Red Carpet Fashion: Evening Pantsuits

Amy Poehler in Stella McCartney at the Golden Globes, January 2013. Image via bustle.com.

Will you be watching the Oscars on Sunday? In past years I’ve posted about goddess gowns and caftans. This year, a look at red carpet-worthy pantsuits.

Milena Canonero at the 87th Academy Awards, February 2015
Milena Canonero at the 87th Academy Awards, February 2015. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty.

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.

Jane Fonda in Yves Saint Laurent at the 44th Academy Awards, April 1972
Jane Fonda in Yves Saint Laurent at the 44th Academy Awards, April 1972. Image via tumblr.

Celebrity style icons Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Kate Moss started appearing on the red carpet in pantsuits in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Gwyneth Paltrow during 1996 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Gwyneth Paltrow in Gucci by Tom Ford at the MTV Video Music Awards, September 1996. Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc.
Angelina Jolie in Dolce & Gabbana at the Academy Awards, 2001
Angelina Jolie in Dolce & Gabbana at the 73rd Academy Awards, March 2001. Image via Glamour.
NEW YORK - MAY 01: Model Kate Moss and photographer Mario Testino (behind her) attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala: Anglomania at the Metropolitan Museum of Art May 1, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
Kate Moss, in Burberry, with Mario Testino at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala, May 2006. Photo: Peter Kramer/Getty.

Recently, more and more female celebrities have been choosing tuxedos and jumpsuits for formal events.

Kirsten Dunst in Patrik Ervell, CFDA awards, June 2011. Image via elle.com.
Lupita Nyong'o in Veronica Beard at TIFF, September 2013
Lupita Nyong’o in Veronica Beard at the Toronto International Film Festival, September 2013. Image via Fashion Bomb Daily.
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt attend the EE British Academy Film Awards 2014 at The Royal Opera House on February 16, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Saint Laurent at the EE British Academy Film Awards, February 2014. Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage.
Anna Kendrick in Band of Outsiders at the Grammy Awards, February 2015. Image via elle.com.

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:

1970s Valentino evening jumpsuit and jacket pattern - Vogue 2775
Vogue 2775 by Valentino (1972) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

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:

1970s Calvin Klein pantsuit and wardrobe pattern - Vogue 1369
Vogue 1369 by Calvin Klein (1976) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

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:

Vogue 2478 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (2000) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

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:

Vogue 1076 by Donna Karan (2008) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

For more red-carpet pantsuits, see Elle magazine’s slideshow here or this People article. Or see that handy viral infographic here.

Vintage Jumpsuit Patterns

1970s jumpsuit or playsuit pattern - Vogue 8331
Vogue 8331 (1972) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

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.

1930s–1940s

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:

1930s beach pajama pattern - McCall 6432
McCall 6432 (1931) Image: Model A Ford Club of America.

(See my earlier beachwear post here; for more on beach pajamas, see the FIDM Museum blog and Amber Butchart’s essay for British Pathé.)

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:

1940s Rosie the Riveter all-in-one hooded boiler suit pattern - Vogue 8852
Vogue 8852 (1940) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

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”:

1940s pajama ensemble pattern - McCall 4075
McCall 4075 (1941) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

1950s

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:

1950s pedal-pusher coverall pattern - McCall's 8520
McCall’s 8520 (1951) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

From the late 1950s, this trim, one-piece slack suit from Vogue came in two lengths and with a matching overskirt:

1950s jumpsuit and skirt pattern - Vogue 9898
Vogue 9898 (1959) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

1960s

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):

1960s Pucci lounge pajamas pattern - Vogue 2249
Vogue 2249 by Pucci (1969) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

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:

1960s jumpsuit pattern by Mary Quant - Butterick 5404
Butterick 5404 by Mary Quant (1969) Image: Etsy.

1970s

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:

1970s Galitzine lounge pantdress pattern - Vogue 2731
Vogue 2731 by Galitzine (1972) Image: The Blue Gardenia.

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:

1970s Calvin Klein jumpsuit pattern - Vogue 1453
Vogue 1453 by Calvin Klein (1976) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

1980s

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:

McCall's 7134 1980s Bob Mackie disco jumpsuit or evening dress pattern
McCall’s 7134 by Bob Mackie (1980)

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:

1980s Donna Karan jumpsuit pattern - Vogue 2284
Vogue 2284 by Donna Karan (1989) Image via eBay.

1990s

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:

1990s Donna Karan jumpsuit pattern - Vogue 2609
Vogue 2609 by Donna Karan (1990) Image: The Blue Gardenia.

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:

1990s DKNY jumpsuit pattern - Vogue 1821
Vogue 1821 by DKNY (1996) Image: eBay.

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):

1990s Alexander McQueen for Givenchy couture jumpsuit pattern - Vogue 2343
Vogue 2343 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1999) Image: PatternVault shop.

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.