HSM #11 The Addams circa 1938

IMG_1636For the Silver Screen HSM challenge, conveniently due the day after Halloween, I decided to outfit my family as The Addams Family. As they were in the original cartoons from The New Yorker from 1938-1964. Most people associate The Addams Family with either the 1964 television show or the 1990s movies. Charles Addams the artist and humorist that created the Addams Family started working for The New Yorker in the early 1930s he officially introduced the unnamed Addams Family in 1938. His creation was a gothic version of the 1930s up-class, I can imagine Morticia wearing Coco Channel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Vionet and Gomez wearing the dapper double breasted suits of the time. Wednesday was certainly dressed as a young lady. Lurch had to wear a rented tux unfortunately. Addams

Cartoons from The New Yorker by Charles Addams


Charles James 1939, Travis Banton 1934, Info not available, Sulka & Co., Ltd 1930s


My Inspiration for Wednesday’s dress

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Morticia is carrying a true vintage black beaded hand bag and vintage shoes

What the item is: Morticia is wearing a bias cut satin gown with long sleeves, Gomez is wearing a smoking jacket with quilted lapels and an ascot,  Wednesday is wearing a cotton frock.

The Challenge: #11 Silver Screen

What’s your onscreen inspiration?: The Addams Family being traced back to the 1930s New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams. I drew inspiration from the look of the 1960s television show but kept the costumes in the 1930s

Fabric: Morticia poly satin, Gomez mystery beige/black fabric and black satin quilted over felt, Wednesday black cotton gauze and white cotton sateen.

Pattern: Gomez 238 Le Smoking Jacket, Morticia self drafted, Wednesday self drafted but influenced by a children’s pattern.

Year: 1938

Notions: Both Gomez and Wednesday’s costumes have true Victorian jet buttons.

How historically accurate is it? I would say the patterns and look are fairly good if The Addams were to really exist but some of the fabrics are synthetic. 75%

Hours to complete: I worked on this project in little chunks over two months.

First worn: Halloween!

Total cost: Morticia $25, Gomez $90, Wednesday $40







November HSM- Erté and the Silver Screen

Hi everyone, Erin here! I am thrilled to be back in the game and on the blog with finally another HSM project!

For this challenge, I wanted to capture some of the flamboyance of early silent films. I have always been inspired by photo stills of Theda Bara in Cleopatra (I will always be a little heartbroken that this film is lost), and I love over the top costume films like Don’t Change Your Husband, with Gloria Swanson dressed in the height of Orientalist fashion. (You can find this film online, it’s worth a watch for the costumes if you can stand the plot)

Gloria Swanson in Don't Change Your Husband Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 12.08.39 PM Gloria Swanson in Don't Change Your Husband

I decided that instead of copying a costume directly, I would play costume shop and make something from an illustration. Erté is one of my favorite art deco illustrators. In addition to designing costumes for theater, he moved to LA in 1925 to design in Hollywood. His illustrations are delightfully over the top, and also famously difficult to recreate

I chose an illustration from Fashion Drawings and Illustrations from “Harper’s Bazar” that I thought was dramatic enough for Gloria Swanson, and also challenged my technical ability.


According to the caption, the dress is made with “old rose silk fringe”, “grey jade beads”, and “grey velvet skirt”. I scoured the internet and trim shops in the Garment District here in NYC, and could not find fringe trim in any rose color long enough for this project. So, I settled on a 30″ midnight blue rayon fringe and pearl grey beads and silk satin for the skirt (alas, silk velvet was out of my budget, and I was worried about it holding up to all the fringe “weaving”).

After trying unsuccessfully to thread the fringe with a bead, I ended up using a sturdy, twill weave cotton base and first stitching on the beads. Then after, I took individual strands of fringe, threaded them through a large needle, and stitched these directly to the bodice to give the impression that it was made entirely of fringe.

Bodice Progress 1
As seen in this photo- I left a 1/2″ seam allowance around the outside of the armhole where the fringe embroidery does not touch. When I attached the lining, it gets sewn into this seam allowance.

