August 28, 2016 § 1 Comment
This summer, after extensive renovations, the National Museum of Scotland opened its new galleries, including a Fashion and Style gallery. Jean Muir’s archive is housed in the museum, so the new gallery returns this important collection of her work to public view. To celebrate, I’ll be posting a two-part series on Jean Muir sewing patterns.
Though born in London, Jean Muir (1928-1995) is often called “the Scottish Chanel.” Muir began her career working at Liberty London. She was the designer for Jaeger before winning backing for her first label, Jane & Jane, in the early 1960s; she also designed for Morel London. In the fall of 1966 she founded her own company, Jean Muir Ltd. Acclaimed for her precise cut in jersey, leather, and suede, she preferred to be called a dressmaker.
Muir and her designs are featured in Life magazine’s 1963 portfolio (headlined “Brash New Breed of British Designers”) on what was then called the Chelsea Look.
In her review of the National Museum of Scotland’s 2008 exhibit, Jean Muir: A Fashion Icon, Lynne Walker credits Muir with designing Diana Rigg’s wardrobe as Emma Peel in The Avengers, including her iconic leather catsuit—a symbol of swinging London.
Jean Muir licensed patterns with Butterick’s Young Designers line into the early 1970s.
In early 1965, Butterick introduced Jean Muir of Jane & Jane with four designs in the Spring 1965 catalogue (click to enlarge):
This simple Jane & Jane dress is accented with two narrow tucks above the hemline:
The tucks on Butterick 3609 recall the single, broad hemline tuck on this Jane & Jane dress photographed by David Bailey in Kenya:
This mod, A-line dress is trimmed with buttons and topstitching (click to view in the shop):
The young Grace Coddington posed in the sleeveless version for British Vogue:
Previously seen in my Celia Hammond post, this Jane & Jane dress has a standing neckline, raglan sleeves, and Muir’s trademark tiny button trim:
Within a year of founding her own company, Muir saw her double-breasted ‘cavalier’ coat on the cover of British Vogue:
With its shoulder yokes and double-breasted front, Butterick 5242 is a similar design:
Muir’s signature topstitching and shoulder yokes define the details on Butterick 4937, a sleeveless dress illustrated on the cover of the August 1968 news leaflet:
The pattern envelope shows the dress with and without the low-slung belt carriers:
David Bailey photographed a similar Jean Muir belted jumper in green Harris tweed:
Previously seen in my Mad Men-era Butterick Young Designers post, Butterick 5657 is the kind of fluid jersey dress Muir became known for:
The design is from Muir’s Fall 1969 collection—photographed here in cloud grey jersey:
Butterick 5954 was shown in both mini and midi lengths; the recommended fabrics include jersey, knit, and synthetic knits. The contrast cuffs and bib front give the opportunity for colour blocking or print mixing as in the Liberty-style illustration (available in the shop):
Before Butterick switched to illustrations only, there was a growing disparity in quality between pattern and editorial photography. Here it obscures the potential of Muir’s tucked and colour blocked peasant tunic:
Jeanloup Sieff photographed a similar dress-and-knickers ensemble for an editorial in Nova magazine:
The latest Jean Muir Young Designer pattern I’ve seen is Butterick 6398, a high-waisted dress with tiny self ruffles, button trim, and optional contrast sleeves and hemband:
I’ll close with this 1970 Norman Parkinson photo of a Jean Muir dress and turban in Monument Valley, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery:
Next: Jean Muir’s Vogue Couturier patterns.
August 27, 2016 § Leave a comment
Farewell to Sonia Rykiel—designer, author, queen of knitwear. She will be missed.
May 29, 2016 § 4 Comments
There’s only one day left to see Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective, curated by André Leon Talley for the de Young Museum in San Francisco. (Show ends May 30, 2016). If you won’t be able to make it, an exhibition catalogue is available in three formats, including a floral print-bound limited edition. For more on the show see Maghan McDowell, “First Look: Five Decades of Oscar de la Renta.”
