Halfway through this series we go back to halfway through the last century.
1. Yes, it was 1950s Week this week on the Bee, a fact sadly not heralded by Claudia barrelling into the episode dressed as Doc Brown in a cloud of fog, grabbing Patrick by his lapels and yelling “WE’VE GOTTA GO BACK PATTY, BACK TO THE FUTURE!” before a series of delightful hijinks that involve Ryan almost impregnating his own mother. Instead there were only two real differences to the aesthetic of the show – firstly the 1950s setting made the episode’s soundtrack marginally more modern and up-to-date than usual, and secondly the high-tech futuristic cutting-edge sleek edges of the sewing room were replaced by a whole bunch of old Singer sewing-machines May found in a skip whilst putting the bins out. Given that of our starting line-up of ten, only two of them (sorry ladies) were alive in the 1950s, and one of them was sent back to milk her moo-cows two weeks ago, the stage was set for the biggest collected of shot nerves and frayed edges since…well, they let Alex get hold of the scissors last week. Despite this, Neil seemed most excited of all to be going back in time, becaue apparently way back in the 50s, “women were women”. As opposed to now, when they’re raccoons trapped under a Cleopatra wig (Claudia <3). Or May. Glamorous Neela on the other hand, was horrified by having to go back to an era where wearing sunglasses on your forehead (her signature style trait) at all times would have left you arrested for gross indecency. No joking about your husband’s 9-inch zipper here. It turns out her fears were…not ill-founded
2. The Pattern Challenge this week was to create a Walkaway Dress (part of the Kelly Clarkson Collection, along with the My Life Would Suck Without You Halter Top, the Miss Independent Ladies Tailored Suit, and The Breakaway range of brassieres), a dress that was very popular in the 50s due to the fact that you could cut it out over breakfast and then WALK AWAY in it at lunchtime. May’s face at this point suggested that by teatime…
well, your sexy new dress may have landed you a tasty dish indeed. (Patrick for his part was appalled that anyone would get out of bed so early as to start sewing for breakfast. Patrick likes a lie-in is what he’s saying ladies. Do with that information what you will). The dress sounded simplicity itself, made up as it is of only three main sections – the main bit, an apron at the back, and a great big flouncy skirt underneath. – with the complications mostly arising due to the old machinery the contestants were slaving away at. As always in these Throwback Weeks, your mind went immediately to how the youngest contestants would fare, having all learnt to sew on space-age moon-machines that attach the buttons for you with lasers, and of this year’s 20somethings it seemed to be Deborah who had the initial advantage, as it turned out her self-made wedding dress
PICTURED HERE was 50s retro themed, whilst the other baby of the group, Ryan, fretted away in the corner and contantly reminding himself to keep it simple because he’d never used an old sewing machine before. Of course, as with every instance of this sort of narrative in reality tv history, it was Ryan who triumphed, finishing 1st in the challenge with his neat and simple dress, and Deborah who crashed and burned, finishing 7th with overambitious satin bias binding that meant she wasn’t able to finish her dress in time. Those of you who can count however will realise that Deborah did not come last. That honour was reserved for Amanda, who actually easily could done better if she’d made THE EXACT PATTERN used for the challenge when it came up on a sewing blog that she followed weeks before, but chose not to. The lesson here – ALWAY PAY ATTENTION TO BLOGS, AND DO EVERYTHING WE SAY. NOW SEND £10 IN A SEALED ENVELOPE TO MONKSEAL VILLAS, GLAMOUROUS WEST LONDON, CS4 3VA. (Maybe Amanda was just in shock from Claudia declaring that she hated 50s fashion, and everything connected to it, for no reason, halfway through the challenge) (Claudia <3).
3. Also taking up podium spots in the Walkaway Dress Challenge were Matt and Neil. In fact the four XYs in the cast took up the top four slots in the challenge (Lorna and Neela both failed becaue of their loops, which were too big, too sloppy, and in Neela’s case, entirely the wrong place), leaving the ladies to contemplate their likely ultimate eventual ultimate fates in this YEAR OF THE MAN. More crucially the challenge saw an almost-alliance form between Neil and Matt, with the former asking the latter to help him disengage his needle (…), and then later the two of them collaborating by comparing edging techniques (……). Sadly, Neil’s raw edging techniques left Matt’s piece looking a bit frayed at the end, but Matt still managed to pip Neil to the silver medal because of the latter’s inappropriate use of holes, thus up-ending the alpha Neil-beta Matt arrangement of their relationship for the first time this series. Hopefully their bromance can withstand it. Their joined success apparently was due to their daring in using a binding-foot, which Lorna dismissed as just a gadget, which she would not use, as “gadgets are for boys”. And where did that attitude get you Lorna? FIFTH. Oh and we also met Mrs Matt and Mrs Neil in a bit more detail this week, with Mrs Matt telling us all that she just points at dresses in magazines and makes Matt make them for her (such a beta <3) and Mrs Neil telling us Neil wooed her at University by making ballgowns for her, which she then threw in the bin afterwards. Which is fair enough because I’m fairly sure
this one was lining it beforehand anyway.
