Early Sixties Chinoiserie

September 7, 2015 § 2 Comments

Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000) Image via WWD.

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.

Andrew Bolton, China: Through the Looking Glass. Fashion, Film, Art (2015) Image via 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:

1960s cheongsam and pants pattern - Vogue 5571

Vogue 5571 (c. 1962) Cheongsam and slim pants. Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

1960s Ming stole and dress pattern - Vogue 5648

Vogue 5648 (c. 1962) Cocktail dress with ‘Ming’ cape stole. Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

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:

Back views, Vogue 5648 dress and Ming stole

Back views for Vogue 5648 (c. 1962)

The back neckline detail recalls this Balenciaga evening wrap featured in an earlier Costume Institute exhibit, Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress:

1950s pink Balenciaga evening wrap in the collection of the Costume Institute

Balenciaga evening wrap, 1954-55. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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.

Poster for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing Jennifer Jones wearing a cheongsam

Jennifer Jones wears a cheongsam on the poster for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) Image via Wikipedia.

Poster for The World of Suzie Wong starring Nancy Kwan

Nancy Kwan wears a cheongsam (upper left) on the poster for The World of Suzie Wong (1960) Image via Business Week.

Nancy Kwan on the cover of Life magazine, October 24, 1960 - CHSA

Nancy Kwan on the cover of Life magazine, October 24, 1960. Image via the Chinese Historical Society of America.

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!

Yves Saint Laurent 1971: la collection du scandale

June 11, 2015 § 3 Comments

Yves Saint Laurent 1971: la collection du scandale. Exposition du 19 mars au 19 juillet 2015 - Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent 1971: la collection du scandale. Model: Willy Van Rooy. Photo: Hans Feurer.

Yves Saint Laurent’s Spring 1971 haute couture collection, Libération, is currently the focus of a major Paris exhibition. Curated by Olivier Saillard of the Palais Galliera, Yves Saint Laurent 1971: la collection du scandale may be seen at the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent through July 19th, 2015. A catalogue (in French only) is available from Flammarion.

Inspired by the women of occupied Paris, Saint Laurent’s “Forties” collection interpreted vintage styles for the younger generation—subversive historicism with an edge of camp. The wartime silhouettes of thirty years previous dominated for day, with evening gowns featuring prints based on ancient Greek erotic art. (See Suzy Menkes for Vogue and Joelle Diderich for WWD.) Like the designer’s Beat collection for Dior, it brought youthful street style to couture, prompting a similar backlash but ultimately succeeding in terms of broader influence.

Yves Saint Laurent Spring 1971 haute couture (Libération) in L'Officiel 1000 modèles' YSL special issue

Yves Saint Laurent Spring 1971 haute couture (Libération), L’Officiel 1000 modèles hors série, 2002. Image via jalougallery.com.

L’Officiel was one of the only magazines to put the collection on the cover; British Vogue and Harpers & Queen opted for related Rive Gauche looks instead:

Yves Saint Laurent couture ensemble on the cover of L'Officiel, March 1971

Yves Saint Laurent couture ensemble, L’Officiel, March 1971. Photo: Roland Bianchini. Image via jalougallery.com.

Florence Lafuma photographed by Barry Lategan for the cover of British Vogue, March 1, 1971

Poppy accessories from Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, British Vogue, March 1971. Model: Florence Lafuma. Photo: Barry Lategan. Image via Vogue UK.

Viviane Fauny photographed by Helmut Newton in YSL Rive Gauche for the cover of Harpers & Queen, April 1971

“Lips” print dress from Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Harpers & Queen, early April 1971. Model: Viviane Fauny. Photo: Helmut Newton. Image via Pinterest.

Vogue Patterns licensed two patterns from the Spring 1971 couture. Vogue 2571 is a puff-sleeved dress trimmed down the front with tiny buttons. Frank Horvat photographed the navy original for the August/September issue of Vogue Pattern Book. The editorial text reads, “From Yves Saint Laurent, a slither of crepe. Note the new high puffed sleeves tight round the wrists, with just enough flare and tiny ball buttons”:

1970s Yves Saint Laurent dress pattern - Vogue 2571

Vogue 2571 by Yves Saint Laurent (1971) Image courtesy of Paco Peralta.

