I recently discovered The Polyglot, writer Alex Aubry’s blog about fashion and the Middle East. One post, “When Afghanistan was in Vogue,” gives a fascinating perspective on Vogue Patterns in pre-revolutionary Afghanistan.
Aubry describes how, in the late 1950s, Jeanne Beecher, an American woman living in Afghanistan, established a dressmaking school in Kabul where women could learn to sew the latest Western fashions. Beecher, the wife of an airline executive, conceived the idea in response to demand for Western fashions among Afghan women. She approached Pan American Airways’ Technical Assistance Program for help obtaining sewing patterns and supplies for her school, and the Vogue Pattern Service donated two hundred sewing patterns to Beecher’s school in response to Pan Am’s call.
After a few months, many of the school’s students were ready to model their new clothes in a fashion show. Aubry credits Beecher’s school both with kick-starting Kabul’s fashion industry and spurring the adoption of Western dress there. One of the things I find interesting about this phenomenon is how the Afghan women who learned to sew using Vogue patterns were after the same thing as Vogue’s Western customers: up-to-date fashion.