Designer Swimwear: Vintage Patterns

1980s Bob Mackie swimsuit pattern McCall's 7138 photographed for McCall's summer news flier
McCall’s 7138 by Bob Mackie on the cover of McCall’s news, July 1980.

It’s been another hot summer here in Toronto. One of my earliest blog posts, Heat Wave!, surveys vintage beachwear patterns. This summer, let’s take a look at a more elusive beast: designer swimwear patterns.

1950s

The earliest pattern I’ve seen for designer swimwear is Pucci’s strapless one-piece, McCall’s 3977. This pattern was available in Junior sizes only. The suit was lined in jersey, and could be made with or without the brightly coloured appliqués:

1950s Emilio Pucci bathing suit pattern McCall's 3977
McCall’s 3977 by Emilio Pucci (1956) Image: eBay.

1960s

From another Italian designer, Irene Galitzine, Vogue 1288 is a pattern for a bikini, dress, and hat. The bikini consists of a cropped, cowl-neck blouse and bikini pants with side ties:

1960s Galitzine bikini, coverup, and hat pattern Vogue 1288
Vogue 1288 by Irene Galitzine (ca. 1963) Image: eBay.

1970s

The 1970s were the heyday of designer swimwear patterns, often with a coordinating coverup, and always for stretch knits. Vogue 1416 is an early design by Donna Karan; from Anne Klein’s collaboration with Penfold, the pattern includes both a maillot and a halter bikini:

1970s Donna Karan at Anne Klein for Penfold pattern Vogue 1416
Vogue 1416 by Donna Karan at Anne Klein for Penfold (1976) Image: Etsy.

From Bill Blass, Vogue 1455 includes a two-piece swimsuit with bra top and bikini briefs:

1970s Bill Blass jacket, pants, and swimsuit pattern Vogue 1455
Vogue 1455 by Bill Blass (1976)

John Kloss licensed a number of swimwear designs with Butterick. This ad promotes his patterns with a poolside photo of Butterick 4808:

Only Butterick has patterns designed by John Kloss. 1976 Butterick / John Kloss ad
Butterick 4808 by John Kloss, Butterick advertisement, 1976. Image: eBay.

Another Butterick designer, Gil Aimbez, designed this one-piece bathing suit. Contrast bias binding outlines the cut-away sides and bodice seaming detail:

1970s Gil Aimbez swimsuit and coverup pattern Butterick 5449
Butterick 5449 by Gil Aimbez (ca. 1977) Image: Etsy.

Like the Anne Klein Penfold pattern above, this Penfold pattern includes both one-piece and halter bikini bathing suits. The one-piece and bikini top are cut on the bias:

1970s Penfold pattern Vogue 1655
Vogue 1655 by Penfold (ca. 1977) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Both Penfold patterns can be seen in a Vogue Patterns editorial photographed in Antigua:

1970s Anne Klein / Penfold halter bikini pattern by Donna Karan, Vogue 1416 in Vogue Patterns magazine
Beach beauty: halter bikini Vogue 1416 by Donna Karan at Anne Klein for Penfold, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1977. Model: Clotilde. Photo: Albert Watson. Image: TFS.
Newest waterways - Vogue Patterns May/Jun 1977 Penfold
Vogue 1655 by Penfold with Vogue 9808, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1977. Models: Lisa Cooper and Clotilde. Photos: Albert Watson. Image: TFS.

From spring, 1978, Vogue 1893 seems to have been the only Catalina pattern. Instead of a coverup, it includes three styles of bathing suit: low-backed view A, strapless view B with built-in boning, and blouson view C is a two-piece:

1970s Catalina swimsuit pattern Vogue 1893
Vogue 1893 by Catalina (1978) Image: Etsy.

The magazine recommended making the Catalina suits in Thompson of California’s “second skin Tic Toc warp knit polyester crepes” in various prints:

Vogue 1893 by Catalina in Vogue Patterns May/June 1978
Vogue 1893 by Catalina, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1978. Image: Vintage Goodness.

1980s

From 1980, McCall’s 7109 includes three one-piece swimsuits by the Italian label Basile: a mock wrap, belted halter-neck and variations on the strapless suit with gathered bust (available in the shop):

1980s Basile swimsuit pattern - McCall's 7109
McCall’s 7109 by Basile (1980) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Jerry Hall (right) seems to be wearing the view A style in this Basile ad photographed by Irving Penn:

vogue italia 1980 penn basile
Basile advertisement in Vogue Italia, 1980. Photo: Irving Penn. Models: Michelle Stevens and Jerry Hall. Image: TFS.

Also from 1980, Bob Mackie’s strapless, colour-blocked swimsuit, McCall’s 7138, was photographed for the July counter catalogue and news leaflet (seen at the top of this post):

1980s Bob Mackie swimsuit and cover-up pattern McCall's 7138
McCall’s 7138 by Bob Mackie (1980) Image: Etsy.

1990s

Finally, this early ’90s DKNY pattern, Vogue 2897, is labelled ‘dress and bodysuit,’ but was photographed as beachwear:

1990s DKNY bodysuit and hooded dress / coverup pattern Vogue 2897
Vogue 2897 by DKNY (1992) Image: Etsy.

After a long swimwear pattern drought, the big pattern companies seem to have noticed the renewed popularity of sewing your own, custom bathing suit. For this summer, Simplicity reissued a 1950s bathing suit pattern, Simplicity 4307 / S8139, and The McCall Pattern Company has released a number of new swimwear designs, including one Vogue and two Lisette swimwear patterns.

Two designers with existing pattern licensing, Cynthia Rowley and Rachel Comey, both have swimwear lines. If we voice our support, perhaps we could soon see patterns for Cynthia Rowley surf wear and Rachel Comey Swim

Cynthia Rowley for Roxy wetsuit, 2010
Wetsuit by Cynthia Rowley for Roxy, 2010. Image: Pinterest.
Willy Somma self-portrait for Rachel Comey Swim, 2013
Willy Somma self-portrait for Rachel Comey Swim, T Magazine, May 2013. Image: nytimes.com.

Goodbye Donna Karan, Hello Urban Zen?

Ingrid Sischy, Donna Karan New York (Assouline 2005) Image via Pinterest.

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.)

DonnaKaran_summer2016
Image: voguepatterns.com.

Vogue Patterns has been publishing Donna Karan patterns since 1987. The company added DKNY patterns in 1989.

Vogue Patterns magazine, Autumn 1987
Donna Karan patterns on the cover of Vogue Patterns magazine, Autumn 1987. Image via eBay.
DKNY patterns 2373, 2371, 2375, 2372, 2376 - Vogue Patterns catalogue, November 1989
DKNY patterns on the Vogue Patterns catalogue cover, November 1989. Image via eBay.

The end of both licenses makes the Spring 2016 releases the last DKNY and Donna Karan patterns.

A dress in DKNY Pre-Fall 2013 - Vogue American Designer 1488
Vogue 1488 by DKNY is based on a dress from the Pre-Fall 2013 collection. Image: vogue.com.
A dress from Donna Karan Spring 2014, the original for Vogue American Designer 1489 (2016)
The original for Vogue 1489 in Donna Karan’s Spring 2014 collection. Model: Kati Nescher. Image: vogue.com.

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

Urban Zen, Modern Souls collection
Urban Zen, Modern Souls collection. Image: Urban Zen.