May 5, 2014 § 5 Comments
As part of its current exhibition, Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is sharing a pattern for a one-seam coat designed by Patrick Kelly in 1984. (See my post on Patrick Kelly’s Vogue patterns here.)
After Kelly moved to Paris in 1979, he worked as a costume designer for Le Palace nightclub while also selling his coats on the sidewalk of the Boulevard Saint-Germain. When he secured a stall at Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, the famous Porte de Clignancourt flea market, his raw-edged jersey tube dresses caught the attention of his first backer, Françoise Chassagnac of Victoire. Thanks to Chassagnac’s connections, Kelly’s entire collection was featured in Elle magazine:
Although the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s coat dates to 1985, the design is the same as those Kelly sold on the Boulevard Saint-Germain.
Kelly’s one-seam coat would become a recurring feature in the designer’s work. A rethinking of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s iconic 1961 one-seam coat, it may have been inspired by Issey Miyake’s cocoon coat—Kelly was once the house guest of Miyake’s publicist, Victoria Rivière, in Paris.
The original coat is a quilted cotton knit. It has a simple revers opening in front, box pleats in the back, and batwing sleeves formed by the shoulder seam:
These technical drawings show the coat front and back:
Size: One size fits all
Fabric requirements: About 3.5 yards (3.2 m) of 60″ (~150 cm) fabric
Recommended fabrics: Fabrics with a good hand and drape, e.g. double knits and double-faced fabrics. The original is a quilted single knit.
Finished length: 52″ (132 cm)
Pattern length from top to bottom: 57.5″ (146 cm)
Tips, caveats: No separate instructions; scale and seam allowances are not marked. The coat must be cut on the cross grain. The original coat has a simple turn and stitch finish, with a sleeve binding piece for the sleeve openings.
A Parisian friend of Kelly’s has posted instructions to make a doll-scale version based on her Patrick Kelly original.
Thanks to Monica Brown, Senior Collections Assistant, Costume and Textiles, for answering questions about the project, and Paula M. Sim, Costume and Textiles intern, for drafting the pattern.
April 29, 2014 § 5 Comments
This past weekend, the exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love opened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Read WWD’s coverage here.) The show is the second Patrick Kelly retrospective since the designer’s death from AIDS in 1990. (The first was the Brooklyn Museum’s Patrick Kelly: A Retrospective in 2004.)
Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Patrick Kelly (1954-1990) found success as an expatriate in Paris: he was the first American, and also the first black designer, to be elected to the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter. Much of Kelly’s work references his southern, African-American heritage through the use of vibrant colour, buttons and bows, and reappropriated black memorabilia motifs such as watermelons and golliwogs. (Patrick Kelly shopping bags emblazoned with his golliwog logo, as seen in the above photo, were deemed too controversial to be used in the United States.)
Between 1988 and 1991, Vogue Patterns licensed Patrick Kelly designs, first in the Individualist line and later as Paris Originals. Here is a selection of Patrick Kelly sewing patterns, grouped by collection.
1. Patrick Kelly Spring/Summer 1988 prêt-à-porter
Vogue Patterns’ licensing began with Kelly’s Spring/Summer 1988 collection, his first under contract with Warnaco. This collection played with the culture and racial stereotypes of the American south. (Watch a YouTube video of the collection starting here.) Vogue 2077, the first of several Patrick Kelly patterns featuring African-American model Gail O’Neill, is a flamboyant peplum suit with back bow:
The suit seems to have made the cover of Vogue Patterns magazine:
Vogue 2078 is a tiered, off-the-shoulder dress for stretch knits:
More knit dresses from this collection can be seen in this photo by Oliviero Toscani, the photographer best known for his controversial Benetton ads:
2. Patrick Kelly Fall/Winter 1988-89 prêt-à-porter
Variations on the heart motif characterized Kelly’s Fall 1988 collection, entitled More Love; the collection was later included in “Heart Strings,” a touring fundraiser for the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). Vogue 2165 is a long-sleeved, colour-blocked dress with heart-shaped bodice:
A version with red contrast can be seen in Toscani’s ad campaign; the red bodice also appeared in the bridal look that closed the collection. Given the ‘love’ theme, it’s surprising that the red version was not photographed for the Vogue pattern:
Vogue 2304, a stretch-knit dress with Kelly’s trademark buttons applied in a rainbow triangle, is visible in the Toscani photo at the top of this post:
3. Patrick Kelly Spring/Summer 1989 prêt-à-porter
Having just been elected to the Chambre syndicale in June 1988, Kelly showed a Mona Lisa-themed collection for Spring 1989 in the courtyard of the Louvre. Vogue 2286 is a pattern for a full skirt, wide-legged pants, and a double-breasted top with notched shawl collar:
The red version of the top can be seen in this campaign photo by Oliviero Toscani:
4. Patrick Kelly Fall/Winter 1989 prêt-à-porter
Presented the year of the bicentenary of French Revolution, Kelly’s final collection was conceived as a celebration of France and America. Vogue 2385 is a shawl-effect dress designed for stretch knits; the contrast front inset extends into a shoulder drape. The illustration’s red drape version may be seen in Runway of Love:
The grey stripe version was featured in the Fall/Winter 1989 ad campaign:
Vogue 2556 is a button-studded ensemble consisting of jacket, skirt, and coat. The design requires forty-one buttons for the jacket alone:
The Vogue 2556 jacket and skirt were photographed for this Apollo Landing-themed campaign image:
A hot pink version, included in the Philadelphia exhibit, has a matching hat and cape, and rainbow buttons:
Despite covering only two years, the sewing patterns are an excellent sample of Kelly’s bold and playful work.
Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love runs through November 30th, 2014.
January 19, 2014 § 10 Comments
I had planned to make the dress in my default black, and had even bought some mesh for the contrast cowl neck. But when I started looking back over runway photos from Givenchy’s neo-noir Fall 1998 ready-to-wear collection, I was struck by the palette of neutrals, electric blue, and especially the combination of oxblood with red.
(There’s a blue version of the original sleeveless dress on eBay. The dress fabric is a nylon/acetate/elastane blend, with acetate lining, and the back zipper reaches all the way up through the cowl.)
I made View B, the sleeveless, mid-calf version, in oxblood with a red cowl neck. I hit Designer Fabrics and found some oxblood wool, red mesh for the contrast cowl, and Bemberg for the lining. The pattern recommends chiffon for the contrast, but I wanted to stick with the mesh used for the runway version. I was a little stumped as to interfacing for the contrast, and even bought some tomato red tricot to use before learning that the best interfacing for mesh is more mesh.
I wanted a close fit, so I ignored the sizing and went by the finished garment measurements printed on the pattern, including 1″ ease at bust and waist and a little more in the hips. I also lengthened the skirt by 1.5″ to achieve the correct length.
This was my first dart-fitted dress, and I had fun sewing my very first contour darts—eventually realizing the virtues of even a makeshift tailor’s ham. The cowl neck is cut on the bias, but this didn’t pose any problems, since the mesh handles much better than chiffon.
With the full lining and absolutely no stretch, the dress feels very old-fashioned to wear. One thing I misjudged was the bodice/cowl part of the bodice—I cut the right size in the bust, but didn’t distribute the extra waist length I was adding between the above-waist and shoulder areas, so it’s a bit on the high side and the cowl neck has a closer fit than in the runway photo. It would have been simpler to cut a size up and take the bodice in at the sides. The “interfaced” mesh is also a little bulky; the extra layer was probably unnecessary.
Since the Fall 1998 collection was inspired by Blade Runner, it seemed appropriate to take photos of the dress at the David Cronenberg: Evolution exhibition at TIFF Bell Lightbox. In the Interzone area, devoted to Naked Lunch (1991), visitors could have their photo taken with a Mugwump:
Naomi took some photos of me upstairs at an extension of the Cronenberg show called Body/Mind/Change (BMC). Visitors to the biotech facility BMC Labs can observe the production of personalized POD (Personal On-Demand) implants, which are held awaiting pickup by their hosts. The BMC Labs facility is still open if you’d like to create your own POD implant:
Here I am in the POD holding area:
A closer view of the mesh cowl neck:
The cowl fastens in the back with hooks and thread eyes:
The lab staff let me hold a brand-new red POD (rara avis—most are colourless):
We were delighted to find BMC Labs at the end of our visit: it was the perfect backdrop for the dress given McQueen’s futuristic, sci-fi inspiration for his collection for Givenchy. I’m crossing my fingers for a red POD of my own…
January 14, 2014 § 11 Comments
Diane von Fürstenberg’s wrap dress celebrates its 40th anniversary this month. The famous dress, which officially made its debut in January, 1974, is being fêted with Journey of a Dress, an exhibition of 200 wrap dresses at the Wilshire May Company building in Los Angeles:
Von Fürstenberg relaunched her label in 1997 after realizing that her vintage wrap dresses were enjoying a new popularity among young women. The advertising campaign for the relaunch shows Danielle Z. in different wrap dresses, including this leopard print version (click the image for a style.com article with slideshow):
Vogue Patterns introduced Diane Von Furstenberg patterns with great fanfare in the fall of 1976. The designer herself modelled a wrap dress on the magazine cover, and there was even a special sew-in label and tie-in with Cohama fabrics. (More on the fabrics at The Vintage Traveler.)
The punning headline of the 1976 magazine feature, “The Princess and Her Prints,” refers to her first marriage to Egon von Fürstenberg, of the Prussian princes of Fürstenberg (she capitalized the ‘von’ for her label):
Vogue’s Diane Von Furstenberg patterns included several wrap dresses. The 1970s patterns were all in the Very Easy Vogue line, and most were for stretchable knits.
The long-sleeved Vogue 1548 may be worn in two ways, forward or backward. The young Renee Russo is the model:
Karen Bjornson models Vogue 1549, a wrap dress with buttoned cuffs and optional collar. This design also works for woven fabrics:
The following year Vogue Patterns released a half-size version for petites, Vogue 1679. The first set of patterns was photographed by Chris von Wangenheim:
Here’s the back-wrap view of Vogue 1548 on the cover of the December catalogue:
Vogue 1610 may be made sleeveless or short-sleeved with faux cuffs. I’ve made this for Naomi, and it’s incredibly versatile:
Vogue 1853 has full, cuffed sleeves in a choice of long or elbow length. Christie Brinkley modelled the long-sleeved version:
Vogue 2517, a colour-blocked, front-wrapped dress designed for two colour contrasts, was photographed by Patrick Demarchelier. (This one is technically a mock-wrap dress.) The model is Chris Royer:
Tara Shannon models Vogue 1486, an ’80s wrap dress with pleated skirt, shaped hemline, and dolman sleeves:
Discussions of the DVF wrap dress always seem to centre on questions of contemporary femininity. Even the promotional bio on the envelope flap promises dressmakers they’ll “feel like a woman”:
This Vogue Patterns editorial photo of the Vogue 1610 wrap dress similarly promotes the idea of femininity in the workplace. With the caption “Soft Dressing for Hard Schedules,” it shows Karen Bjornson, glasses in hand, being delivered flowers at the office:
I was tickled to learn that Amy Adams wears three Diane Von Furstenberg dresses in American Hustle—two vintage and one contemporary. Apparently David O. Russell was obsessed with the green print version worn by von Fürstenberg on the cover of Newsweek, and costume designer Michael Wilkinson was able to source the vintage original for the film (see Financial Times story with slideshow here, or click the image for a Variety costumes story with video):
Have you sewn from a Diane Von Furstenberg pattern?
November 17, 2013 § 6 Comments
The current exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum, The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon, celebrates the museum’s 10th anniversary with a retrospective of the British fashion house. If you’re in the London area this week you can bring in your Bellville pieces, including versions sewn from Vogue Patterns, for evaluation by David Sassoon at the event “Bring out your Bellville.” (The exhibition runs until January 11th, 2014.)
Belinda Bellville founded her eponymous couture house in 1953, and recruited David Sassoon in 1958; the Bellville Sassoon name dates to 1970. Following Bellville’s retirement in the 1980s, Sassoon was joined by Lorcan Mullany as designer of the house’s ready-to-wear line. Vogue Patterns has been producing Bellville patterns since the late 1960s.
Bellville Sassoon is unusual for having no licensing apart from its long-running sewing patterns with Vogue. (See Libby Banks, “Loosening a Fashion Stiff Upper Lip.”) This has the effect of giving the patterns a special prominence. As Suzy Menkes observes, although Bellville Sassoon is perhaps best known for its society wedding gowns and association with the British royal family, the sewing patterns show the house’s “more democratic side.” (See Sinty Stemp, The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon [Antique Collectors' Club, 2009], which devotes a chapter to Vogue Patterns.) Even the couture-focused exhibition Glamour and Gowns: Couture by Belinda Bellville and Bellville Sassoon, which ran through October, 2013 at Holkham Hall (the ancestral seat of Bellville’s son-in-law), included Bellville sewing patterns.
Here is a selection of Belinda Bellville and Bellville Sassoon sewing patterns from the Sixties to now.
From early 1967, this Bellville evening ensemble includes an elegant, bow-trimmed jacket and A-line gown with optional beaded trim:
The bodice of this popular design for a short or long evening dress extends into a large bow in the slit back:
This high-waisted evening dress with waistcoat bodice could be made short, or above the ankle:
The back wrap on this bias dress creates a cowl neckline that becomes a V in the back. The model is Rosie Vela:
This dramatic, one-shouldered cocktail or evening dress has a draped, asymmetrical bodice with big bows at the hip and shoulder:
The volume in this strapless, ruffled formal dress is amplified by an attached ruffled petticoat:
A petticoat is also essential to this full-skirted, strapless party dress from the early 1990s. The bow detail at the bodice can be made in contrast fabric:
This evening dress with bias-banded bodice was photographed at Los Angeles’ Biltmore Hotel for the May/June 1997 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine, which also included an article by Claire Shaeffer on couture techniques for constructing the design:
Strong shoulders are achieved through extravagant sleeve rosettes on this recent Bellville Sassoon cocktail dress, which also features a piped and ruffle-trimmed neckline:
Current Vogue patterns, like this dress with draped and pleated bodice, show the designer as Lorcan Mullany for Bellville Sassoon:
As a teenager in the ’90s, one of the first things I made was a Bellville Sassoon corset top (from Vogue 1605). Have you sewn any Bellville patterns?
November 5, 2013 § 9 Comments
In the early 1980s, Sissons had an in-club boutique, Call Me Madam, at London’s Heaven nightclub, where Cannon hosted the Cha Cha’s club night. As Sissons later recalled, her early designs had “a high fashion punk influence,” with Call Me Madam catering to “the alternative types, such as Leigh Bowery, Boy George, dancers, entertainers, fire-eaters, pop stars…” For i-D’s 2012 profile of the designer, with recent and archival photos and video,
click the photo below (update: profile no longer online):
(The exhibition catalogue by Sonnet Stanfill is entitled 80s Fashion: From Club to Catwalk; on London club style see also Graham Smith’s photographic history, We Can Be Heroes: London Clubland, 1976-1984.)
The Scarlett Dress is a low-backed hobble dress with pleated hip drape and three-quarter sleeves. Inspired by Old Hollywood, the original was made in red stretch ciré jersey and worn to Cannon’s birthday celebrations at the Camden Palace and Bolts in North London.
Cannon lent the dress to the exhibition, where it’s styled to fall off the shoulder, accessorized with a Judy Blame bead necklace (Blame’s first piece: photo at Gilded Birds). You can see Cannon’s photos of the exhibition setup on her blog.
Size: UK size 12 with added ease (bust 93cm, waist 72cm, hip 96cm = bust 36 5/8″, waist 28 3/8″, hip 37 3/4″ approx.)
Recommended fabrics: stretch fabrics
Seam allowance: 1cm (3/8″)
Notions: 1.5cm (1/2″) shoulder pads
N.B.: It seems the download will be available only for the duration of the Club to Catwalk exhibition, which closes February 16th, 2014.
Update: The download is still available as of spring 2014.
Click here for the other instalments in my Free Designer Patterns series.
October 21, 2013 § 7 Comments
Thanks to Paco Peralta,* I received a review copy of the new book from Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària de Barcelona, Pedro Rodríguez: Catalogue of Maria Brillas’s Dresses. The museum’s collection of Pedro Rodríguez’ work was recently expanded when it acquired the wardrobe of Maria Brillas (1905-1992), a Barcelona society lady who dressed exclusively in Rodríguez for much of her life.
Brillas’ extensive wardrobe—over 300 pieces, from the 1920s to the 1970s—covers most of Rodríguez’ career, and in 2011 the collection was the subject of a major exhibition, ¿Qué me pongo? El guardarropa de Maria Brillas por Pedro Rodríguez (What to Wear? Maria Brillas’ wardrobe by Pedro Rodríguez). The book concludes the museum’s project of cataloguing the new collection.
As I found when preparing a brief discussion of Rodríguez for a Mad Men series post, it isn’t easy to find English-language studies of the designer and his work. Vintage sewing enthusiasts will be aware of Rodríguez through his licensed sewing patterns, which were available from Advance, Spadea, and especially Vogue Patterns in the 1950s and 1960s (click to enlarge):
Three short essays accompany the catalogue. Fashion historian Sílvia Rosés’ contribution, “Pedro Rodríguez: the Birth of a Fashion House and the Evolution of a Style,” gives readers an overview of Rodríguez’ 60-year career, with special attention to collections presented during the golden age of couture. Museum preservationist Sílvia Ventosa’s essay, “From the Wardrobe to the Museum: The Dresses of Maria Brillas in the Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària de Barcelona,” recounts the story of Brillas’ donation to the museum and its efforts in transferring her private wardrobe to a public, institutional context.
In “The Role of the Client in the Creation and Popularizing of New Trends,” Miren Arzalluz, who curated the 2011 exhibition, offers an intriguing perspective on the couturier-client relationship. Noting the long friendship between Maria Brillas and Pedro Rodríguez and the designer’s published observations on his clients’ role in the design process, she argues that “the relationship between designer and client was far richer, more complex and more fruitful than many people were willing to recognize” (67).
The book’s introductory material includes photographs of Pedro Rodríguez and models wearing his designs, but none of the client whose wardrobe the catalogue documents. Although an image gallery may be seen on the museum’s website, Brillas’ absence from the book feels like an oversight. In this photo taken in the 1950s, Maria Brillas dances with her husband at a formal event:
The catalogue proper is divided into eight sections organized by type; a brief summary introduces each section. There are five sections devoted to Rodríguez’ couture garments for Brillas: day dresses; suits and tailored ensembles; coats; cocktail or ceremonial dresses; and evening gowns. Here are some highlights:
Two sections are devoted to accessories, one for hats and the other for shoes, gloves, and bags. The hats are the earliest pieces in the catalogue, with many from the 1920s and 1930s. Some hats were produced at Rodríguez’ studio, while others were commissioned by him from prominent milliners. Brillas’ shoes were made to match her dresses.
The final section documents the collection’s miscellaneous other pieces: blouses, skirts, boleros, a bathrobe dress, a marabou-trimmed cape, and a fancy dress costume with mask headpiece:
It’s a beautifully produced volume, with high-quality photos presented in a reader-friendly smaller format. (You can see more photos at the website of Folch Studio, the design firm behind the book.) My only quibble is with the English text (I don’t read Spanish or Catalan), which contains infelicities that seem to be an effect of translation.
This book is a valuable addition to English-language resources on Rodríguez, and will assist in further study of the designer and his place in the history of haute couture.
* Paco was a member of the collection’s monitoring committee; you can read his post on the exhibition here.
Rossend Casanova (ed.), Pedro Rodríguez: Catàleg dels vestits de Maria Brillas / Catálogo de los vestidos de Maria Brillas / Catalogue of Maria Brillas’s Dresses, Barcelona: Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària de Barcelona, 2012.
Text in Catalan, Spanish, and English.
ISBN 978 84 9850 402 6
Available online from Laie, Barcelona.