There has been a considerable gap in my blog as ill health has been stalking the land with me and the Medieval Historian both.  Things are a bit better now, so I thought it was time to get the blog up and running again.

I was reading a short piece recommended to me on Facebook about sewing films, and I thought it would be a good place to restart.  These are films or tv shows which I find really inspirational in terms of stitching, or are just a feast for the eyes.  A lot of my favourite films are costume dramas which aren’t particularly accurate but are great for costumes.   A good example is the Reese Witherspoon version of Vanity Fair:





This version made a great deal of the influence of India on Regency design.  Sumptuous all round.

But my main list is in sections and is as follows:

Gratuitously great embroidery on costumes which are much better than the show itself

Game of Thrones

I first started watching this for the fabulous costumes, and in particular for Michele Carraghers’s gorgeous embroidery.  She has a wonderful website in which she discusses the Game of Thrones costumes and her design process.  Even if you never watch the show, it is worth looking at the website for lots of close-ups of beautiful beaded and embroidered pieces:


What I love about this is that someone takes the decision to spend a great deal of money on embroidery on costumes which might never be seen.  Certainly the detail is often lost.  I like the idea of the costumes being much better than they have to be and of the highest quality contemporary embroidery being seen by millions.

The Tudors

You can imagine how well this went down with the Medieval Historian, to the point where I had to watch the box set in secret when he went out.  The series was terrible and got worse as it went on, but the frocks were really lovely:


They were designed by Joan Bergin.  The one above was for Anne of Cleeves and her costumes were my favourites.

Films where sewing is integral to the plot

Bright Star

This is a 2009 Jane Campion film about the courtship of John Keats and Fanny Brawne.


The lead actress spends a lot of time in the film stitching and creating rather fabulous garments for herself, despite the family’s apparent genteel poverty:


She also gets to wear this little cardigan which sometimes seems to be a shawl, made of tiny crochet motifs:


I covert this Sophie Digard piece and Abbie Cornish’s slender frame to be able to wear it.

Sewing is integral to the plot here, because Keats’ best friend tries to dissuade him from pursuing  Fanny whom he thinks is a flirt and only interested in clothes.  Smart 21C viewers know that this is Fanny’s only creative outline and means of self-expression in the gendered and classed society of the early 19C.  It is a gorgeous film, with a lot of beautifully read poetry.

The Dressmaker

This is a recent Australian film (2015, directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse) and is a bit of an oddity.  It is set in a tiny settlement in Australia in the 1950s.  Much abused waif, Tilly, returns to her home town a fully grown, drop-dead gorgeous sophisticate.  She comes via Paris, Milan, Madrid, London etc in an echo of both Sabrina films.  She turns up at the station with her Singer sewing machine to solve mysteries about her past and take her revenge on the people who sent her away and so on.


The whole thing veers from high drama to camp comedy to melodrama to slapstick in a big, hot old mess (as Heidi Klum used to say on Project Runway).  It’s like Douglas Sirk meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert (and Hugo Weaving is in it as a cross-dressing policeman).  But, the premise of the film is that women can be transformed – created and destroyed by what they wear, and Kate Winslett creates the most stunning fifties numbers imaginable:


This is my favourite character, Gertrude, just because she looks so much like the original 1950s Barbie:




Kate Winslett looks fantastic throughout and is the perfect shape for all those boned and corseted numbers:





Best ever quilting film

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

This musical has a very dodgy premise about abducting women, but that aside it has fantastic costumes made of quilts (which the women have to make up as they are snowed in for the winter with the seven brothers)

images-9  images-8 images-10

Several things strike me here.  The first is the sacrilege of chopping up quilts to make frocks, so let’s hope they were specially made for the film.  The second is the skill required to make those fitted waists with quilt, wadding and backing.  The third that this is a lesson in self-restraint which again we have to take with a pinch of salt.  I imagine the testosterone that exploded out of that house when the spring thaw came.

The quilting film you wish had been better

How to make an American Quilt (1995)

There is nothing terrible about this film, except I wanted to tell the Winona Ryder character to stop prevaricating and get on with writing up that thesis.  The problem with it is that there isn’t enough quilting for quilters, and there isn’t enough drama for drama lovers.  And the quilt is okay (as it probably would have been for an average wedding quilt), but nothing particularly special.


I also wonder about the advisedness of Winona trailing a predominantly white quilt through the dew:


as she contemplates marrying her pretty dull boyfriend.


5 thoughts on “Inspiration

  1. Interesting post, one of the reason I like historical dramas is for the costumes, it amazes me the amount of work that goes into clothes that seemingly are only used for one film/series. I always wonder what they do with them afterwards. The dressmaker is apparently based on fact, I haven’t seen it yet but do want to.

  2. I think I have seen a film with a similar premise to The Dressmaker, about a world war 2 GI Bride who manages to settle into her mid-western environment, and be accepted, because she can sew pretty dresses and undies. Anyone know the name of it? I think it came out around the same time as the Land Girls series.

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