Sunday, June 30, 2019

McCalls's 9054 (1984): Liz Claiborne Blouse with Buttoned Cap Sleeves and Cloisonne Earrings

I made View B from this pattern for my very first blog post.  Today’s post features View C, which is modeled by the real woman on the pattern as opposed to the line drawing ladies.

The pattern describes it as follows: “Sleeveless, buttoned blouse C has extended shoulders with buttoned hemline pleats, collar with neckband, buttonhole pocket and shaped hemline.”   

There are two pleats at the edge of the sleeve and each pleat is fastened by a button. This creates a sweet cap sleeve effect which is attractive and unique.   Therefore, I’m baffled that the photograph is cropped right where they would be. 

I made this blouse for my mom.  Mom is an extremely skilled and highly talented seamstress who could (and still can) sew ANYTHING for our family.  From underwear to prom dresses, from men’s suits to drapes, she made it. And she was so good, it looked like you bought it in the store.  She oversaw some of my first tentative sewing projects (in the 1980s of course). While I did learn how to make a tote bag in Home Ec class, it was on my mom’s Singer that I made some actual clothes.  

Now that I can sew a little better than I did 30 years ago, I occasionally make things for my mom.  She had once admired this blouse, which I made in this peachy floral cotton silk blend some years ago.  

This blouse had some major flaws, such as failing to include interfacing in the collar and neckband.  Needless to say, you can’t really pop your collar, 80s-style, if your collar has no inner support.   

But mom like the design of the blouse.  So I offered to make her one for her birthday.  I presented her with two fabric options, and she ultimately chose this stretch cotton sateen.   This particular colorway is out of stock currently, but is available in a silver color palette. It’s a nice weight, easy to sew and would also make great shorts or pants.

I had fallen in love with this fabric when I saw it in person at Mood Fabrics in NYC.  The painterly swipes of pastel on the pinky-mauve background and the random black speckles are a nod to the  “memphis design” patterns so popular in the 1980s.   

There will be more about mom’s talents in the near future. This post is about her styling prowess and her substantial jewelry collection which includes some awesome artifacts from the 80s.  Recently I went home to visit my family for a few days.   When I asked to borrow the blouse I made her for a photo shoot, mom immediately ran upstairs to rifle through her walk-in closet. She came up with white shorts and light mauve flats to go with the blouse.  But the real magic happened when she presented these cloisonne earrings.  

"Mom, these are PERFECT!"

Those of us who were alive and shopping in the 80s may remember that cloisonne jewelry had a moment back then.   The dictionary describes cloisonne as “decorative work in which enamel, glass or gemstones are separated by strips of flattened wire placed edgeways on a metal backing.”  

Mom had even hung on to cloisonne earrings that once belonged to ME, circa 1985!

Once my outfit was complete, I was ready to model (I asked mom if she wanted to model her blouse but she was camera-shy).  Photography falls outside the vast realm of mom’s talents so that’s where my sister stepped in.  We all went out to my parents’ lovely backyard (yes, mom gardens too), where the three of us flowed together in creative harmony as my sister circled me with her iphone.

Jenn, get some closeups!

LOVE these earrings with this fabric

Hemline pleats and top stitched seam

Pop that collar

Mom called this my 80s scowl:

The buttons are mother of pearl.  Mom preferred to see the random green flecks on the backs of the buttons.  So they are sewn on “backwards.”

I did not make the welt pocket as shown on the pattern

Mom really likes her blouse and so do I.   She’s not going to let me have it, so I just have to keep on with my 80s sewing!

Special thanks to Jenn and Judy for helping me create this blog post!

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Silent Twins by Marjorie Wallace (1986)

I read The Silent Twins by Marjorie Wallace when it was initially published in 1986. I then forgot about the strange, sad and compelling story of the Gibbons twins for many years. Perhaps even decades.

Recently, I was trying to recall things that were important or memorable to me in the 1980s.  The faces of June and Jennifer Gibbons swam up from my unconscious like pearl-divers desperate for air. I immediately ordered a copy of the book, which I had once owned, and re-read it.

The copy I had in the 80s looked like this

After finishing the book back in the 80s,  I spent a LOT of time looking at the photographs.  Studying their faces, I wondered how it would be to live their lives, to experience life the way that they did.  There are several pictures of June and Jennifer photographed together, as identical twins often are.

Photo originally published in The Silent Twins.

Not that I envied them.  The book is an account of their first 20 years: from their births in 1963 to 1983, at which time they were residents of Broadmoor, the oldest high-security psychiatric hospital in England.

One could argue that June and Jennifer Gibbons were ensnared in one of the most co-dependent relationships in recorded history.  Ironically, Co-Dependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie was also first published in 1986. The book became an instant self-help classic and the term "co-dependent" became part of our lexicon.  

