I Heart Disco: Bob Mackie for McCall’s

1980 Bob Mackie strapless swimsuit and pareo pattern - McCalls 7138
McCall’s 7138 by Bob Mackie (1980) Image: Etsy.

Bob Mackie (b. 1939) is known mainly for his work as a costume designer for performers like Carol Burnett, Diana Ross, and, of course, Cher.

Cher in Bob Mackie one-shouldered beaded dress and feathered headdress, c. 1973
Cher in a costume by Bob Mackie, c. 1973. Image: Vanity Fair.

In the late 1970s and early ’80s, McCall’s licensed a handful of Bob Mackie designs for stretch knits. The summer heat always makes me think of disco, so here’s a selection of disco-era Bob Mackie patterns:

McCall’s 6838 is a long-sleeved wrap dress in two lengths:

McCall's 6838 1970s Bob Mackie disco wrap dress pattern
McCall’s 6838 by Bob Mackie (1979) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ dress – for stretch knits only. Long or short wrap-dress (without side seams), softly pleated into front waistline has shoulder gathers and long sleeves. Shaped sash is tacked to right side seam.

The second pattern in the series, McCall’s 6839, is a dress that’s high-necked in the front but has a deep cowl in the back:

McCall's 6839 1970s Bob Mackie disco evening dress pattern
McCall’s 6839 by Bob Mackie (1979) Image: eBay.

The envelope description reads: Misses’ dress – for stretch knits only. Low-backed dress in two lengths with shaped seaming has long sleeves, flared skirt, back zipper; softly draped bias collar snaps in back. Rhinestone trim is optional.

The third in the series, McCall’s 6840, is a halter dress with pleated cowl bodice inset and a shaped front hemline:

McCall's 6840 1970s Bob Mackie disco evening dress pattern
McCall’s 6840 by Bob Mackie (1979)

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ dress – for stretch knits only. Back zippered halter dress in two lengths has flared skirt, shaped hemline with front slit; upper edge binding extends into ties. Loose, pleated cowl is included in side fronts only.

McCall’s 7134 includes a true disco jumpsuit—shaped at the waist with pleats and gathers, and with tapered legs designed to crush at the ankles. For extra fluidity, the pants and skirt have no side seams and are cut on the bias:

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

The envelope description reads: Misses dress and jumpsuit – for stretch knits only. Back zippered, fitted dress in two lengths and jumpsuit have slightly extended shoulders, low V-neckline, soft front waistline pleats and slight gathers in back. Dress has front slit with shaped hemline and pleated belt included in center back seam. Jumpsuit has purchased belt; length allows for crushing at ankles. Note: skirt and pants, cut on bias, have no side seams.

Interestingly, the McCall’s patterns pre-date Bob Mackie’s ready-to-wear line, which was launched in 1982. It’s difficult to find details on the designer’s work outside show business; Unmistakably Mackie, the catalogue from the Museum at FIT’s 1999 Mackie retrospective, focuses mainly on his costume work. The Bob Mackie patterns could be glitzed up or down depending on the sewer’s preference. I wonder whether they were designed exclusively for McCall’s?

I Heart Disco

McCall’s 4046 by Halston (1974)
From McCall’s 4046 by Halston (1974).

This week, some favourite disco patterns!

The term ‘disco’ is a little nebulous. Disco music was popular from the mid-1970s to about 1980. Its huge popularity led to an anti-disco backlash that’s come to be symbolized by Disco Demolition Night, a.k.a. the ‘Disco Riots,’ which took place in the summer of 1979 (see Jo Meek, “Earth, Wind and Pyre,” and Joe Lapointe, “The Night Disco Went Up in Smoke”). Studio 54, the famous New York City nightclub that effectively stands for disco hedonism today, was open from 1977 until 1986. In this slideshow, you can see Andy Warhol partying at the club with Bianca Jagger, Liza Minelli, and Halston, as well as Diana Ross, Deborah Harry, and even a young Tom Ford.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going by my personal definition of disco style: glam evening wear that’s more party girl than society doyenne, all from the mid-’70s to the early ’80s. As I edited down my initial list I found the best designs shared elements like fluid draping and halter necks or one-shouldered bodices. Also, of the seven patterns, three are jumpsuits or give the impression of being a jumpsuit. Here’s my disco patterns best-of, ordered chronologically:

1. Vogue 2870 – Lanvin, 1973. Modelled by Karen Bjornson. Bjornson, who is virtually ubiquitous on later ’70s Vogue Patterns, was Halston’s house model. The (fantastic) photo makes the design look like a jumpsuit, but the pattern is actually for evening separates: palazzo pants with no side seams and a halter top with a wide midriff band that gives a cummerbund effect.

Vogue 2870 by Lanvin (1973) Evening top and pants
Vogue 2870 by Lanvin (1973) Evening top and pants. Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

2. Vogue 2014 – Givenchy, 1978. Modelled by the young Gia Carangi, the late, queer supermodel who was brought back to the spotlight by the HBO movie Gia starring Angelina Jolie. This gorgeous evening dress has a crisscrossed halter neck and calls for an eighteen-inch tassel down the back. I have this one in my collection and plan to make it sometime in a silk or viscose jersey, but I think I need to learn to make tassels first.

Vogue 2014 by Givenchy (1978)
Vogue 2014 by Givenchy (1978). Evening dress for stretch knits. Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

3. Vogue 2173 – Chloé, 1979. No disco collection could be complete without this design by Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé. The one-shouldered evening dress comes with a reversible contrast shawl. I don’t know why, but to me this is the perfect late seventies-early eighties colour combination.

1970s Chloé evening dress pattern - Vogue 2173
Vogue 2173 by Chloé (1979). Evening dress, tie, and shawl. Image: momspatterns.

4. Vogue 2307 – Givenchy, 1979. Modelled by Tara Shannon. Another beautifully fluid Givenchy design, with the asymmetrical, one-shouldered bodice balanced by draping at the opposite hip. This is another one in my collection; I have a length of deep purple chiffon (originally used in a Hallowe’en costume) that’s just enough to make the cocktail version, but I haven’t yet found the occasion where I could get away with that much purple chiffon.

Vogue 2307 by Givenchy (1979)
Vogue 2307 by Givenchy (1979). One-shouldered cocktail or evening dress. Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

5. Vogue 2313 – Yves Saint Laurent, 1979. Modelled by Tara Shannon. A fabulous opera coat and evening dress ensemble with tie-halter and bow bodice. I love the sorbet colours, graphics and over-the-top drama of this pattern.

Vogue 2313 by Yves Saint Laurent (1979). Evening dress and coat
Vogue 2313 by Yves Saint Laurent (1979). Evening dress and coat. Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

6. Vogue 2375 – Gianni Versace, 1980. Not a true jumpsuit as I thought (thanks, Dustin!) but a halter neck top and pants with tapered legs, side draping and matching jacket. Check out the illustration’s matching sandals and tone-on-tone, contrast satin cummerbund.

Vogue 2375 by Gianni Versace (1980)
Vogue 2375 by Gianni Versace (1980) Jacket, top, and pants. Image: eBay.

7. Vogue 1014 – Yves Saint Laurent, circa 1982. My notes say this is a top and pleated harem pants but, as the photo shows, it definitely has a jumpsuit effect when made in a single fabric and worn with the top tucked in. It’s interesting to see cuffed and pleated harem pants in the wake of the recent draped harem pants trend. Are we having a disco moment?

Vogue 1014 by Yves Saint Laurent
Vogue 1014 by Yves Saint Laurent (ca. 1982). Top and harem pants. Image: eBay.