October 30, 2015 § 8 Comments
Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman isn’t set to open until 2017, but audiences will get a glimpse of Gal Gadot as the Amazon princess in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Marvel’s feminist superhero, Captain Marvel (originally Ms. Marvel) will also get her own movie in 2018. (Guardian story here.)
Since the 1930s and ’40s, when Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman made their first comic strip appearances, superheroes have occupied a special place in popular culture. The 2008 Costume Institute exhibit, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, explored the influence of superhero costumes on fashion. (Click for a look inside the book.)
With Halloween around the corner, here’s a look at licensed superhero costume patterns from the 1960s to today, with a focus on the place of gender in children’s costuming.
In 1966, the Batman television show premiered on ABC; just the year before, the 1950s television series Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves as the Man of Steel, had returned to the airwaves in syndication.
From 1966, McCall’s 8398 is a pattern for “Girls’ or Boy’s Batman, Robin and Superman Official Costumes.” The pattern is copyright National Periodical Publications, Inc., an early version of DC Comics:
The Fall 1966 McCall’s Home Catalog promoted McCall’s 8398 with McCall’s 8562 as “Magical Costumes for the Wonderful World of Make-Believe.” The text reinforces the idea that these superhero costumes were intended for imaginative, active children, regardless of gender: “Now that active young lad or lass with the vivid imagination can be Batman, Robin or Superman at the switch of a colorful costume. Only McCall’s has official patterns for the costumes of these swashbuckling heroes of comic books and TV…” (click to enlarge):
In 1978, the Wonder Woman TV series was still running, and December saw the release of the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve.
That year, Simplicity released two patterns for children’s superhero costumes: Simplicity 8714, Batman, Robin, and Superman costumes for children and boys, and Simplicity 8720, Catwoman, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman costumes for girls. (‘Child’ often refers to unisex pattern sizing for younger children.) The introduction of female superhero costumes seems to have prompted a sex-division on the pattern envelopes—although the categories could always be subverted by individual children and their parents:
Later official superhero patterns tend to be movie or TV tie-ins. As in contemporary popular culture, the balance shifts toward male superheroes, but there’s also an oscillation between strict gender categories and more inclusive costuming. The 1980s were the decade of Superman and Supergirl: Supergirl opened in 1984, and there were three more Superman movies ending with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).
In 1987, Butterick released two superhero patterns, both with iron-on transfers: a Superman and Supergirl play suit for small children (sizes 2 to 6X), and a Superman costume for men and boys. I couldn’t find a corresponding women’s and girls’ Supergirl pattern. The small children’s is a pyjama or jogging suit-style top and pants for stretch knits, with separate cape and skirt; the men’s and boys’ is a spandex stirrup jumpsuit and briefs:
(With thanks to Jan Lamm.)
Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) launched a new superhero franchise. Late 1980s Batman pattern Butterick 4201/6313, for men and boys, appears to have been timed to the Tim Burton film, but reflects the now-retro Batman. Like the Butterick Superman, it’s also a stirrup jumpsuit and briefs for spandex blends:
Butterick licensed costumes from Batman Returns (1992) and Batman Forever (1995): Batman, Catwoman, and the Penguin, and Batman, Robin, and the Riddler. The Batman costumes reflect the movies’ increasingly hypermasculine armour, while Catwoman’s sexy, home-sewn catsuit is the only design for women and girls.
Maybe because the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aren’t human, this Ninja Turtles pattern is gender-inclusive, labelled as for both girls and boys. The design is called a playsuit, not a costume (click the image for envelope back, or see it made up on flickr):
On the other hand, this Captain Planet pattern for children and boys includes a grotesque ‘muscle’ suit. The second character is called Verminous Skumm:
’90s costume patterns start to show the influence of Japanese television shows—Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Masked Rider, and Sailor Moon. This Sailor Moon costume pattern came in children’s and girls’ sizes:
Marvel doesn’t seem to have ventured into pattern licensing until the 1990s, when Simplicity’s children’s costume patterns were gender-inclusive. Simplicity 7543 is a child’s Spiderman costume with sleeve webs made from fishnet:
Before the X-Men and Spider-Man movie franchises of the 2000s, there were ’90s animated TV shows based on the comics: X-Men from 1992 and Spider-Man from 1994. In the mid-1990s, Simplicity released several more Marvel patterns, all labelled as unisex Child’s costumes: Spider-Man and Venom (Simplicity 7241), Wolverine and Storm (Simplicity 7246), and Cyclops and Magneto (Simplicity 7251). Wolverine and Storm is my favourite:
This fall, Simplicity released five licensed costume patterns for Marvel and DC superheroes. The women’s DC costumes are featured on the cover of the Halloween catalogue: Wonder Woman (Simplicity 1024) with Batgirl and Supergirl (Simplicity 1036):
The women’s costumes match those of the comic-book characters, but for the corresponding children’s pattern (Simplicity 1035), all three costumes have been altered to become knee-length, long-sleeved dresses. Batgirl loses her catsuit and Wonder Woman is virtually unrecognizable. What message does this send to children comparing the comic-book illustrations on the envelopes?