V2571 schematic

Technical drawing for Vogue 2571

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Dress. Semi-fitted, slightly flared dress, mid-knee length, has jewel neckline, front button and loop closing, front gathered into forward shoulder seam and topstitch trim. Full length leg-o-mutton sleeves with pleated cap have zipper closing. Purchased scarf. Semi-fitted sleeveless slip has back zipper closing.

The exhibition catalogue includes this photo of the dress in the original collection presentation:

Runway photo of the Vogue 2571 dress in the collection du scandale exhibition catalogue

A model shows the navy dress from Yves Saint Laurent’s Spring 1971 Libération collection. Image courtesy of Paco Peralta.

Vogue 2598 is a pattern for pleated skirt, cuffed trousers, and double-breasted jacket with optional ribbon trim (see Paco’s post here):

1970s Yves Saint Laurent three-piece suit pattern - Vogue 2598

Vogue 2598 by Yves Saint Laurent (1971) Image courtesy of Paco Peralta.

V2598 schematic

Technical drawing for Vogue 2598

The envelope description reads: Misses’ Three-Piece Suit. Fitted, double-breasted blazer jacket has notched collar, wide lapels, patch pockets, extended padded shoulders, full length sleeves with buttoned vents and turn back cuffs. Topstitch or ribbon trim. Gored, pleated skirt, two inches below knee, has waistband and topstitch trim. Straight-legged pants with cuffs are darted into waistband.

Here is a ribbon-trimmed pantsuit version of Vogue 2598 in the original presentation. The pattern could be adapted to make the sleeveless variation:

Runway photo of an Yves Saint Laurent pantsuit - Spring 1971 haute couture

A model shows a pantsuit from Yves Saint Laurent’s Spring 1971 Libération collection. Image: Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent.

These editorial photos from L’Officiel’s spring couture preview show three variations on the Vogue 2598 double-breasted suit look: a long, houndstooth coat; a jacket worn with a short, wool jersey jumpsuit; and a pinstriped pantsuit topped with a fur stole:

Yves Saint Laurent Spring 1971 couture photographed by Jean Louis Guégan for L'Officiel

Yves Saint Laurent Spring 1971 couture in L’Officiel 582 (1971). Photo: Jean Louis Guégan. Image via jalougallery.com.

Jane Birkin was photographed in the long-sleeved, ribbon-trimmed jacket (can anyone identify the photographer?) and Bianca Jagger wore a white, single-breasted jacket from this collection to her wedding:

Jane Birkin in Yves Saint Laurent Spring 1971 couture

Jane Birkin in Yves Saint Laurent. Image via tumblr.

Mick Jagger with Bianca Jagger in Yves Saint Laurent couture, May 1971

Mick Jagger with Bianca Jagger in Yves Saint Laurent, May 1971. Image via Gaia Fishler.

Just for fun, I’ll close with some editorial images featuring spring 1971 Yves Saint Laurent:

Helmut Newton's photos of Yves Saint Laurent couture for Vogue Paris, March 1971

Yves Saint Laurent couture in Vogue Paris, March 1971. Photos: Helmut Newton. Models: Viviane Fauny, Margrit Ramme. Image via Youthquakers.

Bob Richardson's photos of Anjelica Huston in Yves Saint Laurent couture for Vogue Italia, June 1971

Anjelica Huston in Yves Saint Laurent couture, Vogue Italia, June 1971. Photo: Bob Richardson. Image via Vogue.it.

Gian Paolo Barbieri's photo of Ingmari Lamy in Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, 1971

Ingmari Lamy in Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche (?), 1971. Photo: Gian Paolo Barbieri. From Soie pirate (Scheidegger & Spiess, 2010) Image via little augury.

With thanks to Paco Peralta.

