Sewing Bee 2023, Episode 5: A Dolphin’s Uvula

Madonna and Child (Duccio, C. 1300)

Ce n’est pas un Récapitulatif.


This week was Art Week and in a perfect display of abstract expressionism that would make Franz Kline proud, this week’s Pattern Challenge was only tenuously linked to the brief because the producers were too cowardly to have them all make berets or mono-eared earmuffs. Instead the sewers were making Modernist Applique Skirts

and they were expected to have read the entire wikipedia entry for Modernism as homework because apparently despite this week’s instructions acting like a can of spring loaded snakes (oh how far we’ve strayed from Zero Waste Week) there was not a jot about what modernism was

which might have helped, because Esme was going to be running this like a dictator trying to declare the Tate Modern as an independent state – but for the most part she wanted bright colours which did mean Fauve was dead in the water the moment she ran straight towards the most dour fabric she could possibly have grabbed

she certainly did everyone else a solid, but things were only going to get Less Good™ for her because she was going to be damned if she didn’t find a way to make this into a floral challenge

and despite Esme and Patrick telling her they didn’t want a pretty picture to stick on the fridge, The Neo-Fauvist movement favouring melancholic literalism with persisted with the funereal mourning garb

I won’t lie, you do have to kind of admire the steadfast dedication to not taking note of Esme’s side eyes and still managing to come fourth, largely because Lauren is far too sensible for modernism

meanwhile on the other side of the room Fauve is doing live roleplay fanfiction

and dancing like a loon

Lauren’s Very Sensible, Tax Paying Skirt wasn’t bad (the emerald green and black is really lovely) but it didn’t quite work for this challenge due to the lack of contrast

but it does remind me a lot of the Carolina Herrera’s mid-2010s stuff. Then on the other side of the contrast slider, Tony W was also playing it minimal and was very pleased with his “stormy grey” fabric

Esme, taking note of Tony W’s misplaced optimism and promptly raining all over his already raining parade

but despite the misgivings about his colour choices, Tony kept on carrying on with his sleeting skirt under the impression that Esme might like to paint with every colour in the rainbow (and occasionally wear them around her neck)

but Patrick was a sensible man of vanilla taste and little risk

and despite the fact I’m sure Patrick probably has a drawing room at his house that he calls The Turner Room, he was not enamoured by Tony’s ode to J.M.W. Turner

Mia had also opted for a base fabric on the paler end of the spectrum but had at least chosen to applique it with colours stronger than A Whisper of Grey

I really liked the way she’s chosen to overlap and layer them, even if the lower red and white appliques do look like the logo for a blood bank (do they have logos? They do now.) There was however a glaring error in that at some point she’d taken about 2 inches off her mannequin’s waistline

sadly the bow wasn’t able to hide the error, which is a surprise because the bow was an Esme-sized bow and had enough fabric that if Lizzie wanted to peace out and join a Buddhist monastery she easily could have

Lizzie, being an artist, was very happy with the challenge at hand so Tony W will take the taffeta Kasaya and two tickets to Nepal when she’s done with it

and naturally Esme and Patrick were both thrilled with Lizzie’s doctoral thesis in artistic skirt license

but as ever, Asmaa was hot on her heels with her non-literal field of flowers skirt

#in this dogfight of modernism, despite Asmaa’s impeccable sewing skills, Lizzie came out on top and didn’t have anything to do with the scalpel she was holding to Patrick’s ear

which did mean that Vicki wasn’t even Bridesmaid this week and she and her abstracted mudkip skirt would have to make do with being flower girls

and lastly we have Tony’s abstract depiction of the Salem Witch Trials

the only downside of it was that his appliques were a little bit lumpy and should have been pinned flatter when sewing them on.

An Official Applique Skirt Ranking
1. Lizzie’s Doctorate in Modernism
2. Asmaa’s Appropriate Floral Abstraction
3. Mud…kip!
4. Fauve By Willpower Alone
5. Alexa, play Witch by Burn The Ballroom
6. MISSING! 2 Inches: Reward if Returned
7. A Sensible, Volvo Driving Accountant Skirt

Canvasing About

For their Transformation Challenge the sewers had to hide the evidence of Patrick and Esme having robbed the Leeds Art Museum by turning a load of abstract paintings into outfits – or as Fulbright scholar and drag philosopher Sasha Velour once said:

and because the canvases were obviously a thick and robust materials, Esme wanted something sculptural and grand which some took more to heart than others – Vicki kind of just made a sort of t-shirt carapace that looks a bit like someone in the middle of the 100 t-shirts challenge

and Tony R kind of just made a sort of tunic dress, although it did come with the artistic irony of the canvas working at the perfect frame for the crotch

but I can kind of see why he might have thought it was more grand than it ended up being considering that due to the stiffness of the dress, sewing it was an absolute mission because the dress had all the ergonomic mobility of an upended peacock

but both Tony R and Vicki managed to pull ahead of Tony W’s Delftware Samurai Cuirass

I genuinely don’t know why Esme and Patrick had it out for this little jacket? I thought Esme would be all over those Shoulder Eaves and yet she thought it was all very boring – sure, it’s a very wearable little jacket that you could feasibly talk Mary Berry into wearing but… Lizzie made a dungaree dress and beat three people

I like the dungaree dress, it’s a very nice dungaree dress, but you cannot say the jacket that looks like it belongs to a Royal Doulton figurine who joined the 47 Ronin is boring and then vehemently defend the dungaree dress because it looks like an artist’s apron

I’ll die on a hill for your jacket, Tony.

