Mad Men Era 4: Old House, New Designer

Betty Draper (January Jones) in "The Color Blue" (Mad Men, Season 3)
Betty Draper (January Jones) in “The Color Blue” (Mad Men, Season 3)

Mad Men has finally returned to the air with the first episodes of Season 5. This week my Mad Men-era series continues with four established Paris houses whose mantles, by 1960, had passed to new designers: Lanvin, Patou, Nina Ricci, and Dior.

When I started this series, I mentioned that the Mad Men costume department used some vintage patterns purchased online. Patterns from the Past owner Michelle Lee let me know she’s posted on her blog about the Mad Men order: it consisted of maternity patterns.


The house of Lanvin was founded in 1909 by Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946). Between 1950 and 1963, while its creative director was Antonio Canovas del Castillo, the house was known as Lanvin-Castillo. Castillo (1908-1984) had worked at Piguet, Paquin, and Elizabeth Arden in the 1940s; he left to found his own couture house. Lanvin-Castillo reverted to Lanvin when Jules-François Crahay came to the house from Nina Ricci. Crahay (1917-1988), who held the post of head designer into the 1980s, was known for his skill in cut and construction.

Vogue 1312 is an evening ensemble consisting of a dress and coat. (Click image for back views.) The sleeveless sheath dress has a draped, crisscrossed bodice extending into a lavish cowl/hood in back. The stand-away collar of the sculptural, straight coat serves to frame the draped hood:

Lanvin evening dress and coat pattern - Vogue 1312
Vogue 1312 by Lanvin (1964) Evening dress and coat. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

(The photo credit says “The Crillon, Paris”—that is, the opulent Hôtel de Crillon.)


Jean Patou (1887-1936) established the house of Patou in 1914. For our period, Karl Lagerfeld (b. 1933) was designer until 1961, and Michel Goma from 1963. Goma (b. 1932) came to Patou after the closure of his own house, Michel Goma (formerly called Jeanne Lafaurie). It was during his tenure that Jean Paul Gaultier was assistant designer at Patou. Goma would later design for the newly revived Balenciaga in the late ’80s.

Vogue 1377 is a dress with three-quarter dolman sleeves, slit neckline, and seam detail on the bodice front. I’m fascinated by the tension between the simple, bold silhouette and the geometric details of the seams and neckline:

1960s Patou dress pattern - Vogue 1377
Vogue 1377 by Patou (1964) Dress. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Nina Ricci

Maria ‘Nina’ Ricci (1883-1970) established the house of Nina Ricci in 1932. From 1951 to 1963 Nina Ricci’s head designer was Jules-François Crahay; Crahay collaborated with Mme Ricci until her retirement in 1959. When Crahay left for Lanvin in 1963 he was replaced by Gérard Pipart, a graduate of L’École de la Chambre Syndicale and former assistant designer at Balmain, Fath, and Patou. Pipart (b. 1933), who designed for the house for decades, was known for his skill with fabric and close but supple fit.

Vogue 1440 is a pattern for a one-piece evening dress and jacket. (Click image for illustration and back views.) The slim, sleeveless dress has a V-neck and wrapped overblouse effect, with the belted waistline slightly raised in the front; the long version of the dress has a deep back pleat. The matching jacket has a curved, notched collar and bracelet-length sleeves:

Nina Ricci evening dress and jacket pattern - Vogue 1440
Vogue 1440 by Nina Ricci (c. 1965) Evening dress and jacket. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.


Christian Dior (1905-1957) established the house of Dior in 1946. Dior’s head designer from 1960 onward was Marc Bohan. Bohan (b. 1926) had worked as design assistant at Robert Piguet and Molyneux before he was hired as designer at Patou in the 1950s. Bohan had already worked at Dior’s London branch for a couple years when he was appointed head designer for the house, a position he held into the late 1980s. He was best known for his innovative tailoring and elegant, wearable eveningwear.

Vogue 1398 is a design for an evening dress and coat. The dress has a shaped, plunging neckline and an ultra-curvy silhouette achieved by long darts and a stiffened petticoat. (See the envelope back here.) The coat has bracelet-length sleeves and a rolled loop and tie collar. Both dress and coat may be made in two lengths—the long version in the illustration is very grand:

Christian Dior evening dress and opera coat pattern - Vogue 1398
Vogue 1398 by Christian Dior (1964) Evening dress and coat. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Each of these four venerable Paris houses had a new head designer in the early Sixties—1960 for Dior, and around 1963 for Lanvin, Patou, and Nina Ricci. In the spring of 1963 a New York Times article noted that “the Paris couture is in the throes of spring housecleaning, hiring new designers left and right.” What would come from these fresh-scrubbed couture houses?

Next: The Europeans: Rodriguez, Simonetta, Fabiani, and Pucci.

6 thoughts on “Mad Men Era 4: Old House, New Designer

  1. I love reading your posts about patterns and fashion. I sell vintage patterns and generally have some of the patterns you mention.

    I certainly hope maternity fashions of the past return! A crop top and stretch pants make me shiver!

    1. Thanks, Jayne! I know your shop—I bought a ’40s playsuit pattern from you recently 🙂
      I thought Ute Lemper looked fantastic in her crop top in Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter, but Alison Brie (Trudy) definitely makes the case for Sixties maternity wear!

  2. Wow, I love that Jean Patou pattern. I might have to hunt that one down. I see what you’re saying about the tension between the lines and the silhouette. It’s a stunner.

  3. I had really convinced myself that Janie Bryant would dress Betty in Norman Norell and Pauline Trigère but I’ve been 100% wrong so far! I can totally see her vintage Patou and Lanvin. But her weight gain has pretty much kept her in that Lady-Who-Lunchs style wheelhouse so it’s anyone’s guess really.

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