Mad Men Era Roundup

May 20, 2015 § 1 Comment

Peggy Olson arrives at the McCann offices in "Lost Horizon" (Mad Men season 7 episode 12)

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) in “Lost Horizon” (Man Men, Season 7). Image via GQ.

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:

  1. The Old Guard I – Jacques Heim, Madame Grès, Jo Mattli, and Jean Dessès
  2. The Old Guard II – Jacques Griffe, Pauline Trigère, Pierre Balmain, and Pierre Cardin
  3. London’s Old Guard – Ronald Paterson, John Cavanagh, Michael Donéllan, and Edward Molyneux
  4. Old House, New Designer – Lanvin, Patou, Nina Ricci, and Dior
  5. The Europeans – Rodríguez, Simonetta, Fabiani, and Pucci
  6. New Talent – Guy Laroche, Irene Galitzine, and Federico Forquet
  7. Millinery – Sally Victor, John Frederics, Guy Laroche, and Halston
  8. McCall’s New York Designers – Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and Anne Klein
  9. Butterick’s Young Designers – Mary Quant, Jean Muir, and Emmanuelle Khanh

I also have two posts on Yves Saint Laurent’s 1965 Mondrian collection, Mondrian! and my version of Vogue 1556, and for the later 1960s, a designers post on Rudi Gernreich.




Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint LaurentVogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent, Knoll Toronto

Alexander McQueen Fabric, Part 2: Tartan

May 15, 2015 § 1 Comment

McQueen tartan dresses from Widows of Culloden (FW 2006)

Dresses in the McQueen tartan from Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2006-7 collection (Widows of Culloden). Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art (via Everything Just So).

If Alexander McQueen’s innovative prints reveal his interest in technology, the designer’s work with tartan shows his engagement with history. Continuing our celebration of Savage Beauty at the V&A, this post looks at McQueen’s use of tartan. (See Part 1: Prints, or my roundup post here.)

The MacQueen clan tartan appears extensively in the designer’s breakthrough collection, Highland Rape (Fall 1995). The collection—which used Lochcarron tartan and lace found in Brick Lane—was a highly personal response to the violence of the Highland Clearances and fashion’s appropriation of Scottish culture (watch Tim Blanks’ show video here):

McQueen wool tartan jacket and skirt from the collection of Isabella Blow - Alexander McQueen FW 1995

Jacket of McQueen wool tartan with green wool felt sleeves; skirt of McQueen wool tartan; both from the collection of Isabella Blow. Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1995-96 (Highland Rape). Photo: Sølve Sundsbø. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Highland Rape runway photos - Alexander McQueen FW 1995

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1995-96 (Highland Rape). Images via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

McQueen also used his family tartan at the house of Givenchy. In his second couture collection, Eclect Dissect (Givenchy haute couture Fall 1997), which was built on the idea of a mad scientist, the McQueen tartan was cut on the bias for tailored pieces overlaid with black lace:

Two tartan looks from Eclect Dissect - Givenchy couture FW 1997

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy Fall/Winter 1997-98 haute couture (Eclect Dissect)

The McQueen tartan reappears the following year in Joan (Fall 1998). Named for Joan of Arc, with an opening soundtrack of burning wood and runway covered in cinders, the collection thematized martyrdom, with the McQueen tartan referencing the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (see Constance C.R. White, Review/Fashion, and Kate Bethune’s note; full collection at firstVIEW):

Joan - Alexander McQueen FW1998

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1998-99 (Joan)

Joan - Alexander McQueen FW 1998

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1998-99 (Joan)

McQueen also worked with other tartans. The check pattern might be manipulated to appear blurred or bleeding, or it could be overlaid or embellished as in Eclect Dissect. In The Overlook (Fall 1999)—named for the haunted, snowbound lodge built on a Native American burial ground in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)—a long, grey tailcoat was lined with tartan to match loose trousers, and an overlaid tartan jacket was paired with a balloon skirt in a large blanket check with tartan accents (full collection at firstVIEW):

Sunniva Stordahl and Hannelore Knuts in grey checks and tartan in Alexander McQueen FW 1999 (The Overlook)

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1999-2000 (The Overlook). Models: Sunniva Stordahl and Hannelore Knuts.

