Recreating Movie Costumes: The “Sisters” Dresses from “White Christmas”
by, Laura Ulak
Several friends and I went to the 2nd Annual Guthrie Theatre Masquerade Dance Party in June. The Party starts with a rather expensive dinner first, and then from 9pm-1am there is a dance party that costs $10.00 to enter. I wasn’t planning on going this year till Erin Schneider (my costuming partner in crime and your illustrious President) convinced me that if we wore something fun and silly that I would have a good time. (Lots of fake hair and tightly woven silk is not very comfortable to dance in.) We started thinking of various ideas of what we could wear and then we realized that this was the perfect opportunity to make the outfits we have wanted to make since we were teenagers: the blue dresses from the “Sisters” act in White Christmas.
Our friends Clare and Jessica made the costumes for Costume Con 29 and entered them in the Historical Category and won Best Movie Recreation, so we had a big bar to meet.
I scoured SR Harris for fabric and purchased some great turquoise blue heavy satin for the skirts, and some pale blue lace for the top. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it would do. I then went over to Joann Fabrics and found the perfect lace, chiffon and organza in the same color way from the Casa Collection on sale. (So I have several yards of pale blue stretch lace if anyone needs any….)
We made organza crinolines to go under the skirts (much cheaper than buying them), and made earrings from sparkly blue buttons. I altered a modern pattern that had a lace overlay and had to add to the neckline to get the proper shape for the collar. I used the mandarin collar pattern piece from my Elizabethan partlett pattern for the collar, and had to adjust the strapless portion of the bodice upwards an additional 2 inches to cover my chest. Otherwise I would have been the Very Slutty Haynes Sister.
Amazingly enough the pattern just fit both Erin’s and my measurements, so we only needed one pattern. I lined the bustier portion of the bodice and put boning in the side seams, and several inches out from the zipper. This made a huge difference in that it kept things smooth in the back. We wore long line bras that we found at a wedding sale ($5 and $10 respectively) that we wore underneath to get the proper silhouette. I needed to shave down the bra cups a bit on mine, and added clear gel straps to hold things in place better. We also got shoes at the same sale ($3.00 each!) and glued some half pearls along the top of my shoes to coordinate with Erin’s. The original shoes are smooth, but we were under budget and these worked fine. We bought some cotton gloves on eBay ($6.00 each) and Erin used fabric spray and colored the gloves and the shoes to match. She also glued the rhinestones on the tops of the gloves. The gloves shrunk a bit when being washed, but otherwise turned out great.
Erin just curled her hair and pulled it back in combs and sprayed the crap out of her hair with hair spray and achieved great looking Vera Hair. I tried several different wigs, but nothing worked. So I used this tutorial to get my hair to look like Rosemary’s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqhpRscvQHw Lisa Freemont Street has EXCELLENT tutorials for vintage style hair.
I put gel in my dry hair after I parted it on the right side. Then I sprayed bits of it as I went and rolled it in small plastic (and some bendy) rollers.
Then I let it dry and then brushed out the curls so that they were mostly at the bottom. My hair is past my shoulders and I couldn’t get the curl tight enough to be the right length, so I made 4 little ponytails at the ends of my hair and rolled them up under my hair and pinned them in place. This gave me the look of a bobbed hairstyle and held the curls in place. I used pomade on my part, bangs, and to hold down stray pieces of hair. Then I sprayed the crap out of my hair. I used clips to hold the waves on each side in place till the pomade dried.
Then Erin sprayed my head with some spray-on gold hair color. It made it look very brassy, so she added additional color using her spray on dry shampoo that toned it down. The result was more of a strawberry blond, but definitely not red.
We had pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus as we were all part of the same theme (Santa is wearing the zoot suit I modified for him with all of the sparkly appliques):
We had a great time dancing and the outfits were MUCH cooler than last year. My hair pretty much stayed in place all night, but needed to be pinned up occasionally due to jostling with people on the dance floor. The people that got the costumes loved them, and we did finally do the “Sisters” performance on the balcony of the Guthrie in front of about 30 people. Luckily they had all been drinking, and thought we were swell. Hee!
The best compliment we got all evening was that someone wanted to know if we had rented the costumes, as many people were wearing amazing costumes that had been rented from the Guthrie. It made me feel good about my sewing ability! I also had a number of people tell me I looked very much like Rosemary Clooney. Which was also very nice and that my poor hair hadn’t suffered all that hair product in vain.
I loved wearing the costumes and can’t wait to wear them again.
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