Admire, Sewing

The 1913 Lounging Pyjamas finally get a red carpet

Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA

Or, Leimomi find out why bifurcation never really took off in the 1910s…

Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA

My Costume College Gala outfit didn’t get a lot of wear at Costume College because I was ill, so I really wanted another excuse to wear it.

The Downton Abbey movie seemed like the perfect excuse – I certainly got enough Lady Sybil comments at CoCo!

Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA

And it was a good excuse for the other Wellington historical sewists and I to go out dressed up. Our most extroverted member says that we need to stop hiding in the bushes and start wearing our dresses in public!

We did a little searching, and found out that one of the Wellington theatres had not one, but two Downton themed events: an afternoon tea and an evening red carpet event.

Unfortunately tickets for the one we really wanted: the afternoon tea, sold out before we found out about it. So we had to do the evening event.

At least it would mean my outfit finally got a red carpet!

But first…my outfit needed a little makeover.

Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA

I just could NOT get the bodice to a point I was happy with in the run up to Costume College. I spent 4 days working on it, which is 3 days more than I’d estimated it would take, and still ended up ditching most of what I’d done and putting together a whole new bodice in under an hour at 10pm the night before I flew. It was not my best moment (but was also rather impressive, in a slightly insane way…).

The resulting bodice, while better than the overcooked one I slaved over for four days, wasn’t great. My attempt at 1913 droopy bodice just looked saggy on one side, and pulled up on the other.

Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA

It also wouldn’t stay in position, and just looked messy and unintentional and generally stressed me out.

Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA

I do love the back view, though, which utilises a piece of antique lace.

Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA

So, for wear #2, I took the bodice apart again, and replaced the under layer of the front bodice with another lovely bit of antique lace, and re-did the overlap and drape.

Much better!

Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA
Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA
Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA

(the new necklace is clearly not much better – there is a reason for those knots on really long bead strands!)

The event, alas, was a bit of a damp squib. $33 on top of the film ticket price for one small drink (non-alcoholic in my case) and and a single hors d’oeuvre, (and they had run out of vegetarian options by the time we arrived 10 minutes after the event started). Other than that it was a trio of musicians (nice), one of those horrible photo booths where you do 4 poses in 8 seconds and get a GIF and a print out of (always) the worst one, where at least one person has their eyes closed.

And then a lot of standing around uncomfortably waiting for the film to start.

There was a costume contest, but it was one of those one where they have the audience cheer for each person, so I lost out to the lady in the bathing costume (in the mob cap in the photo below) who was willing to flip her skirt up above her head to show her drawers and wiggle her bum at the audience.

Standing up in front of an audience for something like that is scary enough – I’m never going to win a ‘do something outrageous’ contest!

Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA

But afterwards the lovely young man seated just down from us told me I’d been robbed, simply robbed, which, to be honest, I enjoyed a lot more than I would have any of the prizes! And I did win a sweet little headband (which I shall have to find a little girl to give it to) in a random draw, and three people asked me if my outfit was vintage.

So I felt lovely, and did have a lovely time just being with friends, but I did discover the major drawback to my outfit.

Remember that one small drink? It’s a good thing that was all they gave us, because I was wearing the equivalent of an impossible to get-in-and-out-of-by-yourself jumpsuit.

Think about it. It’s the world’s most elegant diaper/loincloth, with holes just big enough for your feet, and a complicated mainly-back hooking opening. And it’s meant to be worn over a corset (though I skipped that for the film).

There is NO way to get in and out it in under 8 minutes, much less by yourself. Which I discovered standing in the (very pretty) bathroom of the theatre. It wasn’t a problem at CoCo because I was so dehydrated, but I was incredibly grateful I hadn’t tried to fight my was to the bar for another drink before the film!

Lounging pyjamas inspired by a pair by Callot Soeurs at LACMA

So, now I know why bifurcation didn’t really take off in the teens! In an era of corsets, complicated fastenings, and irregular indoor plumbing, skirts are your friend….

Movie review

Look, if you loved Downton Abbey, you’ll love the movie.

And, if like me, you gave up two episodes into Season 2, because it was clearly just a soap opera with better costumes, you’ll find the movie slightly less annoying than the show, with all the best bits (Maggie Smith), and none of the worst.

It’s hard to kill off too many characters in improbably ways, send the ones that survive to jail multiple times, have people change personality from storyline to storyline with no reason, and bring back someone from the dead in only 2 hours.

(I tried to watch the whole series in the run up to the movie, got mad about the tedious, frustrating, Bates thing partway through Season 3, read up on what his whole storyline was, and said “Nah, I’m not here for this nonsense”)

That’s not to say the film is sensible. There are no less than 9 different, all slightly ridiculous and overcooked, plots happening in the film in order to give all the characters a look-in. One involves an older cousin who is Lady in Waiting to the Queen, who (for some daft reason) the daughters have never heard of or encountered in any way – stretching the bounds of reason and the English social scene in the early 20th century to the absolute limit.

Weirdly, the only one I found emotionally touching involved everyone’s least favourite character. So, big bonus for making least-appealing character someone you actually rooted for.