McQueen’s 1960s-inspired collection, The Man Who Knew Too Much (Fall 2005), included bias-cut separates in a wool ombré check, together with a black, white, and pink check party dress covered in beaded fringe:

Raquel Zimmermann and Carmen Kass in tartan looks from The Man Who Knew Too Much - McQueen FW 2005

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2005-6 (The Man Who Knew Too Much). Models: Raquel Zimmermann and Carmen Kass. Images via style.com.

The Girl Who Lived in the Tree (Fall 2008), a fanciful narrative of the British Empire, had several bias-cut pieces in a black, white, and red tartan, and two coats in a grey mohair tartan for a bleeding effect:

Alexander McQueen FW 2008

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2008-9 (The Girl Who Lived in the Tree). Models: Sara Blomqvist and Alanna Zimmer. Images via style.com.

There were several pieces in the McQueen tartan in Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2006 menswear collection, which was inspired by vampire movies Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Interview With the Vampire (1994). Vogue editor Hamish Bowles wore the appliquéd kimono-and-pants ensemble to the Costume Institute gala in 2011 (see the collection and read Tim Blanks’ review on style.com; video at AlexanderMcQueen.com):

McQueen menswear FW2006 tartan

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2006-7 menswear. Images via style.com.

The same season, McQueen returned to Scottish history with Widows of Culloden (Fall 2006), a romantic collection commemorating the final battle of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. The show invitation had the title in Gaelic: Bantraich de cuil lodair (see Kate Bethune on Widows of Culloden). As in the Givenchy couture, the McQueen tartan was cut on the bias, embroidered, and trimmed with lace and tulle (click to enlarge):

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

For more see Jonathan Faiers, McQueen and Tartan, and Ghislaine Wood’s essay, “Clan MacQueen,” in the V&A catalogue.

Like other traditional tartans, the McQueen tartan can be ordered from Scottish textile mills in different weights and fibre contents. (It’s often listed as ‘MacQueen.’) Alexander McQueen used tartan from Lochcarron, a mill established in the mid-nineteenth century in the Scottish highlands.

McQueen / MacQueen tartan swatch

MacQueen Modern tartan swatch from the Scottish Tartans Authority.

As a memorial to the late designer, Scotweb owner Nick Fiddes designed a mourning version of the MacQueen clan tartan.

What would you make in the McQueen tartan?

Sourcing Tartan Fabric

Alexander McQueen Fabric, Part 1: Prints

May 11, 2015 § 5 Comments

Jack the Ripper McQueen sketch

Sketch by Alexander McQueen, Central Saint Martins MA graduate portfolio, Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims, Fall/Winter 1992. Pencil on distressed paper with fabric swatches. Image via Alexander McQueen.

As part of this blog’s celebration of Savage Beauty in London, I’ll be devoting two posts to Alexander McQueen fabrics. (See my earlier roundup post here.) First: a look at McQueen’s distinctive prints.

McQueen’s fellow Central Saint Martins student Simon Ungless, who went on to become director of the School of Fashion at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, designed the barbed hawthorn print in McQueen’s graduate collection, Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims (Fall 1992; interview here. Oberto Gili photographed Isabella Blow in the coat for British Vogue.) Ungless also designed the swallow print in The Birds (Spring 1995):

Coat in pink silk satin printed in thorn pattern, Alexander McQueen FW 1992

Coat, pink silk satin printed in thorn pattern by Simon Ungless, lined in white silk with encapsulated human hair, Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1992 (Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims). Photo: Sølve Sundsbø. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mr Pearl and Plum Sykes in two swallow print looks, Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 1995 (The Birds)

Two swallow print looks, Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 1995 (The Birds) Models: Mr. Pearl and Plum Sykes.

