September 7, 2015 § 2 Comments
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.
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:
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:
The back neckline detail recalls this Balenciaga evening wrap featured in an earlier Costume Institute exhibit, Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress:
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.
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!
June 11, 2015 § 3 Comments
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.
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:
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”:
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:
Vogue 2598 is a pattern for pleated skirt, cuffed trousers, and double-breasted jacket with optional ribbon trim (see Paco’s post here):
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:
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:
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:
Just for fun, I’ll close with some editorial images featuring spring 1971 Yves Saint Laurent:
With thanks to Paco Peralta.
May 20, 2015 § 1 Comment
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:
- The Old Guard I – Jacques Heim, Madame Grès, Jo Mattli, and Jean Dessès
- The Old Guard II – Jacques Griffe, Pauline Trigère, Pierre Balmain, and Pierre Cardin
- London’s Old Guard – Ronald Paterson, John Cavanagh, Michael Donéllan, and Edward Molyneux
- Old House, New Designer – Lanvin, Patou, Nina Ricci, and Dior
- The Europeans – Rodríguez, Simonetta, Fabiani, and Pucci
- New Talent – Guy Laroche, Irene Galitzine, and Federico Forquet
- Millinery – Sally Victor, John Frederics, Guy Laroche, and Halston
- McCall’s New York Designers – Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and Anne Klein
- Butterick’s Young Designers – Mary Quant, Jean Muir, and Emmanuelle Khanh
May 15, 2015 § 1 Comment
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 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:
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):
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):
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:
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:
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):
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):
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.
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
- Lochcarron has an online shop; Lochcarron tartans are also available through Mackenzie Frain and other suppliers.
- My swatch is from the Scottish Tartans Authority.
- The House of Edgar’s MacQueen Modern tartan is available from the mill’s retail site, tartankilts.com.
- If you prefer ordering locally, many Scottish shops stock fabric and can special-order tartans they don’t have in stock.
May 11, 2015 § 5 Comments
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):
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):
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):
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
(For more scans see Augustine Wong’s post, The Queen of the Prints.)
The Fall 2010 menswear (An Bailitheoir Cnámh – the Bone Collector) and women’s Pre-Fall 2010 collection had the same catacombs print:
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:
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 textbook on the subject, Digital Textile Design (Laurence King, 2nd ed. 2012).
With thanks to Kate Bethune.
Next: Alexander McQueen and tartan.
May 4, 2015 § 7 Comments
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.
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:
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):
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:
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”:
This photo from McCall’s Pattern Book shows the March Hare costume and Alice outfit made up:
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:
Happy anniversary, Alice!
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.
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):
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:
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):
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:
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:
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:
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.