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.
September 2, 2013 § 1 Comment
During World War 2, women engaged in wartime work could choose from a variety of sewing patterns for work wear. The array of coveralls available included the mechanic suit, a close cousin to the siren suit or air raid suit (see my earlier post here). This 1942 pattern from Simplicity shows a khaki version paired with a garrison cap:
(You can see a contemporary photo of View 1 at Unsung Sewing Patterns.)
Happy Labour Day, everyone!
August 23, 2013 § 20 Comments
The slogan for McCall’s Patterns in the mid-1950s was “Make the clothes that make the woman.” The advertising campaign with this slogan shows two identical women, one dressed in McCall’s pattern pieces, the other in the finished garment. It’s a charming campaign from the Golden Age of Advertising. Here’s a selection, in roughly chronological order:
This ad from 1956 shows the model enjoying a fresh strawberry at a party. (Could it be a strawberry social?) The pattern is McCall’s 3562:
The September ad shows the model (Dovima?) on a trip to Paris, before a mustachioed gendarme. The pattern is McCall’s 3785 by Givenchy:
Another travel-themed ad shows McCall’s 3790 with some whimsically stacked luggage:
This 1957 ad featuring McCall’s 3952 shows a well-dressed tug-of-war:
This Valentine’s Day-themed ad appeared in Vogue’s March 1957 issue. (The pattern is McCall’s 3967.) The model is Suzy Parker:
This spring ad shows McCall’s 4046 by James Galanos:
In the ad for May 1957, the binocular-wielding model wears an “Instant” dress, McCall’s 4070:
This late summer ad looks forward to fall’s collegiate sports games. The design is by Claire McCardell, McCall’s 4208:
Within its variations on the playfully presented scene of leisure, the campaign conveys a visual reminder of one of McCall’s long-standing technologies: the printed pattern. (McCall’s had been producing printed patterns since the 1920s, whereas Vogue only introduced printed patterns in 1956—later outside North America.) Have you seen other ads from this McCall’s campaign?
July 17, 2013 § 3 Comments
Now that summer is truly here, this instalment in my Free Designer Patterns series is devoted to a hot weather essential: a caftan, one that Matthew Williamson shared with the Guardian as part of the Observer’s 2009 Designer DIY series.
The caftan is from what was then the current season collection, the Spring/Summer 2009 ready-to-wear. Here is the caftan on the runway:
The spring collection played to Williamson’s strengths, with plenty of neon brights and flowing, bohemian prints. Here’s the collection image from L’Officiel 1000 modèles (click to enlarge):
Fabric requirements: About 2.5 metres (2.75 yards) of very lightweight fabric such as chiffon or printed georgette (width unspecified)
Caveats: Seam allowances must be added. The pattern has 5 pieces, but consists of 44 separate PDFs.
July 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The results of my random number generator are in! The lucky number is 41, and the winner of my blogiversary giveaway of a choice of 4 PatternVault e-booklets is:
Chris (the 41st person to comment)
Congratulations, Chris! I’ll send you an e-mail with the details on claiming your e-booklets.
Thank you so much to everyone who entered the giveaway. Thanks especially for your kind regards and suggestions! As a thank you to all of you, I’m having a sale in my Etsy shop through this Friday, July 19th—20% off with coupon code YEARTHESECOND.
P.S. The source for my blogiversary illustrations, the 1929 Paris Patterns booklet, is now available as an instant download.
July 11, 2013 § 68 Comments
Today marks two years since my first post on this blog. The past year was a busy one: a pattern from my collection was transformed into a new Vintage Vogue, and I participated in not one but two Toronto meetups. Much of the year was spent cameraless, so I have a growing queue of projects to photograph, including a 1920s bathing suit.
To celebrate my blogiversary I’m throwing a giveaway: one lucky reader will win their choice of 4 instant downloads from PatternVault’s Etsy shop. I’m in the process of adding more e-booklets reproducing rare, vintage sewing ephemera from companies like Vogue and the Paris Pattern Company.
To enter, just leave a comment below. The giveaway closes Sunday, July 14th at midnight EDT. The winner will be chosen at random and announced this Monday, July 15th.