April 15, 2012 § 11 Comments
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:
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:
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):
We couldn’t leave without photographing the dress beside a Florence Knoll lounge chair:
We took too many photos of Knoll chairs to include here, but here’s just one more:
We loved this textiles display featuring upholstered dots:
This last photo was taken by the showroom entrance:
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.
March 15, 2012 § 1 Comment
I love finding pattern designs in ad campaigns. Vogue 1016 by Yves Saint Laurent is a long-sleeved, full-skirted formal dress with a dramatic décolletage and optional stretch-lace camisole:
The news from Paris that season was lower hemlines, with pleated skirts and tartans at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. (See Bernadine Morris, “Review/Fashion; New Tricolor in Paris: Stars and Stripes.”)
The late, great Helmut Newton photographed the Vogue 1016 dress for the Rive Gauche Fall 1991 advertising campaign:
Newton’s photograph shows a woman standing in the well-appointed bathroom of a Parisian hotel. (Another campaign photo shows Karen Mulder in the parking garage.) She wears the long-sleeved version of Vogue 1016, sans cami and done up in black Bucol silk. The dress is worn with big, dramatic accessories: a collar, ear clips, and a pair of gold (!) booties. On a shelf before the mirrors are two glasses of red wine; written in lipstick on one mirror is the message ‘ADIEU ET MERCI, SUSAN.’ Although the model’s elaborately coiffed head is turned away from the camera, she looks back out at us from the inscribed mirror.
The photo’s grand hotel setting and atmosphere of bad-girl mischief are pure Helmut Newton. (On the photographer and his work see Lindsay Baker, “Helmut Newton: A Perverse Romantic.”) Some might relegate its subject, the Vogue 1016 dress, to a period of post-Eighties decadence, but the interplay between photographer and designer is interesting. The two had a long-standing professional relationship, and Anna Wintour, quoted in Helmut Newton’s WWD obituary, hints that Newton’s photos of Yves Saint Laurent’s work could be as influential as the work itself. Does Newton’s photograph colour our view of Vogue 1016?
January 9, 2012 § 13 Comments
Yves Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 1965 collection, inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian and Serge Poliakoff, included one of the most iconic garments of the twentieth century: the ‘Mondrian’ dress. David Bailey photographed the multicolour Mondrian dress for the cover of Vogue Paris’ 1965 September issue, and Saint Laurent’s Mondrian designs spawned countless knockoffs, including sewing patterns and knitting patterns. Today, Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dresses may be viewed in museum collections such as those of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (On the construction of the Mondrian dress and on fashion inspired by modern art, see the posts by Couture Allure and oh mighty!)
In early 1966, Vogue Patterns introduced Yves Saint Laurent with five pieces from the “Mondrian et Poliakoff” collection. The designs were photographed in mid-century splendour at Knoll International, Paris by Richard Dormer. The first page of the Vogue Pattern Book editorial shows model Merle Lynn standing before a 1954 Florence Knoll lounge chair:
Vogue Patterns chose a simple, red-accented Mondrian dress for the highly sought-after Vogue 1557:
The photos of Vogue 1567, a dress and coat, show a 1955 Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen (hair by Alexandre of Paris):
And the last page of the editorial shows what looks like one of Knoll’s signature textile wall panels:
The description reads: One-piece dress. Sleeveless shift has narrow, contrasting inserts around the hem, down center back, and crossing high in front to create a yoke.
Richard Avedon photographed Jean Shrimpton in this Mondrian dress for his final issue at Harper’s Bazaar:
You can see a photo of Veronica Hamel in the same dress here. (Thanks to Paco Peralta for alerting me to these last two images.)
The Vogue 1567 envelope gives a better view of the Tulip Chair:
Here’s the description: One-Piece Dress and Coat. High-waisted dress has contrasting bodice with high band collar, a button-trimmed inset, and sleeve banding to match gathered skirt. Self belt. Long sleeved, double-breasted coat with yoke seam has wide, button-trimmed belt and pockets in seams. Trim stitching.
And the bold teal of the wall panel may be seen on Vogue 1569 (I haven’t been able to find a pattern image for the fifth pattern, Vogue 1571):
The description reads: Suit and Blouse. Long sleeved, slightly fitted jacket has wide hem band and optional purchased or self belt. Trim stitching. Tuck-in blouse has high shaped neckline, squared-off armholes, and welt pockets. Gathered skirt has pockets in seams and optional purchased or self belt.
