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Friday, December 26, 2014

Filme Friday: Dinner for One (1963)

This Filme Friday has a short (less than 20 minutes long) British film that's available for free online! Thank you youtube!

The movie is "Dinner for One" and it's a German New Year's Eve tradition. I wrote about my New Year's Eve Rummelpott experience on Föhr a couple of years ago, but while I was out singing for drinks, my mom was watching this short movie with family (and also toasting the new year with drinks poured by strangers parading down the street while some neighbors set off fireworks on the beach). While I can't enjoy a Föhrer celebration every year, I've made this movie part of my tradition to end the last two years. Then after the ball drops, I watch the pilot episode of Futurama. End one year with German culture, start the next with geek culture. 


It's not really clear why watching "Dinner for One" became a tradition, but half of Germans watch it each year. Even stranger, it never caught on in English-speaking countries. In fact, most people in English-speaking countries have never heard of it. 

The sketch was originally written by British author Lauri Wylie in the 1920's. It was performed decades later on stage and discovered in 1962 by Peter Frankenfeld and Heinz Dunkhase, who decided to broadcast it and film it. The sketch aired occasionally then found its New Year's Eve spot in 1972. Somehow, it became a cult classic and tradition in Germany and other countries. 

I watched it blindly, not knowing anything about the plot. If you want to be surprised, stop reading here until you watch it. But if you want to know what you're getting into, read on.

Watch it!

The short comedy only has two actors: 90 year old Miss Sophie and her butler, James. She is celebrating her birthday and wants "the same procedure as every year", which includes serving her 4 friends, who she has outlived. To compensate, James pretends to be each guest in turn. Part of this act involves drinking their (alcoholic) beverages while making a toast for each course. These 16 drinks in the 20 minutes of the sketch leave James more than a little inebriated and result in some slapstick comedy. It's hard to spoil, even telling that much because the acting is the real reason to watch. 

James is an already-clumsy but devoted butler and the actor does a wonderful job feigning increased drunkenness. His act alone is hilarious. But, it would be incomplete without Miss Sophie. She encapsulates the upper-class British stereotype perfectly and it's amazing that she manages to keep a straight face through the antics.

One of many drinks! (source:

The entire skit is predictable (perhaps not the very end), but that's part of its charm. I could also see drinking games and parties centered around the film adding to its appeal. But the greatest thing about it is that it is a strange bit of culture that manages to bring a country together. It's something everyone can enjoy and only requires 20 minutes of attention.

Whether you've seen it or not, I recommend adding it to your New Year's traditions. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Filme Friday: Die Mauer - Berlin '61 (2006)

I had a long list of movies to use for this month, but for this last one, I ended up choosing "Die Mauer - Berlin '61", one I had never seen or heard of before this week.  This was a little off the beaten path.  It's a made-for-TV movie from 2006.  Considering that I've watched my fair share of Lifetime movies (guilty pleasure), I gave it a shot.  I did not regret it.


The movie take a slightly different approach than the others I've reviewed and shows a different kind of love story: the love of parents for their child.  Also, unlike the others, its main focus is the early years of the Berlin Wall.  This new perspective worked well.  At first, I found it hard to follow the story and understand how it related to the division of Germany, so I went on the film's Wikipedia page within the first few minutes and accidentally spoiled the first quarter for myself.  Regardless, I still enjoyed the film and found it gripping.

The movie starts on a train before the Berlin Wall was built, which initially threw me off.  After the initial scene, the film cuts to the main characters, a family of three, getting ready for the evening.  The parents are going to a friend's birthday party in what will soon become West Berlin and their teenage son is staying at a friend's house for the night.  It is evident already that the people the son is staying with and the people hosting the birthday party have a different outlook on life.

The parents are on their way home, when suddenly, everyone around them is panicking.  Just like reality, the city was divided without warning.  The parents don't want to return to the East and be trapped, but they also want to be reunited with their son.  Little do they know how much his life is changing as his friend's mom works to mold him into the perfect East German soldier.  Soon, the beginning of the movie becomes clear and helps explain why the family remains separated.

