SEWING BEE 2019, EPISODE 3: Thumb Thong

Even in a week where Ben is dressed as a cowboy and Joe Lycett is wearing a tinsel fringed jacket Janet somehow still manages to top everyone with a pair of pigtails:

janet pigtails

It’s the new Rachel.

Be Flared, Be Very Flared

Kicking off the 70s retrospective are the staples of anyone embarrassed about the size of their ankles: the flared trousers! And in true 70s style everyone goes for some rather despicable fabrics by which I mean there is a lot of corduroy and velvet as well as the migraine inducing paisley vortex that Mercedes obviously immediately gravitated towards; how does she keep managing to top her bad taste? I truly adore her.

Time management plagues most of the sewers, particularly Ben who has a stitching catastrophe and has to unpick and re-sew followed by Janet who just runs out of time and has to have Joe stick a button on with a bit of spit. Flies become a similar issue with most of the sewers seemingly forgetting how they work and Juliet literally unzips her trousers in a room full of people and cameras which is the second time in 3 episodes that Juliet has threatened us with nudity – no wonder we’re in a post-Watershed slot now. I do also just want to quickly draw attention to Riccardo’s kinky little leather thumb thong:

Riccardo thumb thong

At home he calls it “Dom Thumb”.

Just so the BBC can help fund the show with their rather large history budget we get a brief foray into the political history of flared trousers which as interesting as it is I was rather distracted by the fact Amber Butchart was conducting it with someone’s intestines artfully balanced atop her head:

amber butchart intestine hat

But really the only historic reference we need for flared trousers is Juliet’s father because:

juliet father flares


The judging comes around and I am honestly surprised we got 8 pairs of trousers that do seemingly look passable, granted Alexei’s are held up by a pin and good faith and have no hems but all of them have 2 equal leg lengths, pockets and not-too-jammy crotches, maybe my expectations are just very low but the thought of making trousers fills me with a cold dread. Just about everyone is pulled up because their flies are too far over and visible, although I dispute this in Mercedes’ case because literally no one is going to notice a visible zipper when you are wearing trousers that look like this:

mercedes paisley flared trousers

Leah forgot to cut her corduroy in the same direction, Ben’s mustard trews are covered in what I can only call Suspicious Stains and overall everyone’s flares are of a disappointingly small size, COME ON, you should be able to hide a standard poodle under them. The order going into the next round is:

  1. Jen’s Mellow Yellows
  2. Riccardo’s Slightly Elastic Jeans
  3. Leah’s Wonky Corduroy
  4. Juliet’s Salmon Pink Flares
  5. Janet’s Pretend Button
  6. Mercedes’ Acid Trip Trews
  7. Alexei’s Undercooked Flares
  8. Somehow Ben’s Are Worse Than Alexei’s

Punky Brewster

There is nothing I love more than a BBC approved Punk challenge which has the same sense of realism and authenticity as a club scene in Holby City. The challenge is to repurpose an old outfit, some stationary and a hodge-podge of tartan fabrics into a fully punk look. Juliet looks thoroughly ill and pulls this face throughout the briefing:

juliet face reaction

Janet is similarly lost and adrift and Ben has come dressed as a cowboy this week so that speaks for itself. Putting everyone’s punk credentials to shame is Esme:

esme punk look

I want to be her.

The sewing time very quickly descends into a cacophony of ripping fabric and jingling chains as everyone decides that hems are against the punk aesthetic and the sewing machines are largely left untouched as everything is mostly held together by safety pins and violent threats – weirdly a lot like most of the wiggle dresses from the first episode.
The only sewer doing anything even remotely different from anyone else is Jen who immediately grabbed a sheet of grey plastic vinyl and ended up… wrapping it around her mannequin and gluing it together with some buckles… Alexei, having not learned that maybe trousers are not his thing has decided to make another pair in order to redeem himself:

two tone trousers

Oh honey, I don’t think a golf trouser and Matalan workwear chimera was going to redeem anything. Ben, having obviously been chastised off camera by a producer has to censor his FUCK THE PATRIARCHY slogan (so punk) which he scrawled on his top in Sharpie, again so ~punk~. As the time begins to run out the panic sets in, scissors fly through fabric in increasingly dangerous angles and Janet has a slight brain fart and concocts a sort of removable plaid nappy panel that makes public nudity an easier option meanwhile Ben has created a slutty schoolgirl Halloween skirt and used it as a bib, there’s a lot of punky baby wear going on.

