February 21, 2015 § 10 Comments
Caftans, long, loose-fitting tunics with origins in ancient Persia, have been gaining momentum as an alternative to more structured formal dress. With any luck, there will be some caftans among the goddess gowns at tomorrow’s Academy Awards ceremony.
They say Tsarina Alexandra was the first westerner to make a fashion statement in a caftan, when she dressed as a seventeenth-century Tsarina for a costume ball in 1903. Paul Poiret also advanced the caftan cause, but it was not until the 1950s that the garment really began to influence western fashion. Here’s a look at caftan patterns from the 1950s to now.
In the mid-1950s, Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga’s experiments with silhouette were partly inspired by eastern traditional dress. Dior’s Fall 1955 couture collection (Y line) included caftan-inspired ensembles—coats with high, side-front slits that reveal a slim dress underneath:
You can see echoes of the Dior caftan look in contemporary sewing patterns like McCall’s 3525 and 3532, both from late 1955:
McCall’s 3532, called a “slim caftan-and-dress ensemble,” was featured on the cover of McCall’s news leaflet and in the company’s “Make the Clothes that Make the Woman” advertising campaign. According to the ad, the design is ideal for the season’s “Oriental” fabrics, such as silk twill and raw silk tussah:
Caftans became popular in the 1960s in tandem with the increasing interest in eastern cultures. The Madame Grès version at the top of this post is cut on the bias, producing geometric seaming detail. The caption reads, “Coup of bias-work by Grès—because this piecing-together of bias angles is sinuous, stark, ravishingly Moroccan.”
This dress from Jean Patou by Michel Goma, Vogue 1699, has what the envelope calls a “caftan neckline.” The model is Beate Schulz:
This circa 1968 Vogue caftan pattern has optional flexible trim:
Other patterns from the late 1960s and early 1970s also reference eastern dress. From 1967, McCall’s 9026 is labelled as an abba in two lengths. Abba is an alternate spelling of aba, commonly abaya: a traditional Arab garment, long, loose-fitting, sleeveless, and made from a single rectangle of fabric. (Today, caftans often function as abayat.) The model is Veronica Hamel:
Burnoose patterns were marketed as resort wear. A pompom-trimmed version of McCall’s 2377 was photographed for the cover of McCall’s Summer 1970 catalogue:
Marola Witt models Simplicity’s burnoose in the July 1967 issue of Simplicity Fashion News (thanks to Mary of PatternGate for the reference). The text promotes the design’s ‘Arabian’ exoticism: “be exotic in a JIFFY: … the burnoose, born in Arabia, brought up to date here”:
This Halston caftan pattern from McCall’s also includes a top and pants (you can buy yourself a copy from the shop):
This flowing Dior caftan, modelled by Billie Blair, has lots of neckline detail, full-length sleeve openings, and pockets:
Vogue 1515 by Nina Ricci is a caftan that’s open in front and attached at the neckline to a handkerchief-hemmed underdress:
It’s harder to find post-1970s designer caftan patterns. This wide-sleeved, Oscar de la Renta caftan is trimmed with contrast bands. When worn, the side seams swing forward to raise the hemline in front:
From Issey Miyake, Vogue 2315 is a caftan-inspired summer dress:
Caftan patterns started making a comeback (of sorts) in 2009. Simplicity 2584, a caftan-inspired tunic by Cynthia Rowley, is out of print but still in demand:
Ralph Rucci’s floor-length caftan, Vogue 1181 (now out of print), has an abaya silhouette and interesting construction details—overarm darts, shaped lower sections, and a hook and eye above the low neckline:
The design is from Chado Ralph Rucci Resort 2009:
Matthew Williamson’s short caftan, available as a free pattern from the Guardian, is also a 2009 design:
Would you sew a caftan?