Co-dependency, in a nutshell, is when your actions and decisions are based almost entirely on your partner’s anticipated response and your core sense of self gets lost.

Mutually co-dependent, one twin would attempt to control the other, then the roles would reverse.  They frequently synchronized their movements and sometimes one would eat for both of them. When forcibly separated, they were miserable and couldn’t function.  Yet both twins were tormented by this fact and desperately wished to be free of the other. They became so enmeshed that the outside world faded and they created a universe of their own.  They dropped out of school, becoming almost totally isolated. They seldom spoke to other people, not even to their own family. Other issues were undoubtedly at play, but their main problem seemed to be their relationship itself.

Jennifer (left) and June. Photos from The Silent Twins

As teens, the girls yearned for “normal” experiences and other relationships. Experimentation in the "outside world" combined with their ongoing emotional turmoil eventually led to criminally destructive behavior. A court found them to be psychopathic and ordered them institutionalized.  

Marjorie Wallace first reported on their case for a newspaper and made friends with them.  She gained access to their copious diaries, stories and drawings. After the publication of The Silent Twins Wallace maintained her friendship with June and Jennifer, visiting them regularly at Broadmoor.  She never accepted the court’s diagnosis.

Years passed. On the morning of March 9, 1993, the twins were transferred from Broadmoor Hospital to Caswell Clinic, a minimum security facility where they would have partial freedom.  Within hours Jennifer was dead due to sudden acute myocarditis, sudden inflammation of the heart. She was 29 with no known heart problems. There was no evidence that drugs, poison or a virus had killed her. Pathologists could not explain her death. June was released from Caswell a year later and now lives a quiet life near her family.

Seeing as how I hadn’t kept up with their story after 1986, I was a bit shocked to find out that Jennifer had died.  Upon reflection however, it is sadly unsurprising. Shortly before the transfer to Caswell, Jennifer told Wallace, “I’m going to die.  We’ve decided." After her sister's death, June confided, "We were war-weary. It had been a long battle. Someone had to break the vicious circle.”

(Information about June and Jennifer’s lives after 1986 was found in these articles by Hilton Als in The New Yorker and Marjorie Wallace in The Guardian.)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Vogue 8924 (1985): Crop-Top with Puffy Sleeves and Matching Puffy Pants

In case you hadn’t heard, Puffy Sleeves Aren't Going Anywhere.

But even if they were going somewhere, I'd be all over this adorable two piece outfit:

When I think about puffy sleeves and the 80s, certain iconic images come to mind.  

Who could ever forget the epic wedding gown Lady Diana wore when she married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981?

Alexis Carrington had some absolutely gorgeous puff sleeves

Off the Shoulder Puffy Sleeve

Gorgeous sleeves.  The buttons!

I hunted around the internet for puffy sleeves and it’s true: this look is sold in stores and has been on trend since last year.

Red Valentino top available at
 I might have to copy this.

Harmonia Puffed Sleeve top, available at
The pleat is a nice detail

Yes, the 80s really are trending as evidenced in this Harper's Bazaar article. I was touched by this young writer’s once dismissive attitude toward the 1980s until she realized that actually, fashion today is “stagnant and boring.” She wore an over the top 80s inspired gown food-shopping in order to feel alive again.  Also, this young woman was rocking some incredible shoes with her dress, sold at

This shoe is BITCHIN

On a different occasion, she tones her look way down but still honors the 80s by wearing a blouse with “moderately puffed sleeves and shoulder pads” atop a pair of jeans.  Like the woman in this article, I also want to revisit some 80s looks without having people mistake me for a time-traveler.

I made Vogue 8924 in a blue and white striped seersucker.  Cotton seersucker is easy to work with, and I had no fitting issues with this pattern.  Size 12 fit just fine. I lengthened the pants by one inch which is a typical adjustment for me.

This puffy outfit comes to you straight from 1985 and needs no excuses or modifications.  It is 2019-ready!

Why, hello

I'm trying to copy the pose on the pattern

Love the texture of seersucker fabric

Here is the inside, or "wrong side" of the sleeve.  The sleeve-cap is gathered, creating a ruffle. It is then sewn into the armhole.  The pattern instructions say to iron the ruffle toward the sleeve, which helps the puffs to stand up and out better (especially in a crisp fabric like seersucker):

The pattern describes the top and pants as follows:   “loose-fitting, pullover, below waist top has back neck slit with button and loop, slightly cut-away armholes, shaped hemline, side zipper and short sleeves.  Slightly flared skirt, below mid-knee or tapered pants, above ankle, have waistband, back zipper and side pockets.”

It’s interesting to me that there is no mention of the gathered sleeve caps or that the pants are gathered at the waistband.  These are such defining elements and this outfit would look completely different without them.

The neck of the top is big enough that I can just slip over my head.  So the button and thread loop is essentially decorative and adds nice detail.  