After this, I attached the bodice lining to cover all the stitching and knots, and around the neckline and armholes added a layer of seed beads to cover even finishing. Next, I added the skirt, then two layers of fringe around the seaming to make the transition more natural.

Progress shot 2
After adding the bodice lining, I added seed beads to the edges of the neckline and armholes. I also thought the neck drop was too small compared to the illustration, so I cut a notch down the center. This shot was right after I added the skirt, I finished the second layer of embroidery to the bodice and started to play around with the fringe. (Please excuse the crazy studio hair!)

The most difficult part was embroidering the fringe into the satin. I have never been much of an embroiderer- so please bear with the atrocity of my technique for this. I drew the pattern onto muslin and then pinned it to the place where I wanted the pattern to be. I basted directly through the lines of the pattern and then cut away the muslin. Next, I threaded the individual fringe through a large-eye needle and then from top to bottom embroidered around the stitching. The beads attached to the fringe were sewn on by hand, and unfortunately it was just impossible to make the exact pattern as the illustration. By the time I got to this part, I was wishing I had interns and slowly going crazy. So, maybe it is better I went into fashion and not costume design! I hope Erte isn’t rolling in his grave over my lack of dedication to his design. The photo below shows how I did all the embroidery- not on a hoop but on a hanger. This probably was not the best technique, as it contributed to some puckering, but I could not think of a better way to create tension as the fabrics were very different (heavy, tightly woven twill and medium weight silk satin).

Progress Shot 3
Excuse the mess! And the heels! It was a hectic Saturday. This is not the normal situation!

Anyway, the end result makes me just like Gloria’s understudy! It’s still a work in progress, I would like to add more of the original embroidery to the skirt (as soon as I get an intern… haha). I hope one day I will have somewhere nice to wear this, and not just traipsing around my apartment!

Embroidery Detail Finished Front Detail
Back Detail
Back Bodice Detail- Satin Buttons are hidden under a layer of fringe
Back Detail – I didn’t get any good photos of the back while I was wearing this, but you can see how the buttons are partially hidden by a few layers of fringe

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What the item is: Proposed costume for a Gloria Swanson movie, based on an Erté sketch from March, 1918
The Challenge: “Silver Screen”
What’s your onscreen inspiration?: Don’t Change Your Husband, 1919
Fabric: 100% Cotton Twill (base for bodice), 100% Cotton Muslin, black, for the bodice lining, 100% Rayon chain fringe, 100% Silk Satin (skirt)
Pattern: Self made
Year: 1918
Notions: Poly satin covered buttons, painted glass beads for embroidery, rayon chain fringe, thread.
How historically accurate is it? 80%- My embroidery technique was definitely not up to par, and some of the materials didn’t exist yet. However, I believe the shape and construction is otherwise faithful to real theater/stage costume/fancy dress of the time.
Hours to complete: 3 months (not working on it everyday, don’t worry!)
First worn: I wore an early incarnation of this dress that was missing many of the embroidery and closure details for Halloween, but the finished product has only been worn around my house, since I finished today!
Total cost: Around $75, cotton twill and lining were in the stash. $30 for the satin, $10 for beads, and I think $35 for the fringe?

A little update including HSM

Colorful Fashion on Vogue from the 1940s and 1950s (18)

Sophia here sorry for the absence! I am proud to announce I start training for a new costume seamstress job tomorrow at a company that makes over 2 million costumes a year. I’m also working on several Halloween costume commissions and a friends wedding dress. That being said I am running a little behind on HSM. So far I have missed War and Peace from April and Brown from September. I plan on completing every challenge this year by the end of the year even if I have to rearrange a little. Also Erin has been working abroad in China and Japan and planing for her upcoming wedding! We still love running this blog and reading the comments also looking at other historical costuming blogs.

