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?
February 11, 2015 § 5 Comments
The first Winter Olympics in 1924 contributed to the growing popularity of skiing, which had been around since the late nineteenth century. I have not yet seen any 1920s skiwear patterns, but contemporary magazine covers attest to the sport’s fashionability. Helen Dryden illustrated this ski-themed cover for Delineator magazine:
The following winter, Jean Pagès illustrated a ski scene for the cover of Vogue’s holiday issue:
This McCall skiwear pattern for ski jacket, pants, and separate hood dates to winter 1932-33. The catalogue text reads, “The hood fits cozily about the throat. The jacket gains freedom through two pleats in the back”:
McCall 7195 was also illustrated on the cover of the McCall Style News for January 1933:
The 1936 Winter Games were the first to include Alpine skiing, and we see an increase in skiwear patterns from the mid-1930s. (Before 1936, Olympic ski events were limited to Nordic, or cross-country, skiing and ski jumping.) A page in the December 1936 issue of Butterick Fashion News shows women’s and children’s patterns for winter sports, complete with fabric recommendations—wool, suede cloth, snow cloth, and corduroy. The patterns are Butterick 7033, 5927, and 7062 (click to enlarge):
The cover of Butterick Fashion News for February 1940 shows an alpine chalet scene featuring a ski suit pattern, Butterick 8793. The text inside reads, “Snow fun in a ski suit… When you zip off the reversible jacket, your monogrammed suspenders will be muchly admired.” (More scans at witness2fashion.) The pattern calls for snow cloth with poplin lining:
A copy of Butterick 8793 is found in the Commercial Pattern Archive, where it is dated to 1939. The pattern includes the cap:
Postwar skiwear retained the slimmer silhouette that had been prompted by wartime fabric rationing. From 1946, Butterick 3985 is a ski suit with jaunty cropped jacket and detachable hood:
From the later 1950s, Vogue 9332 is a ski suit consisting of hooded overblouse and slim stirrup pants, for flannel, worsted, gabardine, alpaca, and poplin. I plan to make this one up for après-ski purposes:
McCall’s 4788 is a ski jacket with drawstring hem, stirrup pants, and separate hood. Recommended fabrics are corduroy, poplin, serge, jersey, and twill:
Unfortunately, no-one seems to have licensed Emilio Pucci skiwear patterns. This British Vogue cover features a Pucci ski ensemble:
The only 1960s skiwear pattern I’ve seen is Vogue 6044, a hooded parka and slim stirrup pants for stretch fabrics. The envelope back notes that, for the view A parka, allowance has been made for quilting narrow fabrics. The fur cloth version is a fun alternative:
From Daniel Hechter, Butterick 4370 is a designer ski suit consisting of straight leg pants and a belted jacket with drawstring hood. The fabric recommendations range from pinwale corduroy and double knits to synthetic leather and suede:
Butterick also had two his and hers skiwear patterns, Butterick 5110/5111, a jacket or sleeveless jacket and jumpsuit (really overalls) for water repellent, quilted fabrics. The jacket and overalls have elasticized snow guards at the wrists and ankles and contrast yokes and front bands in poplin or ciré:
From 1980, Simplicity 9785 includes overalls in full or knicker length, a ski jacket with detachable sleeves, and legwarmers—all for quilted, double-faced, water-resistant fabrics:
I’ll close with this mid-1980s, ski-themed Vogue Knitting cover:
May 12, 2014 § 6 Comments
(A late Mother’s Day post since I was under the weather yesterday.)
In honour of Mother’s Day, this models post is devoted to a mother and daughter who both modelled for designer sewing patterns: Nena von Schlebrügge and Uma Thurman.
Nena von Schlebrügge (b. 1941) was born in Mexico City to German-Swedish parents who had fled Nazi Germany. In 1957, two years after she was discovered by Norman Parkinson, she moved from her native Stockholm to London to pursue modelling, later moving to New York to sign with Eileen Ford.
Nena von Schlebrügge appears on a number of Vogue Pattern Book covers and Vogue patterns from the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Here she models one of Vogue’s first Dior patterns by Yves Saint Laurent—Vogue 1472, a skirt suit and full coat with big, shaped collar:
Von Schlebrügge can also be seen on Vogue 1484 by Madame Grès, a 3-piece ensemble that includes a voluminous coat with three-quarter sleeves, loose back panel, and elegant contrast lapels and lining:
Uma Thurman (b. 1970) is the daughter of Nena von Schlebrügge and her second husband, Robert Thurman. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Uma Thurman dropped out of her prep school there to pursue acting in New York City, where she worked as a fashion model before landing her breakout roles in Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).
