The Fantastic Mr Fox: Style Patterns by Frederick Fox

June 17, 2014 § 5 Comments

Queen Elizabeth II wears a Frederick Fox hat to the Silver Jubilee celebrations, 1977

Queen Elizabeth II wears a Frederick Fox hat with 25 “bells” to the Silver Jubilee celebrations, 1977. Photo: Douglas Kirkland. Image via Royal Hats.

Ascot begins today. To celebrate, this post is dedicated to commercial patterns by the late milliner to the Queen, Frederick Fox.

(Last year I featured a free pattern for a Stephen Jones hat; see it here.)

Diana, Princess of Wales wears a 'flying saucer' hat by Frederick Fox during the Royal Tour of Italy, 1985

Diana, Princess of Wales wears a ‘flying saucer’ hat by Frederick Fox during the Royal Tour of Italy, 1985. Photo: Tim Graham/AP. Image via People.

Born in Australia to a large family, Frederick Fox (1931-2013) showed an early interest in millinery, refashioning hats for his mother and five sisters in rural New South Wales. After training with several milliners in Sydney, in 1958 he moved to London. By 1964, Fox had taken over Langée to open his own salon.

Fox’s royal commission for Queen Elizabeth II grew out of his work with Hardy Amies in the mid-1960s. Shortly before this commission began, he designed the white leather crash helmets in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Fox was known for his witty designs, made with fine materials and great technical skill; he is credited with inventing the fascinator. (For more on Frederick Fox, see the recent D*Hub article and Stephen Jones’ reminiscence for British Vogue.)

Edwina Carroll in Kubrick's 2001 wearing a Frederick Fox crash helmet

Edwina Carroll as a PanAm space stewardess in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Costume by Hardy Amies; crash helmet by Frederick Fox. Image via eBay.

In the mid- to late 1980s, Frederick Fox millinery patterns were available from Style Patterns. Frederick Fox patterns display the Royal Warrant,* which he held from 1974 until his retirement in 2002.

Style 4788 is a pattern for bridal headpieces and veils. Included are both double- and single-layered veils, attached to three bases: a rose circlet edged with Russian braid, a beaded Juliet cap, and a twisted fabric headband. (The rose circlet may be worn alone.) View 1 was photographed with Style 4787, a bridal gown by Murray Arbeid, Fox’s companion of over 50 years:

1980s Frederick Fox bridal veils and headpieces pattern - Style 4788

Style 4788 by Frederick Fox (1986) Bridal head-dresses and veils.

Style 1072 is a pattern for a set of hats, including a beret, a turban, and a turban headband:

1980s Frederick Fox hat pattern - Style 1072

Style 1072 by Frederick Fox (c. 1986) Image via eBay.

Do you remember the ’80s hair ornament trend? Style 1157 is a pattern for a set of hair ornaments: a rosette with attached veil, a hair slide with large or small bow in 2 fabrics; and a headband with 2-fabric bow with optional diamante trim:

1980s Frederick Fox hair ornament pattern - Style 1157

Style 1157 by Frederick Fox (1987) Hair ornaments.

Style 1249 is a unusual for offering a set of bridal hats: a hat with attached veil and narrow brim turned up at the back, and two wide-brimmed, crownless hats (both attached to headbands):

1980s Frederick Fox bridal hats pattern - Style 1249

Style 1249 by Frederick Fox (1987) Bridal hats.

The original owner of my copy of Style 1249 had enclosed magazine pages showing these bridal designs; the text reads, “Head Turners: Hats for that special day by Frederick Fox exclusively for Style.” It may be that, like McCall’s designer patterns in the 1950s, these hats, veils, and headpieces were designed especially for Style Patterns.

* The Queen’s current milliner Rachel Trevor-Morgan is the only milliner on the current list of warrant holders.

Vintage Bridal Patterns

June 12, 2013 § 6 Comments

1930s Blanche Rothschild illustration of a bridal gown, McCall 9284 circa June 1937

McCall 9284 illustration by Blanche Rothschild, ca. June 1937. Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Vintage bridal patterns offer a unique alternative to modern bridal designs. Even if you’re already married, they provide a glimpse into past bridal fashions’ sometimes exotic vintage details—making them tempting even for those not in need of a wedding dress. (Can we expect Debi Fry to make her 1940 bridal pattern, McCall 4004?)

Now that wedding season is in full swing, here’s a selection of vintage bridal patterns, from the Twenties to the Eighties.

1920s

In the Twenties and Thirties, bridal patterns usually did double duty as patterns for formal dresses. This 1920s Peerless Patterns sign features a wedding illustration promoting a number of patterns:

1920s Peerless Patterns advertising poster with bridal scene

1920s Peerless Patterns advertising poster. Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

This fantastic bridal or evening dress is short, in keeping with the current fashion, and may have one or two extended side panels that give the effect of a train:

1920s evening or bridal dress pattern - McCall 4985 CoPA-KLS

McCall 4985 (1927) Image via the Commercial Pattern Archive, Kevin L. Seligman collection. For research purposes only.

1930s

Thirties bridal patterns have the same glamour we associate with the decade’s evening wear. This pattern for a bridal gown or dinner dress dates to circa June 1934:

1930s bridal gown or dinner dress pattern - McCall 7852

McCall 7852 (1934) Image via Etsy.

A reproduction version of this pattern for a bridal gown or afternoon dress is available from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library:

1930s bridal gown or afternoon dress pattern - McCall 8331

McCall 8331 (1935) Bridal gown or afternoon dress.

A copy of McCall 8331 recently seen on eBay was accompanied by this wedding portrait, which shows the dress made up:

San Francisco estate wedding portrait showing McCall 8331

1930s wedding portrait from a San Francisco estate. Image via eBay.

1940s

In the Forties the bride begins to take centre stage on pattern envelopes, although evening and bridesmaid versions are still included. This bridal or evening dress was reissued in the Vintage Vogue line as Vogue 2384:

1940s Vogue Special Design wartime bridal pattern S-4532

Vogue S-4532 (1944) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

This strong-shouldered, postwar design has a sweetheart neckline and waist piping detail. The pattern also includes a bridesmaid’s dress with short, shirred sleeves (click image for the technical drawings):

1940s bridal pattern - McCall 6353

McCall 6353 (1946) Image via Etsy.

1950s

By the 1950s the bride, in her full-skirted glory, dominates the pattern envelope. This Jacques Fath design for a bride’s or bridesmaid’s dress has a bustled back and tiny shawl collar. The bridesmaid’s version simply lacks a train:

1950s Jacques Fath bridal pattern - Vogue 1331

Vogue 1331 by Jacques Fath (1956) Image via carbonated on flickr.

John Cavanagh was known for his connection to the English court. He licensed several bridal patterns with Vogue, and designed the Duchess of Kent’s wedding dress in 1961. (See my earlier post here.) This short-sleeved Cavanagh design has a simulated train; the smaller figures show bridesmaid’s and evening versions:

1950s John Cavanagh bridal pattern - Vogue 148

Vogue 148 by John Cavanagh (1958) Image via VADS.

1960s

Also by John Cavanagh, this 1960s bridal design with a cathedral-length Watteau train was modelled by Jean Shrimpton:

1960s John Cavanagh wedding dress pattern - Vogue 1347

Vogue 1347 by John Cavanagh (1964) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

No bridal pattern survey could be complete without this Halston pattern for bridal headpieces:

Vogue 7082 Halston of Bergdorf Goodman 1960s bridal headpieces pattern

Vogue 7082 by Halston of Bergdorf Goodman (c. 1965) Image via eBay.

1970s

From the early 1970s, this Pierre Cardin bridal gown, shown in a silk knit, has an optional overskirt with handkerchief train:

1970s Pierre Cardin bridal gown pattern - Vogue 2520

Vogue 2520 by Pierre Cardin (1971) Image via eBay.

