August 10, 2017 § Leave a comment
Betsey Johnson turns 75 today. Four decades on, the designer’s 1970s Butterick patterns are still very popular. Here’s a look at Johnson’s early work, with an emphasis on more seldom seen archival images.
Betsey Johnson (b. 1942) has made a career of creating irreverent, youth-oriented clothes that stand a bit outside the mainstream. She learned sewing and pattern drafting while running a dance school as a teen, but got her official start in the business designing for Youthquake boutique Paraphernalia. By 1970 she was the designer for Alley Cat, a junior sportswear label. (For more see Vogue.com and Anne-Marie Schiro, “Betsey Johnson: Honor for a Life of Celebrating Youth.”)
In 1971, Johnson won a Coty Award for her work at Alley Cat (see the New York Times notice). The following year, Butterick launched its Betsey Johnson patterns in the Spring 1972 catalogue. The designs were also cross-promoted (along with Cyrus Clark cotton chintz) with a Barbara Bordnick editorial in Seventeen magazine.
The earliest of Johnson’s Butterick Young Designer patterns refer to her as Betsey Johnson of Alley Cat, and most seem to predate the founding of her company in 1978. Here’s Butterick 6979 on the cover of the March 1973 issue of Butterick’s news leaflet:
The young Patti Hansen in Alley Cat:
One of the first items I sold on Etsy was this 1975 issue of Butterick Fashion News with a Betsey Johnson cover. (Click to see inside.) The same embroidered pinafore was featured on the home catalogue cover:
The pinafore also appears in this cute advertisement with Butterick 4088:
The Spring 1976 catalogue used illustrated photographs to present this DIY series, which also included a hat and shoes (1st page, Butterick 4680; 3rd page Butterick 4681, with Joyce Walker on the right):
Another 1976 Butterick ad shows a Betsey Johnson jumper (Butterick 4956) with deep ribbon trim—perfect for a late-summer Cape Cod getaway:
Happy birthday, Betsey Johnson!
With thanks to Heidi at Gold Country Girls.
June 23, 2017 § 3 Comments
Happy Pride! This year you can celebrate all summer with 2017’s rainbow trend. (See Lauren Cochrane, “The rainbow’s not over – it’s the style symbol of the season.”) It’s a vintage motif with roots in the ’70s and ’80s.
The ’70s rainbow trend was well underway before Gilbert Baker created the rainbow flag in 1978. (Read MoMA’s interview.) The groovy teens’ pattern shown above came with rainbow appliqués. Maija Isola’s Sateenkaari (Rainbow) print for Marimekko appeared the same year as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon:
As did this Time-Life sewing book entitled Shortcuts to Elegance:
From McCall’s Carefree line, this iron-on alphabet transfer pattern lets you spell whatever you like in rainbow caps:
Meredith Gladstone’s circa 1980 children’s décor pattern, “Cloud Room,” includes a rainbow pillowcase and rainbow-lined sleeping bag:
With the right print, home dressmakers could sew everything from rainbow dresses to coverups:
For those making their own Cheer Bear Care Bear, Butterick’s envelope explained the rainbow’s significance as a “traditional symbol of hope,” as well as “a cheerful reminder that things are getting better and even bad times can bring something beautiful”:
Hallmark’s Rainbow Brite licensing with McCall’s included a children’s costume, Rainbow Brite and Twink toys, and a set of mobiles.
Of course, there’s no need to find the perfect rainbow fabric. All it takes is the right array of colours…
June 18, 2017 § 1 Comment
“Our Man in Leather”: Vogue Patterns introduced Bobby Breslau, one of the company’s rare designers of accessories, with a winking acknowledgement of the gay community.
Bobby Breslau (ca. 1943-1987) was a friend of Halston, Stephen Burrows, and Keith Haring; photographer Charles Tracy, who took Breslau’s portrait, was a member of the same social circle. Breslau’s training was in the garment industry, but a toy commission from Halston set him on the path of accessory and furniture design. His tactile, unstructured style of bag showed a sculptor’s eye for colour and texture; the New York Times called it “the handbag of the 1970’s.” (See Robin Givhan’s The Battle of Versailles and Suzanne Slesin, “Beyond the Fringe: A Designer’s Zany World in Leather.”) Breslau was the manager of Keith Haring’s Pop Shop until his death from complications of AIDS in early 1987.
In 1979, Breslau licensed two bag patterns with Vogue. Each design could be made in three sizes. Vogue 2153 is a “draw-stringer and scarf tie-up”:
Vogue 2184 is a saddlebag and roll pouch:
June 11, 2017 § 5 Comments
Summer means weddings and infinity dresses—or, if a couple is particularly on-trend, infinity bridesmaid jumpsuits.
