Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Style Inspiration: Pulp Fiction Divas


In a bid to understand my own personal style a bit better, I've recently been thinking quite a bit about the looks, eras and themes that inspire me. One particular inspiration source that I keep coming back to is the illustrated covers of pulp fiction novels. I love the trashy drama and dark sexiness of them. The women are all decolletage and hourglass curves, shiny hair and pristine lipstick with a wicked, passion-filled glint in their eye.

Now I'm obviously not lusting after, or even vaguely condoning, an image of womanhood in which women only have their sexuality to help them to attain what they want or need. Plus a world in which people, in particular women, are usually categorised as 'bad' or 'good' (of morals) is clearly a ridiculous one. However, these intellectual considerations do not dispel my enjoyment of their kitsch, lusty imagery, nor do they rid me of my desire to create some pulp fiction inspired looks. When I want to access my inner vamp, it is often these type of images that my imagination accesses. So how to go about creating these looks...


It seems quite clear from the top two illustrated covers that the staple garment in a pulp fiction vixen's wardrobe is the slinky pencil skirt. Demure in length but so tight it looks sprayed on, the wiggle/pencil skirt is key. For comfort and ease during a particularly rushed getaway/chase, I'd recommend using fabric with a decent elastane/lycra content. A metre of shiny black sateen and a skirt pattern like the vintage Advance 8761 pictured below, and you could have an amazing evening wear pencil skirt like the bewitching brunette's picture above in about half a day's sewing! 


Basic pencil skirt patterns are easy to find, a quick scan on ebay and I found a squillion vintage ones in a variety of sizes. There are heaps of great modern basic pencil skirt patterns too. If you wanted to really nail the look, you may need to tweak the proportions a little. The waist band really needs to sit the smallest point of your torso and the hem needs to hit below the knee. 


My goodness, these good-time gals do dress to be noticed, don't they?! This blonde bombshell confirmed my suspicion that I could use a yellow pencil skirt in my arsenal. The cheeky side split showing a touch of thigh is an interesting deter from the standard pencil skirt style. This pencil skirt pattern (pictured below) available on Burdastyle has princess seam lines which make it very easy to convert into the side split style of the yellow skirt in the illustration above. 
These are Queens of the separates: when pulp fiction divas aren't rocking a pencil skirt they are often portrayed in capri pants/clam diggers/pedal-pushers. Sitting equally high on the natural waist-line, we are not allowed to forget those hips for a minute!


I'm a massive fan of capri pants at the minute, and will continue to wear mine until the weather breaks and Autumn comes crashing in. The image above is doing nothing to calm my desire for a red pair, but with equal nautical potential are pale blue ones like the picture below.


Vintage capri pant sewing patterns in the appropriate sizes are not quite a easy to come by as vintage pencil skirt patterns, but they are out there for the hunting. The pattern below shows some cute options for the side hem area other than the standard split. A couple of contrast or covered buttons or little self-fabric bows might also be nice. Not that we are focussing on 'nice-girl' looks today!


An option that is far simpler to obtain might be the Clover pattern by Colette Patterns. This pattern dictates that you use fabric with a decent stretch content, which would be great for creating the tight mid-century look. 


Ok, so we've got the bottom half sorted. What are we going to pair all these fabulous wiggle-inducing pencil skirts and hip-hugging capri's with? The white top in the very first image and the black top on the cover of 'On The Road' pictured above both seem to have grown-on/kimono/dolman sleeves like the pattern below. This is a feature I LOVE, as you may have noticed in the post I wrote for the Colette Patterns blog many moons ago. The vintage Butterick 7490 pattern pictured below is wonderful because it gives a slash-neck/bateau AND a V-neck options plus variations of sleeve-length. 


Another fabulous separates option is a cute little button-up blouse. Awesome in a rainbow of solid colours or in stripes, polka dots or prints, the prim preppiness of these blouses is a great counter-point to the hour-glass silhouette they are helping create. 