Much fuss was made about the extra budget for costumes in the film, but I actually thought what the TV series did with existing costumes, making them look lush and rich and new, was much more impressive.

There were a couple of nice vintage pieces in the film, but I didn’t always feel they were used to best advantage to support the character wearing them. Sadly, Mary’s much-talked about Fortuny gown was mostly shown seated, so didn’t get a chance to shine.

Her final ball dress was quite nice though. (American quite, not British quite. I’ve realised I use both, which is quite, quite confusing). I recognised a couple of the inspiration pieces for it, and wouldn’t mind having one in my wardrobe!

The jewellery was probably where the money went – some of the best pieces were borrowed, but there were some fabulous reproductions.

And the outfits for the older characters, and the royal family, were spot on for what more conservative people were wearing in the 20s.

The one place the movie really failed was the hats. With the exception of one divine cloche on Mary they were awful. Heavy, obvious petersham bindings. Trims that looked like they were tacked on from $2 shop tat at the last minute. Lots of mid century tulle. My costuming students do better on their first millinery project (and I’m not claiming they are millinery geniuses). They just looked heavy and stiff. As soon as the film was over my friends turned to me and said “what was up with those hats!” It was particularly disappointing in comparison to how good the hats were in the TV series. More money is not always better!


  1. I generally keep my mouth shut on the subject of Downton Abbey, because I’ve learned that few people want to hear my opinions on the terrible writing. But seriously. The scripts are awful. The story-lines are needlessly tragic, and often end up going nowhere. The show made me so angry, even if the costumes were lovely.

    Your outfit is sublime. But you clearly forgot the one necessary accessory: a lady’s maid, who will help you with all your closures. For what it’s worth, I can never remember to procure one of those, either.

    • I will be here for those words!

      Ah, Downton Abbey…beautiful on the outside (costumes, acting, cinematography), and terrible on the inside (writing, characters…)

      Looks like a fun time. I am glad that the venue thought to put on an “event”. Maybe there were some lessons learned, too, so that the next one can be even better.

  2. Christina Kinsey says

    I enjoyed the article and couldn’t help thinking about the complications of some 1980s fashions too, body’s and jumpsuits for a start. Not the best idea if like me, you like coffee
    The dress looks lovely, should have won

  3. Nannynorfolk says

    Since when have fashions been practical! But you looked very 1920s and you should have won.
    Yes Downton Abbey was a soap opera but I watched all the dvds for the clothes some which I would have loved to have worn. Don’t think I’d have liked to live in any of the time periods in the show though especially if I hadn’t been rich.

  4. I remember the 1970s bodysuits and the (slightly later) jumpsuits. I liked the bodysuits and didn’t find them troublesome. You never had to worry about whether your shirt was coming untucked (it couldn’t), and it wasn’t that hard to go to the bathroom in, since all you needed to do was unsnap the snaps at the crotch (an easy-to-reach place).

    On the other hand, jumpsuits were a nuisance, since you would be practically naked to go to the bathroom in them. It was also nearly impossible to keep the torso of the jumpsuit from dragging on the floor (and tough to keep it out of the toilet) while you did your business. I had a jumpsuit with breast pockets that I actually used, which weighted the top portion down and made matters even worse.

  5. Linda Olson says

    I love your comments!
    and the outfit you wore is awesome with the second top!

  6. For some reason this makes me extra curious about what you would think of the new Miss Fisher movie coming out! But I don’t know if you enjoy that particular series either.

    The costume is fabulous though!

    • I didn’t love Miss Fisher either, but I found the characterisation and writing a lot more consistent. It’s very cheesy, but that seemed to be what they were going for. And what they did with a very minimal budget for that sort of show is staggeringly good. I also suspect that it’s an easier format to successfully convert to a film: each episode was essentially one storyline, with only a little bleed-over, so a longer, more involved movie storyline has a lot more potential. And there are less characters to try to shoehorn in. Plus, since it looks like it isn’t set in Australia, it won’t have the biggest flaw of the TV series: those awful accents 😉

  7. You look divine and that gentleman was right, you were robbed. Thank you for an honest review. I will still go see it but will concentrate on jewels, and then costumes and try to ignore the hats!

  8. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    A proper ladies room in an upscale theatre had one or more attendants to do the necessary unhooking and hooking.

    I’ve seen that design done as separates, shorter with a very basic “teddy” top, for Rita daCosta Lydig. She wore them with lace jackets.

  9. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’m sorry to hear about the hats since I love seeing those.
    BTW, I’m reading one of Julian Fellowes’ other books, Snobs, and his writing is tedious. and he does lean towards the “soap opera” themes.
    I loved your outfit and at one time thought I wanted to make one but good to know its not bathroom-friendly. 🙂

  10. Marie Curious says

    You look amazing! As for Downton Abbey, I think you’ve helped solidify my decision to wait and see if it turns up on Netflix in a few months.

  11. Oh dear, I love the final picture of your outfit! It completely explained it! I hadn’t realized that was how you made it. I imagine you had to get the length just right to keep from tripping. The description you gave is pretty fabulous, too.

    Your review: also amusing. I haven’t seen the movie, but I expect I will at some point with costume friends. It’s just a thing you do.


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