Vogue 2520 back

Illustration and technical drawing for Vogue 2520. Image via eBay.

Although it isn’t for everyone, Yves Saint Laurent’s couture bridal design for a gathered, bias dress, filmy coat, and five-yard veil distinguishes itself by showing the bride as wayward Vestal virgin (see Paco Peralta’s post here):

1970s Yves Saint Laurent bridal pattern - Vogue 1590

Vogue 1590 by Yves Saint Laurent (c. 1976) Image via Patrones Costura on Etsy.

1980s

Released in 1980, this opulent Dior design for a bell-skirted bridal gown, complete with bias necktie, cummerbund, and bow-embellished headpiece, is drawn from the Christian Dior Haute Couture collection for Fall 1979 (read Dustin’s post here):

1979 Christian Dior couture bridal gown pattern - Vogue 2545

Vogue 2545 by Christian Dior (1980) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Perfect for steampunk weddings, Vogue 2180 by Bellville Sassoon has an elaborate bustle that gives it a neo-Victorian flair:

1980s Bellville Sassoon bridal or evening pattern - Vogue 2180

Vogue 2180 by Bellville Sassoon (1989) Image via eBay.

For more on the history of bridal fashion, see the V&A Weddings page and Edwina Ehrman’s The Wedding Dress: 300 Years of Bridal Fashions (V&A, 2011).

Vera Wang: Vogue Patterns

June 4, 2013 § 3 Comments

Vera Wang with Ralph Lauren at the CFDA Awards

Vera Wang with Ralph Lauren at the CFDA Awards, June 3, 2013.

Last night Vera Wang was honoured with the CFDA’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award. (Read style.com’s article here; Voguepedia bio here. Watch the awards ceremony here.) Wang, 63, has built a retail empire that began with the bridal boutique she founded in New York in 1990.

Thanks to Vogue Patterns, you don’t have to be Blair Waldorf to wear a custom Vera Wang dress. Vogue Patterns licensed Vera Wang dress patterns from the mid-1990s into the 21st century. The company introduced Vera Wang in the May/June 1995 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine. The cover shows Vogue 1584, a Vera Wang design:

Vogue Patterns May/June 1995

Vogue Patterns magazine, May/June 1995. Image via eBay.

Another Vera Wang design, Vogue 1583, made the cover of the June counter catalogue:

Vogue 1583, a Vera Wang dress pattern, on the cover of the Vogue catalog, June 1995

Vogue Patterns catalogue, June 1995. Image via eBay.

The first series of Vera Wang patterns consisted of three patterns, only one of which was officially a bridal design. (By 1993 Wang had branched out into formal wear.) The bridal pattern consists of a long-sleeved dress and overskirt in two lengths; the two-way stretch “illusion” fabric used for upper bodice and sleeves makes the dress an alternative to strapless bridal designs:

1990s Vera Wang bridal or cocktail dress pattern - Vogue 1583

Vogue 1583 by Vera Wang (1995) Image via Etsy.

The other two patterns are sleeveless, high-collared cocktail or evening dresses with mesh details. The first has a contrast back and collar, while the second has contrast yokes and armhole binding:

Vera Wang pattern - Vogue 1584

Vogue 1584 by Vera Wang (1995) Image via Etsy.

Vera Wang dress pattern - Vogue 1585

Vogue 1585 by Vera Wang (1995) Image via eBay.

Back interest is a theme running through Vogue’s Vera Wang patterns. This formal dress has a mesh back criss-crossed by broad straps:

Vera Wang cocktail or evening dress pattern - Vogue 1767

Vogue 1767 by Vera Wang (1996) Image via Etsy.

The elegant Vogue 1944 features a bias back drape:

Vera Wang cowl-back dress pattern - Vogue 1944

Vogue 1944 by Vera Wang (1997) Image via Etsy.

