Schiaparelli Patterns, Part 1

January 22, 2014 § 10 Comments

Guinevere Van Seenus in vintage 1930s Schiaparelli, Vogue, May 2012. Photo: Steven Meisel. Image via

Guinevere Van Seenus in vintage 1930s Schiaparelli, Vogue, May 2012. Photo: Steven Meisel. Image via

Have you heard? The house of Schiaparelli, founded by the legendary Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) and dormant since 1954, has been revived.

Schiaparelli label, summer 1938 - 21 place vendôme Paris

Schiaparelli label, 1938. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Last year Christian Lacroix presented a one-off couture collection for the house, and this week the new head designer, Marco Zanini, presented his first Schiaparelli collection at the Paris couture. (See the Spring 2014 collection on, or read W’s coverage of Zanini’s appointment here.)

Christian Lacroix sketch for his Schiaparelli collection

Christian Lacroix sketch for his Schiaparelli collection. Image via WWD.

Stella Tennant in Schiaparelli by Marco Zanini, 2014

The opening look in Marco Zanini’s debut collection for Schiaparelli. Model: Stella Tennant. Image via

The high-profile revival follows the Costume Institute’s major 2012 exhibition, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations (see my earlier post here). And, timed to coincide with couture week, an auction of Schiaparelli’s personal collection takes place Thursday at Christie’s Paris:

Schiaparelli Christies

Collection personnelle d’Elsa Schiaparelli. Image via Christie’s.

Many of you will be aware of Schiaparelli’s licensed sewing patterns, since she was among the first designers of Vogue Paris Originals. There were also Schiaparelli knitting patterns. If you knit, you can download a free pattern for Schiaparelli’s 1927 Bowknot sweater, updated by Lisa Stockebrand (Ravelry page here):

Douglas Pollard illustration of Schiaparelli's bowknot sweater, Vogue, December 1927

Bowknot sweater by Elsa Schiaparelli, Vogue, December 15, 1927. Illustration: Douglas Pollard.

Like Vionnet, Schiaparelli also saw commercial sewing patterns for her designs in the interwar period, released by companies including the McCall Pattern Company, Pictorial Review, and the Paris Pattern Company. Here is a selection of early Schiaparelli patterns.

This McCall pattern is the earliest Schiaparelli pattern I’ve seen. Dating to the autumn of 1929, it’s a pattern for a blouse, skirt, and coat with angled pockets. It was still shown in a 1930 catalogue:

1920s Schiaparelli pattern - McCall 5839

McCall 5839 by Schiaparelli in the McCall catalogue, 1930. Image via echopoint.

Here is the illustration of McCall 5839 in McCall’s magazine:

1920s Schiaparelli sewing pattern - McCall 5839

McCall 5839 by Schiaparelli. McCall’s magazine, October 1929. Illustration: Blanche Rothschild.

This Schiaparelli pattern from the Paris Pattern Company has some unusual details. The wrap skirt buttons diagonally across the hips and has two slits through which the blouse’s attached scarf can pass, for a suspender effect:

Paris 1647

Paris Pattern 1647 by Schiaparelli (c. 1931)

McCall 6981 is a three-piece suit consisting of a jacket, cropped pussy-bow blouse, and sleeveless, bias dress:

1930s Schiaparelli sewing pattern - McCall 6981

McCall 6981 by Schiaparelli (1932)

Here’s an illustration of this design (centre, no. 14) in the summer 1932 issue of McCall Fashion Bi-Monthly. Elsewhere it calls McCall 6981 a “trick” ensemble, since the blouse and jacket disguise a dress suitable for tennis:


McCall Fashion Bi-Monthly, July/August 1932. Image via carbonated on flickr.

This Benito illustration for Vogue shows a similar Schiaparelli ensemble, worn with a tomato red Sicilian cap:

1930s Eduardo García Benito illustration: Schiaparelli beige suit, blue blouse and Sicilian cap; pink jacket and brown skirt.

Schiaparelli beige suit, blue blouse and Sicilian cap; pink jacket and brown skirt, Vogue, May 1, 1932. Illustration: Eduardo García Benito. Image via Corbis.

