December 6, 2013 § 1 Comment
Just in time for the recent Eighties revival, SHOWstudio’s 2009 instalment in its Design Download series was an evening dress by Antony Price. Short, boned, and ruched, with asymmetrical ‘feathers’ in two shades of taffeta, the Macaw dress exemplifies the glamour and dazzling construction of Price’s evening wear. The free pattern was part of the SHOWstudio project, Antony Price: For Your Pleasure. (For more on the designer see Chrissy Iley, “Return of the Dandy,” and the Antony Price press archive.)
The designer is best known for his work for performers like the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Duran Duran, and especially Roxy Music. This sketch shows Price’s costume design for the cover of “Siren,” Roxy Music’s 1975 album:
An earlier ornithologically-inspired Antony Price dress, “Bird’s Wing,” is part of the collection of the V&A, and was included in their exhibition, The Cutting Edge: Fifty Years of British Fashion, 1947–1997:
And Tilda Swinton recently wore Antony Price on the cover of Candy magazine (click the image for back view):
Antony Price’s Spring/Summer 1989 collection was shown at the Fashion Theatre, Kensington Olympia, to a soundtrack that included Phillip Glass, Duran Duran, and Peter and the Wolf. The Macaw dress opened a bird-themed segment of the show: after the Macaw there was the ‘Pheasant,’ the ‘Chicken,’ and finally the stunning ‘Bird of Paradise.’
Runway photos from the Spring 1989 collection may be seen in Maria Lexton’s 1991 profile of the designer. The final image (bottom right) shows the ‘Bird of Paradise’ dress:
Fabric requirements: taffeta (with additional shade for contrast); lining; stayflex fusible cotton interfacing
Notions: plastic boning, zipper
Notes/caveats: The pattern has 20 pieces, in 15 PDFs. Because the sheet dimensions are irregular, copy shop printing is recommended.
‘Feathers’ and main ruched piece are cut on the bias. The designer recommends binding boning into ‘quills’ for best results.
See the SHOWstudio submissions gallery here.
November 22, 2013 § 6 Comments
Born in Rome, Alberta Tiburzi began her modelling career in Italy in the 1960s. She later moved to New York after signing a contract with American Vogue. In the 1970s Tiburzi became a professional fashion photographer, known as signora della luce for her work with light. (Read a bio here, from the 2005 exhibition Italian Eyes: Italian Fashion Photographs from 1951 to Today.)
In the mid-1960s Tiburzi did some modelling for Vogue Patterns in Rome, for Couturier patterns by Italian designers. My mother made this Galitzine ensemble in fuchsia bouclé:
In this design by Federico Forquet, the shaped hem of the cutaway jacket matches the waistline seam on the dress:
Tiburzi brings out the drama of this double-breasted tent coat by Fabiani:
Tiburzi was also photographed in the dress from the same pattern:
Here she models a red Simonetta dress with tucks radiating from the collar:
Once in New York, Tiburzi did some work for McCall’s. Here she models a purple dress with heavily embellished collar by Pauline Trigère:
November 17, 2013 § 6 Comments
The current exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum, The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon, celebrates the museum’s 10th anniversary with a retrospective of the British fashion house. If you’re in the London area this week you can bring in your Bellville pieces, including versions sewn from Vogue Patterns, for evaluation by David Sassoon at the event “Bring out your Bellville.” (The exhibition runs until January 11th, 2014.)
Belinda Bellville founded her eponymous couture house in 1953, and recruited David Sassoon in 1958; the Bellville Sassoon name dates to 1970. Following Bellville’s retirement in the 1980s, Sassoon was joined by Lorcan Mullany as designer of the house’s ready-to-wear line. Vogue Patterns has been producing Bellville patterns since the late 1960s.