This bridal gown may be made with a back pleat or an attached, ruffled petticoat that spills out through the skirt’s back:

Vera Wang bridal gown pattern - Vogue 2118

Vogue 2118 by Vera Wang (1998) Image via Etsy.

These two dresses, one with a stretch knit contrast bodice, the other with spaghetti straps and peekaboo back, are classic minimalist ’90s formal wear:

Vera Wang cocktail or evening dress pattern - Vogue 2251

Vogue 2251 by Vera Wang (1999) Image via Etsy.

Vera Wang cocktail or evening dress pattern - Vogue 2257

Vogue 2257 by Vera Wang (1999) Image via Etsy.

Mad Men Era 7: Millinery

June 4, 2012 § 3 Comments

Carolyn model Cassandra Jean Tomorrowland Mad Men Season 4

Carolyn (Cassandra Jean) in “Tomorrowland” (Mad Men, Season 4)

This week, four milliners who licensed their designs with Vogue in the early Sixties: Sally Victor, John Frederics, Guy Laroche, and Halston.

Sally Victor

Sally Victor (1905-1977) was one of the United States’ most prominent and successful milliners. She began her career as a department store buyer in the 1920s; after her marriage to the milliner ‘Serge’ (Sergiu Victor) she turned to designing hats, first for her husband’s salon and, from 1934, at her own custom millinery studio. Victor was known for her wearable yet sophisticated designs showing a diversity of influences.

Vogue 9992 is a pillbox hat with a large bow on the right-hand side:

Vogue 9992 1960s hat pattern Sally Victor

Vogue 9992 by Sally Victor (c. 1960) Pillbox with bow. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

John Frederics

John-Frederics was founded in 1929 by partners John P. Harberger (1902-1993) and Frederic Hirst (1906-1964). The duo designed hats for Hollywood productions including Gone With the Wind (1939), in which Vivien Leigh wore their straw hat. The label has a confusing history because of the partners’ subsequent name-changes: John P. Harberger changed his name twice, first to John Frederics and later, after the partnership dissolved in 1948, to John P. John; he designed solo as Mr. John, and Frederic Hirst as Mr. Fred. (Vogue also had Mr. John patterns in the 1950s.) It was Hirst who continued the John-Frederics label into the early 1960s.

Vogue 5384 is a simple but dramatic toque with fold-over detail and jewel embellishment:

Vogue 5384 1960s John Frederics hat pattern

Vogue 5384 by John Frederics (1961) Toque. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Guy Laroche

Guy Laroche (featured in my previous Mad Men era post) started out as a millinery designer. I have seen one hat pattern by Laroche: Vogue 5336, described on the envelope back as a ‘profile toque’ trimmed with knot-tied ends. Version B has contrast trim:

Vogue 5336 by Guy Laroche 1960s hat pattern

Vogue 5336 by Guy Laroche (1961) Toque. Image via eBay.

Vogue 5336 was featured in the August/September 1961 issue of Vogue Pattern Book (second from the left):

Vogue Pattern Book illustration August/September 1961 hats

Illustration from Vogue Pattern Book, August/September 1961.

Halston

Born Roy Halston Frowick, Halston (1932-1990) also started out as a millinery designer. In 1957 he opened his own hat shop in Chicago; by 1959 he had relocated to New York to design hats for Bergdorf Goodman. He achieved fame as a milliner when Jacqueline Kennedy wore his pillbox hat to John F. Kennedy’s 1961 presidential inauguration. Vogue’s hat patterns refer to him as Halston of Bergdorf Goodman.

Vogue 7082 is a set of flower-like bridal headpieces made of soft fabric ‘petals':

1960s Halston pattern: Vogue 7082 by Halston of Bergdorf Goodman 1960s bridal headpieces pattern

Vogue 7082 by Halston of Bergdorf Goodman (c. 1965) Bridal headpieces. Image via eBay.

