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Apr 22, 2011

Sound of Music Style - yea or nay?

Friends, yesterday MPB reader Eli commented on the similarity between dress pattern Butterick 8975 and something Julie Andrews might have worn in The Sound of Music.

Which got me thinking: why do so many of the costumes from this beloved 1965 film (Costumes by Dorothy Jeakins) look like they were torn out of a mid-Sixties Simplicity pattern book, as opposed to accurately representing the styles of late-Thirties Austria, or the decidedly unglamorous Von Trapp singers themselves? 

First, though, a self test.  There are four levels of Sound of Music obsession.  For example, if I say:

The first three notes just happen to be...

You respond ________________.

This would categorize you as LEVEL 1.  Casual interest, no cause for alarm.

More serious would be if I say...

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu --

And you respond _________________.

We would diagnose this as LEVEL 2.  Serious, but not incurable. 

More worrisome is if I say....

I'd like to say a word in her behalf:

And you respond ______________. 

or ...

Do Mi Mi, Mi So So...

And you respond _____________. 

Definitely LEVEL 3.

Things get scary when we move into post-intermission reprise territory:

If I say... 

You may think this kind of adventure
Never will come to you...

You respond _______________.

In which case you are at LEVEL 4, and I can offer no hope.

But let's get back to fashion! I nearly fell off my zafu cushion when I stumbled upon this Sound of Music pattern original!

I mean, I would make those outfits today -- and for myself.  Wouldn't you?

Cathy and I both love a skin tight princess-seamed bodice over just about anything.  Longtime readers may remember my purchase of this pattern last year:

Even before 1965, similar looking one-piece jumper styles were very popular and perfect for a Do-Re-Mi sing-along.

Remember when Maria returns to the Von Trapps' after her brief retreat back to the abbey?

Isn't that basically View C in this Butterick pattern?

Remember Maria's fetchingly virginal leandler dance dress (the one the baron is so fond of)?


So very reminiscent of this...

The most fashionable character in The Sound of Music is Baroness Von Schraeder --  gorgeous in every historically inaccurate outfit she wears.

Lovely, but 1938?  I don't think so!

Her stunning evening gown is essentially a mid-Sixties sheath dress with some tulle.

How about this timeless hostess ensemble?  So cocktails at the club.

And then there's Liesl.  

Except for a little Tyrolean ruching in the bodice, is there anything about her dress that wouldn't work for a mid-Sixties sweet sixteen or Barbie and Ken soda fountain date?

The Von Trapp girls are always boasting little bows, headbands, and kerchiefs that scream early-to-mid Sixties tween.


We all remember the navy uniforms they wear early in the film...

Try these:

In closing, friends, what do you think of The Sound of Music style?  Are you eager to sew up a wool jumper, silk-blouse-and-midi-skirt cocktail ensemble, or heavy brocade play clothes?  Do you dream of wearing a poofy pastel dance dress and dancing around a gazebo with a man in uniform -- any uniform?  Are you shocked or charmed at the mid-Sixties-ness of it all?

Finally, if you could wear one outfit from the film, which would it be?  (Are you more Maria or the Baroness or someone else?)

Any Level 4's out there?  

Sound of Music style -- yea or nay?

P.S. - Traveling this weekend.  See you on Monday!


  1. Impossible to give a yea or nay for this style for me, as I just love this movie, and everything about it, historically inaccurate costumes and all. I suppose the dirndl is timeless though, really.

    One outfit I would actually wear? The Baroness' coral suit with the gorgeous blouse and hip bow. Of course, I would need her tall, thin body to go with it.

  2. Ah Peter.. My very first sewing machine outfit was a black and white dirndl outfit. I remember three or four rows of gathering stitches carefully overseen by my mother and grandmother, both extremely talented home seamstresses.

  3. Great post. Agree w/ the first poster's comment that the baroness's blouse is stunning. Could you sleuth out that pattern for us????

  4. Oh definitely the Baroness, she's great. I love her villainess style: as well as wearing the best clothes, she's a complete cow to the errant nun and best of all, she can't even catch a ball. x

  5. I love dressing up in lovely tulle dresses and dance with a man in uniform at least once every a few years!

    The last military ball we went to, I made a lovely 1930's evening gown to wear - but no tulle.