Silk jacket with swallow print, Alexander McQueen SS 1995 (The Birds)

Silk jacket, Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 1995 (The Birds). Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Freelance print designer and Central Saint Martins Textiles tutor Fleet Bigwood designed fabrics for Alexander McQueen’s first three seasons. (See Fleet Bigwood: Breaking the Rules at Texprint, or the BBC’s Blast videos.) The top in this ensemble from Nihilism (Spring 1994, McQueen’s third collection) was printed using an iron filing paste that was rusted through exposure to air and salt water (see Louise Nutt on Pinterest; full collection at the Fashion Spot, or video here):

Fleet Bigwood rust-printed top, Alexander McQueen SS 1994

Ensemble featuring a Fleet Bigwood print for Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 1994 collection (Nihilism). Image via Pinterest.

In 2002, immediately after presenting his award-winning Central Saint Martins graduate collection, Jonathan Saunders was hired to design prints for Alexander McQueen’s Spring 2003 collection, Irere. Working with designer Christopher Pearson—a member of the Alexander McQueen design team from 2001 to 2006 and a founding member of the company’s fashion print department—Saunders produced Irere’s celebrated Bird-of-Paradise prints (see the V&A on Irere):

Jonathan Saunders bird-of-paradise feather print for Alexander McQueen, SS 2003

Feather print for Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2003 (Irere). Image via Christopher Pearson/Cargo.

Alexander McQueen Irere SS 2003 prints by Jonathan Saunders

Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2003 (Irere). Models: Frankie Rayder and Roos van Bosstraeten. Images via style.com.

The following year, Pearson co-designed the Alexander McQueen skull scarf with Jennefer Osterhoudt, who was head of accessories for McQueen at Givenchy and later at Alexander McQueen. The pattern is based on a skull scarf found in Camden Market:

Skull print by Christopher Pearson and Jennefer Osterhoudt for Alexander McQueen, 2002

Skull print by Christopher Pearson and Jennefer Osterhoudt for Alexander McQueen, 2002. Image via Christopher Pearson/Cargo.

For McQueen’s later collections, the prints were produced by a team of designers that included textile design interns who might be hired back after graduation. From 2006 to 2011, the company’s head print designer was Central Saint Martins graduate Holly Marler, who is now head of embroidery, fabric, and print design at Temperley London.

Lilly Heine, now head of print fabric development at Dries Van Noten, interned with Jonathan Saunders and later Alexander McQueen as a textiles student. (See her profiles in the Frankfurter Allgemeine [German only] and the Independent.) During her internship at Alexander McQueen, Heine designed some prints for La Dame Bleue (Spring 2008). The collection’s rainbow bird-of-paradise print appeared on several looks including the feather-collared Bird of Paradise dress—recently worn by FKA twigs to perform at the V&A’s Savage Beauty gala:

Alexander McQueen bird-of-paradise prints, SS 2008 Isabella Blow collection

Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2008 (La Dame Bleue). Models: Taryn Davidson and Viviane Orth. Images via style.com.

Torunn Myklebust, today a senior print designer at Givenchy, also did a textile design internship at Alexander McQueen. As an intern, Myklebust worked on prints for Natural Dis-Tinction Un-Natural Selection (Spring 2009), and she rejoined the company in late 2009. (Read an interview in Natt&Dag [Norwegian only]; see Myklebust’s tumblr.) The wood-grain digital print from the Spring 2009 collection was later used for the endpapers of Andrew Bolton’s Savage Beauty catalogue:

Wood-grain digital print, Alexander McQueen SS 2009

From a silk/synthetic ensemble by Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2009 (Natural Dis-Tinction Un-Natural Selection). Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In her review of the Spring 2009 collection, Sarah Mower identified engineered prints as a trend out of London: “bright, multicolored allover prints, engineered to fit around jackets, leggings, and cocoon dresses—new on the Paris runway, but also part of a general trend emanating from London’s young designers.” The Spring 2009 advertising campaign, shot by Craig McDean, features a jacket and leggings in one of the collection’s crystalline digital prints:

Heidi Mount in Craig McDean's Spring 2009 campaign for Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen Spring 2009 ad campaign. Photo: Craig McDean. Image via styleregistry.

