Sewing Bee 2023, Episode 3: Pocket Deficient Otters

Hello God, it’s me, Fauve. Please take Maria instead.

Where can’t you put a pocket these days?

It’s West Africa Week which is enough to send a shiver down anyone’s spines after the Bake Off’s faux pas laden Mexico Week, so Love Productions are using Sewing Bee as a litmus test for how guest judges work as Banke Kuku joined the show for the week

which I liked because it did ensure a level of cultural sensitivity but there was also a slight awkwardness to the group dynamic but I think it’s a necessary hit to take and as is the norm for a specialist week on Sewing Bee, we got a new Fashion History Expert in the form of Teleica Kirkland

who I hope is to corsets as Amber Butchart is to headwraps.

It’s Ghana Be Great

The sewers whirlwind tour through West Africa started in Ghana with them having to make a Batakari

these were simplified ones, they couldn’t have them make the real deals because of the time limit and the risk of at least one sewer potentially drowning in godets. The sewers had also been given the traditional daboya cloth which did sadly stop Asmaa from trying to make a silken batakari

I wish there was a little more versatility in the fabric, it did mean everything looked a little bit the same which is only really a detriment to the single unhinged recapper amongst us, but this did not stop Lizzie acting like this was The Hunger Games and she’d just spotted the sharpest battleaxe

Lizzie was particularly excited for West Africa Week because she had been there once and you were going to know all about it

but like many of the sewers, Lizzie became a bit of cropper to the trickier elements of the batakari, having sewn in the facing on the wrong side and imaginably had to either donate a minstrel to, or take a minstrel from the swear jar when she realised – I’m not entirely sure how the schematics of the Sewing Bee Swear Jar works

and the resulting batakari just had a bit of an unfinished look to it

so someone’s burning their Ghana Trip 1993 photo album when they get home

she wasn’t the only one though as TonyW went through the exact same facing mishap

No Tony! Massive boubous are the third challenge!
The finishing of his Batakari was slightly neater than Lizzie’s though, even if there was a little rip in the fabric

but I liked the fabric he’d chosen – the little pop of the floral was cute.

While most of the sewers were happy to just learn about West Africa, Matthew is apparently having a crash course in sewing in general

surprisingly the godets were not the issue with his batakari which is a relief because Esme was mentally planning which divine punishment she’d inflict upon him if they had been

instead the issue was with his pockets that were positioned directly under the armpit which does at least help with your pterodactyl impression

and it’s the perfect batakari for the pocket deficient otters of the world

the African Clawless Otter needs somewhere to put their favourite stones too. (I did get halfway through making that and have to ask myself “Is this furry art?”)

Matthew was in good company with his armpit pockets, as Mia had made much the same mistake

she did get penalised a little bit harder because her godets were also a little uneven and her neckhole was oddly placed but she still managed to pull ahead of Fauve whose batakari looked a bit like a PE bib that was one day off of retirement

the real kicker being the dangling pocket bag

I think Fauve was just lucky to not end up looking like she’d joined The Blue Man Group considering the deboya fabric was staining everyone’s hands and she kept rubbing her face in frustration

I was a little bit surprised that Maria didn’t also end up with a Batakari for the Daisy Duke of Ghana given that she kept lopping bits off it like she was making a crop top

it was still enough for her to make it to fourth place, just being pipped to a podium position by Tony R’s whose only real mistake was that his rode up a bit in front

but he did have enough time for the all important batakari shearing competition

sorry, that’s baa-takari.

With Lizzie having poached her fabric, Asmaa had ended up with the same pattern as Tony and in a twist of truly Aesopian circumstance, Asmaa ended up coming out on top

her biggest rival once again being Vicki whose white-striped batakari just had a slightly askew neckhole

and lastly we have Lauren who was really speaking to my soul and had chosen her fabric expicitly because it matched her nails

the aesthetic appeal of it sadly not enough to pull her out of the middle of the pack

as her final batakari having a few small technical issues here and there.

