Sewing Bee 2022, Episode 8: The Fanciest Frilled-neck Lizard

I’m not too sure about the new Amber Butchart replacement.

If you’ve ever wondered why women’s clothes don’t tend to have pockets, I think we found out this week.

It’s 1930s week, which is exactly how they lure Amber Butchart into the studio to get her to record all of the History Bits™

very occasionally they’ll accidentally trap a Lucy Worsley and have to release her at the nearest National Trust site.
Meanwhile Clare, who time travelled from the 1930s to be a part of series 6, sits at home seething that she was put through 1980s week

the things she would have done to be able to make some sailor trousers and a gown worthy of Vivien Leigh…

Unsmooth Sailing

For their Pattern Challenge the sewers were asked to recreate a revolutionary pair of women’s Sailor Trousers – a trend seemingly both responsible for advancing women’s fashion in terms what they could wear and setting it back centuries by having pockets that were so inexplicably complicated to make that everyone just decided women don’t need pockets

it’s Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in practice.

I can’t even begin to quite fathom how the pockets were meant to be constructed – the whole thing sounded like some sort of Ancient Chinese puzzle box that archeologists have still never been able to open and the show actively explained them to us TWICE! With visual aids! I can’t quite imagine what it was like for the sewers who only had written instructions and a handful of pattern pieces to go off while Esme circled them like a bird of prey. Debra was so desperate that she was seeking the help of Man Yee

a dangerous tactic after The Great Parka Zip Sabotage of Music Week.

Annie was the greatest victim of the pocketed terror as she very much began winging it rather that trying to decipher the word salad that were the the sewing instructions

but the errors of her pockets were mostly on the inside of the trousers, so from a purely outside perspective I thought her green trousers looked really smart, especially with the contrasting buttons

however the pockets were pretty much completely wrong with the incorrect sides of the fabric showing, and her mannequin did everything in its power to help Annie out of this situation by trying to flee the scene of the crime

but ultimately was dragged to the front by Sara, very much looking like she was about to throw a corpse into the River Aire

even if she had, I think Esme would have still found a way to judge it.

Annie was far from the only person to struggle with pockets though with just about everyone seemingly having to recut them at least once and then mostly waiting around to see what someone else did so you know if you should copy them or not, something Cristian was not being subtle about

With so much time being dedicated to decoding the pockets, it did mean that finishing touches like the buttons and buttonholes got a little rushed with some of Brogan’s being barely attached, a fact that pleased Esme enormously as she slowly ripped them off while making unbreaking eye contact with Brogan like a cat knocking a glass off of a table

and then in a complete contrast on the other side of the bib, Brogan had taken the MM&S approach and buttoned the pocket shut, rendering them completely unusable and so for the first time Brogan had to smile through the pain of a negative critique

truly these trousers were her villain origin story and the Royal Navy are to be her first victims.
But I did like the fabric she had chosen, mostly because the darker blue denim she used made them look a bit like the 1930s equivalent of JNCO Jeans

I reckon you could’ve got away with wearing them at the skatepark in the 90s and nobody would’ve suspected you were wearing your grandmother’s old trousers.

Blue was a very popular choice of colour for the trousers, Debra opting for the most traditional royal blue which made her trousers certainly look the most sailorish of the bunch

the colour may have been great but the material was a little bit too stiff so they don’t have the elegant drape of everyone else’s, but I did LOVE her choice of buttons

it was just a pity that her buttonholes didn’t quite match their elegance with them looking less like buttonholes and more like flesh wounds

but I think that Patrick and Esme were just pleased that you could button them up because by this point they were also just praising Cristian for the fact his pockets “looked constructed”

which to be fair was a little bit impressive because he did at one point just stop dead in the middle of the sewing room and start caterwauling about how none of this makes any sense

which I have done numerous times in the middle of Tesco as I try to make sense of what they consider a biscuit and what they consider a chocolate bar and how their Biscuit and Confectionery Aisles are on completely opposite ends of the supermarket which I feel is very much against retail Feng Shui.
Cristian’s choice of fabric also made his trousers stand out a little bit

which is always worth a coupe of bonus points.

And lastly we have Man Yee whose prepwork for 1930s Week mostly involved looking up facts about cryptids

but it was seemingly a benefit to know as little about the 1930s outside of the mythology of Scotland because beyond a aside from a step in the waistband, Man Yee’s trousers were pretty much flawless

given that she also won the Children’s Week Pattern Challenge in which they had to make a children’s sailor suit, perhaps Man Yee’s future likes in maritime tailoring.

