Attack of the Puppet People, 1958



I’ve been talking about this movie forever, I know. I love really bad horror movies, especially if they are old, and this one seemed to fit the bill when Netflix recommended it for my Instant Queue. Hello– look at the poster and tag lines! The good news is that it is, in fact, a really terrible horror movie. The bad news (spoiler alert) is that the puppet people aren’t actually puppets, and they never truly attack. That thing with the knife and the rat never really comes to fruition. The worst thing they do is threaten to call the police (not about the rat though). Seriously. The clothes are far, far better designed than the plotline, which revolves around a lonely and demented dollmaker, Mr. Franz, and his rotation of secretaries.

Secretary 1: Buttons!

The first secretary is seen only briefly, wearing this adorable dress featuring a scoop neckline, V back, black trim, and big black buttons down the bodice. I LOVE it, and it actually sets the theme for the rest of the secretarial outfits in the movie: buttons, buttons, and more buttons. If you want to replicate it, start with Butterick 5605– it has a boat neck, interesting back, and a center front seam where you can place buttons. You can also insert piping into the princess seams  for additional contrast.

Secretary 1 is quickly replaced by Secretary 2, who arrives in this fetching ensemble. I like Secretary 2 for a few reasons: more buttons, nicely tailored dress, and slightly wackadoo headgear. What’s not to love? Secretary 2 is also frugal- she wears this dress twice in the movie. The second time, she weaves a small scarf under her collar and through her top buttonholes. The best details of this dress, I think, are the buttons and placket down the sleeves, and the belt that cinches at the small of her back. You can see that there is no belt at the front of the dress, but in the back there is a black patent leather cincher with a buckle. You can really try this with any shirt-dress pattern- the trick is adjusting the sleeves to accomodate the placket. I would start with McCall’s 4769– the collar is right, and you can take some of the fullness out of the skirt for a better fit. For the sleeves, split the pattern piece down the center from the shoulder line down, add an inch or so to each side to make the placket, and see how that works out. If you want to, franken-pattern in a cuff from another blouse pattern with slim sleeves, and that should work all right. If you try this, I would recommend working with a stretch cotton- since the skirt is so slim, a little stretch will go a long way when you try to sit (I know this from experience).

Secretary 2: Economy & Re-styling

Secretary 2: Headgear and All

Thanks to the demented and lonely dollmaker, nearly every character in the movie gets shrunken down to Barbie size, hence the “Puppet People” of the title. This might create wardrobe problems for anyone but a demented dollmaker, but he provides his special little friends with ready-made party outfits, the best of which is worn by Secretary 2, post-shrinking. It’s a classic strapless late-50s party dress with a fitted bodice, flared skirt with a crinoline underskirt for added fullness. What I love best is that the top layer is pink organza with horizontal multi-colored ribbons. Perhaps not the most slimming choice, but it is really pretty.

Party like a Puppet

2 responses to “Attack of the Puppet People, 1958

  1. This was a totally AWESOME MOVIE, Palewriter! I loved the tiny record player! I love the vintage looks and how you are able to point us to patterns that work today. It’s better than Mad Men….it’s Puppet Men!

    • Thank you- and I agree! This movie was so bizarrely awesome I thought about it for months before finally watching it again to get the screen shots and review together. My favorite part was when right after he shrunk Secretary 2, she was dressed in a napkin and he offered her really weird-looking toiletries and stockings. That, and the random musical interlude in the middle. All the buttons make me so happy!

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