April 14, 2014 § 1 Comment
With Mad Men entering its final season, my Mad Men-era series concludes with two posts on fashion designers whose work became available to home sewers in the mid-Sixties. (Browse the series by clicking the Mad Men era tag, or start at the beginning.)
Before the Vogue Americana line there was McCall’s New York Designers’ Collection. In the fall of 1965, McCall’s introduced a new pattern line: New York Designers’ Collection plus 1. (The “plus 1” refers to one foreign designer, Digby Morton; later, as McCall’s added designers to the line, it became “New York Designers’ Collection Plus.”)
The Fall/Winter 1965 issue of McCall’s Pattern Fashions & Home Decorating introduced readers to the new designers. According to the catalogue, the new line featured “the most outstanding fashions of seven leading American designers and one famous London couturier” (click to enlarge):
The original list of designers consisted of Larry Aldrich, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Laird-Knox, Digby Morton, Originala, Mollie Parnis, and Pauline Trigère, whose agreement with McCall’s dated to the mid-1950s. (Trigère was already featured in an earlier Mad Men era post.) Later additions would include Anne Klein, Jacques Tiffeau, and Rudi Gernreich.
This post looks at three of the best-known American designers in McCall’s new line: Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and Anne Klein.
Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Bill Blass (1922-2002) showed an early talent for fashion design, studying briefly at Parsons before enlisting in the U.S. military in 1942. After the war he returned to New York to work in the fashion industry; by 1959 he was head designer for Maurice Rentner—then a conservative, established Seventh Avenue label. (McCall’s patterns credit the designer as ‘Bill Blass for Maurice Rentner, Ltd.’) In 1970 he purchased the company and renamed it Bill Blass Ltd. Blass was known for his sophisticated but youthful designs favoured by high society. He retired in 1999.
McCall’s 8927 is an asymmetrical, sleeveless shift dress with applied bands and an inverted pleat on the left-hand side:
Born in Louisiana as Samuel Robert Bozeman Jr., Geoffrey Beene (1924-2004) trained at the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York and École de la Chambre Syndicale in Paris, where he also apprenticed with a tailor. Returning to New York, he worked at Harmay and Teal Traina before founding his own company in 1963. Beene was renowned for his innovative, modern designs, as well as his iconoclasm.
Veronica Hamel models McCall’s 1028, a dress cut in seven panels with seven-eighths kimono sleeves and triangular, bias collar:
Born in Brooklyn as Hannah Golofsky, Anne Klein (1923-1974) also trained at the Traphagen School of Fashion. The pioneer in American sportswear worked in petites and juniors before founding Anne Klein and Company in the late 1960s. Her final collection was completed by Donna Karan, who had begun work at the company in the summer of 1967 as Klein’s intern.
McCall’s 1020 is a sleeveless shift dress with angular armholes and fabulous standing (and convertible) collar. The model is Hellevi Keko:
All three New York designers would later make the switch to Vogue Patterns: Blass in 1967, Beene and Klein in the 1970s.
June 25, 2012 § 8 Comments
Wimbledon kicks off today. In honour of the world’s oldest tennis tournament, here’s a selection of patterns for playing the most fashionable sport.
Modern tennis fashion really got underway in the 1920s, when tennis became a popular leisure activity and couturiers like Chanel, Patou, and Vionnet designed tennis wear to meet the demand for fashionable luxury sportswear. (For more on ’20s tennis fashion see the Voguepedia article Tennis Dressing.)
Typically, sewing patterns for tennis outfits show a woman holding a tennis racquet. The Deco cover of the McCall Style News shown at the top of this post portrays McCall 5277 as a dress for tennis, but the pattern envelope doesn’t advertise its suitability for sports. The illustration simply shows a day dress with the skirt pleated in front; the handkerchief collar and scarf girdle are optional:
In the early 1930s, sports dresses had lower hemlines, but could be worn unbuttoned in the back, like this McCall’s sports dress from 1933:
This pattern was illustrated on the cover of the Spring 1934 McCall Fashion Book:
(Catalogue image courtesy of Judy Yates of Vintage4me2.)
Playsuits and shorts became fashionable tennis wear after American tennis champion Alice Marble wore shorts to a professional match in 1932. These McCall’s sports separates include a tennis outfit with high-waisted shorts:
Lauren of Wearing History has made the McCall 9180 trousers; you can see a photo by clicking the pattern image.