An Official Sailor Trousers Ranking

  1. Man Yee, The Ozwald Boateng of the Navy
  2. Cristian’s Constructed Pockets
  3. Debra’s Wavering Fondness For Coco Chanel
  4. Brogan’s Vintage Wartime JNCO Jeans
  5. Annie 0, Pockets 1

Getting Shirty

For their 1930s Transformation Challenge the sewers were having to take a pair of men’s shirts and turn them into a women’s 1930s blouse and just to make sure that everyone knew what a 1930s blouse looked like, they had hung a few examples around the haberdashery which made the whole place look a bit like an art showcase in a village hall

it did also mean that nobody could say “I wasn’t alive in the 1930s so I don’t know what I’m doing!” and in fact Debra had the opposite approach

Debra was born in 1970.

The biggest components that Esme and Patrick were looking for in their 30s blouses were collar details, a nipped in waist and some elegant sleeves – with most of the sewers’ go-to sleeve being the Puff Sleeve, which did mean that Brogan was a lot more comfortable now that she had escaped the confines of a pair of trousers. Although her decision to not change up the collar of her shirt did get her pretty heavily penalised

the double pointed collar does read a little bit masculine for a 1930s blouse, but I do kind of love that it looks a bit like The Pink Ladies from Grease started a bowling team and Jan was in charge of making their outfits. Sadly for Brogan it wasn’t the strike she was hoping for and, aside from the good colour palette, it was a bit of a gutterball as far as the judges were concerned.

Cristian’s collar also came under fire for being a little bit too loose

to be fair, this was also his second design, having completely given up on his initial one which did seem to involve wearing the shirt back-to-front like Celine Dion’s suit at the 1999 Oscars

it didn’t help Cristian that the minty green colour wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing and it would have probably benefited him to use a more contrasting lace to break it up a little bit rather than leaning even further into it

The most historically accurate looking blouse was probably Annie’s because I do think you could put it in a museum and convince somebody that it was coming up for its 100th birthday

there’s just something ever so slightly moth-eaten about it, but the colour combination is really lovely and even if the necktie was perhaps a touch small, I liked the button she had sewn onto the collar

but my favourite thing was the fact Annie had drawn up a sketch of her planned garment which Sara had vandalised and in turn made it look like my favourite form of art: Fashion Illustrations by Exhausted Drag Queens

it’s truly the highest form of art. The Renaissance Masters could never.

Man Yee also managed a very convincing 1930s looking blouse with the pointed collar details and a really lovely colour combo in her lilac and burgundy fabrics

I hadn’t really expected it to turn out as good as it did considering that every time Sara told them how much time they had left, Man Yee looked to camera like someone had just mortally insulted her

but it really was a great garment, so good in fact that Sara Pascoe tried to shoplift it

the amount of people that would do this while I was working in Oxfam was quite astounding really, we called it the “Sleeve’n’Leave”.

The judges were looking for collar details and Debra certainly gave them a collar detail with her blouse worthy of the fanciest frilled-neck lizard

I think I would love it a lot more if it looked more like it was part of a collar and slightly less like someone wearing a napkin but there’s certainly a 30s vibe to it, even if Richie would dispute that leopard print is very Georgian

I’m not even entirely sure that the Georgians knew what a leopard was, or if they did they probably thought someone has sewn pyjamas onto a lion as a practical joke – truly taxonomists were the original YouTube Pranksters.

An Official 1930s Blouse Ranking

  1. Man Yee’s Pointed Tone
  2. Debra’s Fancy Frilled-neck Lizard
  3. Annie’s Museum Piece
  4. Cristian’s Mint Imperialist
  5. Brogan’s Pink Lady Striker

Uh, Biased Much?

For the final challenge of 1930s Week, the sewers were having to embrace the more glamorous side of the period with a made to measure bias cut gown and naturally the movies served as the biggest inspiration source for the sewers. That, and searching for “bias-cut gowns” on Pinterest as Man Yee and Annie had brought in the exact same pattern for a halter neck dress featuring a draped scarf at the back

I think if the two of them had been on a more even footing this would’ve been used as more of a comparison than it was, but Man Yee was riding high with 2 challenges wins and Annie was looking a little more precarious. But both of them managed to turn out pretty phenomenal gowns. Annie’s punchy, statement red was the better of the two, both because her finishing was better but it just had so much impact and of all the garments made, definitely felt the most red carpet

somewhere Keira Knightley is furious that she never got to wear this while sultrily smoking a cigarette on the balcony after arguing with a man she’s being forced to marry against the backdrop of World War 2.
I also really loved the fact she embellished the shoulders with a pair of earrings – also shout out to the makeup team for PERFECTLY matching the lipstick to the dress

but what I loved most was the fact the model had to do a discrete little dip so that Esme could properly appreciate the glitz

but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the models are also told to curtsy if Esme comes within 2 feet of them.

Man Yee’s was a slightly more subtle gown, opting for an ivory silk that gave it much more of a bridal feel

and somewhere Keira Knightley is furious that she didn’t get to wear this while dramatically fleeing a church, jilting her husband and running off with the gardener. Against the backdrop of World War 2.