The son being molded into an East German citizen (source:

I've mentioned before that I was only alive for a year while the wall was still up, so my knowledge is limited to other people's stories.  But, while many account years of separation from family members, a lot of the other movies about the subject don't focus on that aspect.  Despite the few extra layers, the movie was about parents trying to make a better life for their family after the city was divided, which included attempting to rescue and even just contact their son.  I found myself even more invested in their journey than that of the star-crossed lovers in Das Versprechen.

Even though the beginning was initially confusing to me, the movie was full of suspense from the first minute.  The viewer is kept wondering what will come from each action and effort.  The characters struggle and fail in realistic ways, but small successes bring hope.  The final few scenes had my full attention.

The father eventually started losing hope (source:

The setting was also interesting.  It's almost the opposite of Goodbye Lenin in that the movie shows only the first few months after the wall went up.  There's a summary at the end of the movie telling what happened in the following years, but the acting ends while the wall is still in its early stages.  Just as the characters in Goodbye Lenin were shocked by how quickly the wall came down, it's shocking here how quickly the citizens of Berlin were shut off from each other.

However, from this film, it seems like something like the wall wasn't totally unexpected.  Not only did the family experience some oppression, but some citizens, like the friend's mother had already bought into the East German ideology.  Soldiers were immediately ready to guard the border and citizens were trapped on one side or the other.  Some of the most heartbreaking scenes show loved ones seeing each other beyond the border but not being able to do anything about it.

Looking for their son beyond the wall (source:

This was a much better movie than I expected.  Granted, I expected to be disappointed, but it was a great film.  Unfortunately, it's a little hard to find.  It is on, but it's Region 2, which won't play on US DVD players or computers.  There are ways around it and most computers can switch regions a limited number of times, but if you find a copy of it, take the opportunity to watch it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Filme Friday - Goodbye Lenin! (2003)

I remember seeing the poster for this movie, hearing some amazing reviews, and thinking it was a comedy (maybe because IMDb labels it as one).  For some reason, that idea stuck with me years after I first saw it and I convinced my non-German-speaking guy to watch it with me.  Oops.

(source: IMDb)

While it's not a movie with constant laughs, it definitely has some amusing moments and is somewhat of a dark comedy.  It is definitely more of a drama than anything else though. The movie is amazing, but I know from experience that people expecting a comedy may be turned off pretty quickly.  It's also two hours long, which is my limit for most dramas.  Regardless, it's worth watching at least once.

The movie begins with the main character and narrator, Alex recalling his childhood growing up in East Berlin.  The scenes shows family home movies, the Sandmännchen TV program, and Sigmund Jähn becoming the first German to go into space.  Alex recalls his father leaving the family for West Germany and this causing his mother to put all her passion towards pushing East Germany's communist agenda.  This introduction leading to the movie's setting shows a rather neutral picture of the East while the wall was up.  It is less politicized and more a story that could happen to anyone.

It is quickly apparent, however, that Alex is aware of what he is missing in the West and disillusioned with the government and his lack of freedom.  Part of this is due to his childhood dream of being the second German astronaut never becoming a reality.  He is instead a TV repairman, living with his mother, and his unwed sister and her daughter.  While he does not hold strong opinions, he still attends a protest with people chanting for freedom of the press and no more wall.  Like many others, he is arrested and sent to jail.

East and West TV repairmen teaming up (source: IMDb)

While with the group of protesters in jail, Alex learns that his mother had a heart attack and fell into a coma.  Alex remains devoted to his mother, constantly visiting while she is still unconscious.  However, the world continues to move around them, and within a couple of months, the wall is down and the citizens of East Berlin have newfound freedoms.  Outside of his hospital visits, Alex also moves on.  He visits the West, indulges in the new culture, and starts dating a hospital nurse he had met at the protest.  Then, in another sudden turn of events, Alex's mother wakes up.

Alex's first trip to West Berlin

The doctor warns Alex that any shock may cause his mother to fall ill again or even die, and Alex is faced with the challenge of hiding this new world to protect his mother. While everyone is initially on board with this plan, his relationships with his girlfriend, sister, and friends become strained because of these efforts. It leaves the viewer wondering if he can pull it off and whether he should.

A fake newscast created to fool Alex's mother (source: IMDb)

The interesting thing about this movie is that it focuses on a generation wanting freedom and change, not knowing their wish was about to come true. The time when the country was divided only lasts for a short part of the film, but the division influences everything. 

