Envelope Fail: Vogue 2893 by Donna Karan

June 13, 2014 § 7 Comments

Erin Wasson photographed by Peter Lindbergh - Donna Karan Spring 2005 advertising campaign

Donna Karan Spring 2005 ad campaign. Model: Erin Wasson. Photo: Peter Lindbergh.

When I first started collecting sewing patterns, Naomi was baffled. She couldn’t understand my interest when the styling on modern pattern envelopes was bland or worse. This new, occasional series looks at designer patterns that fail to convey the strengths of the original—not as an end in itself, but in the hope of provoking reflection and discussion of the frequent disparity between designer fashion and the licensed versions offered to home sewers.

(You can see an earlier discussion in the comments on my Alber Elbaz post.)

Launching the series is Vogue 2893, a top and skirt pattern by Donna Karan from 2006. The off-the-shoulder, back-laced ensemble is drawn from Karan’s Spring/Summer 2005 collection, and was the centrepiece of the Peter Lindbergh advertising campaign starring Erin Wasson.

Erin Wasson photographed by Peter Lindbergh - Donna Karan Spring 2005 advertising campaign

Donna Karan Spring 2005 ad campaign. Model: Erin Wasson. Photo: Peter Lindbergh.

The look was even chosen to open the Spring 2005 runway presentation. The second photo shows the top’s contrast mesh inserts, elasticized shoulders, and decorative zigzag stitching detail:

Gemma Ward - Donna Karan Spring 2005 collection

Model: Gemma Ward. Photo: Marcio Madeira. Image via style.com.

Detail - Gemma Ward, Donna Karan Spring 2005 collection

Model: Gemma Ward. Image via style.com.

Now consider the pattern envelope:

Donna Karan off-the-shoulder top and skirt pattern - Vogue 2893

Vogue 2893 by Donna Karan (2006) Top and skirt.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2893

Technical drawing for Vogue 2893

The envelope replaces the original’s bared shoulders, open back, and slight flare at the hips with a much higher décolletage and tightly laced back. The result is a more covered-up, middle-of-the-road, body-con look that lacks the original’s confidence and wit.

What do you think? Did Vogue Patterns assume the original styling wouldn’t appeal to their customers?

Vintage Vogue Search

February 8, 2013 § 5 Comments

Vintage Vogue patterns, old and new

Vogue Patterns doesn’t have an archive of their old patterns, so the company is calling on the sewing public to lend patterns from their collections for reissue in the Vintage Vogue line.

Reissued Forties and Fifties patterns have done best with customers, but they’re interested in patterns from all periods. The only exception is designer patterns credited to a named designer—these can’t be reissued due to licensing issues. This means that Vogue Couturier patterns are fair game unless they have a designer credit.

(The illustrations show a selection of Vintage Vogue reissues from 1928 to 1960. Hover for pattern numbers and dates, or click to enlarge.)

Vintage Vogue 2535 (1928), Vogue 2241 (1931), Vogue 2609 (1934)

Vintage Vogue 2197 (1939), Vogue 2786 (1940), Vogue 2321 (1943)

If you have vintage Vogue patterns that you’d be willing to lend, you can send images of your patterns by e-mail (Subject: Vintage Vogue Search) to mailbox@voguepatterns.com or by post to Vintage Vogue Search, Vogue Patterns, 120 Broadway, 34th floor, New York, NY 10271, USA.

If your pattern is chosen, you will be asked to lend your original for about 9 months. When the reissue is ready, your original is returned to you, and you receive a copy of the new Vintage Vogue release, a credit on the pattern envelope, and 5 free patterns.

Even if you aren’t contacted right away, one of your patterns could still be chosen to become a new Vintage Vogue pattern. Staff keep the pattern images on file and choose two each season, tailoring their choices to current trends. I sent in my scans about 16 months before I was contacted about lending my Fifties pattern. Happy scanning!

Vintage Vogue 2338 (1946), Vogue 2610 (1947), Vogue 1083 (1953)

Vogue 2536 (1955), Vogue 2962 (1957), Vogue 2372 (1960)

Vintage Vogue 8875 Giveaway Winners

February 8, 2013 § 5 Comments

Vogue 8875 (2013)

Hot off the presses: the new Vogue 8875

The results of the Vintage Vogue 8875 giveaway are in! Thank you so much to everyone who entered and commented. The B5 size range goes to:


The F5 size range goes to:


Congratulations to the winners! I’ll be in touch by e-mail to get your mailing addresses.

Thanks again to Vogue Patterns for providing the patterns. If you’re new to my blog, you might be interested in my earlier post, How Do You Take Your Vintage Vogue?, for discussion of the Vintage Vogue pattern line since 1998 and changing approaches to vintage.

As it turns out, this is actually the second time Vogue S-4595 has been reissued. After I added my pattern to the Vintage Patterns Wiki, admin Petite Main noted that it was reissued in 1957 as Vogue S-4771:

Vogue S-4771 (1957)

Vogue S-4771 (1957) Image via Etsy.