4. This week’s History Bit, following last week’s Waistcoat War featured YET ANOTHER battle in the long rivalry between Britain and France on the fields of fashion. This time around Christian Dior’s New Look. Apparently the ladies of Britain ached to wear the designs stomping the catwalks of Paris, the boulevards of Nice, and the back-allies of Boulougne, but the British Government said NO, because rationing of fabric was still in effect and New Look dresses often took 10 metres of it to make. Or, if you’re the British Government, 33 feet (BLOODY FRENCH AND THEIR WEIRD MEASUREMENTS, WHAT’S WRONG WITH PERCHES AND ROODS DAMNIT, GOOD OLD WAYS THAT’LL LAST FOREVER). Of course, British women being British women, they completely ignored the government and made the dresses anyway. Forefront at this movement were Barbara, Pat and Jean :
aka the New Look Bandits. They were all reunited to coo over the dresses they made and wore as a celebration of the freedom and liberation they felt at the ending of wartime. Then Barabara brained Pat with a walking stick because she wouldn’t tell her where she’d hit that cache of Bar suits they nicked off the back of a lorry in Dieppe in 1947. Bloody scenes, bloody scenes.
5. Claudia announced this week’s Alteration Challenge by telling us all that the hills were alive. Sadly this did not presage the contestants converting a set of wimples into sexy negligees, but instead the next best thing – making a dress out of a pair of hideous old 50s curtains. And, as has been the case more often than not in this challenge of late, it was ambition that won the day, with the most simple designs sinking to the bottom of the heap no matter how well made they were. Indeed it’s apparent that the two least lauded outfit in the challenge (Neela and Paul’s) are also the two with the shortest descriptions on the show’s wikipedia page (“Top” and “Skirt”). Deborah also continued her losing streak with her Panelled Wrap Skirt, although given that she was modelling it on something that, by her own admission, looked like a “circus tent” and which she only wore once, I’m not sure what she was expecting. Meanwhile elsewhere, Neil reassserted his dominance over Matt with a gorgeous looking halter-neck dress that probably only missed out on the overall win because it was held together by pins and had massive holes in it (what was I saying about ambition over precision in this challenge?), Lorna came roaring back with a mustard coloured skirt with a MASSIVE PATTERN and apron-tie bow for the win, Patrick and May’s passive aggressive war over the pronounciation of “bolero” continued apace as they discussed Ryan’s men/rent boy’s shirt without buttons, and Amanda placed well with a prom dress straight out of the Born To Hand-Jive scene from Grease, meaning that this week’s elimination by this point was looking like a straight run-off between Deborah and Neela, with the outside chance of Paul going. (LOL not really though, YEAR OF THE MAN, HE’S NOT GOING ANYWHERE! BOY POWER!)
6. Apropos of Not-This-Episode, based on the BBC’s coverage of London Fashion Week, Patrick’s moustache is now a full beard once more. I’ll try to keep you updated as we head towards the final.
7. The special word of the day for the Made-To-Measure challenge this week was “sheer”, raising the very real possibility of some very un1950s, visible-nipple action. Sadly, this was not to be, although Matt’s dress was so see-through it’s hard to believe that there wasn’t a lot of footage on the cutting room floor considered “unfit for broadcast”. Contestants were told to produce a blouse that skirted the edge of decency and left everyone scandalised and unfortunately, this is probably the challenge where the toll of using ancient machines with 72 different hooks and latches and eyes took its greatest toll, as very few of the resulting outfits escaped the harshest of criticism that May and Patrick have to offer (eg : “it’s SUCH a shame…”). Amanda being told “well…it looks nice…from a distance” was amongst the fulsome praise being offered, as everyone ran around unfinished with ragged edges and visible bobbles. So it was that Deborah, previously on the edge of elimination, could breathe a sigh of relief as she managed to place an obvious second, even with wonky buttons on the back. Matt meanwhile finished his descent from beating Neil at the episode’s onset by being told that it looked like a dog had been at his dress although Neil himself fared little better, with Patrick dismissing his one-piece blouse complete with tit-slings as being ill-conceived from the outset. Oh well.
8. This week’s episode of The Great British Sewing Bee began with Claudia telling us that in the six challenges that took place over the first two episodes, Lorna had finished second in every single one of them. This could only mean one of two things – either Lorna was about to collapse to a SHOCK BOOT, or Lorna was about to get her bum in gear and start winning things before she turned 70. Lorna of course, after the humiliation of being BEATEN BY BOYS in the first challenge, took the latter course, winning both of the last two challenges of the episode. In the case of the Made-To-Measure Challenge I would put this down more to how her model was
WERKING IT, than the actual blouse (when Patrick has to start raving about the BEAUTIFUL STRAIGHT NECK-LINE AT THE BACK for something to say you know it’s been a rum challenge) but what’s not in doubt is that Lorna used Garment Of The Week as a springboard to create the Greatest Inneundo In Sewing Bee History.
“I might take it in tonight, just after midnight, after I’ve had a wine or two”.
Even if this being the YEAR OF THE MAN holds her back from the crown, nobody’s beating that.
9. With Deborah having redeemed herself and Paul’s blouse only being a little bit rubbish, sadly this week’s elimination was never really in doubt, especially as Neela’s sheer blouse resembled a Ty-Foo, all unncessary billoughing and visible clasps. It’s a shame, and I’ll miss Neela and her impeccable style and general air of a rich man’s PA at a yacht party in an episode of Murder She Wrote circa 1990 but we’ve only got two more episodes before the final and we need to start cutting these people a lot faster. To be honest, would anybody have been sorry if we’d cut Amanda or even Paul along with her? Time’s a wasting.
10. Speaking of being halfway through, it’s time for the obligatory MIDWAY POLLS. Three episodes in. Personally my Predictive Power Ranking so far would look like this :
but who knows whether Ryan’s temperament will hold together or whether Matt will unleash another dose of BETA POWER all over everyone in the weeks still to come? Or if there will be a Drag Queen Challenge. Paul must be prayin’…