The film also did not seem to take one side and sympathized with all citizens. While there were freedom fighters like Alex's girlfriend, there were plenty struggling the adapt to a unified Germany. This contrast is shown mostly by age. Those in their 20's and younger are eager to embrace everything new, while older generations either aren't sure how to proceed or want things back to normal. There is an ambiguity to who is right, if anyone. I finished watching with a sense that every system is broken.

Alex's sister at her new Western Burger King job (source: IMDb)

There is an idealism that is reborn in Alex because of his charade. He recreates history for his mother to explain certain things he can't hide. His imagined history paints a picture of how East Germany could have been successful. Alex seems to accept that the West has it's faults, even though he prefers it. But, his stories intertwine East and West ideals, showing an impossible idealism. He accepts that no system is perfect, but wants his mother to experience the best version he created. 

Perhaps being slightly older than Alex's character made it easy to relate to this movie on my second viewing. I understand thinking there must be a system and a way to fix everything and feeling lost at the realization that nothing like that can exist. We all hold different ideas of what is best and have our own views of how to accomplish similar goals. I've come to love a German saying recently: "Gerade, weil wir alle in einem Boot sitzen, sollten wir heilfroh darüber sein, dass nicht alle auf unserer Seite stehen." Roughly translated, "since we're all in the same boat, we should be glad that not everyone is standing on our side." We need the diversity of thoughts and opinions to function. This was part of the problem with East Germany: people were heavily censored and could not express their differences. And if they tried, they were punished. By the same token, the ideals that helped shape East Germany should be considered and not ignored. Not everyone can be satisfied, but we all should be free to believe what we want and generally live how we want. Obviously, I'm not a fan of East Germany or what it did to the country as a whole, but especially after decades of separation, both sides need to be considered. 

Alex and his girlfriend struggle too maintain the charade and embrace the new freedom (source: IMDb)

This movie is very thought-provoking and it should be. The subject matter is heavy, even just in the characters' personal lives. It's a great story that leaves a lot of "what if?" and "what really happened?" questions to ponder. The part when the family revisits their old vacation home really made me think during this viewing. It's interesting how some people changed themselves to cope with a horrible and unfair situation. 

A very telling moment near the end (source: IMDb)

Definitely not a movie to watch casually, but it deserves a viewing. It gives a great look into what Berlin and its citizens faced after the wall came down. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Filme Friday: Das Versprechen (1995)

This is the first of my "Fall of the Berlin Wall" Filme Fridays.  It's one of the most popular German movies of the genre and gives a good overview of life in Germany from the time the wall went up in 1961 to its fall in 1989.

Whenever I think of the story of the Berlin Wall, I think about the movie "Das Versprechen," also known as "The Promise".  Many people who studied German are familiar with this film because it's a great teaching tool for German history and culture.  It's also a really good, albeit really long, movie.  At its core, it's a love story, but there is also plenty of action and suspense.  A word of warning: this is a tearjerker.  That's especially true for people like me who cried when Wilson floated away in "Cast Away".

Film Poster (source:
After the first few minutes of the film, the action starts.  Teenagers Sophie and Konrad, who are dating and clearly in love, plan to escape East Berlin with their friends shortly after the wall begins construction in 1961.  The group leaves a dance and opens a manhole cover to go into the sewers, but Konrad trips and realizes that he will now put the group in jeopardy if he tries to join them.  He closes the manhole cover, promising (there's the movie title) Sophie that he will join her in the West as soon as he can.

Sophie and Konrad at the dance (source:

The sewer scene that follows is a little gross, but keeps the viewer on the edge of his seat.  While the others escape, Konrad's parents find him and notify the Stasi police because they had been searching for Konrad since he disappeared.  This small part gives a glimpse into life in East Germany where nobody was safe from surveillance and friends and family would turn each other in.  So, yes, Konrad's own parents turn him in to the Stasi to be interrogated, but it's clear that they do this to protect him and themselves when they imply that it would be worse if they were discovered instead of willingly going to the police.

Sophie waits for Konrad, not wanting to leave without him (source:

The interrogation is brutal, especially for a teenager, and full of East German propaganda.  The Stasi have their own reasoning for the wall being built and insist that it's more to protect than to contain.  The film continues by showing Konrad's life in East Germany contrasted with Sophie and the other friends who escaped in West Germany.  Neither is even sure if the other survived the night of the escape and Sophie's friends doubt where Konrad's loyalty lies since he did not join them.  This separates the lovers further even though Sophie still believes Konrad will join her and Konrad still intends to find a way to the west.

Over the next several years, Konrad becomes a physicist in the East and Sophie moves in with her Aunt in the west and finds work in the fashion industry.  These career choices are reminders of each protagonist's situation: Konrad is stuck in the very structural, rule-filled East while Sophie is free to be a creative individual in the West.  The police state grows in the East as more guards are trained to patrol the border and given orders to shoot anyone trying to escape.  Konrad longs to escape, but the longer he waits, the harder that is.  He makes an attempt one night when he is assigned night guard duty, but is stopped by a friend, who is also on the guard.  Though he is not harmed, Konrad is once again at risk of being turned in by someone close to him.  This is not the last attempt Konrad will make to be reunited with Sophie.

A trip to the East (source:

Standing against the wall (source:

I really don't want to spoil the movie by summarizing further.  There is so much in this movie beyond Sophie and Konrad's love story.  Their story provides great symbolism for the division between East and West because of the wall and the uncertainty Germany faced when it was reunited 28 years later.  The movie spans the full 28 years from the beginning to the fall of the wall, so it is understandably long.  And, at times, it gets slow, even with several fast-paced scenes.  I definitely understand why not every person would enjoy this film, but it's an accurate depiction of what was happening while Germany was separated.  Even though lovers being separated seems too convenient, it was very common for families and loved ones to find the wall between them with almost no way to communicate or see each other.  The wall tore the country apart and created two very different Germanys.

Without spoiling the ending, I will say that I hated it at first, but came to appreciate and understand it over time.  It left me expecting more to the story, but only given intentional ambiguity.  Overall, this is not necessarily one of my favorite movies, but I would still recommend it because of how well it presents Germany history from 1961-1989.  It's easier to understand how the separation affected a whole country when presented with people to empathize with, even if they are fictional characters.  I promise you will love and hate Sophie and Konrad throughout the movie and find yourself in an emotional roller coaster the entire film.

The fall of the wall in the film (source:

It is long and a little heavy on the romance story at times, but if you have the chance to watch this movie, you should.  It's available to purchase and rent on Amazon.  Apparently, this movie is not available on iTunes.  The title and poster are displayed, but the download is actually for a completely different movie.  It is probably available for purchase elsewhere; just be aware of different country codes if you buy a DVD.  You cannot watch German-coded DVDs on US DVD players.

If you find it and watch it, you will learn a lot!

American movie poster (source: IMDb)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Filme Friday x4 in November

November 9, 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.  This may not sound terribly spectacular, but it's huge in perspective.  The wall was established on August 13, 1961 and cut off West Berlin from East Berlin and East Germany.  It tore the country apart and tore families apart.  Even today, its lasting effects can be seen, most notably in Berlin.  Half of the country endured communism while the other half had democracy.  This lasted until November 9, 1989, over 28 years later, when the wall was torn down.

I was barely 1 year old when the wall came down, so I don't remember what the division was like, but I've heard about it from many people.  I have family that lived in the East and family that lived in the West.  My parents and grandparents have shared stories about being terrified going into East Germany to visit.  I've heard about how family in East Germany was anxious and paranoid even outside of the East and how free they felt to be out of there.  It's hard to convey how much this impacted so many people and how powerful and symbolic the wall coming down was.

So, why not let some movies try?

I don't intend to review movies every week because I honestly don't have the time to rewatch them and write about them so often.  But, this month will be an exception.  I plan to review 5 movies this month: 1 on each Friday and possibly a non-movie post on Sunday, November 9.  All of them are related to the Berlin Wall in some way and paint a picture of how things were before, during, and after it.

I really hope that people will watch at least one of these movies as a result.  I'm excited to see them all again myself and maybe learn some things I didn't see or know before.  Please share your reactions and stories in the comments too!  I'm interested in hearing from you all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

T-shirt Costume Tuesday #4 - Nudist on Strike

This is one of the easiest and most clever costumes.  It's great for last minute or for people who don't like too much of a costume and can be made in a variety of ways.  I used a sign for senior dress-up day (like a picket sign), and my guy made a shirt for his first Halloween costume.  All you need is the ability to write "Nudist on Strike" somewhere and use that as your costume.  The whole point is remaining clothed.

Not everyone will get it, but those who do will appreciate it.  My high school senior AP English teacher told me it was his favorite of all the senior costumes, and it took me less than half an hour to make.  So, if you're really looking for a good last minute costume, Nudist on Strike is a great one.

Waldo, Puss-in-Boots, and Nudist on Strike

Have fun with your costumes, whether they're made from t-shirts or anything else!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

T-shirt Costume Tuesday #3 - The Powerpuff Girls

College was great.  There was always something to do and friends to do things with.  So, group costumes were a great option for Halloween.  Freshman year I did my own thing, but sophomore year, some of us decided to go retro and be The Powerpuff Girls! Mojo Jojo.  We tried to get another friend to be The Professor, but couldn't convince him.

Photobombed by Indy

A bunch of us from the dorm

The three of us thought it would be easy to find matching dresses in blue, pink, and green and started our search at American Apparel since they tend to have simple styles in many colors.  Unfortunately, most clothes were very expensive and I wasn't comfortable with how tight and/or revealing some were.  We kept it as an option, but looked elsewhere.  My mom came up with the idea of using t-shirts and offered to make the costumes for us!  She did a great job.

We got the right color shirts at Michaels and all she had to do was cut one shirt of each color into skirts (right under the armpits, just like the Sally and Hobbes costumes).  Since she can sew, she put in an elastic waistband so they would stay on better.  I definitely need to visit home for some sewing lessons.  We rolled up the sleeves of the shirts so they looked sleeveless and tucked them into the skirts.  But, we needed more or we would just be girls in different colors of the same outfit.

The finishing touches were some accessories.  We found black belts (with heart buckles, because that made sense) to create the black band in the middle of the dresses, and that pretty much made the costumes.  I'm not sure if we wore anything on our legs, but white tights, knee-highs, or socks would add to it.  Lastly, we styled our hair.  I had hair past my waist and a huge collection of bows from my childhood (dozens and dozens), so I was clearly Blossom.  Julie had blonde hair she put in pigtails to be Bubbles.  Katie decided to cut a black wig to create her Buttercup hairstyle.  We all wore eyeshadow that matched our dresses for one last finishing touch, and, voila!  We were The Powerpuff Girls!

Mojo Jojo photobomb
Another friend helped to add to the costume by dressing up as the main villain, Mojo Jojo.  He wore a navy t-shirt and navy basketball shorts.  We put a ribbon around his waist for the belt and glued a purple triangle on the front of the belt.  He put on white surgical gloves, painted his face green, and wore a purple tablecloth as a cape.  My mom made the hat, which shouldn't be too hard to recreate with some white felt.  We decorated it with silver duct tape and a purple sharpie.  It was the icing to our costume cake.

Action Shot

Me and Mojo
This will always be one of my favorite costumes, and it's so simple!  Because of the belt, the elastic waistband isn't even necessary.  It's great for a group, especially for something last-minute and everyone loved it.

Perfect likeness

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

T-shirt Costume Tuesday #2 - Calvin and Hobbes

Law school can be fun in the ways that it's an extension of college.  One similarity is parties, including Halloween parties.  Halloween may be my favorite holiday, in no small part for the costumes.  I love making my own, helping other people with theirs, and seeing what everyone else comes up with.  My first year of law school was the first time I could convince my guy to really dress up and my first opportunity for a couples costume.  We finally decided on Calvin and Hobbes.

Unfortunately the clearest picture we have

While Hobbes is usually taller in the comics, he's also sometimes shown as the stuffed animal.  That was a great solution for us because I really like wearing a costume and he wanted to be as close to normal as possible (look at how much more adventurous he's gotten in just a few years: from Calvin to Jack).  But, the most important parts of both our costumes were t-shirts and neither required any sewing.

Calvin was easy:  Black stripes drawn on a red t-shirt with fabric marker, black jeans, and black converse.  The jeans cost something like $40 at Bob's Stores, but in a world where clothes are scarce for 6'7" people, they became one of his favorite pairs and he still wears them years later.  Walmart had cheap knockoff converse, and red t-shirts are easy to find.  I always have a black fabric marker, but they can be found anywhere you buy crafts (Michaels, Joann Fabrics, Walmart, etc).  But, unless Calvin is carrying a stuffed tiger, that costume needs a Hobbes to compliment it.

Hobbes was a little more complicated:  I started with 2 orange t-shirts in my size.  I originally had the idea to make tiger stripe cutouts in an orange shirt and layer it over a black shirt, but that didn't work well for the top and I couldn't figure out how to do the skirt like that.  So, I changed my method.  I got a couple of the 8.5"x10" (?) sheets of black and white felt to decorate the orange shirts.  I kept one shirt intact for the top, but cut the other shirt straight across right under the armpits for the skirt.  I checked how they fit and marked where to put the white for the chest and tummy.  One the white was hotglued on (which held really well), I cut stripes from the black felt.  I figured they didn't have to be perfect but tried to make them look like tiger stripes.  If you don't want bare arms and legs or additional parts to cover them, you can do the same method with a long-sleeve shirt or sweatshirt and pants (leggings or sweatpants maybe).


I included more accessories to flesh out the tiger look.  The lower arm sleeves are orange felt sheets.  I wrapped them around my arms and pinned where they fit.  I used my hot glue gun to finish them and added more black felt stripes.  They slid right on since the top was slightly larger than the wrist part.  I orgered tiger-stripe tights from  Regular orange tights with stripes drawn on would work too.  I bought a black giant chenille stem pipe cleaner from Michaels for the ears and tail.  I basically made a headband with round ears with part of it and looped the rest to a belt that I wore over the skirt.  It was a cheap, easy way for those parts, but there are plenty of ears and tails already made for sale.  Finishing touches were white gloves and socks.

The Hobbes part sounds pretty complicated, but it wasn't that hard to pull off.  And it looked good and was comfortable!  This was one of my favorite costumes, partially because it was my first couples costume.  I could even use it again since it's held up so well over time.  Plus, it can just be a normal tiger costume!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

T-shirt Costume Tuesday #1 - Jack and Sally

The first costume in my T-shirt Costume Tuesday series is Jack & Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Okay, the title is a little misleading.  The Sally costume really involved the t-shirt crafting, though Jack did wear a t-shirt under the suit.  We learned last year that less layers is better at a crowded party.

This is my first entry because, even though I made the dress in the week before I wore it, it was pretty time and labor intensive with some trial and error.  If anyone wants to try to replicate it, the more weeks, the better.

This was the end product:

Jack & Sally costume
Jack & Sally

But it took some time to get there.  It wasn't really expensive, but it took so much time that he had to do his own costume (though I take credit for the imperfect makeup - he actually fixed the disaster I had initially drawn on his face) including making the bat bowtie.  So proud!

This is the step-by step of how I did it:

  1. Sketch (not shown)
    I studied the dress back and front best I could and drew a simple back and front so I knew what to use as the base and where the colors and designs went.  I wouldn't go into this without a sketch, however simple.  I couldn't have made this just looking at pictures, but others might be better at that.
  2. Gather Materials
    I knew the base of the dress would be yellow.  A good part of the front top is yellow, as are a sleeve and much of the skirt.  So, I got 2 yellow shirts to make the dress.  I then got the other colors: pink, blue, and black.  Be careful and get the same size for all the shirts.  I didn't, and it took some extra work to make things fit.  Also, the black long sleeve was on clearance, so I got that, but I needed the blue and yellow to be short-sleeved because those are the sleeve colors!
    I also got pins, a black fabric pen, a pincushion, needles, and thread.  I ended up using thin crochet thread instead because it's thicker and the stitches really show, which I wanted.  Embroidery floss also works, but it was harder for me to thread and I had less of it.  All of this was a little over $20 at Michael's.  But, the fabric pen was leftover from another costume and everything but the t-shirts is still usable.

