Wednesday, July 31, 2019

McCall's 8498 (1983): The Jumpsuit Formerly Known as Diahann Carroll's Clamdiggers

When I first encountered McCall’s 8498, I was immediately drawn to the stare-down leveled at me by Diahann Carroll:

Beloved by Dynasty fans everywhere, Diahann Carroll played diva Dominique Deveraux from 1984-1987.  

On her first day on the Dynasty set she sat down for an interview between takes:

She tells the interviewer that Dominique is one of the most “unlikeable” characters she’s ever played, and that’s what she wanted.  Minority actors, she states, often feel required to play “nice” people and Diahann wanted to break out of that. With a smile, she says, “I wanted to be the first black bitch on television.”  Elsewhere, I read that she suggested the writers imagine her as a powerful white man when writing her lines. This combo of attitude and writing ensured that her inner bitch was operating on all cylinders for her first encounter as Dominique with Joan Collins’ Alexis Carrington Colby in Alexis’ penthouse:

Dominique socially knee-caps Alexis by stating that Alexis’ champagne “was obviously frozen in the bottle at some point” and therefore undrinkable.  The shame! Alexis tries to recover by offering caviar which Dominique turns down because she can tell (on sight) that it’s Ostetrova and she prefers Petrossian beluga.   Well, who doesn’t?

The moment before you find out your champagne is unacceptable

I first wanted to make View B of McCall’s 8498, which has the capri pants option.  I was going to make it with a white broadcloth on the top and this cotton fabric with a yellow/white/grey clamshell pattern for the bottom:

All three Dynasty Divas (Diahann Carroll, Joan Collins and Linda Evans who played Krystle Carrington) had their names on McCall’s patterns in the 1980s.   The pattern makers were capitalizing on the popularity of Dynasty and channelling the characters’ glamour.  

Never leave home without your fur.

I had planned to call the blog post "Diahann Carroll's Clamdiggers" because of the nifty alliteration, not to mention the clever allusion to the shell fabric. But soon, I realized that making this pattern in this fabric (from Wal-Mart no less!) and calling it clamdiggers would be a total abomination, like expecting the Queen of England to wear tie-dye. Once I realized how wrong it would be to even connect the name Diahann Carroll with the word Clamdiggers, I scrapped the Wal-Mart cotton and entertained more luxurious notions.

I had some silky satiny and scary Charmeuse fabric that I had planned to use for this pattern:

I can so see Blanche from the Golden Girls in this jacket, can't you?

Charmeuse has a glossy satin finish on one side, with a duller finish on the other.  Like a Diva, it is beautiful, swishy, often seen at balls or galas, and can be notoriously DIFFICULT to work with.  You could say that, sometimes, sewing charmeuse is a real bitch. 

In fact, I scrapped the plans I had for McCall’s 3167 because right off the bat, the fabric for the jacket back inset puckered and frayed when I tried to insert it, and there was no saving it.  

So I had some jacket fabric left over, in addition to another piece of charmeuse I had planned to use for the dress.   So I bravely switched gears and decided to use the charmeuse for McCall’s 8498.

But first, I had to test run this pattern in order to work out any bugs before starting to sew it in the charmeuse.   Don’t tell Dominique, but I used an old bedsheet as my muslin fabric!

This bedsheet is a green khaki color, and it actually looks pretty good.  There were no fitting issues to work out either. When the test piece comes out well, some call it a “wearable muslin” and into the closet it goes.

Tune in later this week to see McCall’s 8498 in a version that I can only hope will be Diva-worthy!

Hoping? You'll need to do better than that.

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