Thursday, 24 April 2014

1950s American Beauty - The films of Douglas Sirk

Jane Wyman in A Magnificent Obsession.

 Douglas Sirk's 1950s classic melodramas are the epitome of fifties suburban design with beautiful colouring and stunning cinematography.

I have chosen these to inspire the next collection of floral dresses all with a fifties silhouette and theme. So what is it that makes Douglas Sirk's films so special?

Douglas Sirk was born in Hamburg, Germany. Already a well regarded director Germany he came to the US fleeing Nazi oppression like many of Hollywood's great artists.
Following a successful but altogether uncomfortable career at Universal, never gaining the critical and intellectual acclaim he deserved, Sirk retired in 1959 from directing in America and moved to Switzerland.
He became greatly admired in Europe soon after with critics casting him as one of cinemas great ironists and auteur's. He now inspires many of the modern directors and has a loyal cult following.
Douglas Sirk died in Switzerland 1987.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Wanda and Pinks - Black Lace Dresses

The Wanda and Pinks dresses from the 'Good Girls Gone Bad' collection. These two dresses both in the same black corded lace use blush colours and silhouette to make their statements. 

The Pinks, a classic prom dress shape with full skirt and sheer soft pink silk overlay. The bodice is tightly fitted with a sweetheart neckline and low cut back that is teamed up with a cropped lace t-shirt to finish.

The Wanda is for the pin up with its figure hugging hourglass cut, strapless bodice and thigh high splits front and back. The black lace is layered over a pastel green silk and finished with a bow to wrap you up like a present. 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Black Lace Prom Dress

The Sarah-Jane dress was inspired by the character of the same name in the film Imitaion of Life. It's a sad tale of human predjudice and a girls desperate desire to be equal in the 1950s. The spirit of Sarah-Jane is wicked yet electric and sexy and vibrant.
Next to Sandra Dee's character (see the Sandee dress)  Susan Kohner is sophisticated and demure and this is what I have tried to capture in this dress.

The same cut as the Sandee dress but in delicate corded black lace. It has the princess line bodice, the long fitted sleeves but turn her around and the black plunges adding a little more sex appeal. The lace is left raw at the hem and the softer tulle underskirts are edged in a hardened black line.

The styling of the dress simply requires an exquisite pair of black stilettos, preferably the type with a red sole and equally beautiful underwear.

Sandee 1950s Lace Prom Dress

 A closer look at the 'Sandee' prom dress in all its primness.

The dress is taking on the pretty, ideological nature of the 1950s prom queens we saw in Grease and Cry Baby and the oh so perfect Sandra Dee. It's about that unattainable sweetness and light.

Made in a floral lace with a saturated coral pink satin lining the contrast the bodice has a demure princess cut and long fitted sleeves. The skirt has two looks where full tulle underskirt is removed to wear as a mini skater dress. This could also been worn as a peplum with a body con pencil skirt underneath.

The hem dips towards to back to give even more of a sweep and the waist is finished with a ribbon bow just like a present.

This dress can be styled with full fifties decadence, the kitten heels, the princess coat and hair backcombed into a perfect bouffant bob, ready to be crowned prom queen.

Or remove the nets and bare those legs dancing through a hot summer night with a killer pair of coral heels.

Or take it to the Sixties and go babydoll teaming the dress with ivory tights, black patent Mary-Jane's and a massive beehive trimmed with a black bow.

Or to be ultra romantic, hop in a old convertable and be wed in this dress with an elbow length veil and matching shoes.

Enjoy x

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Good Girls Gone Bad

The Good Girls gone Bad collection was taking influence from three teen rockabilly films featuring sugar sweet girls that go bad. Cry Baby, Grease and Imitation of Life were the triple bill. There's many that could have been chosen but these three gave a broad spectrum of the transforming teen.

These are the resulting designs, the pastels full circle skirt teamed with a sheer lace crop top. The fantastic pastel print is a vintage 1980s print with graphic rainbows and clouds. 

Pinks and Wanda, black lace dresses in a pale pink organza and sage green. The Pinks dress has a separate lace crop top and puffed up prom style skirt. Wanda contrasts with an hourglass cut, cinched waist and front and back thigh splits. 

The Baby Doll is one of the designs we used a few years ago for a Summer collection. This time in candy pink layers and a contrasting black trim. 

Finally the twins, Sandee and Sarah Jane. Sandee in an ivory lace layered over a saccharin pink satin with frothy tulle underskirts. Sarah-Jane is the same cut with a plunging v back in a scalloped black lace. 

All in the shop this week. 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Good Girls Gone Bad - Dress Sketches

Here are the sketches for this weeks 'good girls gone bad' set. If only we could have giant curls to match. Real dresses coming up later x

Cry Baby, Grease and Imitation of Life - Good Girls Gone Bad

Cry Baby - Good Girl Allison falls for Johnny Depp in John Waters 1990 film 

This weeks dresses are the gowns of the good girls and the bad girls of rock n roll movies.

Sugar coated almonds, Neapolitan ice creams and care bears cut with black lace, bust hugging bodices and heels to cause a serious injury. Just to dip our toes in the genre our good girls gone bad this week are Sandy in Grease, the Cry Baby girls, Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner .

Pastels can sometimes be tricky to stomach on their own without a good amount of styling to lift the sickly sweetness into something a little more sophisticated. We all really want to be a little bad! But if you've fallen in love with that lemon yellow prom dress or the blush pink coat, adding a splash of contrasting colour with hair accessories, a belt or even just bright red lips can make it more impactful.

