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.

Envelope Fail: Vogue 2893 by Donna Karan

Erin Wasson photographed by Peter Lindbergh - Donna Karan Spring 2005 advertising campaign
Donna Karan Spring 2005 ad campaign. Model: Erin Wasson. Photo: Peter Lindbergh.

When I first started collecting sewing patterns, Naomi was baffled. She couldn’t understand my interest when the styling on modern pattern envelopes was bland or worse. This new, occasional series looks at designer patterns that fail to convey the strengths of the original—not as an end in itself, but in the hope of provoking reflection and discussion of the frequent disparity between designer fashion and the licensed versions offered to home sewers.

(You can see an earlier discussion in the comments on my Alber Elbaz post.)

Launching the series is Vogue 2893, a top and skirt pattern by Donna Karan from 2006. The off-the-shoulder, back-laced ensemble is drawn from Karan’s Spring/Summer 2005 collection, and was the centrepiece of the Peter Lindbergh advertising campaign starring Erin Wasson.

Erin Wasson photographed by Peter Lindbergh - Donna Karan Spring 2005 advertising campaign
Donna Karan Spring 2005 ad campaign. Model: Erin Wasson. Photo: Peter Lindbergh.

The look was even chosen to open the Spring 2005 runway presentation. The second photo shows the top’s contrast mesh inserts, elasticized shoulders, and decorative zigzag stitching detail:

Gemma Ward - Donna Karan Spring 2005 collection
Model: Gemma Ward. Photo: Marcio Madeira. Image: style.com.
Detail - Gemma Ward, Donna Karan Spring 2005 collection
Model: Gemma Ward. Image: style.com.

Now consider the pattern envelope:

Donna Karan off-the-shoulder top and skirt pattern - Vogue 2893
Vogue 2893 by Donna Karan (2006) Top and skirt.
Technical drawing for Vogue 2893
Technical drawing for Vogue 2893

The envelope replaces the original’s bared shoulders, open back, and slight flare at the hips with a much higher décolletage and tightly laced back. The result is a more covered-up, middle-of-the-road, body-con look that lacks the original’s confidence and wit.

What do you think? Did Vogue Patterns assume the original styling wouldn’t appeal to their customers?

Billie Blair

Billie Blair on the cover of Interview magazine, August 1974
Billie Blair on the cover of Interview magazine, August 1974. Image: Lipstick Alley.

Born in Flint, Michigan, Billie Blair (b. 1946) worked as a model at the Detroit Auto Show before becoming one of the highest-paid fashion models of the 1970s. Moving to New York City, she got a job at Halston and soon found success as an editorial and runway model. Blair was among the African-American models at the historic 1973 fundraising event, Le Grand Divertissement à Versailles, known today as the Battle of Versailles. (The event was the subject of a recent documentary by Deborah Riley Draper, Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution [2012)].)

Billie Blair in Donna Karan for Anne Klein, Virginia Slims advertisement, 1975
Billie Blair in Donna Karan for Anne Klein, Virginia Slims advertisement, 1975. Image: Stanford University.

Billie Blair can be seen on a number of Vogue designer patterns from the mid-1970s. Here she wears a tweed skirt suit and pussy-bow blouse by Oscar de la Renta; this design was marked as ‘suitable for knits’:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Oscar de la Renta suit and blouse pattern - Vogue 1163
Vogue 1163 by Oscar de la Renta (1975) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

Stan Herman designed this casual hooded top, skirt, and pants. The illustration shows some American Hustle-worthy aviator shades:

Billie Blair modelling a 1970s Stan Herman pattern - Vogue 1169
Vogue 1169 by Stan Herman (1975) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

Here Blair wears a girlish, vintage-style ensemble by Nina Ricci, a cream-coloured dress with matching cape:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Nina Ricci cape and dress pattern - Vogue 1175
Vogue 1175 by Nina Ricci (1975) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

From Jean Patou, this maxi dress may date to the period when the young Jean Paul Gaultier was assistant designer. Blair brings out the glamour of this haute couture loungewear:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Jean Patou loungewear pattern - Vogue 1344
Vogue 1344 by Jean Patou (1975) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

In Vogue Patterns‘ 1975 holiday issue, Jerry Hall wears the Patou dress while Blair models an off-the-shoulder party dress in an editorial devoted to evening sparkle (the headline reads, “Be a Star the Vogue Way”):

Designer evening wear Billie Blair Vogue Patterns November December 1975
Vogue Patterns, November/December 1975. Image: eBay.

Here she models a fabulous, evening-length Dior caftan with piped neckline:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Christian Dior caftan pattern - Vogue 1346
Vogue 1346 by Christian Dior (1975) Image: Etsy.

This Nina Ricci separates pattern includes a poncho with shirttail hem, convertible collar, and big patch pockets:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Nina Ricci pattern - Vogue 1376
Vogue 1376 by Nina Ricci (1976) Image: Betsy Vintage.

Blair is the model on this rare pattern by Sonia Rykiel, Vogue 1378—check out the matching coral sandals:

Billie Blair models a 1970s Sonia Rykiel pattern - Vogue 1378
Vogue 1378 by Sonia Rykiel (1976) Image: Etsy.

Billie Blair’s commanding presence and approach to modelling as performance don’t seem too unusual today. But she was unconventional for the time, and even felt the need to under-report her age when she first became famous. A 1974 profile of Blair in People magazine says she is 22 years old and remarks on her size 9 feet. (In a letter to the editor, a high school classmate wondered how Blair had stayed 22 when her peers were 28.) She continued modelling into her thirties—here she appears in a dynamic 1978 Vogue shoot by Andrea Blanch:

Billie Blair, Renée King, Toukie Smith, Iman, Alva Chinn, and Dana Dixon in Vogue, December 1978
Billie Blair, Renée King, Toukie Smith, Iman, Alva Chinn, and Dana Dixon in Vogue, December 1978. Photo: Andrea Blanch.