In her Savage Beauty interview with Tim Blanks, Sarah Burton discusses McQueen’s meticulous design process when working with patterned fabrics such as prints or jacquards. From Fall 2009 on, McQueen would drape the initial design using a rough version of the fabric, with the team producing miniature, 3-D paper dolls to show the pattern placement. When a working version of the fabric was ready, he would finalize the pattern placement on a mannequin, after which the print or jacquard would be re-adjusted to match at the seams. Only then would it be sent into production. (See Andrew Bolton, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, pp. 229-30.)

Frederic Alexander, who worked as an assistant to Holly Marler and now designs for his own label, Saint Etienne, worked on prints for Alexander McQueen’s Pre-Fall 2009 and Fall 2009 collections. The Escher-inspired magpie houndstooth print recalls Simon Ungless’ swallow print:

Floral and magpie houndstooth prints, Alexander McQueen Pre-Fall and FW 2009-10

Floral print design for Alexander McQueen Pre-Fall 2009; magpie houndstooth print design for Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2009-10 (The Horn of Plenty). Images via Saint Etienne/Cargo.

Alexander McQueen Pre-Fall and Fall 2009

Alexander McQueen Pre-Fall 2009 and Fall/Winter 2009-10 (The Horn of Plenty). Images via style.com.

Advances in inkjet technology enabled the thirty-six circle-engineered digital prints in Plato’s Atlantis (Spring 2010). (For further technical discussion of textiles in Plato’s Atlantis, see the Savage Beauty section of the Alexander McQueen website.) Freelance textile designer Chinsky Cheung interned at Alexander McQueen and returned to the company for several collections, including Plato’s Atlantis. In an article published in Hong Kong’s Milk magazine, she shows aspects of the design process including pattern placement:

Alexander McQueen SS 2010 look 3 print placement

Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2010 (Plato’s Atlantis). Model: Karmen Pedaru. Images: style.com and Chinsky Cheung/Milk magazine via Augustine Wong.

(For more scans see Augustine Wong’s post, The Queen of the Prints.)

Dress, digitally printed silk satin and silk chiffon, Alexander McQueen SS 2010

Dress, digitally printed silk satin and silk chiffon, by Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2010 (Plato’s Atlantis). Image via the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Fall 2010 menswear (An Bailitheoir Cnámh – the Bone Collector) and women’s Pre-Fall 2010 collection had the same catacombs print:

Catacomb print, Alexander McQueen Fall 2010 men's / women's Pre-Fall 2010-11

Two catacomb print looks, Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2010-11 menswear (An Bailitheoir Cnámh) and Pre-Fall 2010. Images via style.com and Alexander McQueen.

The textiles in McQueen’s posthumously presented Fall 2010 collection (known as Angels and Demons) were patterned with digitally manipulated images drawn from early religious painting and sculpture. (See Dazed Digital and the V&A on the collection.) Some of the patterns were not prints but jacquards, while the reworked Old Master prints looked back to pieces like the Fall 1997 Campin crucifixion-printed jacket:

Richard Fairhead's photo of Alexander McQueen Byzantine lion jacquard, Dazed magazine 2010

Alexander McQueen Byzantine lion jacquard, Dazed magazine, October 2010. Photo: Richard Fairhead. Image via Dazed Digital.

Alexander McQueen dress with print based on Stefan Lochner's 15th-century Altarpiece of the Patron Saints of Köln,

Dress, silk print based on Stefan Lochner’s Dombild Altarpiece with underskirt of gilded feathers, Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2010-11. Image via the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Alexander McQueen jacket with Robert Campin 15th c. crucifixion print, FW 1997-98

Jacket, Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1997-98 (It’s a Jungle Out There). Photo: Sølve Sundsbø. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

For more on digital prints, see the webpage for the Phoenix Art Museum’s 2013 exhibit, Digital Print Fashion (more in Corbin Chamberlin, “Phoenix Art Museum Embraces New Technology with ‘Digital Print Fashion’ Exhibit“). If you’re interested in designing your own digital prints, Kathryn Brenne recently wrote a primer for Vogue Patterns magazine’s February/March 2015 issue, and Melanie Bowles and Ceri Isaac have published a textbook on the subject, Digital Textile Design (Laurence King, 2nd ed. 2012).

