Rock the Caftan

February 21, 2015 § 11 Comments

Vogue 15 Sept 1963 Gres

“Arab déshabillé from Grès.” Vogue, September 1963. Photo: Irving Penn.

Caftans, long, loose-fitting tunics with origins in ancient Persia, have been gaining momentum as an alternative to more structured formal dress. With any luck, there will be some caftans among the goddess gowns at tomorrow’s Academy Awards ceremony.

They say Tsarina Alexandra was the first westerner to make a fashion statement in a caftan, when she dressed as a seventeenth-century Tsarina for a costume ball in 1903. Paul Poiret also advanced the caftan cause, but it was not until the 1950s that the garment really began to influence western fashion. Here’s a look at caftan patterns from the 1950s to now.

Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna as the 17th-century Tsarina Maria Ilyinichna. From the album of the February 1903 fancy dress ball at the Winter Palace. Image via the Hermitage Amsterdam.

Tsarina Alexandra’s Tsarina Maria Ilyinichna masquerade costume. Image via the Hermitage Amsterdam.


In the mid-1950s, Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga’s experiments with silhouette were partly inspired by eastern traditional dress. Dior’s Fall 1955 couture collection (Y line) included caftan-inspired ensembles—coats with high, side-front slits that reveal a slim dress underneath:

1950s Gruau illustration on the cover of Vogue Paris

A Dior caftan design on the cover of Vogue Paris, September 1, 1955. Illustration: Gruau. Image via Librairie Diktats.

1950s Dior caftan-inspired designs in L'Officiel

Three designs from Christian Dior’s Fall 1955 haute couture collection. L’Officiel, September and October 1955. Photos: Pottier. Images via

You can see echoes of the Dior caftan look in contemporary sewing patterns like McCall’s 3525 and 3532, both from late 1955:

1950s dress and unlined coat pattern - McCalls 3525

McCall’s 3525 (1955) Image via Etsy.

McCall’s 3532, called a “slim caftan-and-dress ensemble,” was featured on the cover of McCall’s news leaflet and in the company’s “Make the Clothes that Make the Woman” advertising campaign.  According to the ad, the design is ideal for the season’s “Oriental” fabrics, such as silk twill and raw silk tussah:

McCalls March 1956 3532

McCall’s news, March 1956. Image via eBay.

McCalls ad 1956

“Make the clothes that ‘make’ the woman”: McCall’s printed patterns ad, 1956. Model: Sunny Harnett; hat by Adolfo of Emme. Image via eBay.

A Vogue version of the Dior caftan ensemble, Vogue 8759, is available as a reproduction from EvaDress.


Caftans became popular in the 1960s in tandem with the increasing interest in eastern cultures. The Madame Grès version at the top of this post is cut on the bias, producing geometric seaming detail. The caption reads, “Coup of bias-work by Grès—because this piecing-together of bias angles is sinuous, stark, ravishingly Moroccan.”

This dress from Jean Patou by Michel Goma, Vogue 1699, has what the envelope calls a “caftan neckline.” The model is Beate Schulz:

1960s Patou caftan dress pattern - Vogue 1699

Vogue 1699 by Patou (1967) Model: Beate Schulz. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

This circa 1968 Vogue caftan pattern has optional flexible trim:

Vogue 7497

Vogue 7497 (ca. 1968) Image via Etsy.

Other patterns from the late 1960s and early 1970s also reference eastern dress. From 1967, McCall’s 9026 is labelled as an abba in two lengths. Abba is an alternate spelling of aba, commonly abaya: a traditional Arab garment, long, loose-fitting, sleeveless, and made from a single rectangle of fabric. (Today, caftans often function as abayat.) The model is Veronica Hamel:

1960s abayat pattern - McCalls 9026

McCall’s 9026 (1967) Model: Veronica Hamel. Image via Etsy.

