First of all, thanks everyone for all your support on my last post! I’m overwhelmed :-)
Today I’m very happy to be launching a new occasional series in collaboration with my friend, film writer Hannah who blogs over at I Watched This on Purpose. In case you haven’t seen her blog, Hannah is taking us through an analysis of her favourite movies in a bid to discover what makes them great. It’s well worth a read, especially if you’re into obscure and not-so-obscure movies from the 80s and 90s.
This collaborative series is going to be about refashions and fashion transformations in the movies. Hannah will be writing about the role each movie refashion takes in the plot, while I’ll be creating refashioning projects inspired by the same movies. Our first project together is on the classic thrift store fashion and refashioning movie, Pretty in Pink; I’ll be remaking this pink bridesmaid dress into something a lot more wearable.
Take it away, Hannah:
Right off the bat I need to tell you I don’t have any formal qualifications to write a guest column about movie fashions on a dressmaking blog. Especially not one as fabulous as Charity Shop Chic. In fact, this will go better if I confess a couple of things right up front:
1) I have never watched Citizen Kane. Or any of the Godfather films.
2) I have to ‘watch’ horror movies with my eyes shut and my unfortunate cinema partner narrating the action over the soundtrack.
3) I cannot reliably thread up a sewing machine
4) Only last week I had to ask Sally, proprietor of this marvellous enterprise, the correct way to pronounce ‘armscye’.
So I am very much an amateur around here, is what I am saying. But I’ve watched this blog grow from the very beginning and been in awe of the style and flair and sheer craftsmanship (craftwomanship?) that goes into its construction. Most of all I’ve loved seeing the supportive community that’s grown up around it and I’m really excited to be a part of it, if you’ll have me. And I’m especially thrilled to be here because this new series will be talking about one of my favourite things in films – fashion transformations! But I’m not talking about the girl putting on an expensive frock and discovering that under those unflattering glasses she’s a stone cold fox. At Charity Shop Chic, we’re above all that. This is about celebrating the imagination and creativity of those characters who want to approach the world a little bit differently, and use their fashion choices and crafting skills to do it. So in this series I’ll be taking you through a few of my favourites and hopefully introducing you to some fantastic films along the way, or inspiring you to revisit some old friends. And Sally will be joining in to give her own unique spin on the lessons we can learn from the silver screen.
The Film: Pretty in Pink
How could we not start this series off with Pretty in Pink? It’s classic, it’s iconographic, it’s Charity Shop Chic’s Citizen Kane. For anyone not familiar with the story, our heroine is Andie, Molly Ringwald’s finest moment (I’ll take counter arguments for The Breakfast Club in the comment section) a scholarship kid keeping her struggling single parent family together while she attends a swanky private school full of over-privileged yuppie snobs with immaculately blow-dried hair. She deals with this using an admirable combination of determination, hard work and amazing self-styling. Right off the bat we find out just how good she is, when she tells her Dad she made her whole outfit:
This may be a film of big themes – class in America, 80’s counter culture, the assumed privilege of the rich – but at its heart it tackles the most important issue of all the best teen films – who will take me to prom, and will he be cute?
Despite her apparent social pariah status, Andie has two potential dates vying for her affections: Duckie, her flamboyant and faithful old friend who uses his extravagant declarations of adoration (‘May I admire you?’) to cover up how deep his feelings for her really run, and Blane, a BMW driving rich kid with a sensitive side and nice line in oatmeal coloured jumpers.
This is important because what you wear really matters in this film. Like old cowboy movies where the hero can be identified by his white hat and the baddie wears black, in Pretty in Pink the bad guys favour pastel leisurewear and deconstructed linen jackets while you can pick out the good guys by their wicked eye for accessorising. It’s perhaps the only film ever where you can accurately pre-judge the state of someone’s moral core by the number of bangles they’re wearing.
This is a fantastic excuse for me to include the best scene of the whole film which in itself was an opportunity for John Hughes to shoehorn in his signature song and dance number (see also: Ferris Bueller lip syncing Danke Schoen on a carnival float). Here it’s a lower-key but no less joyful version of Otis Reading’s Try a Little Tenderness which incidentally also showcases the general fabulousness of Iona, Andie’s older boss at her record store job, who sports the best outfits of the film including this New Romantic flavoured 40’s number. If you’re having a bad day then I guarantee this will give you a lift:
But this is all of course entirely incidental. Pretty in Pink is all about That Dress. Andie, righteously indignant in the face of spineless rejection by Blane (can you tell who I’m rooting for?) is determined to go to the prom to show him how much she doesn’t care, and to do that she’ll need to summon all her design and dressmaking skills to combine Iona’s old 60’s prom dress and a spangly number her adorably supportive Dad picked up for her to transform – no points for guessing what colour they are.