It gave me the opportunity to practice making a thread loop, which isn’t hard, but there is a knack to it.  There are many short video tutorials online. This one was especially clear and helpful.

This outfit is comfortable and just a bit different. I'm really glad I made it. It's just right for early summer, which is right around the corner!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Wet n Wild: Your First Makeup is Your Next Skincare

Wet n Wild was many girls’ first makeup purchase at the drugstore in the 1980s.  And in the 1990s and 2000s because it is STILL only 99 cents for some lipsticks and nail polishes.

In my last two posts, I was wearing Silk Finish Lipstick: Fuchsia with Blue Pearl by Wet n Wild (99 cents at Walgreens).  

Before those posts, I hadn’t purchased a Wet N Wild product in at least 25 years.  But I vividly remember their glittery nail polishes and original 1980s packaging. Bethany at Reware Vintage unearthed these relics from the 1980s on a buying trip and took photographic evidence of her discovery:

Thanks, Bethany!

Wet n Wild was launched in Brooklyn in 1979 and then moved to Los Angeles in 2003 when it was purchased by Markwins International. They have always been cruelty-free and according to their website, sell a black eyeliner every 20 seconds.  How they figured that out, I don’t know, but it’s a pretty impressive stat. They also claim to be the first company to introduce black nail polish into drugstores, “fulfilling the dreams of goth kids everywhere.”

While exploring their website, I was surprised to discover that “for the first time in Wet n Wild history” they are introducing skincare, “a new territory” they are excited to explore.  The skincare collection is part of their Rebel Rose Limited Edition Collection, which features makeup brushes that look like roses with black, thorny stems. Rebel Rose has a gothic vibe, inviting you to “get lost in a secret garden surrounded by hauntingly delicate roses with an unexpected dark twist”, daring you to be “delicately strong, chicly grunge or eerily gorgeous.”  Very cool. I think I’m starting to like this new Wet n Wild!

The Rebel Rose Skincare Collection contains a Multi-Use Oil, Toner, Serum, Lip Balm and Lip Scrub for $24.99. Since I am often on the hunt for good skincare products, especially those containing Rose, I ordered it online (I have not seen these products in drugstores).

The first product I tried was the Lip Scrub.  It felt productively rough and it seemed to do a nice job exfoliating my lips.  It has a nice, sweet taste, is edible and leaves behind a pretty sheen.

On another occasion, I used the Tint of Corruption Jelly Lip Balm (the box includes two of these).  I was ready for a dark plum color or even black, something intense and goth. It’s nothing like that and bears little resemblance to lipstick.

It is, I suppose, a stick of jelly and is actually really really great.  Once applied, the color is a muted dark rose with a subtle purple tint. I now use a Tint of Corruption whenever I want a bit of color and shine.  Plus, I get a kick out of the name.

Everything, by the way, is in glass containers except for the jelly balm and all labeling is in English and French.  

Next up was the PhotoFocus Primer Serum.  I used it in the morning after I washed my face.  Its rose fragrance is natural and understated, more like rose water.   The serum has a watery consistency, and I used a lot of it, spreading it over my face in thin layers.  This experience was pleasant, like thinning out paint on a canvas. It was a little shiny and ever so slightly tacky on my skin.  A primer, I believe, is a prelude to makeup. So I then put powder on my face and it seemed to hold onto the powder well.

That night, I sprayed a whole lot of the PhotoFocus Rose Toner (which also has a soft, non-cloying rose scent similar to the serum) onto a cotton pad and wiped my face with it.  It took off so much dirt! My face didn’t feel tight afterward, so even though it has alcohol it wasn’t too drying.

The next morning, I used the PhotoFocus Multi-Purpose Oil.  I’m a big believer in moisturizing one’s face with an oil. Back in the 80s I’d never do that.  Face care was all about oil control and drying out acne with Sea Breeze Astringent. I also routinely traumatized my skin with Buf-Pufs and Aapri Facial Scrub.  Check out the copy of this print ad from the April 1985 issue of Vogue (thank you, Rachel!):

Stop babying your skin, brutalize it

Tough, rough, coarse, more concentrated, more abrasive than ever….Why not just rub sandpaper on your face?  My skin feels raw just reading these words.

But Wet n Wild’s Multi-Purpose Oil was the complete opposite of that feeling.  It was heavenly! The scent was lovely, like the other products. I massaged a generous amount into my face.  Over the next few hours, the oil sank into my skin, which felt pillowy soft and hydrated all day. My face was not greasy or oily in the least.

The verdict?  For $24.99 (and they threw in a few makeup samples) this is a good deal.   The quality of these products is high, and they are not sample sized. I like that even the droppers in the serum and oil bottles are made of glass.   In all honesty, I am impressed. I’m sure I will use these products and enjoy them.

The Maddie Hayes Look

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