Category Archives: Vintage style

Costume Exhibit: The Artistry of Outlander at The Paley Center

I made an unplanned visit to the Outlander costume exhibit. Mercy!

My daughter and I were shopping in Santa Monica (after driving down from Northern California for her incoming freshman academic advising appointment at her new college), when a friend on Facebook (thank you Teresa!) reminded me about the free The Artistry of Outlander exhibit at The Paley Center for Media. Google told me it was only 30 minutes away and my daughter was game, so off we went.

If you watch Outlander, you know that they spent the first part of the second season in Paris, where the costumes — for both men and women — are over the top. And this exhibit gives you an up close look at many of them. I did not realize how many fine details these costumes have that you simply cannot see on screen. Terry Dresbach, the Outlander costume designer, and her team cut no corners.

Photos speak louder than words in a case like this, so let’s get to it:


Claire’s Versailles garden dress.

This is my favorite costume from the Paris adventure. It’s one of at least two that draw inspiration from both the 18th century and the 1940s, which is noted on the display. Who knew brown and mustard and embroidered pink flowers could be so gorgeous together? Need a closer look?


Claire’s Versailles garden dress — embroidery detail.

This dress is stunning, and the scene so lovely, until …


Shudder. That’s enough of him.

Let’s move onto something far more pleasant. Louise!


Louise de Rohan’s blue silk dress.

Louise de Rohan is just a cotton candy confection of a person. This dress is full of frilly details, but look at them closely.


Louise de Rohan’s blue silk dress — trim detail.

The striped trim has raw pinked edges that are currently raveling! I’m sure this could be tidied up with a pair of scissors, but it was rather amazing to see how the edges were finished.

Details, that was the theme of the exhibit in my mind, even for the men.


Comte St. Germain’s brown coat and pink vest.

This is one of the more “plain” outfits Comte St. Germain wears. (He’s quite a bit more of a clothes horse than I realized. Many of his costumes are on display.) But look at the details!


Comte St. Germain’s brown coat — trim and button detail.


Comte St. Germain’s brown coat — cuff detail.

Just look at the buttons and the trim! There are about two dozen of these custom embroidered buttons on this coat. Did you catch any of this when watching? Me either.

Another exquisite dresser is Prince Charles Stuart, of course.


Prince Charles Stuart’s brown embroidered jacket.

This one has exceptional embroidery as well as custom embroidered buttons.


Prince Charles Stuart’s embroidered brown coat — embroidery and button detail.

I hadn’t remembered the following dress at all, but it was one of my favorites at the exhibit, because it’s muslin!


Louise de Rohan’s hand-painted muslin dress.

Yes, it really is muslin. There are beautiful florals on pretty much every costume. Some of the florals are embroidered, but many are hand-painted, like on this dress.


Louise de Rohan’s hand-painted muslin dress — sleeve detail.

This dress also has raw pinked edges, hiding among the two different kinds of lace on the sleeve. Because of the humble muslin, this dress seemed more accessible than the rest. It seems almost reasonable that I could make a hand-painted muslin dress. Almost.


Louise de Rohan’s hand-painted muslin dress — back detail.

I had to look at this very closely to see how it closes. Clearly, the closure is at center back. But how? Hooks and eyes, that’s how! By getting as close as I dared (I’ve been told to step back at costume exhibits before), I could just see a hook through the widest part of the gap. No wonder no one could dress themselves! Can you imagine?

And now for another 18th Century/1940s mashup — Claire’s Dior inspired “suit.”


Claire’s Dior-inspired “suit.”

Although the original iconic “bar suit” dates from 1947 (which is just after Clare left that era), Terry Dresbach designed this suit to span the couture of Clare’s two timelines. I think it was a pretty clever idea. She’s the costume designer; she can do what she wants!


Clare’s Dior-inspired “suit” — matching gloves.

And here’s another detail I didn’t see on screen, the cutouts on the matching leather gloves. I am becoming more and more fond of gloves, and although it doesn’t really get cold enough in my area of Northern California, I wear them in winter anyway.

Now we’ve come to another of my favorites — Master Raymond’s jacket.


Master Raymond’s jacket.

How wonderful is this jacket? It has custom embroidery and hand-painted details of various mystical and astrological symbols, only some of which I recognize. But it’s so clever, it deserves a closer look at each panel:


Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.


Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.



Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.


Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.



Master Raymond’s jacket — back detail.

I just love this jacket. How much fun would it be to embroidery a vest in a similar fashion? I have an embroidery machine. It’s not impossible!

