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!
October 9, 2015 § 7 Comments
Anticipation is high for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which opens in December. For fans of costume design, it helps that Michael Kaplan, who began his career with Bob Mackie and Blade Runner (1982), is designing the costumes for the new film. (Read Vanity Fair’s post here.) Here’s a look at Star Wars costume patterns.
Star Wars’ costumes must be among the most discussed in cinema. In 2005, LA’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) organized the exhibit Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, accompanied by a book by Trisha Biggar, the costume designer for the prequel trilogy (Abrams, 2005; still in print). Last year saw the publication of Brandon Alinger’s Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy (Chronicle Books, 2014). And a new travelling exhibit, Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of Costume, will open in New York next month.
John Mollo’s costumes for Star Wars, which won an Academy Award in 1978, have immortalized a certain strand of ’70s style. Compare Princess Leia’s iconic hooded dress with a 1976 Dior evening gown available as a Vogue pattern; both were made in white silk crepe de chine:
(I’ve made the Dior in red; photos coming soon.)
The year after The Empire Strikes Back (1980), McCall’s began releasing children’s costume patterns licensed with Lucasfilm.
McCall’s 7772 includes costumes for five characters from the first two films: Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Yoda, Jawa, and Lord Darth Vader. The Vader view calls for one single serving cereal box. I have several sizes available in the shop:
After Return of the Jedi (1983), McCall’s released a children’s pattern for Ewok costumes. And not just any Ewok: the envelope back names “Wicket the Ewok”:
In the 1990s, Butterick took over the Lucasfilm licensing. Butterick 5174 and 5175, official Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker costumes for adults and children, included an order form for the wig and light sabre:
Butterick also released two official Darth Vader costume patterns for children and adults. Butterick 5176 and 5186 included instructions for breastplate appliqués made from coloured, foam sheet remnants, and an order form for the helmet and light sabre:
There were only unofficial costume patterns based on the prequel trilogy. The year of Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), McCall’s released McCall’s 2433, a “Space Nomads” pattern for adults and children with a version of Sith warrior Darth Maul:
Based on costumes from Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), Simplicity 4433 includes Padmé Amidala’s combat suit, which doubles as an Aayla Secura costume (but two-sleeved and without the headpiece):
Although Padmé’s Peacock dress was cut from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), it was widely seen in promotional materials for the film:
Andrea Schewe produced two versions of the Peacock dress and headddress for children and adults, Simplicity 4426 and Simplicity 4443. The adults’ pattern includes both Padmé and Princess Leia, while the children’s has Leia, Padmé, and young Anakin and Obi-Wan:
Men’s costume pattern Simplicity 4450/059 includes Anakin and Obi-Wan Jedi costumes, together with an unidentifiable warlock:
Based on Padmé Amidala’s nightgown in Revenge of the Sith, McCall’s 4995 is a dress with boned bodice, separate drape, chain or bead trim, and tassels made with three sizes of beads:
Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, perhaps there will be more licensed Star Wars patterns…
Update: Irving Penn’s 1999 editorial was not the first Star Wars-themed shoot in Vogue magazine: see Ishimuro’s “The ‘Force’ of Fur” in Vogue, November 1977. (Thanks to Devorah Macdonald for the reference.) Vogue recently posted some outtakes and reminiscences.
Update 2: Simplicity 8074, a Game of Thrones / Star Wars costume pattern (Sand Snakes / Rey) adapted by Andrea Schewe, suggests that Disney hasn’t licensed costumes from The Force Awakens (yet).
September 24, 2015 § 3 Comments
Last week, Zandra Rhodes returned to London Fashion Week for her Spring 2016 collection. Famous for her colourful, hand-drawn prints, the bohemian cult favourite is also new to Vogue Patterns for Winter/Holiday 2015: Vogue 1472 is the first new Zandra Rhodes sewing pattern in thirty years. (Update: read a profile in Vogue Patterns magazine.) For knitters, the current issue of Rowan Knitting & Crochet has a Zandra Rhodes jacket pattern available as a free download.
Born in Chatham, Kent, Zandra Rhodes (b. 1940) trained as a textile designer at Medway College of Art, where her mother was a lecturer, and London’s Royal College of Art. Rhodes founded her own label in order to build garments around her prints. Her first, 1969 collection, Knitted Circle, was famously worn by Natalie Wood in Vogue magazine; the evening coat is now in the collection of the V&A:
Rhodes became known as the Princess of Punk following her Spring 1977 torn and safety-pinned Conceptual Chic collection, which was partly inspired by Schiaparelli’s Tears dress.
By the 1980s Rhodes was designing for Princess Diana. The princess wore this pink chiffon dress, embellished with crystal beads and pearl droplets, during her 1986 state visit to Japan (now in the collection of Historic Royal Palaces):
In 1985, Style Patterns released a handful of Zandra Rhodes sewing patterns. Rhodes was among the first designers to be included in the company’s short-lived designer line. (See my earlier posts on Bruce Oldfield and Frederick Fox.)