    And yes, I was a level 4 Sound of Music fan. :)

  6. Being the researcher that I am...I do love research, I looked up (you probably did too) the designer for the costumes for the film. It appears there was "painstaking investigation on Austrian garb" by the designer Dorothy Jeakins. That being said, I am a yay on the 60's influence in each of these outfits. So was 1930's Austrian garb the influence for the 1960's? I doubt it! A conundrum for sure. Have a great weekend!

  7. Definetely The Baroness!!! Always love a glamorous piece that showcases a shoulder, waist and hip. I also absolutely LOVE a hostess outfit!!! Makes me want to have cocktail parties all the time!!!

  8. I tend to agree that the outfits were heavy 1960s but still so great to look at...I LOVE the dress with the hip bow. My favorite dresses are still 1940s era, I was born to late to really enjoy the wardrobe styles! I saw an senior of about 70 yesterday in a sweatshirt and sweatpants at the mall. Yikes! My grandma never left the house without a dress on! And she NEVER wore anything remotely like sweatpants! Sorry I digress.....

  9. I am the Baroness in my fantasies at least, and I'd jump at her wardrobe faster than you can sing Do Re Mi.

  10. I am blushing... I am mentioned in your blog. What an honor!

    After I commented on yesterday's entry (and after popping in the Anniversary Deluxe Edition DVD) I thought that maybe the costumes weren't mimicking futuristic shapes at all, but were actually trying to resemble dirndls. Being of Austrian decent, I am familiar with the folkloric dress, and they are very billowy in the skirt. Clearly I was mistaken and I am impressed with your thorough analysis of the costumes in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Very well done! All doubt removed, historically inaccurate. (It isn't the worst culprit, however... FUNNY GIRL?)

    I've always wanted Liesl's gazebo dress... *sigh* Sound of Music Sew/Sing Along? You have the pattern, I have the vocal score!

    ...darling sixteen going on seventeen, wait a year - I'll wait a year - Just wait a year or two...

  11. It seemed to happen with most movies made in the 60s though. How many saloon girls in westerns of that era had bouffant hair, heavy eyeliner and dresses that were just longer versions of some of those patterns :)

  12. Oh, Eli, you're a LEVEL 4.

    Thanks again for the inspiration!

  13. My daughter would look SO adorable in the navy uniform!
    Sadly, I might be a level 4. Though I really can't stand the movie. In elementary school I was picked to be in the High School's musical of The Sound of Music. I thought it was awesome at the time, but now, many, MANY years later, my mom still tries to pull out the video of it, she literally shows it to ever 1st grade class she teaches... Uh, uh, not cool...

  14. Darling sixteen, going on seventeen,
    wait a year or two.

    My kids, who won't watch TV if I am not in the room with them, went through a Sound of Music phase. We watched it at least twice a week for a year. Now we only watch it once a month or so. I can't seem to come up with an age-appropriate definition for "Nazi", so they continue to be completely confounded by the ending.

    I even took my older daughter (who was 4 at the time) to a West End production of The Sound of Music.

    I love how Maria whips up multi-piece outfits for the eight of them overnight.

  15. Yodel-ay-e-o! Level 4++. Thank you for such delightful pattern homage to the movie. Every diptych is a winner. I so hope Julie Andrews is a fan of MPB. I also loved Captain Von Trapp's Tyrolean style. With a gleaming gloat!

  16. I am a Level 4. If there are higher levels, I think I would qualify. In college, I found myself in Salzburg for a day. I went to as many sights from the movie as I could.

    I would kill for the Liesl gazebo dress. And I love Maria's dance dress.

  17. While I only find myself a Level 3 :( I would absolutely dress myself as Maria and my children as the Von Trapp children and (aside from my son) they would happily oblige. In fact, when they were younger, I taught them that if you are singing, you must clasp your fingers and raise your elbows to shoulder height. It is the ONLY way to sing. They bought it, the darling little pets.

  18. I'm a level 4 - by virtue of the fact I was in a community production of The Sound of Music when I was 10 (Brigitte). I wore this stuff! Yes, it was the 70s, but still.... LOL

  19. lissa of muslinettesApril 22, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    you are sixteen going on seventeen
    wai-ait a year or two

    (i'll wai-ait a yee-ear or two).

    a song is no song til you sing it... have truer words been sung?

    coral suit, for sure!

  20. I'm a Level 4+ (and I'll raise you a Broadway cast album with Mary Martin as Maria).

    I remember Julie Andrews' short hair style being all the rage after the movie came out. I liked the yellow suit she wore when she came back from her honeymoon (definitely very 1960s).