The two Marvel patterns, Captain America (Simplicity 1030) and Thor (Simplicity 1038), have a different format. Both from Marvel’s Avengers, the adults’ and children’s sizes share the same envelope, which includes an illustration of the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America down the left-hand side and a superimposed image of the pattern pieces with the text Sew It Yourself. Both are labelled as boys’ and men’s. The Thor should really be unisex if he’s now a woman:
(S0225 is the advance version; the S1030 envelope seems to have some strange retouching of the man’s crotch.)
It’s great to see Wonder Woman making a comeback, and the increasing popularity of costuming means we’re likely to see more licensed superhero patterns in the near future. Here’s hoping there will be a Black Widow or Mystique—and it’s not a dress.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
* As I wrote this post, spellcheck failed to recognize the names of female superheroes. Please fix this, WordPress!
September 7, 2015 § 2 Comments
This year’s big Costume Institute exhibit, China: Through the Looking Glass, broke the attendance record previously set by Savage Beauty in 2011 to become the Met’s most-visited costume exhibit. (See WWD.) Andrew Bolton’s catalogue, illustrated with original photography by Platon, is available from Yale University Press.
One of the show’s major draws was Wong Kar-wai’s art direction, with styling by William Chang Suk-ping. (See Rosemary Feitelberg, “Chinese Arts Examined at the Met” or read the press release here.) Like Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men and mid-century American dress, Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000) and 2046 (2004), with costume design by William Chang, have virtually defined the image of mid-century Hong Kong fashion.
It’s possible to find vintage sewing patterns showing a Chinese influence, especially cheongsam patterns, from about the 1950s on. The earliest Vogue patterns I’ve found that show a Chinese influence date to the early 1960s.
Two circa 1962 Vogue patterns I’ve had in the shop got me thinking about early ’60s Chinoiserie. One is for a cheongsam and pants, the other for a cocktail dress and sheer cape or ‘Ming’ stole:
Interestingly, although Vogue 5571 is clearly a pattern for a cheongsam or qipao, the envelope text says nothing to identify the garment as Chinese. Vogue 5648, on the other hand, calls its voluminous coverup a ‘Ming’ stole—a garment for which I can find no evidence whatsoever.
The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) is known for its voluminous clothing. Vogue 5648’s Ming stole has deep, two-piece sleeves and back fullness released from gathers at the neckline. Here’s the back view:
The back neckline detail recalls this Balenciaga evening wrap featured in an earlier Costume Institute exhibit, Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress:
By contrast, the instantly recognizable cheongsam or qipao is a product of the modern period, a hybrid garment with a complex history traceable to Manchu dress in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Vogue Patterns’ mid-century Chinoiserie seems inseparable from the context of the Cold War. In 1962, it had been just over a decade since Mao’s 1949 proclamation of the People’s Republic of China. The Hollywood films Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) and The World of Suzie Wong (1960) had helped popularize the cheongsam in the West with their depictions of love affairs between an American man and a qipao-clad Chinese woman in mid-century Hong Kong.
For more on the cheongsam/qipao see Juanjuan Wu, “Reinvented Identity: The Qipao and Tang-Style Jacket,” chapter 6 of Chinese Fashion: From Mao to Now (Berg 2009).
For discussion of the exhibit see Holland Cotter, “In ‘China: Through the Looking Glass,’ Eastern Culture Meets Western Fashion” and Susie Bubble, “Through the Chinese Looking Glass.”
Happy Labour Day, everyone!
July 22, 2015 § 2 Comments
Bowling. This early 1960s pattern from Simplicity includes an “action back” shirt and skirt in two lengths. The skirt has inverted pleats in front and back; the shirt, which may be monogrammed, has pleats at the back shoulder seams:
May 20, 2015 § 1 Comment
Did you watch the Mad Men finale Sunday night? If you aren’t ready to say goodbye, a New York exhibition, Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men, brings together sets, props, costumes, and other production materials from the show (at the Museum of the Moving Image to June 14, 2015).
