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Feb 3, 2012

Puttin' on the Glitz!

Rhinestones.  Bugle beads.  Sequins.  Fringe.

These are the elements of glitzy dressing, our topic for today!

You can't really talk about glitz without mentioning Hollywood, where the glitziest fantasies were made reality, or rather unreality.

Garish and guilt-free, glitz has its critics.  My mother was/is the least glitzy person you can imagine.  She used to criticize her friends (to me, me) whom she thought dressed too flashily.   My next door neighbor, a boy named Maury, was also my best friend in elementary school, and his mother, Francine, a sexy divorcee, was the polar opposite of my mother.  Francine had a clothes closet worthy of Ann-Margret. 


I know this because after school, Maury and I used to go through it and try on anything trimmed with marabou or sequins, which was just about everything.  (The die was cast early, folks.)  She had enough costume jewelry to rival Jolie Gabor and I still remember her collection of chunky psychedelic Lucite rings that were so popular in the early Seventies.

Parenthetically, is anyone named Francine anymore?

Strange as it may seem, I am not a very glitzy person today and neither is my cousin Cathy, who's more Greer Garson than Mitzi Gaynor. 

No conversation about glitzy dressing (or Mitzi Gaynor) would be complete without mentioning designer Bob Mackie.  I've always loved Bob Mackie, who is probably best known for the wacky, flamboyant costumes he created for Carol Burnett and Cher on their respective television variety shows in the Seventies.

Mackie has continued to costume Cher, seen here on her way to the Piggly Wiggly.

I recently picked up a copy of Mackie's Dressing for Glamour on Amazon, signed by M. Mackie himself!

To be honest, this book doesn't quite live up to its title, being more of a What not to wear when you're short, fat, busty, or some combination thereof guide.  Lots of photos but very few color plates.  Mackie also talks about what it was like to work for various people in the business, but since this was at the height of his busy career, he's diplomatic to a fault, though he does get a dig in at perfectionist Barbra Streisand, who insisted on dyeing her own shoes when she appeared on The Judy Garland Show.  Perhaps she feared Judy might be dyeing them...

And speaking of Judy -- no shrinking violet in the rhinestone department herself -- one of our foremost glitz icons is Liza Minnelli,  most closely associated with the late designer Halston.

Was a Halston design the inspiration behind Simplicity 7295, a vintage pattern from 1975 I've just started making, and part of Simplicity's "Designer Fashion" line?

Patterns from this fabulous line can still be found cheap today and many look just like the more costly and collectible Vogue Paris Originals and other designer pattern lines of the period.  Perhaps it's inspired by Diane Von Furstenberg (?).  Anyway, I picked up this pattern recently for just a few dollars on Etsy, and I'm making it with the glitziest fabric in my stash.

I don't know how I ended up with this fabric, a sturdy knit (most likely Poly-Spandex) with little plastic "sequins" heat-transferred onto the surface.  This is both good and bad.  The sequins are strongly adhered to the fabric, but seams must be pressed with great care (not too hot an iron; a press cloth is a must), but they will not crease on the bias.

If you try to press a crease with an iron, you melt the glue and the sequins want to peel off.

What this means is that rather than attach a traditional facing to the front, I'm going to cut my facing (made of my fashion fabric for draping purposes) serge off the seam allowance while attaching both layers (right side of facing to wrong side of garment, with the facing under the garment), and then bind the seam edge with either bias strips of polished cotton (which I've tried) or some silk knit I have in my stash (which I haven't tried).

Either way, this will help to stabilize the edge and provide a smooth, professional look.  I'll likely do this on the cuffs and hems as well.  Again, the fabric won't crease sharply with those plastic do-dads attached.  Can you think of a better way to do this?

Here's a sample (done with white thread) of my binding.  I attach it, right sides together, fold it over the edge, and stitch in the ditch.  To avoid too much thickness, I probably won't fold the inside bias edge under, but either serge the edge before I attach the binding, or just leave as-is.  It won't fray.

Vertical seams are less of a problem, as you can see below.

And that's it.  I am happy to be sewing again after my month-long hiatus.  Despite the cold, the dogs are getting plenty of exercise on their treadmill.

In closing, friends, how do you feel about glitz and glitzy fashion?

