January 12, 2017 § 1 Comment
A 1959 Eastman Fibers ad brings a note of intrigue to McCall’s patterns by photographing them in a nightlife setting, on a pair of vampy women.
Chromspun is the trademark for Eastman colour-locked acetate yarn from Eastman Chemical Products Inc., then a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak—in those days headquartered on Madison Avenue.
December 21, 2016 § 2 Comments
A Celanese advertising insert from the late 1950s shows McCall’s festive styles in the latest synthetic silks—top models and more than one tiara from the multinational chemical company that brought you cellulose acetate.
The booklet frames small, full-length photos of McCall’s designs with close-ups showing off the “brilliant” textiles. Here, McCall’s 4999 is shown in Belding Corticelli’s rayon-acetate matelassé, with McCall’s 5057 in Cohama’s Arnel triacetate faille. The model on the right is Simone D’Aillencourt:
Here, Dovima wears a shimmering gold version of McCall’s 4425 in Lawrence and Klauber printed crepe satin acetate, while McCall’s 4870 evokes Princess Grace in aqua acetate satin from William Skinner and Sons:
Dovima closes the booklet in McCall’s 5012, an at-home trouser ensemble shown in orange and tangerine Celaperm acetate satin peau from Wedgwood Fabrics.
For more on the history of Celanese (est. 1918), see the company website.
Happy holidays, everyone!
November 27, 2016 § 4 Comments
James Galanos died last month. He was 92. According to his obituary in the New York Times, Galanos authorized only two licenses: furs and fragrance. But he also licensed commercial sewing patterns—first with McCall’s, and later with Vogue Patterns. This post looks at Galanos’ 1950s patterns with McCall’s.
Born in Philadelphia to Greek parents, James Galanos (1924-2016) was a graduate of the Traphagen School of Fashion. He worked with Hattie Carnegie, Hollywood costume designer Jean Louis, and Robert Piguet before founding his own, LA-based label in 1951. He retired in 1998, the year after LACMA mounted a retrospective of his work. Galanos won the devotion of celebrities and socialites with his virtuoso technique and flawless craftsmanship.
McCall’s introduced designer exclusives by “James Galanos, brilliant young star of American fashion” with two patterns for winter 1956-57. The Galanos designs—full-skirted formal gowns in two lengths—were prominently featured in the holiday issues of McCall’s Pattern Book and the company’s monthly news leaflet.
According to the news leaflet, McCall’s 3894 is “a fabulous ball gown to make in brocade.” The molded bodice is a trademark Galanos touch:
McCall’s 3895 is a bow-trimmed evening gown. As the leaflet notes, “Beautifully low-cut in back, it can be cocktail length.” Recommended fabrics included heavy satin, peau de soie, brocade, and taffeta:
In spring, 1957, McCall’s released two more Galanos patterns: the lavishly full-skirted McCall’s 4045 and 4046.
Here, the back bodice extends into a front yoke. The skirt and petticoat were to be made in organdy, nylon, or silk organza:
The new Galanos patterns were promoted in the March issue of McCall’s magazine (“Galanos designs: Black-and-white for summer evenings”) and in the company’s “Make the Clothes that Make the Woman” advertising campaign.
In the Summer 1957 pattern book, the designs are illustrated in green linen and flower-embroidered organdy:
Today, Galanos’ McCall’s patterns are quite scarce. Perhaps customers balked at the extravagant yardage: the skirt for one dress took over 20 yards of narrow fabric. Galanos’ work with sheer layers continued into the following decade, as seen in this 1961 editorial by Gordon Parks:
August 9, 2016 § 6 Comments
It’s been another hot summer here in Toronto. One of my earliest blog posts, Heat Wave!, surveys vintage beachwear patterns. This summer, let’s take a look at a more elusive beast: designer swimwear patterns.
