The Blue Gardenia

My closet: Pink Martini, Aspen and a 1950s Vogue pattern. July 15, 2013 06:41 1 Comment

Pink Martini in Aspen Saturday a week ago (that's Storm Large, the girl singer, above), and I wore Vogue Special Design 4515. I confess: I did not make this. I had Leslie, my sewing teacher, whip it up, though she would most assuredly quibble with my descriptive verb "whip."

Pink_martini_vogueI have the pattern, but in Bust 36, so I started looking elsewhere for one in Bust 34. Found it on Ebay in condition descibed as good. Alas, foxing was so severe it was impossible for Leslie to locate notches as they had been lost to history. (This is why I refuse to use words describing condition on The Blue Gardenia. One person's "good" is another person's "horrid.")

Anyway, Leslie thought the pattern was very poorly drafted, and she should know: she reviews patterns for Threads magazine. She'll be reviewing this for the blog very soon under Gardenia Garments. 

I'll share some pics with you, taken after the show, so the dress is wrinkled. Sorry. Better pics to come with the review.


The dress is made of silk shantung. I like it. Leslie wants to perfect the fit a bit more. She made MAJOR changes to the design to make it work. Bravo, Les. Here's the back: Pink_martini_back

If you've made this pattern, what was your experience? 

I completed a sewing challenge! Let me share my Mad Men dress. April 21, 2013 17:44 7 Comments


So. Here it is: My interpretation — or rather Vogue's – of a Joan Holloway dress, made for Julia Bobbin's Mad Men Dress Challenge. I chose not to make mine quite as figure-revealing. And I can hardly take credit for sewing it. My brilliant and patient sewing teacher Leslie did more on this dress than I did. In fact, if it had been left to me, it would have ended up in the trash long before it was finished. Thank you, Leslie. You are a big ole luscious Georgia peach.

The problem: the darts. The darts on the pattern are different than the darts on the envelope. The side dart on the pattern actually comes above the outside dart and stops just above the interior dart. Perhaps a bullet bra would make this design work?

Joan_holloway_red_dressWe redid dart placement four times. Sheesh! What a headache.

This is the Joan dress that inspired me. Once upon a time. Even though I look better in red, I wanted to use fabric in my stash. I chose a stretch cotton sateen from Gorgeous Fabrics.

And, yes, Joan looks much better in this style than I do. In fact, she'd look better wearing a brown paper sack.

Learning to sew: How a hand-picked side zipper should look! March 23, 2012 01:18 8 Comments

At least, in my ever-so-humble opinion. This was done by my former dressmaker in Houston. It's a Vogue Special Design from 1947, complete Sidezipred
with huge handmade shoulder pads. (I have lost about 20 pounds since this dress was made back in the '90s. Hence, the less than perfect fit.) This is also an excellent illustration of pattern pieces and the pattern illustration not quite matching. The drawing showed a pencil skirt; the pattern pieces were A-line. My dressmaker pointed this  out to me before she cut the fabric, and I told her to go with the line drawing. I'm not sure that was the correct decision. But. I love the dress anyway.

Back to my original subject, the one I touted in the headline: Didn't she do a terrific job on the zipper? You can barely see her stitches. Look closely. One day . . . Of course, this is a side-lapped zipper. Mine is a centered one.

(And, yup, that's Atchison's rear end.)

My closet: I love this '50s dress. Even though it's not perfect. Alas. October 24, 2010 16:31 13 Comments

NoirblogbestI admit it: I feel uncomfortable putting pictures of myself on the web. I'm not cute like Gertie. I'm not fey like Shannon. I'm not pretty like Carolyn. I'm not adorable like Sunni. And I am not fiercely gorgeous like Erica B. (If you are a sewing blogger, don't be offended if you aren't mentioned. Please. I lack space. Not to mention energy. So. Just imagine you are listed here. Add your own complimentary adjective. Okeydoke?) But. I've swallowed my pride. I've moved into acceptance of my looks. For the moment, anyway. And I am Butterick-7893 modeling a dress made from Butterick 7893, circa 1950s. Yes. It's from my closet. No. I did not make it myself. Yes. His Bertness snapped the pics, so I'm lacking detail shots. The man would rather watch the baseball playoffs than take reams of pictures of his beloved. Go figure. Oh well. What is, as some wise woman or man once said, is. And there you go.