Burnoose patterns were marketed as resort wear. A pompom-trimmed version of McCall’s 2377 was photographed for the cover of McCall’s Summer 1970 catalogue:

1970s burnoose pattern - McCall's 2377

McCall’s 2377 (1970) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Marola Witt models Simplicity’s burnoose in the July 1967 issue of Simplicity Fashion News (thanks to Mary of PatternGate for the reference). The text promotes the design’s ‘Arabian’ exoticism: “be exotic in a JIFFY: … the burnoose, born in Arabia, brought up to date here”:

“Be exotic in a JIFFY.” Marola Witt models Simplicity 7173 in Simplicity Fashion News, July 1967. Image via Etsy.


This Halston caftan pattern from McCall’s also includes a top and pants (you can buy yourself a copy from the shop):

1970s Halston caftan, top, and pants pattern - McCall's 3590

McCall’s 3590 by Halston (1973)

This flowing Dior caftan, modelled by Billie Blair, has lots of neckline detail, full-length sleeve openings, and pockets:

Vogue 1346

Vogue 1346 by Christian Dior (1975) Model: Billie Blair. Image via Etsy.

Vogue 1515 by Nina Ricci is a caftan that’s open in front and attached at the neckline to a handkerchief-hemmed underdress:

1970s Nina Ricci caftan pattern - Vogue 1515

Vogue 1515 by Nina Ricci (1976)


It’s harder to find post-1970s designer caftan patterns. This wide-sleeved, Oscar de la Renta caftan is trimmed with contrast bands. When worn, the side seams swing forward to raise the hemline in front:

1980s Oscar de la Renta caftan pattern - Vogue 1027

Vogue 1027 by Oscar de la Renta (ca. 1983) Model: Alva Chinn.


From Issey Miyake, Vogue 2315 is a caftan-inspired summer dress:

1990s Issey Miyake dress pattern - Vogue 2315

Vogue 2315 by Issey Miyake (1999) Image via Etsy.


Caftan patterns started making a comeback (of sorts) in 2009. Simplicity 2584, a caftan-inspired tunic by Cynthia Rowley, is out of print but still in demand:

Cynthia Rowley dress or tunic pattern - Simplicity 2594

Simplicity 2584 by Cynthia Rowley (2009) Image via Etsy.

Ralph Rucci’s floor-length caftan, Vogue 1181 (now out of print), has an abaya silhouette and interesting construction details—overarm darts, shaped lower sections, and a hook and eye above the low neckline:

Chado Ralph Rucci caftan pattern - Vogue 1181

Vogue 1181 by Chado Ralph Rucci (2010)

The design is from Chado Ralph Rucci Resort 2009:

Rucci Resort 2009 caftans

Two caftans from the Chado Ralph Rucci Resort 2009 collection. Model: Alexandra T. Images via

Matthew Williamson’s short caftan, available as a free pattern from the Guardian, is also a 2009 design:

A caftan look from Matthew Williamson’s Spring 2009 collection. Photo: Jason Hetherington. Image via the Guardian.

And Heather Lou’s printed chiffon caftan is a Fashion Star pattern by Nikki Poulos, McCall’s 6552 (now out of print):

Nikki Poulos caftan pattern - McCall's 6552

McCall’s 6552 by Nikki Poulos (2012) Image via Etsy.

Would you sew a caftan?

Billie Blair

February 27, 2014 § 4 Comments

Billie Blair on the cover of Interview magazine, August 1974

Billie Blair on the cover of Interview magazine, August 1974. Image via Lipstick Alley.

Born in Flint, Michigan, Billie Blair (b. 1946) worked as a model at the Detroit Auto Show before becoming one of the highest-paid fashion models of the 1970s. Moving to New York City, she got a job at Halston and soon found success as an editorial and runway model. Blair was among the African-American models at the historic 1973 fundraising event, Le Grand Divertissement à Versailles, known today as the Battle of Versailles. (The event was the subject of a recent documentary by Deborah Riley Draper, Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution [2012)].)

Billie Blair in Halston, 1979

Billie Blair in Halston, 1979. Image via Pinterest.

Billie Blair may be seen on a number of Vogue designer patterns from the mid-1970s. Here she wears a tweed skirt suit and pussy-bow blouse by Oscar de la Renta; this design was marked as ‘suitable for knits':

Billie Blair models a 1970s Oscar de la Renta suit and blouse pattern - Vogue 1163

Vogue 1163 by Oscar de la Renta (1975) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Stan Herman designed this casual hooded top, skirt, and pants. The illustration shows some American Hustle-worthy aviator shades:

Billie Blair modelling a 1970s Stan Herman pattern - Vogue 1169

Vogue 1169 by Stan Herman (1975) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Here Blair wears a girlish, vintage-style ensemble by Nina Ricci, a cream-coloured dress with matching cape:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Nina Ricci cape and dress pattern - Vogue 1175

Vogue 1175 by Nina Ricci (1975) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

From Jean Patou, this maxi dress may date to the period when the young Jean Paul Gaultier was assistant designer. Blair brings out the glamour of this haute couture loungewear:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Jean Patou loungewear pattern - Vogue 1344

Vogue 1344 by Jean Patou (1975) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

In Vogue Patterns‘ 1975 holiday issue, Jerry Hall wears the Patou dress while Blair models an off-the-shoulder party dress in an editorial devoted to evening sparkle (the headline reads, “Be a Star the Vogue Way”):

Designer evening wear Billie Blair Vogue Patterns November December 1975

Vogue Patterns, November/December 1975. Image via eBay.

Here she models a fabulous, evening-length Dior caftan with piped neckline:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Christian Dior caftan pattern - Vogue 1346

Vogue 1346 by Christian Dior (1975) Image via Etsy.

This Nina Ricci separates pattern includes a poncho with shirttail hem, convertible collar, and big patch pockets:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Nina Ricci pattern - Vogue 1376

Vogue 1376 by Nina Ricci (1976) Image via Betsy Vintage.

Blair is the model on this rare pattern by Sonia Rykiel, Vogue 1378—check out the matching coral sandals:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Sonia Rykiel pattern - Vogue 1378

Vogue 1378 by Sonia Rykiel (1976) Image via Etsy.

Billie Blair’s commanding presence and approach to modelling as performance don’t seem too unusual today. But she was unconventional for the time, and even felt the need to under-report her age when she first became famous. A 1974 profile of Blair in People magazine says she is 22 years old and remarks on her size 9 feet. (In a letter to the editor, a high school classmate wondered how Blair had stayed 22 when her peers were 28.) She continued modelling into her thirties—here she appears in a dynamic 1978 Vogue shoot by Andrea Blanch:

Billie Blair, Renée King, Toukie Smith, Iman, Alva Chinn, and Dana Dixon in Vogue, December 1978

Billie Blair, Renée King, Toukie Smith, Iman, Alva Chinn, and Dana Dixon in Vogue, December 1978. Photo: Andrea Blanch.

Maud Adams

September 11, 2012 § 4 Comments

Maud Adams and Roger Moore - Octopussy poster detail

How many pattern models can say they’ve been a Bond girl? Since the Toronto International Film Festival is underway, this instalment in my models series focuses on Swedish model-turned-actor Maud Adams, whose film credits include The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Rollerball (1975), and Octopussy (1983). (To see the other series posts, click the ‘models’ tag below.)

Before getting into film acting in the 1970s, former Miss Sweden Maud Adams (née Wikström, b. 1945), worked as a model in Paris and New York for publications including Vogue, McCall’s, and Vogue Patterns. McCall’s 1044 sees her modelling a check suit by Laird-Knox:

Maud Adams models a Sixties suit pattern by Laird-Knox, McCall's 1044

McCall’s 1044 by Laird-Knox (1968) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Maud Adams appears on many Vogue designer patterns of the later ’60s, such as this one for a dress by Patou:

Maud Adams models on the cover of Vogue 1809 by Patou

Vogue 1809 by Patou (1967) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Here she wears a dress and matching scarf by James Galanos:

Maud Adams models Vogue 2004 by James Galanos

Vogue 2004 by James Galanos (1968) Image via Stitches and Loops.