And transform them she does. In a glorious example of that makeover staple, the montage, we get to see Andie’s design process – sketching, considering, adapting, adjusting and finally creating her masterpiece. And after all that effort, this is what we get:
Blimey. ‘Look at you! Another first!’ enthuses her Dad, showing amazing tact in the face of what can only be described as an ill-fitting, shoulder-baring, midi-length sack with stuck on lacy bits. But that’s not really the point – we get the point when Andie shows up at the prom and we see the contrast she makes as she cuts a flame-haired Schiaparelli blaze through a room peopled entirely by sorbet shaded puffball confections of girls. For one glorious moment, she’s standing out, not fitting in, and she’s magnificent.
This should have been the moment it all came together in triumph – and movie myths suggest that Andie was originally supposed to end up with Duckie. But somehow the film loses itself along the way. Iona makes herself over for her new yuppie boyfriend – ‘But he’s so niiiice’ she wails, adjusting her mumsy blazer and pearls combo and breaking my heart very slightly in the process. And Andie might arrive at the prom with Duckie – sporting a victorious quiff and bootlace tie combo – but she leaves with Blane, wearing a boring white dinner jacket with a vaguely apologetic expression and entirely failing to stand out from the crowd. So I’ll ignore that ending and pick my own moment – Duckie and Andie, wearing outfits they might wince at when they get the pictures back later but that they won’t ever regret – brave, and defiant, and nothing but themselves. May I admire you?
Thank you Hannah for your insights on this classic refashioning movie! Don’t forget, you can read more of Hannah’s film articles here.
For my Pretty in Pink-inspired make, I picked up this bright fuchsia pink dress for £5.50 at the East Lancashire Hospice shop in Darwen, Lancashire. I wanted something reminiscent of Iona’s formal prom dress and I think this fits the bill with its full skirt and petticoat.
This is poly taffeta with just the right amount of sheen. Unfortunately there was at least one area of damage to the waistband.
I carefully looked at the tag to confirm the shop’s label which said size 10.
When I tried this on at home though, it’s much smaller than that. On closer inspection there are several areas where the dress has clearly been altered. Such a substantial amount of work has been done that it made me wonder whether this had been a bridesmaid dress. The straps have been made a significant amounts shorter, making me wonder if it was intended for a child. The effect on my frame was to make me look like an overgrown toddler bridesmaid having had a massive growth spurt between the dress fitting and the wedding.
The first thing that had to change was the armscye shapes. Wearing this in front of the mirror, I pinned the new line that I wanted. The straps will be much simmer and the armscye a lot deeper.
To be able to work on the armscye more easily, I detatched the skirt section at this point.
I removed the waistband…
Took out the bodice side seams and made a rough line of stitching to mark the shape of the new armscye.
I cut the fabric and the lining 1cm from the line of stitching to account for seam allowance. To cut the other armhole, I pinned on the cut off section from the other side and used it as a pattern.
The original armscyes had a thin strip of interfacing to stabilise the fabric, so I did the same for my new shapes.
Here’s how it looks sewn up.
In order to get rid of the rather unflattering empire line, I wanted to add a section to the midriff, replacing the old waistband with a much wider section.
I measured the seam length on the bodice and skirt, and made a quick paper pattern for the midsection. It’s basically a rectangle, with the top skewed slightly outwards to match the slightly wider bodice. This section is about 15cm tall.
Andie adds to her dress using a lace insert from a thrifted dress her father gives her. I’m not adding lace to mine, instead I’m adding a section made from this multi-coloured digital print fabric I bought at Minerva Crafts, on my trip to Darwen last month (same day as I bought the dress, but at the time, I had no plans to combine these two materials). The fabric is digital leaf shapes in every colour. I carefully chose some sections that were predominantly pink. Since the fabric was a lightweight slinky polyester, I interfaced both pieces entirely.
I cut matching pieces from some white lining as I couldn’t bear the thought of pink lining behind the white/multicoloured section. Here’s how they both look joined onto the bodice front and back.
At this point I realised that the zip, which was still attached to the skirt section, was not going to be long enough, so that had to be replaced with a much longer version.
Here’s how the dress looks – this is before I inserted the new zip, but it gives you a good idea overall.
The lining looks a but bouy-like but no-one will see that.
Here’s how it looks on. Sadly I’m a bit too old to be going to a prom, but the dress was perfect for a few glasses of Laurent-Perrier champagne at one of London’s swankiest bars. This is ‘Vertigo’ at the top of Tower 42 in the centre of the financial district. It’s 42 floors up so it’s a great spot for views of London, especially at sunset.
Overall, I felt great in Andie’s signature colour, but I do think it helps that I picked a shade of pink which flatters my complexion. I wore matching shoes and lipstick with this (a la Andie) but next time I wear it, I think I’ll go for contrasting shoes, maybe navy, to break up the matchy-matchy vibe.
What’s your favourite movie refashion? Which movie should we tackle next? Leave a comment below and let us know your requests!