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: