In film and television, as in life, people occasionally attempt to make their own clothes. Sometimes their efforts are brilliant, but sometimes they are far from it. I’ll start with the impressive.
In the movie Enchanted, Amy Adams’ character, Giselle, finds herself in the strange “land” of New York wearing a wedding dress with a giant skirt. She industriously makes a dress out of her host’s curtains, a la Scarlett O’Hara. What has always impressed me about this scene is the detail. You can see the specific pattern pieces Giselle cuts out of the curtains, and they are not random at all. Unlike many other on-screen attempts, her cut-outs look like real pattern pieces that could be used to create an actual dress. (Granted, she inexplicably and mysteriously finds pink pumps to go with a second dress she creates later, but at least her dressmaking skills are realistic!)
And then, of course, there are the sewing-challenged, whose valiant efforts can yield great comic moments. One of my favorites is from a true comedy legend, Lucille Ball. On I Love Lucy, Lucy tires to save money by making her own dress. Her problems begin when, after finding manicure scissors inadequate, she cuts out her fabric with a razor blade. One ruined carpet later, she has her pieces cut out and must figure out how to work a sewing machine. In classic Lucy fashion, the results are far from perfect. Ethel’s response says it all: “It looks like you made it with your own two feet.” It really is a mess of a dress, but you can’t help feeling sorry for Lucy at the same time. As any beginning sewer can tell you, it can be pretty intimidating!
Another of my favorite fashion attempts gone wrong is from yet another classic sitcom, The Cosby Show. In another effort to save money, Denise offers to recreate a designer shirt for her brother, Theo, so that he can look cool. The result is a hilariously ill-fitting, bright yellow shirt, complete with sleeves of different lengths. Theo is furious, until people see him and label him as fashion-forward. All is then, of course, forgiven.
I always find these DIY fashionistas entertaining, whether or not they’re successful. And they certainly get credit for at least trying. I also applaud the costume designers, particularly where the end result had to be so wrong. It’s not easy to make a flawless garment, but it’s not a cinch to make something terrible on purpose either. Although I imagine it’s probably a lot of fun.
*Enchanted’s costume designer was Mona May; The Cosby Show’s was Sarah Lemire. This particular episode of I Love Lucy does not list a costume/wardrobe credit.