Our favourite rocknroll bad girl Traci Lords as Wanda Woodward. We think she'd eat Rizzo alive!Cry Baby John Waters 1990 
And doing it better than Grease, Good Girl Allison turns bad with a Prison tune in a glittering red dress. Cry Baby John Waters 199

 If you haven't watched Cry Baby yet it's like a bad ass Grease on hard liquor with gutsy, gutsy characters.
Staring Johnny Depp and Iggy Pop alongside a pregnant teenage Ricki Lake, the fabulous Traci Lords and playing Hatchet Face the inspiring Kim McGuire 'the girl with a good body and an alarming face who is proud of it'.
The styling is legendary in the rock n' roll world with plenty to get you inspired like Wanda's polka dot wiggle dress (take a look here at Boo Boo Kitty Couture's fabulous piece on this dress) Allison's preppy fifties full skirts and lots of leather jackets. All the girls are bad and pretty soon Allison the square turns the baddest of them all in this sparkling red dress.

Take a look a Boo Boo Kitty Coutures blog posts on more 'Cry Baby' dresses here. 

The dance in Grease, poor frumpy footed good girl Sandy. Grease - Randal Kleiser 1978

And the ultimate transformation we all wish we could make. Oh to wear those disco pants. Grease - Randal Kleiser 1978 
The most famous good girl transformation has to be Sandy in Grease. Looking back at the film they really did style her to be as frumpy as possible. Those tan tights and mid healed t-bar sandals won't get many hearts ticking over. But all this made the finale so, so great. The disco pants, the mules (with a proper heel) , the red lipstick and that tight, tight ... top. One of films most fabulous teenage moments.

Susan Kohner in Imitation of Life Douglas Sirk 1959

Sandra Dee in Imitation of Life Douglas Sirk 1959

Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner - Imitation of Life Douglas Sirk 1959

And finally the original Sandra Dee. The beautiful Douglas Sirk remake of Imitation of Life 1959 takes a far more serious tone to the good girl gone bad theme. No one should ever have to be this bad in a tale of race and acceptance in four women's lives battling predjudice, motherhood and coming of age.
Teenage girls Sandra Dee, the good girl and Susan Kohner the (not really) bad girl are two contrasts metaphorically and physically in the film. Sandra Dee playing Susie is all blonde fluff and full skirts trying to gain the sex appeal of her mother. Susan Kohner playing Sarah Jane is beautiful, brunette, sexy and defiant in tight wiggle dresses and burlesque costumes.

I'd say these three films would make a great triple bill. Either start of finish with Imitation of Life depending at what time of night you want to be in floods of tears and dance yourself silly watching the other two.

The Helena Dress - Lace Silk and Cotton

Alexandra King

The Helena dress, part of the Romantics collection and inspired by the Edwardian themed films Howard's End and A Room With A View. 
Given my usual fifties twist with a significantly raised hem length and full skirt the dress still takes on a soft romantic silhouette with a sheer lace long sleeved bodice. A pleated raw silk sash highlights the waist and the skirt made from a vintage piece of beautifully smooth cotton has just the right texture. 

Wild curls and cream ballet flats would finish this off beautifully.

alexandra king

alexandra king

alexandra king

Romantics Dress Collection

Blue Moon - Blue blue lace 1930s inspired sheer maxi dress with button back

Left: The 'Romance' lace skirt and corded lace bodice Right: The Petite Dot White Lace Bustier Gown

The Petite Dot ruffle cape worn with the Petite dot dress. 

Left: The Champagne Lace JacketRight: Guipure lace jacket to match the Mint Tea dress

The Mint Tea ivory lace dress.

The Romantics collection draws on long Edwardian summers as seen in the films Howard's End and A Room With A View. Laces, blush blues and sheer overlays on lots of romance were in order creating soft feminine silhouettes. Pieces work together as much as do they individually making layered ensembles.
All available as one of a kind pieces in the online shop. 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Romantic's Sketches

The final sketches from the Romantics capsule collection surrounded by the silks and colours to be used.
I have found some beautiful laces and love layering them up with sheer point d'espirit dots making the ensembles extra light and free. These will make gorgeous bridal dresses too. x

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Romantic Edwardian's - A Room with a View / Howard's End

Helena Bonham-Carter in Howards End
This weeks collection picks up on the romance of the Merchant Ivory films A Room with a View and Howard's End. Pretty creams and powdered hues, layers and layers of lace, tulle and cotton lawns. This is just a little dip into the films as inspiration and something we will return to in more detail later in the year.

Little snippets of black and beautiful tiers on Vanessa Redgrave's dress in Howards End. 

All that hair and lace and romance in A Room with a View.

A Room with a View and Howard's End are among my favourite films and have a firm place in my top ten*. They are the films that make it look quintessentially lovely to live in the English countryside and with blinkers in place it sometimes really is this chocolate box gorgeous.

The Edwardian based period dramas are wonderfully romantic with layered up laces, fine linens and cascades of thick curls atop of the British darlings Bonham-Carter and Thompson's heads. They visually have a nostalgic feel wrapping you in a warm vintage, feather filled, paisley blanket without being too cuddly. It also captures they way Britain was viewed from afar in a Liberty of London, Laura Ashley way just including all the femininity, freedom and hope.

The costume designers who worked on both films Jenny Beavan and John Bright deservedly won an Oscar for A Room with a View and have such an extensive knowledge of historical dress. John Bright went on to set up Cosprop, the costume stable of Oscar winning design in London. It's the accurate referencing and then re-styling that brings the characters in the film to life, the relaxed everyday feel to those cinched waists in the country.

I love Miss Honeychurch's embroidered sash and those little gloves matching the lace on her cape bodice. 

Watch these films on a lazy Sunday afternoon as a double bill and then take a lingering walk in the countryside to admire all that natural beauty around us.

Take a look at this delightful illustration by Becca Stadtlander of Howards End 

Here is a great article by DTSFT about costume designer Jenny Beavan.

*there may be approx one hundred films in my top ten.