With thanks to Kate Bethune.

Next: Alexander McQueen and tartan.

Go Ask Alice (Patterns)

May 4, 2015 § 7 Comments

Natalia Vodianova as Alice in Annie Leibovitz's 2003 Alice in Wonderland Vogue editorial, styled by Grace Coddington

Natalia Vodianova as Alice in Vogue, December 2003. Photo: Annie Leibovitz. Fashion editor: Grace Coddington. Image via HBO.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Liberty London is celebrating with an Alice-inspired Spring/Summer 2015 fabric collection. At the V&A Museum of Childhood, an exhibition on Alice’s influence on fashion, The Alice Look, runs to November 1, 2015, and on Saturday the museum is also hosting a conference, Alice & Fashion. (Read the press release.) The exhibition and conference are part of curator Kiera Vaclavik’s larger research project, Addressing Alice: The Emergence of a Style Icon.

Theo C Tana Lawn cotton by Tamara de Peon - Liberty SS 2015

Theo C Tana Lawn cotton by Tamara de Peon. Image via Liberty London.

Checkmate A Tana Lawn cotton, inspired by an archival 1965 design - Liberty SS 2015

Checkmate A Tana Lawn cotton, inspired by an archival 1965 design. Image via Liberty London.

To celebrate Alice’s 150th, here’s a look at some rarely seen vintage Alice in Wonderland patterns.

This Alice in Wonderland doll pattern with flamingo, McCall 145, dates to 1933:

1930s Alice in Wonderland Doll with Flamingo (Stuffed Doll 19 Inches High) - McCall 145

McCall 145 (1933) Image via eBay.

The costume of the McCall Alice doll seems to refer to Charlotte Henry’s Alice in Paramount’s Alice in Wonderland (1933). According to Vaclavik, the film appears to have “prompted the adoption of the Alice band as hair accessory of choice at hunt balls and wedding processions across Britain” (see her article in the Independent):

Alec B. Francis and Charlotte Henry in Paramount's 1930s Alice in Wonderland

Alice (Charlotte Henry) with the King of Hearts (Alec B. Francis) in Alice in Wonderland (1933). Image: Getty Images via Caren’s Classic Cinema.

Nearly two decades later, Walt Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland (1951) set the image of Alice as we picture her today. Disney licensed two Alice patterns with McCall’s: McCall’s 8626, a girls’ Alice ensemble, and McCall’s 1643, unisex children’s costumes for the Mad Hatter and March Hare. McCall’s 8626 includes a puff-sleeved dress, apron, coverall, and jacket with rabbit-shaped pocket:

1950s Disney Alice sewing pattern - McCall's 8626

McCall’s 8626 (1951) Image via the Vintage Disney Alice blog.

You can see the back of the pattern envelope here.

The Alice pattern was promoted in the August 1951 issue of McCall’s Style News with additional sketches of the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum. It’s worth quoting the original description: “Alice-in-Wonderland dress, inspired by Walt Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ motion picture. Not a fancy-dress costume, but a 4-part ensemble to wear any day of the week. Straight-from-Wonderland ruffled apron that can accompany the little puff-sleeved, full-skirted dress everywhere—to school, to church, to parties. For helping Mother around the house, a jumper-like coverall. And to complete the ensemble, a reversible jacket with the ‘White Rabbit’ in pocket form”:

1950s Disney Alice in Wonderland pattern in McCall's Style News leaflet - McCall's 8626

“Alice in Wonderland” Dress – McCall’s 8626 in McCall’s Style News, August 1951.

This photo from McCall’s Pattern Book shows the March Hare costume and Alice outfit made up:

Alice in Wonderland costume patterns in McCall's Pattern Book, Fall 1951

Alice in Wonderland costume patterns in McCall’s Pattern Book, Fall 1951. Image: Wade Laboissonniere, Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1950s (Schiffer, 1999).

