April 14, 2014 § 1 Comment
With Mad Men entering its final season, my Mad Men-era series concludes with two posts on fashion designers whose work became available to home sewers in the mid-Sixties. (Browse the series by clicking the Mad Men era tag, or start at the beginning.)
Before the Vogue Americana line there was McCall’s New York Designers’ Collection. In the fall of 1965, McCall’s introduced a new pattern line: New York Designers’ Collection plus 1. (The “plus 1” refers to one foreign designer, Digby Morton; later, as McCall’s added designers to the line, it became “New York Designers’ Collection Plus.”)
The Fall/Winter 1965 issue of McCall’s Pattern Fashions & Home Decorating introduced readers to the new designers. According to the catalogue, the new line featured “the most outstanding fashions of seven leading American designers and one famous London couturier” (click to enlarge):
The original list of designers consisted of Larry Aldrich, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Laird-Knox, Digby Morton, Originala, Mollie Parnis, and Pauline Trigère, whose agreement with McCall’s dated to the mid-1950s. (Trigère was already featured in an earlier Mad Men era post.) Later additions would include Anne Klein, Jacques Tiffeau, and Rudi Gernreich.
This post looks at three of the best-known American designers in McCall’s new line: Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and Anne Klein.
Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Bill Blass (1922-2002) showed an early talent for fashion design, studying briefly at Parsons before enlisting in the U.S. military in 1942. After the war he returned to New York to work in the fashion industry; by 1959 he was head designer for Maurice Rentner—then a conservative, established Seventh Avenue label. (McCall’s patterns credit the designer as ‘Bill Blass for Maurice Rentner, Ltd.’) In 1970 he purchased the company and renamed it Bill Blass Ltd. Blass was known for his sophisticated but youthful designs favoured by high society. He retired in 1999.
McCall’s 8927 is an asymmetrical, sleeveless shift dress with applied bands and an inverted pleat on the left-hand side:
Born in Louisiana as Samuel Robert Bozeman Jr., Geoffrey Beene (1924-2004) trained at the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York and École de la Chambre Syndicale in Paris, where he also apprenticed with a tailor. Returning to New York, he worked at Harmay and Teal Traina before founding his own company in 1963. Beene was renowned for his innovative, modern designs, as well as his iconoclasm.
Veronica Hamel models McCall’s 1028, a dress cut in seven panels with seven-eighths kimono sleeves and triangular, bias collar:
Born in Brooklyn as Hannah Golofsky, Anne Klein (1923-1974) also trained at the Traphagen School of Fashion. The pioneer in American sportswear worked in petites and juniors before founding Anne Klein and Company in the late 1960s. Her final collection was completed by Donna Karan, who had begun work at the company in the summer of 1967 as Klein’s intern.
McCall’s 1020 is a sleeveless shift dress with angular armholes and fabulous standing (and convertible) collar. The model is Hellevi Keko:
All three New York designers would later make the switch to Vogue Patterns: Blass in 1967, Beene and Klein in the 1970s.
Next: Butterick’s Young Designers: Mary Quant, Jean Muir, and Emmanuelle Khanh.
March 27, 2014 § 2 Comments
Born in Indonesia, Celia Hammond was discovered by Norman Parkinson in the early 1960s and went on to build a career as a top model in Paris and Swinging London.
Hammond may be seen on many designer patterns from Vogue and Butterick from the mid-1960s, always by British designers.
Here she models an LBD with dropped waist and bow-trimmed overblouse by Michael of London (Michael Donéllan):
Hammond modelled for patterns by a few British designers licensed to Butterick’s new Young Designers line, including the first Mary Quant patterns. Here she poses in a Quant dress, Butterick 3288, on a Butterick catalogue cover shot by Terence Donovan:
Jean Muir designed this button-trimmed, mustard-yellow dress for her early label, Jane & Jane:
Hammond also appears on this popular Jean Muir dress pattern, Butterick 4577:
Here she models a suede-trimmed ensemble by Jo Mattli:
This evening dress from Belinda Bellville has a shaped bodice and handy pockets:
By Ronald Paterson, this three-piece ensemble with cutaway jacket is chic in white matelassé with matching buttons:
Richard Dormer photographed Hammond in these two Belinda Bellville designs. Vogue 1795 is an elegant, black-and-white day ensemble, while Vogue 1828 is a short evening dress with tiered, scalloped, bias overskirt:
Here Hammond models another dress by Michael Donéllan, its blouson bodice slashed in back to reveal an attached camisole:
Hammond retired from modelling to devote herself full-time to her work for animal welfare; she remains active for this cause as the founder of the Celia Hammond Animal Trust.