Vogue 7082 was promoted with the wedding dress pattern Vogue 1745 (see pattern images here). The bridal headpieces are similar to this green one, pictured in Vogue magazine in April 1963:

Vogue ad Halston hat headpiece 1963

Halston headpiece, Vogue, 1 April 1963. Image via Etsy.

This group of milliners, old and new, seem to reflect the fortunes of millinery in the twentieth century. By the Sixties, Sally Victor and John-Frederics were established labels run by senior designers nearing the ends of their careers, while the younger designers, Guy Laroche and Halston, were to leave millinery to focus on fashion design.

Next: McCall’s New York Designers: Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and Anne Klein.

Mad Men Era 3: London’s Old Guard

October 11, 2011 § 3 Comments

Lane Pryce Rebecca Pryce "Love Among the Ruins" Mad Men Season 3 Jared Harris Embeth Davidtz

Lane (Jared Harris) and Rebecca Pryce (Embeth Davidtz) in “Love Among the Ruins” (Mad Men, Season 3)

This week my series on designers of the Mad Men era continues with four couturiers associated with London: Ronald Paterson, John Cavanagh, Michael Donéllan, and Edward Molyneux. The first three, as heads of London couture houses in the postwar period, had their licensed designs released through Vogue’s Couturier line. (These designers aren’t all that well documented online; a useful print source is Amy de la Haye, ed., The Cutting Edge: 50 Years of British Fashion 1947-1997.)

Ronald Paterson (1917-1993)

Born in Scotland, Ronald Paterson moved to London in 1936 to attend the Picadilly Institute of Design. After winning a fashion design contest judged by Elsa Schiaparelli, he worked briefly at a London couture house until the beginning of the Second World War. Paterson established his own house in London in 1947. Following its 1968 closure the designer turned to costume work for films including the Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977). Paterson was known for his tweeds and tailoring.

Vogue 1302, modelled by Jean Shrimpton, is an example of one of my favourite types of early sixties ensembles: the suit consisting of a dress and matching jacket. The sleeveless dress has a bodice that’s gathered into the dropped back waistline, and the short jacket has a fabulous funnel neck, cuffed sleeves and the option for self bow trim at the waist:

Vogue 1302 Ronald Paterson 1960s dress suit jacket pattern Jean Shrimpton

Vogue 1302 by Ronald Paterson (1964) Dress and jacket. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

John Cavanagh (1914-2003)

The Irish-born John Cavanagh trained with Molyneux in London and Paris from 1932 to 1940. Starting in 1947 he worked as design assistant at Balmain until he established his own house in 1952. Cavanagh had an early success in his 1953 ‘Coronation’ collection, and his royal commissions included the Duchess of Kent’s wedding dress in 1961. (See photos and video of the Duke and Duchess of Kent’s wedding here.) In 1966 he shifted his focus from couture to ready-to-wear, and the house closed in 1974. Cavanagh was esteemed for his classic tailoring and evening wear.

Vogue 1347, another design modelled by Jean Shrimpton, is a wedding dress with optional cathedral-length train. The dress has a raised waist, wide three-quarter sleeves, and a rolled, stand-up collar. I love the extravagance of the Watteau train, and how the rolled cuffs match the collar:

Vogue 1347 1960s wedding dress bridal gown pattern Watteau train Jean Shrimpton

Vogue 1347 by John Cavanagh (1964) Wedding gown. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Michael Donéllan (1917-1985)

Another Irish-born designer, Michael Donéllan is called Michael of England and, later, Michael of London on Vogue patterns. From the 1940s he was head designer at the venerable London house of Lachasse before establishing his own couture house, Michael of Carlos Place, in 1953. (Carlos Place was also home to the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers.) From 1961 Mr. Donéllan also worked as a design consultant for Marks & Spencer. The house closed in 1971. Michael Donéllan was called the Balenciaga of London for his elegant, uncluttered tailoring.