And here Adams models the maxi version of Vogue 1847, a fabulous halter dress by Pierre Cardin:

Maud Adams modelling a 1960s Pierre Cardin maxi dress pattern, Vogue 1847

Vogue 1847 by Pierre Cardin (1967) Image via Etsy.

Maud Adams also appears on several late Sixties covers of Vogue Pattern Book. Here’s a selection:

Maud Adams on the cover of Vogue Pattern Book, Aug/Sept 1967

Vogue Pattern Book, August/September 1967. Image via eBay.

Maud Adams on the cover of Vogue Pattern Book, Feb/Mar 1968

Vogue Pattern Book, February/March 1968. Image via eBay.

Maud Adams on the cover of Vogue Pattern Book, August/September 1968

Vogue Pattern Book, August/September 1968. Image via flickr.

Mad Men Era 4: Old House, New Designer

April 4, 2012 § 5 Comments

Betty Draper (January Jones) in “The Color Blue” (Mad Men, Season 3)

Mad Men has finally returned to the air with the first episodes of Season 5. This week my Mad Men-era series continues with four established Paris houses whose mantles, by 1960, had passed to new designers: Lanvin, Patou, Nina Ricci, and Dior.

When I started this series, I mentioned that the Mad Men costume department used some vintage patterns purchased online. Patterns from the Past owner Michelle Lee let me know she’s posted on her blog about the Mad Men order: it consisted of maternity patterns.


The house of Lanvin was founded in 1909 by Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946). Between 1950 and 1963, while its creative director was Antonio Canovas del Castillo, the house was known as Lanvin-Castillo. Castillo (1908-1984) had worked at Piguet, Paquin, and Elizabeth Arden in the 1940s; he left to found his own couture house. Lanvin-Castillo reverted to Lanvin when Jules-François Crahay came to the house from Nina Ricci. Crahay (1917-1988), who held the post of head designer into the 1980s, was known for his skill in cut and construction.

Vogue 1312 is an evening ensemble consisting of a dress and coat. (Click image for back views.) The sleeveless sheath dress has a draped, crisscrossed bodice extending into a lavish cowl/hood in back. The stand-away collar of the sculptural, straight coat serves to frame the draped hood:

Vogue 1312 by Lanvin 1960s evening dress and coat pattern

Vogue 1312 by Lanvin (1964) Evening dress and coat. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

(The photo credit says “The Crillon, Paris”—that is, the opulent Hôtel de Crillon.)


Jean Patou (1887-1936) established the house of Patou in 1914. For our period, Karl Lagerfeld (b. 1933) was designer until 1961, and Michel Goma from 1963. Goma (b. 1932) came to Patou after the closure of his own house, Michel Goma (formerly called Jeanne Lafaurie). It was during his tenure that Jean Paul Gaultier was assistant designer at Patou. Goma would later design for the newly revived Balenciaga in the late ’80s.

Vogue 1377 is a dress with three-quarter dolman sleeves, slit neckline, and seam detail on the bodice front. I’m fascinated by the tension between the simple, bold silhouette and the geometric details of the seams and neckline:

Vogue 1377

Vogue 1377 by Patou (1964) Dress. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Nina Ricci

Maria ‘Nina’ Ricci (1883-1970) established the house of Nina Ricci in 1932. From 1951 to 1963 Nina Ricci’s head designer was Jules-François Crahay; Crahay collaborated with Mme Ricci until her retirement in 1959. When Crahay left for Lanvin in 1963 he was replaced by Gérard Pipart, a graduate of L’École de la Chambre Syndicale and former assistant designer at Balmain, Fath, and Patou. Pipart (b. 1933), who designed for the house for decades, was known for his skill with fabric and close but supple fit.

Vogue 1440 is a pattern for a one-piece evening dress and jacket. (Click image for illustration and back views.) The slim, sleeveless dress has a V-neck and wrapped overblouse effect, with the belted waistline slightly raised in the front; the long version of the dress has a deep back pleat. The matching jacket has a curved, notched collar and bracelet-length sleeves:

Vogue 1440 Nina Ricci evening dress and jacket pattern

Vogue 1440 by Nina Ricci (c. 1965) Evening dress and jacket. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.