Style 4399 is a pattern for a wedding or evening dress in two lengths with characteristic serated frill:
Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Lined Wedding Dress or Evening Dress in Two Lengths — Dress has shoulder yoke with serrated frill and pointed cape effect on bodice. Skirt has elasticated waistline. Model 1 bead trim is used on yoke and neck tie. Suggested fabrics: Lightweight silk types, crepe de chine, chiffon, shantung, lace, voile, batiste, organza. Lining: Jap silk, crepe de chine. Trim: wide ribbon and pearl beading or narrow ribbon.
Style 4400 is an off-the-shoulder wedding or bridesmaid’s dress with separate petticoat:
The envelope description reads: Misses’ Half-Lined Wedding Dress or Bridesmaid’s Dress and Petticoat — Dress has flounced bodice with elasticated waist. Skirt has layered net frills, with gathered net and ribbon trim. Bride and bridesmaid’s dress has petticoat in fabric and net. Suggested fabrics: Dress, Models 1 and 2: Organza, voile, silk or synthetic sheers, lightweight lace. Lining: silk types, taffeta, satin (nap irrelevant). Net or tulle: silk, nylon. Trim: wide ribbon, sequin trim, narrow ribbon.
The third dress design, Style 4400, has a low back décolletage and multi-tiered skirt:
You can see the same pattern with updated envelope here.
Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Dress in Two Lengths — Dress has fitted bodice with elasticated waistline. Models 1 and 3 have bodice frill to waistline. Model 2 has shorter bodice frill. Models 1 and 2 have four-tiered skirt flounce. Model 3 has three-tiered skirt flounce. Suggested fabrics: Chiffon, georgette, voile, silk or synthetic sheers, organza. Also: lightweight lining fabric. Trim: wide ribbon; pearl trim (views 1 and 2).
The designs seem to be from Rhodes’ Spring 1985 collection, Images of Woman:
The trim and fabric specifications are catalogues of girliness: lightweight, floaty fabrics to be trimmed with the ribbon, sequins, and pearls. I love how Style 4495 suggests lining fabric as an alternative—perhaps with a budget-conscious youth market in mind.
For more on Zandra Rhodes, see the V&A’s article.
July 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
Iman (b. 1955) turns sixty today. Born Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid in Mogadishu, Somalia, she and her family fled to Kenya after the 1969 military coup, where she was discovered while a student in Nairobi by photographer Peter Beard. She soon became the first African supermodel, later founding Iman Cosmetics. (For more on Iman’s early career, watch Vogue Italia’s video interview, or read a 2014 Guardian profile here.)
Iman can be seen on a handful of Vogue Patterns, circa 1980, as well as pattern editorials in Vogue Patterns and Vogue magazine.
From Jean Muir, Vogue 2399 is a long-sleeved, blouson dress with matching scarf:
Vogue 2400 is an Emanuel Ungaro skirt suit with striped, quilted jacket and tucked blouse:
From Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue 2404 is a skirt suit with contrast standing collar and turn-back cuffs:
(Reposted from the Fashion Spot Iman thread.)
On the left, Iman wears Vogue 7234 (the envelope shows Gia Carangi; with Bjornson in Vogue 7392); on the right, her wrap-front blouse is Very Easy Vogue 7373 (with Bjornson in Vogue 7435 – click to enlarge):
Just for fun, here’s another early Iman cover from the same period as her commercial pattern work (photographer unknown; later used by German Cosmo):
Happy birthday, Iman!
With thanks to vegas4001 for the Vogue Italia photographer credit.
November 30, 2014 § 3 Comments
To mark this month’s anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, here’s a look at three postwar German designers who licensed their work to Vogue Patterns.
Celebrity milliner Mr. John was born Hans Harberger in Munich. He moved to New York in the 1920s, opening a salon with partner Frederick Hirst; the Mr. John salon was founded when the milliner went solo in 1948. (On the complex history of Mr. John’s name and label see my Mad Men-era millinery post, or read his obituary in the Independent.) Mr. John hat patterns were available from Vogue in the 1950s. Vogue 7909 is a beret that dips to a point on one side, with an optional chin strap:
Born in Hamburg, Alke Boker moved to New York City in the 1970s after the death of her husband. She spent a few years designing for Pierre Cardin before founding her own label in the early 1980s. This Vogue Individualist pattern includes a pullover, bias dress with seven-eighths sleeves and separate hood. The model is Wanakee Pugh:
Also from Hamburg, Karl Lagerfeld made his career in Paris, working as head designer at Patou and Chloé before establishing his own company in 1984. Vogue Patterns soon made a licensing agreement for Lagerfeld sewing patterns which continued into the 1990s. From 1989, Vogue 2407 is a formal dress-and-overdress ensemble that can be tied in front or back:
The Berlin fashion photos in this post are by West German photographer F.C. Gundlach. Click the link to visit the foundation devoted to his work, or the photos to read more about his fashion photography.
November 28, 2014 § 7 Comments
With her Fall 2014 collection, Donna Karan celebrated the 30th anniversary of her label. This new series marks this milestone with highlights of almost three decades of Donna Karan sewing patterns.
