My Vintage Life: Christmas in Hollywood

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With Christmas just gone and New Year’s fast approaching, now is the time for thick blankets, hot chocolate, and a favourite black-and-white film on the TV. I – like so many others – absolutely love December and everything that comes with it. But there is truly nothing better about the season than the opportunity to pull out some of the best festive movies for a viewing. Would it, after all, truly be Christmas without an opportunity to let Bing Crosby make us feel all the feels in White Christmas? We owe a lot to classic Hollywood for helping us usher in some festive spirit and feel the joy that the holidays bring (troubling family members and potential catastrophes aside).

While I’m well acquainted with the best seasonal films to emerge out of early Hollywood, I’ve been wondering about how exactly Hollywood recognised the Christmas period outside of creating some really great movies. So join me for this week’s My Vintage Life and an exploration of Christmas in Hollywood.


Since the 1920s, Hollywood has rung in the festive season with incredible extravagance. Following a campaign by retail merchants to increase Christmas business, businessman Harry Blaine and the Hollywood Boulevard Association reached an agreement on the annual transformation of Hollywood Boulevard into Santa Claus Lane. Beginning in 1928, the Boulevard became a wonderland for prospective shoppers and tourists coming to view the elaborate lights display and daily parade. The parade – at the time known as the Hollywood Santa Parade or the Santa Claus Lane Parade) – still takes place as an annual event.

Mary Pickford 1920s Christmas

Actress Mary Pickford putting up the Santa Claus Lane sign

As historian Nathan Masters describes Santa Claus Lane:

“The first year, 100 living firs were dug up from the forest near Big Bear and placed along Hollywood Blvd. in wooden planters. Once fully dressed in nearly 10,000 incandescent light bulbs, the trees lit the path for a nightly parade. Joined on his sleigh by a silver screen star, Santa Claus greeted passerby as a team of six live reindeer pulled him down the boulevard. After New Year’s Day, the trees were replanted on the grounds of the Hollywood Bowl. 

In later years, metallic decorations replaced the living trees. Drawings of film stars’ faces smiled at shoppers from the center of tin wreaths hung from lampposts. Whimsical, shiny toy Christmas trees blinked with colorful lights. At the annual promotion’s peak, organizers boasted that Hollywood Blvd. was the most brightly lit street in the nation.”

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Other notable features of Santa Claus Lane included imitation fireplaces and 4-feet high papier-mache Santa Claus heads (not at all terrifying, I’m sure). As an interesting side note, the song ‘Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)’ was inspired by Hollywood Boulevard’s transformation into Santa Claus Lane and the daily procession of Santa and his reindeer.

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Beyond Hollywood’s physical transformation, the studios also picked up on the publicity potential afforded by the Christmas season. Filmmakers capitalised on moviegoers’ festive spirit through the production of great films – White Christmas (1954), Christmas in Connecticut (1945), and Miracle on 34th Street (1947) remain some of the best known – but also through the marketing of their greatest stars. The late 1920s onwards marked a dramatic transformation in the way that studios presented their stars – starting to sell films to the general public through the reputation of their performers. A studio’s contracted stars became integrally tied to the success of its films and, as such, Christmas became an opportunity for studios to thrust their actors even more forcefully into the public eye. Alongside the production of holiday films featuring prominent names, studios also worked with their actors to release carefully staged publicity shots. Here are a couple of my favourite examples:

Ava Gardner

Ava Gardner

Loretta Young

Loretta Young

The history of Hollywood at Christmas is a reminder that they had more to offer than some, admittedly amazing, films. The nature of ‘Tinseltown’ is one that was firmly established in the 1920s, with a desire to drag business away from surrounding retail areas and towards Hollywood’s main strip. And these are traditions that are continuing – albeit in slightly adjusted forms – over 80 years later.

So with Christmas just gone and New Year’s around the corner, pull out your favourite old films, look up some seasonal Hollywood photos (there are some real *crackers*) and enjoy the best of what December has left for us. However – and whether or not – you’ve celebrated, I’m sending you all the best wishes for the rest of the holiday period and hoping that you have a wonderful long New Year’s weekend!

 

 

1950s Stole (Decades of Style)

Sewing for other people has never been my strong suit. Mostly, this is because I’m an unrelenting perfectionist and am never truly satisfied with anything I make. While I can live with this feeling when it comes to things I make for myself, it’s much harder to let go when I sew garments or accessories for other people. Sometimes, however, I’m able to make myself take a step back and remember how far I’ve come with my sewing since I began. Over the past year, in particular, my skills have come on leaps and bounds. With this in mind, I’ve stopped avoiding making things for others and instead let this Christmas motivate me to give some super unique gifts!

For a while now, I’ve been desperate to try out Decades of Style’s 1950s Stole pattern. As you all know, I’m a diehard Decades of Style fan. Their patterns are consistently the easiest to construct because, even when requiring techniques that are more complex (see my version of the Belle Curve dress, for example), the instructions are always crystal clear. So, when it came to picking out a potential gift for my mum, I jumped at the opportunity to have a go at another one of their patterns.