This Pictorial Review Schiaparelli adaptation dates to late 1933. The dress has interesting details like shoulder flanges, diagonal waist darts, and inverted darts radiating from the neckline:

1930s Schiaparelli dress pattern - Pictorial Review 6764

Pictorial Review 6764 adapted from Schiaparelli (c. 1933) Image via Best Vintage Patterns.

Here’s the catalogue illustration for Pictorial Review 6764:

Illustration of Pictorial Review 6764 adapted from Schiaparelli

Illustration of Pictorial Review 6764 (c. 1933) Image via Best Vintage Patterns.

Paris Pattern 2286, illustrated in my 1934 Paris and Style Patterns booklet, is a jaunty ensemble consisting of a coat, skirt, and jacket blouse. The description reads, “A superb town and country suit. Just the thing for that week end vacation. Top coat can be worn over any dress. The skirt and jacket blouse make an ideal spectator costume”:

1930s Paris Pattern by Schiaparelli

Paris Pattern 2286 by Schiaparelli. Paris and Style Patterns leaflet, June 1934.

Also in this leaflet is the Schiaparelli dress and capelet ensemble available as a reproduction from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library. The dress has shoulder yokes, puffed sleeves, and a skirt with pointed set-in panels and pair of buttons at the waist; the matching capelet is trimmed with pleating and buttons to the skirt front. Thanks to owner Deirdre Duggan for providing a scan of the envelope:

1930s Schiaparelli sewing pattern - Paris Pattern 2301

Paris Pattern 2301 by Schiaparelli (c. 1934) Image courtesy of the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.

Finally, from McCall’s, this Schiaparelli dinner dress in two lengths dates to winter 1936-37. The bodice back extends into sleeves that are gathered into a heart-shaped bodice:

1930s Schiaparelli dinner dress pattern - McCall 9076

McCall 9076 by Schiaparelli (1936) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

The pattern is illustrated in the January 1937 issue of McCall’s magazine, which made much of the new, street-length hemline:

McCall Jan1937 Schiap

McCall’s magazine, January 1937. Image via eBay.

Schiaparelli patterns from between the wars tend to lack the surrealist touches we associate with the designer, since many of these were based on couture embellishment, accessories, or notions. (Cricket buttons, anyone?) I remember reading a contemporary 1930s article that said Schiaparelli pieces were so simple, they were too easy to copy. Today one might say it’s her brand of dynamic severity that makes her clothes seem so modern.

Bonus: The Art Deco Society of California has posted instructions for Schiaparelli’s “Mad Cap” (via What Would Nancy Drew Wear?).

Next: Schiaparelli’s postwar Vogue Paris Originals.

Twenties Swimsuit – Simplicity 7041 (VFL 145)

November 9, 2013 § 14 Comments

Simplicity 7041

Simplicity 7041 (ca. 1929) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

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:

Wool swimsuit by Jean Patou, ca. 1928. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene.

Wool swimsuit by Jean Patou, ca. 1928. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene. Image via Corbis.

Model in Jean Patou swimsuit. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene.

Model in Jean Patou swimsuit, ca. 1929. Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene. Image via Corbis.

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:

1920s Simplicity swimsuit

Simplicity 7041 swimsuit (ca. 1929) – Vintage Fashion Library 145.

Naomi and I took some photos of the swimsuit at the old Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion. This archival photo shows the pavilion in its heyday:

1920s aerial photograph of bathers at Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, Toronto.

Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion, ca. 1924. Image via City of Toronto Archives.

The pavilion’s grand, Beaux-Arts archway records the year it opened to the public, 1922:

Sunnyside Pavilion

The grand archway at Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion.

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.

Suit with coverup

Simplicity 7041 worn with a coverup (shoes: John Fluevog).

I was able to cheat and make the buttons non-functional:

Suit / gates

Simplicity 7041 with “buttoned” straps.

Suit with parasol

Simplicity 7041 – front view

Suit steps

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.)

The Irresistible Charm of Embroidered Lingerie

February 14, 2013 § 5 Comments


In honour of Valentine’s Day, some mid-Twenties illustrations for McCall lingerie patterns including embroidery transfers. The heading reads, “Embroideries That Lend Irresistible Charm to the Intimate Garments.”