The ‘masculine’ shorts trend continued into wartime, which also saw a return to the sports dress. This Advance tennis dress has a front zipper and inverted pleat, and includes panties for underneath:
In the postwar period tennis dresses or skirts, pleated or plain, became the standard tennis wear. The silhouettes reflected current trends, but with higher hemlines, as with this tennis dress with pleated skirt and cinched waist:
This Vogue tennis dress is a shorter version of the day dress also included in the pattern (check out the vintage camera):
Tennis hemlines are rising with these Vogue sports separates, which include a sleeveless blouse, shorts, and tennis skirt:
More perky pleats on this early 1960s tennis dress from McCall’s:
The popularity of tennis in the 1970s prompted the release of a wide variety of tennis patterns, for dresses, visors, and even racquet covers and other accessories. Vogue Patterns licensed tennis wear from Anne Klein, Penfold, and Anne Klein for Penfold (illustrated on the June 1976 news cover here). These Vogue Patterns magazine covers show an Anne Klein tennis outfit in action and Regine Jaffrey modelling a Vogue tennis shirt and visor:
Butterick licensed designs by women’s tennis champion Chris Evert, including this pattern for a tennis dress, briefs, and visor:
Karen Bjornson models this Penfold set consisting of a sleeveless tennis dress, t-shirt, shorts, and wrap miniskirt:
It’s interesting how the history of women’s tennis wear is a history of female athletes pushing the envelope: from May Sutton Bundy’s rolled-up sleeves, in 1905, and Suzanne Lenglen’s higher hemlines, to Alice Marble’s shorts and Serena Williams’ recent subversion (with hot pink briefs) of the rule of Wimbledon whites. (See a Guardian Wimbledon slideshow here and Vogue’s tennis slideshow here.) Women’s tennis fashions insist on femininity while offering an escape from modesty.
August 8, 2011 § 7 Comments
It’s been a very hot summer here in Toronto. The Toronto Standard’s recent article on nearby Sunnyside Beach is a reminder of how Torontonians coped with high temperatures in the days before air conditioning. The stretch of Lake Ontario shoreline known as Sunnyside Beach was a popular bathing spot from the early 20th century on, and the beach’s popularity was given a boost with the opening of Sunnyside Amusement Park in 1922. The amusement park was mostly demolished in 1955 to make room for the Gardiner Expressway, but some of the original structures remain, including the boat house and dance hall Palais Royale and the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion.
Vintage beachwear patterns open a similar window onto summers past. What women wore to the beach can seem to encapsulate an era, both because beachwear is an especially trend-driven category of women’s wear and because of the attitudes to the female body it often reveals. In this post you’ll find a selection of beachwear patterns from the 1930s to the 1980s.* Enjoy!
Here’s a late thirties Vogue pattern from the Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA). Follow the image link for CoPA’s virtual exhibition on swimwear patterns.
The 1930s also saw a fashion for beach pajamas, lounge wear for days at the beach. This illustration from McCall’s magazine shows new patterns for beach fashions. The first pattern is for a kerchief top, dolman jacket and beach trousers, the second makes a gorgeous beach wrap:
- (You can see the accompanying text in this Etsy listing.) Here are a couple early ’30s McCall patterns for beach pajamas:
Simplicity’s promotional material calls this late ’30s halter design “a pajama ensemble for sun-tan fans.” (See linked wiki page for repro information.)
The forties saw the rise of two-piece bathing suits with pinup-style, high-waisted skirts or tap pants for the bottoms. Vogue 9046 is an early but typical ’40s swimsuit. (See linked wiki page for repro information.)
This McCall design is for a cute tie-back, halter top style with pleated bottoms:
I found this transitional late ’40s pattern through Oodles and oodles’ series on the patterns of sisters Alice and Edna. It’s one of my favourites:
Fifties beachwear shows the same silhouettes and details as the decade’s women’s wear. The cover-up in this mid-’50s pattern is basically a shorter version of a wasp-waisted, full-skirted fifties day dress (but check out the crazy tiki hat):
In 1957 Emilio Pucci did a series of designs for McCall’s that included this skirted, strapless bathing suit:
(Wade Laboissonniere includes a McCall’s photo of the Pucci pattern in his Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1950s, p. 127.)
This sarong style of swimsuit carried over into the early ’60s:
Early sixties swimsuit patterns tend to be variations on the modest two-piece with shorts or boy-cut briefs. Here’s the pattern image for the early ’60s beach kimono pictured at the top of this post. The pattern also included a one- or two-piece bathing suit:
Vogue 6212 includes a babydoll beach dress and a hat similar to the one worn by Jessica Paré as Megan in Season 4 of Mad Men:
Two-pieces seem to have made the decisive shift to bikinis in the later 1960s:
Seventies swimwear showed sleeker lines, still with a lower-cut leg. Maxi cover-ups came into fashion as the decade progressed. Here’s a fabulous early ’70s Vogue one-piece (with a ’60s-style hat and cover-up):
During the ’70s Vogue Patterns also released designer swimwear patterns by Catalina and Penfold (including Anne Klein for Penfold). The bikinis are actually pretty classic:
Eighties swimwear had a new, higher-cut leg and favoured the high-contrast brights and prints typical of the decade. Oleg Cassini’s line of patterns for Simplicity included this one-piece swimsuit with pareo:
Brooke Shields also licensed some designs with McCall’s, including a few swimwear patterns. Here’s the one that hits the most ’80s trends:
And in case you needed instruction in swimwear sewing techniques, Vogue Patterns had a book for you:
*For those interested in pre-1930s swimwear patterns, you can see a repro pattern for a 19th century bathing costume here; some early 20th century bathing suit patterns here and here; and some 1920s swimsuit patterns here and here.