Make the Clothes that Make the Woman (Part 2)

August 4, 2014 § 2 Comments

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or are a connoisseur of 1950s sewing advertising, you’ve seen images from McCall’s mid-1950s “Make the Clothes that Make the Woman” advertising campaign. (See my earlier post here.)

I’ve found another ad from the campaign. The model is Jean Patchett, and the pattern is McCall’s 3635 —an “Italian drawstring top” and “saucy in-between-length Jamaican shorts” (click to enlarge):

Advertisement for McCall's Printed Patterns, 1956. Model: Jean Patchett.

Advertisement for McCall’s Printed Patterns, 1956. Model: Jean Patchett.

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?

Make the Clothes that Make the Woman

August 23, 2013 § 23 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:

McCall's 3562 - McCall's advertisement advert 1956.

McCall’s advertisement, 1956.

The September ad shows Dovima on a trip to Paris, before a mustachioed gendarme. The pattern is McCall’s 3785 by Givenchy:

1950s Givenchy pattern, McCall's 3785 - McCall's advertisement advert September 1956.

McCall’s advertisement, September 1956.

Another travel-themed ad shows McCall’s 3790 with some whimsically stacked luggage:

McCall's 3790 - advertisement advert 1956

McCall’s advertisement, 1956.

This 1957 ad featuring McCall’s 3952 shows a well-dressed tug-of-war:

McCall's 3952 advertisement advert February 1957

McCall’s advertisement, February 1957. Image via Allposters.com.

This Valentine’s Day-themed ad appeared in Vogue’s March 1957 issue. (The pattern is McCall’s 3967.) The model is Suzy Parker:

McCall's 3967 advertisement advert March 1957

McCall’s advertisement, March 1957.

This spring ad shows McCall’s 4046 by James Galanos:

McCall's 4046 advertisement advert April 1957

McCall’s advertisement, April 1957.

In the ad for May 1957, the binocular-wielding model wears an “Instant” dress, McCall’s 4070:

McCall's 4070 advertisement advert May 1957

McCall’s advertisement, May 1957.

This late summer ad looks forward to fall’s collegiate sports games. The design is by Claire McCardell, McCall’s 4208:

1950s Claire McCardell pattern McCall's 4208 advertisement advert August 1957

McCall’s advertisement, August 1957.

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?

Surrealist Summer, 1939

June 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

On the cover of the McCall Style News for July 1939:

Illustration of headless mannequins catching butterflies - late 1930s McCall Style News

McCall Style News, July 1939.

(The illustration shows McCall 3319, a set of boleros.)

Mirror, Mirror

January 10, 2013 § 4 Comments

Edwardian lady reflected in a mirror - McCall 1909 ad illustration detail

Happy New Year, everyone! This year I look forward to sharing more of my original pattern research and sewing projects, including my ’40s cape, an over-the-top ’70s Dior, and two by Alexander McQueen. For the moment I’ve been temporarily sucked back into academia, so my first post of 2013 is an images post.

Advertising for home sewing often involves women and mirror images. Promotional illustrations will show a woman standing before a mirror, or contemplating her reflection, as on these leaflets from Butterick and McCall:

Illustration of a woman in evening dress before a mirror - 1930s Butterick Fashion News cover

Butterick Fashion News, December 1936. Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

A woman in a coat with leopard trim contemplates her reflection - 1940 McCall Style News cover

McCall Style News, September 1940. Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

An Edwardian McCall’s ad shows an interesting variation: the mirror reflects a fashion plate, the idealized, well-dressed woman the dressmaker will become through her labour. The slogan spells out the idea of wish-fulfilment, promising the home dressmaker that she can “realize her dreams” with McCall’s patterns:

McCall1909slogan

The fashion plate also serves to promote a McCall’s pattern. Here is the full illustration:

McCall 1909 image of woman in mirror

Detail, advertisement for McCall’s magazine, 1909.

I know this isn’t the only sewing ad I’ve seen based on this concept. Can you think of others?

In other news, PatternVault is now on Twitter! Follow me for updates on the blog, shop, and vintage and designer fashion.

Slant-O-Matic for the Holidays

December 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

I wanted to share this holiday-themed, Mad Men-era advertisement for Singer Slant-O-Matic sewing machines and Singer Sewing Centers:

Singer advert 1960 showing Sara Thom in a Pauline Trigère evening gown, McCall's 5588

What’s the newest slant on holiday sewing? Singer Sewing Centers advertisement, 1960.

Like the other ads in the series (see my earlier post here), the ad plays with scale while serving up some mid-century aspirational marketing. The copy promotes the Slant-O-Matic’s slanted needle and how it helps dressmakers sew special fabrics into submission.

The model is Sara Thom; her evening gown in grape and fuchsia taffeta is a McCall’s exclusive by Pauline Trigère, McCall’s 5588.

1960 Pauline Trigère pattern modelled by Sara Thom, McCall's 5588. Singer Sewing Centers ad, 1960.

McCall’s 5588 by Pauline Trigère. Detail, Singer Sewing Centers ad, 1960.

Zig-Zag Glamour

October 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

Speaking of aspirational marketing, I wanted to share this early ’60s, Mad Men-era ad for Singer’s Slant-O-Matic sewing machines and Singer Sewing Centers:

1960s Singer Sewing Centers ad showing a woman in evening wear leaning on a giant Singer Slant-O-Matic sewing machine

What is zig-zag sewing? Singer Sewing Centers advertisement, 1961.

The ad shows a model (Dovima?) in full evening dress, complete with long gloves and glittering parure; she leans on a monumental Singer Slant-O-Matic sewing machine, a length of her gown’s green fabric rippling underneath.

According to the ad copy, zig-zag sewing is an exciting, time-saving innovation that helps you sew drapes, mend Johnny’s shirts, and choose complicated designer sewing patterns without a second thought. The eveningwear design is a Vogue Paris Original by Nina Ricci, Vogue 1499.

I love how the ad plays with scale while juxtaposing mid-century high glamour with the latest sewing technology. The other ads I’ve seen from this series promote formal sewing for the winter holidays, but this one is from the June/July Vogue Pattern Book.

Singer 1961 detail

Vogue 1499 by Nina Ricci. Detail, Singer Sewing Centers ad, 1961.

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