An Official Batakari Ranking:
1. Asmaa’s Aesopian Batakari
2. Vicki’s Seven Nation Batakari
3. Rony’s Well Shorn Baa-takari
4. Maria’s Limitless Batakari
5. Do The Nails Match The Batakari?
6. Otter Batakari
7. Wony’s Shrinking Violets
8. IT WAS 30 YEARS AGO, I CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT A BATAKARI LOOKS LIKE
9. Otter Batakari 2: Lutrinae Boogaloo
10. The Oldest Batakari on the Force

Adire Situation

Seeing as it might not have been the best optics to have the sewers rip apart traditional West African garments to make something for Lizzie’s 2023 reunion tour of Ghana, this week’s Transformation Challenge was a bit different with the sewers being given bolts of adire fabric from Nigeria to create something slightly more freeform and drapey on their mannequins – or “plonk and pin” if you’re Matthew

Plonk and Pin also being the name of the haberdashery-cum-off-license that I will be opening.
The freer, artsier approach to the challenge did very much feel like it was right up Matthew’s street and I personally really liked his Yoruban ode to the Meat Dress

Patrick however thought there was a bit too much going on, but I think that they may have given it a slightly warmer reception if Matthew had been later in the critique order because there were a number of dresses that felt barely draped at all

it’s a perfectly fine dress for a family picnic but does kind of pale in comparison when you have Mia making something that looks like Amy Dowden may have to wear it for an ill-advised Cha Cha Cha to Crazy Town’s Butterfly

I thought it was a very success “just a swoosh”

and I think I would have maybe put it in third position ahead of Tony W’s which had a lovely sense of drama but did also look a bit like it could be worn by the grand dame of a community theatre’s production of The Little Mermaid

sadly The Little Mermaid’s influence on fashion will probably just mean more bandeau tops and not wafty tentacle dresses, although Tony’s was a sexy wafty tentacle dress because it flagrantly failed the fingertip test

as someone whose arms just about drag on the floor like a gibbon’s I felt very well represented because my knees just about fail the finger tip test. Wony wasn’t the only one dabbling in questionable exposure as one slightly too large a stride in Fauve’s dress and you’re on the indecent exposure list for life

but if you stand perfectly still and avoid even the most gentle of breezes and Esme’s grabby hands, you have a lovely dress

and it comes with your very own snack storing kangaroo pouch, you’ll be the scorn of every cinema usher in the land

the fabric patterns really were all stunning and I kind of wish that the adire fabrics had been part of the Made to Measure challenge because I would have loved to see what everyone could do with them with just a little more preparation and planning – that being said, the dress Lizzie made out of her fabric was exceptional

the volume and draping has a very Vivienne Westwood quality to it – if you put Mad Men era Christina Hendricks in it I think you could feasibly convince everyone that that’s where it came from, the only tell would be that it’s not nearly busty enough, but there’s an option butt flap to compensate

now that’s a bit more mid-Burton Helena Bonham-Carter’s speed.

Lauren gave Lizzie some stiff competition with her own take on pleating with her dress really just being a plan to bankrupt the world of its tit tape supply

but she and Lizzie both excelled in the draping and manipulation of the fabric without feeling like the garments prioritised machine sewing, which is where Maria kind of went badly wrong – you know the speech from The Devil Wears Parade about the trickle down effect?

imagine that, but instead of Oscar de la Renta’s 2002 collection it’s Prabal Gurung’s 2012 Spring collection

and instead of Anne Hathaway’s lumpy blue sweater, it’s Maria slaving away on a reality TV show creating a sleeveless dress that looks a bit like you somehow tucked the front of it into your knickers

and in this situation Esme is obviously Meryl Streep, Patrick is Stanley Tucci and I am Emily Blunt background acting like her life depends on it

nothing about Maria’s dress really spoke to the assignment

but she wasn’t the only one because Asmaa, whose dress I love and would buy in a heartbeat if I wasn’t so entrenched in the anti-sleeveless agenda, also felt a little bit too sewn

but she worked really well with her pattern, which did feel quite structured and rigid compared to some of the others.

Lastly we have Vicki’s whose dress looked a bit like someone was base jumping on Remembrance Weekend

Poppy Wars starts now, baby!

An Official Adire Garment Ranking:
1. Lizzie Westwood
2. Lauren’s Industrial Strength Tit Tape
3. Poor Unfortunate Souls
4. Mia’s Strictly Special
5. Vicki’s Base Jumping Charity Suit
6. Asmaa’s Perfectly Nice Dress
7. Yoruban Lady Gaga
8. The Looming Risk of Butt Cheeks
9. Rony’s Anti-drape Rebellion
10. The Lumpy Blue Sweater of the Adire World

Hey Boubou!

