It’s National Sewing Month! To celebrate, AllFreeSewing.com is hosting a special blog series throughout the entire month. Check back daily for posts featuring our favorite projects, new sewing videos and tutorials, guest blogs from talented designers and more. We’re also giving away a HUGE sewing prize at the end of the month. You won’t believe how EASY it is to WIN!
Leave a comment on any of the blog posts with the headline “National Sewing Month”. Your comment will count as an entry into the giveaway. You are free to comment as often as once per blog post (for a total of 30 chances to win!). At the end of the month, we’ll pool all of the comments together and pick one lucky winner to win the mystery grand prize. And trust us; you want to win this one!
Whether you’re already a sewing enthusiast or new to the craft, our hope is that this September will encourage you to create wonderful sewn projects.
Here’s today’s post:
Kathleen Farris is a costumer from Memphis, Tennessee who has made costumes for hundreds of theater performances, concerts, ballets, operas, and films over the past two decades. I recently talked to her about her latest work sewing for the film The Help as part of costume designer Sharen Davis’ team. This week, I’ll show you a behind-the-scenes look at her work making costumes for the character Elizabeth Leefolt, played by Ahna O’Reilley.
Last week, I gave you an insider’s look at Kathleen Farris’ handiwork in The Help making costumes for the character Elaine Stein. Kathleen also made dresses for the character of Elizabeth Leefolt, one of the white residents of Jackson, Mississippi and a childhood friend of Skeeter and Hilly. Elizabeth’s daughter, a little girl named Mae Mobley, has been primarily raised by her black maid, Aibileen, while Elizabeth attends social functions.
In the movie and the book, Elizabeth desperately wants to be included in Jackson’s high class social circle, but she is not wealthy enough to buy the expensive, fashionable dresses of her peers. She compensates by making her own dresses, with limited success.
Kathleen sewed or altered most of Elizabeth’s costumes. In accordance with Elizabeth’s character in the book, Kathleen needed to make everything Elizabeth wore look homemade. The lavender dress pictured below was made using a 1950s Butterick pattern. Kathleen used a shiny, floral polyester and included a raw neckline, unfinished hems, and untrimmed threads hanging out at the seams.
Kathleen actually made two versions of this dress; the one pictured above is less completed than the one in the scene below, during which Elizabeth’s character is attending a bridge party.
The following photo shows Kathleen posing with another of Elizabeth’s dresses, a cotton cowl-collar dress with chenille dots and 3/4 pleats. The costume team dyed the fabric blue because white clothing often appears overly bright on camera.
Kathleen posing behind Elizabeth’s
blue dress on a mannequin
Some of Elizabeth’s clothes were pulled from a stock of vintage 1960s clothes ordered from a costume warehouse in Los Angeles. Kathleen altered and embellished many of them to fit Ahna O’Reilley and to complement her performance.
One of our readers, Pam Thompson, posed a couple of questions for Kathleen on last week’s post. Check out Kathleen’s answers below!
Pam: How much research did the costumers do to make the clothes seem authentic to the time period?
Kathleen: The costume designer [Sharen Davis] had a 1962 Montgomery Ward catalog that we referenced for design ideas, and we had a number of vintage patterns from that time period. Some of us were old enough to remember that era, and there are plenty of TV shows from then that we could access on YouTube.
Pam: How much influence did the descriptions from the book have on the choices of costumes (color etc.)?
Kathleen: There was an effort to stay true to the book; however, the costume designer gets hired for her interpretation of the story. For example, the maids’ uniforms are white in the book, but the designer chose gray for the movie. A few of the costumes on screen were actual vintage clothing from that era, so the colors and styles are true to that time.
So, have you seen the movie? What did you think? Which costume was your favorite? Post your questions and comments below, and Kathleen will answer them next week when I write about her work on Mae Mobley’s costumes and her contributions with the rest of the costume team!
In the meantime, look at these amazing vintage clothing patterns from AllFreeSewing.com!
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