November 11, 2014 § 6 Comments
This year marks the centennial of the beginning of World War 1. In honour of Armistice Day, this post looks at commercial sewing patterns associated with the First World War.
This illustration from the July 1917 issue of McCall’s magazine shows McCall patterns suitable for war work: a nurse’s uniform, apron, and cap, and outdoor workwear including women’s overalls (patent pending):
Official Red Cross patterns exemplify the volunteer production of clothing and medical supplies that formed part of the war effort. American Red Cross patterns were published by multiple American pattern companies, while in the U.K., British Red Cross sewing and knitting instructions were available in several books by Emily Peek.* In Canada, volunteers sewing for the Canadian Red Cross may have used both British and American resources.
The McCall Fashions for February 1918 gives a list of American Red Cross patterns for garments to be used in hospitals and refugee camps; the cover illustration shows three women dressed “For the visit to the camp”:
The inside front cover lists two types of official American Red Cross pattern: “for the relief of refugees and repatriates in the war-stricken countries, particularly in France and Belgium” and for hospital garments. The illustrations show an infant’s layette, unisex children’s cape, reversible bed jacket, and trench foot slipper (click to enlarge):
A news article from June, 1918 discusses the most needed hospital garments and supplies corrections for two refugee garment patterns. It seems the “helpless case shirt” (for patients with arm injuries) was available in two versions:
(Full archived version here.)
Andrea of Unsung Sewing Patterns has a copy of the “helpless case shirt,” Red Cross 35—more sensitively called a taped hospital bed shirt:
(See Unsung Sewing Patterns for more Red Cross refugee patterns.)
A 1917 article in McCall’s magazine describes the Red Cross relief effort and seven new patterns for hospital work. It presents sewing as an alternative to nursing, for which fewer women were qualified, arguing that “[s]ewing may not seem to many as romantic as nursing the wounded upon the battlefield, but without it the nursing might be useless.” Interestingly, official American Red Cross patterns were at first distributed through the organization’s national headquarters, but later became available directly to the public (click to enlarge):
On the right, readers found descriptions of the new patterns, accompanied by photographs showing Red Cross officials Jane A. Delano and Clara D. Noyes, and women in a Red Cross chapter at work:
The illustrations of the new patterns seek to include the Red Cross sewing effort in the romance of nursing. Here a nurse serves a meal to a patient who is wearing McCall Special C, a hospital bed shirt:
McCall Special P is a pair of pajamas:
To be made from one or two blankets, McCall Special O is a bathrobe or convalescent gown:
McCall Special R is a Red Cross Surgeon’s and Nurse’s operating gown—a unisex medical uniform available in two sizes:
The illustration of the Red Cross nurse also shows the McCall Special S operating helmet:
The Commercial Pattern Archive has both sizes of McCall Special R its collection. The larger is reproduced in Joy Emery’s new book:
Do you have any World War I patterns in your collection?
* Seligman, Cutting for All! (Southern Illinois UP, 1996), pp. 123-24, cited in Emery, A History of the Paper Pattern Industry (Bloomsbury, 2014), p. 91. A digitized version of Emily Peek, Practical Instruction in Cutting Out and Making Up Hospital Garments for Sick and Wounded: Approved by the Red Cross Society (British Red Cross Society, 1914), is available through the University of Southampton.
November 7, 2014 § 2 Comments
This Halloween I went as Lyanna Stark. Full post to come when I’ve had the chance to do a real photo shoot…
Hope everyone had a great Halloween!
September 30, 2014 § 9 Comments
The playsuit bodice and shorts are pleated into a pointed, one-piece midriff band, and the whole thing closes at the front with a zipper and buttons. I love the shaped side vents on the shorts.
I used a black glitter stretch knit from my stash, found at Fabricland’s old downtown location. The pattern needed extensive resizing. Due to the mid-1970s unofficial sizing change (thanks to Peter for drawing my attention to this) the 10 was fine on top. (That’s my copy on the wiki.) I added some ease to the midriff band and adjusted the bodice and shorts to match up to it. I also lengthened the rise, added to the crotch length, and slashed to add some room in the hips. Yes, it’s a stretch knit, but I was trying to be faithful to the ease of the original.
This was my first time sewing a McCall’s “Carefree” pattern, and I found the instructions involved a little guesswork. I have also made up a ’70s Vogue pattern with similar design elements—midriff band, pleated dirndl skirt—and can vouch for Vogue’s more extensive markings and instructions. The McCall’s didn’t even have markings for the buttonholes. I carefully followed Vogue Sewing Book’s buttonhole instructions, but I suspect I made them too big. Perhaps vertical buttonholes would solve the problem?
