October 18, 2016 § 4 Comments
Last month, Rachel Comey celebrated her label’s 15-year anniversary with an outdoor presentation of unisex looks for Spring 2017. For home sewers, Comey’s ongoing licensing with Vogue Patterns has made her one to watch. Here’s a look at highlights of her patterns so far.
Born in Manchester, Connecticut, Rachel Comey (b. 1973) originally trained as a sculptor. After moving to New York, she consulted for Theory while designing clothes for local performers like Gogol Bordello—a connection that led her and the band to the Whitney Biennial. She launched her menswear collection in September, 2001, followed by women’s wear in 2004. Comey has developed a cult following for her footwear, prints, and general “bullshit-free kookiness.”
Comey was introduced to home sewers in the February/March 2010 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine with two patterns, Vogue 1161 and 1170:
The originals showcase Comey’s leopard and man-with-umbrella prints, both from the Fall 2009 collection.
Powerhouse Vogue 1247 includes an A-line miniskirt and the Navigator top, a design that was produced over multiple seasons (available in the shop):
Vogue 1298 is a pattern for Comey’s Tippet dress. (She also designed an open-backed Tippet top.) The Tippet is an apron dress with raised hem and straps drawn together in back:
The dress was shown in a different print in the Spring 2011 collection:
Also from 2012, Vogue 1323 is a top and pants ensemble consisting of the Syndicate blouse and cuffed Saunter pant. The trousers were also produced in textured velvet and various prints:
Vogue 1406, known as the Surveillance dress, has an asymmetrical neckline, back godet, and ruched waist detail:
Here’s the original star-print Surveillance dress on the Fall 2013 runway:
Comey’s batwing Wades dress is available as Vogue 1482. The diagonal front seam conceals a pocket:
From the same collection, Vogue 1507 includes the Bowtie top and slim pants with an asymmetrical front closure:
Vogue 1501 is a pattern for the Delane dress, a sleeveless, mock two-piece dress with pleating details. The original shows off Comey’s Collage print; the design was also produced with a contrast front bodice and in a single, solid colour:
The latest Rachel Comey pattern is a long-sleeved jumpsuit, Vogue 1523 (click to view in the shop):
The Botanical-print jumpsuit was part of the Fall 2015 collection’s closing look:
Interestingly, Comey was quoted in the New York Times’ recent article on the McCall Pattern Company (“Needle, Thread, Instagram“):
The New York designer Rachel Comey has licensed her patterns to McCall since 2010, where they appear under the Vogue Patterns brand. She didn’t do it for the money. “I just like the tradition of it,” Ms. Comey said. “Sewing is a great craft. It’s exciting and confidence building. I wanted to support it.”
Now if only we could source those Rachel Comey prints…
July 28, 2016 § 3 Comments
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.)
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:
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:
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:
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:
Two years later, Hillary Clinton wore Oscar de la Renta for her Vogue cover (more here):
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:
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:
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:
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”:
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:
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:
For more on the late designer, see Vogue’s retrospective. Have you made any Oscar de la Renta patterns?
July 6, 2016 § 8 Comments
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.
The end of both licenses makes the Spring 2016 releases the last DKNY and Donna Karan patterns.
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…
March 15, 2016 § 9 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…
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:
December 8, 2015 § Leave a comment
SHOWstudio’s first Design Download, in May 2002, was a top by Yohji Yamamoto.
I couldn’t find a runway photo of the top, but it’s consistent with those seen in Yohji Yamamoto’s athletic wear-inspired Fall-Winter 2001 collection (full collection at Vogue Runway):
Here’s the collection image from L’Officiel 1000 modèles (click to enlarge):
This collection was Yamamoto’s first collaboration with Adidas. The year 2001 also marked the 20th anniversary of Yamamoto’s first Paris collection, in the fall of 1981. (See Suzy Menkes, “Fashion’s Poet of Black: Yamamoto.”)
Download the top pattern (2 pieces)
Recommended fabric: wool
Yardage requirements: approx. 1.25 yards (1.2 m) of 60″ fabric *
Notions: 21 mm button snap closure
* Source: Craftster discussion
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!