The top looks were all much more structural and had a more harmonious relationship between garment and canvas – had I had the same painting as Fauve I think I too would have ended up creating something that looks like I got too frustrated with a cryptic crossword

it could maybe be a little more reined but she was a busy woman, giving an introductory lecture on Sideboob Theory

Professor Fauve and her roaming Franco-Germanic accent were not the only split personality fighting for control of a mortal vessel as Mia was going full Dr. Jekyll too

apparently her inner Hyde is a revelatory ~artiste~ because her dress was really cute

and you knew it was going to do well because the BBC had splashed out for a surprisingly non-literal Girls Aloud song to play over it

the rest of the episode’s soundtrack was extremely Homes Under The Hammer in its literalness – we did not however get a single second of That One Specific Verse From Lady Gaga’s Applause, however they did do Tony R’s Salem Witch Trials Skirt justice

Burn The Witch by Radiohead just wasn’t “Sewing Bee enough”

I forgot that that music video was basically just Camberwick Green embracing pagan occultism – and Windy Miller was never seen again.

Lauren did a really great job of also clawing back points after a disappointing dip into abstract modernism by creating a dress that looked like Suzanne Collins had described it in the most confusing way she possibly could for the Tributes Parade in The Hunger Games

the sort of electricky-marbled effect really works with the stiff armour-like bodice she’d created, and for good protective measure there was a gaping lamprey mouth on the lower back like some sort of Eldritch Edward Mordake

but she was just pipped to the post by Asmaa’s Top of Infinite Animals

is it an elephant? Is it a butterfly? Is it a flatfish? Or is it a nautilus? (only Patrick) – whatever you see in the Rorschach Test of Zoological Taxonomy, it’s a very beautiful garment and of everyone Asmaa definitely used her chosen canvas the best. Although I might have whispered to Patrick and Esme that if they somehow gave Fauve’s crumpled up newspaper the win, she was going to Looney Tunes herself through the spare canvas

sorry to that art student who was deemed lesser than their peers and will now have an inferiority complex for the rest of their artistic career about it. LOOK WHAT YOU DID SEWING BEE! LOOK WHAT YOU DID, YOU PINKY AND PEPPER FOREVER’D THEM! [too niche a reference, walk it back Ariadne.]

An Official Wearable Art Ranking
1. Van Gough’s Starry… Elephant?
2. Eldritch Edward Mordake
3. Dr. Mia and Mrs. Hyde
4. Professor Fauve’s Sideboob 101
5. A Very Nice, Completely Flat Dungaree Dress
6. An Upended Peacock
7. Vicki’s Canvas Carapace


For their Made to Measure Challenge the sewers were looking to the Surrealist Movement, creating outfits inspired either by the works of famed surrealists or exploring their own subconsciouses – although some people’s subconsciouses are a little less “sub” than some of the others…

Do Fauves Dream of Smartly Dressed Sheep?

Truly Act One of Fauve’s Sandbox Fanfiction Theatre is over, with a glorious Act Two opening with her creation of a Biker Gang Miss Havisham wedding dress inspired by a Kay Sage painting

even besides the fact it’s a really cute dress, the contrast between the lace and leatherette was a clever way of creating the contrast between textures and element in the original

but she wasn’t the only one going bridal, as Tony W was drawing his inspiration from Max Ernst’s Robing of the Bride – a painting which I am obsessed with

Tag yourself – I’m the four breasted goblin frog.

It’s probably a good thing that Tony was drawing from an actual artist, because if we’d unleashed his subconscious the Made to Measure challenge may have been Saw traps

and so Tony set about about making red velvet and feather wedding dress – and you know in The Little Mermaid 2: Electric Eel Boogaloo they randomly introduced Ursula’s sister and Sebastian utters THIS immortal line (of course you don’t, why would anyone remember anything about the straight to video Little Mermaid sequel?)

well, imagine that but it’s Morticia Addams’s Crazy Sister who is ALSO married to a jazzy devil

I love the camp of this, it’s like a troupe of drag queens tried to put on a production of Faust using only the music of Kate Bush – and truly what could be more surreal? Although Esme did have to pick aT the puckering velvet at which point Tony himself seemed fully prepared to trade his soul to the devil in exchange for a split taxi fare

because despite his best wishes, nobody really had a crisis – his best hope was that the judges would have a bigger issue with Vicki’s Mike Wazowski dress than they did

it was a little long at the back and the giant eye wasn’t hanging in quite the right place, but at least it had eyelashes, which was their only real ding against Lizzie’s Sid the Sloth outfit

I do love this outfit though and need it to ward off my only natural predator: sleeve-catching door handles, and as a nod to Picasso I think it mostly works, I would have liked to see a little more facial distortion and abstraction but as far as jellyfish skirts on this show goes, Lizzie’s was really good…

Riccardo, I am still SO MAD AT YOU.

