January 25, 2018 § Leave a comment
Have you seen the new designer patterns for Spring 2018?
Badgley Mischka are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary this March, so it’s a treat to see their work on the cover of Vogue’s Spring lookbook. (Click their portrait for my 2013 Just Married post.)
The Spring collection also marks the return of Tracy Reese. (The Detroit native was last seen in Vogue Patterns in 2016.) The new Reese design is a dress with contrast yoke and sleeves—great for those matching sheer/opaque print combos:
Sew Today’s latest issue tipped us off to Reese’s comeback:
The dark floral was a signature print in her Fall 2016 collection, where it could be seen on dresses, sheer blouses, and a long, cuffed skirt:
Reese was inspired by Detroit for this collection, and she opened her presentation with a short film starring local model Catherine Nako:
The film stills are by Detroit-based cinematographer Ray Rushing.
Bonus: I published my Winter/Holiday post before the McCall’s Winter release, which included two Nicole Miller patterns. This asymmetrical top and flared trousers look to be from the Spring 2017 collection:
Miller’s Gladiator gown uses contrast binding to punctuate the classic goddess dress. (Still available in white from the designer’s retail site.)
The original was silk chiffon.
See you in the arena!
October 19, 2017 § 6 Comments
From Guy Laroche to Paco Peralta, Vogue’s designer patterns for Winter/Holiday 2017 offer a range of festive looks for the coming season.
The new Guy Laroche is a skinny jean and party top, recommended for lamé:
The ensemble is the first pattern to be drawn from Adam Andrascik’s debut collection for Laroche.
Gleaming tartan jacquard is the star of this ensemble from Anne Klein, now designed by Sharon Lombardo:
Guinevere Van Seenus wore a similar look for the Fall 2016 campaign, photographed by Annemarieke van Drimmelen:
Like fall’s V1561 jacket, the two Zandra Rhodes offerings are from the Fall 2016 collection, which was sponsored by Kraftangan Malaysia. (Kraftangan is Malay for ‘handicraft.’) As always with Rhodes’ work, the focus is on textiles, here on a double-sided fabric such as metallic jacquard:
Vogue chose three of Rhodes’ Songket pieces—a dress, peplum top, and trousers—for the Winter/Holiday collection. Songket is a traditional metallic brocade produced in Southeast Asia.
Paco Peralta’s latest design for Vogue is a dolman-sleeved knit top and handkerchief skirt. Festive and versatile, the skirt even has pockets:
I have some Lurex in my stash, don’t you?
If you’re fresh out of shiny fabric, you might be interested in Gorgeous Fabrics’ farewell sale. Last weekend, owner Ann Steeves announced that she is closing shop after 11 years in business.
August 7, 2017 § 4 Comments
Have you seen the new Fall patterns? I post the designer photos to the @PatternVault Twitter. From now on, they’ll also have a more permanent home here on the blog.
(Speaking of Twitter, I’ve started posting non-fashion tweets to a new, personal account: @DrSarahSheehan.)
Simplicity’s latest Cynthia Rowley pattern came out after the Summer 2017 release and branded for the company’s 90th anniversary celebrations. The pintuck ruffle dress was seen in short and maxi lengths in Rowley’s Resort 2016 collection.
The setting for William Eadon’s photos might look familiar from The Royal Tenenbaums: the grand staircase of Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall was the location where Margot went out for ice cream.
Vogue’s new Guy Laroche pattern is an off-the-shoulder dress from the Spring 2016 collection, Adam Andrascik’s second for the house.
For a biker look—an Andrascik trademark—try it in leather with chain accents:
Or cut off below the waistband to make a jacket:
Rachel Comey fans are spoiled for choice with three new Rachel Comey patterns. Vogue’s Fall lookbook cover shows Comey’s Karloff coat in Pre-Fall 2016’s floral brocade. One of the coat’s earliest incarnations was in buffalo plaid with camel contrast:
Two of the Comey patterns are from the Fall 2016 collection—which will be familiar to those of you who follow Anne at Pretty Grievances.
V1556 is a raw-hemmed, sleeveless dress shown worn as a jumper. With sleeves it becomes the Cumberland dress.
The pleated, bishop-sleeved Bartram dress is pure sewist bait in silk jersey.
Update on shopping local: Thanks to everyone who’s provided me with updated information about designer royalties from pattern sales. Since publishing this post, I’ve learned that Simplicity pays royalties to all licensed designers, including on web sales.
