The London incarnation of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty has just opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum. (See British Vogue on the additions to the Costume Institute show.) Accompanying the exhibition is a full calendar of events, including a two-day conference in early June. The exhibition catalogue is available in hardcover and paperback from the V&A, with a North American edition to be published by Abrams in May.
Versatile and contemporary, jumpsuits and their cousins, playsuits and rompers, have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Jumpsuits—or all-in-ones, if you’re British—seem poised to move beyond a trend this summer.
The modern women’s jumpsuit has origins in two different garments: beach pajamas and the boiler suit. These twin origins mean jumpsuit styles range from fluid loungewear to utility-inspired or tailored designs. (See Vogue Italia for a short history of the jumpsuit.) Here are some favourite all-in-one patterns from the 1930s to the 1990s.
Beach pajamas, often worn with a matching bolero, had become one-piece by the early 1930s. This McCall’s design combines flowing trousers with geometric seaming details in the bodice and hip yoke. A reproduction is available from the Model A Ford Club of America:
The boiler suits of wartime utility wear are said to have made bifurcated clothing more acceptable for women. This Vogue pattern from ca. 1940 includes both a hooded mechanic suit with cuffed trousers and a more casual, short-sleeved version shown in a dotted print:
This early 1940s pajama ensemble with T-back halter bodice was not just for the beach—the envelope says it’s for “beach, dinner or evening”:
In the postwar period, more tailored jumpsuits emerged as a choice for casual sportswear. This early 1950s pedal-pusher coverall has cuffed sleeves and pants and a front zipper closure:
From the late 1950s, this trim, one-piece slack suit from Vogue came in two lengths and with a matching overskirt:
The jumpsuit—sometimes called a culotte or pantdress—truly comes into its own in the later 1960s. Here Birgitta af Klercker models Vogue 2249, a loungewear design by Emilio Pucci (previously featured in my goddess gown post):
In this late 1960s Butterick Young Designers pattern, Mary Quant combines a trim, zip-front jumpsuit with a low-waisted miniskirt for a sleek, futuristic look:
Both pajama and menswear-inspired styles continue into the 1970s. Famous for her palazzo pajamas, Galitzine designed this bi-coloured lounge pantdress with criss-cross halter bodice:
From Calvin Klein, Vogue 1453 marks a return to the boiler suit style. With cargo pockets, self belt, and wide, notched collar, the jumpsuit could be made long or short, with long or short sleeves:
This Bob Mackie disco jumpsuit or evening dress pattern for stretch knits dates to 1980. (See my earlier Bob Mackie post here.) The jumpsuit has a plunging neckline, waistline pleats, and tapered, bias pants designed to crush at the ankles:
An instance of the late 1980s jumpsuit trend, this shirtdress-style jumpsuit by Donna Karan has a notched collar, welt pockets, and cuffed or seven-eighths length kimono sleeves:
Also by Donna Karan, Vogue 2609, ca. 1990, is a long-sleeved, tapered jumpsuit for stretch knits with neckline variations, front pleats, and stirrups. View C has a contrast bodice with self-lined hood:
From 1996, Vogue 1821 by DKNY is almost vintage. It’s a novel suit consisting of a single-breasted jacket and wide-legged, halter jumpsuit:
Finally, this pattern is not yet vintage, but a jumpsuit collection would be incomplete without Vogue 2343, Alexander McQueen’s tailored, tuxedo jumpsuit for Givenchy haute couture Spring/Summer 1998 (earlier post here):
With their demanding fit, jumpsuits are ideal for home sewers. And they’re not just for the tall and leggy: many of the later jumpsuit patterns are marked as suitable for petites.
If you’d like to try your hand at an early all-in-one, Wearing History has a repro pattern for 1930s beach pajamas, and Simplicity 9978 includes a 1940s boiler suit.
I had planned to make the dress in my default black, and had even bought some mesh for the contrast cowl neck. But when I started looking back over runway photos from Givenchy’s neo-noir Fall 1998 ready-to-wear collection, I was struck by the palette of neutrals, electric blue, and especially the combination of oxblood with red.
(There’s a blue version of the original sleeveless dress on eBay. The dress fabric is a nylon/acetate/elastane blend, with acetate lining, and the back zipper reaches all the way up through the cowl.)
I made View B, the sleeveless, mid-calf version, in oxblood with a red cowl neck. I hit Designer Fabrics and found some oxblood wool, red mesh for the contrast cowl, and Bemberg for the lining. The pattern recommends chiffon for the contrast, but I wanted to stick with the mesh used for the runway version. I was a little stumped as to interfacing for the contrast, and even bought some tomato red tricot to use before learning that the best interfacing for mesh is more mesh.
I wanted a close fit, so I ignored the sizing and went by the finished garment measurements printed on the pattern, including 1″ ease at bust and waist and a little more in the hips. I also lengthened the skirt by 1.5″ to achieve the correct length.