  21. I have to say that I never thought about it before, though I know exactly how inaccurate the movie and musical were compared to the real-life events. And I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I'm a level four. And it's not because I actually like the movie or the musical all that much, either.

    I grew up in Texas school choirs. And they take choir seriously there. As in, I was performing The Messiah in tenth grade. I knew enough music theory to breeze though at least first level college music theory by the time I graduated from high school. After all the major competitions in Spring term, we always did a major show that usually involved either old pop music or musical theatre. And one year we did Rodgers and Hammerstein, including Sound of Music. So I've performed most of the music from it ages ago.

  22. I get away with a Level 2 but do I get a bonus for having been to Salzburg and St Gilgen where they filmed? And of course running around a nearby meadow singing the hills are alive etc etc, which I think is compulsory :D

  23. Level 4 all the way, baby. In college, when our late-night yak sessions on the stairs were done, we'd leave singing, "so long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, goodnight..."

    pitiful, no?

  24. Re: the sailor outfits. I admit to owning a 40s sailor dress pattern that's almost a dead ringer for one of those dresses. Honestly, they're too long, but otherwise...

    There's a timeless look to a sailor suit or a sailor dress. People have been putting them on their kids since the 1870s, and it was all started in the 1840s because there was an engraving at the time of the then Four-year-old prince of Wales, Albert Edward, wearing one. Here is a 50s pattern that's a bit closer, and like I said, I have a 40s pattern, too. Starting in the 30s, though, little girls' dresses were *really* short. If you look at children's patterns from then until starting in the late 80s, a lot of them are all two-four inches above the knee or higher. Starting with the recession of the 80s, skirts started to go from knee-length to tea-length for little girls, in the pattern world, anyway, and have pretty much stayed there.

    Because of the greater variety, I sew a great deal of vintage little girls' patterns. There's a reason why I add anywhere from five-eight inches to each dress--it depends on how short they actually were. For a dress to reach the bottom of Evie's knees (for growth room, plus a wide hem) right now it has to be 23 inches long from neck to hem. Some of the 30s patterns I've got are only about 16"!

  25. Heck I wanted to BE Liesl..."girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes" but the Reverend Mother gets the best lines and the biggest song in the film.

  26. I would love to wear (and look good in) the Liesl dress. Don't know much about the Sound of Music other than the hills are supposed to be alive with it...

  27. "And underneath her wimple she has ______________"
    Level 4+ all the way. Played both the Broadway and the movie soundtrack albums so much the grooves wore through to the other side, plus I've eaten at the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont. I never thought much about the movie costumes, to be honest, although now I'm impressed by the number of different complicated versions Maria whipped up out of those curtains--how long did that take?

  28. Get this, as a kid, either to get me to go to sleep early on a Sunday or to save me from the Nazi parts, my mother told me the movie was over when Maria married Von Trapp...and I believed her.

    It wasn't until I was in college and decided to watch it again that I realized there was more to the film after the commercials. From then on I felt a sort of kindred with Phoebe on Friends whose fictional mother never let her see the endings of Bambi or the Yearling.

    I have the soundtrack, have seen it numerous times, and have done research on that fabulous wedding gown, but still I couldn't complete the phrase for Level 4's?!

  29. Okay, because I'm weird, I did some googling, and came up with examples. Here is a made-up version of my pattern. Here is part of the pattern envelope. (That one's mislabeled a little, because it *is* 40s.) Now, here is a 40s boys sailor suit.

    Just for comparison's sake, here is a 60s sailor dress and here is a 60s boys' sailor suit.

  30. I am sixteen, going on seventeen. I'll ...depend...on youuuuu. Yes, definitely a 4 or more.

    This was one of my two favourite movies as a child. I saw it in the cinema, on TV and then live in the theatre. My parents gave me the LP which I played over and over until it was pretty much worn out, singing along loudy in my tunely, toneless voice. As a teenager travelling across Europe, I made a special point of visiting the Sound of Music sites. SPOILER ALERT! I was shocked to find out that the spot where Maria stood, arms flung out in glorious rapture, belting out The Hills Are Alive was a mere insignificant grassy knoll rather than the top of a mountain. It was truly the end of innocence!

    The costumes are so 60's and I love them all. Historically inaccurate but sweet nonetheless.