And now we’ll wrap up with The Red Dress. The Red Dress was in the front window of The Paley Center, so there was no way to take a full-length shot without horrific glare (even on an overcast day), but, my camera has a tilt and twist view screen, so I could put the camera in front of the dress (where I wouldn’t fit), while I stood to the side to frame the shot. Et voila!


Claire’s Red Dress — detail.

The criss-cross straps in front, the neckline trim, the piping along the bodice bottom — There is so much more going on with this dress than I realized. Thank goodness I got to see this one, and so many others, in person.

And my takeaway — I need to up my sewing game when it comes to the fine details. Painted muslin, mystical symbols, embroidered buttons — I want to try them all!

As usual, I did not share everything at the exhibit — only the displays that inspired me the most. There’s much more to see! If you’d like to go, details are below.



The Artistry of Outlander
The Paley Center for Media

Wednesday through Sunday 12 to 5 p.m.
465 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, California

June 8 to August 14, 2016
Admission is FREE and open to the public.

The story behind … Penguin by Hand

An amazing collaboration between quilting and bookmaking.

Source: The story behind… Penguin by Hand.

I used a 1924 Singer to sew a skirt

I was gifted a 1924 Singer 99 electric several years ago and recently had it serviced to be sure it was in good enough shape for me to sew a garment with it.

Here’s the machine:

This is a Singer 99 sewing machine, built in February 1924 with a ton of accessories!

The Singer 99 is a smaller and lighter version of the Singer 66.

The skirt is complete, and it was a delightful experience to create it using only a vintage machine and hand-stitching.

What I liked about using the Singer:

  • The moving parts just glide, particularly the hand wheel. When people say “like a well-oiled machine,” this is what they’re talking about. It has a wonderfully smooth motion.
  • It’s gorgeous. It has a shiny black body with elaborate gold detailing and an embossed faceplate. It’s a pleasure to sew with something so pretty.
  • I was able to connect to history in a real way. Although there are many bells and whistles available on new sewing machines to make sewing a little easier, the actual process of creating a garment isn’t really any different now than it was 91 years ago. I enjoyed experiencing sewing just the way people did back in the 1920s.

Here’s a video of the Singer in action:

What I missed about my Fancy Damn Viking:

  • The foot pedal. It was really hard to get used to operating the machine with a knee lever (really, a thigh lever). Ergonomically, I think it would take a while for using it to become truly comfortable, let alone second nature. When I put the Singer on my sewing desk, I unplugged the foot pedal from the Viking but left it in place, so I kept trying to use it out of habit!
  • The reverse button. The Singer is just a few years too old to have a reverse lever on it. Starting and ending a line of stitches was a little cumbersome because at first I opted to flip the entire garment around in order to stitch backward then forward. After a while, I decided to sew forward about a half-inch, then raise the needle, move the fabric without cutting the thread, and restart the seam from the beginning.
  • The presser foot button. I’m now accustomed to using a button to raise and lower the presser foot on my Viking. (There are three different heights I can raise it to!) Using a traditional back lever was not a problem except for its proximity to the exposed light bulb with metal shield on the back of the machine. Ouch, that’s hot!

What seemed to be a drawback but wasn’t:

No zipper foot. At first I was dismayed to see that the Singer did not have a zipper foot among its accessories. Zippers were not yet used in clothing in the 1920s (according to Wikipedia anyway), which explains why it didn’t have one originally. (I could probably buy one that would work.) So, I sewed the zipper in by hand. This is my first time hand picking a lapped application; but in general, I’ve found that hand-sewn zippers are more successful for me than sewing them in by machine. The zipper slider isn’t in the way of a hand needle, so it’s easy to maintain a straight stitching line. I’m not particularly eager to sew another garment zipper in by machine.

Now that the project is complete, the Viking is back on my sewing desk, but I have no doubt I’ll be using the Singer again. I’m thinking it would be wonderful to make a quilt with it.

Next time, I’ll share the project that I sewed with the Singer.

TCM’s Summer of Darkness

1944's "Laura" starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews is playing this Friday on TCM's Summer of Darkness.

1944’s “Laura” starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews is playing this Friday on TCM’s Summer of Darkness.

Being a film noir lover (the costumes!), I’m spending the warm months hiding in the shadows of the TCM Summer of Darkness. Every Friday in June and July, Turner Classic Movies is showing nothing but noir.

I’m even taking the free online course TCM is hosting in conjunction with the Summer of Darkness, called “Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir.” We’re in Week 2 of 9, and I’m learning a lot already about one of my favorite film genres — or is it a style or even a movement? There’s still time to register for the class and catch up on the fun homework (or just learn more about noir and what movies TCM is showing) at

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