Caped Crusaders: Vintage Cape Patterns

September 25, 2012 § 7 Comments

Originator 299, a 1950s cape pattern

Originator 299 (c. 1952) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

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.

1920s

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:

1920s cape and dress pattern, McCall 4134, "Original Creation by Renee Paris"

McCall 4134 by Renée (1925)

And I still love the pointed yoke of this Miler Soeurs cape (see my grey version here):

1920s cape pattern, McCall 4459 by Miler Soeurs

McCall 4459 by Miler Soeurs (1926)

1930s

The Thirties were a good decade for capes. This 1936 copy of McCall Style News shows a matching cape and dress ensemble:

McCall 8629 illustration, February 1936 McCall Style News cover

McCall Style News, February 1936. Image via Etsy.

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:

1930s cape pattern, McCall 8501

McCall 8501 (1935) Image via My happy sewing place.

Puu’s late ’30s cape has a high-collared yoke, arm slits, and rounded, gathered shoulders (click the image for her construction post and see the finished version here):

1930s cape pattern, Simplicity 2522

Simplicity 2522 (c. 1938) Image via puu’s door of time.

1940s

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:

Early 1940s cape pattern, McCall 4134

McCall 4134 (1941)

The second cape shades into New Look sleekness, with a narrower collar and lower hemline:

Late 1940s cape pattern, McCall 7179

McCall 7179 (1948)

1950s

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”:

1949 cape and dress pattern, Vogue 1089 by Robert Piguet

Vogue 1089 by Robert Piguet (1949) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Here’s an illustration of the Piguet ensemble by Bernard Blossac:

Bernard Blossac illustration of a cape by Robert Piguet, 1949

Bernard Blossac illustration of a cape and dress by Robert Piguet, 1949. Image via Hprints.

This mid-Fifties cape by Jacques Fath has big, buttoned cuffs at the arm vents. The shaped collar is part of the suit underneath:

1950s cape pattern, Vogue 1358 by Jacques Fath

Vogue 1358 by Jacques Fath (1956) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

1960s

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:

Wilhelmina Cooper models a yellow cape on the cover of Vogue Pattern Book, October/November 1963.

Vogue Pattern Book, October/November 1963. Model: Wilhelmina Cooper. Image via flickr.

This elegant cape by Nina Ricci has a wide shawl collar and is shaped by released inverted darts. The model is Maggie Eckhardt:

1960s cape and dress pattern, Vogue 1217 by Nina Ricci

Vogue 1217 by Nina Ricci (1963) Image via Etsy.

Astrid Heeren models this fabulous mod cape by Pierre Cardin:

Mod 1960s cape pattern: Vogue 1722 by Pierre Cardin

Vogue 1722 by Pierre Cardin (1967) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

This late ’60s design by Pucci is modelled by Birgitta af Klercker and was photographed in Rome at La Cisterna:

Late 1960s cape pattern, Vogue 2231 by Pucci

Vogue 2231 by Pucci (1969) Image via Etsy.

1970s

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:

1970s cape pattern, McCall's 3966 by Halston

McCall’s 3966 by Halston (1974) Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

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:

Late 1970s cape ensemble pattern, Vogue 2020 by Chloé

Vogue 2020 by Chloé (1978) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

1980s

In the Eighties, fluidity gained the upper hand, as seen in these full, collarless, and unstructured capes by Yves Saint Laurent:

1980s cape pattern by Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue 2790

Vogue 2790 by Yves Saint Laurent (c. 1982) Model: Terri May.

Late 1980s cape by Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue 2163

Vogue 2163 by Yves Saint Laurent (1988) Image via Etsy.

Would you wear a vintage cape, or do you prefer the cape’s more recent incarnations?

Mondrian! Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent

April 15, 2012 § 11 Comments

Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent

Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent (1966) Model: Merle Lynn. Photo: Richard Dormer. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Vogue 1556, a shift dress by Yves Saint Laurent, is a design from the Fall 1965 ‘Mondrian’ collection. (See my post on the Mondrian collection patterns here.) Of the five designs Richard Dormer photographed for the February/March 1966 issue of Vogue Pattern Book, Vogue 1556 is the only one shown in colour, showing off the Florence Knoll chair in the background. When I found a copy of the pattern in my size, it went to the top of my to-sew list.

The envelope description reads: One-piece dress. Shift dress with wide contrasting yoke and hem band has long sleeves slightly gathered into contrasting band cuffs. The original was made in four-ply silk crêpe from Onondaga.

The dress can be made in cocktail or evening length. I decided to make the cocktail-length version illustrated on the envelope back, a monochrome dress with sequin contrast:

Sequin contrast dress illustration Vogue 1556 back 1960s

Vogue 1556 (1966) Illustration from envelope back.

I found a black wool crêpe and Bemberg lining at Designer Fabrics, and some fabulous square-sequinned fabric on sale at Fabricland. The pattern went together like a dream. The only adjustment I made was to let the hips out a bit and widen the hem band accordingly. Luckily the hem and sleeves were just the right length without any adjustment. Underlining gives the dress that typical Sixties weight; I also used the Bemberg lining to underline the sequin fabric, but I think it could have benefited from something a little heavier.

The dress fastens in the back with two separate closures: a lapped zipper for the body of the dress and buttons or snaps for the yoke. I had a lot of fun putting in my first lapped zipper. The pattern gives special instructions for the sequinned version of the dress: snaps for the upper back instead of buttons. I recommend using sturdy snaps—the light ones I used are prone to popping open.

As special fabrics go, sequins are fairly high-maintenance. The sequins needed to be removed from all seam allowances and their attaching threads caught by the stitching. This could be challenging when hand-sewing the backs of the contrast bands, but the results are worth it, I think.

Readers of We Sew Retro may have seen the photos of Vogue 1556 that Naomi took for my interview back in December. Since the original Vogue Pattern Book Yves Saint Laurent editorial was shot in the Knoll showroom in Paris, I arranged to photograph my Vogue 1556 dress in Knoll’s Toronto showroom. The new showroom is in a converted warehouse in Liberty Village (more details on the LEED-certified space here). It was a pleasure to spend a winter afternoon in their industrial space full of Knoll textiles and furniture:

Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent, Knoll Toronto

On a wall near the entrance is a quote from Florence Knoll on architecture and interior design (I’m sitting on an Eero Saarinen Womb chair):

Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent with Knoll chair

We couldn’t leave without photographing the dress beside a Florence Knoll lounge chair:

Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent with Florence Knoll lounge chair

We took too many photos of Knoll chairs to include here, but here’s just one more:

Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent, Knoll Toronto

We loved this textiles display featuring upholstered dots:

Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent with Knoll textiles

This last photo was taken by the showroom entrance:

Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent with Knoll sign reflection

A big thank you to the Knoll staff for welcoming us into their showroom. Special thanks to photographer and friend Rachel O’Neill for her fantastic work.

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