Taste the Infinite

June 11, 2017 § 5 Comments

Eight ways to wear an infinity dress - sketch by Lydia Silvestry in Vogue

Eight ways to wear an infinite dress. Sketch by Lydia Silvestry in Vogue, October 1976.

Summer means weddings and infinity dresses—or, if a couple is particularly on-trend, infinity bridesmaid jumpsuits.

TwoBirds bridesmaid jumpsuits, 2016

TwoBirds bridesmaid jumpsuits, 2016. Image: Instagram.

China Machado’s summer 1973 resort set was a precursor to the infinity garments of the mid-1970s. Like the infinity dress and its cousins, Machado’s pieces call for two-way stretch knits; but Grace Mirabella’s Vogue featured the design in muslin, as worn by Beverly Johnson:

Very Easy Vogue 2881 by China Machado (1973)

Very Easy Vogue 2881 by China Machado (1973) Image: Sew Exciting Needleworks.

Beverly Johnson in Vogue, May 1973. Photos: Kourken Pakchanian

Beverly Johnson in Vogue, May 1973. Photos: Kourken Pakchanian. Image: Youthquakers.

Lydia Silvestry trademarked “The Infinite Dress” and licensed it with McCall’s in 1976. As the pattern envelope says, “One size dress can be worn an infinite number of ways. See enclosed guide sheet illustrating 13 ways dress can be worn, or try creating your personal version.” (See Carmen Bouchard / Carmencita B’s posts about this pattern here.)

McCall's 5360 by Lydia Silvestry (1976)

McCall’s 5360 by Lydia Silvestry (1976) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

Silvestry also licensed her infinite jumpsuit as a pattern featuring Maud Adams. I think this pattern has my favourite fabric note: For best results use a Lightweight, Non-cling Stretchable Jersey-type Knit Fabric such as Rosewood Fabric’s LA GRAND QUE of 100% QIANA, Burlington’s AMBROSIA of 100% Dacron Polyester, Millikin’s SURE THING of 100% Dacron Polyester. (Click to view in the shop.)

1970s Infinite Jumpsuit pattern by Lydia Silvestry McCall's 5529

McCall’s 5529 by Lydia Silvestry (1977) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

From Carol Horn, this dress has strapless and colour blocking options:

1970s Carol Horn dress pattern Vogue 1573

Vogue 1573 by Carol Horn (ca. 1977) Image: Etsy.

Also one-size, the Seven Way Wonder Dress seems to have been Butterick’s answer to the Infinite Dress. A winter retail catalogue shows the Wonder Dress as black tie wear:

Butterick 5230 (ca. 1977)

Butterick 5230 (ca. 1977) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

Butterick Feb 1977

The Wonder Dress – Wear It 7 Smashing Ways! Back cover of the Butterick retail catalogue, February 1977. Image: eBay.

Meanwhile, Simplicity had the Wonder Wrap Jiffy Jumpsuit and Jiffy Multi-Wrap Dress:

1970s Wonder Wrap Jiffy knits Jumpsuit pattern Simplicity 7957

Simplicity 7957 (1976) Image: Etsy.

1970s Jiffy knits dress pattern Simplicity 8086

Simplicity 8086 (1977) Image: Etsy.

Vogue released two Very Easy infinite dress patterns in spring, 1977:

Vogue 1640 (1977)

Vogue 1640 (1977) Image: Sew Exciting Needleworks.

Vogue 1641 (1977)

Vogue 1641 (1977) Image: Etsy.

Vogue 1641 is seldom seen, despite being illustrated by Antonio and photographed in Antigua for Vogue Patterns magazine:

1970s Antonio illustration of Vogue 1641, Very Easy Vogue news

Vogue 1641, Very Easy Vogue Patterns, May 1977. Illustration: Antonio. Image: Patterns from the Past.

Clotilde wears Vogue 1641, photographed by Albert Watson in Antigua, 1977

Vogue 1641 in Vogue Patterns, May/June 1977. Model: Clotilde. Photo: Albert Watson. Image: The Fashion Spot.

Is that Patti Hansen modelling the Glamour Plus Dress?

It's the Glamour Plus Dress!! Butterick 5683 (ca. 1977)

Butterick 5683 (ca. 1977) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

Fast forward to 2000, when McCall’s released an infinite dress by Debra Moises (Debra and Moises Diaz). The envelope shows 5 variations:

Debra Moises dress pattern McCalls 2781

McCall’s 2781 by Debra Moises (2000) Image: eBay.

In early 2011, the New York Times ran a story about the trend for convertible garments (see Ruth La Ferla, “Convertible Clothing Is a New Twist for the Cost-Conscious“). Butterick featured an infinite dress (now out of print) on the cover of that year’s Spring catalogue:

The Infinite Dress: Drape it... Wrap it... Make it your own! Butterick 5606 on the cover of Butterick's Spring 2011 catalogue

Butterick 5606 on the cover of the Butterick catalogue, Spring 2011. Image: Issuu.

Butterick 5606 in the Butterick catalogue, Spring 2011

Butterick 5606 in the Butterick catalogue, Spring 2011. Image: Issuu.

Last summer, as part of their Archive Collection, McCall’s reissued their 1970s-era infinite dress and jumpsuit as a single pattern (still in print). These patterns are usually adapted somewhat from the vintage originals:

M7384 in McCall's lookbook, Early Summer 2016

’70s Chic with Infinite Looks: M7384 in McCall’s lookbook, Early Summer 2016. Image: Issuu.

It’s easy to see why infinity dresses remain popular, with their carefree resort vibe and minimal fitting requirements. And on the pattern envelopes, the hall of mirrors effect never gets old, does it?

For more discussion and links, see Michelle Lee’s post.

Donna Karan's Infinity Dress, 2011

Donna Karan’s jersey Infinity dress, 2011. Image: New York Times.

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§ 5 Responses to Taste the Infinite

  • 100% Dacron polyester must be the most 70s fabric ever. I’ve always liked the idea of infinity dresses but wondered exactly how practical they really are. I hadn’t come across the infinity jumpsuit before…what a great idea! Those bridesmaids look awesome.

    • PatternVault says:

      The ’70s fabric names kill me. Have you seen Carmencita B’s posts about the M5360 infinite dress? She didn’t have any problems with it.. I’ve updated with more links.

  • paco peralta says:

    Very explanatory post about this topic. Amazing overview, as always.!

  • And we thought 1920’s dresses were shocking because women didn’t wear much underwear under them…. I was young in the seventies, but would never have displayed my body so confidently. I imagine that most women who wore these found the one, most flattering or comfortable way to wear it and stuck with that.

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