Vogue 1437 is an evening ensemble consisting of a short, bias evening dress and matching jacket with three-quarter sleeves and welt pockets. I like to think the hat serves to advertise the design’s Britishness:

Vogue Couturier 1437 1960s jacket evening dress suit pattern Michael of London Michael Donéllan

Vogue 1437 by Michael of London (c. 1964) Evening dress and jacket. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Molyneux (1891-1974)

Although Edward Molyneux is today’s most senior designer, I’ve left him to last because the house closed during the postwar period and didn’t reopen until the mid-1960s. The London-born Molyneux worked as a sketcher at Lucile from 1911 until the outbreak of the First World War. During his military service he lost an eye, and in 1917 he was made Captain, so you’ll sometimes see him referred to as Captain Molyneux. He established the house of Molyneux in Paris in 1919, moving his business to London during the Second World War. The house closed in 1950, with the Paris studio passing to Jacques Griffe; however, in 1964 Molyneux announced the relaunch of his label, presenting his first collection in early 1965. (For more on Molyneux’s comeback see Worn Through‘s recent post.) The designer retired a couple years later, leaving the business in the hands of his nephew. Molyneux’s work is famous for its spare, modern lines and understated luxury.

Vogue 1502, modelled by Simone D’Aillencourt, is a day dress with a contrasting ascot that’s framed by the shaped, stand-up collar. (Click on the image to see the technical drawing.) The design also features contrast trim inside the neck and sleeves (barely visible in the photo):

Vogue 1502 1960s Molyneux dress ascot pattern Simone D'Aillencourt Vogue Paris Original

Vogue 1502 by Molyneux (1965) Dress with ascot. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

The London College of Fashion has some pictures of Molyneux’s later work online, including this photo of the Vogue 1502 design:

Edward Molyneux 1965 dress model photo Vogue 1502

Dress by Molyneux in navy wool crepe by Nattier, 1965. Image via VADS.

It may be a truism to say that tailoring and evening wear are British strengths, designed for aristocratic social life, but Vogue’s selections do look perfect for the Season’s requirements…

Next: Old House, New Designer: Lanvin, Patou, Nina Ricci, and Dior.

Gaultique

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:

Vogue 1344 Patou Billie Blair 1970s maxi lounging dress 1970s pattern

Vogue 1344 by Jean Patou (1975) Maxi dress. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

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 Vogue.co.uk.

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 Style.com.

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).

YSL Wedding Dress (or, Adventures in Tartan)

August 15, 2011 § 8 Comments

Last year I made my own wedding dress using an Yves Saint Laurent pattern. Vogue Patterns magazine recently published a photo:

Vogue Patterns, June/July 2011. Photo: Jon Thorpe.

(Hat by Emilliner by Emily Clark. Read her fabulous millinery blog here.)

A similar shot won our photographer Jon Thorpe an ISPWP award for Best Bridal Party Portrait. (Congrats, Jon!) Our wedding was also featured on The Wedding Co. blog in June. But you’re here about the dress…

I didn’t set out to make my own wedding dress; I had been looking into custom work or something off the rack. When both of these options fell through I decided to make up a pattern in my stash, Vogue 1894 by Yves Saint Laurent:

Vogue 1894 Yves Saint Laurent pattern evening or cocktail dress

Vogue 1894 by Yves Saint Laurent (1996) Evening or cocktail dress

Technical drawing for Vogue 1894

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Dress: Close-fitting, slightly A-line or slightly flared, lined dress, above mid-knee or floor length, has bust pads, foundation with inside belt, front slit and side zipper. Recommended fabrics: velvet, wool crepe, silk-like crepe. Unsuitable for obvious plaids.

**Update: The Vogue 1894 design is from Yves Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 1996-97 ready-to-wear collection—you can see a runway photo here (Corbis photo here).

