the pieces together to find your total yardage. To get the 3 ½ yards to which we referred, add the yardages for the long sleeves, front wrap, and dress with the v-neck bodice (bodice A) together.

This pattern allows the use of many different types of fabric, including laundered cottons, linens, and, oddly enough, matte jersey. We speculate that the original Orry-Kelly design was made of wool jersey, wool crepe, or silk velvet, given the drape and movement of the dress. For this pattern, we suggest that you use crepe rather than cottons or jersey. Crepe provides you with the drape of a jersey without the clinginess. Matte jersey, while comfortable, will most likely prove to be far too stretchy for this pattern (Authors’ note: If you do decide to use knits for any pattern drafted for wovens, you will have to subtract ease from the pieces. For more information on this, please consult Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina).

McCall’s 5974 requires slightly less fabric than the Simplicity pattern. It takes 2 7/8 yards of 60” fabric for a size 14. This pattern says that it is to be used with stretch knits only. For our purposes, we believe that a silk jersey would be best. Since this will be a longer dress, we do want a fabric that is lightweight, but that also has excellent drape.

As for modifying these dress patterns, please be generous with your yardages. Add 2 ½-3 extra yards to accommodate an evening length dress. We also suggest that you use invisible zippers. The insertion of an invisible zipper may be more time consuming, but always remember the end result! Or, if hand sewing is your thing and you prefer standard zippers, you may want to hand-pick your zipper, which will capture the true vintage spirit of the design. For more information on hand-picked zippers, please click here.

Happy Sewing!

-Debra and Christina

Note: Information concerning Orry-Kelly can be found here and here.


All That and a Bolt of Fabric…my story:

For me, sewing has been both a passion and an art, as well as a practicality.   I began this creative voyage as a 9 year old, with dolls  - Barbie and otherwise – to dress.  My mother made many of my clothes, as did my paternal aunts and grandmother, so the concept wasn’t foreign to me – but like many girls, I never thought MY skills would measure up to the standards set by my elders.  Initially, I sewed my doll clothes by hand, then later, with a bit of maturity under my belt, on a sewing machine!  At this point, though, I hadn’t dared to sew anything for myself.  It wasn’t until much later, at the ripe old age of 12 that this developing skill blossomed into something that would be with me forever. 

My awakening?  A required sewing class in junior high school, to which I vehemently objected.  The reason – I hated being forced to do anything based on gender and sewing class was the aforementioned “requirement” for 7th grade girls.  So despite my innate interest in sewing, I inwardly (I kept telling myself this wasn’t for me, that I’d never be able to sew as well as my mother and other assorted excuses) rebelled, until I finally made something that I was proud enough to wear.  As a teenager with an interest in fashion, but little cash to support that interest beyond my allowance and babysitting money, I quickly surmised that I could easily triple my wardrobe, at a fraction of the off-the-rack cost, by sewing.  To borrow a racing term, I was off and running!

I sewed my back-to-school clothes, dresses (one of which was a formal gown for the same grandmother who sometimes sewed for me!), anything that suited my fancy and for a rather dorky teen, it was great to be viewed as a fashion plate.  My “aha moment” was when I was finally able to set in a sleeve smoothly and without puckers or gathers.  I’d see an outfit in a magazine or movie that I thought would be becoming on me and set about copying it, putting my own touches on it.  As a college student in jeans most of the time, I focused my attention on creating bohemian tops, belts for my hip-hugger jeans, as they were called then, and casual vests, which evolved into more sophisticated, tailor garments of which I’d become enamored watching movies of the 40s and 50s that my mother and I loved.   It was the 1970s, a time that spelled casual, laid back attire - but crisply tailored suits and coats fascinated me and the idea that I could possible make them was exciting.  Tailoring became a skill I was driven to conquer.  

Fast forward to the 1980s, when power suits ruled the roost in the business world.  I was in middle management at a Detroit TV station at that time and a woman who wanted to be taken seriously dressed the part.  I was also newly married and didn’t have the budget to afford such a wardrobe off the rack, so with my sewing machine humming, I created my business wardrobe at a rate of about one suit per weekend.  Working in television, deadlines are the reality, so the idea of producing professionally tailored suits and coats over a weekend didn’t even cause me to blink – it was a dearly familiar challenge that I was more than prepared to meet.   In 1989, I was a working mom-to-be who couldn’t find suitable maternity clothes, so once again, it was my Sears Kenmore to the rescue! I cranked out tailored maternity suits and dresses, most of which came from the same two patterns.  I simply changed buttons, added pockets, collars, bindings, you name it, for variety.  No one ever thought these maternity fashions were the result of my anxious fingers and my sewing machine!

My daughter, Christina, the other half of the L2 blog, was born in 1990, but my quest for sewing didn’t wane – it grew!  And as you no doubt know by now, my passion for sewing was passed on to her, along with a specific taste for well-tailored attire.   That’s our story in a nutshell  - or should I say in a thimble – and we invite you to visit us for The Weekly Stitch, our musings about our sewing adventures of the week; Popped Seams, our sewing misadventures and L2’s Lair, where we’ll chat about new fabric and equipment finds. 

You’ll also find a button for Go Red For Women, one of the American Heart Association’s biggest campaigns. Heart disease, as well as sewing, is something that is near to both of our hearts due to my father’s multiple strokes in the late ‘90s and my mother’s near-stroke just a year ago.  Christina, who interns at the American Heart Association, found these Go Red donation buttons while at work and we both felt that, since we, like many people, have been touched by heart disease and now have a way to use the buttons, we should “volunteer” our blog space to Go Red.

In short, we look forward to hearing from you, and until then, happy sewing!





Hello, fellow seamstresses and other interested readers, and welcome to L2’s Broken Threads and Poppable Seams! My mom and partner-in-crime, Debra, and I are very excited to be starting our new blog!

Actually, this blog was my mom’s idea, who you will be hearing from in our next post. We follow a few blogs about sewing and, since we both sew, Mom thought it would be cute for us to pool our resources and indulge our passion for sewing.

It took me 21 years to learn how to sew. Granted, I’ve only been alive for 21 years, but I’ve been watching my mother sew for all my life. My earliest memories are of going to what was formerly Minnesota Fabrics (now Hancock Fabrics), sitting in a shopping chart, and sticking my hand out to touch all of the fabric as my mom pushed our cart past the displays. Of course, Mom told me not to do it.

I decided to try my hand at sewing a couple times when I was little. I wasn’t able to use the machine, but I started out combing through my mom’s button collection and sewing buttons on random pieces of fabric. When I got older, I’d make a couple purses here and there with my mother’s help. I got to a point where I thought sewing was too hard and I took up embroidery, cross-stitch, crocheting and finally knitting (in that order).

When I graduated from high school, I decided to make a couple of aprons for a friend of mine as a birthday/graduation present. Then I asked myself, “If I can make aprons, why shouldn’t I be able to make clothes for myself?”

Since then, I’ve taught myself to alter patterns to fit me, tried my hand at installing invisible zippers (I love them!), and developed a passion (or obsession, depending on how you look at it) for vintage and vintage reprint patterns.      

On my way to work in this picture. I made this last summer using Simplicity 3068, a vintage pattern circa 1957, and black cotton sateen. One of my favorites!
You’re going to see quite a few vintage and non-vintage projects in various stages of completion as we move forward with this blog. My mother and I will also post pattern reviews, have pattern giveaways, and, each week, focus on the fashions of a particular movie, TV show, or celebrity and show you how to create the outfit yourself!

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for Mom’s post and pictures of some of our past projects (I apologize for not having any now. Our old camera broke and we’re waiting for our new one). They will be coming to a computer screen near you very soon!