Nena von Schlebrügge and Uma Thurman

Autumn 1960 Vogue Pattern Book (UK edition)
Nena von Schlebrügge on the cover of Vogue Pattern Book, Autumn 1960. Image: eBay.

(A late Mother’s Day post since I was under the weather yesterday.)

In honour of Mother’s Day, this models post is devoted to a mother and daughter who both modelled for designer sewing patterns: Nena von Schlebrügge and Uma Thurman.

Nena von Schlebrügge (b. 1941) was born in Mexico City to German-Swedish parents who had fled Nazi Germany. In 1957, two years after she was discovered by Norman Parkinson, she moved from her native Stockholm to London to pursue modelling, later moving to New York to sign with Eileen Ford.

Norman Parkinson test shot of Nena von Schlebrügge, Stockholm, 1955
Nena von Schlebrügge, first test shots, Stockholm, 1955. Photo: Norman Parkinson. Image: artnet.

Nena von Schlebrügge appears on a number of Vogue Pattern Book covers and Vogue patterns from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Here she models one of Vogue’s first Dior patterns by Yves Saint Laurent—Vogue 1472, a skirt suit and full coat with big, shaped collar:

1950s Christian Dior coat and suit pattern featuring Nena von Schlebrügge - Vogue 1472
Vogue 1472 by Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior (1959). Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Von Schlebrügge can also be seen on Vogue 1484 by Madame Grès, a 3-piece ensemble that includes a voluminous coat with three-quarter sleeves, loose back panel, and elegant contrast lapels and lining:

Vogue 1484 by Grès (1960)
Vogue 1484 by Grès (1960) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.
Nena von Schlebrügge on a 1960 Grès pattern - Vogue 1484
Detail of Vogue 1484 by Grès (1960) Image: Etsy.

Uma Thurman (b. 1970) is the daughter of Nena von Schlebrügge and her second husband, Robert Thurman. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Uma Thurman dropped out of her prep school there to pursue acting in New York City, where she worked as a fashion model before landing her breakout roles in Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).

Patrick Demarchelier photo of Uma Thurman on the cover of British Vogue, December 1985
Uma Thurman in Geoffrey Beene, British Vogue, December 1985. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier. Image: Vogue UK.

Uma Thurman is featured on a handful of 1980s Simplicity patterns, including two by Cathy Hardwick. (These may date to Tom Ford’s time at the company.)

Here Thurman wears Simplicity 8054, a wrap dress with halter back and capelet sleeves, in classic red:

1980s Cathy Hardwick dress pattern featuring Uma Thurman - Simplicity 8054
Simplicity 8054 by Cathy Hardwick (1986) Image: Etsy.

Here she models a pure ’80s LBD with big shoulders and flutter sleeves, Simplicity 8055:

1980s Cathy Hardwick dress pattern featuring Uma Thurman - Simplicity 8055
Simplicity 8055 by Cathy Hardwick (1987) Image: Etsy.

Nena von Schlebrügge later became a psychotherapist and director of Tibet House and the Menla Center; Uma Thurman is an Academy Award nominee for her role in Pulp Fiction (1994). Thurman’s presence is already evident in her Simplicity patterns. Isn’t the family resemblance striking?

8 thoughts on “Nena von Schlebrügge and Uma Thurman

  1. Fascinating! I didn’t even recognize Uma on the sewing patern envelopes. I still don’t, but wow do I learn a lot from reading your blog. Thanks for always writing posts that allow me to learn about sewing history!

  2. I always thought that model might be her mother; the resemblance is striking. Both have graceful necks. I have all VPBooks from 1964 on and Nena Von worked for VPbook and Vogue knitting frequently. Thanks for doing the homework.

  3. I didn’t know any of this – it was so interesting.

    Really only came across Uma in Kill Bill – so loved her yellow track-suit and trainers (which featured in the V&A Hollywood exhibition last year).

  4. Thanks for this fascinating information. I came across Uma in Dangerous Liaisons and when she made a splash in the lilac chiffon Prada gown at an awards ceremony many years ago. It’s the gown that stuck in my mind more than the film.
    Her mother is so ethereally gorgeous!

  5. Amazing to consider that Nina v S was only 19 when she posed for that 1960 cover of VPB. Such presence and sophistication … This is such a fascinating post – thank you!

  6. Thank you for that really interesting background on Ms. Thurman and her mother. I found your site looking for an old Vogue Balmain 1819 pattern and other Vogue Couturier or Paris Original patterns — reliving my childhood through fashion!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.