July 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
Iman (b. 1955) turns sixty today. Born Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid in Mogadishu, Somalia, she and her family fled to Kenya after the 1969 military coup, where she was discovered while a student in Nairobi by photographer Peter Beard. She soon became the first African supermodel, later founding Iman Cosmetics. (For more on Iman’s early career, watch Vogue Italia’s video interview, or read a 2014 Guardian profile here.)
Iman can be seen on a handful of Vogue Patterns, circa 1980, as well as pattern editorials in Vogue Patterns and Vogue magazine.
From Jean Muir, Vogue 2399 is a long-sleeved, blouson dress with matching scarf:
Vogue 2400 is an Emanuel Ungaro skirt suit with striped, quilted jacket and tucked blouse:
From Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue 2404 is a skirt suit with contrast standing collar and turn-back cuffs:
(Reposted from the Fashion Spot Iman thread.)
On the left, Iman wears Vogue 7234 (the envelope shows Gia Carangi; with Bjornson in Vogue 7392); on the right, her wrap-front blouse is Very Easy Vogue 7373 (with Bjornson in Vogue 7435 – click to enlarge):
Just for fun, here’s another early Iman cover from the same period as her commercial pattern work (photographer unknown; later used by German Cosmo):
Happy birthday, Iman!
With thanks to vegas4001 for the Vogue Italia photographer credit.
July 24, 2015 § 4 Comments
Equestrian. This Depression-era pattern for fall-front jodhpurs has jaunty cuffed trousers, the requisite reinforced inner leg, and three pocket pieces, including one for a watch pocket:
(Click the image to see sold listing with back of envelope.)
Interestingly, this copy of Butterick 5647 is stamped Pattern Made in Canada. Although the pattern was produced in women’s, misses’ and girls’ sizes, the early equestrian patterns that survive are usually in smaller sizes—intended for riding lessons, perhaps?
For more vintage equestrian patterns see my Year of the Horse post.
July 23, 2015 § 3 Comments
Cycling. This cycling illustration graced the cover of the summer 1938 issue of Vogue Pattern Book:
The pattern is Vogue 8014, a sport or evening frock, bolero, and calot (hat) in the collection of CoPA:
July 22, 2015 § 2 Comments
Bowling. This early 1960s pattern from Simplicity includes an “action back” shirt and skirt in two lengths. The skirt has inverted pleats in front and back; the shirt, which may be monogrammed, has pleats at the back shoulder seams:
July 21, 2015 § 5 Comments
Rhythmic gymnastics. This early 1930s gym and dance costume was available in misses’ and juniors’ sizes. The costume includes a long-sleeved or sleeveless blouse with elasticized lower edge and two styles of tap pant:
Like other sportswear patterns, McCall 6498 stayed in print for several years: Allison Marchant/carbonated’s copy is copyright 1934.
July 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
I’ve been busy restocking the store with disco / American Hustle-style 1970s and ultra-rare 1920s Vogue patterns like this godet frock:
The sale runs through next Saturday, July 18th—25% off with coupon code YEARTHEFOURTH. Your purchase helps support the research on this blog.
July 11, 2015 § 8 Comments
The new book by the curator of the Commercial Pattern Archive is the first comprehensive study of the sewing pattern industry. Published through Bloomsbury’s academic imprint, Joy Spanabel Emery’s A History of the Paper Pattern Industry: The Home Dressmaking Fashion Revolution traces the history of commercial patterns from their beginnings in early modern tailors’ drafting systems to the 21st century.
Emery is Professor Emerita of Theater at the University of Rhode Island, where she also taught in the fashion department. In addition to her articles on commercial sewing patterns, she is the author of Stage Costume Techniques (Prentice-Hall, 1981).
The materials found in the University of Rhode Island’s Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) and the personal archive of CoPA founder Betty Williams are the main sources for the book, which focuses on the pattern industry and its role in the production of everyday clothing. Emery presents her research in short, textbook-style chapters, ending each chapter with a brief summary. In the back, readers will find an index, endnotes for each chapter, and a detailed bibliography with sections for primary sources, secondary sources, and archival collections.
As a special inducement to those who sew, the book also includes an appendix with nine patterns, each laid out on a grid by Susan Hannel, the chair of the University of Rhode Island’s fashion department. The gridded patterns range from an 1850s Demorest basque [bodice], originally published as a pattern sheet supplement in a ladies’ fashion gazette, to a 1960s men’s Nehru jacket from Spadea.
Recent academic books on sewing have used the framework of gender studies to examine sewing as a cultural practice. Barbara Burman’s collection, The Culture of Sewing: Gender, Consumption and Home Dressmaking (Berg, 1999, to which Emery contributed a chapter, “Dreams on Paper: A Story of the Commercial Pattern Industry”), and Sarah A. Gordon’s “Make It Yourself”: Home Sewing, Gender, and Culture 1890-1930 (Columbia University Press, 2007) both present social histories of sewing that take into account changing understandings of femininity and women’s work.