HSM Challenge 8: My Western and Indian Heritage

RobeDeStyle06I don’t frequently make things that incorporate my Indian heritage so this project was a treat. My father’s parents were both born in India and he was born in Pakistan. My mother’s family has been in the U.S. since the 1800s. I decided to make a Robe De Style out of one of my grandmother’s Saris, I inherited boxes of them when she passed away. I felt that the gold woven border would make a great 1920’s dress and after looking through many styles I decided to make a robe de style due to it’s feminine cut. Although I probably never had a relative that wore such a style, I’m sure my Ammi Ji (Grandma) would probably have really liked this dress. She was born in 1943 and died in 2008 and I know her older relatives all dressed rather traditionally. My Ammi Ji loved fashion contemporary and traditional. My mother’s side of the family came from Appalachian farmer stock. I’m also wearing my Mother’s mother’s art deco ring. On the table is her gold mesh purse, a pen my grandpa turned, a Paris travel guide from 1921, underneath is my grandpa’s Hoffman radio and I am holding an 1880s Franklin Edition of David Copperfield. Sadly I did not take many in progress photos but the construction of this dress was fairly simple. The bodice is french seamed and the tiers are hand hemmed the rest of the inside seams are pinked.

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Milan 1929, 1920, Royal Ascot 1925, Unknown


British 1920, Worn by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller in 1920s, Callot Soeurs 1924


Seeta Devi 1925, Maharani Vijayaraje Scindia, Sisters 1930s

What the item is: Sari Robe De Style

The Challenge: Heirlooms and Heritage

Fabric: My grandmother’s vintage silk sari

Pattern: self-drafted

Year: Early to Mid 1920’s

Notions: none

How historically accurate is it? Fairly accurate I would say it passes the recognizable in its own time.

Hours to complete: Around 12

First worn: To take photos

Total cost: $0 thread was stash/ sari was inherited

HSF #7: Accessorize – with shoes!

Hi everyone! Erin here, and I’m back!! Finally! It’s been a crazy few months of work and travelling, but I am finally getting back into a regular sewing schedule with some ambitious projects ahead.
For the July challenge, I had a few projects in order (as usual) but the quickest and most practical was a pair of early 1920s summer shoes. I wanted to make some more accurate shoes for this year’s Jazz Age Lawn Party, because in years past I was always a little disappointed with the bedazzled gold options or T-straps with 4″ heels that I would end up going with last minute. I decided to make some crisp white summer shoes that might work for a wider range of eras. I put together some inspiration on Pinterest, and found my favorite trends: D’Orsay with Louis or Cuban heel, Mary Jane strap, minimal, and preferably French.

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Clockwise from bottom left: Etsy, Etsy, The Closet Historian, La Vie Parisienne July 1923

I found a pair of faux leather Hush Puppies from the 70’s(?) on Ebay that I thought I could fix up to make into an easy pair of summer shoes. The heel is low enough and the style is simple enough to work for 1920-1926. I picked up some Tarago White Color Dye (even though the shoes are not real leather, I thought this paint would give the amount of flexibility necessary for shoes) and went to it. I won’t be getting into the step by step here because The Dreamstress already put together a great tutorial that needs no elaboration.

The paint layer was already peeling off the toe very badly, I peeled even more until the toe looked smooth.
The full dye kit.
After one coat of dye
On the left, two coats. On the right, three coats

In the end it took about 6 or 7  or 9 (I lost track!) coats of dye to make these completely white. I was a bit worried it would end up looking like I took a bottle of White-out to the pair, but they dried a lot better than expected. Though they are still not ideal, I’m sure this dye would look much better on actual leather than my pleather pair. I still have more than half the bottle of dye left, so I will definitely be trying this again on actual leather. Anyway, I will let you judge for yourself- here is the finished project! I’m wearing them here with a 1980s does 1920s drop waist dress.

For a personal touch and to clean up the edges, I also painted the sole. I have never seen a historical example of this but I think it will be a nice touch for dancing!


The Challenge: #7 – Accessorize

Fabric: Faux Leather, dye

Year: 1920-1926

Notions: Brushes, scrub pad

How historically accurate is it? 0% for technique, 80-90% for look. They will definitely elevate any 1920’s look I add them to!

Hours to complete: less than 1

First worn: Only for this photo shoot! Hope to wear them in two weeks for Jazz Age Lawn Fest on Governor’s Island!