Click the models tag to see more posts in my models series.
March 17, 2014 § 2 Comments
This week, the second post in my occasional series on Vogue’s pattern editorials. (See the first post here.)
“Clean Cuts,” from the November 1997 issue, seems to have been Vogue’s last editorial to feature sewing patterns. Mario Testino photographed Guinevere Van Seenus and Amber Valetta in ’90s minimalist style in the season’s body-conscious basics—”the edgier side of Vogue Patterns,” as the headline says.
Here Guinevere Van Seenus models a white tank top made using Vogue 8062; on the right, her hooded red dress is Butterick 5088, lengthened, made sleeveless, and with an altered neckline:
Here Van Seenus models the Vogue 9501 shirt in silk jersey with the Vogue 1982 DKNY pants in black, while Valetta wears the Vogue 8062 tank with a red leather skirt, Vogue 7074:
As always, in the back of the magazine readers could find the details of the patterns used in the shoot:
It’s curious that the text doesn’t mention the designers behind Vogue 1982 and 1725; Donna Karan and Calvin Klein would have been major advertisers. Most interestingly, in showing patterns’ potential through fabric choice and alterations, the editorial reveals Vogue editors thinking like dressmakers.
March 10, 2014 § 12 Comments
I made our little niece a vintage ’30s coat as a Hannukah gift. For the pattern I used Pictorial Review 6128, a double-breasted coat with optional back belt and pockets.
Here’s the diagram and description from the envelope back. It’s a unisex coat for small children, and was available only in sizes 1 to 6:
The recommended fabrics were flannel, camel’s hair, piqué, velveteen, cheviot, and serge. We had a length of purple Woolrich tweed that felt the right weight for a coat. (Established in 1830, Woolrich is North America’s oldest woolen mill. Today, Woolrich tweed is a wool-nylon blend for durability.) I cut some leather trim for the welt pockets from an old pair of leather gloves, and my modest button stash yielded a set of one-inch vintage Civil Defence buttons for the front and belt.
Since the pattern is the old die-cut type and needed no alterations, I tried cutting using the original tissue pieces held down with weights.
I’m new to tailoring (and coat-making), so throughout the process I referred to Paco Peralta’s tailoring tutorial and my 1970s Vogue Sewing Book on tailoring techniques. The coat collar gave me the opportunity to try out pad stitching. The pattern even gave instructions; the undercollar is to be interfaced with muslin and pad stitched, with the collar stand first worked with a running stitch:
Here are some progress photos of the pad stitched undercollar:
This is the undercollar attached to the coat body:
You could call my approach to the coat half-tailored—somewhere between the pattern’s Depression-era muslin collar interlining and modern tailoring’s padstitched hair canvas interfacing, all catch-stitched along the seam lines. As a compromise between vintage and modern methods I used a sew-in interfacing on coat facings, belt, and pocket welts. (None was called for in the pattern.) To handle the heavy tweed, I had no tailor’s clapper, so I pounded the steamed seams and edges with a small cedar block we had on hand. Paco’s tip of making a few stitches across lapel corners worked wonders for my first-ever lapels.
I bagged the lining and added handworked keyhole buttonholes—fanned at one end, with a bar tack at the other. Partway through making the coat we decided against the convertible collar, so I omitted the lapel buttonholes. (As with many vintage patterns, there were no button/buttonhole markings.) It was my first stab at handworked buttonholes on heavy fabric; I love how the hand stitches create an edge that curves out to the ridge of knots that lines the buttonhole opening.
Here are some photos of the finished coat:
I think of Civil Defence buttons as ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ buttons since the font and crown are similar to those on the WW2 propaganda poster originally produced by Britain’s Ministry of Information. (More on the Keep Calm font here.) Some closeup views of the buttons and buttonholes:
And the little back belt:
Our loft’s walls have some mysterious industrial hardware that proved useful in showing the scale of the coat:
Cutting straight from a die-cut pattern was an interesting experience, but I still prefer printed or traced tissue for cutting and marking. An oft-cited drawback of unprinted patterns is that the notches and other markings don’t always line up. This was true of the coat pattern, but it wasn’t hard to correct.
It’s always a pleasure working with wool, and I really enjoyed the challenge of trying out tailoring with a heavy fabric. The finished coat is something our niece will grow into, especially in the shoulders. But she does love the pockets! I see more coat-making in our future…
(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)
March 5, 2014 § 11 Comments
Schiaparelli was one of the eight couturiers who licensed designs for the first Vogue Paris Originals in 1949. Vogue’s first Schiaparelli pattern was a skirt suit with double pockets and one-sleeved blouse, Vogue 1051:
The suit was photographed in Paris by Clifford Coffin:
The photo that opens this post shows Vogue 1074, a Schiaparelli dress and shortcoat from Vogue’s fourth series of Paris Originals. The original coat was lined with astrakhan. (The suit on the right is Vogue 1076 by Jacques Heim.)