This was my first dart-fitted dress, and I had fun sewing my very first contour darts—eventually realizing the virtues of even a makeshift tailor’s ham. The cowl neck is cut on the bias, but this didn’t pose any problems, since the mesh handles much better than chiffon.
With the full lining and absolutely no stretch, the dress feels very old-fashioned to wear. One thing I misjudged was the bodice/cowl part of the bodice—I cut the right size in the bust, but didn’t distribute the extra waist length I was adding between the above-waist and shoulder areas, so it’s a bit on the high side and the cowl neck has a closer fit than in the runway photo. It would have been simpler to cut a size up and take the bodice in at the sides. The “interfaced” mesh is also a little bulky; the extra layer was probably unnecessary.
Since the Fall 1998 collection was inspired by Blade Runner, it seemed appropriate to take photos of the dress at the David Cronenberg: Evolution exhibition at TIFF Bell Lightbox. In the Interzone area, devoted to Naked Lunch (1991), visitors could have their photo taken with a Mugwump:
Naomi took some photos of me upstairs at an extension of the Cronenberg show called Body/Mind/Change (BMC). Visitors to the biotech facility BMC Labs can observe the production of personalized POD (Personal On-Demand) implants, which are held awaiting pickup by their hosts. The BMC Labs facility is still open if you’d like to create your own POD implant:
Here I am in the POD holding area:
A closer view of the mesh cowl neck:
The cowl fastens in the back with hooks and thread eyes:
The lab staff let me hold a brand-new red POD (rara avis—most are colourless):
We were delighted to find BMC Labs at the end of our visit: it was the perfect backdrop for the dress given McQueen’s futuristic, sci-fi inspiration for his collection for Givenchy. I’m crossing my fingers for a red POD of my own…
Alexander McQueen would have been 44 today. On the occasion of his birthday, here’s a look back at the free pattern McQueen shared with SHOWstudio: the Scanners kimono jacket.
The original kimono jacket was made of black silk, and was shown on the runway with a matching pencil skirt and long gloves (worn by a pre-Outlander Caitriona Balfe):
The kimono jacket is drawn from Scanners, Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2003 collection. (The invitation to the show was printed with brain scans—CAT scans of the designer’s brain.) This was the year McQueen received his CBE from Queen Elizabeth II, as well as the CFDA’s International Award and his fourth British Fashion Designer of the Year. The models walked across a snowy tundra and along a raised wind tunnel; the design references represented a journey eastward through Siberia, Tibet, and Japan, mixed with geometric prints and McQueen’s signature tailoring. (See Suzy Menkes, “The Collections / Paris: A stellar McQueen; elegance at Viktor & Rolf.”)
Watch the runway video (kimono jacket at about 6:10):
Kimono-inspired designs are a thread running through McQueen’s work. Here are a few more kimono looks by Alexander McQueen, from Eclect Dissect—Givenchy couture, Fall 1997 (as on the McQueen / Nick Knight album cover for Björk’s Homogenic); La Dame Bleue, in memory of Isabella Blow; and the posthumous Fall 2010 collection:
I’m a little late to the party, but—as part of Anne of Pretty Grievances’ Jungle January event, I thought it would be fun to use a reptile print to make the strapless dress from Vogue 2086, the first of Vogue Patterns’ Givenchy patterns by Alexander McQueen.
The dress and jacket are from the Fall 1997 prêt-à-porter, McQueen’s first ready-to-wear collection for Givenchy. (See my earlier post here.) As you can see from this Richard Avedon campaign photo, animal prints were a feature of the collection:
The runway collection included not only leopard lace but also leopard dresses, skirts, and coats. (Fashion TV even has a highlights video of the leopard looks on the Givenchy runway; full runway video starting here.) Leopard lace was also used in this strapless catsuit, modelled by Shalom Harlow:
McQueen showed versions of the Vogue 2086 sheath in both leopard and emerald green python:
Coming soon: a post on my reptile print PVC version of the Vogue 2086 strapless dress.
This week, the final instalment of my three-part series on Vogue Patterns’ Alexander McQueen designs for the house of Givenchy. (See Part 1 here; see Part 2 here.) Our last four designs were drawn from two Givenchy collections presented in 1999: the Fall 1999 and Spring 2000 ready-to-wear.
6. Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Fall/Winter 1999–2000 (shown March 1999)
As its android-meets-cybergoth runway styling made abundantly clear, the Givenchy Fall 1999 ready-to-wear collection took its theme from the new millennium. The New York Times’ Cathy Horyn reported that “Alexander McQueen … staged his Givenchy show Wednesday with models in Martian pancake and frizzled wigs walking robotlike down a mirrored runway beaming with airport lights. The collection vividly showcased Mr. McQueen’s laser-sharp tailoring—lunar-white trouser suits with crosses etched out in gray fur, slick coats with the couture equivalent of clear plastic upholstery covers, silvery leathers and a molded red top that would enhance any alien bosom” (Cathy Horyn, “Down to Earth in Paris”).