Christian Dior (1905-1957) established the house of Dior in 1946. Dior’s head designer from 1960 onward was Marc Bohan. Bohan (b. 1926) had worked as design assistant at Robert Piguet and Molyneux before he was hired as designer at Patou in the 1950s. Bohan had already worked at Dior’s London branch for a couple years when he was appointed head designer for the house, a position he held into the late 1980s. He was best known for his innovative tailoring and elegant, wearable eveningwear.

Vogue 1398 is a design for an evening dress and coat. The dress has a shaped, plunging neckline and an ultra-curvy silhouette achieved by long darts and a stiffened petticoat. (See the envelope back here.) The coat has bracelet-length sleeves and a rolled loop and tie collar. Both dress and coat may be made in two lengths—the long version in the illustration is very grand:

Vogue 1398 evening dress and coat 1960s pattern by Christian Dior

Vogue 1398 by Christian Dior (1964) Evening dress and coat. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Each of these four venerable Paris houses had a new head designer in the early Sixties—1960 for Dior, and around 1963 for Lanvin, Patou, and Nina Ricci. In the spring of 1963 a New York Times article noted that “the Paris couture is in the throes of spring housecleaning, hiring new designers left and right.” What would come from these fresh-scrubbed couture houses?

Next: The Europeans: Rodriguez, Simonetta, Fabiani, and Pucci.

Vampire Vamps! McCall 4457 by Patou

November 17, 2011 § 8 Comments

Lorena and Bill Lorena Krasiki Mariana Klaveno Bill Compton Stephen Moyer 1926 1920s party scene True Blood Season 2

Lorena Krasiki (Mariana Klaveno) and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) in 1926 (True Blood, Season 2). Image via Va-Voom Vintage.

This Halloween I decided to try out a few of my 1920s McCall’s designer patterns. I pulled four patterns to make for me and Naomi: one dress and simple piece of outerwear each. We thought going with a hybrid flapper/vampire theme would make things more interesting. We were also inspired by the Twenties incarnations of Lorena and Bill in True Blood. All four patterns are from 1926—coincidentally the year of Bill and Lorena’s Prohibition-era partying in the HBO series.

Because I was working to a deadline I made minimal alterations to the four patterns—none at all to the outerwear. For the most part, I also had to forgo period-appropriate touches like bias bindings in favour of drafted facings. In the end the outerwear wasn’t ready in time for Halloween (note to self: start in August) but I did have it finished for our photo shoots…

Naomi’s dress is made from McCall 4457, a Jean Patou design for a lace-embellished slip-on dress.

McCall 4457 Jean Patou 1920s pattern

McCall 4457 by Patou (1926) Slip-on dress.

Here is the pattern illustration for McCall 4457 in the McCall Quarterly for Summer 1926. All four patterns are in the summer Quarterly, so I suppose that makes our ensembles extra-authentic…

McCall 4457 1920s Patou dress pattern McCall Quarterly Summer 1926

McCall 4457 in the McCall Quarterly, Summer 1926. Image courtesy of Debby Zamorski.

The dress features geometric seaming detail at the hip and small of the back, where small pleats radiate from a pointed inset. The skirt is very full in the back, and the pattern layout calls for piecing, but I just got a little more fabric.

I made the dress up in grey satin-backed crepe with black lace trim. The pattern calls for 3.5″ lace, but we used 2.5″ lace instead. Luckily Naomi is basically a 1920s size 14, so the only adjustment I made was to slash for the next hip size up. Normally I would shorten the waist for her, and I started to make this adjustment to the pattern pieces before I realized they were the correct length. Maybe vintage Misses’ and Juniors’ sizes are good for petites?