New Look curves characterize this Schiaparelli suit pattern from spring, 1950, which was photographed in Paris by Norman Parkinson. The short-sleeved jacket has rounded, stiffened hips, while the kimono-sleeved blouse buttons its curved fronts to one side. Vogue recommends making the blouse from the suit’s lining fabric:
Vogue 1133 is a vampy, short-sleeved dress with hip-enhancing pocket flaps and convertible collar at both front and back:
Arik Nepo’s photograph plays up the dress’ severity:
Vogue 1142 is a faux suit, an asymmetrical dress with a skirt front extension that creates the illusion of a jacket on one side. (Much like Galliano’s Givenchy jumpsuit, Vogue 1887.) The shaped projections of the big, rounded collar, skirt extension, and off-kilter double-breasted closure playfully destabilize the garment:
This Schiaparelli evening dress pattern, Vogue 1144, includes a petticoat and diaphanous kerchief. Look closely, and you can see that the oversized, decorative pockets extend almost the length of the skirt:
Here’s a closer look at Henry Clarke’s photo:
In 1952 Schiaparelli showed inverted heart necklines for spring; with its pointed, stand-away neckline and narrow shawl collar, Vogue 1179 allowed the home dressmaker to be right up to date. The cocktail dress closes with not one but two side zippers:
Vogue magazine showed an alternate photo by Robert Randall:
Frances McLaughlin photographed Bettina in Vogue 1198, a short evening dress with what Vogue called “a big pleated bandage—like an outside order ribbon” wrapping over one shoulder and around the waist. The original was made in black silk brocade:
Here’s a catalogue page for Vogue 1198, with illustration and alternate photo:
Vogue 1231 is a day dress with a single patch pocket and bloused bodice gathered to a dramatic convertible collar:
The dress was photographed in Paris by Robert Randall:
Finally, Vogue 1245 is a long evening dress with an attached stole that passes through the bodice front:
The stunning gown was photographed by Roger Prigent:
If you don’t have the budget for an original Schiaparelli pattern, a reproduction of the one-sleeved stole from Vogue 1068 is available from Decades of Style:
February 27, 2014 § 3 Comments
Born in Flint, Michigan, Billie Blair (b. 1946) worked as a model at the Detroit Auto Show before becoming one of the highest-paid fashion models of the 1970s. Moving to New York City, she got a job at Halston and soon found success as an editorial and runway model. Blair was among the African-American models at the historic 1973 fundraising event, Le Grand Divertissement à Versailles, known today as the Battle of Versailles. (The event was the subject of a recent documentary by Deborah Riley Draper, Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution [2012)].)
Billie Blair may be seen on a number of Vogue designer patterns from the mid-1970s. Here she wears a tweed skirt suit and pussy-bow blouse by Oscar de la Renta; this design was marked as ‘suitable for knits’:
Stan Herman designed this casual hooded top, skirt, and pants. The illustration shows some American Hustle-worthy aviator shades:
Here Blair wears a girlish, vintage-style ensemble by Nina Ricci, a cream-coloured dress with matching cape:
From Jean Patou, this maxi dress may date to the period when the young Jean Paul Gaultier was assistant designer. Blair brings out the glamour of this haute couture loungewear:
In Vogue Patterns‘ 1975 holiday issue, Jerry Hall wears the Patou dress while Blair models an off-the-shoulder party dress in an editorial devoted to evening sparkle (the headline reads, “Be a Star the Vogue Way”):
Here she models a fabulous, evening-length Dior caftan with piped neckline:
This Nina Ricci separates pattern includes a poncho with shirttail hem, convertible collar, and big patch pockets:
Blair is the model on this rare pattern by Sonia Rykiel, Vogue 1378—check out the matching coral sandals:
Billie Blair’s commanding presence and approach to modelling as performance don’t seem too unusual today. But she was unconventional for the time, and even felt the need to under-report her age when she first became famous. A 1974 profile of Blair in People magazine says she is 22 years old and remarks on her size 9 feet. (In a letter to the editor, a high school classmate wondered how Blair had stayed 22 when her peers were 28.) She continued modelling into her thirties—here she appears in a dynamic 1978 Vogue shoot by Andrea Blanch:
January 31, 2014 § 6 Comments
Happy Chinese new year! In honour of the Year of the Horse, here’s a selection of equestrian sewing patterns from the 1920s to the 1990s.