Oscar de la Renta (1932-2014) was born Óscar Aristides Ortiz de la Renta Fiallo in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the only boy in a family of seven. After moving to Spain to study art at Madrid’s Real Academía de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, in 1954 he began work as a sketcher at Balenciaga; by 1959 he was assisting Antonio del Castillo at Lanvin-Castillo in Paris.
In 1963 de la Renta moved to New York to pursue a career in ready-to-wear. He was soon hired as designer for Elizabeth Arden and, in 1965, became a partner at Jane Derby, the house he would take over for his own label. (For more see official site or The New York Times’ timeline.)
De la Renta licensed his designs with Vogue Patterns from the 1960s to the 2000s. This week, a look at Oscar de la Renta patterns from the ’60s to the ’80s.
Oscar de la Renta was among the designers included in Vogue-Butterick’s new Vogue Americana line, which was launched in 1967. From 1968, Vogue 1909 is a short-sleeved evening dress with standing collar and front-dart pockets:
This short evening dress has contrast bias cuffs and collar—flexible jewel trim optional:
Vogue 2219, an evening dress in two lengths, includes a wide, contrast cummerbund and pockets in the inverted side pleats:
Shown in a rich, metallic brocade, Vogue 2280 is a short, high-waisted evening dress accented with a jewel-trimmed belt (as seen in Vogue Pattern Book here):
A 1972 editorial by Helmut Newton shows Lauren Hutton in an early Oscar de la Renta caftan:
From 1973—the year of the ‘Battle of Versailles’ fashion show—this ruffled evening dress was shown in both solid colours and a floral border print:
Christie Brinkley models Vogue 1667, a blouse for two layers of sheer fabric and dirndl maxi skirt with deep hemline ruffle:
Peasant blouse-and-skirt ensemble Vogue 1776 was featured on this winter catalogue cover:
Vogue 1027’s caftan (previously seen in my caftans post) is featured in the San Francisco exhibit. The original is hand-painted silk crêpe de chine:
Vogue 1644 is a wrap-bodice dress with bias bands defining the waist:
These fashion photos by Steven Meisel and Patrick Demarchelier show how well de la Renta was suited to the Eighties aesthetic:
Here, radiating pleats and a bias front godet add volume and interest:
Don’t Vogue 2185’s ruffles take the cake?
February 23, 2016 § 5 Comments
The Best Actress winners who have accepted their award in trousers can be counted on one hand: Barbra Streisand (1969, in Arnold Scaasi); Jane Fonda (1972, in Yves Saint Laurent); Sissy Spacek (1981); Jessica Tandy (1990, in Armani); and Jodie Foster (1992, also in Armani). But then, Katharine Hepburn never attended.
Celebrity style icons Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Kate Moss started appearing on the red carpet in pantsuits in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Recently, more and more female celebrities have been choosing tuxedos and jumpsuits for formal events.
Here are some patterns—now available in the shop—that would be perfect for your next gala appearance.
The year Jane Fonda won an Oscar for her performance in Klute, Vogue Patterns released this Valentino design for an evening jumpsuit and jacket:
Calvin Klein had the Annie Hall look nailed before Woody Allen’s movie started filming (in spring, 1976). Vogue 1369, a designer wardrobe pattern, highlights the three-piece pantsuit:
Fast forward to 1999, when Alexander McQueen presented a futuristic millennium collection for Givenchy (Fall 1999 prêt-à-porter; post here). The long, detailed jacket was designed for shimmery fabric:
This tunic and pants ensemble is from Donna Karan’s Fall 2007 collection (as worn by Jessica Stam on the runway). The strapless tunic has outside darts, pockets, and foundation with padded bra and boning:
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.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
* As I wrote this post, spellcheck failed to recognize the names of female superheroes. Please fix this, WordPress!
October 18, 2015 § 4 Comments
Unhelpfully for collectors, vintage designer patterns were sometimes printed without the name on the envelope. This is the case with three Bob Mackie patterns, which were released earlier than those in my first Bob Mackie post. Like the other Mackie patterns, these three are also for stretch knits.