Total cost: About $25 total for shoes, dye, and scrubbers

Adrian and The Women

7226f910ddbfd1582726274efe3ccc3aLets talk about one of the best fashion films of all time and the costume designer behind it. The Women 1939 stars only women including the animal extras. Although I am not totally in favor of the way most of the characters behave, to quote Joan Crawford’s character “There’s a name for you ladies, but it isn’t used in high society… outside of a kennel.” The basic plot of the film is high society ladies find out about cheating husbands and take off to Reno to get divorces. I would give The Women a good watch because it has over 300 costumes all of which are fantastic. Although the majority of the movie is in black and white there is fashion show sequence in Technicolor. When the ladies are looking at a night gown that is $235 in 1939 that is about $4000 in today’s money! And Norma Shearer’s character’s wedding ring was worth $175,000 equivalent to almost three million in today’s money. This kind of wealth during the tail end of the great depression in incredible. Some more details about Adrian to follow the costumes.


These Surreal swim looks are a nod to Schiaparelli and Dali, check out the hand clasp.


This lime green gown and PLASTIC turban is my favorite look in The Women.



Joan Crawford’s dress has a bare midriff, when you watch the film the movement is spectacular.



This look is so Avant-Garde, I love the spiked bangles.

Adrian Adolph Greenburg known only as Adrian was born in Connecticut on March 3, 1903. He started designing for the Silver Screen in the early 1920s. Adrian signed with M.G.M in 1928 and remained with the company until 1942. He’s credited for 266 movies, typically as the gown designer and not the costume designer. In 1942 he opened his own Salon in Beverly Hills and then a N.Y.C one in 1948. When the New Look came in style in the late 1940s Adrian stuck with his lean strong shouldered silhouette.  In 1952 Adrian had a heart attack and retired in 1959 sadly committed suicide at age 54. His two most famous films are Marie Antoinette 1938 and The Wizard of Oz 1939.


Adrian by Irving Penn Late 1940s

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Sources: Vintage Fashion GuildNew York TimesIMDBTurner Classic Movies

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award


What an honor the lovely Lady Constance from Threading Through Time nominated our blog for a Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. This is fun and I like this because it isn’t wordpress specific so we can nominate other people.

Our 10 Questions from Lady Constance:

1: Which of your projects is the one that proved to you “I can do this!”?

Sophia: Mine was making hand sewn transitional stays! I don’t think they were totally accurate but they were a labor of love, needle pricks and bleach pen touch ups.

Erin: I got really ambitious trying to recreate a Vionnet dress from the Betty Kirke book. It was only an illustration without measurements (and possible not correctly scaled?) but I figured it out and learned a skill while I was at it. It wasn’t a fully successful experiment but it was enough to get the bug. (I blogged about this here)

2: If you could eat any one food, as much as you want, without getting too heavy or too thin or having any ill health effects at all, what would it be?

Sophia: I love Thai food but I feel like that is too healthy of a choice so I would say a really good $20 gourmet burger.

Erin: The vegetarian Reuben sandwich at my local deli!

3: Who do you most appreciate having in your life?

Sophia: My family due to a lay off and trying to work as a freelance creative I have moved home. I can’t explain how welcoming they have been to having me back home.

Erin: It’s hard to pick one. I’m so thankful for all my friends, they make my life infinitely more interesting and enjoyable.

4: What is your favorite place, and why? It can be anywhere – in your own backyard or around the world. (“In my head” doesn’t count…and is a bit scary.)

Sophia: I love nature, the woods, and water and Wekiwa Springs is one of my favorite examples of that.

Erin: I love going to the Cloisters Museum – to get to it you have to walk through beautiful Fort Tryon Park, and the inside is seamlessly composed of 5 medieval abbeys imported to New York in the 30’s. It’s the first destination on my staycation list.

5: If you could dress for only one historical period, assuming you had access to all the help you’d need, which one would it be, and why?

Sophia: I would say early 1930s but that is too tangible, if I had all the maids and money in the world I would say 1770s-1790s.

Erin: I love clothing from 1910-1919. It’s really the birth of modern fashion, so clothes are lighter and more practical but still beautiful.

6: If you absolutely had to dye your hair (no choice about it) in something other than a natural color, what would that color be? Or would you just shave it all off and start hoarding wigs?