Like tennis wear, modern equestrian wear begins in the 1920s. Before the First World War, women generally rode sidesaddle; equestriennes wore fashionably voluminous riding skirts designed to fall flatteringly on horseback, with breeches underneath. In addition to 19th-century Harper’s Bazaar patterns for riding habits, the Commercial Pattern Archive’s “Riding” category reveals a 1909 pattern for ladies’ riding breeches (Butterick 3313), and two divided equestrian skirts from the early teens (Butterick 5792 and Pictorial Review 5003).
By 1920 the major American pattern companies were producing commercial patterns for women’s jodhpurs—often called riding breeches. As the illustration at the top of this post shows, some women continued to ride sidesaddle, even into the 1930s, but I haven’t found any modern patterns for sidesaddle riding habits.
Butterick 2255, circa 1920, is a pattern for a riding coat and breeches worthy of Lady Mary. The envelope specifies that the design is for cross saddle riding:
This 1920 McCall pattern for riding breeches shows the pattern diagram and instructions on the envelope (click to enlarge):
I have this 1923 jodhpurs pattern in my collection—for when I learn to ride, of course:
This McCall’s illustration of a riding coat and breeches is from the same year, but it shows a different breeches pattern, as well as a more streamlined riding coat than a few years previous:
Jodhpurs were not just for equestrian sports: they were the “trousers of adventure,” worn for activities like driving, hiking and camping, safaris, and aviation. This early ’30s illustration from Pictorial Review shows the latest sports styles, including beach pajamas and clothes for tennis and golf. The riding habit includes a sleeveless jacket or waistcoat (click to enlarge):
Butterick 5647 is a pattern for cuffed, fall-front jodhpurs with notched back waist and side and back pockets. Nabby at This Old Life made these for her vintage aviatrix costume (click image for post):
McCall 9412, from September 1937, looks to be a rare early pattern for western-style riding pants, with reinforced seat and inner leg. I’d love to see a better-quality image; this one was found in a lot on eBay:
Also from the late 1930s, Pictorial Review 9337 is a pattern for a tailored shirt and sleek pair of riding trousers:
Apart from children’s equestrian patterns, I couldn’t find any patterns from the major pattern companies that were specifically for riding until the 1970s, when western-style riding wear was in fashion. McCall’s 4870 includes riding pants and a shirt-jacket with contrast, embroidered yoke and cuffs. The model is Angeleen Gagliano, who was a horsewoman in real life:
This Butterick pattern by Jane Tise shows the vogue for western shirts:
The influence of the western shirt is evident in this Halston dress with scalloped yoke:
Many of you will remember the 1980s jodhpurs trend, when you could dress for English-style riding far from any stable. Exhibit A is New Look 6013:
Gianni Versace and Claude Montana both showed jodhpurs in the ’80s, but unfortunately Vogue Patterns doesn’t seem to have released any patterns for them. Just for fun, here’s a Lord Snowdon photo of aristocrat Angela Rawlinson in a jacket and tweed jodhpurs by John McIntyre:
Little Vogue 7876, with its young model leaning on a stone balustrade, is interesting for showing the social ambition associated with horseback riding. The jodhpurs are a little loose for actual riding (the similarly styled Vogue 7842 also has a looser fit):
With the advent of stretch fabrics, riding pants no longer needed lots of room in the upper leg. These jodhpurs by Calvin Klein have a sleeker fit that’s more in line with late 20th-century equestrian wear. They come with detachable stirrups, and may be made in synthetic suede:
McCall’s 6737′s riding pants are for stretch fabrics, reinforced with leather or ultrasuede in the seat and inner leg. The pattern also marks a return to the waistcoat:
Vogue 1655 by DKNY brings us full circle: the riding-style jacket was photographed in traditional scarlet at a country estate:
For more on the history of women’s equestrian wear see Mackay-Smith, Druesedow, and Ryder’s Man and the Horse: An Illustrated History of Equestrian Apparel (Simon and Schuster, 1984), which was published to accompany the Polo/Ralph Lauren-sponsored Costume Institute exhibit held from December, 1984 to September, 1985.
If you’d like to sew your own sidesaddle riding habit, reproductions of early French magazine patterns for costumes d’amazone (women’s riding habits) are available from eBay shop Au fil du temps. For a modern equestrian look, Folkwear’s Equestriennes pattern, Folkwear 506, includes a riding jacket, waistcoat, and jodhpurs based on garments in the collection of the Costume Institute.
Special thanks to Naomi for acting as my in-house equestrianism consultant.