*I promise that all of the pictures in this post are after I gave the stole to my mum on Christmas Day. She opted out of having photos on the blog because she was super harassed making Christmas dinner so, instead, you get more photos of me!*

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Because this gift was for my mum – a woman who loves all things sparkly – I knew that I needed to find a super unique and fabulous fabric. Luckily, I found the perfect thing on a trip to Joann’s. The fabric is a gold sparkly synthetic with a red (really maroon) net overlay. The effect is truly stunning. The fabric is constantly catching the light and sparkling! I lined the stole with a pale gold lining fabric. The fabrics worked wonderfully together and helped to create a stole that will be perfect to throw on over a black dress for an event or party. Ultimately, I wanted the stole to serve as a bit of a signature piece that could elevate a relatively simple outfit (think lots of black) to something more night-time ready. The fabric picks definitely helped me deliver that.

As I expected, the pattern itself was absolutely divine. I had selected the stole in part because I didn’t want to choose anything too complicated. I knew that I had other makes to get done, as well as the pressure of a Christmas Day deadline, so I wasn’t looking for anything overwhelmingly ambitious. As it turned out, the most time-consuming and complicated part of the process was cutting out the shell fabric and lining. The stole comes in four pattern pieces, two of which are essentially the length of the stole itself. When it came to cutting, I was working with the longest pattern pieces that I’ve used to-date. Finding the space to do this (and stopping my dog from climbing all over the fabric) was a challenge. But I’m fortunate enough to have a large space of wooden floor in my lounge, so I managed to find a way forward.

I will also add that, as always, the Decades of Style PDF really came through for me. I absolutely despise PDF patterns. They are consistently a nightmare to put together and, somehow, I’m never able to get the pages to stick together quite how they should. While I’m still not a PDF convert, I’ve used quite a few PDF patterns from Decades of Style and they are always the most problem free. The 1950s Stole pattern fixed together perfectly!

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The stole itself was done in about three hours. It would have been shorter except that I accidentally attached the wrong pieces together and had to do quite a bit of unpicking in order to rectify the situation. That minor problem aside, I had absolutely no issues constructing the garment.

The shape of the finished is total perfection. I adore the drape of it! Although I would probably use a brooch to pin the stole at the shoulder when wearing outside (the lining makes it a bit difficult to get the stole to stay on the shoulder without sliding down), it is incredibly easy to wear. The pattern comes with illustrations that show a couple of different ways of wearing the piece, offering options to work with whatever else you’re wearing. The stole itself has a sleeve on one side and a flap on the other (you can see this in the photo above). I absolutely love the shape of the sleeve, which has an almost kimono sleeve feel to it:

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Of all the features of the stole, however, I’m most obsessed with the hand flap. Last year, I bought a vintage cape with the same option – you can either keep your arms and hands inside the cape or stick them out through small flaps on either side. To me, this feature on the stole truly brings home its 1950s feel, while also offering another great way of wearing the accessory.

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Although fit is obviously not much of an issue when it comes to this stole, the pattern offers three separate bust options from 30″ – 46″, to accommodate nearly everyone. Paying attention to the bust size is vital for ensuring that you get the right amount of drape across the chest. I made the stole in Size B (36″ – 40″). While you’re seeing it on me in these pictures (36″ bust), my mum is on the other end of the Size B spectrum  – the fit and drape worked perfectly on both of us. The length of the sleeve was also perfect on us both!

So if you’re looking for a pattern that offers a super vintage feel whilst taking only a handful of hours out of your day, this is definitely a pattern for you! It’s a perfect gift and a wonderfully wearable accessory, not to mention the perfect way to class-up any outfit.

Sewing For Self-Care: Surviving the Holidays

Since my first Sewing for Self-Care post, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the cross-over between self-care and creativity. For me, it’s a delicate balance. Creative projects are vital to my sense of self-worth and yet it’s so easy for them to tip over into something negative when I’m in a self-critical mode. Although there are plenty of things that can (and should) be done to make this kind of negativity less present (I do many things, including yoga and meditation to help quiet that voice inside my head), I think it’s also vital to manage creative outlets to maximise their self-care potential.

With the holiday season upon us, these issues feel even more important to discuss and think over. The holidays can be a difficult time for many of us – whether because we suffer with anxiety, are made to be around people that trouble us, or have to deal with a sense of isolation and loneliness. Even where none of the above apply, December is often a month of increased financial burden and a larger-than-usual period of time spent around others. Where these sorts of challenges exist, however, we are offered a valuable opportunity to step up our attention to self-care. For those of us who rely on creative outlets, the holidays can take a toll in this regard. Moving around to different houses and meeting familial obligations can make it tough to carve out time, not to mention that some creative hobbies are much less mobile than others (carrying a sewing machine and serger around isn’t the most practical option).

With this in mind, I thought that I would offer up some self-care tips for those of you who, like me, use sewing (or any creatively-minded exercise) to steer your way through the instability and challenges of the holidays.

