Thursday, September 30, 2010

And the Award for Most Badass Sewing Scene Goes to . . .

No more singing mice, ladies. Things are about to get fierce up in here.

Reader Amy took issue with the girly sweetness of prior sewing film scenes explored here (Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty) and proposed something with a little more bite, if you will: Selina Kyle's transformation into Catwoman in Batman Returns, as portrayed by Michelle Pffeifer.

I gave it a watch, and damn. This is some powerful stuff. To start with, it's visually stunning. The film was directed by Tim Burton, and his trademark aesthetic shows through in every shot. Also, there's something very retro about Selina Kyle (though I suppose the aesthetic of comic book films is, in general, very retro). We first see her in this lovely cocoa-colored suit. I know she's supposed to look mousy here, but look at that amazing vintage tailoring!

Her transformation into Catwoman is full of pathos and rage, and it all takes place in her girly, super-retro apartment. She refashions a vinyl trench into her kickass cat costume with wild handstitches and the help of a vintage Belvedere sewing machine.

Amazing stuff. I do remember seeing this film when it came out in 1992, and I only recall being freaked out by the way she was acting all unstable around her cats. (Someone think of the kitties, please!) I'm not a huge Batman fan (much to Jeff's chagrin), but this film obviously warrants a re-watch as an adult. As reader Amy put it, this scene is chock-full of the symbolism of her transformation. There's something completely captivating about this character who takes her rage and sadness and sews it into a new persona. See it for yourself below.

All together now: "I don't know about you, Miss Kitty, but I feel so much yummier."


  1. love that movie and that scene. Tim Burton has had several movies with sewing scenes, I.E. Batman Returns, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Alice in Wonderland...

  2. A little late to the party here...but was it in "Sixteen Candles" where Molly Ringwald's character remakes a dress for the prom? I'm sure there was sewing involved (I remember ripping a hem or something.) I'm going to see if I can watch that again soon. She wore lots of vintage clothing.

  3. I saw this costume in person at the Tim Burton exhibit they had - there was a lot of detail in it that you can't see nearly as well in the movie.

    I agree with Hello Kendra too, Burton's got some great sewing scenes.

  4. Yikes! She left her front door wide open!

    This is New York City, um, I mean, Gotham City lady!

    You gotta be more careful!

  5. haha! I'm glad there's another fan out there of Batman Returns and Selena's sewing skills. I'm not a Batman fan either but this is one of my favourite films ever. Did you see the black and white coat she wears towards the end?! So beautiful!

  6. I love that film! But only because of Michelle's portrayal of Catwoman, plus it has my favourite movie line ever... one word "Miaow!"

  7. I love the additional transformation of "Hello There" into "Hell here" in the background too. So much yummier... The ultimate retro Catwoman will always be Julie Newmar, but Michelle Pfieffer really gets where Catwoman is coming from.

  8. It was Pretty in Pink where Molly Ringwald made the dress. I know this because I LOVE that movie! She was a refashionita/make-do-and-mend-er/designer all in one.

    I love that Catwoman transformation. I remember thinking "Thank God, someone has finally addressed where in the hell the get the costume from!" I love it!

  9. Wow! That was a great scene. I've never seen the movie, but now my interest is piqued.

  10. OK. I clearly need to watch this movie! You've made my husband's day! (although he's also going to be forced to watch Pretty in Pink too. I'll keep you out of it Annette!)

    Just have to say, I'm glad I'm not the only one who makes crazy-face while sewing. I occasionally catch myself mugging like Shrek while using my machine. And ironing. Something about concentrating.

    Back to Pretty in Pink - I have loved that movie (redhead, graduated HS in '92. Ah, Andrew McCarthy, how I loved you) but I always HATED what she did to that awesome pink prom dress!

  11. I love that scene, it makes sewing sexy! Also for all you readers, I am giving away one of my princess dresses for Halloween if you are interested sigh up

  12. So glad you mentioned this! It's been one of my favourite scenes since I was a kid. I always wanted the neon light that says Hello There with a broken O and T :) And it's also my dream halloween costume.

    And Celine you added my favourite scene! Except right before the clip begins she doesn't just walk up to them, she back-hand-springs up to them!

  13. All I know is I want that apartment. (Before she Catwomaned it up of course). Great clip.

  14. Ummm...hellooo? Pretty In Pink.

    Girl meets Guy. Girl suffers from inferiority complex. Girl gets prom invite. Girl makes dress. Girl attends prom with another Guy. Guy hands her over to first guy. The End (in my head anyways).


  15. My favourite Batman, ever. Chris Nolan's isn't a patch on Tim Burton's...

  16. Love the scene but my stomach always hurts when she smashes the 50s shadow box on the wall with the frying pan.

    Can I add another vote for the Pretty in Pink scene? That specific scene was what made me want to learn how to sew and the movie as a whole completely changed my teenage fashion style. I still to this day adore a sweater set paired with a floral straight skirt and boots!

  17. Holy clueless Batman, I have never seen any of these films! Not even Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. (Did read those books in childhood)Need to broaden my Horizons!!!

  18. Isn't there something in the first Spiderman movie where he makes his first (awful) costume? I just remember really wanting a follow up montage where he takes home-ec and learns to sew lycra. You can totally see Peter Parker doing it. Definitely not a patch on the Catwoman scene, however.

    I have a small complaint about the Cinderella sewing scene... I think it gave me a distorted view of how easy sewing should be. What do you mean, it doesn't just all fall together like that???

  19. Yes, I remember the Catwoman sewing scene vividly, nearly 20 years later.

    The emotional power and cathartic release of sewing appears in another Tim Burton movie, remember Sally in Nightmare Before Christmas?

    The Sally action figure even comes with her sewing machine. Search on "Sewing Sally" to see the cultural resonance.

    These have nothing to do with movies, but I am going to mention them anyway.

    I know that Tonya Harding is a criminal, but I did warm to her when I found out that she designed and sewed her own costumes. Unlike Nancy Kerrigan, no designer agreed to make free costumes for her.

    Remember how Monica Lewinsky spent her time in seclusion while waiting for the brouhaha to die down? She sewed a ton of purses using a Vogue pattern.

    When are you coming to LA? We've got two great fashion shows at LACMA and the Petersen Museum right now. I am going to organize a seamster meetup that goes to both shows and a meal in nearby Little Ethiopia, too. Sometime in October?

  20. i'm w/ patty, loved pretty in pink but hated what she did to that lovely vintage prom dress.

    And this is my fave catwoman ever. a few years ago (prekids) i found a great PVC catsuit on ebay. The head/face mask didn't fit very well so I improvised with electrical tape. Painful but effective. I won ALL the costume contests that year!

  21. Wow, I had forgotten about that scene! Ok, now I have to unleash my inner comic book geek.

    I cut my comic teeth on the "Dark Night Returns" long after I had seen the first "Batman" movie that was done by Tim Burton. I always wondered how Mr. Burton missed the inherent darkness of the characters. Then I read in an interview that he HATES comics and never read them. He based the movies off the TV series in the 60's. Which, while fun, where a whole lot of CAMP. The newest movies to come out recapture that gritty darkness, but then DC Comics had a heavy hand and I beleive Christopher Nolan is a comic fan more so than Tim Burton.

    Still, I love Tim Burton movies very much and of all his "Batman" series, the transformation into Catwoman captured the grittiness better than anything else. And its just bonus that its a kick-ass sewing scene, for SURE.

    I'll go put away my comic book nerd now.

    (p.s. The sock monkey in the disposal traumatized me too. I had to go hug the one I had as a kid and tell it that I would NEVER do such a thing.)

  22. One of my fav movies...Catwoman suit is awesome!

  23. YES! Like others, this scene has stayed with me since I first saw it, long before I started sewing. I can remember how it made me feel, and to this day, Batman Returns is the only Batman movie I really like. It's all because of this badass transformation that my young, shy, mousy self longed for (but with less violence and insanity, perhaps). I fell in love with Catwoman. At 29, I finally managed that transformation I always wanted... I joined roller derby, so there's only slightly less violence, and the jury is still out on the charge of insanity.

  24. Not really kicking but so humorous: Sewing scenes in "The Trouble With Angels" (an old Hayley Mills movie) and near the end of "The Three Amigos" (Steve Martin, Dustin Hoffman, Martin Short) - a whole village sewing "like the wind."

  25. Hey! That's totally what I look like when I'm sewing, too!

  26. Ha! You know what's kinda funny, with all this mention of both "Batman Returns" and "Pretty in Pink"?

    Batman Returns shows a fantastic sewing scene with equally fantastic results - but the movie as a whole really sucks. It seems that by the middle of the film someone decided they didn't really need/want a plot anymore, and it drags painfully (Michelle Pfeiffer's fantastic performance notwithstanding).

    Pretty in Pink has an ok sewing scene - very inspirational that she sews - with a truly hideous end result (I 3rd the despair mentioned already over the ruining of a truly lovely vintage dress). Seriously, I have a friend who was in highschool in the 80s and he says even then everyone thought it was awful. But - it was a great movie! Totally predictable? Of course, but that's not the point, it's a classic (great music too).

    I just thought the juxtaposition was amusing. I'll stop rambling now.

  27. I found this article doing a search in goggle for something totally different and I just have to say that I love,love,love this scene when she goes nuts it just makes the whole movie the rest is kinda boring but that scene was just awesome!! so yeah that’s my 2 cents ,take care


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