  3. Cut a skirt
    Take one of the yellow shirts and cut it just below the armpits to give the longest skirt possible.  You can shorten it later if you need to.  I didn't because I'm tall and Sally's dress really goes to her knees anyway.
    Cat optional
  4. Make yellow base dress
    Take out the bottom hem from the intact yellow shirt.  You can do this by cutting the thread between the fabric at the hem and pulling out the thread.  Line up the skirt from step 3 to the bottom of the intact yellow shirt.  I recommend pinning it in place and carefully trying it on to see how long it is.  Adjust accordingly and sew the pieces together to create a yellow dress.

  5. Replace right yellow dress sleeve
    There should be thread attaching the sleeves to the shirts.  If you cut this thread, you should be able to pull it off and remove the sleeves pretty easily.  Do this to the right sleeve of both the yellow dress you made in step 4 and the blue shirt.  Line up the blue sleeve so it's where the yellow sleeve was.  I recommend pinning before sewing the blue sleeve onto the yellow dress.  I did a basic exaggerated slip stitch by hand for all my visible sewing.  Basically, I used the black thread and made the stitches long so they would be seen instead of hidden.

  6. Remove collar
    I decided to remove the collar from the dress (cutting the thread that held it on and pulling it off easily) because Sally's dress is not right up to her neck like these t-shirts fit.  You can cut the neckline more, but I chose not to to keep it easier, not show too much skin, and not give the fabric more of a chance to rip.

  7. Start attaching other colors
    This is the tricky part.  Like the pictures show, I lined up shirts over the yellow dress and traced the shape I wanted.  Then, I fit that shape over the yellow dress, pinned it, and sewed.  The first part I did was the pink top half since it's so prominent.  I took of the pink left sleeve (since the left sleeve is yellow), cut the shape I wanted on the front and back (I kept it attached over the shoulder), then slid the yellow sleeve through the armhole.  I pinned and sewed.

    Then, I followed the same process for the rest of the colors.  The only difference was where they fit on the dress.  Some spots were harder than others, like the black one below.  I had to pin it several times and still ended up with an unwanted yellow spot.  But, because Sally's dress is really scraps of fabric sewn together, there's no reason you can't get creative if different patterns make it easier.  It seems like even the official merchandise has her in different dresses.
    Just make sure you try it on occasionally to make sure it still fits right!  Worst case scenario, you take off the piece you sewed on and redo it with the same scrap or a new one.  It doesn't need to be perfect though!

  8. Admire the almost-finished product
    Make sure it fits how you want it to.  It looks like there's a lot of puckering on mine, but it fit well enough for me to not fix that.  The fit is up to you.  The hard part is done.  Now the fun part!

  9. Draw the patterns
    Take the black fabric marker and draw the patterns where they belong, or where you want them.  Be patient though.  Fabric markers aren't as smooth as normal markers.

  10. Admire the finished dress!
    The dress is done!  Stand back and admire a job well done again.

  11. Finishing touches
    This part is more up to individual discretion.  I found light blue body paint and used it for my face.  I used blue (couldn't find a lighter blue) tights for my arms and legs.  I drew on the stitches with liquid eyeliner.  Sally is blue, but plenty of people forgo that part.

    My shoes were $10 at Goodwill and I crocheted the leg warmers.  You can use black shoes you have and find socks/leg warmers/tights with black and white stripes.  There are a lot of options for foot and leg wear.

I hope you enjoyed this t-shirt costume and find that is was simply meant to be :)

Pretty close to the original! (source:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Filme Friday: Freaks (1932)

A couple of weeks ago, I promised a new series called Filme Friday where I'll review at least one German film each month.  This is my first review, and while "Freaks" isn't actually a German film, it's a classic, perfect for this month, and there is German spoken in it.

Freaks 1932

I think I first saw the movie "Freaks" around when I started college.  I've always been a horror junkie (it just wasn't a Saturday night without seeing "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" on SNICK) and wanted to see where it all started.  Somehow, I came across what some people consider a cult film.  I decided to review it for two reasons:  First, it's October and this is considered a horror film.  Second, "American Horror Story: Freak Show" premieres October 8 and will almost definitely use "Freaks" as inspiration.