Bellville Sassoon is unusual for having no licensing apart from its long-running sewing patterns with Vogue. (See Libby Banks, “Loosening a Fashion Stiff Upper Lip.”) This has the effect of giving the patterns a special prominence. As Suzy Menkes observes, although Bellville Sassoon is perhaps best known for its society wedding gowns and association with the British royal family, the sewing patterns show the house’s “more democratic side.” (See Sinty Stemp, The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon [Antique Collectors' Club, 2009], which devotes a chapter to Vogue Patterns.) Even the couture-focused exhibition Glamour and Gowns: Couture by Belinda Bellville and Bellville Sassoon, which ran through October, 2013 at Holkham Hall (the ancestral seat of Bellville’s son-in-law), included Bellville sewing patterns.
Here is a selection of Belinda Bellville and Bellville Sassoon sewing patterns from the Sixties to now.
From early 1967, this Bellville evening ensemble includes an elegant, bow-trimmed jacket and A-line gown with optional beaded trim:
The bodice of this popular design for a short or long evening dress extends into a large bow in the slit back:
This high-waisted evening dress with waistcoat bodice could be made short, or above the ankle:
The back wrap on this bias dress creates a cowl neckline that becomes a V in the back. The model is Rosie Vela:
This dramatic, one-shouldered cocktail or evening dress has a draped, asymmetrical bodice with big bows at the hip and shoulder:
The volume in this strapless, ruffled formal dress is amplified by an attached ruffled petticoat:
A petticoat is also essential to this full-skirted, strapless party dress from the early 1990s. The bow detail at the bodice can be made in contrast fabric:
This evening dress with bias-banded bodice was photographed at Los Angeles’ Biltmore Hotel for the May/June 1997 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine, which also included an article by Claire Shaeffer on couture techniques for constructing the design:
Strong shoulders are achieved through extravagant sleeve rosettes on this recent Bellville Sassoon cocktail dress, which also features a piped and ruffle-trimmed neckline:
Current Vogue patterns, like this dress with draped and pleated bodice, show the designer as Lorcan Mullany for Bellville Sassoon:
As a teenager in the ’90s, one of the first things I made was a Bellville Sassoon corset top (from Vogue 1605). Have you sewn any Bellville patterns?
November 9, 2013 § 10 Comments
I love vintage swimwear. (See my post on vintage beachwear patterns here.) It’s also been years since I had a bathing suit; somehow I can never make myself shop for one. So I resolved to make a vintage swimsuit using the Vintage Fashion Library’s reproduction of Simplicity 7041, VFL 145.
Based on the envelope design and that of the consecutively numbered Simplicity 7042, a lingerie set with bloomers, I would date the pattern to circa 1929. (On the development of the 1920s swimsuit see Bomber Girl’s post here.)
These two George Hoyningen-Huene photos of Patou swimsuits from the late ’20s served as reference and inspiration for me:
The original pattern instructions give a charming description: “7041: Style for chic and for good swimming. It has a smart belted waistline, buttoned shoulder straps, and a round neckline. Style 1: A one-piece suit for the very active swimmer who demands plenty of freedom. Style 2: A two-piece suit which looks well on the taller woman. With deep V-back.” The pointed, lapped lower bodice seam is a nice Deco detail, which could be brought out further by making the attached shorts in a contrasting fabric.
I made the one-piece with scoop back. I found some lightly textured, black swimwear fabric on sale at King Textiles’ old location, with matching white fabric for a contrast belt. To face the upper bodice and belt I used tricot interfacing/lining from Designer Fabrics, where I also got some plain 1″ buttons. The 1.5″ belt buckle is from Leather & Sewing Supply Depot (now at 204 Spadina).
I needed to grade down the repro’s B38 to fit me. Even then I had to take in the suit at the upper side seams. The straps were made slightly shorter and narrower as part of the grading, but the length of the shorts was unaltered. I added white topstitching along the top and bottom edges of the bodice, with contrasting black topstitching on the white belt.
The cut of the shorts is in the old style, which takes some getting used to. Here is a view of the suit, shown flat:
Naomi and I took some photos of the swimsuit at the old Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion. This archival photo shows the pavilion in its heyday:The pavilion’s grand, Beaux-Arts archway records the year it opened to the public, 1922:
As Naomi pointed out, the suit is basically a playsuit, and with heels and a coverup it didn’t feel too odd walking down Queen Street West to the beach.