Donna Karan (b. 1948) was born Donna Faske in Queens, New York to parents in the fashion industry. She attended Parsons School of Design before beginning her career at Anne Klein. In 1984, after over fifteen years at Anne Klein, Karan left to launch her own label. Her first collection, Seven Easy Pieces, explored the concept of layering mix-and-match pieces over a ‘body’ (a snap-crotch bodysuit) and laid the foundation for her brand. (See a New York Times timeline here.)
Vogue Patterns’ licensing began two years after Seven Easy Pieces. Karan was introduced to readers in the September/October 1987 (or Autumn 1987) issue of Vogue Patterns magazine:
In an editorial photographed by Benoit Malphettes, Suzanne Lanza models the four new patterns for a Donna Karan wardrobe. The designs were from the current, Fall/Winter 1987-88 collection (see Bernadine Morris, “Beene and Karan Redefine Today’s Luxury” or watch a runway video on YouTube):
(Scans via Top Models of the World.)
Vogue 1958 is a bias coat and draped, long-sleeved dress:
Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Coat & Dress. Very loose-fitting, unlined, A-Line, bias coat, above mid-knee, has front extending into standing back neckline and long sleeves. No Provision for Above-Waist Adjustment. Tapered dress, above mid-knee, has draped neckline extending into collar and long sleeves, shoulder pads, front pleated and gathered waist, side front pockets, front zipper (skirt), underarm gusset and elasticized back waist (no seam).
A black, wool knit version of the Vogue 1958 dress is in the collection of the Museum at FIT, where it was featured in the 2008 exhibition Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion:
Vogue 1960 is a double-breasted jacket with elasticized back detail. The design was also featured on the fall magazine cover shown above:
The envelope description reads: Misses’ Jacket. Loose-fitting, lined, below hip, double-breasted jacket has notched collar, shoulder pads, welt and buttonhole pockets, side back seams, elasticized, side back-button tab and long, two-piece sleeves with button vent. Purchased top.
Vogue 1961 may look like a set of tops, but it’s really two tops—one bias, the other for stretch knits—and a bodysuit:
Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Top and Bodysuit. Loose fitting top has long sleeves. A: wrap, bias, draped front extends to tucked back collar, attached to tie ends. B: mock front wrap, shoulder pads, tucked front extends into single layer tie ends (wrong side may show) and back zipper. Bodysuit has notched collar, dropped shoulders, shoulder pads, mock front band, yoke with forward shoulder seams, very loose fitting blouson bodice, back pleat, elastic (seamed) waist, and lower edge, snap crotch closing and long sleeves with placket, pleats and button cuffs. Purchased trim.
Vogue 1962 provides the bottoms shown on Vogue 1961: a high-waisted skirt and softly pleated skirt or pants:
The envelope description reads: Misses’ Skirt, Pants & Stole. Straight or tapered skirt (no side seams), above mid-knee or tapered pants have back zipper. No provision for shortening or lengthening for skirt B. A: bias front, no waistband, and side back seams. B: lined. Skirt B, Pants: front pleats, partially elasticized waistband and pockets. Single layer stole has narrow hem. Purchased top.
Just for fun, here’s a Patrick Demarchelier editorial photo of Paulina Porizkova in an ensemble from the Fall 1987 collection:
Next in the series: Donna Karan patterns from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
August 28, 2014 § 5 Comments
Krizia was already an established label when McCall’s licensed Krizia patterns in the late 1970s. Designer Mariuccia Mandelli (b. 1933) co-founded the company with her friend Flora Dolci in the 1950s, naming it after Plato’s unfinished dialogue Κριτίας (Critias)—Crizia in Italian. The label is known for eclectic, youthful designs that play with pattern and contrast. (For recent coverage of the brand and its influence see the W article, Crazy for Krizia.)
From spring 1979, this two-page spread in L’Officiel shows three Krizia trouser ensembles featuring magenta, orange, and fuchsia satins (click to enlarge):
This Krizia sweater set (short-sleeved pullover, bolero, and skirt) appeared in a Vogue editorial on the new knitwear:
Between 1979 and 1981, McCall’s released a number of Krizia patterns, including a few children’s patterns. Here’s a selection of Krizia patterns for women’s wear.
McCall’s 6624 is a bias wrap skirt and playsuit with shorts and bodice pleated into a midriff band:
McCall’s 6629 combines a short-sleeved, V-neck bodysuit with a midi-length trouser skirt and wrap shorts:
This pattern is a set of four tops for stretch knits:
McCall’s 6805 is Krizia’s take on the wrap dress, with soft pleats at the shoulder and neckline and lightly puffed sleeves in long and three-quarter lengths:
This sleek skirt suit, reminiscent of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, pairs a straight skirt with a fitted jacket with shaped hemline and two-piece sleeves with pleated caps. The notched collar has an optional lapel buttonhole:
From 1980, this casual summer ensemble includes bias shorts or culottes and two tops trimmed with tubular knit:
The more formal McCall’s 7307 is a pattern for polished separates: a jacket with two-piece sleeves, skirt in 2 lengths, and flowing, cuffed pants with matching camisole:
Just for fun, here are two more images from Krizia’s Fall 1979 advertising campaign, photographed by Barry Ryan:
Coming soon: my version of the Krizia playsuit.