China Machado’s summer 1973 resort set was a precursor to the infinity garments of the mid-1970s. Like the infinity dress and its cousins, Machado’s pieces call for two-way stretch knits; but Grace Mirabella’s Vogue featured the design in muslin, as worn by Beverly Johnson:
Lydia Silvestry trademarked “The Infinite Dress” and licensed it with McCall’s in 1976. As the pattern envelope says, “One size dress can be worn an infinite number of ways. See enclosed guide sheet illustrating 13 ways dress can be worn, or try creating your personal version.” (See Carmen Bouchard / Carmencita B’s posts about this pattern here.)
Silvestry also licensed her infinite jumpsuit as a pattern featuring Maud Adams. I think this pattern has my favourite fabric note: For best results use a Lightweight, Non-cling Stretchable Jersey-type Knit Fabric such as Rosewood Fabric’s LA GRAND QUE of 100% QIANA, Burlington’s AMBROSIA of 100% Dacron Polyester, Millikin’s SURE THING of 100% Dacron Polyester. (Click to view in the shop.)
From Carol Horn, this dress has strapless and colour blocking options:
Also one-size, the Seven Way Wonder Dress seems to have been Butterick’s answer to the Infinite Dress. A winter retail catalogue shows the Wonder Dress as black tie wear:
Meanwhile, Simplicity had the Wonder Wrap Jiffy Jumpsuit and Jiffy Multi-Wrap Dress:
Vogue released two Very Easy infinite dress patterns in spring, 1977:
Vogue 1641 is seldom seen, despite being illustrated by Antonio and photographed in Antigua for Vogue Patterns magazine:
Is that Patti Hansen modelling the Glamour Plus Dress?
Fast forward to 2000, when McCall’s released an infinite dress by Debra Moises (Debra and Moises Diaz). The envelope shows 5 variations:
In early 2011, the New York Times ran a story about the trend for convertible garments (see Ruth La Ferla, “Convertible Clothing Is a New Twist for the Cost-Conscious“). Butterick featured an infinite dress (now out of print) on the cover of that year’s Spring catalogue:
Last summer, as part of their Archive Collection, McCall’s reissued their 1970s-era infinite dress and jumpsuit as a single pattern (still in print). These patterns are usually adapted somewhat from the vintage originals:
It’s easy to see why infinity dresses remain popular, with their carefree resort vibe and minimal fitting requirements. And on the pattern envelopes, the hall of mirrors effect never gets old, does it?
For more discussion and links, see Michelle Lee’s post.
May 14, 2017 § 3 Comments
February 15, 2017 § Leave a comment
Marisa Berenson (b. 1947) turns 70 today. Though best known for her work as a film actor in movies like Visconti’s Death in Venice (1971), Cabaret (1972), and Barry Lyndon (1975), Berenson grew up wanting to be a fashion model. Her career was launched when she met Diana Vreeland at a society ball, and she became one of the most successful models of the ’60s and ’70s. For more, see the visual biography Marisa Berenson: A Life in Pictures (Rizzoli, 2011).
As far as I know, Berenson appears on only one pattern envelope: Vogue 2369 by Oscar de la Renta. Taken in a New York interior, the photo was also published in a 1970 Vogue Pattern Book feature on the designer:
Berenson can also be seen in Vreeland-era pattern editorials in Vogue magazine, like this shoot by Guy Bourdin (see my earlier post):
The issue of Vogue Pattern Book with the Berenson cover (shown above) includes more of her editorial work. In “New Evening Splendour,” she wears the cover look, caftan Vogue 7827, as well as Vogue 7834 and Vogue 7836:
Berenson also models some jumpsuits in a summer portfolio—Vogue 7697 in a groovy print:
High-waisted jumpsuit Vogue 7818:
And short jumpsuit and wrap skirt Vogue 7812:
Happy birthday, Ms. Berenson!
February 13, 2017 § Leave a comment
Galentine’s Day calls for slumber party-worthy loungewear. “The Insiders,” a mid-1970s Chris von Wangenheim editorial photographed in interior designer Angelo Donghia’s New York townhouse, includes three Vogue patterns made up in gleaming satin.
On the left, Regina Jaffrey wears robe Vogue 8888 and trousers Vogue 1127; the model on the right is wearing jacket and drawstring pants Vogue 8855. Both ensembles were made in Qiana nylon, from American Silk Mills and Jules Moskowitz. (Hair by Maury Hopson; jewels: Van Cleef & Arpels.)
See Sighs and Whispers’ repost for the full editorial.
Pattern images: Roma’s Maison, Vintage Pattern Wiki.