February 11, 2015 § 5 Comments
The first Winter Olympics in 1924 contributed to the growing popularity of skiing, which had been around since the late nineteenth century. I have not yet seen any 1920s skiwear patterns, but contemporary magazine covers attest to the sport’s fashionability. Helen Dryden illustrated this ski-themed cover for Delineator magazine:
The following winter, Jean Pagès illustrated a ski scene for the cover of Vogue’s holiday issue:
This McCall skiwear pattern for ski jacket, pants, and separate hood dates to winter 1932-33. The catalogue text reads, “The hood fits cozily about the throat. The jacket gains freedom through two pleats in the back”:
McCall 7195 was also illustrated on the cover of the McCall Style News for January 1933:
The 1936 Winter Games were the first to include Alpine skiing, and we see an increase in skiwear patterns from the mid-1930s. (Before 1936, Olympic ski events were limited to Nordic, or cross-country, skiing and ski jumping.) A page in the December 1936 issue of Butterick Fashion News shows women’s and children’s patterns for winter sports, complete with fabric recommendations—wool, suede cloth, snow cloth, and corduroy. The patterns are Butterick 7033, 5927, and 7062 (click to enlarge):
The cover of Butterick Fashion News for February 1940 shows an alpine chalet scene featuring a ski suit pattern, Butterick 8793. The text inside reads, “Snow fun in a ski suit… When you zip off the reversible jacket, your monogrammed suspenders will be muchly admired.” (More scans at witness2fashion.) The pattern calls for snow cloth with poplin lining:
A copy of Butterick 8793 is found in the Commercial Pattern Archive, where it is dated to 1939. The pattern includes the cap:
Postwar skiwear retained the slimmer silhouette that had been prompted by wartime fabric rationing. From 1946, Butterick 3985 is a ski suit with jaunty cropped jacket and detachable hood:
From the later 1950s, Vogue 9332 is a ski suit consisting of hooded overblouse and slim stirrup pants, for flannel, worsted, gabardine, alpaca, and poplin. I plan to make this one up for après-ski purposes:
McCall’s 4788 is a ski jacket with drawstring hem, stirrup pants, and separate hood. Recommended fabrics are corduroy, poplin, serge, jersey, and twill:
Unfortunately, no-one seems to have licensed Emilio Pucci skiwear patterns. This British Vogue cover features a Pucci ski ensemble:
The only 1960s skiwear pattern I’ve seen is Vogue 6044, a hooded parka and slim stirrup pants for stretch fabrics. The envelope back notes that, for the view A parka, allowance has been made for quilting narrow fabrics. The fur cloth version is a fun alternative:
From Daniel Hechter, Butterick 4370 is a designer ski suit consisting of straight leg pants and a belted jacket with drawstring hood. The fabric recommendations range from pinwale corduroy and double knits to synthetic leather and suede:
Butterick also had two his and hers skiwear patterns, Butterick 5110/5111, a jacket or sleeveless jacket and jumpsuit (really overalls) for water repellent, quilted fabrics. The jacket and overalls have elasticized snow guards at the wrists and ankles and contrast yokes and front bands in poplin or ciré:
From 1980, Simplicity 9785 includes overalls in full or knicker length, a ski jacket with detachable sleeves, and legwarmers—all for quilted, double-faced, water-resistant fabrics:
I’ll close with this mid-1980s, ski-themed Vogue Knitting cover:
July 25, 2014 § 10 Comments
Versatile and contemporary, jumpsuits and their cousins, playsuits and rompers, have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Jumpsuits—or all-in-ones, if you’re British—seem poised to move beyond a trend this summer.
The modern women’s jumpsuit has origins in two different garments: beach pajamas and the boiler suit. These twin origins mean jumpsuit styles range from fluid loungewear to utility-inspired or tailored designs. (See Vogue Italia for a short history of the jumpsuit.) Here are some favourite all-in-one patterns from the 1930s to the 1990s.