Our friend, fashion designer and bespoke tailor Ray Wong of RayW, was making my wife’s dress. She wanted a wool tartan for it, so the three of us spent a Saturday afternoon browsing swatch books at two of the Toronto area’s Scottish shops, Cairngorm Scottish Imports and The Scottish Company. At The Scottish Company one of the mannequins caught our eye: it was wearing a kilt of grey tartan which the friendly staff told us came from a mill named House of Edgar. Among the loose swatches they brought out was a black-on-black tartan called Dark Island. Here’s a photo of the Dark Island fabric:

Black Dark Island tartan by House of Edgar. Image via mackenziefrain.com.

A tone-on-tone tartan like Dark Island is known as a ‘shadow’ tartan or solid sett tartan. (‘Sett’ refers to the pattern of a tartan.) The production process for Dark Island is really interesting: according to the Scottish Tartans Authority page for this tartan, “An ecru (white) yarn has been woven on a Jacquard loom with the sett being formed by stitches other than 2/2 twill and then the finished fabric has been piece-dyed black. The sett is highlighted because of the differing light reflecting qualities of the stitches.”

Despite my pattern’s warning about the unsuitability of plaids, I couldn’t think of a better choice, and we decided to order House of Edgar fabric for both our wedding dresses. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anyone in Canada who actually maintained stock of House of Edgar fabric. After corresponding with a number of merchants, including Kitchener’s Keltoi Gaelic Clothing and Jacobite re-enactment suppliers Mackenzie Frain, the most economical option proved to be ordering direct (through the House of Edgar retail site, tartankilts.com). Soon we had a courier package from Perth, Scotland containing several kilograms of wool fabric.

I’ll say right now that any credit for the fit must go to Ray, who very generously finished my dress for me at the last minute. I made a muslin in a size 12 (which should have been my bust size) but it was just enormous; I think I must have gone down a size or two for the final version. The foundation was a lot closer to the right fit. I got as far as having all the separate elements—dress, lining, and foundation—ready before I handed everything over to Ray, who handled the dress’ final assembly and hemming the day before the ceremony. (Eternal thanks, Ray!)

I read everything I could find on tartan matching before daring to cut into my Dark Island fabric. I ended up using a technique I first learned of from the Selfish Seamstress (read her blog post here): cutting one set of pieces from a single layer of fabric, then flipping the pieces and using them to cut out the second set. The dress is underlined with silk lining from King Textiles, which gave each piece a luscious drape. To match a tartan perfectly at the seams, The Vogue Sewing Book recommends a basting technique called slip basting… but I just crossed my fingers and basted very carefully before doing the machine sewing. I’m really happy with the results.

House of Edgar tartan swatches and the Vogue Sewing Book (1970).

The pattern called for a boned foundation with inside belt and bust pads. This meant I needed spiral steel boning and boning tips, wire cutters, and pliers to fit the tips to the boning. (I got my boning and tips from Leather & Sewing Supply Depot Ltd. in Toronto’s garment district.) I found the boning didn’t handle well with the wire cutters and ended up using our bolt cutters instead. I love the mini-arsenal of hardware and tools that goes into making this kind of evening wear.

The foundation is basically an inner bustier consisting of two layers of lining, an extra-long side zipper, and boning inserted into ribbon casings. The inside belt is an attached length of grosgrain ribbon that fastens on the side with hooks and eyes. The bust pads were sewn from layers of fleece machine-sewn together, then encased by hand in lining fabric. Here’s a photo of the finished underpinnings:

Foundation with inside belt and bust pads, Vogue 1894.

Without further ado, I’ll close with some wedding photos showing the finished dress. Here’s a closeup of those bodice points:

Finished bodice, Vogue 1894. Photo: Jon Thorpe.

Despite the front slit, the weight of the dress meant it tended not to show my shoes, so our photographer kept asking me to flash them:

Wedding shoes revealed! (Camilla Skovgaard shoes.) Photo: Jon Thorpe.

This shot shows the tartan matching best, as well as Ray’s fantastic dress for my wife, Naomi:

Left: Vogue 1894; right: dress by Ray Wong. Photo: Jon Thorpe.

Finally, here’s a shot from the ceremony showing the dress at rest:

Photo: Jon Thorpe.

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