The Blue Gardenia

The book closet: Widow's garb in Hank Phillippi Ryan's first book December 18, 2013 20:15

I've just discovered a new writer. New, that is, to me: Hank Phillippi Ryan. She's an Emmy and Murrow award-winning TV reporter in Boston, Hank-2013 and she has been writing mysteries with a bit of the steamy stuff included since 2009. 

I read her penultimate book, The Other Woman, which won the MWA/Mary Higgins Clark award, and I was so taken with her writing that I bought Prime Time, her first book, which features Charlotte McNally, a 46-year-old TV reporter who worries she will be axed at any moment because of her age.

McNally is determined to come up with a story that will reap huge numbers during the November sweeps, thus prolonging her career, and her journalistic antennae lead her to Prime_time interview grieving widow Melanie Foreman:

Audrey Hepburn answers the door. Obviously, not really Audrey Hepburn, but she's a remarkable clone–––elegant bones, flawless complexion, luminous eyes, pixie hair, even a little black sweater and narrow black pants. Mrs. Foreman looks pampered and classily understated. Tiny diamond studs. Delicate gold necklace. I glance at her left hand. Someone's college education sparkles on her ring finger.

Lovely description, yes? I'm quite taken with Ms. Ryan's writing, and I can't wait to read all of her work. Prime Time, by the way, won McCall's-8725 the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award.

If you like Audrey Hepburn's style and want to emulate Mrs. Foreman's look, I suggest McCall's 3727, copyright 1956,  for the slacks, and McCall's 8725, copyright 1951, for the top. Perhaps a wool doubleknit for the slacks and a wool jersey for the top.

Both of these yummy patterns are available at The Blue Gardenia. At a discount. Because we are having a fabulous End-of-an-Era Sale to celebrate our new website design coming in January. Yippee skippee.



Elizabeth Sanxay Holding's '34 noir: Mrs. Delancey's dinner gown December 11, 2013 09:19


Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, who wrote noir and crime novels from 1929 through 1953, had a way with plots. None other than my beloved Raymond Chandler called her the "top suspense writer of them all."

You might be most familiar with the movies made from her gripping novel The Blank Wall. It was made into the movie The Reckless Moment in 1949, starring James Mason. It was remade in 2001 starring Tilda Swinton. I prefer this version, titled The Deep End. Most definitely. GoranVisnjic Swinton rivets, as always. And hunky Goran Visnjic . . . sigh. (I've put his sexy mug at left, just to brighten your day.) If you haven't seen The Deep End, you must. That's an order.

This passage, concerning a dinner party given by Josephine Delancey, a wife who controls her husband with her money, is from The Death Wish, published in 1934:



Mrs. Delancey welcomed them with a shade too much nonchalance. She was wearing a severe black frock that swept the floor, with long sleeves. It was an extremely expensive French model, and Anabel regarded it with sincere admiration. But Mrs. Delancey fancied her guest supercilious, she felt everything was a little wrong, and that Mrs. Luff, actually the most casual of housekeepers, would notice certain little imperfections in her appointments. She detected, moreover, what she believed to be an insolent indifference in Anabel, an almost absent-minded way of answering her.

Indeed, this was an occasion when Mrs. Luff's tact and kindliness had almost deserted her. She was so concerned about Elsie that it was difficult, almost impossible, to attend to anything else.

"Elsie doesn't look well . . ." she said to Mrs. Delancey.

The unhappy Josephine could see a slight even in that.

Josephine erroneously thinks her hubby Shawe is having an affair with Elsie. Excellent book, by the way. Different. Absolutely.

I see Josephine in Butterick 6923, Version D, but with the train of View B. I love this Carolina Herrera black silk satin from Mood: Totally wondrous. 


And don't forget: The Blue Gardenia's End-of-an-Era Sale. What a fantabulous way to stock up on fashions for the New Year. And, of course, in January, regular prices return when we debut our new site design. Hoorah!

And tomorrow: Oonaballoona from Kalkatroona! Don't miss our post about this scintillating sewing blogger.


The book closet: Delilah's pants and shirt for the African frontier December 5, 2013 23:37


I'm taking this opportunity to tout Deanna Raybourn's A Spear of Summer Grass. The heroine, Delilah, has been banished to Africa by her family after being the star of yet another scandal. Delilah attracts scandal like steak attracts dogs. She shows up with trunks of Paris frocks, but finds slacks and one of her dead husbands' shirts to be more suited to the Excella-4235.jpg lifestyle. I think Vogue 7496, 1950s pattern for Frontier Pants, and Excella 4235, a 1920s pajama top, would be most fetching, and most definitely attract the flapper's independent spirit.

To lure you into buying the book, I'll whet your appetite with a bit of Ms. Raybourn's descriptive prose:

But the best hands were knowing hands, Mossy told me with a slow smile. Knowing hands were capable; they could soothe a horse or a woman. They could take things apart– including Raybourn_spear
your heart - and put them back together better than before. Knowing hands were rare, but if you found them, they were worth holding, at least for a little while. I looked at Ryder's hands. They sat easily on the wheel and gearshift, coaxing instead of forcing, and I wondered how much they knew. 

