February 16, 2016 § 4 Comments
Today is the 90th anniversary of Jean Patchett’s birth.
Jean Patchett (1926-2002) moved to New York City from her home in Preston, Maryland to pursue a career in modelling. She signed with Ford Models in the spring of 1948, and soon became one of the new agency’s top models. Patchett appears on some of Vogue’s most iconic covers. She retired in 1963. (See Cathy Horyn’s obituary for The New York Times, “Jean Patchett, 75, a Model Who Helped Define the 50’s.”)
According to a short profile in Glamour, in her off hours, Patchett enjoyed making her own clothes (Glamour, Oct. 1948). She can be seen in pattern editorials for Vogue, Simplicity, McCall’s, and Butterick from the late 1940s on.
Soon after her first Vogue cover in September, 1948 (October for British Vogue), Serge Balkin photographed the young Patchett in tone-on-tone grey flannel for the cover of Vogue Pattern Book. The patterns are Vogue 6620 (dress) and Vogue 6629 (coat):
Irving Penn’s famous Vogue editorial, “Flying down to Lima,” showing Patchett on location in Lima, Peru, is in fact a pattern editorial. In this café scene, she chews her pearls wearing Vogue S-4967, a dress and jacket ensemble (click the image for a gallery note, or see Devorah MacDonald’s blog for the full editorial):
Patchett poses in dress and jacket Vogue S-4008 on this fall 1949 cover of Vogue Pattern Book:
Wearing the New Look dress and camisole Vogue S-4088:
Richard Avedon’s travel-themed photo was used for both Simplicity’s counter catalogue and the company’s Fall-Winter magazine (where Patchett can be seen holding a copy of André Gide’s Les faux-monnayeurs). The patterns are Simplicity 3327 (topper), Simplicity 3298 (weskit), and Simplicity 3027 (skirt):
Here she poses in a veiled hat and elegant silk shortcoat; the text contains a typo—the pattern is Vogue 7258:
This Holiday issue of Butterick Pattern Book features Patchett in Butterick 5941, a shirtdress with cuffed sleeves:
For the fortieth anniversary issue of McCall’s Pattern Book, Patchett posed in McCall’s 9080 alongside illustrations from past decades:
Lillian Bassman photographed Patchett in this striped summer dress from Simplicity:
Posing for the cover of Burda Moden magazine:
This strapless playsuit must be Simplicity 4715, shown in bias tartan with matching parasol:
Roger Prigent photographed Patchett in Vogue S-4550, made up in Onondaga acetate brocade:
February 3, 2016 § 4 Comments
It’s unseasonably warm here in Toronto, so instead of my planned wintry ephemera, here’s a resort-themed cover from the late 1930s.
Although it’s a winter issue, the February 1939 Butterick Fashion News shows a woman leaning off the rigging of a yacht. The pattern is Butterick 8245, a short-sleeved sports dress with matching shorts.
This is an English copy, from the John Lewis flagship on Oxford Street. On the back cover, the caption reads, “When your dirndl skirt blows wide open to the wind, let your admiring public see under it matching, brief new ‘baby shorts!’ Your shirt wears initials on its pocket and may have either the collarless or convertible neckline.” The pattern seems to call specifically for striped fabric:
January 11, 2016 § 5 Comments
Happy New Year! Vintage reissues give a taste of the pleasures of sewing vintage, without the bidding wars and grading. Here is an overview—with rarely seen archival images—of the contemporary vintage pattern lines from Vogue, Butterick, and McCall’s. (Simplicity could not be reached for comment.)
Launched in time for Holiday 1998, Vogue Patterns’ Vintage Vogue line provides true reproductions of vintage patterns borrowed from private collectors. (See my earlier post and discussion, How Do You Take Your Vintage Vogue? or get the details on the Vintage Vogue Search.) Alas, the terms of the old licensing agreements mean that Vogue can’t reissue designer patterns.
Deco evening dress pattern Vogue 2241 remains a favourite; I recently came across a version at Toronto’s Spadina Museum. I found an illustration of the original, Vogue S-3543, in a Vogue Patterns news leaflet from December, 1931. The description reads, “Here is a frock that expresses the newest movement of the mode, its originality and charm. It has a slender moulded look from the décolletage to the circular panels that trail slightly on the ground”:
Butterick donated the original to the Commercial Pattern Archive:
Retro Butterick and McCall’s Archive Collection
Both Retro Butterick and McCall’s Archive Collection patterns are recreated and sometimes adapted from archival materials, not the original patterns. With archival images, sticklers for accuracy can restore these adaptations to the original vintage design.
Early Retro Butterick pattern B6408 is based on Butterick 4391, a “Quick and Easy” late 1940s design for an evening gown with hooded scarf:
McCall’s introduced The Archive Collection for Early Fall, 2014. The recent 1920s coat pattern, M7259, is based on McCall 5057, a 1927 design by Agnès:
The McCall 6057 gown is a couture adaptation: the design is after Patou. Here is the description from McCall’s magazine: “The Patou silhouette is beautifully exemplified in a formal evening gown which has curved bands at the neckline and hipline, a short bolero and inserted panels lengthening the skirt”:
For more on the McCall Pattern Company’s vintage lines, see We Sew Retro’s interview.
December 23, 2015 § 3 Comments
Evelyn Tripp (1927-1995) was one of the most prolific models of the 1950s. Born on a farm in Missouri, she was discovered at 20 while shopping on Fifth Avenue. You may recognize her from William Klein’s photograph, Smoke + Veil. She retired in 1968. (Read her New York Times obituary here.)
Evelyn Tripp did modelling work for Simplicity, Woman’s Day, Butterick, and Vogue Patterns in the 1950s and early 1960s.
The Fall-Winter 1950 Simplicity catalogue includes a few photographs of the young Tripp. Here she wears tent coat Simplicity 8217:
Tripp also modelled an early Pauline Trigère design for Woman’s Day magazine. The portfolio was photographed by Leombruno-Bodi (full size here):
Among Tripp’s many covers are several for Vogue Pattern Book. Here she wears suit pattern Vogue S-4625:
On this spring cover she poses in dress-and-coat ensemble Vogue S-4659 (with matching hat):
Inside, she poses in two-piece playsuit Simplicity 1608:
Tripp also appeared in a 1956 Vogue Patterns advertisement promoting the new printed and perforated patterns. The evening dress pattern is Vogue S-4735:
Here she wears Vogue 9607, made up in red, on the cover of the holiday 1958 issue of Vogue Pattern Book:
Tripp may also be seen in early 1960s Vogue Pattern Book editorials. Here she wears Vogue 4267, a one-shouldered dress in wool jersey:
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 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).
July 24, 2015 § 4 Comments
Equestrian. This Depression-era pattern for fall-front jodhpurs has jaunty cuffed trousers, the requisite reinforced inner leg, and three pocket pieces, including one for a watch pocket:
(Click the image to see sold listing with back of envelope.)
Interestingly, this copy of Butterick 5647 is stamped Pattern Made in Canada. Although the pattern was produced in women’s, misses’ and girls’ sizes, the early equestrian patterns that survive are usually in smaller sizes—intended for riding lessons, perhaps?
For more vintage equestrian patterns see my Year of the Horse post.