I was able to cheat and make the buttons non-functional:
I had trouble deciding how to fit the suit. Although period photographs show knit swimsuits that cling to the body, the illustration shows a looser-fitting suit. Since I wanted to swim in it, I wasn’t aiming for an authentic reproduction. (Wool is just not an option.) But having made it up, it’s clear the suit would drape better in a lighter swimwear fabric. I may try the low-backed, skirted view for next summer…
(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)
November 5, 2013 § 6 Comments
In the early 1980s, Sissons had an in-club boutique, Call Me Madam, at London’s Heaven nightclub, where Cannon hosted the Cha Cha’s club night. As Sissons later recalled, her early designs had “a high fashion punk influence,” with Call Me Madam catering to “the alternative types, such as Leigh Bowery, Boy George, dancers, entertainers, fire-eaters, pop stars…” For i-D’s 2012 profile of the designer, with recent and archival photos and video, click the photo below:
(The exhibition catalogue by Sonnet Stanfill is entitled 80s Fashion: From Club to Catwalk; on London club style see also Graham Smith’s photographic history, We Can Be Heroes: London Clubland, 1976-1984.)
The Scarlett Dress is a low-backed hobble dress with pleated hip drape and three-quarter sleeves. Inspired by Old Hollywood, the original was made in red stretch ciré jersey and worn to Cannon’s birthday celebrations at the Camden Palace and Bolts in North London.
Cannon lent the dress to the exhibition, where it’s styled to fall off the shoulder, accessorized with a Judy Blame bead necklace (Blame’s first piece: photo at Gilded Birds). You can see Cannon’s photos of the exhibition setup on her blog.
Size: UK size 12 with added ease (bust 93cm, waist 72cm, hip 96cm = bust 36 5/8″, waist 28 3/8″, hip 37 3/4″ approx.)
Recommended fabrics: stretch fabrics
Seam allowance: 1cm (3/8″)
Notions: 1.5cm (1/2″) shoulder pads
N.B.: It seems the download will be available only for the duration of the Club to Catwalk exhibition, which closes February 16th, 2014.
Click here for the other instalments in my Free Designer Patterns series.
November 3, 2013 § 5 Comments
With Oliver Hirschbiegel’s “Diana” opening in North American theatres this weekend, this post is devoted to a designer associated with the Princess of Wales: Bruce Oldfield. The 1985 Lord Snowdon portrait seen on the People cover above shows a Bruce Oldfield velvet dress that the princess also wore to the premiere of “Les Misérables.” Oldfield began designing for Princess Di in 1980, and for over a decade she was president of Barnardo’s, the children’s charity with which Oldfield has had a life-long relationship.
In the mid- to late 1980s, Bruce Oldfield sewing patterns were released by Style Patterns. (The British pattern company seems to have produced designer patterns only between 1985 and 1988, so high Eighties style is guaranteed.) Here’s a selection of Bruce Oldfield patterns.
This wrap dress or blouse-and-skirt ensemble is gathered into a shoulder yoke for the mid-1980s strong-shouldered silhouette:
Hemline slits add interest to this panelled, double-breasted suit:
In this dress, dolman sleeves are cut into curved side panels, shaped with shoulder pleats for draped volume. Because Style Patterns changed its envelope design in the mid-1980s, this pattern may be found in two alternate versions:
Cindy Crawford models this dress with straight skirt and blouson bodice:
In this dramatic mock wrap dress with dolman sleeves, the belt passes through openings in the side panels:
Bruce Oldfield is best known for his bridal and evening wear. This wedding or evening dress has a ruched bodice, raised front hemline, and optional puffed sleeves:
To continue the Eighties flashback, check out this Bruce Oldfield blog post with archival runway photos and video.
