February 21, 2015 § 11 Comments
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.
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:
You can see echoes of the Dior caftan look in contemporary sewing patterns like McCall’s 3525 and 3532, both from late 1955:
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:
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:
This circa 1968 Vogue caftan pattern has optional flexible trim:
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:
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:
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”:
This Halston caftan pattern from McCall’s also includes a top and pants (you can buy yourself a copy from the shop):
This flowing Dior caftan, modelled by Billie Blair, has lots of neckline detail, full-length sleeve openings, and pockets:
Vogue 1515 by Nina Ricci is a caftan that’s open in front and attached at the neckline to a handkerchief-hemmed underdress:
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:
From Issey Miyake, Vogue 2315 is a caftan-inspired summer dress:
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:
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:
The design is from Chado Ralph Rucci Resort 2009:
Matthew Williamson’s short caftan, available as a free pattern from the Guardian, is also a 2009 design:
Would you sew a caftan?
July 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
In celebration of Canada Day, this models post is devoted to Canadian supermodel Linda Evangelista.
Born in St. Catharines, Ontario to Italian-Canadian parents, Linda Evangelista (b. 1965) was discovered by a scout from Elite at the 1981 Miss Teen Niagara beauty contest. (She didn’t win.) At eighteen she signed with Elite and moved to New York and later, Paris. Evangelista became one of the world’s most successful and influential models, especially after Julien d’Ys cut her hair short in 1988. (More on Voguepedia.)
Some of Evangelista’s early work can be seen in 1980s Vogue patterns and Burda magazine.
The young Evangelista made the cover of the Spring/Summer 1985 issue of Burda international:
She also starred in a jazz club-themed Burda editorial shot by Günter Feuerbacher (click the image for more):
Evangelista’s work with Vogue Patterns was for the Paris Originals line. Here she models a popular, pleated wrap dress by Emanuel Ungaro, Vogue 1799:
Evangelista can be seen on a number of Yves Saint Laurent patterns. Vogue 1720 is an elegant dress with blouson bodice and wide, bias roll collar. The pattern includes the contrast sash:
Here Evangelista shows off advanced-class colour blocking in Vogue 1721, a Nina Ricci pattern for a dramatic hooded blouse, mock-wrap skirt, sleeveless top, and sash:
This editorial photo from the Autumn 1986 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine best conveys the different colours:
Evangelista also appeared on the cover of the July/August 1987 issue of Vogue Patterns:
In the mid-1990s, Evangelista’s runway work for Yves Saint Laurent reached home sewers on Vogue pattern envelopes. From the YSL Rive Gauche Spring 1996 collection, Vogue 1862 is a pattern for cropped jacket, blouse, and high-waisted pants (see a detail shot on firstVIEW):
Evangelista brings out the drama of this Yves Saint Laurent Cossack-style coat, Vogue 1652:
Happy Canada Day, everyone!
February 27, 2014 § 4 Comments
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 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’:
Stan Herman designed this casual hooded top, skirt, and pants. The illustration shows some American Hustle-worthy aviator shades:
Here Blair wears a girlish, vintage-style ensemble by Nina Ricci, a cream-coloured dress with matching cape:
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:
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”):
Here she models a fabulous, evening-length Dior caftan with piped neckline:
This Nina Ricci separates pattern includes a poncho with shirttail hem, convertible collar, and big patch pockets:
Blair is the model on this rare pattern by Sonia Rykiel, Vogue 1378—check out the matching coral sandals:
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:
October 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
Speaking of aspirational marketing, I wanted to share this early ’60s, Mad Men-era ad for Singer’s Slant-O-Matic sewing machines and Singer Sewing Centers:
The ad shows a model (Dovima?) in full evening dress, complete with long gloves and glittering parure; she leans on a monumental Singer Slant-O-Matic sewing machine, a length of her gown’s green fabric rippling underneath.
According to the ad copy, zig-zag sewing is an exciting, time-saving innovation that helps you sew drapes, mend Johnny’s shirts, and choose complicated designer sewing patterns without a second thought. The eveningwear design is a Vogue Paris Original by Nina Ricci, Vogue 1499.
I love how the ad plays with scale while juxtaposing mid-century high glamour with the latest sewing technology. The other ads I’ve seen from this series promote formal sewing for the winter holidays, but this one is from the June/July Vogue Pattern Book.
September 25, 2012 § 7 Comments
The cape trend of the last two years shows no sign of abating. (Read a Fashionising post about the trend here.) In terms of sewing patterns, Donna Karan’s V2924 was ahead of the trend (see Erica B’s version here) and this fall we have V1322 by DKNY. Paco Peralta has several cape designs available including the sculptural Funghi. In vintage reissues, Butterick has re-released some vintage cape patterns in their Retro line: B6329 (from 1935) and B6411 (a reissue of Butterick 4570 from 1948).
I often find myself reaching for the vintage version of a current trend, and I’ll have a cape project to share with you soon. While looking for the right pattern, I was struck by the variety of cape designs over the decades. Here’s a selection of vintage cape patterns from the Twenties to the Eighties.
Two 1920s patterns in my collection have capes with interesting details. This mid-Twenties pattern for a dress by Renée also includes a cape with button/strap closure:
And I still love the pointed yoke of this Miler Soeurs cape (see my grey version here):
The Thirties were a good decade for capes. This 1936 copy of McCall Style News shows a matching cape and dress ensemble:
Sewing bloggers’ 1930s capes show how contemporary these vintage outerwear styles can look today. Debi’s mid-Thirties cape pattern has a similar look to the ensemble illustrated above, but with a false front creating the illusion of a matching jacket. Click the image to see her finished version:
The fashion for capes continued into the Forties. The decade’s strong-shouldered silhouette is visible in these two cape patterns from my collection. The first, from the early ’40s, has a pronounced, boxy shape and optional broad stand-up collar:
The second cape shades into New Look sleekness, with a narrower collar and lower hemline:
In the Fifties, capes showed a de-emphasis on the shoulders and a fullness that carries over to the early ’60s. Vogue 1089 by Robert Piguet is actually from 1949; I thought it might really be a capelet, but the envelope description calls it a “flared cape with diagonal double-breasted closing below soft shaped collar”:
Here’s an illustration of the Piguet ensemble by Bernard Blossac:
This mid-Fifties cape by Jacques Fath has big, buttoned cuffs at the arm vents. The shaped collar is part of the suit underneath:
The Sixties were another good decade for capes. On this Vogue Pattern Book cover, Wilhelmina Cooper exemplifies the “thoroughbred look” of Fall 1963 in a tailored yellow cape:
This elegant cape by Nina Ricci has a wide shawl collar and is shaped by released inverted darts. The model is Maggie Eckhardt:
Astrid Heeren models this fabulous mod cape by Pierre Cardin:
This late ’60s design by Pucci is modelled by Birgitta af Klercker and was photographed in Rome at La Cisterna:
As the Seventies progressed, capes generally kept their collars, but gained a new fluidity. This mid-Seventies Halston “poncho-cape” has a collar and button front, but is reversible:
This late ’70s Chloé design by Karl Lagerfeld, featuring Jerry Hall, includes a three-quarter length, circular cape with pointed bias collar. The cape gets its strong shoulders from an inside button and tab at each shoulder:
In the Eighties, fluidity gained the upper hand, as seen in these full, collarless, and unstructured capes by Yves Saint Laurent:
Would you wear a vintage cape, or do you prefer the cape’s more recent incarnations?
April 4, 2012 § 6 Comments
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:
(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:
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:
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:
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?