If you have patterns you’re interested in sharing with Vogue Patterns, I’ve put together a special post with the details on the Vintage Vogue Search.

Vintage Vogue Surprise + Giveaway

January 28, 2013 § 263 Comments

Vogue S-4595detail

Last June a Vogue Patterns representative contacted me about borrowing a pattern from my collection, to be reissued in the Vintage Vogue line.

Because Vogue Patterns doesn’t have all their patterns archived, the company runs an ongoing Vintage Vogue search to find patterns for reproduction. (More details in pattern junkie’s post here.) I had e-mailed a few scans of my vintage, non-designer Vogue patterns (designer patterns are ineligible due to licensing issues) and they chose this 1950s Vogue Special Design:

1950s dress and redingote pattern, Vogue S-4595

Vogue S-4595 (1955) Dress and redingote.

The envelope description reads: One piece dress and redingote. Slim skirt joins the bodice at waist-line. Low, oval neck-line. Short kimono sleeves. Fitted redingote flared below hip-line. Shawl collar and detachable top collar. Tied closing at waist-line. Below elbow length sleeves cut in one with front and back.

Here are the original fabric suggestions:


Here is the new, reissued pattern, V8875:

Vintage Vogue pattern V8875


V8875 schematic

Technical drawing for V8875

The updated description reads: Misses’ dress, belt, coat and detachable collar. Dress has close-fitting bodice with side front/side back seams, inside belt, front pleated skirt, side zipper, and self belt with buckle. Fitted and flared coat has front extending into back collar, detachable collar, princess darts, hook/eye closure and tie ends. A and B: front and back cut-in-one with sleeves.

Recommended fabrics: A (dress): crepe, shantung and tissue taffeta. B (coat): wool crepe, flannel and worsted.

To celebrate the new Vintage Vogue release, I’m giving away two copies of V8875, one in each size range—B5 (8-10-12-14-16) and F5 (16-18-20-22-24).* To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below by midnight on Thursday, February 7th (deadline extended), and mention your preferred size range. (Size chart here.) The winners will be announced on Friday, February 8th. Good luck!

* Copies of V8875 courtesy of Vogue Patterns; worldwide shipping costs covered by me.

** This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated! **

Practical Luxury: W. Mury’s Dressmaking Illustrations

October 5, 2012 § 2 Comments

Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking

My 1926 copy of Vogue’s Book of Practical Dressmaking has endpapers charmingly illustrated by W. Mury. They’re a great example of aspirational marketing in that they situate the dressmaking process in a world of wealth and leisure. The illustrations show the elegant dressmaker beginning by consulting her copy of Vogue magazine before her trip into town:

Madame’s driver waits outside with the car during her visit to a department store. In the Vogue department, sales attendants measure her and show her the latest patterns and Vogue-approved fabrics:

Back at home she cuts, sews, and finishes her new dress, which sets her “apart from the crowd”:

Mury’s illustrated sequence presents sewing as a leisure activity: guided by Vogue’s fashion authority, the chic young woman sews for pleasure. It’s interesting how, with the increasing availability of ready-made women’s wear, the sewing industry took to promoting itself by appealing to the desire for leisure and social status. Even if a car and driver weren’t in the budget, you could still sew from a Vogue pattern.

Your Spring Wardrobe by Givenchy, 1957

April 23, 2012 § 3 Comments

1950s McCall's 4005 illustration Givenchy 1957

Illustration of McCall's 4005 (1957). Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Lately I’ve been listing a lot of mid-century vintage patterns in the shop, including this 1950s Givenchy pattern from McCall’s:

McCall's 4005 by Givenchy 1950s suit pattern

Inside the pattern envelope is an insert introducing Hubert de Givenchy and detailing the production process for these McCall’s “exclusives.” The insert doesn’t mention that Givenchy is a French aristocrat. Instead, it proclaims he was “born to the fashion tradition,” noting his family’s connection to the Beauvais Tapestry Works and his experience at the Parisian couture houses of Jacques Fath, Robert Piguet, and Elsa Schiaparelli.

The insert is emphatic that these French designs are suitable for Americans: “French in feeling and typically Givenchy, they’re still easy to make and easy to wear—admirably suited to the American way of life because Givenchy designed them especially for McCall’s and for you.”

Givenchy pattern insert McCall's 1957

We are told how, in 1956, the “tall, blond young Frenchman” flew to America for a tour of McCall’s facilities, then flew back to Paris to create his first exclusive series of designs for the company. The designer constructs his toile on an American dress form; he also produces a finished garment using American fabric. Both toile and garment are “air-expressed” to McCall’s headquarters in New York City. A paper pattern is made from half the toile, and the resulting prototype is compared against the designer’s original.