If I were to make the playsuit again, I would add markings to the midriff piece to help line up the side seams etc., and also ease stitch across all the pleats (rather than just hand basting) to keep everything in place. The instructions say to finish the shorts with a narrow hem; I couldn’t see that working with my knit and the shaped side vents, so I did my best to mimic a serger finish (zigzag, trim, topstitch) and pressed the sides into relative submission. If I were making it again I would use fusible stay tape.
The sparkle only shows up close:
Here’s a view of the back pleats:
The playsuit is so strappy, short, and unstructured that it falls more into the realm of loungewear. It’s a bit more practical when worn with a coverup.
(Sandals: Gareth Pugh for Melissa)
(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)
August 28, 2014 § 5 Comments
Krizia was already an established label when McCall’s licensed Krizia patterns in the late 1970s. Designer Mariuccia Mandelli (b. 1933) co-founded the company with her friend Flora Dolci in the 1950s, naming it after Plato’s unfinished dialogue Κριτίας (Critias)—Crizia in Italian. The label is known for eclectic, youthful designs that play with pattern and contrast. (For recent coverage of the brand and its influence see the W article, Crazy for Krizia.)
From spring 1979, this two-page spread in L’Officiel shows three Krizia trouser ensembles featuring magenta, orange, and fuchsia satins (click to enlarge):
This Krizia sweater set (short-sleeved pullover, bolero, and skirt) appeared in a Vogue editorial on the new knitwear:
Between 1979 and 1981, McCall’s released a number of Krizia patterns, including a few children’s patterns. Here’s a selection of Krizia patterns for women’s wear.
McCall’s 6624 is a bias wrap skirt and playsuit with shorts and bodice pleated into a midriff band:
McCall’s 6629 combines a short-sleeved, V-neck bodysuit with a midi-length trouser skirt and wrap shorts:
This pattern is a set of four tops for stretch knits:
McCall’s 6805 is Krizia’s take on the wrap dress, with soft pleats at the shoulder and neckline and lightly puffed sleeves in long and three-quarter lengths:
This sleek skirt suit, reminiscent of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, pairs a straight skirt with a fitted jacket with shaped hemline and two-piece sleeves with pleated caps. The notched collar has an optional lapel buttonhole:
From 1980, this casual summer ensemble includes bias shorts or culottes and two tops trimmed with tubular knit:
The more formal McCall’s 7307 is a pattern for polished separates: a jacket with two-piece sleeves, skirt in 2 lengths, and flowing, cuffed pants with matching camisole:
Just for fun, here are two more images from Krizia’s Fall 1979 advertising campaign, photographed by Barry Ryan:
Coming soon: my version of the Krizia playsuit.
August 4, 2014 § 2 Comments
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or are a connoisseur of 1950s sewing advertising, you’ve seen images from McCall’s mid-1950s “Make the Clothes that Make the Woman” advertising campaign. (See my earlier post here.)
I’ve found another ad from the campaign. The model is Jean Patchett, and the pattern is McCall’s 3635 —an “Italian drawstring top” and “saucy in-between-length Jamaican shorts” (click to enlarge):
July 25, 2014 § 10 Comments
Versatile and contemporary, jumpsuits and their cousins, playsuits and rompers, have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Jumpsuits—or all-in-ones, if you’re British—seem poised to move beyond a trend this summer.
The modern women’s jumpsuit has origins in two different garments: beach pajamas and the boiler suit. These twin origins mean jumpsuit styles range from fluid loungewear to utility-inspired or tailored designs. (See Vogue Italia for a short history of the jumpsuit.) Here are some favourite all-in-one patterns from the 1930s to the 1990s.
