Neo-Egyptomania

Neo-Egyptian cover of Needlecraft, June 1929. Illustration: Reginald P. Ward. Image: eBay.

The tomb of Tutankhamun was rediscovered in November, 1922, making 2022 the centennial of all things King Tut. Yet as an early McCall transfer pattern shows, Neo-Egyptomania was already underway:

4 long wing motifs 1 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches2 scarab motifs 1 1/2 x 1 1/4 inches, 16 scarab motifs 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches 4 yds. of 3/4-inch double banding (given in a double strip) 4 scarab and scroll motifs 2 3/4 x 6 inches 4 large motifs 8 x 14 inches
McCall 1039 (1920) Kaumagraph Transfer – Egyptian Design for Dress Trimming. Image: eBay.
McCall 1039 in McCall’s magazine, June 1920. Image: archive.org.

“Egyptian Design for Dress Trimming” (McCall 1039) dates to spring 1920, but was still being advertised three years later, explicitly referencing the King Tut trend.

In summer 1923, Anne Rittenhouse wrote, “Ancient Rome as well as ancient India supplies inspiration for the figurations you should put on your clothes. The famous mosaic design found on marble tables and on floors in Italy has crept upward to our gowns. Straight bands of it are used in what is known as spinal decoration, also for skirt hems and sleeves. If you do not like to omit Egyptian embroidery, which appears to be the Twentieth Amendment to the Fashion Constitution, use the lotus flower rather than Tut’s guardians of the tomb…” (“Embroidery Everywhere,” McCall News, Aug. 1923)

“Embroidery On Spring Frocks Shows The Egyptian Influence,” McCall’s magazine, May 1923. Image: archive.org.
Egyptian transfer - Pittsburgh Press 13 May 1923 p150
“Designs of Tut-Ankh-Amen”: Kaufmann’s ad featuring McCall 1039, The Pittsburgh Press, May 13, 1923. Image: Google books.

Contemporary fans of Egyptian embellishment can find a reproduction of the 1920s transfer on Etsy. Happy New Year!

Image: Vintage Pattern Lending Library on Etsy.
Egyptian backdrop on the cover of McCall Quarterly, Summer 1923. Image: Etsy.
Howard Carter and A.C. Mace, The Tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amen. Image: Weiser Antiquarian Books.

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.