They had known pain; that much was certain from the scars that laced his left arm. He had been lucky. Whatever had dug itself into his arm hadn't wanted to let go. They were long, raking white scars, like punctuation marks, dotted here and there with a full stop of knotted white scar tissue where whatever it was had hung on hard. Some men might have covered them up, rolled down their shirtsleeves and pretended it never happened. Others would have told the story as soon as you met, flaunting those scars for any Desdemona who might be impressed. But Ryder didn't even seem conscious of his. He wore them as he did his bracelets – souvenirs of somewhere he had been.

Both patterns are available at The Blue Gardenia. And you can buy both at our end-of-an-era sale. The sooner you shop, the better the selection. Prices go back to normal January 1, when we debut our brand spanking new site.

Dress like Delilah, A Spear of Summer Grass's '20s femme fatale December 1, 2013 12:00

There was a period in my life when I read romances like a movie fan unconcerned with her health eats tubs of popcorn laden with gooey, urine yellow faux butter. Those days have been long gone. Since, romances have generally left me yawning. All those perky, perfect heroines and those men with six-pack abs. Not for me.

Raybourn_spearSo I was delighted recently to pick up A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn. Her heroine is anything but perky and perfect. I'll let Delilah Drummond speak for herself through the pen of the ever-so-talented Ms. Raybourn:

Don't believe the stories you have heard about me. I have never killed anyone, and I have never stolen another woman's husband. Oh, if I find one lying around unattended, I might climb on, but I never took one that didn't want taking. And I never meant to go to Africa. I blame it on the weather. It was a wretched day in Paris, grey and gloomy and spitting with rain, when I was summoned to my mother's suite at the Hotel de Crillon. I had dressed carefully for the occasion . . . I put on a divine little Molyneux dress in scarlet silk with matching cloche . . .

If you would like to duplicate Delilah's look, I suggest 1920s Butterick 2070, available at The Blue Gardenia, of course. You might top it with this delightful Adrienne Henry cloche. I think Ms. Drummond would approve. Emphatically.

And I highly recommend this book. It's as addictive as that unhealthy movie popcorn. You won't be able to put it down.

And be sure to take advantage of our end-of-year sale! It's a dooz!


The book closet: Chandler's stylish, colorful descriptions April 18, 2012 01:29 1 Comment

As you doubtless recall, dear readers, I am besotted with the writing of Raymond Chandler. He knew how to turn a phrase. Asolutely. He described women — and their clothes — like nobody's business. His descriptions were nonpareil, IMHO.

Here's one I came across yesterday while rereading — yet again — The High Window, published in 1946:

A long-limbed languorous type of showgirl blond lay at her ease in one of the chairs, with her feet raised on a padded rest and a tall misted glass at her elbow, near a silver ice bucket and a Scotch bottle. She looked at us lazily as we came over the grass. From thirty feet away, she looked like a lot of class. From ten feet away, she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away. Her mouth was too wide, her eyes were too blue, her makeup was too vivid, the thin arch of her eyebrows was almost too fantastic in its curve and spread, and the mascara was so thick on her eyelashes that they looked like miniature iron railings.

She wore white duck slacks, blue and white open-toed sandals over bare feet and crimson lake toenails, a white silk blouse and a necklace of green stones that that were not square cut emeralds. Her hair was as artificial as a night club lobby. 

So. You get the picture. You do. So loud. So clear. What do you think?

Wanna know what I think? Of course you do. You do, right? Otherwise, I might have to reach for the Puffs. You don't want that. Do you?

McCall-5910I think this showgirl blond might have been wearing McCall 5319 — such marvelous slacks — copyright 1943. She might have topped them with McCall 5910, copyright 1944, View B. And for the shoes, may I suggest this terrific pair of shoes from Remix? (Santa, baby, remember these at Christmas. Please. I'll be a very good girl. I promise.)

And, of course,  these ever-so-stylish vintage patterns can be yours. They can. Just click over to The Blue Gardenia, where the patterns are counted, the jewelry is sparkling, and domestic shipping is free. (And we happily ship abroad  — Global Priority or Global Express, your choice  — for a fee, generally even less than the USPO charges us. Are we special? Well, yes. Yes, we are.)



The book closet: This Chandler vixen's worth a stare on page . . . May 19, 2011 18:08 2 Comments

Or on screen, where she's played by Lauren Bacall, and her name is Vivian Sternwood Rutledge, rather than Vivian Sternwood Regan. 

Raymond Chandler, as you recall, dearest readers, is my favorite writer. He knew how to tell a story. He knew how to turn a phrase. And his descriptions? Well. Second to none. 

He describes Vivian of The Big Sleep as worth a stare. And here is his picture of Vivian when she visits Philip Marlowe's office:

McCall-7238 She wore brownish speckled tweeds, a mannish shirt and tie, hand-carved walking shoes. Her stockings were just as sheer as the day before, but she wasn't showing as much of her legs. Her black hair was glossy under a brown Robin Hood hat that might have cost fifty dollars and looked as if you could have made it with one hand out of a desk blotter.