The dress went together beautifully. I needed to even out the pleat markings, but that may have been due to my tracing job, not the pattern. Even the points weren’t too difficult once I created my own markings as a guide. Here’s the dress on the hanger:

McCall 4457 Patou 1920s flapper dress

Here are a couple midnight photos of Naomi in the dress:

The lace was a last-minute addition. I forgot to transfer the appropriate markings, so I reconstructed the shape of the V-shaped front lace section after the fact. And I now understand why you can buy collar-shaped lace pieces—it was a challenge working the lace around the back neckline. The faced hem the pattern called for was also new to me, but I liked how it was a pretty straightforward solution to the problem of hemming circular skirt sections. (Right now the hem is still just tacked up.)

I’m particularly happy with the Deco back detail:

Art Deco Jean Patou flapper dress detail McCall 4457

Sewing this 1920s dress was a really different experience. Naomi said she felt like she was wearing a time capsule when she tried on the muslin, and while we were out someone asked whether her dress was vintage! What we both like best about the design is the contrast between the dress’ simple, geometric lines and the lace detail. That tension between old and new (tradition and modernity?) seems to situate the dress right in the mid-1920s.

(Cross-posted to Sew Retro.)

Next: Naomi’s 1920s cape.

McCall 1920s cape pattern detail


October 3, 2011 § 9 Comments

On the set of Peter Greenaway’s “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover” (1989). Costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier. Corbis image © Byron Newman.

Late last month I had the opportunity to visit “La Planète mode de Jean Paul Gaultier. De la rue aux étoiles / The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal. (Overheard in the “À fleur de peau/Skin Deep” room: a father telling the small boy on his shoulders, “Le créateur aimait faire des robes avec des seins pointus.”) The show wrapped up in Montreal yesterday but will be on tour in the U.S., Spain and the Netherlands in the coming months. (See the international tour schedule here.) If you missed the show, Susan Orlean’s article in the New Yorker captures the mood of celebration surrounding the exhibit.

I’m not aware of any Jean Paul Gaultier sewing patterns, but two of the houses where Gaultier worked as assistant designer before starting his own fashion business—Pierre Cardin and Jean Patou—had licensing agreements with Vogue Patterns. On his eighteenth birthday, April 24, 1970, Jean Paul Gaultier was hired as assistant designer at Pierre Cardin. The following year, after a brief stint at Jacques Esterel, Gaultier began work as assistant designer at the house of Jean Patou. In 1974 he returned to Pierre Cardin, working at the house’s Manila studio before launching his own label in 1976.

In honour of Jean Paul Gaultier, I thought I’d feature a few early seventies patterns from Cardin and Patou from around the time Gaultier was working as assistant designer at each house. (I may have overlooked some patterns—currently the early ’70s don’t seem to be very well represented in the Vintage Patterns Wiki.) I’ve tried to factor in the time lag between runway presentation and the appearance of a licensed Vogue design, but I should stress that my choices represent a rough guess.

First, two Cardin patterns from 1971. Vogue 2405 is a long-sleeved or sleeveless dress with loop streamers. The three streamers extend from the right side of the high waist and re-join the garment at the hemline:

Vogue 2405 by Pierre Cardin 1970s dress with flower and streamers designer pattern

Vogue 2405 by Pierre Cardin (1971) Dress. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Vogue 2520 is a Pierre Cardin bridal gown: a long-sleeved, A-line wedding dress with high Empire waist and train-like back panel. The April/May 1971 issue of Vogue Pattern Book shows the dress made up in a silk knit. Isn’t it lovely?

Vogue 2520 Pierre Cardin 1970s wedding dress designer bridal gown pattern

Vogue 2520 by Pierre Cardin (1971) Wedding dress. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

The most fabulous mid-seventies Jean Patou pattern I’ve seen is actually a loungewear design. Vogue 1344, modelled by Billie Blair, is an evening-length dress with a boat neck, blouson bodice, dolman sleeves, side slit, and a contrast sash with streamers:

1970s Jean Patou lounge dress pattern - Vogue 1344

Vogue 1344 by Jean Patou (1975) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Unless I’m mistaken, Vogue 1344 is the rightmost dress in this Vogue Patterns editorial photo:

Designer evening wear Karen Bjornson Billie Blair Vogue Patterns November December 1975

Vogue Patterns, November/December 1975. Image via eBay.