Soon after launching this blog in 2011, I began a series on Mad Men-era designer patterns. Like the TV series, it shows the changes that were taking place in fashion in the 1960s. Here’s the full roundup:
- The Old Guard I – Jacques Heim, Madame Grès, Jo Mattli, and Jean Dessès
- The Old Guard II – Jacques Griffe, Pauline Trigère, Pierre Balmain, and Pierre Cardin
- London’s Old Guard – Ronald Paterson, John Cavanagh, Michael Donéllan, and Edward Molyneux
- Old House, New Designer – Lanvin, Patou, Nina Ricci, and Dior
- The Europeans – Rodríguez, Simonetta, Fabiani, and Pucci
- New Talent – Guy Laroche, Irene Galitzine, and Federico Forquet
- Millinery – Sally Victor, John Frederics, Guy Laroche, and Halston
- McCall’s New York Designers – Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and Anne Klein
- Butterick’s Young Designers – Mary Quant, Jean Muir, and Emmanuelle Khanh
March 8, 2015 § Leave a comment
If you’re in London, you still have a week to see Guy Bourdin: Image Maker at Somerset House before it closes next Sunday.
Bourdin shot only one Vogue Patterns editorial that I know of: a two-page editorial for Vogue magazine in 1966. The young Marisa Berenson models a shift dress and tent coat made from a single pattern, Vogue 6916, accessorized with gloves, fishnet knee socks, and hat by Lilly Daché (click to enlarge):
As always, details could be found in the back of the magazine:
British Vogue later published the same editorial with the layout reversed: see youthquakers.
For more posts in this series, click the Patterns in Vogue tag.
December 17, 2014 § 8 Comments
For Paco Peralta.
Before Vogue Patterns introduced Yves Saint Laurent with patterns from the Mondrian collection, the company had already licensed the designer’s work for the house of Dior. (Read more at the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, or see Dustin’s post here.)
Yves Saint Laurent was appointed head designer at Dior after Christian Dior’s death in 1957. Dior had been his mentor; in 1955 he hired Saint Laurent to work at his new boutique, later promoting him to accessories and couture. Richard Avedon’s famous Dovima with Elephants shows a velvet evening dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent while he was still assistant designer:
Saint Laurent’s first collection for Dior, Trapèze (Spring 1958 haute couture), was a huge success, and his later work at the house continued its play with proportion. L’Officiel’s spring preview issue for 1958 featured an illustration of a Dior trapeze dress by René Gruau:
The young Yves Saint Laurent designed six haute couture collections for Dior; Vogue’s licensing represents his last three collections for the house, from 1959 to 1960.
1. Christian Dior Haute Couture Fall/Winter 1959
Saint Laurent’s second Fall/Winter couture collection for Dior was controversial; L’Officiel declared its aesthetic “femininity pushed to the extreme.” Suits were shown with severely cropped jackets, and the skirt silhouettes included voluminous tiers and hobble skirts.
The first Dior patterns were promoted with illustrations by Esther Larson in the late 1959 issues of Vogue Pattern Book and Vogue Printed Pattern News (thanks to the White Cabinet for the ID):
Anticipating demand for this high-profile addition to Vogue’s designer patterns, Vogue Pattern Book noted that the new patterns would be available in stores after November 10th:
The first Dior patterns were photographed by Joseph Leombruno and Jack Bodi, the couple who worked as Leombruno-Bodi. In Vogue magazine’s first issue for 1960, Isabella Albonico modelled the two dress ensembles, Vogue 1471 and 1470:
Leombruno-Bodi also photographed the new Dior patterns for Ladies’ Home Journal. The accompanying text for Vogue 1470 suggests that the hobble skirt silhouette was considered extreme: “Dior’s famous ‘hobble’ skirt makes a charming mid-season costume … The pattern also includes details on how to make the dress without the band at the bottom of the skirt for less extreme effect.” The model on the left is Anne St. Marie (click to enlarge):
Vogue 1470 is a striking dress and jacket ensemble. The short jacket has three-quarter sleeves and bow trim at the waist, while the dress has short sleeves, low V-neckline, and the collection’s distinctive pouf-hobble skirt banded at the knee. The original was navy tweed:
Here’s the envelope description: One piece dress and jacket. Skirt, with or without puffed tunic, joins the bodice at the waistline. Wide V neck-line with band finish. Short kimono sleeves. Short fitted jacket, joined to waistband, has concealed fastening below notched collar; below elbow length sleeves. Novelty belt.
Vogue 1471 is a close-fitting, double-breasted jacket with matching dress. The original was black-and-white tweed:
The envelope description reads: One piece dress and jacket. Flared skirt joins the bodice at the waist-line. Single button closing below the wide V neck-line with extension band finish. Above elbow length and short sleeves. Double breasted jacket has notched collar and below elbow length sleeves. Novelty belt for version A.
