Christian Lacroix: Vogue Patterns

August 29, 2011 § 7 Comments

Some time ago, Paco Peralta blogged about a Vogue pattern from the 1980s by Christian Lacroix, Vogue 2184, that he’d found while spring-cleaning his studio. (Read his post here. If you haven’t seen Paco’s blog yet, check it out! He shares both his work as a couturier and his extensive collection of Yves Saint Laurent patterns, often matching them up with vintage images from his personal archive.) Paco wasn’t sure whether Vogue 2184 was the only Vogue/Lacroix pattern, or whether there were others. This post is offered as a sequel and tribute to Paco and his work.

In the spring of 1988 Women’s Wear Daily announced a licensing agreement between Christian Lacroix and Vogue Patterns for a series of three patterns (“Lacroix makes deal with Vogue Patterns,” WWD, April 6, 1988). According to WWD, the three designs selected were all from the designer’s new ready-to-wear collection and would be on sale through the December catalogue from October 1st. Lacroix had presented his first ready-to-wear collection in March 1988, only a few weeks before the WWD announcement, meaning the three Vogue patterns are designs from the Fall/Winter Prêt-à-porter 1988-89 collection.

Christian Lacroix’s training in art history and museum studies was always evident in his work as a couturier. Lacroix wrote his master’s thesis on French costume in seventeenth-century painting, and historical costume was an important influence on his designs. (On Lacroix’s more recent fortunes, see the ‘people pages’ maintained by the Guardian and the New York Times.) Before I looked into these patterns, I was most familiar with Lacroix’s fanciful couture evening wear; I hoped to find a pattern for a crazy eighties Lacroix evening design like the pouf—the bubble skirt for which he became famous. What I didn’t realize is that the pouf was actually conceived at Patou, where Lacroix was artistic director from 1981 to 1987. This photo shows a stunning Lacroix design for Jean Patou haute couture:

Christian Lacroix couture cocktail dress Jean Patou 1987

Hand-painted toile de jouy cocktail dress, Christian Lacroix for Jean Patou, 1987. Photo: François Hallard, Condé Nast archives.

One of the things that made Lacroix leave Patou was the lack of opportunity to design ready-to-wear. His new label, backed by Bernard Arnault, was launched with a couture collection, followed by a ‘luxe’ ready-to-wear line, and then by the ready-to-wear in March 1988. (See Michael Gross, “High Fashion, Corporate Intrigue.”) Shown in a tent in the Louvre courtyard on the first day of the Paris prêt-à-porter, Lacroix’s inaugural ready-to-wear collection was characterized by short hemlines and fitted and flared silhouettes, especially rounded barrel skirts, and warm colours like orange and purple. (See Bernadine Morris, “A Spirited Lacroix and the Serious Japanese.”)

The three Vogue designs from this collection look to have been photographed on location in Paris. The photos show a short version (view A) of the skirt or dress—presumably the version closest to the original design. But the illustrations (view B) all show the option of a lower hemline. Here is Paco Peralta’s pattern, Vogue 2184, a cropped jacket and high-waisted skirt that flares from released pleats. The skirt is underlined and has an inside belt of grosgrain ribbon.

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2184 1980s

Vogue 2184 by Christian Lacroix (1988) High-waisted skirt and jacket

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2184 1980s suit schematic

Technical drawing for Vogue 2184

The envelope description reads: Misses’ jacket & skirt. Loose-fitting, lined, waist length jacket has shoulder pads and long two-piece sleeves. Fitted and flared skirt, above mid-knee variations, has raised waist, no waistband, front and back pleats, inside belt, pockets and side zipper. Purchased top.

Vogue 2183 is a similar ensemble, a tapered, high-waisted barrel skirt and bolero that buttons to the top of the skirt (I have a copy in the shop):

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2183 1980s

Vogue 2183 by Christian Lacroix (1988) High-waisted skirt and jacket

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2183 1980s suit schematic

Technical drawing for Vogue 2183

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ jacket & skirt. Semi-fitted, lined, above waist jacket has dropped shoulders, shoulder pads, side panels (no side seams) and long, two-piece sleeves with cuffs. Tapered skirt, above mid-knee variations, has raised waist, front pleats, side panels (no side seams), side front pockets and side zipper closing. Purchased top.

The pièce de résistance, photographed before the Eiffel Tower, is Vogue 2176, a full-skirted dress with broad, dropped shoulders and optional front trim:

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2176 1980s

Vogue 2176 by Christian Lacroix (1988) Dress

Christian Lacroix pattern Vogue 2176 1980s dress schematic

Technical drawing for Vogue 2176

The envelope description reads: Misses’ dress. Dress, above mid-knee variations, has dropped shoulders, shoulder pads, close-fitting, shaped back bodice, princess seams, side panels (no side seams), flared, pleated skirt, pockets (slightly forward), front zipper and hemline slit, stitched hems and long sleeves. A: purchased trim. No provision for above-waist adjustment.

Update: Here are some Lacroix images from the December 1988 Vogue Patterns catalogue. Vogue 2176 was featured on the cover:

Christian Lacoix pattern on the cover of the Vogue Patterns catalogue, December 1988

Vogue Patterns catalogue, December 1988. Image via eBay.

Christian Lacroix patterns in the Vogue Patterns catalogue for December 1988

Vogue Patterns catalogue, December 1988. Image: eBay.

Update 2: Vogue 2176 was also featured on the cover of Vogue Patterns’ holiday issue:

Julie Anderson wears Lacroix pattern V2176 on the cover of Vogue Patterns, 1988

Vogue 2176 by Christian Lacroix, Vogue Patterns, November/December 1988. Model: Julie Anderson. Image: eBay.

Here are a few editorial images from L’Officiel showing Lacroix’s ready-to-wear for Fall 1988. I was tickled to see that, in French, barrel skirts are called ‘amphora-shaped.’

Christian Lacroix coat dress and bodysuit in L'Officiel, June 1988

Christian Lacroix ready-to-wear: smocked coat dress in wool and Zamori cashmere, worn over a turtleneck bodysuit, also Zamori wool. L’Officiel, June 1988. Photo: Mark Arbeit. Image: jalougallery.com.

Christian Lacroix ready-to-wear in L'Officiel, August 1988

Christian Lacroix ready-to-wear, L’Officiel, August 1988. Photo: Peter Godry. Image: jalougallery.com.

According to the WWD article, more Lacroix designs were expected to be added “for next spring and each season thereafter.” But I have a feeling the first set was also the last. The ’88 Lacroix patterns seem to be fairly rare, suggesting their sales may not have met expectations. Or maybe the big shoulders and skirt volumes were too perfectly ‘eighties’ for home sewers, post-Black Monday. What I was surprised to see were the barrel skirts, familiar to me as a trend in the early 1960s (and also, apparently, in 1917), showing the breadth of Lacroix’s references and fashion’s continual re-incorporation and renewal of its past.

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