(Update: for a clearer image see Miss Dandy’s tumblr blog—the contrast sash is sequinned.)

The pattern envelope calls the dress “Misses’ loungewear.” Since the house of Patou was exclusively a couture house, this must be an example of couture loungewear! Maybe it’s because I just saw the Montreal exhibit, but Vogue 1344 and Vogue 2405 remind me of a design in the show’s first room, a couture dress from Gaultier’s Spring 2007 couture collection. (See a photo of the mannequin on The Sewing Divas blog here.) The dress plays with the idea of streamers, integrating them into the skirt and also the motif of the bleeding heart:

Bleeding Heart evening gown Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture Spring 2007

Bleeding heart dress, Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Spring 2007. Model: Querelle Jansen. Photo: Marcio Madeira via

Catherine Deneuve wore a black version to the 2007 Academy Awards:

Catherine Deneuve black bleeding heart dress Gaultier Couture 79th Academy Awards 2007

Catherine Deneuve in Gaultier Couture at the 79th Academy Awards, 2007. Photo via

Gaultier himself designs through sketches, then collaborates with his atelier staff to develop the final design. In an interview with the curator of the Montreal exhibit, Gaultier discusses his formative technical training at Cardin and Patou. He says he “definitely had my rite of passage at Patou” and was still developing his technique during his second position at Cardin, when he made clothes for the notorious Imelda Marcos:

“When I worked for Cardin in the Philippines, I was always learning, because I really didn’t have any technique at that point. I dressed Imelda Marcos, making her clothes under the Cardin name that didn’t hold up or have the right proportions, but she wore them all the same!”

—from Thierry-Maxime Loriot, “The Rise of a Couturier,” in The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier (catalogue excerpt downloadable here).

Christian Lacroix: Vogue Patterns

August 29, 2011 § 7 Comments

Some time ago, Paco Peralta blogged about a Vogue pattern from the 1980s by Christian Lacroix, Vogue 2184, that he’d found while spring-cleaning his studio. (Read his post here. If you haven’t seen Paco’s blog yet, check it out! He shares both his work as a couturier and his extensive collection of Yves Saint Laurent patterns, often matching them up with vintage images from his personal archive.) Paco wasn’t sure whether Vogue 2184 was the only Vogue/Lacroix pattern, or whether there were others. This post is offered as a sequel and tribute to Paco and his work.

In the spring of 1988 Women’s Wear Daily announced a licensing agreement between Christian Lacroix and Vogue Patterns for a series of three patterns (“Lacroix makes deal with Vogue Patterns,” WWD, April 6, 1988). According to WWD, the three designs selected were all from the designer’s new ready-to-wear collection and would be on sale through the December catalogue from October 1st. Lacroix had presented his first ready-to-wear collection in March 1988, only a few weeks before the WWD announcement, meaning the three Vogue patterns are designs from the Fall/Winter Prêt-à-porter 1988-89 collection.

Christian Lacroix’s training in art history and museum studies was always evident in his work as a couturier. Lacroix wrote his master’s thesis on French costume in seventeenth-century painting, and historical costume was an important influence on his designs. (On Lacroix’s more recent fortunes, see the ‘people pages’ maintained by the Guardian and the New York Times.) Before I looked into these patterns, I was most familiar with Lacroix’s fanciful couture evening wear; I hoped to find a pattern for a crazy eighties Lacroix evening design like the pouf—the bubble skirt for which he became famous. What I didn’t realize is that the pouf was actually conceived at Patou, where Lacroix was artistic director from 1981 to 1987. This photo shows a stunning Lacroix design for Jean Patou haute couture:

Christian Lacroix couture cocktail dress Jean Patou 1987

Hand-painted toile de jouy cocktail dress, Christian Lacroix for Jean Patou, 1987. Photo: François Hallard, Condé Nast archives.