Beach pajamas, often worn with a matching bolero, had become one-piece by the early 1930s. This McCall’s design combines flowing trousers with geometric seaming details in the bodice and hip yoke. A reproduction is available from the Model A Ford Club of America:
The boiler suits of wartime utility wear are said to have made bifurcated clothing more acceptable for women. This Vogue pattern from ca. 1940 includes both a hooded mechanic suit with cuffed trousers and a more casual, short-sleeved version shown in a dotted print:
This early 1940s pajama ensemble with T-back halter bodice was not just for the beach—the envelope says it’s for “beach, dinner or evening”:
In the postwar period, more tailored jumpsuits emerged as a choice for casual sportswear. This early 1950s pedal-pusher coverall has cuffed sleeves and pants and a front zipper closure:
From the late 1950s, this trim, one-piece slack suit from Vogue came in two lengths and with a matching overskirt:
The jumpsuit—sometimes called a culotte or pantdress—truly comes into its own in the later 1960s. Here Birgitta af Klercker models Vogue 2249, a loungewear design by Emilio Pucci (previously featured in my goddess gown post):
In this late 1960s Butterick Young Designers pattern, Mary Quant combines a trim, zip-front jumpsuit with a low-waisted miniskirt for a sleek, futuristic look:
Both pajama and menswear-inspired styles continue into the 1970s. Famous for her palazzo pajamas, Galitzine designed this bi-coloured lounge pantdress with criss-cross halter bodice:
From Calvin Klein, Vogue 1453 marks a return to the boiler suit style. With cargo pockets, self belt, and wide, notched collar, the jumpsuit could be made long or short, with long or short sleeves:
This Bob Mackie disco jumpsuit or evening dress pattern for stretch knits dates to 1980. (See my earlier Bob Mackie post here.) The jumpsuit has a plunging neckline, waistline pleats, and tapered, bias pants designed to crush at the ankles:
An instance of the late 1980s jumpsuit trend, this shirtdress-style jumpsuit by Donna Karan has a notched collar, welt pockets, and cuffed or seven-eighths length kimono sleeves:
Also by Donna Karan, Vogue 2609, ca. 1990, is a long-sleeved, tapered jumpsuit for stretch knits with neckline variations, front pleats, and stirrups. View C has a contrast bodice with self-lined hood:
From 1996, Vogue 1821 by DKNY is almost vintage. It’s a novel suit consisting of a single-breasted jacket and wide-legged, halter jumpsuit:
Finally, this pattern is not yet vintage, but a jumpsuit collection would be incomplete without Vogue 2343, Alexander McQueen’s tailored, tuxedo jumpsuit for Givenchy haute couture Spring/Summer 1998 (earlier post here):
With their demanding fit, jumpsuits are ideal for home sewers. And they’re not just for the tall and leggy: many of the later jumpsuit patterns are marked as suitable for petites.
June 15, 2014 § 5 Comments
It’s been some time since Vogue offered designer menswear patterns. In the 1970s and 1980s, home sewers could choose from licensed designs for everything from men’s shirts to outerwear and three-piece suits. In celebration of Father’s Day, here’s a selection of vintage menswear patterns from Vogue Patterns.
Vogue introduced designer menswear patterns in the early 1970s with designs by Bill Blass and Pierre Cardin. From Cardin, Vogue 2918 is a double-breasted coat in two lengths:
1975 saw the release of some his-and-hers Valentino patterns. Vogue 1180, a men’s jacket and pants pattern, was photographed with a women’s Valentino ensemble, Vogue 1178:
Polo by Ralph Lauren was introduced to Vogue customers in the summer of 1975. The safari-style Vogue 1237 and 1238 were photographed in India:
Also by Polo Ralph Lauren, Vogue 1581 is a double-breasted trench coat with detachable lining:
This Christian Dior shirt-jacket and pants is the only men’s Dior pattern I’ve seen:
This snappy three-piece suit is by Bill Blass:
There were two menswear patterns by Yves Saint Laurent: safari suits photographed by Chris von Wangenheim (see Paco’s related post here):
Givenchy licensed a trim three-piece suit, Vogue 2112:
In 1979 the company released a trio of menswear patterns by Calvin Klein—separate patterns for a shirt, jacket, and pants. Vogue 2256 is a pattern for slim, tapered men’s pants; view B is low-rise and flat-front:
The menswear releases tapered off in the 1980s. 1980 saw the release of two Bill Blass men’s patterns, for a three-piece suit and close-fitting shirt:
In 1988 Vogue released three menswear patterns by Perry Ellis, for a jacket, shirt, and pants. Vogue 2207 is a loose-fitting jacket:
Just for fun, I’ll close with this Pierre Cardin robe and pajamas, which included a logo appliqué:
With menswear sales catching up with womenswear, perhaps Vogue Patterns will capitalize on this trend by restoring menswear to its designer licensing. I’d be first in line for a Saint Laurent pattern…
Happy Father’s Day!
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.
June 12, 2013 § 6 Comments
Vintage bridal patterns offer a unique alternative to modern bridal designs. Even if you’re already married, they provide a glimpse into past bridal fashions’ sometimes exotic vintage details—making them tempting even for those not in need of a wedding dress. (Can we expect Debi Fry to make her 1940 bridal pattern, McCall 4004?)
Now that wedding season is in full swing, here’s a selection of vintage bridal patterns, from the Twenties to the Eighties.
In the Twenties and Thirties, bridal patterns usually did double duty as patterns for formal dresses. This 1920s Peerless Patterns sign features a wedding illustration promoting a number of patterns:
This fantastic bridal or evening dress is short, in keeping with the current fashion, and may have one or two extended side panels that give the effect of a train:
Thirties bridal patterns have the same glamour we associate with the decade’s evening wear. This pattern for a bridal gown or dinner dress dates to circa June 1934:
A reproduction version of this pattern for a bridal gown or afternoon dress is available from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library:
A copy of McCall 8331 recently seen on eBay was accompanied by this wedding portrait, which shows the dress made up:
In the Forties the bride begins to take centre stage on pattern envelopes, although evening and bridesmaid versions are still included. This bridal or evening dress was reissued in the Vintage Vogue line as Vogue 2384:
This strong-shouldered, postwar design has a sweetheart neckline and waist piping detail. The pattern also includes a bridesmaid’s dress with short, shirred sleeves (click image for the technical drawings):
By the 1950s the bride, in her full-skirted glory, dominates the pattern envelope. This Jacques Fath design for a bride’s or bridesmaid’s dress has a bustled back and tiny shawl collar. The bridesmaid’s version simply lacks a train:
John Cavanagh was known for his connection to the English court. He licensed several bridal patterns with Vogue, and designed the Duchess of Kent’s wedding dress in 1961. (See my earlier post here.) This short-sleeved Cavanagh design has a simulated train; the smaller figures show bridesmaid’s and evening versions:
Also by John Cavanagh, this 1960s bridal design with a cathedral-length Watteau train was modelled by Jean Shrimpton:
No bridal pattern survey could be complete without this Halston pattern for bridal headpieces:
From the early 1970s, this Pierre Cardin bridal gown, shown in a silk knit, has an optional overskirt with handkerchief train:
Although it isn’t for everyone, Yves Saint Laurent’s couture bridal design for a gathered, bias dress, filmy coat, and five-yard veil distinguishes itself by showing the bride as wayward Vestal virgin (see Paco Peralta’s post here):
Released in 1980, this opulent Dior design for a bell-skirted bridal gown, complete with bias necktie, cummerbund, and bow-embellished headpiece, is drawn from the Christian Dior Haute Couture collection for Fall 1979 (read Dustin’s post here):
Perfect for steampunk weddings, Vogue 2180 by Bellville Sassoon has an elaborate bustle that gives it a neo-Victorian flair:
May 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
Last year, Peter of Male Pattern Boldness posted a general survey of vintage maternity patterns. Sewing patterns for designer maternity wear have a different history. In honour of Mother’s Day, here is a selection of designer maternity patterns from the ’70s to the ’90s.
Some of the earliest patterns for designer maternity wear that I have seen are by Lady Madonna. (Yes, it’s named for the Beatles song.) A 1971 article in Time magazine, “Modern Living: Bellies Are Beautiful,” partly credits the Lady Madonna label with changing attitudes to maternity wear:
“Maternity clothes have always been designed like the Trojan horse: to hide, disguise and deceive. The wider the dress, the more pleats and folds, the less identifiable the condition—or so traditional pregnancy fashions would have it seem. Lately, however, the shape of things to come has undergone some happy alterations, supplanting voluminous tents and overhanging blouses with jumpsuits and knickers, low-cut evening gowns and even hot pants. Largely through the intervention of the Lady Madonna Maternity Boutique, women can now look great with child.”
Vogue Patterns released Lady Madonna patterns in the late 1970s. (The label later made the switch to Simplicity patterns.) Vogue 2157 is a long, Empire-waisted slip dress; the model is Pat McGuire:
Update: this maternity dress pattern by Geoffrey Beene dates to the previous year:
American designer Carol Horn also licensed some maternity designs to Vogue Patterns:
Around the same time, McCall’s had maternity patterns by Evelyn de Jonge, like this one for maternity separates:
As Peter points out, in the Eighties, even non-maternity styles could be roomy enough to be worn during pregnancy. Style patterns released a number of patterns by Jasper Conran, including this one for a maternity dress or tunic and skirt:
In the early 1990s, Vogue Patterns had designer maternity patterns by Manola, an established New York maternity boutique. This Manola design uses front yokes to control the volume of the dress:
Designer Lauren Sara already had some non-maternity patterns with Vogue Attitudes when she licensed her maternity line, M by Lauren Sara. This design for an evening-length dress includes a formal, strapless version:
Like swimwear, a decade’s maternity wear reveals a lot about its attitudes to the female body. The absence of designer maternity patterns before the late 1970s seems telling. Yet today, Vogue Patterns has again phased out maternity designs…