Hop in your time machines everybody! We’re going forward to the 1960s!
1. Yes, it was time travel week on the Sewing Bee this week, beyond the level at which you could argue that every single week is time travel week on this show because of the way it exists in some sort of vague era that blends post-war austerity and make-do-and-mend with revitalising trips to the trendy neighbourhood coffee bar between rounds and…whatever decade Claudia, Patrick and Esme are meant to be from, I still haven’t quite figured it out. (What if they’re the real time travellers? I’m calling it now: Patrick for the new Doctor Who, with Claudia and Esme as his companions.) Anyway, this week at least we can definitely pinpoint the goings-on to the 1960s, complete with era-appropriate equipment, Joyce reminiscing about the good old days, and all of the garments being modelled by Edie Sedgwick, Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy.
The latest line-up of the Pussycat Dolls has gone in an unexpected direction, hasn’t it?
3. To set the scene for the pattern challenge, the contestants were provided with vintage 1960s singer sewing machines, much to the delight of Joyce and the obvious horror of Rumana. The challenge was to make a 1960s classic shift dress, but the sting in the tail came with the announcement that it would be colour-blocked and made of 14 pieces, so the challenge was really part dress, part giant colourful jigsaw puzzle. Rumana admitted to being at a slight disadvantage because her family were still in Bangladesh in the 1960s, so she doesn’t really have many stories of her gran zooming down Carnaby Street on the back of Roger Daltrey’s Vespa like some of the others do. Jade, meanwhile, revealed that her main source of knowledge for the 1960s is the film Hairspray. Patrick demonstrated what we should be expecting from this challenge while Esme
took advantage of the downtime to road-test one of the costumes she’s designed for the all-new Grotbags reboot. She’s edgy! She’s in your face! She gets biz-zay, consistently and thoroughly! Patrick explained that the choice of colours in this challenge is critical, and Esme added that she hoped the contestants’ personalities would come out in the test, like a sort of kaleidoscopic Rorschach test. (Just spitballing: Joyce will pick the colours that remind her of her favourite cocktails, and Tracey will pick whichever ones will make the final design look a bit like a willy, cackling as she does so.) The room seemed split between those who were seizing the opportunity to make their designs as bold as possible (Tracey, Angeline) and those who were being very cautious in their approach (Charlotte, Joyce, Rumana) admittedly with one who absolutely defied categorisation (Jade, who decided to go for monochrome shades in a colour-block challenge, which is either incredibly daring or incredibly conservative and I haven’t entirely made my mind up yet, though needless to say it was a big hit with Claudia). Drama-wise, the main point of concern was Angeline accidentally mis-reading her pattern and putting the panels together as a mirror image of what they were supposed to be, without time to unpick it and start again. There was also trouble for everyone when it came to including the lapped zip, because it was very fiddly and nobody’s first attempt worked properly. The judges were very exacting, and Patrick reached for his ruler several times (including a cutaway to Charlotte snorting when Patrick said “I’m going to grab my stick”, that’s why Charlotte’s my favourite). Demerits went to Tracey for some sloppy execution and for using contrasted colours in her top-stitching, and to Jade whose colours Esme liked but whose dress wasn’t terribly well put together. Charlotte narrowly missed out on first place by not quite getting the zip right, and the top spot went to Joyce once again as all of her first-hand experience worked out rather well for her.
4. I know what you’re really here for though, right? Pull up a chair because here come JOYCE’S SIXTIES MEMOIRS:
– She remembers going to see Marty Wilde in concert.
– (He’s Kim Wilde’s dad, just in case you didn’t know.)
– She preferred Elvis to Cliff Richard, and she had all of his records and posters all over her wall.
– She remembers the decade as “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” but didn’t specify how involved she got in the first two.
That’s all for this week. Next week, it’s Dressing For Buckfast: Patrick Grant’s Guide To 1980s Edinburgh, don’t miss it.
5. This week’s History Bit filled in the history of the shift dress, getting very BBC2 about it by telling us how Yves Saint Laurent used it as a canvas to express his love of modern art, particular Mondrian. This was, apparently, an era in which haute couture wasn’t quite so elitist as it is now because, knowing that only a small percentage of people could afford a genuine YSL shift dress, Yves Saint Laurent made the pattern for the dress widely available so that the less well-off could run their own up at home, right down to including the labels with the pattern so you could make your homespun effort about as convincing as it was ever going to get. (This week’s History Bit was very short and to the point, but sometimes that’s fine.)
6. Claudia’s introduction for the alteration challenge was a little odd: she said that they’d be working with a fabric that was “all the craze” back in the 1960s (PVC raincoats) and emphasised “craze” like it was a pun, but I can’t make sense of it if it was. Did the Krays wear PVC raincoats in the 1960s? Everyone squealed at the awfulness of it all and seized the materials and got to work while Patrick and Esme showed us some examples of clothes you can make from PVC. Patrick reminisced about having a PVC jacket with matching sou’wester as a kid (“sweated like billy-o in it”) and I giggled at the very idea of May Martin judging this challenge if she were still with us. Clearly something about PVC released the same spirit that inspired Heather to do riding bondage for the final challenge in series two as everyone giggled about how they were going to do something dreadfully daring and Angeline and Rumana set about cutting the coats into tiny pieces in order to display as much cleavage as physically possible. Even reliably smutty Claudia seemed slightly taken aback by it all, looking at Jade’s plans and remarking with heavy irony “yes, who doesn’t want a lilac see-through PVC crop top?” before going full
Ann Perkins right down the camera lens. Joyce, meanwhile, went in the complete opposite direction to everyone else and decided to make a nice, respectable artist’s smock with extra pockets for all your brushes. I love Joyce so much. (Having stated early on in the challenge that you couldn’t pay her enough money to wear PVC, Joyce later suggested that perhaps her husband could wear it. Did I mention I love Joyce?) The limitations of PVC quickly became apparent the second anyone went near it with a sewing machine (having thankfully had their modern ones returned) because it was sticky and rigid. Rumana finished early, having decided that there was no point in continuing to fuss with her garment just for the sake of fussing, and immediately ran into Claudia’s arms to ask if she could do the time reminders for everyone else.