There were a few details with Man Yee’s that weren’t quite right – the zip in the back was a little off-centre and she hadn’t followed Annie and Debra’s lead and French seamed as a power move, given that it’s the quarter-final everyone has started loudly proclaiming “I’m just doing my French seams now!” and then slyly looking around the sewing room to see who has started sweating because of it. Working up the biggest sweat though was Cristian whose metres of fabric had him doing yoga

leaping about like Super Mario

and taking him to the brink of a panic attack when Patrick pointed out that the velvet he was using was a stretch fabric that didn’t really have a true bias

so if he was wanting to impress the judges he was going to have to really nail the 1930s aesthetic but by the mid-point of the challenge the design had become a bit fly-by-the-seat-of-your-button-fly-sailor-pants as he, much like every dress on ASOS, implemented some surprise backlessness

I can’t say I blame him, I wouldn’t have wanted to fiddle about with doing an invisible zip either, also I would’ve begun to doubt myself as to weather the zip existed in the 1930s and if Patrick and Esme would penalise me for that – for the record, they did exist and I’m sure Amber Butchart has done a riveting History Bit™ about them in the past.

In the end Cristian may not have quite finished his dress and it might not have fully met the criteria of the challenge but I really do LOVE the gown that is almost certainly worn by the sort of woman who throws lavish dinner parties that always end in a seance

you came for the devilled eggs, but you stayed for the chat with the ghost of your great great great grandfather Augustus.

It could’ve probably used just a touch of embellishment to give it some depth and make it seem a little less heavy but I LOVED the bow on the back, it’s just a shame that he added that second band to try and close the gap, especially because we saw how well the backlessness worked on Debra’s gown

that drape is absolutely phenomenal and really sexy in that very 1930s, only just narrowly dodging The Hays Code kind of way. I wasn’t quite so keen on the front, I just personally don’t love this style of neckline

I do also wish that the gold had been more of a burnished gold because it’s very nearly giving me Keira Knightley in The Aftermath, a film about a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage set against the backdrop of World War 2, the most memorable part of which was almost certainly the gold dress

but Debra’s construction was incredible – French seams throughout, a faultless hem and a diagonal seam that lay pretty perfectly. The only slight issue was the fact it was just a little baggy in the front as she had stretched the fabric out when she had had to hurriedly cut out and sewn a new front piece after having cut the first one out incorrectly. Not that the judges could criticise her too much for it because she had brought in an Esme Young voodoo doll

the lengths some people will go to to reach the semi-finals.

For the first time in the series Brogan was coming into the Made To Measure Challenge in a position of potential elimination, however she had a gameplan

it’s a solid plan, but she’s no Napoleon Bonaparte.

For her gown she was bringing in the obligatory Ginger Rogers reference, hoping to somewhat recreate the dress she wore in Swing Time

I was a little sad that she hadn’t gone for the really glittery gown from Follow The Fleet but I think after the Bowie Challenge everyone was a little traumatised by the thought of a sequin

but it might’ve ended up preparing her for the sailor trousers challenge too

I love the fact Ginger Rogers was essentially the Barbie prototype – she seems to have had every single career. And she tap danced through all of them!

Brogan did end up doing a really great job with her dress, I love the dusty pink colour and while the brooch does maybe take it to a slightly more costumey place, it’s a distinctly 1930s influence – she’s definitely the unsuspecting Royal Ballet ingénue who has found herself as the main suspect in the murder of the retired prima ballerina

Ariadne, stop writing Black Swan fanfiction again.

There were a few technical faults, the shoulder straps weren’t correctly placed so the front of the dress was pulling up slightly, but she definitely had had the most seams to contend with and managing to get them all done as well as she had was pretty impressive, especially with a satin fabric. My only real wish is that the track of diamantes that she had used were slightly bigger, just to give the dress a little more definition.

A Bias Cut Gown Ranking

  1. Jean Harlow in “Red Dust”
  2. Jean Harlow in “Platinum Blonde”
  3. Debra’s Glamorous Voodoo Doll
  4. Brogan’s Ballet Murder Mystery Dinner
  5. The Grand Witch of Downton Abbey

Annie may have come into the Made to Measure on a bit of a backfooting but she certainly secured her place in the semi-finals with her red gown that very deservedly got her Garment of the Week

and with Brogan also whipping up a very good dress, it was Cristian who was left in the lurch and the last man standing was cut short

I think it’s a really strong garment to have gone out on and he certainly hadn’t had a disaster of an episode but it’s down to the wire and it’s the smallest of mistakes that can be the greatest of undoings.

And so, we’re down to our 4 semi-finalists!

If you’ve enjoyed this recap of Sewing Bee 2022’s 1930s Week and would like to support the blog you can donate to my Ko-fi account HERE!

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