For their West African made to measure challenge the sewers were having to make boubous, which are a unisex, loosely fitted robes worn for formal occasions – and I have to say adding the word “boubou” to the end of just about anything gives you a great drag name, so welcome to the stage: The House of Boubou

and pretty much everyone delivered on the necessary drama and could have been worn to the grandest of Nigerian weddings, or in the case of Tony W, as a gift to the wife that you know is about to kill you for the money in a case of extreme cuckoldry

I’m hoping I can be the Googlewhack for “victorian gothic boubou” because you cannot convince me that Vanessa Ives wouldn’t have worn this on her days off from investigating the paranormal affairs of Victorian London in Penny Dreadful

there would still be a corset underneath it, this is an Eva Green character after all.

Wony wasn’t the only one with marital woes on their mind as Fauve constructed a whole BBC period drama pilot for her monochromatic raspberry boubou

coming to a screen near you: The Lady In Red, Or Is It Pink?

the fact everything matches so perfectly really does have that sense of luxury to it

and the fact she did purely out of Single White Female (1992) necessity is top tier game playing – put Fauve on the Reality TV Icons series of The Traitors

as it turns out Banke is a bloodhound for a trim (I know a certain turquoise beaded fringe connoisseur she might like to meet)

well, that was a bit forward Ma’am, but Lauren did indeed have the intestines of Oscar the Grouch under her table

and somehow the muppet entrails were not the most niche part of her outfit as somehow she’d managed to find a wax print fabric with pictures of fans on it

the joke being that her mother likes to buy the family fans whenever it gets a bit hot, so if you want to know why the Argos stocks are incredibly low every time there’s a heatwave, we now know who’s to blame because the Lauren McSewing-Bee household is apparently an elephant graveyard of table fans. And of all the boubous, Lauren’s felt the most Banke inspired

although Lauren’s does look a bit like the younger sister that Banke’s designs begrudgingly invited to their intimidatingly opulent pool party where nobody actually gets in the pool

the judges all agreed that Lauren’s trimmings were a nice idea but the sequined neckline needed to be grander and the feathers needed to match the dress better – which feels like the sort of critique they usually have to hand out in Week 7 when we’re really down the wire, let her live in fun-fur peace, it’s only week 3!

Also falling foul of trimming dispositions was Maria because Esme decided you simply cannot have a gold trim and a sequin trim on the same garment

ok, but Damien haberdashering his way through 7 weeks of this competition would beg to differ. There were a few technical errors with Maria’s dress but there was with just about everyone’s and I thought Maria’s absolutely had the best movement on the catwalk

it’s so elegant and pretty, while also being just a scooch tacky but that speaks to my soul.

Most of the sewers opted to make boubous for women, Matthew however was playing with the more masculine boubou (the word “boubou” has indeed begun to lose all meaning for me) and of course there was one crucial detail

šŸŽµ a tale as old as time šŸŽµ
šŸŽµ kink at Pride is not a crime šŸŽµ

I know a lot of people online are a bit bored of the nods to kink already – I think I’m more forgiving of a running motif on a show like Sewing Bee because fashion designers having a signature or a recognisable style is kind of just a core element of the fashion industry. But also Matthew is perfect and can do no wrong, sorry my bias is hanging out like a badly aligned batakari pocket bag

I do like this, but I also agree with Patrick’s critique about the placement of the harness – it’s a bit conservative, it’s a bit… Liz Truss’s infamous day collar…

I would have loved the whole boubou to feel like it was almost falling off the shoulders and the harness was keeping it all together. But I loved the styling of his model – the makeup department does a great job of creating bespoke looks for the sewers’ garments, Mia’s also felt very editorial

part of the challenge was that the fabric and the boubou had to tell some sort of personal story – this was more obvious for some than others, they never really elaborated on Mia’s and I was very intrigued because her boubou did look a bit like a Christmas tree covered in lungs