This dress was made quite a few years ago by a tailor. A dear man. Absolutely. However. He had some ideas of his own. He made his own pattern. Alas. So there are no darts on the sleeves. And no gathering at the neckline. And since he did not make a muslin, it was too late. Even though I am a novice sewer, one thing I have learned: You cannot uncut the fabric, no matter how passionately you might wish. Blog-closet

I do like the dress, though. I do. I wear it often on those rare occasions I can be coaxed out of my yoga attire.

NoirnecklineblogYou can see the neckline changes. Just look. Still attractive, don't you agree? But. Not the original pattern. I'm a purist. (Mostly.) He did a very good job sewing and finishing. He did. I will voice no complaints there. None.

I wore this yesterday. To celebrate our 19th anniversary. Nineteen years. Who'd a thunk it? Probably few people who attended our wedding. Just goes to show you. Sometimes, when least expected, you go the distance.

And our home will be clutter free. Yes, indeedy. December 16, 2008 13:49 1 Comment

So. Today, I did something I haven't done in years. Years. I listed a few items on Ebay. Shoes, to be precise. Fendi1 Pretty shoes. Lovely shoes. Shoes that don't fit my small-town, work-at-home lifestyle. Luscious Louboutins. Fabulous Fendis. Staggering stilettos. Sexy slides. Etc. Anyway. Should you wear a size 7. Should you be in the mood to shop. Should you simply be curious or bored, then check out my auction listings. Today. Tonight. Tomorrow. My Ebay moniker is Help me clean out my closet. Help me unclutter. I beg you. After all, I've been so good. I've been so productive. I have. I deserve a bid. Or two. Or three or four or five. I do. I know Martha Stewart and Peter Walsh agree. 

Flaws, flaws, more flaws, and one delicious dream July 22, 2008 12:51 1 Comment


OK. I suppose I shouldn’t blog when I’m thinking of Armand Assante because I forget things. Important things. Things that mar the look of a finished garment. Things like the lack of a snap at the neckline.

Things like poor placement of buttons. Both of these garments have buttons placed right above the waistline, and they keep the belt from laying flat. This particular flaw is both uncomfortable and annoying. It inspires continuous fiddling with the belt and button.

Things like the unsightly puckers along the front closing of the blue and gray cashmere dress. (Learned readers, please tell me what causes this blight so that I may avoid it on my own garments.)

Things like cuffs that fall down. I assume the lazy cuff happens because the wrong interfacing is used. Yes? No? Tell me, because I do not want this to happen when I sew.


Things like the glaring gap at the hemline on the royal blue linen frock. Again, dear and ever so knowledgeable readers, how do I prevent this mistake?

I await your replies with anticipation. Breathless, natch.

On a brighter note, on a happier note, in some ways it pays to think of Mr. Assante right before bed. I dreamed about the very luscious him. It was, of course, as most dreams are, strange. Very. There was a marriage proposal. There was a phone call. There was a knock at the door. There was a bad man. There was a storm. There was an apartment with two walls of windows. There was a closet filled with clothes and boxes. There was no sex. None. Darn it. No scarf. No mambo. No sex. And there was a notable absence of a sewing machine. Mmmmmm. You figure it out, you Jungians you. I, for one, simply enjoyed it. I could have it enjoyed it more. Of course. But of the dream I will not complain. Of these two dresses, well, that's another matter. Entirely.

Why I want to learn to sew: Reasons 4 — 8 July 20, 2008 17:59 5 Comments

View this photoTwodresses_8
This pic, of two dresses from my closet — yep, my very own — illustrates many reasons why I want to learn to sew. Shall I list them? You’re holding your breath until I do, right? Therefore, sharing is a life-saving gesture. So, here ya go. (I’m such a selfless heroine. Just leave my Girl Scout badge at will-call. I’ll pick it up later.)