Emery’s book takes a more conservative approach to the material culture of sewing patterns, aiming to lay the groundwork for further study by focusing on the historical timeline of commercial production and technical development. Each chapter traces the industry’s new technologies and companies, mergers and closures as the pattern business landscape shifted from early diversity to today’s conglomerates.
CoPA’s holdings are so extensive that they show not only the industry’s response to dramatic developments in fashion, like the New Look or youthquake, but also to historical events like the First and Second World Wars. A 1918 issue of Butterick’s magazine, The Delineator, shows two women in naval uniform (Butterick pattern no. 1101), while a 1943 McCall’s pattern for Victory aprons is printed with patriotic verse:
(For more on Butterick 1101 see Michelle Lee’s blog post.)
Industry players competed to improve the sewing customer’s experience. We have McCall’s to thank for the printed pattern. Other pattern companies couldn’t duplicate the technique until McCall’s patent expired—although Pictorial Review found a creative workaround with patterns that were both printed and perforated.
It was during the economic boom of the 1920s that the industry produced the first fully conceived designer patterns. As Betty Williams found in her research, McCall’s interwar couture patterns were based on garments purchased from Parisian couture houses for copying purposes. When Williams shared an early McCall Patou pattern with staff at the house of Patou, they agreed that the design looked like the couturier’s work, but were unable to find documentation of a McCall-Patou relationship (Williams 1995).* Intriguingly, Emery mentions a business agreement model along the lines of today’s licensing, but does not go into further detail.
Infelicities of layout and organization occasionally disrupt the flow. Including the discussion of interwar couture patterns in the 1920s chapter means that we read about the 1933 closure of the Paris Pattern Company, and see a 1930s example of a Paris Pattern, before reaching the 1930s chapter. Paris Patterns in fact survived beyond 1933: by the following year, the company seems to have merged with Style and was still releasing patterns for June, 1934.
The text is sometimes marred by typographical errors, as well as errors traceable to data entry errors in the pattern archive. Schiaparelli’s first Vogue Paris Original (no. 1051) is included in the chapter devoted to World War 2 rather than the postwar chapter, and its date is given as 1947 when it should be 1949—the year Vogue Patterns, still owned by Condé Nast, launched its Paris Originals with great fanfare. (See my postwar Schiaparelli post here.)
Countering the assertion that commercial pattern designs are already out of fashion, Emery argues that patterns historically allowed their customers to keep abreast of trends, giving some interesting before and after examples of patterns adapted to reflect the new proportions of the postwar New Look.
The question of the relationship between high fashion and the commercial pattern industry is an interesting one. Contemporary high fashion adaptations in pattern form are relatively current. Roland Mouret’s Fall 2005 blockbuster, the Galaxy dress, was adapted in 2006 as Vogue 8280, and Carven’s dress for Spring 2013 was adapted for that season as Vogue 8900 (see As I Said…). Current adaptations can be seen in McCall’s #sewthelook series on Instagram.
But licensed designer patterns are a different story. While trend-setting styles such as those from Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian and Ballets Russes collections could count on expedited production, more often there seems to have been a seasonal lag. A 1950s Laroche pattern discussed as typical in a contemporary report, Vogue 1450, is a design from the Spring 1959 couture that was released a season later, in late 1959.
Today, when the production time for a commercial pattern has been cut to as little as four weeks,** it’s still unusual for a new designer pattern to represent the current season. To take some recent examples: of Simplicity’s Cynthia Rowley patterns from the Summer 2015 release, Simplicity 1105 is unusual for being from the current season, Spring/Summer 2015:
In Vogue Patterns’ Fall 2014 release, the Donna Karan, Guy Laroche, and Rachel Comey selections are from the Fall 2013 collections, while the Ralph Rucci coat, Vogue 1419, is from the Pre-Fall 2013 collection:
The fashion industry has changed, and fewer designers are willing to enter into licensing agreements for commercial patterns, let alone license current-season designs. Historical analysis of the pattern industry shows how it has adapted in response not only to economic and social trends, but also to home sewers’ changing relationship with fashion. Emery has taken a much-needed look to the archives in this essential resource.
(Press release and interview here.)
Joy Spanabel Emery, A History of the Paper Pattern Industry: The Home Dressmaking Fashion Revolution, London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
ISBN (cloth): 9780857858306
ISBN (paper): 9780857858313
* Betty Williams, “1920s Couturier Patterns and the Home Sewer,” Cutters’ Research Journal 6.4 (Spring 1995).
** According to a Forbes article cited on p. 201.
For review purposes I received a complimentary copy from the publisher.