For other brands: if you would like to know whether royalties are being paid for online sales of designer patterns, you could contact the companies directly for more information.
March 15, 2016 § 10 Comments
Dear HBO, Have you considered costume pattern licensing? With a new trailer for season 6, and season 5 out on DVD, here’s a look at
completely official Game of Thrones sewing patterns sewing patterns inspired by Game of Thrones.
Costume designer Michele Clapton won three Emmys for her work on the first five seasons of Game of Thrones. Season 6 will see a new costume designer for the series: April Ferry, who designed the Emmy Award-winning costumes for HBO’s Rome (2005-2007)—which also starred Tobias Menzies, Indira Varma, and Ciarán Hinds. (Read a Costume Designers Guild bio here.)
Given the two-way relationship between Game of Thrones’ costume design and fashion, the costumes are interesting even if you don’t watch the show. (Full disclosure: I’ve made more than a few Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire costumes, including S2 Daenerys, book Quaithe, and Lyanna Stark.)
In spring, 2014, McCall’s released patterns for the most popular women’s Game of Thrones costumes, Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister. Both M6940 and M6941 are available as printable downloads. (I made M6940 for my Lyanna Stark costume; preview here.)
Last month, the company launched a new Cosplay by McCall’s line with three patterns including a unisex Westerosi cloak, M2016, “for those for whom winter can’t come soon enough” (press release here). Their pattern for the cross-fastened cloak worn by the people of Westeros (including Jon Snow, Eddard Stark, and the Stark children at Winterfell) includes an optional fur capelet. There’s also a hooded version similar to Sansa Stark’s hooded cloak:
Simplicity’s Game of Thrones costume patterns emerge in full plumage, but quickly change colours to evade capture.
Andrea Schewe’s Game of Thrones adaptations for Simplicity also started appearing in 2014. Simplicity 1347 combines three Daenerys outfits—wedding dress, Dothraki Khaleesi, and Qarth court dress—with the elf Tauriel from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013). (Now out of print, but see S1010.)
Simplicity 1487 includes court dresses for Cersei Lannister and Sansa Stark. (Now out of print, but see S1009.)
Simplicity 1246 has costumes for Margaery Tyrell and Daenerys, specifically the split dress and cape she wears as leader of the Unsullied. (This version out of print, but see S1008.)
Simplicity 1137 includes two Sansa Stark costumes. Michele Clapton conceived both as showing Sansa’s own handiwork: the dress with flower-embellished neckline from season 1 and ‘Dark Sansa’ from the end of season 4. The necklace refers to Sansa’s needle—“a jewelry idea of [Arya’s sword] Needle.” (See Fashionista’s interview; for more on Game of Thrones’ embroidery see Elizabeth Snead’s article in The Hollywood Reporter and embroiderer Michele Carragher’s website.) Andrea Schewe has posted tips on making the feathered neckpiece. (Still in print with new envelope, S1137.)
Game of Thrones meets Star Wars in Simplicity 8074, a pattern for season 5’s Sand Snakes Obara and Nymeria with Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) (still S8074):
HBO is owned by Time Warner, which has existing pattern licensing for DC Comics. Do you think HBO should license Game of Thrones patterns? I’d be first in line for a King’s Landing halter dress or Varys’ kimono…
January 11, 2016 § 5 Comments
Happy New Year! Vintage reissues give a taste of the pleasures of sewing vintage, without the bidding wars and grading. Here is an overview—with rarely seen archival images—of the contemporary vintage pattern lines from Vogue, Butterick, and McCall’s. (Simplicity responded to requests for comment with promotional copy.)
Launched in time for Holiday 1998, Vogue Patterns’ Vintage Vogue line provides true reproductions of vintage patterns borrowed from private collectors. (See my earlier post and discussion, How Do You Take Your Vintage Vogue? or get the details on the Vintage Vogue Search.) Alas, the terms of the old licensing agreements mean that Vogue can’t reissue designer patterns.
Deco evening dress pattern Vogue 2241 remains a favourite; I recently came across a version at Toronto’s Spadina Museum. I found an illustration of the original, Vogue S-3543, in a Vogue Patterns news leaflet from December, 1931. The description reads, “Here is a frock that expresses the newest movement of the mode, its originality and charm. It has a slender moulded look from the décolletage to the circular panels that trail slightly on the ground”:
Butterick donated the original to the Commercial Pattern Archive:
Retro Butterick and McCall’s Archive Collection
Both Retro Butterick and McCall’s Archive Collection patterns are recreated and sometimes adapted from archival materials, not the original patterns. With archival images, sticklers for accuracy can restore these adaptations to the original vintage design.