4. I love this pattern. It’s sleek. It has the 1950s feel, yet it also seems modern. It’s Lucy meets Donna Karan. It’s comfortable. It twirls on the dance floor like a lazy Susan in the hands of a bored 2-year-old. A local dressmaker made the royal blue one, and I liked it so much that I wanted another. That brings us to . . .
5. The dressmaker — let’s call her Elouise — was apparently having a very bad day when she made the gray and blue version. Very bad indeed. The collar does not lay properly. The buttonholes are a mess. Really. Stringy. Most unprofessional. Even though the fabric is a yummy cotton cashmere, I rarely wear this one. Now, if I had made it myself . . . It would look even worse? Did you really say that? Hush! Hush, hush, hush. Keep those negative comments to yourself.
6. And a major perquisite of patterns: If you like the garment, you can make another. And another. And another. And so on. Which eventually makes the pattern a bargain, even if you could have bought a house in Nebraska for the same price. And then there are the tears you won’t shed when you wear out a favorite dress, because, of course, you can simply stitch up another. In the fabric of your choice. With the buttons of your choice. And the belt of your choice. You get my drift, I know. You are smart cookies. That's why you read this blog. You cannot hide your intelligence from me.
7. You can personalize the dress, and not just with fabric and buttons. You can do fun things like add horsehair to the hem if you’re a dancer. A little horsehair makes the skirt really fly. Totally out there. You could add sequins. Or beads. Or ric-rac. If that's your thing.
8. You're not likely to run into your dress on someone else at your favorite bistro. It's unique. It's yours alone. It will show who you really are.

And, of course, I am one stylish and classy female. And I am not hiding my light under any bushel. And that includes my sewing talents. No giggling. No sneering. Stop it. Stop it! Now this minute!

Oh, enough about sewing. Enough about patterns. Send in Armand Assante. I'm listening to Linda Ronstadt's Frenesi, one of my absolute all-time favorite albums, and it always reminds me of The Mambo Kings, which always reminds me of that fabulous dance with the scarf.
Yeeeeeoooooooowwww. Let me repeat that. Yeeeeeoooooooowwww. You can have Antonio Banderas. The dregs, I know. The very bottom of the barrel. Oh well. Suffer. I'll think of you while I rumba through my dreams with Mr. Assante. Wearing a dress I made myself. Beautifully.

When I want to channel June Allyson and Cyd Charisse . . . July 5, 2008 18:35 5 Comments

Vogue Couturier Design, copyright 1956

Voguecd_926 Collar Pocket_2 Button
I introduce you, dear readers, to my favorite dressy dress, my favorite ballroom dancing dress. It’s June Allyson and Cyd Charisse gently stirred, not shaken. Yes, this beauty does require pantyhose, and that, pals, is a definite drawback. But. I feel so elegant, so marvelous, so irresistible in this frock that I will endure the discomfort. Occasionally. It is, without a doubt, my go-to dress for those times when I cannot weasel out of shaving my legs and slithering into what surely must be today’s equivalent to the girdle, pantyhose. And, no, I do not wear tummy control. Sheesh. Manufacturers make it sound so warm, so fuzzy: tummy control, not abdomen control. Puppies have tummies. Toddlers have tummies. Teddy bears have tummies. Women have abs if they pay regular visits to the gym, stomachs if they don't. Not tummies. Do the packages carry a warning: Wearing enclosed undergarment may severely hamper breathing? I've never read the fine print — I'm too busy stockpiling air before struggling to get the pantyhose over my thighs.

Do I sound like a tomboy? Like I squeal when made to scrub behind my ears? I’m really not. In fact, there was a time when I wore nylons every day. In the humid heat. I digress. Let me get back to the dress. The dress I wear when I want to get my glamour on.

Note the details: The bound buttonholes that form a queenly base for the covered buttons. The peaks that soar almost to the waistline. (The peaks that hide pockets!) The wide collar that so clearly states this dress is more than a just a contender. This is why I want to sew.