I’m as big a fan of the respiratory system as any of us, I’m not sure I’d want to wear it, but they are just incredibly vascular looking trees – it was still one of my favourite boubous just for the glitz and sparkle of it all. On the other end of the colour spectrum, Vicki had created a boubou in what I can only describe as Horsegirl Colours

you cannot convince me that a girl from Arizona who grew up with Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron as her favourite movie isn’t wearing that dress right now, although it might need more abstract faceless horses on it

the midi-length may have skewed it a little too casual for the average boubouer, but the fact she’d painstakingly pattern matched it certainly helped elevate it to at least Labour-Day-picnic-on-the-ranch levels.
Vicki wasn’t alone in going for a more subdued colour palette, as Lizzie was playing off the colours of the kente cloth she got during Lizzie’s Trip To Ghana in 1993ā„¢

with the more muted aspect being a narrative nod to the fact the trip was quite a while ago so in essence, it’s a boubou fit for Grizabella the Glamour Cat

and if Jennifer Hudson had to snottily belt out a West End banger in a boubou, I think this would do

it has a divine ease to it and perfectly hits that sort of casual glamour that makes anyone who wears it look a bit like they run a cult masquerading as a spa retreat in Silicon Valley. Also, the fact all 4 of the meetings points of the fabric were absolutely perfectly aligned is such a flex

it was worth sacrificing whoever she sacrificed to the Sewing Gods for that one. (Has anyone seen Gillie?)

Unfortunately Asmaa ran out time with her boubou so the more intricate finishing details weren’t quite up to snuff, but if you weren’t close enough to see the buttons hanging on for dear life, it was a beautiful garment

I mean, it looks like someone’s mother went all out and had Jenny Packham design their Virgin Mary costume for the Godolphin and Latymer School for Girls nativity play – I have no bigger compliment.

Lastly we have Tony R who unfortunately wasn’t allowed to say “Shroom Trip Boubou” so had to settle for calling it a “Flounce Boubou” despite the fact it looked how I imagine my flatmate thought he looked during a particularly bad trip when he was convinced he was a lizard and needed to take off his own skin

I do love that fabric and despite it not being a wax print somehow felt like a nice nod to the traditional ankara fabrics of North Africa – the rest of it doesn’t feel purposeful enough: the ruffle was too small, the shape too understated and the neckline feels stretched more than relaxed. I was a little bit surprised Tony didn’t get eliminated purely because he got whacked with all the editing techniques to suggest as much between his ruffle being shown immediately following Mia saying this

Sara’s voiceover saying this

and the entire segment being accompanied by The Tuba Parps of Doom – that’s at least three of the Four Horsemen of the Reality TV Apocalypse!

An Unofficial Boubou Ranking
1. Grizabella’s Glamorous Boubou
2. A Boubou Full of Lungs
3. Mistress Boubou
4. Harnessing The Power of a Boubou
5. Boubous for Horsegirls
6. Renowned Chinese Actress, Fan Boubou
7. Murder by Boubou
8. The Big Purple Bouboub Eater
9. Nativity 2: Bouboub Boogaloo
10. Shroomy Boubou

I think this week there was a real argument for making Lizzie’s Transformation Challenge dress Garment of the Week – I just think it was absolutely sublime but the only time I can remember them making a Transformation Challenge outfit GotW was Clare’s Sex3PO costume

and that was because everyone’s Made to Measure flapper dresses looked like your mum had been invited to a murder mystery dinner and had bought a costume off the third page of Amazon results in the hopes nobody else would have scrolled that far

it was a rough week, but back to the present and whichever way you cut it, it was a Lizzie win because her boubou although maybe not the sparkliest, certainly had a richness to it and showcased some impeccable sewing skills

as for the elimination, it was Maria and Tony R in danger and with Maria having finished just behind Tony in both the Pattern and Transformation Challenges, sadly it was stacked against her

and the sewing room is going to be significantly less purple for it.

and so, 9 sewers remain

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2 thoughts on “Sewing Bee 2023, Episode 3: Pocket Deficient Otters

  1. Bannister

    What an interesting opening “Culture sensitive… awkward group dynamics.” Totally unnecessary comments. Vibrant African print have been used by contestants on the Bee for years. Vibrate fabrics have been used by the majority of contestants. The goal was to make tradition clothing from tradition cloth and design tradition wear with other types of fabrics. I was glad to read the whole blog rather than to click away from your initially comments. Clearly the comments where NOT culturally sensitive šŸ™„

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