Oh, I can't stop there.  I can't. Let me share more of this passage. OK? Please?

"Well, you do get up," wrinkling her nose at the faded red settee, the two odd semi-easy chairs, the net curtains that needed laundering and the boy's size library table with the venerable magazines on it to give the place a professional touch. "I was beginning to think you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust."

"Who's he?" I put a cigarette in my mouth and stared at her. She looked a little pale and strained,  but she looked like a girl who could function under a strain.

"A French writer, a connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn't know him."

"Tut, tut," I said. "Come into my boudoir."

You can see, the movie heroine doesn't exactly look like Bacall. She's no blonde. (Not that there is anything wrong with being a blonde. I, after all, sport that particular shade.) And her The_big_sleep_beret wardrobe is different as well. If you want to duplicate either look, may I recommend Vogue 6047, from the 1940s. (The book was published in 1939; the movie released in 1946.) And for the blouse, McCall 7238 would work ever-so-nicely. For the hat, you might choose Simplicity 1076. The beret, of course.

I love this look. I do. I do. I do. Absolutely. And may I suggest this mannish linen-wool check fabric from Michael's for the suit? It's perfect. Truly.

The_big_sleep_tweed And, of course,  this smashing ensemble of vintage patterns can be yours. Just click over to The Blue Gardenia, where the patterns are counted, the jewelry is sparkling, and domestic shipping is free. (And we happily ship abroad for a fee, generally even less than the USPO charges us. Are we special? Well, yes. Yes, we are.)

The book closet: A huckster blonde in a green knit suit. February 23, 2011 10:09 3 Comments

A former co-worker (read Michael Dickson's excellent ex-pat blog, The Zapata Tales) recently raved about John D. MacDonald. Naturally, I was skeptical. So very. But because I am so open-minded (keep those snarky comments to yourself, please) I checked a few of his books out at the library. While my heart still belongs to Raymond Chandler, I find that I like John D. In fact, I think I'll toy with him for a bit. Cheat on Chandler for a brief affair. I especially love MacDonald's descriptions.

Of course, I dress the characters when I read. I do. Surprised, dear readers? Of course you aren't.

I see Alma/Almah, a companion to a shady millionaire, a woman whose intentions are perhaps less than honorable, in Butterick 3621, circa 1960s, View A. This passage is from A Deadly Shade of Gold, published in 1965:

She was walking slowly, barefoot, fastening the side of a green knit skirt, her head angled down so that a heavy sheaf of shining blonde hair obscured her face. She wore a white bra covering small breasts. Her upper torso was golden tan, with the narrrow and supple look of youth. She fixed the skirt as she reached the foot of the chaise. She threw her hair back with a toss of her head, and stood and looked at the man with a cool, unpleasant expression. It was a very lovely face. I could guess that her earliest memories were of being told how pretty she was. It was a cool and sensuous face. The springing blonde hair, with a few tousled strands across her forehead, fell in a glossy heaviness in two wings which framed the sensitive and bad tempered face. I had seen her before, and I groped for the memory, and finally had it. She had stared very earnestly at me many times, looked deeply into my eyes, held up a little squeeze bottle and told me it would keep me dainty all day long. Despite all rumors to the contrary, these huckster blondes are not interchangeable. I knew this one because her eyes were set strangely, one more tilted than the other.

She said something to the man. The curl of her mouth looked unpleasant. He lowered the book, said something, lifted it again. She shrugged and turned away, and walked out of my field of vision . . . When she appeared again she was fastening the top half of the green knit two piece suit and she wore shoes. She had that contrived walk of the model . . . the business of putting each foot down in direct line with the previous step, toeing outward slightly, to impart a graceful sway to the body from the waist down. She was not tall. Perhaps five-four. She made herself look tall.

She stopped on the right side of the chaise and perched one hip on it, facing the man. She spoke to him. I could hear the very faint cadence of her voice. She was intent, persuasive, half-smiling. It was like a commercial with the volume turned down. As she talked, he put two cigarettes between his lips, lit them, handed one to her. She stopped talking and looked expectantly at him. He reached and caught her wrist. She sprang up and wrenched her wrist away, her face ugly with sudden fury. She called him a ten letter word, loud enough for me to hear it through the doors. She was no lady. She strode out of range in the opposite direction, and I heard a door slam.

She left with the look of somebody who was not coming back immediately. There was no profit in watching a hairy man read a book.

Love it, love it, love it. The passage. The pattern. The book. The writing. Absolutely. 

And, yes, this pattern is available at The Blue Gardenia. But you knew that. You did. The details: It's complete. Uncut. $22. Rush over. Buy it. Have a John D. MacDonald moment. Or two. Or three. To quote Carl Hiaasen: He was the first modern writer to nail Florida dead-center, to capture all its languid sleaze, racy sense of promise, and breath-grabbing beauty.

So. There ya go. Buy the pattern. Buy the book.