  31. Laura, I would like one of those in an adult size please. ;)

  32. Peter, I'm sure I could dig up a sailor dress pattern in Cathy's size. If I could find separates, well, any decent men's pants pattern would provide the bottom. *evil grin* We could also go the absolutely traditional route and have the shirt button to the pants.

  33. Periodically on Project Runway, Heidi will comment on someone's design "did you want her to look like a cheese hostess." I cannot support Sound of Music as a movie or as a style.

  34. borderline 2/3 !
    i'd love to wear those clothes!

  35. I am one of the few people who have never seen this movie, and I am not a big fan of these kinds of musicals.

    About the clothing not being era accurate, I have seen western movies with the ladies wearing victory rolls and 40's hairstyles LOL.

  36. The hostess outfit is to die for. Norma Shearer wore one similar in The Women that I've had on my inspiration board for years.


  37. Love Maria's dance dress. Strange you posted this today, I was actually listening to the Sound of Music record earlier... eery.

    It's funny that I never looked at the style errors of this movie before. Give me a Renaissance period movie, however, and I'm all about finding the inaccuracies.

  38. Level 4, and I played Sister Margaretta (in the movie she steals the Nazi engine) and got to sing "I'd like to say a word on her behalf, Maria makes me laugh" in fact! All the nuns in our production got to wear real nuns habits, it was kind of awesome. I adore all the day dresses and playclothes in the movie,but my absolute favorite scene/outfit is "I Have Confidence" accessorized by the wide brimmed hat and guitar case. I just bought a new McCalls Cynthia Rowley pattern specifically because it reminded me of that jumper.

  39. feeding the jumpsuit addiction here....

  40. I'm a reluctant L3. On a business strip to Salzburg, I stayed at a hotel with only two English language channels. One had rather poor quality 24x7 news, if I recall. The other played the Sound of Music on an endless loop. That was five years ago, and I have only watched the movie once since then. It may per permanently etched into my brain.

    What was more fun was to watch classic Simpsons episodes in German. The voices are hilarious.

  41. I love the 60's style influence on movie costumes almost as much as 70's style influence...

    While SoM does get props for being wildly out of style for the time that the movie is set in, nothing gives me more pleasure than watching Liz Taylor as corseted Cleopatra....although, Ben Hur & some of those other sword and sandal epics are pretty high up there as well.

    Heck, even "historic" B/W samurai flicks have a distinct 60's era vibe to them.

  42. Level 4, and you didn't even phase me. :)

    Its the same way the Laurence Oliver Pride and Prejudice seems to be set in 1860s Alabama. Historical accuracy doesn't seem to have come into fashion until much later.

  43. Now you have me singing Rogers and Hammerstein... Thank you! I'd say I'm a level 4, I watched it constantly as a kid.

    You know, movies from that time didn't try very hard for fashion accuracy. There's a Jimmy Stewart movie about Glenn Miller (it's WONDERFUL) and even through the WW2 years, his wife is wearing this ridiculously HUGE New Look skirt.

    That said, the era in movies is great source material inspiration for movies set in the "present." Like Casablanca (and others)... When I watch Casablanca I'm blown away because it's a movie about the time, made at the time, and every fashion and attitude is so present, you know what I mean?

  44. I'm a level 3.5...Would you believe that I have a Sound of Music cape pattern? The kids in the picture are even sporting little Tyrolean type hats!

    I would love to wear Maria's Wedding Gown as well as to marry (or in my case have been married) in that wonderful abbey.

    My favourite song: The Lonely Goatherd ('Soon her Mama, with a gleaming gloat heard...")

    For in-depth costume analysis read, 'Hollywood and History - Costume Design in Film' a great resource!

  45. I don't know if you have a category for me. My father took me to see this in the theater when I was four. I hated it. I hated the stern father, hated the clothes, and was just all around bored. I begged my father (who loooved Julie Andrews) to take me across the street and to see "The Ten Commandments." Finally he relented and we went across the street and he didn't hear another peep out of me. Now I do love the music from the movie. My mom and I used to sing some of the songs together, but that movie never did it for me. I'm more of a "Gypsy" and "My Fair Lady" person.

  46. Dang, I am a level four. I used to make me mom rent that movie every few weeks. I love it. And I love the things Maria wears, they just simple and...nice I guess. i don't really know why I like them, they just work.

  47. I used to be a level 4, but alas, for I have not seen the movie in years, and I am now a sad little level 3. This will probably be rectified this weekend.