Early Retro Butterick pattern B6408 is based on Butterick 4391, a “Quick and Easy” late 1940s design for an evening gown with hooded scarf:
McCall’s introduced The Archive Collection for Early Fall, 2014. The recent 1920s coat pattern, M7259, is based on McCall 5057, a 1927 design by Agnès:
The McCall 6057 gown is a couture adaptation: the design is after Patou. Here is the description from McCall’s magazine: “The Patou silhouette is beautifully exemplified in a formal evening gown which has curved bands at the neckline and hipline, a short bolero and inserted panels lengthening the skirt”:
For more on the McCall Pattern Company’s vintage lines, see We Sew Retro’s interview.
October 30, 2015 § 9 Comments
Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman isn’t set to open until 2017, but audiences will get a glimpse of Gal Gadot as the Amazon princess in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Marvel’s feminist superhero, Captain Marvel (originally Ms. Marvel) will also get her own movie in 2018. (Guardian story here.)
Since the 1930s and ’40s, when Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman made their first comic strip appearances, superheroes have occupied a special place in popular culture. The 2008 Costume Institute exhibit, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, explored the influence of superhero costumes on fashion.
With Halloween around the corner, here’s a look at licensed superhero costume patterns from the 1960s to today, with a focus on the place of gender in children’s costuming.
In 1966, the Batman television show premiered on ABC; just the year before, the 1950s television series Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves as the Man of Steel, had returned to the airwaves in syndication.
From 1966, McCall’s 8398 is a pattern for “Girls’ or Boy’s Batman, Robin and Superman Official Costumes.” The pattern is copyright National Periodical Publications, Inc., an early version of DC Comics:
The Fall 1966 McCall’s Home Catalog promoted McCall’s 8398 with McCall’s 8562 as “Magical Costumes for the Wonderful World of Make-Believe.” The text reinforces the idea that these superhero costumes were intended for imaginative, active children, regardless of gender: “Now that active young lad or lass with the vivid imagination can be Batman, Robin or Superman at the switch of a colorful costume. Only McCall’s has official patterns for the costumes of these swashbuckling heroes of comic books and TV…” (click to enlarge):
In 1978, the Wonder Woman TV series was still running, and December saw the release of the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve.
That year, Simplicity released two patterns for children’s superhero costumes: Simplicity 8714, Batman, Robin, and Superman costumes for children and boys, and Simplicity 8720, Catwoman, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman costumes for girls. (‘Child’ often refers to unisex pattern sizing for younger children.) The introduction of female superhero costumes seems to have prompted a sex-division on the pattern envelopes—although the categories could always be subverted by individual children and their parents:
Later official superhero patterns tend to be movie or TV tie-ins. As in contemporary popular culture, the balance shifts toward male superheroes, but there’s also an oscillation between strict gender categories and more inclusive costuming. The 1980s were the decade of Superman and Supergirl: Supergirl opened in 1984, and there were three more Superman movies ending with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).
In 1987, Butterick released two superhero patterns, both with iron-on transfers: a Superman and Supergirl play suit for small children (sizes 2 to 6X), and a Superman costume for men and boys. I couldn’t find a corresponding women’s and girls’ Supergirl pattern. The small children’s is a pyjama or jogging suit-style top and pants for stretch knits, with separate cape and skirt; the men’s and boys’ is a spandex stirrup jumpsuit and briefs:
(With thanks to Jan Lamm.)
Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) launched a new superhero franchise. Late 1980s Batman pattern Butterick 4201/6313, for men and boys, appears to have been timed to the Tim Burton film, but reflects the now-retro Batman. Like the Butterick Superman, it’s also a stirrup jumpsuit and briefs for spandex blends:
Butterick licensed costumes from Batman Returns (1992) and Batman Forever (1995): Batman, Catwoman, and the Penguin, and Batman, Robin, and the Riddler. The Batman costumes reflect the movies’ increasingly hypermasculine armour, while Catwoman’s sexy, home-sewn catsuit is the only design for women and girls.
Maybe because the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aren’t human, this Ninja Turtles pattern is gender-inclusive, labelled as for both girls and boys. The design is called a playsuit, not a costume (click the image for envelope back, or see it made up on flickr):
On the other hand, this Captain Planet pattern for children and boys includes a grotesque ‘muscle’ suit. The second character is called Verminous Skumm:
’90s costume patterns start to show the influence of Japanese television shows—Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Masked Rider, and Sailor Moon. This Sailor Moon costume pattern came in children’s and girls’ sizes:
Marvel doesn’t seem to have ventured into pattern licensing until the 1990s, when Simplicity’s children’s costume patterns were gender-inclusive. Simplicity 7543 is a child’s Spiderman costume with sleeve webs made from fishnet:
Before the X-Men and Spider-Man movie franchises of the 2000s, there were ’90s animated TV shows based on the comics: X-Men from 1992 and Spider-Man from 1994. In the mid-1990s, Simplicity released several more Marvel patterns, all labelled as unisex Child’s costumes: Spider-Man and Venom (Simplicity 7241), Wolverine and Storm (Simplicity 7246), and Cyclops and Magneto (Simplicity 7251). Wolverine and Storm is my favourite:
This fall, Simplicity released five licensed costume patterns for Marvel and DC superheroes. The women’s DC costumes are featured on the cover of the Halloween catalogue: Wonder Woman (Simplicity 1024) with Batgirl and Supergirl (Simplicity 1036):
The women’s costumes match those of the comic-book characters, but for the corresponding children’s pattern (Simplicity 1035), all three costumes have been altered to become knee-length, long-sleeved dresses. Batgirl loses her catsuit and Wonder Woman is virtually unrecognizable. What message does this send to children comparing the comic-book illustrations on the envelopes?
The two Marvel patterns, Captain America (Simplicity 1030) and Thor (Simplicity 1038), have a different format. Both from Marvel’s Avengers, the adults’ and children’s sizes share the same envelope, which includes an illustration of the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America down the left-hand side and a superimposed image of the pattern pieces with the text Sew It Yourself. Both are labelled as boys’ and men’s. The Thor should really be unisex if he’s now a woman:
(S0225 is the advance version; the S1030 envelope seems to have some strange retouching of the man’s crotch.)
It’s great to see Wonder Woman making a comeback, and the increasing popularity of costuming means we’re likely to see more licensed superhero patterns in the near future. Here’s hoping there will be a Black Widow or Mystique—and it’s not a dress.
Update: Simplicity released several new DC patterns for Fall 2016, including an official Joker pattern and three DC Bombshells patterns—Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Supergirl:
Update, summer 2017: Simplicity’s Early Fall catalogue added more DC patterns: Harley Quinn and DC Bombshells Black Canary, Stargirl, and Batwoman.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
* As I wrote this post, spellcheck failed to recognize the names of female superheroes. Please fix this, WordPress!
July 11, 2015 § 8 Comments
The new book by the curator of the Commercial Pattern Archive is the first comprehensive study of the sewing pattern industry. Published through Bloomsbury’s academic imprint, Joy Spanabel Emery’s A History of the Paper Pattern Industry: The Home Dressmaking Fashion Revolution traces the history of commercial patterns from their beginnings in early modern tailors’ drafting systems to the 21st century.
Emery is Professor Emerita of Theater at the University of Rhode Island, where she also taught in the fashion department. In addition to her articles on commercial sewing patterns, she is the author of Stage Costume Techniques (Prentice-Hall, 1981).
The materials found in the University of Rhode Island’s Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) and the personal archive of CoPA founder Betty Williams are the main sources for the book, which focuses on the pattern industry and its role in the production of everyday clothing. Emery presents her research in short, textbook-style chapters, ending each chapter with a brief summary. In the back, readers will find an index, endnotes for each chapter, and a detailed bibliography with sections for primary sources, secondary sources, and archival collections.
As a special inducement to those who sew, the book also includes an appendix with nine patterns, each laid out on a grid by Susan Hannel, the chair of the University of Rhode Island’s fashion department. The gridded patterns range from an 1850s Demorest basque [bodice], originally published as a pattern sheet supplement in a ladies’ fashion gazette, to a 1960s men’s Nehru jacket from Spadea.
Recent academic books on sewing have used the framework of gender studies to examine sewing as a cultural practice. Barbara Burman’s collection, The Culture of Sewing: Gender, Consumption and Home Dressmaking (Berg, 1999, to which Emery contributed a chapter, “Dreams on Paper: A Story of the Commercial Pattern Industry”), and Sarah A. Gordon’s “Make It Yourself”: Home Sewing, Gender, and Culture 1890-1930 (Columbia University Press, 2007) both present social histories of sewing that take into account changing understandings of femininity and women’s work.
Emery’s book takes a more conservative approach to the material culture of sewing patterns, aiming to lay the groundwork for further study by focusing on the historical timeline of commercial production and technical development. Each chapter traces the industry’s new technologies and companies, mergers and closures as the pattern business landscape shifted from early diversity to today’s conglomerates.
CoPA’s holdings are so extensive that they show not only the industry’s response to dramatic developments in fashion, like the New Look or youthquake, but also to historical events like the First and Second World Wars. A 1918 issue of Butterick’s magazine, The Delineator, shows two women in naval uniform (Butterick pattern no. 1101), while a 1943 McCall’s pattern for Victory aprons is printed with patriotic verse:
(For more on Butterick 1101 see Michelle Lee’s blog post.)
Industry players competed to improve the sewing customer’s experience. We have McCall’s to thank for the printed pattern. Other pattern companies couldn’t duplicate the technique until McCall’s patent expired—although Pictorial Review found a creative workaround with patterns that were both printed and perforated.
It was during the economic boom of the 1920s that the industry produced the first fully conceived designer patterns. As Betty Williams found in her research, McCall’s interwar couture patterns were based on garments purchased from Parisian couture houses for copying purposes. When Williams shared an early McCall Patou pattern with staff at the house of Patou, they agreed that the design looked like the couturier’s work, but were unable to find documentation of a McCall-Patou relationship (Williams 1995).* Intriguingly, Emery mentions a business agreement model along the lines of today’s licensing, but does not go into further detail.
Infelicities of layout and organization occasionally disrupt the flow. Including the discussion of interwar couture patterns in the 1920s chapter means that we read about the 1933 closure of the Paris Pattern Company, and see a 1930s example of a Paris Pattern, before reaching the 1930s chapter. Paris Patterns in fact survived beyond 1933: by the following year, the company seems to have merged with Style and was still releasing patterns for June, 1934.
The text is sometimes marred by typographical errors, as well as errors traceable to data entry errors in the pattern archive. Schiaparelli’s first Vogue Paris Original (no. 1051) is included in the chapter devoted to World War 2 rather than the postwar chapter, and its date is given as 1947 when it should be 1949—the year Vogue Patterns, still owned by Condé Nast, launched its Paris Originals with great fanfare. (See my postwar Schiaparelli post here.)
Countering the assertion that commercial pattern designs are already out of fashion, Emery argues that patterns historically allowed their customers to keep abreast of trends, giving some interesting before and after examples of patterns adapted to reflect the new proportions of the postwar New Look.
The question of the relationship between high fashion and the commercial pattern industry is an interesting one. Contemporary high fashion adaptations in pattern form are relatively current. Roland Mouret’s Fall 2005 blockbuster, the Galaxy dress, was adapted in 2006 as Vogue 8280, and Carven’s dress for Spring 2013 was adapted for that season as Vogue 8900 (see As I Said…). Current adaptations can be seen in McCall’s #sewthelook series on Instagram.
But licensed designer patterns are a different story. While trend-setting styles such as those from Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian and Ballets Russes collections could count on expedited production, more often there seems to have been a seasonal lag. A 1950s Laroche pattern discussed as typical in a contemporary report, Vogue 1450, is a design from the Spring 1959 couture that was released a season later, in late 1959.
Today, when the production time for a commercial pattern has been cut to as little as four weeks,** it’s still unusual for a new designer pattern to represent the current season. To take some recent examples: of Simplicity’s Cynthia Rowley patterns from the Summer 2015 release, Simplicity 1105 is unusual for being from the current season, Spring/Summer 2015:
In Vogue Patterns’ Fall 2014 release, the Donna Karan, Guy Laroche, and Rachel Comey selections are from the Fall 2013 collections, while the Ralph Rucci coat, Vogue 1419, is from the Pre-Fall 2013 collection:
The fashion industry has changed, and fewer designers are willing to enter into licensing agreements for commercial patterns, let alone license current-season designs. Historical analysis of the pattern industry shows how it has adapted in response not only to economic and social trends, but also to home sewers’ changing relationship with fashion. Emery has taken a much-needed look to the archives in this essential resource.
(Press release and interview here.)
Joy Spanabel Emery, A History of the Paper Pattern Industry: The Home Dressmaking Fashion Revolution, London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
ISBN (cloth): 9780857858306
ISBN (paper): 9780857858313
* Betty Williams, “1920s Couturier Patterns and the Home Sewer,” Cutters’ Research Journal 6.4 (Spring 1995).
** According to a Forbes article cited on p. 201.
For review purposes I received a complimentary copy from the publisher.