I was worried that the show had set Mia up for a bit of a disappointment because you can’t really show The Big Gay Dolphin Sleeves before someone talks about their idea and not have them make Big Gay Dolphin Sleeves

alas, Mia’s model was not going to be punching a dolphin’s epiglottic spout (I fell down a dolphin anatomy rabbit hole because I found out that there’s no such thing as a dolphin’s uvula.) Mia was instead doing a spot of Nephology, which I assure you is the study of clouds and not the taxonomic ranking of Nepo Babies

which I at first thought was a whimsical take on Bjork’s Swan Dress Which Was Good, Actually

but it turns out we’ve stumbled into Strawberry Dress Discourse 2: I Can’t Afford A $500 Dress So Etsy Will Have To Do Boogaloo, except the Lirika Matoshi cloud dress is $1,100

to be fair, the show did say Mia was taking inspiration from whimsical fashion, they just chose to show the gut punched dolphins instead of the cute cloud. And she made 20 pom poms for her troubles and isn’t selling it (unless…? *slides briefcase full of spaghetti across the table*) so.. case adjourned, the defendant is innocent

Mia, please beef with Lirika on Instagram – we could get a BBC legal drama out of this, you could be played by Jodie Comer! Everyone wins! Worst case scenario, it’s ITV and you’re played by Sheridan Smith.

Tony R was also drawing from the fashion world – combining the works of Viktor&Rolf’s ironic 2019 couture collection

with Renee Magritte trolling the interwar European art scene with his Treachery of Images

to create a dress that I genuinely think took a lot of artistic conviction to make and I think that’s easy to overlook

the thing with Art Week, especially in this Made to Measure challenge, is that it really toes the lines of “are we sewing or are we arting?” Which is tricky on a show about sewing – either way, I think Tony’s dress is really cool and I could genuinely see it doing the rounds on the red carpet. I also loved how funny his model found it every time Tony said “it’s just a dress”

he’s the Da Vinci of Dad Jokes.

Lauren’s dress felt like it fitted quite nicely alongside Tony’s, playing with the same sort of themes of illusion and irony – hers being a small hovering shirt over a mammoth tulle skirt

the making of said skirt and wrangling of 12 metres of tulle working as a nod to Whistler’s Mother, just to cap Art Week off

I did really like Lauren’s outfit, I think she landed on the right side of silly, but I did agree with the judges that the shirt may have been more impactful if it looked more as though it was just floating, a bit like the apple in Magritte’s Son of Man

it was just a pity that Lauren had used up all the tit tape in West Africa Week

Esme also wanted the shirt to be smaller – not on a BBC 1 show babe, not even after the watershed.

I was surprised that we didn’t have more Dali references – Asmaa wasn’t strictly doing a Dali, but the texturing of her fabric, the colours and the fact it genuinely had that sort of waking nightmare feel to it gave it a distinct Dali vibe

evocatively, I think it really works – looking at it makes me feel the same way looking at Bouguereau’s Dante and Virgil makes me feel (this is a compliment)

but a bit like her outfit last week, it felt a little too cluttered and maximal but I am curious as to when the Great British Genetic Splice Off is going to hit our screens

This week, we’re creating absurd genetic mutations you have 2 hours and minimum lab equipment! Hey, something has to replace All That Glitters.

An Unofficial Surrealist Outfit Ranking:
1. Biker Gang Miss Havisham
2. My Slow Burn Legal Drama: Sew/Sue
3. Ce n’est pas la Troisième Place
4. Picasso’s Sid the Sloth
6. Snake Bite(s)
7. It’s Morticia’s Crazy Sister!
8. The Mike Wazowski We Have At Home

For a couple of weeks Fauve has teetered on the verge of elimination, but this week she really came out swinging with her unorthodox wedding dress grabbing her Garment of the Week

Next Time on Fauve’s Immersive Fanfiction Sandbox Theatre: Patrick wakes up strapped to a chair with Fauve in the dress and a guy who printed an ordination certificate at an internet café looming over him demanding he say “I do”.

But with triumph comes calamity and while I will vehemently defend his Transformation Challenge piece to my dying day, his Pattern Challenge and Made to Measure hadn’t quite come together so it was Tony W’s time to exit the sewing room

selfishly, it does make writing about the Troublesome Tonysome easier, but I will miss him stumbling into innuendo like Sideshow Bob walking into rakes and per his request, his elimination wall cover up is Kenneth Williams (I take requests now, get them in while you can!)

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