PatternVault 10th anniversary!

Paolo Roversi: Alexander McQueen Fall 2021 by Sarah Burton
Alexander McQueen Fall 2021 by Sarah Burton. Photo: Paolo Roversi. Image: Vogue Runway courtesy of Alexander McQueen.

The PatternVault blog is ten! That’s a whole decade of writing about fashion, fine sewing, and the venerable tradition of paper patterns. If you’re curious about where it all began, check out my 2011 series on Alexander McQueen sewing patterns.

Singer Sphinx with 1920s McCall patterns. Image: PatternVault shop.

Yes, I’m still busy with the campaign to save the beautiful, historic St. Giles church here in Hamilton, Ontario. If you’re like me and you value historic buildings — or are concerned about the climate impact of demolition — you can sign the petition HERE.

St. Giles, Hamilton (Stewart & Witton, 1912–13) Photo: Cathie Coward. Image: The Friends of St. Giles.

As we leave the worst of COVID behind us, there is talk of a postpandemic boom, a new prosperity along the lines of the Roaring Twenties. (See Peter Coy, “The 1920s Roared After a Pandemic, and the 2020s Will Try,” and Dhara Ranasinghe, “Back to the future: 2020s to echo roaring 20s or inflationary 70s?“)

Will fashion follow suit? Sarah Burton’s Fall ’21 collection for McQueen features a new robe de style, reminiscent of Lanvin’s Colombine. (See top of post; on the Lanvin gown see my Selvedge article).

Lanvin's Colombine robe de style (hiver 1924–25) photographed by Katerina Jebb, 2014
Lanvin, “Colombine,” robe de style, hiver 1924–25. Collection Palais Galliera © Katerina Jebb, 2014. Image: Architectural Digest France.

As savvy collectors and long-standing readers of this blog will know, the craft of home-sewn couture flourished in the 1920s. The decade saw the first issues of Vogue Pattern Book and the launch of McCall’s earliest couture patterns.

1920s Patou Art Deco dress pattern - McCall 5047
McCall 5047 by Patou (1927) Ladies’ and Misses’ Two-Piece Dress.
Vogue 7884 illustration by Harriet Meserole on the cover of Vogue Pattern Book, December–January 1924–25
Vogue Pattern Book, December–January 1924–25. Illustration: Harriet Meserole. Image: Pinterest.
McCall Quarterly, Winter 1927–28 (Paris Fashion Number) Illustration: Ben-Hur Baz. Image: Debbie Zamorski.
McCall 5051 by Worth Paris, McCall Quarterly, Winter 1927–28. Illustration: Ben-Hur Baz. Image courtesy Debbie Zamorski.

What do you think? Is it time for a couture sewing renaissance?

Hand-painted couture coat in hammered velvet with fur collar. Karen Elson photographed by Elen von Unwerth in Fall 1997 Dior couture by John Galliano ("A Poetic Tribute to the Marchesa Casati"
John Galliano’s Casati-inspired Dior couture in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Vogue, November 1997. Photo: Ellen von Unwerth. Editor: Grace Coddington. Model: Karen Elson. Image: Vogue Archive.

Inauguration Sewing

President Kennedy with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at his inauguration in January, 1961
President Kennedy with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at his inauguration in January, 1961. Image: Leonard McCombe / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty.

President Joe Biden will reportedly be wearing Ralph Lauren to his inauguration. The fashion choices of the ceremony’s female attendees are shrouded in secrecy, but you can be sure the pattern companies are paying close attention.

Sixty years ago, Jacqueline Kennedy made Inauguration-Day history in Oleg Cassini and a Halston pillbox hat. Cassini may not have licensed any coat patterns, but dressmakers could soon make their own cloth hats with Vogue’s Halston patterns.

Vogue 6606 by Halston of Bergdorf Goodman (1965) Image: Etsy.

In 1965, Second Lady Muriel Humphrey Brown wore Balmain, made from a Vogue pattern. “For the inauguration itself, Mrs. Humphrey made her own dress of pale blue angora and wool broadcloth from a Vogue Paris original pattern by Balmain… The dress is semi-fitted, with simulated slot seaming along the bodice and down the front of the skirt, giving an empire line.” (“Mrs. Humphrey Sews Dress: Inauguration Gowns Will Be Red, White, Blue,” AP / Globe and Mail, January 18, 1965.) Her dress was probably this Vogue Paris Original:

Jean Shrimpton in a Balmain dress - Vogue Paris Original pattern no. 1327
Vogue 1327 by Balmain (1964) Model: Jean Shrimpton. Image: Etsy.

In 2009, Michelle Obama wore custom Isabel Toledo. A Butterick pattern soon followed:

Butterick 5396 after Isabel Toledo (2009) Image: Etsy.

In 2017, the publication of this Ralph Lauren-inspired inauguration ensemble caused some controversy:

V9266 (V1736) after Ralph Lauren on the cover of the Vogue Patterns Fall 2017 lookbook
V9266 after Ralph Lauren on the cover of the Vogue Patterns Fall 2017 lookbook. Model: Caroline Mathis. Image: Issuu.

Any guesses which designer labels Dr. Jill Biden and Kamala Harris might wear on Inauguration Day?

Update: Dr. Jill Biden chose NYC label Markarian, while Kamala Harris opted for Christopher John Rogers.

Douglas Emhoff, Kamala Harris, Jill Biden, and Joseph R. Biden at U.S. Capitol Inauguration Ceremony
Douglas Emhoff, Kamala Harris, Jill Biden, and Joseph R. Biden at U.S. Capitol Inauguration Ceremony. Image: Vogue / Getty Images.