The earliest pattern I’ve seen for designer swimwear is Pucci’s strapless one-piece, McCall’s 3977. This pattern was available in Junior sizes only. The suit was lined in jersey, and could be made with or without the brightly coloured appliqués:
From another Italian designer, Irene Galitzine, Vogue 1288 is a pattern for a bikini, dress, and hat. The bikini consists of a cropped, cowl-neck blouse and bikini pants with side ties:
The 1970s were the heyday of designer swimwear patterns, often with a coordinating coverup, and always for stretch knits. Vogue 1416 is an early design by Donna Karan; from Anne Klein’s collaboration with Penfold, the pattern includes both a maillot and a halter bikini:
From Bill Blass, Vogue 1455 includes a two-piece swimsuit with bra top and bikini briefs:
John Kloss licensed a number of swimwear designs with Butterick. This ad promotes his patterns with a poolside photo of Butterick 4808:
Another Butterick designer, Gil Aimbez, designed this one-piece bathing suit. Contrast bias binding outlines the cut-away sides and bodice seaming detail:
Like the Anne Klein Penfold pattern above, this Penfold pattern includes both one-piece and halter bikini bathing suits. The one-piece and bikini top are cut on the bias:
Both Penfold patterns can be seen in a Vogue Patterns editorial photographed in Antigua:
From spring, 1978, Vogue 1893 seems to have been the only Catalina pattern. Instead of a coverup, it includes three styles of bathing suit: low-backed view A, strapless view B with built-in boning, and blouson view C is a two-piece:
The magazine recommended making the Catalina suits in Thompson of California’s “second skin Tic Toc warp knit polyester crepes” in various prints:
From 1980, McCall’s 7109 includes three one-piece swimsuits by the Italian label Basile: a mock wrap, belted halter-neck and variations on the strapless suit with gathered bust (available in the shop):
Jerry Hall (right) seems to be wearing the view A style in this Basile ad photographed by Irving Penn:
Also from 1980, Bob Mackie’s strapless, colour-blocked swimsuit, McCall’s 7138, was photographed for the July counter catalogue and news leaflet (seen at the top of this post):
Finally, this early ’90s DKNY pattern, Vogue 2897, is labelled ‘dress and bodysuit,’ but was photographed as beachwear:
After a long swimwear pattern drought, the big pattern companies seem to have noticed the renewed popularity of sewing your own, custom bathing suit. For this summer, Simplicity reissued a 1950s bathing suit pattern, Simplicity 4307 / S8139, and The McCall Pattern Company has released a number of new swimwear designs, including one Vogue and two Lisette swimwear patterns.
Two designers with existing pattern licensing, Cynthia Rowley and Rachel Comey, both have swimwear lines. If we voice our support, perhaps we could soon see patterns for Cynthia Rowley surf wear and Rachel Comey Swim…
July 1, 2016 § 3 Comments
In celebration of Canada Day, this post is dedicated to the late Arnold Scaasi.
Arnold Scaasi (1930-2015) was born in Montreal as Arnold Isaacs. (Scaasi is Isaacs backwards—depending who you ask, the designer changed his name either to sound more Italian or less Jewish.) His father was a furrier, his mother had studied opera, and his glamorous, Schiaparelli-loving Aunt Ida was an early inspiration. He studied in Montreal and Paris, at the Cotnoir-Capponi school and the Chambre Syndicale, then worked at Paquin and Charles James in New York before launching his own business in 1956.
Scaasi was best known for his opulent evening wear, custom-made for society and celebrity clients who appreciated the drama of his sculptural silhouettes, luxurious materials, and flamboyant use of colour. In 2002, the Museum at FIT mounted the retrospective Scaasi: Exuberant Fashion and, following his retirement in 2010, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston hosted Scaasi: American Couturier, an exhibition structured around his couture clients.
Scaasi lost no time in pursuing pattern licensing. These Scaasi Spadea patterns date to 1956:
A few decades later, Claire Shaeffer covered Scaasi’s couture techniques for Threads magazine:
It was only in the early 1990s that Scaasi licensed his work with Vogue Patterns. The designer was introduced in the November/December 1993 issue of Vogue Patterns with three patterns. The first, Vogue 1285, is a low-backed cocktail or evening dress with sheer contrast:
This formal ensemble includes two-layer palazzo pants for chiffon or georgette and a top for scalloped lace:
Vogue 1287 is a collarless skirt suit with caftan-style side slits:
From spring, 1994, this dress is shaped by long darts in front and back and trimmed with a flounce:
Finally, Vogue 1377’s dress has a boned bodice and slightly off-the-shoulder neckline. The original’s striped fabric was cut on a creative layout:
(Seldom seen, but there is a copy at Sew Exciting Needleworks.)