When darkness falls, often the mix and match separates will apparently just no longer get you where you need to go. It may be time to pull out the stops and head straight to bombshell-ville.   


Burdastyle's Bombshell dress pattern (pictured below) could form the ideal mid-century pin-up look. Now, where to source second-hand red and gold striped fabric......   
An equally divine option is this stunning vintage evening sheath pattern pictured below. 



There does seem to be a hangover of the full-skirted 1950's silhouette in some of the pulp fiction cover illustrations. The rule seems to be that as long as the shoulders and collar bone and are exposed and the bodice is fitted, all is well! The Advance 9077 pattern pictured below in a solid colour might work if trying to recreate the green dress in 'The Lion House' pictured above.


One final strappy sheath dress for you:


Enjoy, vixens!

19 comments:

prttynpnk said...

'My husband is gone for the day, come on in and I'll prove it.....by showing you all my inprogress makes!' I love the noir styles- they are so forgiving/flattering to the hipped gals. Great post!

Marie said...

Oh Zoe, I know exactly what you mean! Putting feminism to one side, I love these images too. I think it's my inner desire to be that sexy, in those clothes! I love how you shared suitable patterns to recreate these looks too...good work ;o)

ScarletteOTara said...

I love this look dearly. If only there was some way of stealthily introducing some kind of invisible elastic belly panel to accomodate one's after-lunch proportions then that would be ideal!

Juliette said...

Great post, and very inspiring!

didyoumakethat said...

Oh, I love those old pulp fiction covers! I bet you had a hard time finding a selection that didn't totally outrage modern sensibilities, though, didn't you - it was a very different world back then! I think you can totally embrace their lustiness, without compromising your ethics. Great inspiration!

Bex said...

This post made my day! I just bought the new Simplicity pencil skirt pattern (1760), and now I am convinced that I need to make View F with a slit up the right thigh PRONTO. Thanks for the inspiration!

Meg the Grand said...

LOVE the pulp fiction style, but I had never thought to break down what they were wearing and add the pieces to my wardrobe! I'm suddenly feeling like I need some slinky pencil skirts ASAP.

Kim said...

"Sin on Wheels" is my fave! I love the clothes, but as a pear-shaped woman I'd better leave the skintight pencil skirts and high-waisted capris to the pinup models!

StephC said...

Oh! Hahah! I love those old pulp fiction covers, even though my inner feminist rolls her eyes.... I enjoy them the same way I enjoy satire, or a good joke... It's fun, nothing too serious.

And I really really love how you've shown a cool mix of vintage and indie patterns that could be used to achieve the styles. Brilliant.

Tilly said...

Hahahahaha!

Tilly said...

...but how do they keep their assets so pert?! Another AWESOME post, Zoe, up there with the brilliant one on French Resistence Chic ;) Drooling over these patterns and bursting to make a saucy outfit now. I lurrrrrrve that kimono sleeve blouse pattern!

Great to see you last night xxx

ilovemyvintage said...

love this post!the patterns you chose are amazing, in fact im trying to find them online now!nothing like a new sewing project to get me through autumn :)

Thewallinna said...

I agree with Marie: a part of us secretly desires to be like those ladies ;) I'd like to play a bit with this look!

Bella said...

These are hilarious! You have an amazing collection of these books!

Thanks for the great ideas, Zo!

Scruffybadger said...

Ooh what lovely inspiration and delicious styling. However, whilst I'm a fan of the outer wear, you won't get me wearing a cone bra ....well, maybe fancy dress then...;-)

Janice said...

I love these book covers, they are very inspirational!

Stacy @ Stacyverb said...

What a fun post, and great inspiration! These are totally my style. :)

Nena Nadine said...

Loving the Sin on Wheels cover.

Joy said...

I love these styles and silhouettes, but had never thought of using pulp fiction for inspiration, what a marvelous idea! This is a fantastically inspirational post, in my ideal world a huge chunk of my wardrobe would be pencil skirts and pretty tops, and sheath dresses, as well as lots of full skirted dresses. Thanks for the clever analysis of inspiration to implementation.

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