Mad Men Era 2: The Old Guard II

Joan Holloway black dress Christina Hendricks Mad Men Season 1 Long Weekend
Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) in “Long Weekend” (Mad Men, Season 1). Image via AMC.

This week my series on Mad Men-era designer patterns continues with four designers who established their labels between the early 1940s and 1950: Jacques Griffe, Pauline Trigère, Pierre Balmain, and Pierre Cardin.

Jacques Griffe (1917-1974)

Jacques Griffe was born in the medieval city of Carcassonne, France. After two apprenticeships, first with a tailor and then with a local dressmaker, he worked as a cutter for Vionnet until the house’s closure in 1939. Griffe established his own house in 1942. During the later 1940s he also worked as assistant to Molyneux and moved into Molyneux’s salon after the couturier’s 1950 retirement. Griffe himself retired in 1968. As may be expected from a designer who worked with Vionnet, Griffe was known for the cut and drape of his garments.

Vogue 1264 is a pattern for a dress and matching coat. (Click here to see back views.) The slim dress, which buttons at the left shoulder, has front princess seams and concealed pockets; an optional half belt ties at the back. The coat with cowl back and seven-eighths sleeves is the ensemble’s centrepiece. The cowl is created by an applied shoulder yoke that ties in front like a scarf:

Vogue 1264 Jacques Griffe 1960s coat dress back cowl Vogue pattern
Vogue 1264 by Jacques Griffe (1963) Coat and dress. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Pauline Trigère (1908-2002)

Pauline Trigère is unique among this week’s designers in that, despite being Parisian by birth, she established an American label rather than a French couture house. Born in Pigalle to Russian-Jewish parents—a dressmaker and tailor in whose shop she worked as a child—Trigère worked as a cutter at Martial et Armand before emigrating to New York City in 1937. She founded her own label in 1943. Like Vionnet before her, Trigère designed using the draping method. According to her New York Times obituary, she was the first designer to use an African-American model, in 1961. Trigère stayed with McCall’s through the 1960s when most of McCall’s designers were moving their licensing agreements to Vogue Patterns. She continued to design clothing collections until 1994. If you’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) you’ve seen some of Pauline Trigère’s work: Patricia Neal’s character was dressed entirely in Trigère designs.

McCall’s 6599, an evening dress with side drape and ribbon belt, dates to 1962. I have this one in my collection. There are grander ’60s Trigère patterns, but I find McCall’s 6599 epitomizes the elegant simplicity for which the designer was famous. The bodice has French darts, and the side drape (which may be faced with contrast fabric) is sewn to the dress front, with an opening at the waist for the ribbon belt:

Pauline Trigère pattern McCalls 6599 1960s evening dress
McCall’s 6599 by Pauline Trigère (1962) Evening dress

Balmain (1914-1982)

Pierre Balmain spent a year studying architecture before beginning his fashion career at the houses of Robert Piguet and Molyneux in the 1930s. Before and during the Second World War he worked at the house of Lucien Lelong, where Christian Dior was a fellow employee. Pierre Balmain established the house of Balmain in 1945, and soon became one of the most successful designers of the New Look. He remained chief designer for the house until his death in the early 1980s. Balmain’s architectural training shows in his emphasis on simplicity, form, and perfect construction.

Vogue 1340, modelled by Maggie Eckhardt, is another short evening dress. The dart-fitted dress has cap sleeves, a straight front neckline that dips into a low cowl back, and a curved belt at the raised waist. I love how the belt, cowl and front neckline create a series of curves that undulate around the body:

1960s Balmain evening dress pattern - Vogue 1340
Vogue 1340 by Pierre Balmain (1964) Evening dress. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Pierre Cardin (1922-)

Born in Venice as Pietro Cardini, Pierre Cardin is well-known as a brilliant businessman as well as a fashion innovator. Like Balmain, he studied architecture briefly before turning to a career in fashion. He worked at a number of major houses including Paquin, Schiaparelli, and Dior, where he was head of the tailoring (coat and suit) atelier. The house of Pierre Cardin was established in 1950. Cardin moved his pattern licensing from McCall’s to Vogue in the early 1960s. (See my earlier post for an image of a Cardin/McCall’s pattern from 1960.) Even before his 1964 Space Age or ‘Cosmocorps’ collection, which presented the futuristic sixties look most associated with Cardin today, he was known for his architectural, sculpted garments.

Vogue 1278 is a perfect little skirt suit. The slim skirt falls just below the knee, and the belted jacket has three-quarter sleeves and a link-button closure below the broad, pointed collar. The photograph shows the suit made up in what looks like a stiff, textured wool that accentuates the jacket’s forms:

1960s Pierre Cardin skirt suit pattern - Vogue 1278
Vogue 1278 by Pierre Cardin (c. 1963) Skirt suit. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

(Where is Givenchy, you ask? In the early 1960s Hubert de Givenchy seems to have taken a break from pattern licensing. I have seen only one early ’60s Givenchy pattern, and Givenchy’s last set of patterns for McCall’s—four designs for Audrey Hepburn in “How to Steal a Million” (1966)—falls outside our period. You can see Fuzzylizzie’s post on the 1966 patterns here.)

