Marilyn’s Niagara dress

 

This is an amazing summer dress from the film Niagara, that Marilyn’s character Rose wears on a supposedly romantic holiday with her husband. The story is great too, with a definite Hitchcockian feel to it. Marilyn gets to play a darker role and pulls it off with flying colours.

I needed help to draw up the pattern for this, and my Mum did an amazing job. I’m a hard taskmaster for accuracy! I’m not too keen on wearing hot pink, although the colour looks good on Marilyn with her bottle blonde hair. I chose a teal cotton, which I think looks better with dark hair and pale skin.

Unlike similar reproductions you Ind online I kept the skirt looser from the hips down by cutting it straight, and also putting the split at the back. As there are no pintucks at the front, the curve of the waist to hip was sewn in the side seam. The fastening is a front zip, with the gathers stitched in place.

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Detail on Niagara dress

For a smooth look, I sew bullet bra pads into the top. Marilyn didn’t need to do this, but I think it gives a better shape and makes me feel like I am wearing something underneath! This is a good trick for tops or dresses with cutouts in awkward places. Multilayer bras aren’t always hidden, and stick ons don’t give an authentic vintage silouette. You can buy these from What Katie Did in black or white.

The sandals have been the closest similar to the original photos as I have found so far. See more about these sandals here. I have accessorised with gold hoops and heart charm bangles. I think Marilyn’s bracelet is a chain with a single charm.

In the film, she accessorises with a pale, possibly white, floaty scarf and a white clutch.

I’ve worn this dress to, among other times, a summer wedding abroad and a surfer/ Hawaiian themed party. Red or hot pink go well with teal.

I hope to recreate some of her other outfits from this film in the future. The wool jackets are beautiful.

Modern earrings into vintage

Drop earrings are seen in old photos, and you can still find them. I like wearing this style with Victorian and Edwardian styles. The Sherlock Holmes series and other period dramas are a good reference.

The Forties, Fifties and Sixties saw the rise and continued popularity of large earrings. This was revisited in the Eighties, which are seeing a revival for SS17.

Heavy earrings with hooks can leave unsightly stretched earlobes  visible. By modifying earrings to hide hooks, to look like clip-ons, will give a modern pair a vintage look.

You will need:

  • Earrings
  • Tweezers
  • Small/ fine ended pliers
  • Needle and matching thread or superglue & felt
  • Scissors

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1) If you cannot twist the hook around to sit it behind the earring design, follow this step. Alternatively, skip to step 5.

Remove the hook and link. These didn’t have links, so I just had to pry open the fastened end of the hook. You can use old tweezers, small pliers or if it’s soft metal, even your nails (beware chipping nail varnish!)

Loosen the spiral of wire, to push it up the hook, as if you’re going to slide it off. This reveals the fastened end.

2) Stick your nail in the gap where the wire is pressed together. The gap you create should be big enough to slide the hook off the earring. (I also removed the tassle in the same way.)

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Join hook lower on the earring

3) If the earring has something on the back you can loop the hook around, be sure you can lay the hook against the back ready to afix.

4) Close the loop end with the pliers. Push the spiral back over the join.

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Afix the hook to the back of the earring

5) Check the hook won’t show from the front. Using a needle and thread, sew the hook from top to bottom, to hold it in place.

If there is nothing to stitch through, but you have a solid surface on the back, flatten the lower part of the hook against the back and glue.

Cut a small square or circle of felt to glue over the glued part of the hook. You may need to use something to hold the hook up while the glue dries, like blue tack.

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Modified hook backed earrings

Is this useful? Are there other types of earrings you want to modify?

Changing earrings to clip-ons

Here, I’ll show you how to change a pair of pierced earrings into clip-ons. You might want to do this because you don’t have pierced ears, or, in this case, the earrings are too heavy to sit nicely with posts.

I couldn’t find the clip-on fixings in my local haberdashery or craft stores, so went online. I spent along time searching various craft sites, but for value and ease I bought a multi-pack from eBay. It has various sellers, so you can choose the colour and shape you like.

Most vintage earrings you will find are clip-ons, and sit covering the earlobe. At the moment, Art Deco designs and big Eighties earrings are on the high street. Some of these will have a design that covers the earlobe, but are for pierced ears. I find the weight stretches my ear and ruins the look. In this case, one of the posts broke from the weight! Clip-ons spread the weight, and keep the earring higher on the ear, giving a vintage look.

To change post earrings to clip-ons, you will need;

  • Earrings with a base of 1cm or more
  • Clip-on fixings/ notions
  • A fine edged sharp tool (use common sense and use responsibly)
  • Fine sandpaper or small sanding tool
  • Superglue
  • Cotton bud

1. Firstly, if the earrings have posts, they can usually be twisted or bent off, but the base fixing will need to be pried off using something sharp and thin enough to work between the metal and the earring base.

(This should only be done by a responsible adult with common sense – work the blade away from you and watch your fingers!)

I didn’t have any special tool, I improvised by looking in the kitchen drawer. I used a fish knife. This is slow and delicate work as you want to avoid scratching the earring.

If they have a hook fixing, a small pair of pliers will loosen the join and you can remove them from the loop. I’ll show how to do this in another post.

2. Once you have prized off the post base, use the soft sandpaper to smooth the earring base ready to fix the clip-on onto the earring. Use a fine/ soft sandpaper to avoid damaging the earring. Wipe the earring base clean and lay back facing up on a sheet of paper.

3. Open the clip-on and put a small blob of glue on the back of the clip base. Place centrally on the earring base and once in the right place, pressing firmly.

4. Use the cotton bud to wipe away any overspill of glue. Leave for 24 hours, or as instructed on the glue packaging.

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Art Deco style earrings

If you find wearing clip-ons all day makes your ears hurt, buy some rubber pads which can be pushed through the hole on the back of the clip.