The Dressmaker – clothes maketh woman!

4b2982a503c84eb43b4f5150c1a656abWhen I read about this film I couldn’t wait to see it, but I had to be very determined! Most of the showings for the film were during the day! It did make me wonder if the cinema promoters were sidelining it because of it’s ‘niche’ – women’s interest! However this film is hilarious and not one to miss even if you aren’t interested in fashion and dressmaking!


Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Kate Winslet) returns to her home town of Dungatar (yes it does include the word dung – apt you will agree) in country Victoria in the early 1950s, all grown up and hell-bent on revenge. She’s armed with her Singer sewing machine, steps off the coach and declares, “I’m back, you bastards!”Blamed at age 10 for the death of another child (who was the town bully) and sent away, Tilly has returned with haute couture seamstress skills to deal with her childhood baggage and rewrite the wrongs she feels the “good folk” of Dungatar have visited on her in her past.

As expected the costumes were delightful! Set at the beginning of the 1950’s – when feminine style was at the peak! Kate Winslet is the perfect actress for this, her beautiful hourglass curves make the most of the costumes. I adore the little crochet hat.


What a dress to see a football match! Tilly certainly makes an entrance and we begin to see the gleam in her eye – she knows how to get noticed! The town is full of extraordinary characters – it reminds me of Pricilla Queen of the Dessert – Australia does oddball characters very well!

Tilly is there not just to piece together the past but hopes that the town will give her the acceptance she craves.

64748847cdd80aefdf2167cae071c166Gertrude is the first of Tilly’s customers – Tilly entices her with the promise of a dress for the local dance.


Gertrude certainly was ready for a make over – she had er eye on the most eligible bachelor in the town – the change is so effective soon all the women in the town are flocking to have their dresses made.


This is my favourite Gertrude dress – who would have thought a redhead would carry of red polka dots so beautifully!

The film really did live up to my expectations – so many beautiful dresses to delight the eye, but over and above a heartwarming, laugh out loud story with bittersweet moments. It is deeper than merely costume – not to mention the delightful eye candy in the shape of Liam Hemsworth as Tilly’s love interest – certainly had me reaching for my fan! Ooh la la!

The film is fabulous – laugh out loud hilarious and of course our lovely lady does get her revenge!


You can see a wonderful interview with the dress designer, Marion Boyce for the film here where she talks about the interest in retro fashion. Of course if you are lucky enough to live in Australia the costumes are on tour! (Please let them come to the UK!).

I think there’s a few different things going on at the moment. My personal view is that costumes, especially period things, are having a bit of a renaissance at the moment because we’ve become so incredibly generic.

Everything’s the same out there in chain stores. Everything no matter where you go in the world, everything’s the same. And people are starting to look for something different and something with personality that they can make their own. And I think it’s part of that, where people are actually searching for something different.

Marion Boyce

It is at the heart of why so many women are turning to dressmaking, seeking to create clothing that helps them to stand out from the crowd. I don’t want to walk around in jeans and a teeshirt the same clothing as Mr D, I want to look like a woman and I am not alone.

It’s really a lost art isn’t it? That whole approach to dressing. We seem to have lost a lot of that today.

Totally. We’ve become very casual. We don’t often have occasion dressing, we leave work and we go out for dinner. And the last bastions of “dressing” are when we go to weddings, and the races (laughs). That’s all we do. We shop in a very different manner.

It’s great because this is the beginning of the Fifties, the renaissance of couture, so it’s still ensemble dressing. Which I really truly adore. I love putting everything together from the shoes to the hat. It’s a really great journey for me. Marion Boyce

Opportunities to dress up may have disappeared – theatres, restaurants even shopping tips are no longer the dress up affairs I remember in my childhood. Society may have lost its sense of occasion – dressing down is the mode!  Clothing stores might have rail upon rail of clothing that does nothing to enhance or delight the eye, but as dressmakers we can create our own destiny, forge our own path and thank goodness!


In case that has whetted your appetite here is the trailer


Famous Quotations about Fashion and Style

do it yourself fashion

Such great advice – if you can make your own clothes then you have an unlimited choice of clothing. Not just in the style, but the fabric the way it is cut defines the way it hangs – there are endless ways to play.

Fashion quote Coco Chanel

Who can question the enduring wardrobe staple – the little black dress?

Good clothing will last years and classic style is never out of date.

fashion suggests

You wouldn’t think that from some of his clothes, but I like this quotation.

Vionnet fashion

One of my favourite designers, Vionnet was the Queen of the bias cut dress – fabric flows around the body, enhancing every curve. Cut a pair of trousers on the bias, and they will cling to your feminine curves – even those you never knew you had.

This quote says a lot about style – you should be the one to wear the clothes not the other way around. That is why I am not a fan of designer labels – I always ask myself why a piece of clothing has to have the design logo on the outside? For example GAP stands for gay and proud. When you wear a designer label you are buying into a whole lot of advertising spin – great for those who want to blend in, but if you want to stand out, then be your own label.

wear a smile

I do wish we would see more happiness on catwalks, a smile brightens every outfit, it doesn’t matter what you are wearing – people remember you look happy!

Oscar wilde love yourself

This line from An Ideal Husband is wonderful – the sheer arrogance of this first line! But be honest, we have all had those ‘what was she thinking’ moments. But if we can suspend judgement for just a moment and cheer that woman on – then something unlocks inside us. Fashion Police don’t exist, we can all wear what we want, and if she can, then so can we Isn’t that better?

We shy away from self love for fear of being called arrogant, but no matter what a woman wears – if she is loves who she is it, that confidence shines out often recognised as charisma- any outfit she will be wearing will come second.

be a work of art

Another Oscar Wilde quotation – it is so easy to fall into the trap of not spending time on ourselves – we are fearful of being vain. But caring about what you wear and looking after yourself are acts of self love not selfishness. Treat yourself as a work of art, love and cherish who you are.

Joan Crawford fashion

Joan has summed up the key to finding your own style. I think this is the favourite of all quotations – I particularly like ‘playing many roles’

We are so many things to different people, mother, daughter, colleague, manager. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun – dress up, dress down, try a different hairstyle, wear a hat. Life is all about making the most out of every moment – let your clothes reflect who you are. If its jeans and a t’shirt or a ball gown and tiara – then that is great – wear it and never apologise for being you.


1930’s Glamour Hollywood Style

Glamour 1930's style

If I had to choose a particular era it would have to be 1930’s. Maybe it is all the wonderful Poirot TV series I have enjoyed over the years where I have learned to love the simplicity of the Art Deco style combined with the beauty of bias cut fashions. Dresses flowed – Vionnet had brought bias cutting into the hands of dressmakers and it lets cloth flow around the body like nothing ever seen before or since.

1930's Hollywood inspired patterns

Women wanted to wear the fashions they saw in the hollywood movies and pattern makers  used hollywood actresses on their patterns. Just look at the fabulous detail of the bodice, with the beautiful corner detail on the back. The bias cut skirt would have followed every contour, so you might have to be rather slim to carry this off.

1930's velvet gown

This beautiful velvet gown shows the enduring feature of 1930’s style, the diamond waist piece. This might not be cut on the bias, the grain line would have most likely run vertically from the top point to the bottom and would have given structure that allows the bias cut pieces of the bodice some element of stability.

1930's dress pattern

In this pattern illustration highlights just how the fabric clings and follows the contours of the body. The side panels at the hips are the diamond shapes that would be running in the opposite direction to the skirt pieces. The bodice looks as if it is cut on the straight of grain, whereas the feminine sleeve would have been semi circular in shape to give those softly floating ripples.

Bathing costumes 1930's

The bathing suits were far kinder to the body than the two piece costumes of today. This style would enhance any woman’s figure, the use of stripes creates an illusion of drawing the figure in – a slimming effect.

pjs 1930s

Imagine how glamours you would feel wearing these pjs around the house? Usually in satin or silk, the fabric would brush softly against your skin. Definitely one up on the Onesie for style.

tea dresses 1930s

Imagine living in a world where you dressed up for tea – these beautiful tea dresses have clean lines but the pattern allows extra fabric in the panels gathered together so as not to interrupt the style, but would have allowed the dress fabric to flow as the woman walked. Notice the top of the sleeves are fairly well fitting, it is not until the 1940’s or late 30’s we see a gathered cap.

1930's style

The beautiful details in this dress are simply delightful – there is so much going on here and yet the lines are simple and would enhance the wearer. I would suggest this is a late 1930’s early 1940’s because of the gathering at the sleeve cap. However the front panel with the pleating is an aspect of the 1930’s. Notice how the smocking has given a lot more ease in the bust area, while the centre panel accentuates the waist.

Simplistic style of 1930's

We are back again to flat sleeve, and the length of this skirt suggests its 1930’s. I like the sailor style collar with the feminine bow. The top is nipped in and enhances the waistline and I adore the button details on the hip.

day dress

I could not help adding this beautiful dress – the way the buttoning flows from one side to the other really does delight my eye.

Bias cutting is not for the faint hearted, it is challenging. Looking at the styles and patterns from the past, I think women must have had superior sewing skills because none of the patterns you buy today have that degree of complexity. However, I am inspired to try.