Friday, October 1, 2021

Literary Sewing Circle: Sun Down Motel Inspiration


It's the first week of our Literary Sewing Circle featuring The Sun Down Motel. Have you found a copy yet? Have you started reading? If so, how are you finding the opening chapters? 

This week we'll be looking at one of the storyline eras to inspire a project. This story is partly set in 1982 and partly in 2017 -- today we'll be looking at the 80s. 

While the action doesn't move around much, mostly taking place right at the Sun Down Motel or in and around small Fell, NY, there is still scope for some 80s fashion there. 

Take a look at this retrospective of 80s fashion in America to get a sense of what was happening, and what might be rescuable! Or take a browse through this lengthy overview of 80s clothing, accessories and makeup for some fun reading (just ignore the 'buy here' links). This is, of course, if you enjoy looking through old 80s style as much as I do. 

You might be inspired by some of the colours of the 80s. Viv's new roommate Jenny "never spent her days off at home... Instead she spent her days off at the mall, spending her small paycheck on records or makeup or new shoes -- loafers or low, pointy heels in rainbow colors like bright red or bright yellow, shoes she couldn't wear to work at the nursing home but wanted to have for 'going to a party'."

Remember this primary colour palette?

And when Viv arranges to meet Alma at the Turnabout diner, she "was wearing a floral blouse...and she'd put on a yellow sweater over it. She'd considered wearing darker colors to make herself look more serious, but she liked the yellow better." 

There are mentions of a woman arriving at the Sun Down Motel in high-waisted jeans and a white blouse with red polka dots, or Viv modelling briefly as a teen, wearing acid wash jeans and a bright purple button down blouse. If you're intrigued and inspired by the colours of the 80s, you can watch this 1980s episode of History in Color. It's about a half hour long, but it's so fascinating it zips by. 

Another approach is to look at the potential of patterns sharing a name with some of our characters. The Vivian Vest by Style Arc is not only called by our main character's name, it's also a very 80s silhouette! Imagine wearing this outfit in contrasting primary colours or stark black and white, and you'll fit right in to an 80s office. 

Viv's roommate Jenny is less edgy than Viv is - she's a young woman working the night shift at a nursing home. She might wear something like this Jenny Wrap Dress by Designer Stitch to a weekend do, maybe in a pastel print with some jelly shoes ;) You could make this classic silhouette look retro or completely modern depending on your own fabric choices. 

When Viv meets photographer Marnie, she finds an ally, however reluctant. The no-nonsense photographer would probably have pulled on a casual jacket like this Marni ponte jacket from Style Arc (though the 80s version probably would have had large shoulder pads too!) 

Policewoman Alma Trent is also no-nonsense. But maybe in her off hours she might have dressed up a little? In any case, you could try out this Alma Blouse by Sewaholic in a neon or graphic print to bring out the 80s tone & cut the sweetness. 

When Viv first meets her new boss, Janice McNamara, the owner of the Sun Down Motel, she's described like this:
"She was about thirty, lean and vital, with brown hair in a ponytail and a face that had hard lines. She was wearing a baggy gray sweatshirt, loose-fit jeans, and heavy brown boots, which Viv could see because she had them propped right upon the desk."

I think that this Janice Hoodie by Pattydoo is exactly the kind of thing that Janice would wear! 

And Janice might also feel comfy in this sweatshirt style tunic/dress, a design by Tie Dye Diva -- which also echoes the setting of this book. It's called the New York Minute Knit Dress & Tunic. Quick and comfy for when those pesky ghosts are giving you shivers... ;) 

I hope that this roundup was inspirational to you, and that you enjoyed our journey through the 80s. In our next inspiration post we'll be looking at the contemporary timeline and seeing what we might find there. Happy reading!


  1. Wow!! What inspiration. I love the idea of a white shirt with red polka dots ..... or a robe to wear poolside, IF the pool had water in it! While it is early days, there is a lot of talk about the pool. There has to be some significance.

    1. Hmmmm, interesting... Yes, lots of moments in the book that can be turned into an outfit, even just the passing descriptions of side characters! She mentions clothing a fair bit.

  2. I have enjoyed all the inspirations, resources and links to 80's garments and style in this post. It makes me wonder - what didn't people wear in the 80's and secondly, where was I??? That decade I spent most of my years in maternity or nursing clothes, or in the tracksuit style. Although I had and loved loose, ethnic type dresses (which I haven't seen on any of the links). I probably had the perfect lockdown wardrobe! I do notice many of the shirts had very deep armholes, and were square cut .... that could be a bit of fun. It was a colourful decade.
    It was also interesting to see the colour blocked dress included because I always thought that was a more 1960's style. But then styles just keep coming back, and maybe that was what happened.

    1. I really enjoyed putting this post together. I was thinking back on what I wore in the 80s and remember a lot of this. I think there were some more regional variations that probably didn't make it to the big roundups but I do remember the primary colours, oversize clothing and lots of teal and purple. Plus the pastels that I never liked personally!

  3. I got married at 27 in the fall of 1982, so it is quite fun to think back to that period. I really enjoyed reading the articles and watching the YouTube video. I recall wearing "adventure" colors of khaki and tan, the preppy look, turquoise and purple (together), big plastic jewelry, black and white stripes, red, and hot pink. My colleagues and I in the traditional east coast research library where I worked wore suits with hose and heels to work every day.

    As I read the first couple of chapters, I have to say I missed the details of what people were wearing, and appreciate Melanie pointing out those passages. The images of vanishing, disappearance, fragments of smoke, and ghosts really grabbed me: "Why had Viv been allowed to vanish into nothingness without a ripple?"

    1. I found that the video really brought back a lot of memories of my outfits in the 80s -- I was in high school and recall wanting lots of the things shown even if I didn't get them ;)

      I like your vision of vanishing as an image to potentially work with. It's true, it's a theme that repeats in this story.


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!