Here Thurman wears Simplicity 8054, a wrap dress with halter back and capelet sleeves, in classic red:
Here she models a pure ’80s LBD with big shoulders and flutter sleeves, Simplicity 8055:
Nena von Schlebrügge later became a psychotherapist and director of Tibet House and the Menla Center; Uma Thurman is an Academy Award nominee for her role in Pulp Fiction (1994). Thurman’s presence is already evident in her Simplicity patterns. Isn’t the family resemblance striking?
November 9, 2013 § 14 Comments
I love vintage swimwear. (See my post on vintage beachwear patterns here.) It’s also been years since I had a bathing suit; somehow I can never make myself shop for one. So I resolved to make a vintage swimsuit using the Vintage Fashion Library’s reproduction of Simplicity 7041, VFL 145.
Based on the envelope design and that of the consecutively numbered Simplicity 7042, a lingerie set with bloomers, I would date the pattern to circa 1929. (On the development of the 1920s swimsuit see Bomber Girl’s post here.)
These two George Hoyningen-Huene photos of Patou swimsuits from the late ’20s served as reference and inspiration for me:
The original pattern instructions give a charming description: “7041: Style for chic and for good swimming. It has a smart belted waistline, buttoned shoulder straps, and a round neckline. Style 1: A one-piece suit for the very active swimmer who demands plenty of freedom. Style 2: A two-piece suit which looks well on the taller woman. With deep V-back.” The pointed, lapped lower bodice seam is a nice Deco detail, which could be brought out further by making the attached shorts in a contrasting fabric.
I made the one-piece with scoop back. I found some lightly textured, black swimwear fabric on sale at King Textiles’ old location, with matching white fabric for a contrast belt. To face the upper bodice and belt I used tricot interfacing/lining from Designer Fabrics, where I also got some plain 1″ buttons. The 1.5″ belt buckle is from Leather & Sewing Supply Depot (now at 204 Spadina).
I needed to grade down the repro’s B38 to fit me. Even then I had to take in the suit at the upper side seams. The straps were made slightly shorter and narrower as part of the grading, but the length of the shorts was unaltered. I added white topstitching along the top and bottom edges of the bodice, with contrasting black topstitching on the white belt.
The cut of the shorts is in the old style, which takes some getting used to. Here is a view of the suit, shown flat:
Naomi and I took some photos of the swimsuit at the old Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion. This archival photo shows the pavilion in its heyday:The pavilion’s grand, Beaux-Arts archway records the year it opened to the public, 1922:
As Naomi pointed out, the suit is basically a playsuit, and with heels and a coverup it didn’t feel too odd walking down Queen Street West to the beach.
I was able to cheat and make the buttons non-functional:
I had trouble deciding how to fit the suit. Although period photographs show knit swimsuits that cling to the body, the illustration shows a looser-fitting suit. Since I wanted to swim in it, I wasn’t aiming for an authentic reproduction. (Wool is just not an option.) But having made it up, it’s clear the suit would drape better in a lighter swimwear fabric. I may try the low-backed, skirted view for next summer…
(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)
September 2, 2013 § 1 Comment
During World War 2, women engaged in wartime work could choose from a variety of sewing patterns for work wear. The array of coveralls available included the mechanic suit, a close cousin to the siren suit or air raid suit (see my earlier post here). This 1942 pattern from Simplicity shows a khaki version paired with a garrison cap:
(You can see a contemporary photo of View 1 at Unsung Sewing Patterns.)
Happy Labour Day, everyone!
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?
September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
Recently listed in my Etsy shop: a number of vintage pattern booklets dating to the early 1960s. Here are images from a few with a back-to-school theme, all from 1962.
“Fall Fashion Preview for back to school, back to college, back to town,” Vogue Pattern News, August 1, 1962—back when Vogue Patterns issued its news booklets twice a month:
“Clothes on the Go” from Simplicity Fashion Preview, September 1962:
Also from September 1962, this Butterick Fashion News booklet was featured in the School time treasury:
Happy Labour Day, everyone!