Beach pajamas, often worn with a matching bolero, had become one-piece by the early 1930s. This McCall’s design combines flowing trousers with geometric seaming details in the bodice and hip yoke. A reproduction is available from the Model A Ford Club of America:
The boiler suits of wartime utility wear are said to have made bifurcated clothing more acceptable for women. This Vogue pattern from ca. 1940 includes both a hooded mechanic suit with cuffed trousers and a more casual, short-sleeved version shown in a dotted print:
This early 1940s pajama ensemble with T-back halter bodice was not just for the beach—the envelope says it’s for “beach, dinner or evening”:
In the postwar period, more tailored jumpsuits emerged as a choice for casual sportswear. This early 1950s pedal-pusher coverall has cuffed sleeves and pants and a front zipper closure:
From the late 1950s, this trim, one-piece slack suit from Vogue came in two lengths and with a matching overskirt:
The jumpsuit—sometimes called a culotte or pantdress—truly comes into its own in the later 1960s. Here Birgitta af Klercker models Vogue 2249, a loungewear design by Emilio Pucci (previously featured in my goddess gown post):
In this late 1960s Butterick Young Designers pattern, Mary Quant combines a trim, zip-front jumpsuit with a low-waisted miniskirt for a sleek, futuristic look:
Both pajama and menswear-inspired styles continue into the 1970s. Famous for her palazzo pajamas, Galitzine designed this bi-coloured lounge pantdress with criss-cross halter bodice:
From Calvin Klein, Vogue 1453 marks a return to the boiler suit style. With cargo pockets, self belt, and wide, notched collar, the jumpsuit could be made long or short, with long or short sleeves:
This Bob Mackie disco jumpsuit or evening dress pattern for stretch knits dates to 1980. (See my earlier Bob Mackie post here.) The jumpsuit has a plunging neckline, waistline pleats, and tapered, bias pants designed to crush at the ankles:
An instance of the late 1980s jumpsuit trend, this shirtdress-style jumpsuit by Donna Karan has a notched collar, welt pockets, and cuffed or seven-eighths length kimono sleeves:
Also by Donna Karan, Vogue 2609, ca. 1990, is a long-sleeved, tapered jumpsuit for stretch knits with neckline variations, front pleats, and stirrups. View C has a contrast bodice with self-lined hood:
From 1996, Vogue 1821 by DKNY is almost vintage. It’s a novel suit consisting of a single-breasted jacket and wide-legged, halter jumpsuit:
Finally, this pattern is not yet vintage, but a jumpsuit collection would be incomplete without Vogue 2343, Alexander McQueen’s tailored, tuxedo jumpsuit for Givenchy haute couture Spring/Summer 1998 (earlier post here):
With their demanding fit, jumpsuits are ideal for home sewers. And they’re not just for the tall and leggy: many of the later jumpsuit patterns are marked as suitable for petites.
April 14, 2014 § 1 Comment
With Mad Men entering its final season, my Mad Men-era series concludes with two posts on fashion designers whose work became available to home sewers in the mid-Sixties. (Browse the series by clicking the Mad Men era tag, or start at the beginning.)
Before the Vogue Americana line there was McCall’s New York Designers’ Collection. In the fall of 1965, McCall’s introduced a new pattern line: New York Designers’ Collection plus 1. (The “plus 1” refers to one foreign designer, Digby Morton; later, as McCall’s added designers to the line, it became “New York Designers’ Collection Plus.”)
The Fall/Winter 1965 issue of McCall’s Pattern Fashions & Home Decorating introduced readers to the new designers. According to the catalogue, the new line featured “the most outstanding fashions of seven leading American designers and one famous London couturier” (click to enlarge):
The original list of designers consisted of Larry Aldrich, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Laird-Knox, Digby Morton, Originala, Mollie Parnis, and Pauline Trigère, whose agreement with McCall’s dated to the mid-1950s. (Trigère was already featured in an earlier Mad Men era post.) Later additions would include Anne Klein, Jacques Tiffeau, and Rudi Gernreich.
This post looks at three of the best-known American designers in McCall’s new line: Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and Anne Klein.
Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Bill Blass (1922-2002) showed an early talent for fashion design, studying briefly at Parsons before enlisting in the U.S. military in 1942. After the war he returned to New York to work in the fashion industry; by 1959 he was head designer for Maurice Rentner—then a conservative, established Seventh Avenue label. (McCall’s patterns credit the designer as ‘Bill Blass for Maurice Rentner, Ltd.’) In 1970 he purchased the company and renamed it Bill Blass Ltd. Blass was known for his sophisticated but youthful designs favoured by high society. He retired in 1999.
McCall’s 8927 is an asymmetrical, sleeveless shift dress with applied bands and an inverted pleat on the left-hand side:
Born in Louisiana as Samuel Robert Bozeman Jr., Geoffrey Beene (1924-2004) trained at the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York and École de la Chambre Syndicale in Paris, where he also apprenticed with a tailor. Returning to New York, he worked at Harmay and Teal Traina before founding his own company in 1963. Beene was renowned for his innovative, modern designs, as well as his iconoclasm.
Veronica Hamel models McCall’s 1028, a dress cut in seven panels with seven-eighths kimono sleeves and triangular, bias collar:
Born in Brooklyn as Hannah Golofsky, Anne Klein (1923-1974) also trained at the Traphagen School of Fashion. The pioneer in American sportswear worked in petites and juniors before founding Anne Klein and Company in the late 1960s. Her final collection was completed by Donna Karan, who had begun work at the company in the summer of 1967 as Klein’s intern.
McCall’s 1020 is a sleeveless shift dress with angular armholes and fabulous standing (and convertible) collar. The model is Hellevi Keko:
All three New York designers would later make the switch to Vogue Patterns: Blass in 1967, Beene and Klein in the 1970s.