McCall’s 6575 and 6576 are slinky, disco halter dresses:
McCall’s 6577 is a pattern for a disco coverup, bodysuit, skinny pants, and handkerchief skirt. The contrast sash is also included:
Contemporary buyers would have ordered these designs from a catalogue complete with photos and the Bob Mackie logo, like this counter catalogue from September 1979 (click to enlarge):
Make with strategically placed sequins for the full Cher effect…
October 9, 2015 § 8 Comments
Anticipation is high for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which opens in December. For fans of costume design, it helps that Michael Kaplan, who began his career with Bob Mackie and Blade Runner (1982), is designing the costumes for the new film. (Read Vanity Fair’s post here.) Here’s a look at Star Wars costume patterns.
Star Wars’ costumes must be among the most discussed in cinema. In 2005, LA’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) organized the exhibit Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, accompanied by a book by Trisha Biggar, the costume designer for the prequel trilogy (Abrams, 2005; still in print). Last year saw the publication of Brandon Alinger’s Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy (Chronicle Books, 2014). And a new travelling exhibit, Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of Costume, will open in New York next month.
John Mollo’s costumes for Star Wars, which won an Academy Award in 1978, have immortalized a certain strand of ’70s style. Compare Princess Leia’s iconic hooded dress with a 1976 Dior evening gown available as a Vogue pattern; both were made in white silk crepe de chine:
(I’ve made the Dior in red; photos coming soon.)
The year after The Empire Strikes Back (1980), McCall’s began releasing children’s costume patterns licensed with Lucasfilm.
McCall’s 7772 includes costumes for five characters from the first two films: Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Yoda, Jawa, and Lord Darth Vader. The Vader view calls for one single serving cereal box. I have several sizes available in the shop:
After Return of the Jedi (1983), McCall’s released a children’s pattern for Ewok costumes. And not just any Ewok: the envelope back names “Wicket the Ewok”:
Update: A 1984 McCall’s Crafts counter catalogue presents both patterns with Return of the Jedi backdrops. The Wicket costume is shown with the Ewok village celebration scene, and instead of a wampa cave, the earlier costumes have Jabba the Hutt:
In the 1990s, Butterick took over the Lucasfilm licensing. Butterick 5174 and 5175, official Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker costumes for adults and children, included an order form for the wig and light sabre:
Butterick also released two official Darth Vader costume patterns for children and adults. Butterick 5176 and 5186 included instructions for breastplate appliqués made from coloured, foam sheet remnants, and an order form for the helmet and light sabre:
There were only unofficial costume patterns based on the prequel trilogy. The year of Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), McCall’s released McCall’s 2433, a “Space Nomads” pattern for adults and children with a version of Sith warrior Darth Maul:
Based on costumes from Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), Simplicity 4433 includes Padmé Amidala’s combat suit, which doubles as an Aayla Secura costume (but two-sleeved and without the headpiece):
Although Padmé’s Peacock dress was cut from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), it was widely seen in promotional materials for the film:
Andrea Schewe produced two versions of the Peacock dress and headddress for children and adults, Simplicity 4426 and Simplicity 4443. The adults’ pattern includes both Padmé and Princess Leia, while the children’s has Leia, Padmé, and young Anakin and Obi-Wan:
Men’s costume pattern Simplicity 4450/059 includes Anakin and Obi-Wan Jedi costumes, together with an unidentifiable warlock:
Based on Padmé Amidala’s nightgown in Revenge of the Sith, McCall’s 4995 is a dress with boned bodice, separate drape, chain or bead trim, and tassels made with three sizes of beads:
Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, perhaps there will be more licensed Star Wars patterns…
Update: Irving Penn’s 1999 editorial was not the first Star Wars-themed shoot in Vogue magazine: see Ishimuro’s “The ‘Force’ of Fur” in Vogue, November 1977. (Thanks to Devorah Macdonald for the reference.) Vogue recently posted some outtakes and reminiscences.
Update 2: Simplicity 8074, a Game of Thrones / Star Wars costume pattern (Sand Snakes / Rey) adapted by Andrea Schewe, suggests that Disney hasn’t licensed costumes from The Force Awakens (yet).