Anna Sui: Vogue Patterns, Part 1

December 21, 2013 § 5 Comments

Linda Evangelista in a mod skirt suit from Anna Sui's FW 1995 collection, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier

Linda Evangelista in Anna Sui, Harper’s Bazaar, August 1995. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier.

Anna Sui (b. 1955) is beloved for her playfully postmodern designs. Sui collections are typically full of eclectic, retro references—fun and accessible, but always with an alternative edge. (For a comprehensive discussion of Sui’s work see Andrew Bolton, Anna Sui [Chronicle Books, 2010].)

Anna Sui’s licensing agreement with Vogue Patterns lasted from the mid-1990s until quite recently. There were also Anna Sui knitting patterns, like this paillette-trimmed mohair sweater shown on the cover of Vogue Knitting magazine:

Red, paillette-trimmed Anna Sui sweater on the cover of Vogue Knitting, Winter 1998-99

Anna Sui sweater on the cover of Vogue Knitting, Winter 1998-99. Image via Vintageknits.net.

This two-part series will present some highlights from Anna Sui’s earlier Vogue patterns, ordered by collection.

1. Anna Sui, Spring/Summer 1995 collection

Anna Sui was introduced to readers of Vogue Patterns in the July/August 1995 issue with a design from her Spring 1995, vintage ’30s and ’40s collection. Inspirations for this collection included pulp magazines, waitress uniforms, and Minnie Mouse. The collection was notable for its use of textiles, which ranged from nylon pinstripes and rubberized chiffon to prints both rockabilly and haute: some of the dresses and skirts used 1940s prints that were designed by Christian Bérard for Ascher Ltd and specially recoloured for the collection.

Vogue 1619 is a pattern for four dresses with vintage details like cut-in shoulders and puffed or tucked sleeves. The red, bouquet print in the large photo is by Christian Bérard. Vogue later proclaimed the “1940s floral look” the look of the season*:

1990s Anna Sui dress pattern - Vogue 1619

Vogue 1619 by Anna Sui (1995) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Here’s the Bérard print dress on the runway, complete with red shoes worn with pink socks:

Red print dress by Anna Sui, SS 1995 collection

Image via New York Daily News.

Vogue 1619 made the cover of Vogue Patterns’ September 1995 catalogue:

Anna Sui's Vogue 1619 on the cover of Vogue Patterns catalogue, September 1995

Vogue Patterns catalogue, September 1995. Image via eBay.

Just for fun, here’s a photo of Nicole Kidman in one of the spring collection’s pinstripe suits:

Nicole Kidman in Anna Sui pinstripe suit, sequinned cami, with hat and faux stole, photographed by Steven Meisel Vogue February 1995

Nicole Kidman in Anna Sui, Vogue, February 1995. Photo: Steven Meisel. Fashion editor: Grace Coddington.

2. Anna Sui, Fall/Winter 1995 collection

For Fall 1995 Sui presented a Mod collection. The show opened with Linda Evangelista on the back of a Lambretta scooter and continued with skinny mod suits and pieces in black leather and sequinned camo, referencing Andy Warhol’s camouflage screenprints.

Vogue 1702’s mod suit includes a front-pleated skirt and sleeveless top—best worn with a matching headscarf (as shown with Vogue 1789):

1990s Anna Sui jacket and pleated skirt pattern - Vogue 1702

Vogue 1702 by Anna Sui (1995) Image via Etsy.

Linda Evangelista was photographed in the Vogue 1702 suit by Patrick Demarchelier (see top of post). A tweed version was modelled by Stella Tennant:

Stella Tennant in Anna Sui, with rubber boots and fishing rod, photographed by Arthur Elgort, 1995

Stella Tennant in Anna Sui, Vogue, October 1995. Photo: Arthur Elgort. Fashion editor: Grace Coddington.

3. Anna Sui, Fall/Winter 1997 collection

Sui’s ‘goth’ collection was presented at the Church of Divine Paternity, a neo-Gothic church on New York’s Upper West Side. Siouxie Sioux was a major inspiration for the show, which had post-punk makeup by François Nars and a wealth of textiles characteristic of old-school goth style, such as velvet, lace, lace-printed chiffon, and fishnet. As Bolton notes, the collection referenced the goth love of historicism in Vivienne Westwood-style bustles and ‘mini-crinis.’

Vogue 2072 is a pattern for two mini-crini dresses trimmed with ribbon and lace. It even includes the mesh top and fingerless gloves (see my earlier post here):

1990s Anna Sui dress, top and gloves pattern - Vogue 2072

Vogue 2072 by Anna Sui (1997)

Karen Elson and Tasha Tilberg modelled the Vogue 2072 dresses on the runway, accessorized with matching fingerless gloves, sheer leggings, and beaded devil horns:

Karen Elson and Tasha Tilberg on the runway, Anna Sui FW 1997

Models: Karen Elson, Tasha Tilberg. Images: Bolton, Anna Sui and firstVIEW.

The red, view B version of the Vogue 2072 dress, complete with Sui devil horns, was photographed on a young Sofia Coppola:

Sofia Coppola photographed by Satoshi Saikusa, Spur magazine, October 1997

Sofia Coppola, Spur, October 1997. Photo: Satoshi Saikusa. Image: Bolton, Anna Sui.

4. Anna Sui, Spring/Summer 1998 collection

For spring 1998 Sui presented a surfer-inspired collection. Bold prints, bright colours, and bucket hats conveyed the laid-back spirit of surfer subculture, with Hawaiian, Indian, and Balinese prints and accessories evoking days spent on tropical beaches.

Vogue 2152’s three summery little dresses are like a mini vacation wardrobe:

1990s Anna Sui summer dress pattern - Vogue 2152

Vogue 2152 by Anna Sui (1998) Image via Etsy.

Here are two of the Vogue 2152 dresses on the runway. The slip dress in view B was worn with a long-sleeved mesh top:

Kylie Bax and Christina Kruse on the runway, Anna Sui SS 1998

Models: Kylie Bax and Christina Kruse. Images via firstVIEW.

Kate Moss wears another dress from the collection in this editorial photo by Terry Richardson:

Strapless silk sari dress with gold appliqués, Terry Richardson photo of Kate Moss in Anna Sui, Harper's Bazaar, January 1998

Kate Moss in Anna Sui, Harper’s Bazaar, January 1998. Photo: Terry Richardson. Image via Bolton, Anna Sui.

The gold-appliquéd pink sari silk was inspired by a dress belonging to the Duchess of Windsor, again bringing home the wide-ranging eclecticism of Sui’s references.

Next: Anna Sui’s Vogue patterns into the 2000s.

* Katherine Betts, “The best & worst looks of the ’90s,” Vogue, January 1996, p. 130.

’90s OMG! (Oh My Goth)

October 31, 2011 § 3 Comments

Danielle Z Ellen von Unwerth French Quarter Jill Stuart sequined sheer camisole Karl Lagerfeld black viscose pants Krizia lace gloves Prada leather pumps

W magazine, June 1997. Model: Danielle Z. Photographed in New Orleans by Ellen von Unwerth.

Setting aside the corsets, Morticia costumes* and Ren fair looks that may come up in a “goth pattern” search, this is the only pattern I’ve seen that truly testifies to that time in the ’90s when goth was trendy:

Vogue 2072 Anna Sui 1990s gothic dress top fingerless gloves Vogue Attitudes 1997

Vogue Attitudes 2072 by Anna Sui (1997) Dress, top and fingerless gloves.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2072

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ dress, top & gloves. Lined dress, above mid-knee, has close-fitting bodice variations, dirndl skirt, attached petticoat with yokes/ruffles and back zipper. A: elasticized gathers below waist. B: boned bodice with princess seams and purchased trim. close-fitting, pullover top has neck binding, stitched hems and long sleeves. Close-fitting gloves have narrow hem.

What I find delightful about Vogue 2072 (in addition to from the fact that it enables you to make your own stretch mesh top and fingerless gloves) is the variety of fabrics required for its frilly goth-out: double edged scalloped lace for the dress, organza for the lining and underlining of yoke and bodice, chiffon for the skirt lining, and tulle for the petticoat, as well as velvet ribbon and pre-gathered lace trim.

Vogue 1290 is a close second. I was surprised to see it’s still in print.

Vogue 1290 1990s gothic jacket dress top pants Vogue pattern

Vogue 1290 (ca. 1994) Jacket, dress, top and pants. Image via Out of the Ashes Collectibles.

Full disclosure: During the ’90s I actually had the first two patterns** linked above made up. As well as view C of Vogue 1290.

Happy Hallowe’en everyone!

* It must be admitted that the children’s version of the 1992 Addams Family costumes, Simplicity 7991/0630, is unforgivably cute.

** Vogue 1605 by Bellville Sassoon and Simplicity 7990/0629.

YSL Wedding Dress (or, Adventures in Tartan)

August 15, 2011 § 8 Comments

Last year I made my own wedding dress using an Yves Saint Laurent pattern. Vogue Patterns magazine recently published a photo:

Vogue Patterns, June/July 2011. Photo: Jon Thorpe.

(Hat by Emilliner by Emily Clark. Read her fabulous millinery blog here.)

A similar shot won our photographer Jon Thorpe an ISPWP award for Best Bridal Party Portrait. (Congrats, Jon!) Our wedding was also featured on The Wedding Co. blog in June. But you’re here about the dress…

I didn’t set out to make my own wedding dress; I had been looking into custom work or something off the rack. When both of these options fell through I decided to make up a pattern in my stash, Vogue 1894 by Yves Saint Laurent:

Vogue 1894 Yves Saint Laurent pattern evening or cocktail dress

Vogue 1894 by Yves Saint Laurent (1996) Evening or cocktail dress

Technical drawing for Vogue 1894

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Dress: Close-fitting, slightly A-line or slightly flared, lined dress, above mid-knee or floor length, has bust pads, foundation with inside belt, front slit and side zipper. Recommended fabrics: velvet, wool crepe, silk-like crepe. Unsuitable for obvious plaids.

**Update: The Vogue 1894 design is from Yves Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 1996-97 ready-to-wear collection—you can see a runway photo here (Corbis photo here).

Our friend, fashion designer and bespoke tailor Ray Wong of RayW, was making my wife’s dress. She wanted a wool tartan for it, so the three of us spent a Saturday afternoon browsing swatch books at two of the Toronto area’s Scottish shops, Cairngorm Scottish Imports and The Scottish Company. At The Scottish Company one of the mannequins caught our eye: it was wearing a kilt of grey tartan which the friendly staff told us came from a mill named House of Edgar. Among the loose swatches they brought out was a black-on-black tartan called Dark Island. Here’s a photo of the Dark Island fabric:

Black Dark Island tartan by House of Edgar. Image via mackenziefrain.com.

A tone-on-tone tartan like Dark Island is known as a ‘shadow’ tartan or solid sett tartan. (‘Sett’ refers to the pattern of a tartan.) The production process for Dark Island is really interesting: according to the Scottish Tartans Authority page for this tartan, “An ecru (white) yarn has been woven on a Jacquard loom with the sett being formed by stitches other than 2/2 twill and then the finished fabric has been piece-dyed black. The sett is highlighted because of the differing light reflecting qualities of the stitches.”

Despite my pattern’s warning about the unsuitability of plaids, I couldn’t think of a better choice, and we decided to order House of Edgar fabric for both our wedding dresses. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anyone in Canada who actually maintained stock of House of Edgar fabric. After corresponding with a number of merchants, including Kitchener’s Keltoi Gaelic Clothing and Jacobite re-enactment suppliers Mackenzie Frain, the most economical option proved to be ordering direct (through the House of Edgar retail site, tartankilts.com). Soon we had a courier package from Perth, Scotland containing several kilograms of wool fabric.

I’ll say right now that any credit for the fit must go to Ray, who very generously finished my dress for me at the last minute. I made a muslin in a size 12 (which should have been my bust size) but it was just enormous; I think I must have gone down a size or two for the final version. The foundation was a lot closer to the right fit. I got as far as having all the separate elements—dress, lining, and foundation—ready before I handed everything over to Ray, who handled the dress’ final assembly and hemming the day before the ceremony. (Eternal thanks, Ray!)

I read everything I could find on tartan matching before daring to cut into my Dark Island fabric. I ended up using a technique I first learned of from the Selfish Seamstress (read her blog post here): cutting one set of pieces from a single layer of fabric, then flipping the pieces and using them to cut out the second set. The dress is underlined with silk lining from King Textiles, which gave each piece a luscious drape. To match a tartan perfectly at the seams, The Vogue Sewing Book recommends a basting technique called slip basting… but I just crossed my fingers and basted very carefully before doing the machine sewing. I’m really happy with the results.

House of Edgar tartan swatches and the Vogue Sewing Book (1970).

The pattern called for a boned foundation with inside belt and bust pads. This meant I needed spiral steel boning and boning tips, wire cutters, and pliers to fit the tips to the boning. (I got my boning and tips from Leather & Sewing Supply Depot Ltd. in Toronto’s garment district.) I found the boning didn’t handle well with the wire cutters and ended up using our bolt cutters instead. I love the mini-arsenal of hardware and tools that goes into making this kind of evening wear.

The foundation is basically an inner bustier consisting of two layers of lining, an extra-long side zipper, and boning inserted into ribbon casings. The inside belt is an attached length of grosgrain ribbon that fastens on the side with hooks and eyes. The bust pads were sewn from layers of fleece machine-sewn together, then encased by hand in lining fabric. Here’s a photo of the finished underpinnings:

Foundation with inside belt and bust pads, Vogue 1894.

Without further ado, I’ll close with some wedding photos showing the finished dress. Here’s a closeup of those bodice points:

Finished bodice, Vogue 1894. Photo: Jon Thorpe.

Despite the front slit, the weight of the dress meant it tended not to show my shoes, so our photographer kept asking me to flash them:

Wedding shoes revealed! (Camilla Skovgaard shoes.) Photo: Jon Thorpe.

This shot shows the tartan matching best, as well as Ray’s fantastic dress for my wife, Naomi:

Left: Vogue 1894; right: dress by Ray Wong. Photo: Jon Thorpe.

Finally, here’s a shot from the ceremony showing the dress at rest:

Photo: Jon Thorpe.

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