October 21, 2013 § 7 Comments
Thanks to Paco Peralta,* I received a review copy of the new book from Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària de Barcelona, Pedro Rodríguez: Catalogue of Maria Brillas’s Dresses. The museum’s collection of Pedro Rodríguez’ work was recently expanded when it acquired the wardrobe of Maria Brillas (1905-1992), a Barcelona society lady who dressed exclusively in Rodríguez for much of her life.
Brillas’ extensive wardrobe—over 300 pieces, from the 1920s to the 1970s—covers most of Rodríguez’ career, and in 2011 the collection was the subject of a major exhibition, ¿Qué me pongo? El guardarropa de Maria Brillas por Pedro Rodríguez (What to Wear? Maria Brillas’ wardrobe by Pedro Rodríguez). The book concludes the museum’s project of cataloguing the new collection.
As I found when preparing a brief discussion of Rodríguez for a Mad Men series post, it isn’t easy to find English-language studies of the designer and his work. Vintage sewing enthusiasts will be aware of Rodríguez through his licensed sewing patterns, which were available from Advance, Spadea, and especially Vogue Patterns in the 1950s and 1960s (click to enlarge):
Three short essays accompany the catalogue. Fashion historian Sílvia Rosés’ contribution, “Pedro Rodríguez: the Birth of a Fashion House and the Evolution of a Style,” gives readers an overview of Rodríguez’ 60-year career, with special attention to collections presented during the golden age of couture. Museum preservationist Sílvia Ventosa’s essay, “From the Wardrobe to the Museum: The Dresses of Maria Brillas in the Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària de Barcelona,” recounts the story of Brillas’ donation to the museum and its efforts in transferring her private wardrobe to a public, institutional context.
In “The Role of the Client in the Creation and Popularizing of New Trends,” Miren Arzalluz, who curated the 2011 exhibition, offers an intriguing perspective on the couturier-client relationship. Noting the long friendship between Maria Brillas and Pedro Rodríguez and the designer’s published observations on his clients’ role in the design process, she argues that “the relationship between designer and client was far richer, more complex and more fruitful than many people were willing to recognize” (67).
The book’s introductory material includes photographs of Pedro Rodríguez and models wearing his designs, but none of the client whose wardrobe the catalogue documents. Although an image gallery may be seen on the museum’s website, Brillas’ absence from the book feels like an oversight. In this photo taken in the 1950s, Maria Brillas dances with her husband at a formal event:
The catalogue proper is divided into eight sections organized by type; a brief summary introduces each section. There are five sections devoted to Rodríguez’ couture garments for Brillas: day dresses; suits and tailored ensembles; coats; cocktail or ceremonial dresses; and evening gowns. Here are some highlights:
Two sections are devoted to accessories, one for hats and the other for shoes, gloves, and bags. The hats are the earliest pieces in the catalogue, with many from the 1920s and 1930s. Some hats were produced at Rodríguez’ studio, while others were commissioned by him from prominent milliners. Brillas’ shoes were made to match her dresses.
The final section documents the collection’s miscellaneous other pieces: blouses, skirts, boleros, a bathrobe dress, a marabou-trimmed cape, and a fancy dress costume with mask headpiece:
It’s a beautifully produced volume, with high-quality photos presented in a reader-friendly smaller format. (You can see more photos at the website of Folch Studio, the design firm behind the book.) My only quibble is with the English text (I don’t read Spanish or Catalan), which contains infelicities that seem to be an effect of translation.
This book is a valuable addition to English-language resources on Rodríguez, and will assist in further study of the designer and his place in the history of haute couture.
* Paco was a member of the collection’s monitoring committee; you can read his post on the exhibition here.
Rossend Casanova (ed.), Pedro Rodríguez: Catàleg dels vestits de Maria Brillas / Catálogo de los vestidos de Maria Brillas / Catalogue of Maria Brillas’s Dresses, Barcelona: Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària de Barcelona, 2012.
Text in Catalan, Spanish, and English.
ISBN 978 84 9850 402 6
Available online from Laie, Barcelona.