Although I’m organizing designers strictly by the date each founded his or her business, this week’s designers happen to fall into two camps: the first two are drapers (both of whom worked as cutters for venerable Paris couture houses), and the last two are former architecture students. It’s interesting to see evidence of their training in their designs.

Next: London’s Old Guard: Ronald Paterson, John Cavanagh, Michael, and Molyneux.

Mad Men Era 1: The Old Guard I

Mona Sterling Talia Balsam Betty Draper January Jones “Ladies Room” Mad Men Season 1
Mona Sterling (Talia Balsam) and Betty Draper (January Jones) in “Ladies Room” (Mad Men, Season 1)

To kick off my series on Mad Men-era designer patterns, we’ll be looking at four established couturiers who released designs through Vogue Patterns in the early 1960s: Jacques Heim, Madame Grès, Jo Mattli, and Jean Dessès. All four are associated with Paris and presided over a fashion house before the Second World War.

The series will proceed in roughly chronological order, based on when the designer established his or her fashion house. For each designer, I’ll include one standout pattern from the period 1960-1965 together with a brief biographical note.

Jacques Heim (1899-1967)

Jacques Heim got his start in fashion with his parents’ fur business, the Isadore & Jeanne Heim Fur House. In 1920 the young Monsieur Heim became manager of the family business. Five years later he introduced a clothing line; by 1929 he had established his own couture house. The designer launched a juniors line in 1937 and later, in the postwar period, a chain of Heim boutiques. Jacques Heim was President of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne from 1958 until his resignation in 1962.

Vogue 1333, modelled by Jean Shrimpton, is a short evening dress with draped over-tunic. (Click on the image to see the technical drawing.) My mother, who is about Jean Shrimpton’s age, made this dress in silk lining fabric when the pattern first came out. Although this Vogue Paris Original shows the usual credit, ‘Photographed in Paris,’ the marble-panelled walls in the photo evoke a neoclassical Italian villa in the style of Fellini. I half-expect Anouk Aimée to walk into the frame:

1960s Jacques Heim evening dress pattern - Vogue 1333
Vogue 1333 by Jacques Heim (1964) Evening dress. Model: Jean Shrimpton. Image via The Blue Gardenia.

Mme Grès (1903-1993)

Although the house of Grès was not established until the early 1940s, Alix Grès (born Germaine Emilie Krebs) was designer for the earlier house of Alix in the 1930s. While apprenticing at Premet she changed her name from Germaine to Alix. Alix was so successful in her next position, as assistant to the couturier Julie Barton, that her employer changed the house’s name to Alix. The designer became Alix Grès with her 1937 marriage: the name Grès, an anagram of Serge, is the name her painter husband used to sign his work. Alix Grès had fled Nazi-occupied Paris in 1940 but returned in 1941 to open her own couture house. She was elected President of the Chambre Syndicale in 1972. Grès is famous for her mastery of cut.

Vogue 1507, modelled by Simone D’Aillencourt, is a beautifully cut bias dress. All pieces but the neckline band are cut on the bias; seaming detail shapes the garment through the upper body, six points converging below the neckline. (Click on the image to see the technical drawing.)

1960s Grès bias dress pattern - Vogue 1507
Vogue 1507 by Grès (1965) Bias dress. Model: Simone D’Aillencourt. Image via The Blue Gardenia.

Mattli (1907-1982)

The Swiss-born Guiseppe Gustavo Mattli is credited as Mattli of England and, later, Jo Mattli on Vogue patterns. Mattli, who had moved to London in 1926, trained at the house of Premet in the late 1920s before establishing the house of Mattli in London in 1934. The house moved to Paris in 1938. Four years later, Mattli became the founding member of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers. Although the house’s couture branch closed in 1955, Mattli ready-to-wear continued into the 1970s.

Vogue 1343, a sleeveless cocktail dress and matching coat with fur collar and kimono sleeves, is the design for this week that’s most in keeping with Mad Men. It’s very much in the style of Trudy Campbell:

1960s Jo Mattli coat and dress pattern - Vogue 1343
Vogue 1343 by Jo Mattli (1964) Coat and dress. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Jean Dessès (1904-1970)

The Egyptian-born Jean Dessès worked as assistant to the couturier Jane before establishing his own house in 1937. The house of Dessès enjoyed great success in the 1950s, and both Guy Laroche and Valentino worked at Jean Dessès before launching their own labels. Jean Dessès retired from the fashion business in the mid-1960s.

Vogue 1189, a design from the early 1960s, is an elegant cocktail or evening dress with raised waistline and gathered bodice. The straps continue into back ties that secure the bloused back panel. (Click on the image to see the back views.) The evening-length version is very regal:

1960s Dessès evening gown pattern- Vogue 1189
Vogue 1189 by Dessès (c. 1962) Cocktail or evening dress. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

It’s unusual to see evening wear with such distinctive details on Mad Men; the characters generally favour simpler silhouettes. For this period, it’s reasonable to assume that the Vogue designs are from haute couture collections. And yet these patterns were available to purchase for a few dollars apiece…

Next week: The Old Guard II, featuring four more designers: Griffe, Trigère, Balmain, and Cardin.