I know some of you make costumes for figure skating, ballroom dance competitions, and theater, but outside of those venues, do you ever "glam it up" with sequins, Swarovski crystals, or bugle beads?

Any glitzy gown you remember from your youth, perhaps seen on TV, that made an indelible impression on you?

Who's ready to channel their inner Carol Channing?

Happy Friday, everybody!


  1. hmm... fold-over elastic as binding? Ever tried it? and somehow I admire glitz enormously without wanting to wear it myself.

  2. I love glitz on other people, but don't feel comfortable wearing it.
    Your binding looks wonderful, but my question is how do you sew through the fabric? Do you need a special needle to punch through the plastic?

  3. I was never the glitzy type in my youth, quite the opposite actually. In my middle age, however, I have dabbled in the dazzle.

    I have a Vintage knit sheath dress that is covered in sequins. It's turquoise, as are the sequins, which are arranged in little scallops all over the dress, like fish scales. I paid $10 for in an antique shop. It was stuffed in a basket with a bunch of other stuff. Naturally, it caught my eye. This was two or three years ago.

    I've worn it twice, both times to parties where there was all night dancing. It's comfortable, easy to dance in, and it gets loads of attention. But I think I'm done with it. Everyone I know has seen it now! I'll have to find or make another glitzy dress before the next party.

    Great idea binding the edges of your glitzy fabric. The technique looks very polished and professional. Can't wait to see the final product!

  4. i don't think i have an inner Carol Channing to channel LOL The glitziest dress i own is made by an Australian design duo that cost a small fortune. It's made of silk and weighs a tonne because of the bazillions of glass beads covering its entire surface. It doesn't stand out because it's a gun-metal grey colour but i do love it and felt like a princess on the one occasion i had to wear it. Thankfully the cut is classic and it will be good to go for many decades ahead; which is a must since it cost a small fortune.

    I've just started the MPB men's shirt sew-a-long....yeah...i know...i'm a year behind haha Perhaps i'll make my OH a glitzy shirt to wear...i think his reply would be something along the lines of "when hell freezes over" since he's a rather conservative dresser. it will be a push to get him into a floral or paisley patterned shirt, but i'm going to try! Haha

  5. More about this Francine, please.

    Is your inner-Francine going to wear the spangly outfit? If not, than who will wear it?

    Since it's all wrong for Cathy, is there another lady in your life you've been keeping from us? Hmmmm?

  6. Must be a glitz season - just bought 3/4 yard at Mood yesterday, ahem. Had very clear idea what to do with it, but now having second thoughts! Where are you going to wear your outfit? I just need some encouragement, please...

  7. Oh I'm so excited that you are doing this project! Yay glitz! I tend to be a little flashy, but not necessarily glitzy. But I do have a sequined leopard print fabric in my stash that I just need the right occasion to sew up. (Sadly there are not enough occasions calling for animal print and sequins to be worn together.)

  8. I love glitz, but I don’t have any place to wear it, so I enjoy it on other people. A few months ago I hand sewed a smattering of sequins on an outfit for a very rare fancy-dress party. Otherwise, I think the only items I’ve worn that might qualify were my wedding gown and dance costumes as a child (ok, I guess that really doesn't qualify).

    I used to love trying on my mom’s clothes. Wish I had them now!

    I always love seeing Freddy and Willy on the treadmill!

  9. I've had two glittery dresses-- one, bought for a Christmas party when I was in my late 20s-- it was a black silk wrap dress with blue sequins on the bodice-- and one, a few years ago when I made four turquoise sequined mini-dresses for a theater production where I was one of the backup singers for the Supremes number. Wow, that was fun!

  10. I like glitz, but have a hard time figuring out where to wear it. My daughter has saved me though becuase she is starting to do artistic roller skating which requires glitzy (and semi-glitzy) dresses. So, yay, I'm gonna go crazy with hologram spandex, crystals and beads in the next few months!

    1. Skating costumes are fun! They are the reason I taught myself how to sew. Figure dresses don't usually use as many sparkles, but those dance dresses can be blinding! I have seen it go both ways for the freestyle dresses, though they are a bit plainer in recent years. Anyway, always good to hear about new roller skaters - have fun making your costumes!

  11. I love glitz! One of my favourite projects last year was the 1940's sequined blouse!

  12. I think because I wear so much glitzy stuff with the skating costumes I avoid it on my regular clothes. I like shiny things, so I think if I didn't skate I would probably want sequins and rhinestones on all my clothes, but now I strike a balance with all of it on skating stuff and none of it on my other sewing projects. I do have a few projects in my plans that will make use of rhinestones and sequins, but in general I keep the two styles very separate. I love all the old Hollywood glitz and glam though. Bob Mackie is my idol. And I can't wait to see your Liza inspired suit!

  13. The closest I get to glitz is wearing my thrifted fur coat that I bought in Paris with high heels.
    Ps Please recreate Francine. Your fan base is waiting.

  14. When Cher came out with her perfume in the 80's her Bob Mackie gowns went on tour and I saw them the windows of Filene's in Boston. They were are magnificent!

  15. I love shiny things: rhinestones, metallic fabrics, sequins, you name it. And feathers. Not fur unless it's faux. The problem is finding somewhere to wear it. When your other half is lounging in an old sweatshirt and jammie bottoms, it's hard to sweep in wearing a maribu trimmed something.

  16. I once had a simple sheath dress with spaghetti straps made of a textures silver lame type fabric, made by my sainted mother,no less. Alas, ltwas long ago when I could fit into such a garment.

  17. I like the occasional sequin or bead embellishment, but just a touch. Don't feel the glitz at all. But I love it on ice skaters and dancers.
    Love Bob Mackie...used to worship him when I was making costumes full time.

  18. Does anyone know a good place for identifying sewing/knitting/crafting tools? I found something at Goodwill today, that I am at a loss to identify; but it has the Susan Bates name on it and is labled Bubble Bar. At a dollar I couldn't resist bringing this mystery home. Alas, google-fu has failed me; so I thought of the friendly experts here, and had hope...

    And I love to look at glitz, jewelery too; and never wear much at all. I have lots of bits and pieces I've collected like a magpie and just like to look at.

  19. I am SO the opposite of glitz, though it's fun to see on other people, sometimes. LOL


  20. Bob Mackie really was a genius when it came to costume design. Did you know he designed EVERY costume on the Carol Burnette show down to the last character, including the famous 'curtain dress' for the Gone with the Wind spoof. He is credited for bringing many of the skits to life with his designs. He used rice to make the big saggy boobs of the 'drag' costumes that Harvey Korman wore so they would sway 'just so'. Pure Genius. He also designed several Barbie dresses.

  21. I used some fold-over elastic with glittery gold thread to bind the neckline of a recent dress. Something like that might work very well for your glitzy ensemble.

  22. Hooray, more sewing! Can't wait to see the result, and if Cathy isn’t available to model it can you locate and persuade Francine? The last bit of glitz I sewed was just over a yard of green Lurex from my grandmothers' stash (she could never resist a bargain). It made a very short slightly tight mini dress thingy for my thirtieth birthday. Maybe paring it with purple Lurex tights was the big mistake, but by popular vote, the best description of me that night was ‘the drunken leprechaun’. It’s thirty years now since I swore off Lurex, though I remain partial to champagne.

  23. I don't have a glitzy lifestyle but I loved watching Sonny and Cher back in the day... Cher's costumes were super fun! I can't wait to see how your glitzy jumpsuit turns out.

  24. Yay for glitz! I love shiny things, although I have no desire to sew with them. I'm very jealous of your Bob Mackie book - he was the first designer (that I knew by name) to inspire me, after seeing dresses he designed for Barbie. I still have a letter that I wrote to him!

  25. I love sparkles and spangles and sequins (though I can't STAND it when people misspell them as "sequence"!) and if something is both PURPLE AND SEQUINNED that's a double bonus from my point of view!
    I recently heard about a convention coming up here in Sunny Melbourne with a number of Star Trek actors making appearances. Have to go, of course, and have to have some sort of Trek-ish costume... problem is that I don't really have the body for it (unless you count going as a Horta, but there's not much chance of that!).
    Then it occurred to me, if I get a spangly ballgown (from the costume shop, as I don't really see the need to keep something like that in my wardrobe) I could put my hair up and tell everyone I'm Lwaxana Troi. (Google her if you're not sure who I'm talking about; I'm sure there are some pics out there!)
    What do you think?

  26. Hey! My name is Francine. So there. But glitzy I am not... Enjoy this blog though.


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