    In any case - the Liesl dress! I always wanted the Liesl gazebo dress. My Barbies had a pink and purple poofy dress and they were always dancing around gazebos in it.

    Also, major Julie Andrews love! She can do no wrong - love her music, lover her movies, love her books. The woman is the epitome of class and style. I am feeling a Julie Andrews marathon coming on: Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, Victor Victoria.

  48. I'm totes a level 4. How bout this: How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? How do you find a word that means Maria?......"

  49. Level 2 here. The sailor outfits are pretty cute. Glad movie costumes are accurate now.

  50. Christopher Plummer....hubba hubba hubba!!!

  51. I was born a level 4! I've always loved all of the costumes too, but as I've learned to sew, I've become more and more obsessed with how amazing they are. Have you ever noticed that that little teal dress Maria comes back from the abbey in is the same dress that the new novice is wearing when Maria goes back to the abbey? It's much cuter on Julie Andrews.

  52. yeah, another level 4 here. I played in the pit orchestra for more than one production of the musical and NEVER got tired of it.

  53. Sound of Music___ not like it; at all. But, those dirndls__ I was confused by how many iterations of this style I found in a Lutterloh kit from the early 80's I bought off ebay. After all, it is so obviously a costume with the puffy sleeves and full skirts. I think in Germany (maybe Austria too) Oktoberfest is a BIG deal and people require suitable costumes. Maybe the men wear Lederhosen. This would explain the persistence of this style from the thirties on. It doesn't change because it's a cultural costume. Maybe another part of the fantasy of that film is that those people wore this kind of clothing all the time, an American conceit to be sure.

    I agree about the mid-sixties touches though, when I see a Western on TV from the era, the women are wearing false eyelashes and eyeliner. It probably went unnoticed at the time, now I am stuck asking myself how DID that farm wife get her hands on the Maybelline back then?

    I am almost certain my mother made that flower girl (Simplicity 7156) dress for me to be in a wedding. It was royal blue with white lace trim.

  54. Love the SoM from 1st viewing--the songs especially, Julie Andrews' character, the romance of having so many brothers & sisters instead of the 2 my parents managed... Maria's character wears comfortable, attractive clothes that don't wear her. Sigh. so satisfying. K in Ohio

  55. Level 0 here, never watched the whole movie, but I was born and raised in a valley just south of Salzburg, if that can make it up :)
    And I have something else to show, a Dirndl dress that my mom did in the mid-eighties for a friend and I was her only child of the right size to fit it on. Has anyone else ever been abused as a model in their childhood?

    Oktoberfest is still a big thing, but again I never bother visiting it in Munich as it only gets worse and more rude every year. It has become an attraction for the tourist and booze fest for the locals. and fashion is important for it, you see busy tailors in all Bavaria before Oktoberfest time.
    There are plenty smaller events around that time in the villages and alps valleys that one should visit instead to get a more accurate picture and maybe even to spot the differences in traditional fashion across the region.
    Men's wear still includes Lederhose, though your rarely see anyone wearing it in everyday life.

  56. Hi Peter,

    I think I am more the level 2... Dirdls reminds me girls clothes, so I preffer the baroness dresses! ;-) Oh, and by the way, isn't Maria's "brown dirdl" here quite exhactly like Maria's(Natalie Wood, in West Side Story, 1961) dirdl in the scene of the sewing room? Definetely a fashion trend on those days!

  57. OT I know, but pleeeeeez Peter, give us some guidance on things we must get done to be ready for the May 2nd launch of the MPB Sew Along! I raced through unpacking and organizing my sewing room after our recent move, found several jeans patterns (never cut out of fear) and two pieces of denim also never cut. Your blog has me ready to tackle the process...
    Oma in NM

  58. that white dress the baroness wears to the soiree blows my mind. the wide straps, the tulle! i'd die to make and wear that dress!

  59. Can I just say that I love the fashions worn by Noel Neill when she played Lois Lane in the 50s Superman tv show? I think in my last life I was around in the 50s because I feel such a strong connection to the fashions (and general style) of those days.

  60. Oh, dear; knowing all the songs by heart qualifies me as a level 4? Eeep.

    I guess if that doesn't qualify me, then this does: hoping to get my act together and make Maria's blue chiffon with flutter sleeves to wear to a Sound of Music sing along this year. Yikes, I'm such a geek.


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