Times up and the sewers line up their…. Harried Scotsmen and Ben utters the phrase “I think mines more Avril Lavigne, which… I think even Avril Lavigne might have better taste than this:

ben punk avril lavigne

He’s first to be critiqued and Patrick asks “Am I the patriarchy?” and Ben has to try his best not to look like a thirsty hound dog. Juliet’s punk attempt is, well I think her nipple waving denim outfit was more punk than what I can only describe as a Tartan Cowgirl:

punk cowgirl

Esme thinks it’s far too nice. Suffering from similar issues is Leah who, despite having created a “nipple feature” is the only sewer to have hemmed her trousers and it kills the punky vibe for Esme and Patrick. Alexei is also weak sauce, Janet’s is more lumberjack than punk but it’s Riccardo’s challenge as he creates a full trousered-skirt (I’m still struggling to work out quite what it was) but it definitely has the most anarchic vibe. The judges make their choices:

  1. Riccardo’s Anarchic Wotsits
  2. Jen’s Sweaty Corset
  3. Mercedes’s Whips and Chains
  4. Ben’s Open Invitation to Patrick
  5. Leah’s Polite Punk
  6. Juliet’s Tartan Cowgirl
  7. Janet’s Frustrated Lumberjack
  8. Alexei’s Troubled Golfer

You would think that Alexei is rather doomed at this point, languishing away at the bottom of both challenges but as we’ve seen time and time again on this show, it’s more dangerous to end up in the middle with a series of uninteresting garments.

Maxi Power

The last challenge in our time travelling episode is the maxi dress, challenging the designers on their abilities to work with swathes of very delicate fabrics – and there is A LOT of fabric as most of the sewers opt for full length sleeves – the only exception being Juliet, but she has added frills. Leah manages to lose one of her sleeves only to find that she has already attached it to the dress, have some coffee Leah – it’s fine. Mercedes takes a unique approach to the Sleeve Conundrum and uses a pattern that cuts the yolk and both sleeves from a single piece of fabric, and her fabric is oddly restrained for Mercedes:

mercedes print fabric

She may still be suffering from the side effects of her paisley trousers. Ben takes the challenge a step further and decided to create his own mushroom print fabric, no one makes a magic mushroom joke and IT’S A 70S THEMED EPISODE. He is also making a lot of pleats, most of which are very uneven, and Patrick very aggressively starts measuring them while Ben is in the middle of the challenge and in the pre-judging runway Ben’s dress doesn’t even get shown so… Well, we all knew how this was ending, especially as Alexei is creating a cult leader costume which is almost definitely a threat to both Esme and Patrick:

cult leader dess

In the end all of the sewers manage to create something that Florence Welch would wear in a heartbeat and really that was what the challenge was all about. Juliet’s is a bit too modern (although absolutely the best one too) Janet on the other hand has created something so dated I think even the 70s would have thought it was fusty:

boho french maid

Who knew Boho French Maid was A Look™? Leah’s sheer lavender dress is honestly one of the best made garments in all 5 series of the show – it really was very pretty. Jen manages to put her shoulder pads on backwards, Riccardo tries to hide a multitude of sins with a scrappy belt that Emse whips off the moment the model stops walking – YOU CAN’T HIDE ANYTHING. And then comes Ben… and the garment in never shown in motion because the fit on his model’s boobs is SO AWFUL:

ben awful fit dress

It might count as a gender-based hate crime and it all comes crashing around Ben’s glorious ears and there is no other option but to let our very own John Wayne ride off into the sunset. Mercedes meanwhile is rewarded for her restraint and her maxi dress is awarded the Garment of the Week, so a bittersweet week. BUT WAIT:

next week dog

Next week we’re sewing costumes for an enitrely canine remake of Peewee Herman’s Playhouse!

Leave a Reply