Sophia: Cotton candy pink or lilac! If I didn’t have naturally black hair I probably would have done it by now.

Erin: Maybe a pale blue – grey? I would hate something too loud. No yellow or green for me!

7: What is your favorite kind of hand needlework? Sewing, needlepoint, embroidery, cross stitch…?

Sophia: I like beadwork and embellishment a lot, I don’t do it often enough.

Erin: I love hand sewing. For me it’s relaxing but I can also multitask while watching movies or travelling, because it doesn’t take the amount of concentration embroidery does.

8: If your home was on fire and you only had time to save one pattern from your stash, which one would it be?

Sophia: I almost always draft my own patterns so I would save my favorite totally outdated pattern making book, Pattern Making for Fashion Design.

Erin: I would also save a book, Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns. I haven’t made anything from it yet, but all of the patterns in it are on my bucket list.

9: Same question, but for fabric. Which single piece of fabric would you save? (And no, you can’t stay and go up in smoke with the stash. No “Fahrenheit 451″ options, OK?)

Sophia: It is hard to believe but I don’t really stash that much I have about one large paper bag full of fabric, but I do have thousands of buttons from my grandmother in a suitcase so I would grab that.

Erin: I have one yard of antique dusty-rose silk satin that I will spend my entire life trying to do something with. It would be such a waste to burn!

10: What inspires you to continue creating and blogging when there are so many other things competing for your time every day?

Sophia: That is why I love Historical Sew Monthly it only requires me to post once a month even though the projects can take a long time. I usually find multiple uses for the things I make as well.

Erin: Although I am not as good as I should be about blogging, I find that it’s really helpful to organize my thoughts and get the most out of the experience. It’s easy to forget the thought process behind a garment, but when you are actively thinking about it and connecting it to all your research and inspiration I find it carries into the next project as well. It’s fun to go deeper and deeper every time.

Our Questions: 

1: What is your favorite classic movie (pre 1970)? It can be for the plot, costumes, songs, sets.

2: If you could make your dream outfit no time or money constraints what would it be?

3: What is your favorite fashion designer or trend in current times?

4: If you don’t mind sharing, what is your day job? Is it related or unrelated to costuming?

5: What historical figure would you most like to have dinner with?

6. What is usually the starting point for your projects? (For example: original museum pieces, fabrics, color, etc) Where do you get your inspiration?

7. Share your secret! What’s the best sewing trick you’ve picked up over the years?

8. If you had an extra day in the week, what would you do with it?

9.  What’s your favorite day-off ritual?

10. (I’m stealing this question because I think it’s so important!) What inspires you to continue creating and blogging when there are so many other things competing for your time every day?

And now our nominations! I would have nominated several other people but they have already been nominated or they are really big in the world in historical costuming and already have many many followers.

Our Nominations: 

The Modern Mantua Maker I love her attention to detail and the fact that she sews so many different eras. This Spencer blows my mind! I can only aspire to this level of sewing especially in something entirely hand sewn.

A Damsel in This Dress she not only makes beautiful garments but does reenactments with horses! Take a look at some of her ridding habits.

The Aristocat makes lovely undergarments as well as full outfits.

The Quintessential Clothes Pen is great at walking her readers through all her steps. Her 1890s skating costume is one of my favorites.

The Pragmatic Costumer is a real historian, she makes and she collects. She inspires me to start posting some of my bits and bobs I have collected.

Inside Aimee’s Victorian Armoire is a great writer. She is always posting funny bits of history and makes lovely clothes including some great 20th century looks.

Recreating History by Andrea Håkansson focuses on late 14th century attire. Consistently well researched and photographed beautifully, her blog is infinitely inspiring and a reminder that the accessories make the outfit!

Isabel Northwode Costumes – all the historical accuracy you dream about, tons of great progress shots and explanations. The first project I saw of hers was the Louisbourg gown – a truly dedicated achievement- and the rest of her projects do not disappoint. Spend some time here!

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.(√)
2. Put the Award logo on your blog. (√)
3. Answer the ten questions sent to you. (√)
4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer. (√)
5. Nominate ten blogs. (sorry so many of the blogs I love have already been chosen so the list is a little short)