I mean it’s certainly possible that I’ll find a cuter screengrab than this one before the end of the series, but I don’t see how. After ripping her garment while putting it on the mannequin, Angeline took sixth place, mostly because Esme was concerned about the split front being far too exposed to ever properly cover a woman’s bazooms, and Charlotte – who had only used the mac for materials in a bid to show her creativity – found that strategy backfiring as she only finished fifth. Rumana was runner-up with this
eye-catching and provocative red number (that even Rumana admitted she would probably have to distract her mum from seeing when the show aired), which would have probably been my pick for the winner, but top of the pile went to Joyce once again for her hot pink smock, which Patrick declared “almost edible”. Joyce, of course, vowed to celebrate with two chardonnays, one for each of her wins. Let the record show that the recapper made the “drinky drinky” motion.
7. So going into the final round, Joyce and Charlotte were heading up the pack with Tracey, Jade and Angeline on notice. The made-to-measure challenge was to demonstrate their tailoring skills by making a jacket from a 1960s-style pattern and using appropriate fabrics, with an interesting twist here being that the sewers were allowed to pre-cut their pieces as long as they did all the fitting and construction within the allotted time. Have they ever done that before? I assume it’s a very complicated job and they only had a limited amount of studio time so this was the best compromise. Charlotte took inspiration from Jackie Kennedy while Joyce went for a peacoat remarkably similar to my own (hi Joyce!), apparently driven by her residual Elvis thirst because he had a jacket quite like it once. Continuing the celebrity theme, Rumana went for an Audrey Hepburn-style A-line coat, and while Angeline never actually said as much out loud, I’m pretty sure her psychedelic coat with orange and yellow fur trim was inspired by Animal from the Muppets – at least until Patrick called it “fancy dress”, at which point she decided to bin the trim. Jade took a different approach, aiming to impress with the precision of her sewing rather than the scale of her garment and made a cropped jacket that she painstakingly pattern-matched to the point where, when put on the spot, Claudia couldn’t find the seams. And Tracey made a cardigan jacket with grown-on sleeves (inspired by one her mum wore on honeymoon), which I think means they’re cut as part of the body of the jacket rather than being stitched-on separately, although it sort of sound like the sort of ailment someone’s unseen child might have in a Gothic novel. We also learned about the importance of interfacing (pretty sure it says on my Grindr profile that I’m into facing), which is extra fabric that you put on the underside to stiffen a garment right up. And all the while Patrick and Esme looked upon the whole thing like minor Dickensian villains.
Let’s call them Thilda Verybad and Baron Jeresford Cruelstreak.
8. There were a lot of tears at the end of the round as Rumana realised that her buttonholes were askew and Tracey got a bit overwhelmed thinking about how her mother would be proud of her, but what did the judges make of it all? Esme was very pleased with Tracey’s grown-on sleeves, but Patrick thought it needed more pressing and noticed that the lining was still showing in a few places. Charlotte’s Jackie O coat
(complete with hat made out of a cereal box <3) got good notes apart from one side of the coat being slightly lower than the other, and Rumana's bright red coat (she does like red, does our Rumana) was also well-received apart from the lining dragging down the hem and the obvious fact that her buttons were in the wrong place. Joyce's navy peacoat caused controversy when Patrick said that, while he could see it was well-constructed, it looked more 80s than 60s to him and Joyce looked set to body-charge him straight through the window. Jade's coat looked absolutely spot-on and received compliments from Esme and Patrick without ever getting to the "but…" that Jade was anticipating, and as for Angeline?
Oh, Angeline. I’m sure at some point in the planning process this must have seemed like a good idea but: no. She did get points for boldness and impact, but the fit was lumpy, it lacked interfacing, and the hem was an absolute state. Patrick did credit her for the decision to leave off the fur trim, though Angeline wondered if it might have been better to leave it on to hide the hem. Or she could’ve just blindfolded Patrick and Esme with it, either’s good.
9. Esme and Patrick decided to mix things up a bit for garment of the week this week by considering items from rounds other than the made-to-measure: Jade’s cropped jacket (yes, okay, that was from the MTM round, but bear with me) was so good that it pulled her out of all consideration for elimination and shortlisted her for GOTW, and Joyce’s colour-block dress from the pattern challenge was also in contention. In the end
convention won out, however, and it was indeed Jade’s jacket that took home this week’s trophy shaped like a lava lamp with a mood ring on the top. Heavy, man.
10. And thanks to Jade forcibly dragging herself out of the danger zone at the last minute, that meant it was either Angeline or Tracey going home this week. For some reason the judges declared the alteration challenge more or less a six-way tie that Tracey “shaded” over Angeline (reminder: Tracey was third, Angeline was sixth), so the deliberation came down to the other two rounds: Angeline’s colour-block dress was better than Tracey’s, but in the final round Tracey made a jacket and Angeline made a cushion cover. So who went home?
Yeah, I liked Angeline a lot, but based on this week’s performance it was hard to argue a case for her to stay. She dropped the ball in the round that’s usually her strongest, and it cost her. She took it in good spirits, but we’ve reached the stage now where it’s genuinely hard to see anyone go. (Sorry Josh, no offence.)
Next week: Chris will be spending several hours looking at stretchy activewear on the internet. As per usual.