*An important side-note: sewing is definitely not a cure for mental illness. I got better through a whole range of things, including help from doctors and therapists. But, for me, the holistic approach always works best. Sewing is a huge component of how I maintain my happiness and positivity and I definitely recommend creative endeavours to anyone struggling. But I absolutely see this as a companion to other kinds of intervention. Please make sure to pay a visit to your doctor or call a helpline if you are in a bad way.*

  1. Make It Portable

For me, one of the hardest things about using sewing for self-care is how chained it is to my house. Although I supplement my self-care techniques with things I can do wherever I go, the holidays often mean longer periods of time spent away from my sewing base and therefore unable to indulge myself. Since sewing is so integral to my well-being and, as I mentioned in my first Sewing for Self-Care post, something I have to maintain as a daily habit, it became super important for me to find a way to make it a portable activity.

There are many components of the sewing process that can easily be done away from the machine. Cutting out pattern or fabric pieces is a pretty portable activity – I often cart my cutting mat and rotary blade along with me when I have cutting to do (especially good when I’m working on a small project). Another great way to make garment sewing portable is to save up any bits of hand sewing that you have to do. I hate hand sewing so I am always procrastinating anything that forces me to get out the needle and thread. Being away from home gives me sufficient motivation to finally tackle these neglected projects, learn some new techniques, and tick some more things off of my to-do list.

Similarly, if sewing is your bag, you might consider taking up a small cross-stitch project when you know that you have a lot of travelling or time away from home approaching. I’m not an avid cross-stitcher but I find the process just as soothing and absorbing as garment-making. The same could be said for knitting (which I know how to do) and crocheting (which I have no idea how to do). Whatever your particular hobby, there will always be ways to make it a portable pursuit. What this does require is some forethought to ensure that you have activities lined up.

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2.  Make Some Lists

Lists are super important to planning holiday self-care and are honestly brilliant for monitoring self-care in general. I have an ongoing list of activities or resources that I can reliably refer to when I’m feeling low and know that I need a distraction or a pick-me-up (this can include things like great Youtube videos, favourite music, activities and hobbies). But, when I know that there’s a challenging event or few days approaching, I find it helpful to make lists that are a little more specific. When it comes to sewing, I will often break ongoing projects down into smaller goals or components so that I know what I have to work on. Not only does this let me keep track of my current projects, it helps me plan adequately when I know that I need to be equipped for time away from home.

If, like me, you keep a bullet journal, you are likely already acquainted with this kind of thing! You can also refer to the details in my first Sewing for Self-Care post where I wrote in more depth about how I use my bullet journal to document sewing projects. Whether or not you choose to go the bullet journal route (it’s certainly a more involved way of doing things), forethought and planning are absolutely key to surviving the holidays with your self-care intact.

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3.  Do Your Research

Whether or not you run a blog, sewing can be a relatively research-intensive process. From finding patterns and fabric to searching out sources of inspiration, there are plenty of opportunities to spend some time on your phone and absorb yourself in sewing plans. I’m constantly on the lookout for great vintage photos that might help me design future projects and, when I find myself at a loose end, I’ll often pass the time browsing the internet for new resources. Down-time can also be a great opportunity to scour your favourite online fabric shops to see if there are any great sales or new finds.

Another fantastic thing to do is take the time to work on new sewing techniques – or improve those that you’ve already acquired. As I mentioned above, my hand sewing leaves a lot to be desired. But it’s inevitable that I’ll need to slip stitch gaps closed or collars down in most of my garments. So working on this, or other hand sewing necessities, by spending some time watching Youtube videos or reading blog tips is a really useful way of passing the time. Plus, all you really need for this is a phone and a bit of fabric for practice!

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4.  Try To Devote Some Time Daily

As I mentioned in my first Sewing for Self-Care post, it’s vital to make self-care a daily habit. In my day-to-day life, this means carving out some time to sit at my sewing machine – even if I don’t think that I’ll last for 5 minutes, more often than not it’ll turn into a much longer session because I become so absorbed. When I’m travelling or otherwise busy with plans for an extended period of time, I try to maintain this daily commitment. One of the biggest challenges about the holidays can be the loss of control over your daily activities. You’re essentially subject to majority rule in deciding what you’ll be doing and when. To make sure that I continue to feel stable and present in my own mind, I have a few things that I make uncompromisable everyday activities – yoga, meditation, and sewing.

Although each of these activities might change their form to accommodate the circumstance (sewing becomes portable, yoga becomes a 10 minute sun salutation practice rather than a 50 minute guided practice etc.), they are essential to making sure that I remain calm and collected. Sewing offers an opportunity to retreat inwards and remove yourself from the hustle and bustle taking place around you. So try to find a way to ensure that you can give a bit of time to it each day. Whether this becomes a snatched 10 minutes in between meals, an activity to accompany Christmas TV watching in the evening, or a 30 minute wind-down session before bed, it’s vital to keep yourself grounded through what you love to do.


So there we have it. A few tips for using sewing to survive the holidays. As much as the Christmas season is a time for compassion towards others, this is a kindness that we must absolutely learn to turn inwards at all times. To make sure that you can be your best self and feel fully recuperated by the time that the holidays end, pay attention to yourself and your needs. If you have any tips to add for using creativity to make it through the craziness of the season, please feel free to share in the comments below. Otherwise, I’m wishing you all a wonderful and joy-filled weekend – whether, and however, you celebrate.