For the love of a pattern-matched seam

I am just in love with this feat of dressmaking, and had to share it for no other reason than that.

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This is a dress that Michelle Williams wears in the 2014 film* adaptation of Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise. I’m just in awe of the skill that went into both the design and the making of it. The more I look at it, the more I notice how well made it is, and how the pattern, which could potentially be either boringly uniform or head achingly busy and messy, is arranged with elegance and restraint. The balance of straight grain and bias is perfect. And the pattern matching! Spend a few minutes really looking at it, and you’ll see how the yoke and the front panel are perfectly matched, how the faux pocket flaps on the chest match the bias panels underneath, and how the setting of the bias arms picks up the rhythm of the bias below, appearing to match even while they are a totally separate section of the garment. How the bias pocket lids on the hips meet the straight grain of the actual pockets, so that the black lines seem to be one continuous dogleg movement. How the pattern is angled on the collars so that the black comes to rest on black, so that there is no incongruity near the face to distract the eye. That is one well thought-out dress.

I do love me some wondrously pattern-matched seams!

In fact, I am here going to brag and show you the summit of my own pattern matching, in a dress I made a year ago for my cousin’s wedding. Will you look at that, and tell me for sure a thrill doesn’t go through you at the sight of that nigh-invisible seam?

That film is full of gorgeous dressmaking. Michelle Williams wears a small select wardrobe, mostly utility dresses and tea dresses. Most of them are more whimsical and feminine than this plaid one, but they are all characterised by a very chic kind of restraint. No opulent Hollywood fantasy wardrobe here – this is a realistic depiction of the closet of a  middle-class parochial young woman, albeit a very well-dressed one with artistic and aesthetic sensitivity. She doesn’t wear masses of make-up; she doesn’t wear a different outfit every day; her hair is semi natural-looking: and yet she has a kind of quiet elegance that to me is far more chic than the ubiquitous 40s pin-up look. There are more pictures to be found in this blog post (the post is in Spanish which is not a language I speak, and so I haven’t a clue what it says. However the photos give a very good overview of Williams’s outfits.)

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Incidentally I think the film itself is pretty good. I read the book some years ago, so I am working from memory here. The film’s producers have chosen to tell only one of the book’s three parts. I can understand why, because the other two parts are so full of such depressingly awful people. This is the only section of the book that has sympathetic characters, and who can resist a doomed love story? The film’s director never gives into the sentiment though, which is what made it a success for me. The kind of balance and care that went into the costumes is felt throughout the whole film.

Sorry for such a gush post. I just had to gush and get it out of my system.

*What we here in the UK call a film, you might call a movie if you live on the other side of the Atlantic.

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