From the numbering, I’d say the page dates to circa 1925, when these types of pattern were the only ones to have colour envelopes.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Vionnet Patterns

December 13, 2012 § 17 Comments

McCall Style News March 1931 detail

The reputation of Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1975), the brilliant innovator in draping and the bias cut, has only increased with time. The label she founded in 1912 was recently revived, and Betty Kirke’s book is back in print for the house’s 100th anniversary. You can see Vionnet pieces online at the V&A and the Costume Institute. There’s even an animated video on Vimeo demonstrating the construction of one Vionnet dress. (For more on Vionnet, see Lisa’s Coletterie post; Betty Kirke’s 1989 Threads article; and Sandra Ericson’s revised 2010 Threads article, in pdf here.)

Vionnet advertisement, 1926. Illustration by Reynaldo Luza.

Vionnet advertisement, 1926. Illustration: Reynaldo Luza. Image via

In recent years, those who wished to reproduce a Vionnet design could trace their pattern from a book. Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s Dresses and their Construction, c. 1860-1940 (Macmillan, 1982) includes five Vionnet patterns, and the Japanese companion volume to Kirke’s book (Bunka Fashion College, 2002; available on contains tested, traceable versions of twenty-eight of Kirke’s Vionnet patterns. Costumer Koshka has made the 1919 Vionnet dress in Patterns of Fashion, while the Vionnet Identique project saw all the designs in Kirke’s book made up in half-scale for an exhibition and book (for photos see this Threads post and the book preview).

Madeleine Vionnet label, circa 1930.

Label from an evening cape by Madeleine Vionnet, c. 1930. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the 1920s and 1930s, dressmakers could sew Vionnet designs using commercial patterns. McCall’s released patterns based on Vionnet originals, while companies like Pictorial Review sold adaptations of Vionnet designs. Here is a selection of Vionnet patterns.

These two patterns for a negligee and day dress date to 1926. The negligee is reversible:

1920s Vionnet pattern for a reversible negligee, McCall 4467

McCall 4467 by Vionnet (1926) Reversible negligee.

1920s Vionnet pattern for a long-sleeved day dress, McCall 4468

McCall 4468 by Vionnet (1926) Dress.

Vionnet was known for her robes à mouchoirs, or handkerchief dresses, like this evening dress:

1920s Vionnet pattern for a handkerchief evening dress, McCall 4855

McCall 4855 by Vionnet (1927) Evening dress. Image via eBay.

This formal dress is another handkerchief dress. Note the triangular sleeve insets:

1920s Vionnet pattern for a formal handkerchief dress, McCall 5635

McCall 5635 by Vionnet (1928) Dress.

Here’s a magazine illustration of McCall 5635 from the following year. The accompanying text reads, “A Vionnet gown characteristic of the graceful new formal frocks is simply made to fall in points at the center front and at the sides and back”:

Vionnet pattern illustration in McCall's magazine, April 1929

Illustration from McCall’s magazine, April 1929.

Both McCall’s and Pictorial Review released patterns for this circa 1931 ensemble:

Early 1930s Vionnet dress pattern - McCall 6451

McCall 6451 by Vionnet (c. 1931) Image via eBay.

1930s Vionnet adaptation pattern for a dress and jacket, Pictorial 5592

Pictorial 5592 adapted from Vionnet. Pictorial Review, June 1931.

McCall’s magazine showed two illustrations for this design (McCall 6451); the text on the first page reads, “A masterpiece in simplicity that only Vionnet could have created. The chic contrasting bodice top is sleeveless and joins the skirt in a coat-dress closing”:

1930s Vionnet illustration in McCall magazine

McCall’s magazine, 1931. Image via Etsy.

1930s Vionnet illustration in McCall magazine

McCall’s magazine, 1931. Image via Etsy.

The ensemble was also illustrated on the cover of McCall Style News shown at the top of this post. Here’s the full illustration:

1930s McCall 6451 illustration on the cover of McCall Style News

McCall Style News, March 1931.

This 1932 Pictorial Review design for an asymmetrical day dress was adapted from Vionnet. The skirt and applied front are cut on the bias:

1930s Vionnet adaptation dress pattern, Pictorial 6143

Pictorial 6143 adapted from Vionnet (1932) Dress.

Here’s the corresponding illustration in Pictorial Review magazine. The accompanying text reads, “Yes, it’s a Vionnet, we knew you would recognize it in the characteristic handling of the diagonal seaming, in the clever use of button trimming, and in its absolute simplicity. Make it in a sheer linen with contrasting button accents”:

1930s Pictorial Review Vionnet illustration, Pictorial 6143 and 6147

Pictorial 6143 and 6147, both adapted from Vionnet. Pictorial Review, July 1932.

Finally, a three-piece suit pattern from the same year, consisting of a short-sleeved blouse, high-waisted suspender skirt, and jacket that criss-crosses in the front:

1930s Vionnet suit pattern, McCall 6999

McCall 6999 by Vionnet (1932) Three piece suit.

This illustration for McCall 6999 accompanies a trend report on suits:

1930s Vionnet illustration from the McCall Fashion Bi-Monthly

Illustration from the McCall Fashion Bi-Monthly, July-August 1932. Image via carbonated on flickr.

And if you’d like to try your hand at some Vionnet-style fabric embellishment, the Center for Pattern Design sells a pattern for Vionnet roses.

Madeleine Vionnet is said to have considered herself a “geometrician”; the brilliance of her technique reveals itself in her garments’ construction. Have you tried making any Vionnet designs?

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.

Girls’ Patterns, 1926

May 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

In my collection of Twenties patterns I have a group of children’s patterns that are shown in the McCall’s Quarterly for Winter 1926-27. (Many thanks to Debby for sharing the images.) I noticed something interesting about the envelope engravings. Observe:

McCall 4666 1920s girl's dress and coat pattern by Lina Mouton

McCall 4666 by Lina Mouton (1926) Girl’s ensemble.

McCall 4666 small size 1920s ensemble costume pattern by Lina Mouton

McCall 4666 by Lina Mouton (1926) Younger girl’s ensemble.

Special engravings for the smaller sizes! Here’s another example from my collection:

McCall 4640 1920s girl's coat designer pattern by Mignapouf

McCall 4640 by Mignapouf (1926) Girl’s coat.

McCall 4640 1920s younger girl's coat designer pattern by Mignapouf

McCall 4640 by Mignapouf (1926) Younger girl’s coat.

Have you seen this on children’s patterns from other decades?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Deco for Spring

March 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

Watching this year’s Oscars red carpet pre-show, I was struck by the Deco details on Louise Roe’s custom Black Halo dress, with its geometric, layered peplum and rhinestone buckle. (Details on the dress here.)

Spring’s Deco trend is gathering force. In September, many of the Spring ready-to-wear collections contained references to the Twenties and Thirties. There was flapper fringe at Marchesa and geometric dévoré at Alberta Ferretti. Veronica Etro found inspiration in two avant-garde art movements of the early twentieth century: Futurism and Constructivism. (See the collection statement here.) And Marc Jacobs resurrected the Twenties drop waist:

Siri Tollerød in Marc Jacobs Spring 2012

Model: Siri Tollerød. Image via

Two of the most sustained interpretations of the Deco influence were made by Gucci and Ralph Lauren. At Gucci, Frida Giannini was inspired by New York skyscrapers. In this campaign image, one of the collection’s fringed and beaded dresses is paired with a very Deco minaudière:

Photo: Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Model: Abbey Lee Kershaw. Image via

Patrick Demarchelier’s recent Vogue Italia editorial, “The Outstanding MCB,” casts Mariacarla Boscono as a Gucci-clad flapper:

Vogue Italia, February 2012. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier. Model: Mariacarla Boscono.

Vogue Italia, February 2012. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier. Model: Mariacarla Boscono. Stylist: Patti Wilson.

(The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo was photographed in a similar Gucci dress for Vanity Fair’s March issue—in the Contents section, not the Hollywood portfolio, where she wears Ralph Lauren.)