Vogue 1557 and 1569 were both featured on the cover of the Vogue Patterns counter catalogue (photos via eBay):
Illustrations of Vogue 1557 were also commissioned for the monthly Vogue Pattern Fashion News (more illustration scans posted by Damn Good Vintage—click the image for the post):
Although Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian collection was inspired by modern art, Vogue Patterns’ editorial at Knoll situates pieces from the collection in the context of modern design. The editorial is interesting, both for how it frames the designer’s garments and how it ignores his celebrity. The designer’s name is prominent on the news booklet and first counter catalogue—arguably more overtly promotional publications. But the name Yves Saint Laurent is not included on the magazine’s cover or even mentioned in the Editor’s letter; there’s no photo, no bio like those we see in later decades. The emphasis is firmly on the designs and their place in contemporary visual culture.
Next: My version of Vogue 1556.
August 22, 2011 § 4 Comments
This week, some favourite disco patterns!
The term ‘disco’ is a little nebulous. Disco music was popular from the mid-1970s to about 1980. Its huge popularity led to an anti-disco backlash that’s come to be symbolized by Disco Demolition Night, a.k.a. the ‘Disco Riots,’ which took place in the summer of 1979 (see Jo Meek, “Earth, Wind and Pyre,” and Joe Lapointe, “The Night Disco Went Up in Smoke”). Studio 54, the famous New York City nightclub that effectively stands for disco hedonism today, was open from 1977 until 1986. In this slideshow, you can see Andy Warhol partying at the club with Bianca Jagger, Liza Minelli, and Halston, as well as Diana Ross, Deborah Harry, and even a young Tom Ford.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going by my personal definition of disco style: glam evening wear that’s more party girl than society doyenne, all from the mid-’70s to the early ’80s. As I edited down my initial list I found the best designs shared elements like fluid draping and halter necks or one-shouldered bodices. Also, of the seven patterns, three are jumpsuits or give the impression of being a jumpsuit. Here’s my disco patterns best-of, ordered chronologically:
1. Vogue 2870 – Lanvin, 1973. Modelled by Karen Bjornson. Bjornson, who is virtually ubiquitous on later ’70s Vogue Patterns, was Halston’s house model. The (fantastic) photo makes the design look like a jumpsuit, but the pattern is actually for evening separates: palazzo pants with no side seams and a halter top with a wide midriff band that gives a cummerbund effect.
2. Vogue 2014 – Givenchy, 1978. Modelled by the young Gia Carangi, the late, queer supermodel who was brought back to the spotlight by the HBO movie Gia starring Angelina Jolie. This gorgeous evening dress has a crisscrossed halter neck and calls for an eighteen-inch tassel down the back. I have this one in my collection and plan to make it sometime in a silk or viscose jersey, but I think I need to learn to make tassels first.
3. Vogue 2173 – Chloé, 1979. No disco collection could be complete without this design by Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé. The one-shouldered evening dress comes with a reversible contrast shawl. I don’t know why, but to me this is the perfect late seventies-early eighties colour combination.
4. Vogue 2307 – Givenchy, 1979. Modelled by Tara Shannon. Another beautifully fluid Givenchy design, with the asymmetrical, one-shouldered bodice balanced by draping at the opposite hip. This is another one in my collection; I have a length of deep purple chiffon (originally used in a Hallowe’en costume) that’s just enough to make the cocktail version, but I haven’t yet found the occasion where I could get away with that much purple chiffon.
5. Vogue 2313 – Yves Saint Laurent, 1979. Modelled by Tara Shannon. A fabulous opera coat and evening dress ensemble with tie-halter and bow bodice. I love the sorbet colours, graphics and over-the-top drama of this pattern.
6. Vogue 2375 – Gianni Versace, 1980. Not a true jumpsuit as I thought (thanks, Dustin!) but a halter neck top and pants with tapered legs, side draping and matching jacket. Check out the illustration’s matching sandals and tone-on-tone, contrast satin cummerbund.
7. Vogue 1014 – Yves Saint Laurent, circa 1982. My notes say this is a top and pleated harem pants but, as the photo shows, it definitely has a jumpsuit effect when made in a single fabric and worn with the top tucked in. It’s interesting to see cuffed and pleated harem pants in the wake of the recent draped harem pants trend. Are we having a disco moment?
August 15, 2011 § 8 Comments
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
Without further ado, I’ll close with some wedding photos showing the finished dress. Here’s a closeup of those bodice points:
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:
This shot shows the tartan matching best, as well as Ray’s fantastic dress for my wife, Naomi:
Finally, here’s a shot from the ceremony showing the dress at rest: