Designer Swimwear: Vintage Patterns

August 9, 2016 § 6 Comments

1980s Bob Mackie swimsuit pattern McCall's 7138 photographed for McCall's summer news flier

McCall’s 7138 by Bob Mackie on the cover of McCall’s news, July 1980.

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:

1950s Emilio Pucci bathing suit pattern McCall's 3977

McCall’s 3977 by Emilio Pucci (1956) Image: eBay.


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:

1960s Galitzine bikini, coverup, and hat pattern Vogue 1288

Vogue 1288 by Irene Galitzine (ca. 1963) Image: eBay.


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:

Vogue 1416

Vogue 1416 by Donna Karan at Anne Klein for Penfold (1976) Image: Etsy.

From Bill Blass, Vogue 1455 includes a two-piece swimsuit with bra top and bikini briefs:

1970s Bill Blass jacket, pants, and swimsuit pattern Vogue 1455

Vogue 1455 by Bill Blass (1976)

John Kloss licensed a number of swimwear designs with Butterick. This ad promotes his patterns with a poolside photo of Butterick 4808:

Butterick Kloss ad 1976

Butterick 4808 by John Kloss, Butterick advertisement, 1976. Image: eBay.

Another Butterick designer, Gil Aimbez, designed this one-piece bathing suit. Contrast bias binding outlines the cut-away sides and bodice seaming detail:

1970s Gil Aimbez swimsuit and coverup pattern Butterick 5449

Butterick 5449 by Gil Aimbez (ca. 1977) Image: Etsy.

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:

1970s Penfold pattern Vogue 1655

Vogue 1655 by Penfold (ca. 1977) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Both Penfold patterns can be seen in a Vogue Patterns editorial photographed in Antigua:

1970s Anne Klein / Penfold halter bikini pattern by Donna Karan, Vogue 1416 in Vogue Patterns magazine

Beach beauty: halter bikini Vogue 1416 by Donna Karan at Anne Klein for Penfold, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1977. Model: Clotilde. Photo: Albert Watson. Image: the Fashion Spot.

Vogue Patterns MayJun 1977 Penfold

Vogue 1655 by Penfold with Vogue 9808, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1977. Models: Lisa Cooper and Clotilde. Photos: Albert Watson. Image: the Fashion Spot.

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:

1970s Catalina swimsuit pattern Vogue 1893

Vogue 1893 by Catalina (1978) Image: Etsy.

The magazine recommended making the Catalina suits in Thompson of California’s “second skin Tic Toc warp knit polyester crepes” in various prints:

Vogue 1893 by Catalina, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1978. Image: Vintage Goodness.


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):

1980s Basile swimsuit pattern - McCall's 7109

McCall’s 7109 by Basile (1980) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Jerry Hall (right) seems to be wearing the view A style in this Basile ad photographed by Irving Penn:

vogue italia 1980 penn basile

Basile advertisement in Vogue Italia, 1980. Photo: Irving Penn. Models: Michelle Stevens and Jerry Hall. Image: the Fashion Spot.

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):

1980s Bob Mackie swimsuit and cover-up pattern McCall's 7138

McCall’s 7138 by Bob Mackie (1980) Image: Etsy.


Finally, this early ’90s DKNY pattern, Vogue 2897, is labelled ‘dress and bodysuit,’ but was photographed as beachwear:

1990s DKNY bodysuit and hooded dress / coverup pattern Vogue 2897

Vogue 2897 by DKNY (1992) Image: Etsy.

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

Cynthia Rowley for Roxy wetsuit, 2010

Wetsuit by Cynthia Rowley for Roxy, 2010. Image: Pinterest.

Willy Somma self-portrait for Rachel Comey Swim, 2013

Willy Somma self-portrait for Rachel Comey Swim, T Magazine, May 2013. Image:

Oscar de la Renta: Vogue Patterns, Part 2

July 28, 2016 § 3 Comments

Sarah Mower's Oscar de la Renta, with cover from “Couture’s Glorious Excess” (Vogue, October 1997) showing Balmain Fall 1997 haute couture

Sarah Mower, Oscar de la Renta (Assouline, 2nd ed. 2014) Photo: Peter Lindbergh. Editor: Grace Coddington. Image: my luscious life.

Oscar de la Renta was born in July 1932; he would have turned 84 last week. In honour of his birthday, I’ll be looking at Oscar de la Renta sewing patterns from the 1990s and 2000s. (See Part 1 here.)


Vogue 2460 on the cover of Vogue Patterns March/April 1990

Vogue 2460 by Oscar de la Renta on the cover of Vogue Patterns, March/April 1990. (Patricia Underwood hat.) Photo: Otto Stupakoff. Image: eBay.

The 1990s marked Oscar de la Renta’s fourth decade with Vogue Patterns. From 1990, Vogue 2500 is a dress with pleated overlay and asymmetrical bias collar, chic in a polka dot print. De la Renta was pictured with a model wearing this design in Vogue Patterns magazine (May/June issue); the photo also made the cover of the counter catalogue:

1990s Oscar de la Renta dress pattern, Vogue 2500

Vogue 2500 by Oscar de la Renta (1990) Image: Etsy.

Oscar de la Renta with model in V2500 on the cover of the Vogue Patterns catalogue, June 1990

Oscar de la Renta on the cover of the Vogue Patterns catalogue, June 1990. Image: Karsten Moran for the New York Times.

In 1992, de la Renta became the first American to take over a French couture house when he was appointed chief designer at Balmain. He had begun presenting his own collection in Paris the previous year. (See Suzy Menkes, “De la Renta Joins Balmain.”) The cover of the Assouline book pictured above shows Balmain haute couture; a similar tableau was created for the de Young retrospective.

Vogue 1638 is a brightly coloured skirt suit from Oscar de la Renta’s Spring 1995 collection (full video on YouTube here). Its tailored details, like the jacket’s back pleats and martingale belt, won it an Advanced skill rating. The design was featured in a Vogue Patterns suits article (see The Overflowing Stash) and on the cover of the counter catalogue:

1990s Oscar de la Renta suit pattern Vogue 1638

Vogue 1638 Oscar de la Renta (1995) Image: eBay.

Suited up! Oscar de la Renta suit pattern on the cover of a Vogue Patterns catalogue, October 1995

Vogue Patterns catalogue, October 1995. Image via Etsy.

This double-breasted skirt suit, shown on the runway in pink satin, must be from the Fall 1995 collection. The recommended fabrics are satin, damask, and gabardine:

1990s Oscar de la Renta satin skirt suit pattern - Vogue 1863

Vogue 1863 by Oscar de la Renta (1996)

Ellen von Unwerth photographed Stella Tennant in a corseted lace Oscar de la Renta dress with flamenco dancer Joaquín Cortés for Vogue’s 1996 September issue:

Stella Tennant in Oscar de la Renta, from "This Side of Paradise," photographed in Arles by Ellen von Unwerth with Grace Coddington

Stella Tennant in Oscar de la Renta, with Joaquín Cortés, Vogue, September 1996. Photo: Ellen von Unwerth. Editor: Grace Coddington.

Two years later, Hillary Clinton wore Oscar de la Renta for her Vogue cover (more here):

Hillary Clinton in custom Oscar de la Renta on the cover of Vogue magazine, December 1998

Hillary Clinton in custom Oscar de la Renta, Vogue, December 1998. Photo: Annie Leibovitz. Editor: Paul Cavaco. Image: eBay.

Vogue 2361 is a formal dress from the Spring 1998 collection. The skirt is cut on the bias, the bodice and hemline flounces are finished with self fabric binding, and view A has an asymmetrical train. Kirsten Owen modelled the original on the runway:

1990s Oscar de la Renta dress pattern Vogue 2361

Vogue 2361 by Oscar de la Renta (1999)

Kirsten Owen wears Oscar de la Renta on the Spring 1998 runway

Oscar de la Renta Spring/Summer 1998. Model: Kirsten Owen. Image: firstVIEW.

Just for fun, here’s another editorial photo showing de la Renta’s couture work at Balmain. Ruven Afanador photographed this lace-embroidered gown with matching chihuahua:

Robe en faille de soie brodée de dentelle et pierres de jaïs, sur jupon en tulle de soie. Malgosia Bela in Pierre Balmain couture by Oscar de la Renta

Pierre Balmain haute couture by Oscar de la Renta, Vogue Paris, September 1999. Photo: Ruven Afanador. Image via The Fashion Spot.


This floral print evening dress is a design from de la Renta’s Spring 2000 collection. Piping defines the waist, and the bias train is trimmed with waist pleats and flounces. The original was modelled on the runway by Carmen Kass:

2000s Oscar de la Renta gown pattern Vogue 2541

Vogue 2541 by Oscar de la Renta (2001)

Oscar de la Renta SS2000 look51Carmen Kass.

Oscar de la Renta Spring/Summer 2000. Model: Carmen Kass. Image:

The Fall 2001 collection included two “decidedly gothic black opera coats,” and Vogue Patterns chose one of them for its customers. Vogue 2714 is a full-sleeved, floor-length opera coat trimmed with frog closures and pleated ruffles. The pattern is sometimes numbered “P935 – Best Seller”:

2000s Oscar de la Renta opera coat or coat dress pattern Vogue 2714 / P935

Vogue 2714 / P935 by Oscar de la Renta (2002) Image: Etsy.

Natalia Semanova wears an Oscar de la Renta opera coat on the Fall 2001 runway

Oscar de la Renta Fall/Winter 2001. Model: Natalia Semanova. Image via

From the Spring 2005 collection, strapless gown pattern Vogue 2889 evokes flamenco with its tiered skirt and draped, drop-waist bodice. The design was shown on the runway with length and bodice variations:

2000s Oscar de la Renta dress pattern Vogue 2889

Vogue 2889 by Oscar de la Renta (2006)

Caroline Ribeiro and Caroline Winberg in Oscar de la Renta SS 2005

Oscar de la Renta Spring/Summer 2005. Models: Caroline Ribeiro and Caroline Winberg. Image:

Vogue 2928 is a grand, off-the-shoulder ballgown complete with boned foundation, attached petticoat, and self fabric flowers and appliqués. The gown was the penultimate look in de la Renta’s Fall 2005 collection:

2000s Oscar de la Renta evening gown pattern Vogue 2928

Vogue 2928 by Oscar de la Renta (2006) Image: ecrater.

Nataliya Gotsii wears a gown from Oscar de la Renta's Fall 2005 collection

Oscar de la Renta Fall/Winter 2005. Model: Nataliya Gotsii. Image:

For more on the late designer, see Vogue’s retrospective. Have you made any Oscar de la Renta patterns?

Kirsten Dunst wears Oscar de la Renta custom-designed for Vogue's Marie Antoinette editorial, 2006

Kirsten Dunst in custom Oscar de la Renta, Vogue, September 2006. Photo: Annie Leibovitz. Editor: Grace Coddington. Image:

And the Winner Is…

July 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

Vogue 1440 by Donna Karan

Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

The results of my random number generator are in! The lucky number is 10, and the winner of my blogiversary giveaway is:

Mary Helen Crowe (the 10th person to comment)

Congratulations, Mary! I’ll send you an e-mail with the details on claiming your gift certificate.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered the giveaway. It was fun hearing about your favourite pattern designers. Your most-mentioned designer was Donna Karan (9), followed by Yves Saint Laurent (7) and Issey Miyake (6), dark horse Claude Montana (4), and Halston and Ralph Rucci, who tied for fifth place (3). (Honourable mentions go to Pierre Cardin, Rachel Comey, DVF, Givenchy, Claire McCardell, Alexander McQueen, and Isabel Toledo.)

And of course, thanks for reading and commenting on this blog for the past 5 years! As a thank-you to all of you, I’m having a flash sale in my Etsy shop through this Thursday, July 21th—30% off with coupon code YEARTHEFIFTH.

Vogue 2558 by Claude Montana

Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Fifth Blogiversary + Giveaway

July 11, 2016 § 40 Comments

1970s Valentino pattern Vogue 2227 detail

Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

The PatternVault blog turns five today. (It all started with my first post, on Alexander McQueen for Givenchy.) To celebrate my blogiversary, I’m hosting a giveaway of one $25 CAD gift certificate for the PatternVault Etsy shop.

1990s Anna Sui dress pattern Vogue 1619 detail

Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

To enter, leave a comment with your answer to the question: Of the designers who have licensed (or otherwise authorized) sewing patterns, which one is your favourite?

The giveaway closes Sunday, July 17th at midnight EDT. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday, July 18th. Good luck!

Lagerfeld suit pattern Vogue 1719 detail w/ Kristen McMenamy

Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Goodbye Donna Karan, Hello Urban Zen?

July 6, 2016 § 8 Comments

Ingrid Sischy, Donna Karan New York (Assouline 2005) Image via Pinterest.

Have you heard? Vogue’s Donna Karan and DKNY patterns will no longer be available after next Wednesday, July 13th. According to the McCall Pattern Company, the licensor of the Donna Karan trademarks [the LVMH-owned Gabrielle Studio Inc.] has decided to end all pattern licensing. (Source: Facebook.)



Vogue Patterns has been publishing Donna Karan patterns since 1987. The company added DKNY patterns in 1989.

Vogue Patterns magazine, Autumn 1987

Donna Karan patterns on the cover of Vogue Patterns magazine, Autumn 1987. Image via eBay.

DKNY patterns 2373, 2371, 2375, 2372, 2376 - Vogue Patterns catalogue, November 1989

DKNY patterns on the Vogue Patterns catalogue cover, November 1989. Image via eBay.

The end of both licenses makes the Spring 2016 releases the last DKNY and Donna Karan patterns.

A dress in DKNY Pre-Fall 2013 - Vogue American Designer 1488

Vogue 1488 by DKNY is based on a dress from the Pre-Fall 2013 collection. Image:

A dress from Donna Karan Spring 2014, the original for Vogue American Designer 1489 (2016)

The original for Vogue 1489 in Donna Karan’s Spring 2014 collection. Model: Kati Nescher. Image:

Donna Karan announced her departure from Donna Karan International just over a year ago, saying she means to focus on her new, privately owned company, Urban Zen. Parent company LVMH will not be hiring a replacement. Instead, LVMH will be developing DKNY, which is designed by Public School’s Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne. (See Vanessa Friedman and Jacob Bernstein, “Karan Leaving Brand That Carries Her Name.”)

After thirty years of Vogue patterns—closer to forty, if we count her work at Anne Klein—Karan’s absence will be keenly felt. But could she return soon with Urban Zen patterns? Under her agreement with LVMH, Urban Zen’s “distribution … [can]not compete with any of the Donna Karan brands.” (See Donna Fenn’s interview for Fortune.) This could account for the unprecedented end-date for the Donna Karan and DKNY patterns, just in time for the Fall 2016 pattern launch. Update (July 7): the Fall 2016 patterns were released today, too early to avoid a distribution conflict. Perhaps for Winter 2016?

It would certainly be in keeping with Karan’s ethos if July 14th marked not just an end to the old pattern licensing, but also a new beginning. As her program notes always read, To be continued

Urban Zen, Modern Souls collection

Urban Zen, Modern Souls collection. Image: Urban Zen.

Arnold Scaasi: Vogue Patterns

July 1, 2016 § 3 Comments

Mary Jane Russell wears Scaasi on the cover of Vogue's Christmas issue, 1955. Photographed by Richard Rutledge

A Scaasi design on the cover of Vogue, December 1955. Photo: Richard Rutledge. Model: Mary Jane Russell. Image via tumblr.

In celebration of Canada Day, this post is dedicated to the late Arnold Scaasi.

Deborah Dixon in Scaasi earrings, 1960

Scaasi earrings on the cover of Vogue, November 15, 1960. Photo: Bert Stern. Model: Deborah Dixon. Image: flickr.

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 label, ca. 1959

Image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Scaasi lost no time in pursuing pattern licensing. These Scaasi Spadea patterns date to 1956:

 life4jun1956p121 Via Google

Scaasi evening skirt available as a Spadea pattern, Life, June 4, 1956. Photo: Sharland. Image via Google Books.

 life 4jun 1956 p122a Via Google

Scaasi jacket available as a Spadea pattern, Life, June 4, 1956. Photo: Sharland. Image via Google Books.

 life4jun1956p122b Via Google

Scaasi housecoat available as a Spadea pattern, Life, June 4, 1956. Photo: Sharland. Image via Google Books.

A few decades later, Claire Shaeffer covered Scaasi’s couture techniques for Threads magazine:

A Scaasi gown on the cover of Threads magazine, holiday 1991

A Scaasi gown on the cover of Threads 38 (December/January 1991-92) Photo: Yvonne Taylor. Image via vintage4me2.

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:

1990s Scaasi formal dress pattern Vogue 1285

Vogue 1285 by Scaasi (1993) Image via Etsy.

This formal ensemble includes two-layer palazzo pants for chiffon or georgette and a top for scalloped lace:

1990s Scaasi evening suit pattern Vogue 1286

Vogue 1286 by Scaasi (1993) Image via Etsy.

Vogue 1287 is a collarless skirt suit with caftan-style side slits:

1990s Scaasi skirt suit pattern Vogue 1287

Vogue 1287 by Scaasi (1993) Image via Etsy.

From spring, 1994, this dress is shaped by long darts in front and back and trimmed with a flounce:

1990s Scaasi dress pattern Vogue 1357

Vogue 1357 by Scaasi (1994) Image via Pinterest.

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:

1990s Arnold Scaasi striped dress pattern Vogue 1377

Vogue 1377 by Scaasi (1994) Image via Etsy.

(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.

For more on Scaasi, see the obituaries in The New York Times, the Montreal Gazette, and WWD.

Opening image Scaasi ID thanks to Kickshaw Productions.

Short, red evening coat and bubble-hem dress in a silk polka dot print by Scaasi, 1958 (as 1961)

Evening ensemble by Arnold Scaasi for Arlene Francis, 1958. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Halston of Bergdorf Goodman – Vogue 7082

June 14, 2016 § 3 Comments

Detail, Vogue 7082 by Halston of Bergdorf Goodman

Royal Ascot begins today. Here’s a look at an Ascot-worthy Halston pattern.

Halston licensed millinery designs with Vogue Patterns during his time as Chief Milliner at Bergdorf Goodman. (See my earlier Mad Men-era millinery post.) Vogue 7082 is a petal headpiece with optional veil:

1960s Halston of Bergdorf Goodman bridal headpiece pattern - Vogue 7082

Vogue 7082 by Halston of Bergdorf Goodman (ca. 1967)

Here’s the envelope description: Bridal headpiece. Large or small petal headpiece with or without long or short veil is secured to hair with comb; optional ribbon bow. Recommended fabrics: organdy, organza, lace, point d’esprit. Veil: net, tulle. Notions: comb, millinery wire, 2 1/4″ ribbon.

The Halston headpiece was cross-promoted on two bridal patterns, Vogue 1744 and Vogue 1745, as an option for both brides and bridesmaids. Or as a contemporary catalogue has it, “Enchanting bouquet of graduated petals… crowning touch for any member of the bridal party by Halston of Bergdorf Goodman.”

1960s bride's or bridesmaid's dress pattern Vogue Special Design 1745

Vogue 1745 (ca. 1967) Image via eBay.

Worn with a matching suit, wouldn’t it be perfect for a day at the races?

1960s dress and jacket pattern Vogue Special Design 7061

Vogue 7061 (ca. 1967) Image via Etsy.

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