The last section of the insert, headed “Your Spring Wardrobe Designed by Givenchy,” gives an illustration and description for each of the four spring patterns:

McCall's 4004 pattern by Givenchy

“Givenchy’s all-day ‘runabout frock’ in lightweight flannel. Typical of this dynamic young designer: the wonderful line in the roll-away collar, the way the high-waisted young sash buttons onto the dress. You might also make it in linen or shantung.”

McCall's 4005 pattern by Givenchy

“A suit that cries ‘Givenchy’ in every line. Look at the inimitable cut of the jacket, the rolling curve of the collar. Another Givenchy inspiration: grosgrain-bound buttonholes an inch and a half wide. Givenchy suggests silk or rayon suiting.”

McCall's 4007 & 4006 illustrations patterns by Givenchy

“Givenchy’s young-in-heart evening gown for any age, the belling skirt curved in a prophetic cut-away hemline. Givenchy chose a paper-crisp taffeta, but you could also use polished cotton, silk or satin. The pattern includes a beautifully shaped petticoat.” (4007) “Two flightly [sic] little bow-knots hint at a high waistline on this afternoon frock with bell-shaped skirt buoyed by its own print-bordered petticoat. Givenchy selected a printed tissue-weight taffeta, also suggests silk surah or peau de soie.” (4006)

It’s interesting to see how McCall’s production process for designer patterns differs from Vogue’s, as described in my earlier post. Vogue claimed to adjust Paris originals for American figures, whereas McCall’s exclusives were made directly on an American dress form. Apparently national differences were still an issue, and McCall’s felt it had to address postwar patriotism, even amid continued demand for European designer fashions.

From Paris to You

January 18, 2012 § 8 Comments

Guy Laroche dress 1959 photo

Guy Laroche dress; fabric by Rodier. L'Officiel, March 1959. Image via jalougallery.com.

If you’ve ever recognized an old sewing pattern in a contemporary fashion editorial, you may have wondered about the relationship between the designer originals and their licensed, pattern versions. In the late Fifties, Dorothy Roe, women’s editor of the Associated Press, wrote a wire story about just that. “How French Couturiers Reach U.S. Dressmakers,” which appeared in newspapers in August 1959, details how Vogue produced its designer patterns.

Roe follows one design from Paris salon to pattern envelope, taking as her example “one of this season’s most popular styles, a blouse-back sheath of sheer checked wool, designed by Guy LaRoche [sic], now available to home seamstresses as a Vogue pattern.” The pattern also includes a full coat with a deep yoke. Although she doesn’t mention the number for the pattern, we can identify it as Vogue 1450:

Vogue 1450 by Guy Laroche 1959 dress and coat pattern

Vogue 1450 by Guy Laroche (1959). Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

The process begins at the January opening of Guy Laroche’s spring collection, where the audience—press, buyers, and Vogue Patterns’ designer—is seated on gilt chairs in the couturier’s Paris salon. As she views the collection, the designer for Vogue Patterns selects the dress-and-coat ensemble for style and ease of construction by home sewers. After the presentation she negotiates her order with Monsieur Laroche.

The couture house soon sends the order, “carefully guarded and expensively bonded,” to Vogue’s headquarters in New York City. Inside this valuable parcel is a toile, a muslin copy of the selected design that is “complete in every detail, including inner belts, buttonholes, linings, facings, hems and trimmings.” The parcel also includes a set of muslin pattern pieces marked with all the details of construction.

According to Roe, adjustments were made to the French design for the American market: “Since the proportions of the French figure are different from that of the average American, a new muslin is made to conform to American measurements. Every piece of the original Paris pattern is reproportioned, and the new muslin is made as carefully as the original.”

Finally, a cardboard master pattern is made from the new muslin. After the master has been meticulously checked for accuracy, it is used to produce the tissue pattern for Vogue’s new Laroche design. Envelopes and instructions are printed, and Vogue 1450 is ready to ship.

Roe concludes by noting the higher price and difficulty level of Vogue Paris Original patterns. The reward, however, is producing a convincing copy: “Many women planning their first Paris home-sewing project go for help to local sewing centers to be sure of professional work. But with the detailed directions on the pattern, most women experienced in sewing can soon learn to turn out Paris copies which can fool the experts. And what fun it is to say to friends—‘Oh, this is a Paris original!'”

1950s dress pattern detail Vogue 1264 by Elsa Schiaparelli

Vogue 1264 by Schiaparelli (1954) - detail.

One envies Vogue’s rapid turnaround in those days: the woman who made Vogue 1450 when it came out was only a season behind. The distinction Roe makes between French and American figures is striking—I wonder whether it was really a question of sizing standards or taste in fit. It’s too bad the article is silent on the patterns’ graphic design, particularly the illustrations and photography. Since the pattern photos generally have the note, ‘Photographed in Paris,’ they appear to show not the version adapted for home sewers, but the house’s original sample garment.

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