Be sure I'll have something to write about this show too (source:

The movie "Freaks" may have lost some of its shock value over time.  Not only have there been many disturbing and unbelievable things shown in horror films, but society has also changed.  We are more likely to accept and try to understand those who are different, either because they are born that way or because they choose to be.  There are still oddities, but when it comes to humans, they aren't really put on display anymore unless they choose to be.  Many people are into body modification and alter how they look with tattoos, piercings, and implants.  So, while the idea of a freak show still clearly fascinates us (see American Horror Story), the characters are less shocking than when the film came out in 1932.

The main plot involves Hans, a dwarf in circus who is engaged to Frieda, another dwarf.  While Frieda loves Hans, Hans has feelings for the beautiful trapeze artist Cleo, who is not a freak.  This love triangle causes suspicion among the freaks that Cleo does not love Hans, but is instead interested in the gifts he gives her.  Without spoiling the story, viewers are treated to an insight of the personal lives of the performers, and many truths are revealed.

Even though this film is usually labeled as a horror film, I'm not sure it should be.  It's really almost a genre of its own.  There's romance in the main plot and several of the subplots.  I was particularly intrigued by the subplot of how Violet is affected by her conjoined twin Daisy being engaged to one of the circus clowns.  I plan on watching "Chained for Life", a movie based on the real lives of Daisy and Violet.

There is also plenty of drama in this film.  How can you not expect that with at least one love triangle?  The level of drama only increases as the story continues.

The jokes aren't perfectly executed, but there are some great one-liners.  I love when Josephine Joseph, the half-man/half-woman gives Hercules a flirtatious look and Roscoe comments, "I think she likes you, but he don't."  There isn't much comedy in the movie, and it's pretty dark in general, but there are funny moments.

Lastly, the film has plenty of mystery and intrigue.  The viewer spends the entire movie waiting to see what people were so shocked by in the introduction's sideshow.  And it's impossible not to be fascinated seeing some of the freaks performing what would be simple tasks for others.  At one point, Prince Randian, the Human Torso, rolls a cigarette (not shown in the final cut), takes out a match, lights the match, and lights the cigarette, all with just his mouth.  Several others in the cast are missing limbs and it is shown how they compensate.

I guess I can see where the horror element comes in at the end.  Unlike many other horror movies, the gruesome part is done off camera (though, it seems like these parts were cut due to complaints by initial audiences), which leaves it to the imagination.  That's a method that can almost be more terrifying if done right.  It is a suspenseful moment, but it doesn't elicit the usual fear, possibly because the viewer almost feels like the victim deserves the fate.

The acting is not wonderful, but considering that some of the cast were not experienced actors, that's understandable.  I also wish the movie explored some of the other characters in more detail.  Again, some of this may have ended up on the cutting room floor.  One of the most interesting things about the movie is that it used real people, not special effects, and reclaimed the word "freaks" as something good.  The "Freaks" Wikipedia page lists the cast and has links to pages about some of them.  You can read about most of them and see that in many ways they really were the characters they were portraying.

As for the German in the movie, Hans and Freida both speak German a number of times.  The version I saw had no subtitles, but context and tone makes it pretty clear what's generally being said.  These characters were played by Harry Doll Earles (aka Kurt Fritz Schneider) and Daisy Doll Earles (aka Hilda Emma Schneider), two of four dwarf siblings born in Stolpen Germany.  These four siblings became known as The Doll Family.

(source: Wikipedia)

Harry and another sister, Grace, first performed in sideshows in Germany and were brought to the United States in 1914 where they lived with the family of Bert W. Earles, an American entrepreneur who included them in his 101 Ranch Wild West Show.  Later, Daisy and Tiny, the fourth sibling, joined their brother and sister in this act.  The Doll Family toured with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus and acted in several movies.  Harry, Daisy, and Tiny all appeared in "Freaks" with the latter having a small role, and all 4 were munchkins in "The Wizard of Oz."  Harry was one of the Lollipop Guild members who first welcomes Dorothy.  Perhaps I'll write about them more in a later post.

Harry and Daisy as Hans and Frieda in "Freaks" (source:

Harry (right) as part of the Lollipop Guild (source: Wikipedia)

I really like the movie "Freaks."  I'm tempted to watch the 2007 remake "Freakshow", but I'm not sure how it will compare to the classic.  If you're interested, you can watch Freaks free at  I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes things that are a little strange and twisted.  And if you plan on watching season 4 of "American Horror Story," this film is a must-see.