I made it! Desperately Seeking Susan jacket

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Halloween is a funny time for me. I absolutely LOVE the holiday. When I was a kid, my mom would make incredible handmade costumes for me and my brother each year. We lived on the north side of Chicago, and I loved driving out of the city with her to visit Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, where we’d leaf through enormous catalogs that I could barely even lift, looking for just the right pattern. I still get that same leap of excitement today when I sit down at a pattern catalog table.

Anyway, when I moved to Minnesota in 2011, one of the first things I did was attend the BareBones Outdoor Halloween Puppet Extravaganza. Like, literally, I went to it the day after I moved into my apartment. I was totally enamored, and the next year I performed in the show and then joined the all-volunteer board of directors (we’re 501(c)3 non-profit). This year I’m the co-chair of the board, which has been awesome, albeit very time consuming. All of this is to say that despite my deep seated love for Halloween and dressing up, I didn’t really have time to do it! On the night of Halloween I was helping strike the show until midnight, so by the time I joined my roommate Brie at a party, I was minutes away from deciding I should just fall asleep in a pile of leaves. Also I felt so old walking into the smokey, packed living room of a punk house.

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So, I knew all this was going to happen, but I already had a plan to do it better. I had a “Halloween” party for November 8th and invited the BareBones community- we’re all artists, so of course we want to wear costumes!

I’ve always been enamored with the jacket in Desperately Seeking Susan. Starring a young Madonna as a semi-homeless punk babe and general sexy hoodlum, who does things like dry her armpits using the hair dryers at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and eat cheetos while wearing white lace gloves. I rewatched the movie recently, and I have to say that it’s solidly mediocre- the screwball caper plot involving stolen Egyptian earrings and Rosanna Arquette getting amnesia when she hits her head on a light pole only kinda makes sense. (I’m a big fan of this review, if you want to know more about it.) But the production and costume design are awesome, and really capture the spirit of New York in the ’80s (or at least what I like to imagine New York was like in the ’80s). I wanted a fun, challenging project for Halloween, and it was between this jacket or a hardcore Victorian witch. Ultimately I chose the Susan jacket because it felt like it would have more of a life in my closet than a full length black gown.

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At first I thought I’d go for serious accuracy and try to recreate the jacket as closely as possible. But as much as I like the original, the extreme shoulder pads and odd tuxedo shape are a bit too ’80s for my style. I used the By Hand London Victoria Blazer pattern and cut a size 16. Since it’s cut a lot of ease I didn’t need to make any changes except for shortening the arms (’cause my arms are stumpy, yo). The black/gold tweed, sequins, and the gold I used for the pyramid are all from Mood. I bought some silver-grey lining at Treadle in St. Paul and fully lined it (although the pattern leaves the sleeves unlined, I live in the coldest state in the continental US, so I can’t have those kind of shenanigans). It all went really quickly except for those sequins- I broke six needles. One broke after only two stitches! I finally realized that I was sewing against the grain of the sequins, which was causing them to twist and break the needles. Oops. So if you are sewing sequins, pay close attention to your grain!

While I was researching the design on the back I realized that it’s a copy of the pyramid on the US dollar. Well, the dollar says “new world order” on it in Latin, and that creeps me out. So I changed it to “carpe noctem” (sieze the night!) and changed the date to my birth year, which I drew on with a fabric marker. (Sidenote: While my roommate was taking these pictures for me in the alley, a neighbor drove up and asked if we were taking senior pictures. “Um, nope, I’m 32!” I responded. Oh, the curse of the babyface. I swear I’m gonna get carded until I’m 50.)

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I‘m super pleased with this project, and it was really fun to work on! Next up, though, I’m sewing some easy, boring leggings and t-shirts before I dive back into the wool motorcycle jacket I abandoned at the end of last winter. It snowed today (no joke! UGH!), so it’s time to get crackin’ on the winter wear.

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2 thoughts on “I made it! Desperately Seeking Susan jacket

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