It’s interesting that the 1950s Alice pattern isn’t a costume pattern, but a set of pieces for everyday wear. The pattern adds ruffles to the pinafore, but is otherwise close to Disney’s animated Alice, whose style was based on Mary Blair’s concept art:

Alice in Wonderland concept artwork by Mary Blair - Magic, Color, Flair: The World of Mary Blair

Alice in Wonderland concept artwork by Mary Blair. Image: Walt Disney Family Foundation.

For more on McCall’s 1950s Disney Alice patterns, including a minikin display version, see the Vintage Disney Alice blog.

Happy anniversary, Alice!

Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s

April 17, 2015 § 1 Comment

The Museum at FIT’s exhibit, Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s, closes this Saturday. (See Bridget Foley, “That Real Seventies Show.”) If you can’t make it to New York to see it, a catalogue is available from Yale University Press.

Patricia Mears and Emma McClendon, Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s. Image via Yale University Press.

The MFIT exhibit organizes the two designers’ 1970s work in three thematic sections: menswear influence, exoticism, and historicism. Since both Yves Saint Laurent and Halston had licensed sewing patterns in the ’70s, I thought it would be fun to present three pairs of patterns in the exhibition’s format.


From Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue 1143 is a ’70s version of the famous Le smoking. Helmut Newton photographed Charlotte Rampling in a similar, Prince of Wales check pantsuit for Vogue (with original text here):

1970s Yves Saint Laurent pantsuit, blouse, and skirt pattern - Vogue 1143

Vogue 1143 by Yves Saint Laurent (1974) Image via Etsy.

According to the curators, Halston’s most famous garment is the Ultrasuede shirtdress. McCall’s 4391 is a zip-front shirtdress that includes special instructions for working with synthetic suede:

1970s Halston dress pattern, view A for synthetic suede - McCall's 4391

McCall’s 4391 by Halston (1975) Model: Karen Bjornson.


Yves Saint Laurent’s interest in “exotic,” non-Western dress is perhaps best remembered from his Russian collection (Fall 1976 haute couture). From Vogue’s Ballets Russes patterns, Vogue 1558 is a Russian ensemble consisting of blouse, vest, bias skirt, and braid-trimmed jacket—hat and babushka scarf not included (see more at Paco’s blog):

1970s Yves Saint Laurent Ballets Russes pattern - Vogue 1558

Vogue 1558 by Yves Saint Laurent (1976) Model: Karen Bjornson. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

During the 1970s, both Saint Laurent and Halston showed non-Western influence in their caftans and pajama ensembles. Halston pattern McCall’s 3590 combines both:

1970s Halston caftan, top, and pants pattern - McCalls 3590

McCall’s 3590 by Halston (1973)


Inspired by the 1940s, Yves Saint Laurent’s Spring 1971 haute couture collection, Libération, launched the decade’s vogue for vintage. Although the 1971 collection was poorly received, Saint Laurent’s subsequent vintage-inspired efforts were very influential. From 1973, Vogue 2930 is a Forties-inspired dress-and-coat ensemble:

1970s Yves Saint Laurent dress and coat or jacket pattern - Vogue 2930

Vogue 2930 by Yves Saint Laurent (1973) Image via eBay.

Halston’s historicism focused on the interwar couture of the 1930s, especially the work of Grès and Vionnet. McCall’s 4046 is a slinky dress for stretchable knits. It has only one main pattern piece and is shaped by gathers and side darts:

1970s Halston cocktail or evening dress pattern - McCall's 4046

McCall’s 4046 by Halston (1974)

As the curators note, Halston and Yves Saint Laurent have been seen as embodying two separate styles: minimalist ready-to-wear vs. fantasy couture. Yet comparison of their work shows how their stylistic experimentation led them to common ground, particularly in the earlier ’70s. Interestingly, some Saint Laurent and Halston garments can be hard to tell apart until you examine the construction—something home sewers can certainly appreciate.

Designs by Halston and Yves Saint Laurent on the cover of W magazine, September 3-10, 1976. Image via WWD.

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