Ralph Lauren presented a Gatsby-themed collection for Spring 2012, full of delicate beading, bias gowns, and three-piece suits in pastels and pinstripes. Cloches, boas, and long scarves or strands of beads completed the looks. (See the collection on here, or view the Vogue UK trend slideshow, “Gatsby Glamour.”)

Models backstage at Ralph Lauren SS 2012

Backstage at Ralph Lauren's Spring 2012 runway show. Image via Vogue UK.

Ralph Lauren Spring 2012 tailored look

Model: Katia Kokoreva. Image via Vogue.

The Ralph Lauren collection is well-represented on the cover of Vanity Fair’s March Hollywood issue (click image to enlarge):

Vanity Fair March 2012 Hollywood issue cover

Vanity Fair, March 2012. Photo: Mario Testino. Stylist: Jessica Diehl. Image via Vanity Fair.

Rooney Mara, Mia Wasikowska, and Shailene Woodley wear dresses and boas by Ralph Lauren, and Elisabeth Olsen and Lily Collins’ shoes (as well as Ms. Wasikowska’s) are also Ralph Lauren Collection. The cover photo was taken at a New York set inspired by the work of English interior designer Syrie Maugham.

This was a return to the Jazz Age idiom for Ralph Lauren: early in his career he was responsible for the menswear in the last film adaptation of The Great Gatsby (1974). As Nicole Phelps points out in her review of Lauren’s collection, the designer got a jump start on the Twenties fever expected to follow the opening of Baz Luhrmann’s 3-D version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel this Christmas.

Luhrmann Gatsby

Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. Image via the New York Times.

The bias evening dresses in Ralph Lauren’s Spring collection show the reach of the current Deco trend, beyond the Twenties into the Thirties and the glamour of Old Hollywood. Clothes on Film’s Chris Laverty has credited the current revival of classic Old Hollywood style to Keira Knightley’s green dress in Atonement (2007). HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and The Artist can’t help but give added momentum to a Deco revival.

The recent interpretations of Art Deco took varied approaches to their vintage inspiration. Collections like Gucci’s or Etro’s, which emphasized geometric prints and embellishment, are drawing on motifs from architecture and the old artistic avant-garde. When it comes to sewing patterns, Deco fashions tend to achieve their geometric look through contrast, trim, and seaming detail:

1920s geometric dress pattern McCall 5239 April 1928

McCall 5239. McCall's, April 1928. Image via vintage123.

Marc Jacobs’ drop waists, often with blousing and soft detailing at the hipline, were most faithful to Twenties silhouettes, like this repro design from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library:

McCall 5751 1920s evening dress pattern at the Vintage Pattern Lending Library

McCall 5751 (1929) Dress. Image via the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.

Despite the strong Twenties flavour to the daywear in Ralph Lauren’s Spring collection, for evening he reached for those mainstays of Thirties glamour, bias gowns and boas:

Pictorial 7447 1930s bias evening gown pattern

Pictorial 7447 (1934) Evening dress.

Even the masculine tailoring that punctuated the Daisy Buchanan girliness has a Thirties precedent, as shown by this pattern for a three-piece suit consisting of a waistcoat, double-breasted jacket, and cuffed trousers:

Simplicity 1210 1930s women's tuxedo pattern

Simplicity 1210 (c. 1933). Three-piece suit and blouse. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

It’s funny how ‘Gatsby’ functions as shorthand for what we like about Twenties fashion. The Great Gatsby is set in the summer of 1922, but recent reinterpretations seem to favour mid-to-later ’20s styles. Here is a sample of 1922 eveningwear:

early 1920s evening dresses on McCall news December 1922

McCall Printed Pattern Style News, December 1922.

It’s been years since Vogue Patterns reissued any Deco-era eveningwear patterns. Vogue 2241 was released in 1998, Vogue 2609 in 2001, and Vogue V2859 in 2005. More Twenties and Thirties, please, Vintage Vogue!

(If you missed my posts about sewing 1920s designer patterns, you can see the Patou dress here, Miler Soeurs cape here, Martial et Armand wrap here, and Chanel evening dress here.)

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