Vogue Patterns nonetheless chose two designs from the Fall 1999–2000 ready-to-wear collection. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the company opted to produce its own promotional photos, which has the effect of highlighting the tailoring—the emerging theme of this series of Vogue patterns. The first, Vogue 2467 (1999), is a double-breasted pantsuit with concealed front closure:
Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Jacket & Pants: Close-fitting, fully interfaced, lined, double-breasted, below-hip jacket has collar, seam detail around collar, shoulder pads, front extending to side back and into flaps, no side seams, concealed welt pockets, back vent and long, two-piece sleeves with mock vent. Semi-fitted, lined, wide-legged pants have waistband, yokes and mock-fly zipper. Featured in the September/October 2000 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine. (Vogue 2467 was sold in single sizes, rather than the usual size range.)
This Corbis photo shows the runway version of Vogue 2467:
Update: You can now view this collection on vogue.com.
The second pattern, Vogue 2478 (2000), is a pantsuit with inverted lapels and seaming detail on the jacket front:
The envelope description reads: Misses’ Jacket & Pants: Semi-fitted, fully interfaced, lined, below-hip or below-mid-knee jacket has upper collar and side-front cut in-one, shoulder pads, side-front pockets, side-back seams, front zipper and longer than regular length, two-piece sleeves with mock vent. B: side slits. Wide-legged, floor-length, lined pants have front button waistband, welt pockets and mock-fly zipper.
Here’s the Corbis runway photo of the Vogue 2478 design:
Natalia Semanova wore several pieces from this collection in Katharina Flohr’s Star City editorial for Vogue Russia (H/T Alien Sex Friend on TFS):
Just for fun, here are two editorial images of Givenchy’s Fall 1999 ready-to-wear from W magazine that show the collection’s different potential emphases. The first shoot follows Claudia Schiffer in Cannes, while the second re-imagines Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey starring Guinevere Van Seenus (slightly cropped by my scanner):
Parallel Alexander McQueen collection: The Overlook (FW 1999–2000)
7. Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Spring/Summer 2000 (shown October 1999)
For this “sporty” collection, the Carrousel du Louvre was transformed into a high school gymnasium, with the models posing on a tiered podium. The Spring collection is viewable on style.comvogue.com.
Vogue Patterns’ first selection from this collection, Vogue 2486 (2001), is a pantsuit with a ‘tail’ extending into draped panels. View A includes capri pants:
Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Jacket & Pants: Semi-fitted, lined jacket, mid-calf (center back) has collar, shoulder pads, side panels, no side seams, pockets, self-lined lower back and long, two-piece sleeves. Below waist, tapered or straight-legged pants have shaped waistband and fly zipper. A: lower calf, side back seams with pleat/zipper. B: side front pockets. Purchased top. Featured in the November/December 2000 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine.
Runway photos of the Spring/Summer 2000 collection show the variations on Vogue 2486’s updated tailcoat. As you can see, the purple version on Angela Lindvall is sleeveless and has a longer tail, while the sleeveless, leather version on Gisele Bündchen has a narrower tail. The purple suit also shows the collection’s athletic wear-inspired pant cuffs, which are omitted from the long pants in Vogue 2486.
Vogue Patterns’ second selection, Vogue 2653 (2002), is the last in our series—a sleek suit with decorative hand stitching:
The envelope description reads: Misses’ Jacket, Skirt & Pants: Semi-fitted, partially interfaced, lined, above-hip jacket has collar/loop, shoulder pads, seam detail, front concealed zipper and long, two-piece sleeves. Semi-fitted, straight, lined skirt, above mid-knee, has shaped yokes, right back seam/slit, left back pocket and side zipper. Semi-fitted, slightly tapered pants have contour waistband, seam detail, back slit and fly zipper closing. All have decorative hand stitching. Featured in the April/May 2002 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine (Shop Vogue).
Here’s the pantsuit version; the jacket is quite different from the one in Vogue 2653:
The decorative stitching seen in Vogue 2653 was also showcased in the Givenchy Spring advertising campaign featuring Karen Elson (above).
Parallel Alexander McQueen collection: Eye (SS 2000)
As far as I know, Vogue 2653 was the last Givenchy pattern released by Vogue Patterns. For whatever reason, the two companies’ licensing agreement seems to have ended with the Spring 2000 ready-to-wear. Luckily the agreement lasted a few years into Alexander McQueen’s tenure at the house, giving us this collection of sewing patterns from a period that was influential in McQueen’s development as a designer. As he later recalled:
“Working in the atelier [at Givenchy] was fundamental to my career …. Because I was a tailor, I didn’t totally understand softness, or lightness. I learned lightness at Givenchy. I was a tailor at Savile Row. At Givenchy I learned to soften. For me, it was an education. As a designer I could have left it behind. But working at Givenchy helped me learn my craft.”