One of the things that made Lacroix leave Patou was the lack of opportunity to design ready-to-wear. His new label, backed by Bernard Arnault, was launched with a couture collection, followed by a ‘luxe’ ready-to-wear line, and then by the ready-to-wear in March 1988. (See Michael Gross, “High Fashion, Corporate Intrigue.”) Shown in a tent in the Louvre courtyard on the first day of the Paris prêt-à-porter, Lacroix’s inaugural ready-to-wear collection was characterized by short hemlines and fitted and flared silhouettes, especially rounded barrel skirts, and warm colours like orange and purple. (See Bernadine Morris, “A Spirited Lacroix and the Serious Japanese.”)

The three Vogue designs from this collection look to have been photographed on location in Paris. The photos show a short version (view A) of the skirt or dress—presumably the version closest to the original design. But the illustrations (view B) all show the option of a lower hemline. Here is Paco Peralta’s pattern, Vogue 2184, a cropped jacket and high-waisted skirt that flares from released pleats. The skirt is underlined and has an inside belt of grosgrain ribbon.

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2184 1980s

Vogue 2184 by Christian Lacroix (1988) High-waisted skirt and jacket

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2184 1980s suit schematic

Technical drawing for Vogue 2184

The envelope description reads: Misses’ jacket & skirt. Loose-fitting, lined, waist length jacket has shoulder pads and long two-piece sleeves. Fitted and flared skirt, above mid-knee variations, has raised waist, no waistband, front and back pleats, inside belt, pockets and side zipper. Purchased top.

Vogue 2183 is a similar ensemble, a tapered, high-waisted barrel skirt and bolero that buttons to the top of the skirt:

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2183 1980s

Vogue 2183 by Christian Lacroix (1988) High-waisted skirt and jacket

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2183 1980s suit schematic

Technical drawing for Vogue 2183

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ jacket & skirt. Semi-fitted, lined, above waist jacket has dropped shoulders, shoulder pads, side panels (no side seams) and long, two-piece sleeves with cuffs. Tapered skirt, above mid-knee variations, has raised waist, front pleats, side panels (no side seams), side front pockets and side zipper closing. Purchased top.

The pièce de résistance, photographed before the Eiffel Tower, is Vogue 2176, a full-skirted dress with broad, dropped shoulders and optional front trim:

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2176 1980s

Vogue 2176 by Christian Lacroix (1988) Dress

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2176 1980s dress schematic

Technical drawing for Vogue 2176

The envelope description reads: Misses’ dress. Dress, above mid-knee variations, has dropped shoulders, shoulder pads, close-fitting, shaped back bodice, princess seams, side panels (no side seams), flared, pleated skirt, pockets (slightly forward), front zipper and hemline slit, stitched hems and long sleeves. A: purchased trim. No provision for above-waist adjustment.

Update: Here are some Lacroix images from the December 1988 Vogue Patterns catalogue. Vogue 2176 was featured on the cover:

Christian Lacoix pattern on the cover of the Vogue Patterns catalogue, December 1988

Vogue Patterns catalogue, December 1988. Image via eBay.

Christian Lacroix patterns in the Vogue Patterns catalogue for December 1988

Vogue Patterns catalogue, December 1988. Image via eBay.

Here are a few editorial images from L’Officiel showing Lacroix’s ready-to-wear for Fall 1988. I was tickled to see that, in French, barrel skirts are called ‘amphora-shaped.’

Christian Lacroix ready-to-wear: smocked coat dress in wool and Zamori cashmere, worn over a turtleneck bodysuit, also Zamori wool. L’Officiel June 1988. Photo: Mark Arbeit. Image via

Christian Lacroix ready-to-wear, L’Officiel August 1988. Photo: Peter Godry. Image via

According to the WWD article, more Lacroix designs were expected to be added “for next spring and each season thereafter.” But I have a feeling the first set was also the last. The ’88 Lacroix patterns seem to be fairly rare, suggesting their sales may not have met expectations. Or maybe the big shoulders and skirt volumes were too perfectly ‘eighties’ for home sewers, post-Black Monday. What I was surprised to see were the barrel skirts, familiar to me as a trend in the early 1960s (and also, apparently, in 1917), showing the breadth of Lacroix’s references and fashion’s continual re-incorporation and renewal of its past.

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