Vogue 1472 seems to have been the most popular of the three patterns. The voluminous coat and skirt suit were modelled by Nena von Schlebrügge:
Here’s the envelope description: Coat, suit and scarf. Double-breasted hip length jacket has a notched collar and below elbow length sleeves with buttoned vents. Slim skirt. Double-breasted, full coat in two lengths has a large shaped collar. Concealed pocket in side seams. Below elbow length sleeves joined to dropped shoulder armholes. Straight scarf.
In the next issue of Vogue Pattern Book, the Vogue 1472 coat is called “the newsmaking original Dior coat that tops the suit… Note the extras here: the enormous buttons, the slashed side seams, the stitched collar, the scarf to match. Your own extra: a towering cloche of the checked fabric”:
2. Christian Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1960
Saint Laurent’s Spring 1960 collection for Dior was characterized by rounded silhouettes and vibrant colour. L’Officiel noted its straight suits with jackets cut on the bias to achieve the suppleness of a knitted cardigan.
Vogue 1012, introduced in the August/September 1960 issue of Vogue Pattern Book, includes a collarless, single-breasted skirt suit and sleeveless blouse with crisscross back. The jacket in view A is cut on the bias:
The envelope description reads: Suit and blouse. Short, straight jacket buttons below collarless away from normal neck-line. Welt pockets. Below elbow length kimono sleeves. Skirt has soft gathers from very shallow yoke. Easy fitting overblouse has shoulder straps crisscrossed at back.
This suit is similar to Vogue 1012, but has a more conventional button front:
These Guy Arsac editorial photos of a red “boule” coat and teal dress show the collection’s play with colour and silhouette:
3. Christian Dior Haute Couture Fall/Winter 1960
Yves Saint Laurent’s controversial final collection for Dior, le Beat look, was inspired by Left Bank icon Juliette Gréco and the Beatniks of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It was innovative for its infusion of youthful, bohemian street style into the couture, with Beat elements including leather jackets, knitted turtlenecks, and plenty of black.
Vogue produced two patterns from this collection, drawn from the more conventional designs. Vogue 1041 is a skirt suit and matching, loose coat with a big standing collar and side slits:
Here’s the envelope description: Suit and coat. Easy fitting jacket has high buttoned closing below neck-band. Vent opening in side front seams. Bracelet length and elbow length sleeves. Slightly gathered skirt has outside stitched front panel concealing pockets. Seven eighths length loose coat has opening in side seams. Away-from-neck-line standing neck-band. Bracelet length kimono sleeves.
Philippe Pottier photographed the purple coat ensemble for L’Officiel‘s winter collections issue:
Vogue 1041 was photographed for Vogue magazine by Henry Clarke:
Vogue 1049 is a skirt suit and sleeveless overblouse. The blouse is worn over a barrel skirt with attached underbodice for a dropped-waist effect. The jacket of view A is designed to be worn open:
The envelope description reads: Suit and blouse. Box jacket has cut away fronts and simulated buttoned closing or complete buttoned closing, below standing band collar. Easy fitting overblouse with optional tied belt has bateau neck-line. Above elbow length sleeves and sleeveless. Slightly barrelled shaped skirt attached to bodice.
The dotted black ensemble in duchesse velvet was photographed for this Chatillon Mouly Roussel advertisement in L’Officiel:
I also found the black suit in a later L’Officiel composite:
These William Klein editorial photos featuring Dior Fall 1960 designs capture the Beat collection’s youthful spirit:
For more of Yves Saint Laurent’s work for Dior see L’Officiel 1000 modèles’ Dior special issue.
September 1, 2014 § 2 Comments
In honour of Labour Day, this models post is devoted to iconic model and political activist Benedetta Barzini.
Benedetta Barzini (b. 1943) grew up in Porto Santo Stefano and New York City. She worked as a model in New York for four years after being discovered by Diana Vreeland. Here she appears on the cover of Vogue Italia’s inaugural issue:
Although Barzini returned to Italy to act, in the early 1970s she left acting and modelling to pursue Marxist-feminist teaching and political activism. She returned to modelling in the late 1980s. As of 2013 Barzini was a Professor of Fashion and Anthropology at the Polytechnic Institute of Milan. (Recent interview here.)
I have seen only one Vogue pattern with Barzini on the envelope. In 1967, Len Steckler photographed her in Vogue 1775 by Chuck Howard, a pattern from the new Vogue Americana line:
Barzini was also featured on the cover of the Vogue Patterns catalogue for August 1967:
Happy Labour Day, everyone!