Friday, January 6, 2012

Lonely Heart Costumes continued -Martha's Suit

This is the real Martha Beck during her trial in 1949. We wanted her to wear a replica of this in the show as she is wearing it in several of the photos that come up in searches and in books about them.
So, in order to make a garment from a photo, it requires some research. And a bit of imagination!
What are the sparkly things? What Is that squiggly thing around the neck? Is it really a dress? What colour is it?
We answered number 3 by careful study of this image. Can you see a hemline cutting across the right hand corner of the photo? It is there. Evidence that this Dress is really a Suit! Score one!
The rest of the answers arrived via the Dreamstress on 27 December when she came up to camp to sew with me in the little dining room of fun. She bore patterns and books, including this one:

Sears, where would we be without you?! What real people wore, no Hollywood interventions.
So, imagine the squeals when we found these two images:

Love the poses! Both from the 1949 catalogue, one Woman's, one Teen's. Now Martha would be a Gracious Lady according to the twisted euphemisms of the time i.e. fat with a big bust, so the exact suit would be in a different section. Given that we are only looking at snippets of these catalogues, I reckon we'd find the actual suit in the full version. And this was enough to confirm my suspicions about the style of the suit.
The other exciting thing about this is that it also confirms my suspicions about Martha - who would have been just the kind of person to order something from Sears, and choose the only one with a touch of bling!
It answered the questions: sparkly things are nailheads on the Woman's and  sequins on the Teen's. The Woman's comes in black with silver, moss green with gold and grey with silver. No intel on the squiggly thing but that's OK as it won't 'read' on stage anyway.
So, here's my 'take' on it, close up.

Nailheads replaced with an attainable solution - square silver sequins secured with a silver bead (Thank you to the Embroidenator for sewing them on! xo) Squiggle is enlarged and done in silver soutache/russian braid, with assistance from my 12 year old stepdaughter Amelia, who patiently sat and sewed all the points down for me! She is amazing! The suit is of a credible viscose crepe in very dark, navy blue, in keeping with my ban on black.

And here is Bryony again in the almost completed suit. The skirt is slightly A line, the peplum is a quarter circle that tapers so a point at the back. All credible elements based on the catalogue.

Now of course this is a perfect example of how stage and reality/accuracy are strange bedfellows. The lines, cut, drape and external finishing of the suit are all in keeping with the time. The elements are enlarged so as to read on stage, but they are executed carefully and are still in keeping with the time. Sequins and soutache are perfectly acceptable 1949 elements. I COULD have gone hunting for the exact suit, and if anyone has a link to it, I'd love to see it, but I had enough to work with. I wonder how Sears felt about their garment being so widely published on the most notorious murderer of the century so far...
Now onto the next challenges :)


  1. Very nice work, I wish I could come see your production in action! Grrrr to being poor!

  2. Grr to being on the other side of the Earth! :-) So thanks for sharing this.

  3. I just love how this all came together! And I love that suit. Bryony looks so amazing in it!

    Now I'm thinking I want one for me :-)

  4. It IS cute isn't it! I can see you in the one wiht the scalloped hem, and you can have some of the braid that keeps on giving to make the pretty :)
    And thank you for the compliment about accuracy. WE both know that there are secrets beneath, but if it shows or shows through, it's pretty close :)