In 1991, Scaasi told The Canadian Press, “When I left Canada some 30 years ago, there was no room for creative talent in dress design. At that time, the only way to really make it was to go to the United States.” A New Yorker from 1951, he met his partner, Parker Ladd, on Central Park South in the early 1960s; they married in 2011.
Opening image Scaasi ID thanks to Kickshaw Productions.
June 3, 2016 § 5 Comments
Carmen Dell’Orefice turns eighty-five today.
Often called the world’s oldest working model, Carmen Dell’Orefice (b. 1931) was discovered at thirteen on a New York City bus; at sixteen she had her first Vogue cover. In 2011, the London College of Fashion devoted an exhibition to her modelling work, Carmen: A Life In Fashion.
Dell’Orefice’s work with New York pattern companies may be seen in postwar publications from Vogue, McCall’s, and Simplicity, as well as more recent Vogue patterns.
A Richard Rutledge editorial for Vogue Pattern Book features the young Dell’Orefice in new patterns for spring, 1949 (jacket Vogue 6716 and blouses Vogue 6065 and Vogue 6707, all with skirt Vogue 6708):
Here, Dell’Orefice poses in an all-red ensemble for the cover of Simplicity magazine, Fall 1958:
Here she wears gown Vogue 9827 on the cover of Vogue Pattern Book’s holiday issue:
After a break, Dell’Orefice returned to modelling in the late 1970s. On these two patterns from the ’80s, she wears Vogue 8195, a caftan-style dress, and Arlene Dahl gown Vogue 8521 in gold lamé:
In the later 1990s, Dell’Orefice posed for many patterns in The Vogue Woman line. Vogue 1972 is a seasonless wardrobe pattern, while Vogue 9821 is a dress and tunic suitable for petites:
Happy birthday, Ms. Dell’Orefice!
February 16, 2016 § 4 Comments
Today is the 90th anniversary of Jean Patchett’s birth.
Jean Patchett (1926-2002) moved to New York City from her home in Preston, Maryland to pursue a career in modelling. She signed with Ford Models in the spring of 1948, and soon became one of the new agency’s top models. Patchett appears on some of Vogue’s most iconic covers. She retired in 1963. (See Cathy Horyn’s obituary for The New York Times, “Jean Patchett, 75, a Model Who Helped Define the 50’s.”)
According to a short profile in Glamour, in her off hours, Patchett enjoyed making her own clothes (Glamour, Oct. 1948). She can be seen in pattern editorials for Vogue, Simplicity, McCall’s, and Butterick from the late 1940s on.
Soon after her first Vogue cover in September, 1948 (October for British Vogue), Serge Balkin photographed the young Patchett in tone-on-tone grey flannel for the cover of Vogue Pattern Book. The patterns are Vogue 6620 (dress) and Vogue 6629 (coat):
Irving Penn’s famous Vogue editorial, “Flying down to Lima,” showing Patchett on location in Lima, Peru, is in fact a pattern editorial. In this café scene, she chews her pearls wearing Vogue S-4967, a dress and jacket ensemble (click the image for a gallery note, or see Devorah MacDonald’s blog for the full editorial):
Patchett poses in dress and jacket Vogue S-4008 on this fall 1949 cover of Vogue Pattern Book:
Wearing the New Look dress and camisole Vogue S-4088:
Richard Avedon’s travel-themed photo was used for both Simplicity’s counter catalogue and the company’s Fall-Winter magazine (where Patchett can be seen holding a copy of André Gide’s Les faux-monnayeurs). The patterns are Simplicity 3327 (topper), Simplicity 3298 (weskit), and Simplicity 3027 (skirt):
Here she poses in a veiled hat and elegant silk shortcoat; the text contains a typo—the pattern is Vogue 7258:
This Holiday issue of Butterick Pattern Book features Patchett in Butterick 5941, a shirtdress with cuffed sleeves:
For the fortieth anniversary issue of McCall’s Pattern Book, Patchett posed in McCall’s 9080 alongside illustrations from past decades:
Lillian Bassman photographed Patchett in this striped summer dress from Simplicity:
Posing for the cover of Burda Moden magazine:
This strapless playsuit must be Simplicity 4715, shown in bias tartan with matching parasol:
Roger Prigent photographed Patchett in Vogue S-4550, made up in Onondaga acetate brocade: