Biba: McCall’s Patterns

1970s Biba cover - 19 magazine, January 1971 photographed by David Tack
A Biba look on the cover of 19 magazine, January 1971. Photo: David Tack.

I started this blog eight years ago this month. To celebrate, here’s a look at some all-but-forgotten licensing: patterns by Barbara Hulanicki for Biba.

Ingrid Boulting wearing Tiger Lily dress by Biba at Lacock Abbey, British Vogue, July 1970. Photo: Norman Parkinson
Ingrid Boulting wears Biba’s Tiger Lily dress at Lacock Abbey, British Vogue, July 1970. Photo: Norman Parkinson. Image: Iconic Images.

Biba might be the biggest brand you’ll never see on a pattern. Born in Warsaw, Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki (b. 1936) grew up in Palestine and Brighton, where she attended Brighton Art School. She worked as a fashion illustrator before starting the Biba label with her husband, Stephen “Fitz” Fitz-Simon. Sometimes called the first lifestyle brand, Biba was a runaway success in Swinging London, selling everything from cosmetics to couture.

Biba designs for Seventeen - McCall's Pattern no. 2725
Biba design for Seventeen, Brighton Museum, 2013. Image: The cherry blossom girl.

In 1970, Hulanicki licensed patterns with McCall’s as a way to launch her brand in North America. The main promotion was in Seventeen Magazine, as it was Seventeen editor Rosemary McMurtry who first approached Hulanicki about the idea. Hulanicki mentions the McCall’s deal in her memoirs, as well as The Biba Years, 1963-1975, which she co-wrote with Martin Pel, curator of Brighton’s Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki.

Book cover for Barbara Hulanicki and Martin Pel's The Biba Years, 1963-1975 (V&A 2014)
Barbara Hulanicki and Martin Pel, The Biba Years, 1963-1975 (V&A 2014) Image: V&A.
Biba label - the Costume Institute
Image: Costume Institute.

Around New Year’s, 1971, Seventeen readers could peruse the new Biba patterns in a dreamy Sarah Moon editorial shot in Paris. Among the models was Ingrid Boulting, the face of Biba Cosmetics (another Sarah Moon project). As Hulanicki writes in her memoir, From A to Biba, the setting for the shoot was the round tower of Au Printemps, the storied Paris department store. The printed fabrics — cotton satin, rayon crepe, cotton voile, twill, and broadcloth — were all Tootal for Biba, and available at retailers like Macy’s in New York. (More at Sweet Jane. Seventeen scans courtesy of Musings from Marilyn.)

Sarah Moon's "Biba Boutique" McCall's editorial in Seventeen Magazine, Jan. 1971
“Biba Boutique,” Seventeen Magazine, January 1971. Photos: Sarah Moon. Images: Musings from Marilyn.
Sarah Moon's "Biba Boutique" McCall's editorial in Seventeen Magazine, Jan. 1971
“Biba Boutique,” Seventeen Magazine, January 1971. Photos: Sarah Moon. Images: Musings from Marilyn.
Sarah Moon's "Biba Boutique" McCall's editorial in Seventeen Magazine, Jan. 1971
“Biba Boutique,” Seventeen Magazine, January 1971. Photos: Sarah Moon. Images: Musings from Marilyn.

The patterns were even covered more than once in Women’s Wear Daily.

Robert Melendez Biba illustration in Women's Wear Daily, 1971
From “Viva Biba,” WWD, January 5, 1971. Illustration: Robert Melendez. Image: Shrimpton Couture.

The designs consisted of a top and skirt, separates and a hat, a long-sleeved dress and short-sleeved coatdress, and a midi or maxi dress, all in junior sizes only. Two included a matching choker. Customers could see the Biba logo in McCall’s retail catalogues, but the pattern envelopes give no indication they’re Biba designs.

1970s Biba pattern McCall's 2725
McCall’s 2725 by Biba (1971)
1970s Biba pattern McCall's 2728
McCall’s 2728 by Biba (1971)
1970s Biba pattern McCall's 2746
McCall’s 2746 by Biba (1971)
1970s Biba pattern McCall's 2747
McCall’s 2747 by Biba (1971)

McCall’s Pattern Fashions featured the Biba patterns in a four-page illustrated portfolio called “Seventeen Magazine Pattern Selections.” The write-up emphasizes Biba’s novelty in North America: Now Seventeen Magazine brings Biba to America … You, too, can be a Biba girl without crossing the Atlantic.

Seventeen Magazine Pattern Selections: Now Seventeen Magazine brings Biba to America in an exclusive group of McCall's patterns
Biba patterns in McCall’s Pattern Fashions, Spring 1971.
Seventeen Magazine Pattern Selections: You, too, can be a Biba girl without crossing the Atlantic
Biba patterns in McCall’s Pattern Fashions, Spring 1971.

Curiously, the Biba patterns aren’t in McCall’s back index, but one of them appears in this croquet-themed textiles ad — at left, in printed Dacron crepe:

McCall's Pattern Fashions Spring 1971 Klopman
Klopman advertisement in McCall’s Pattern Fashions, Spring 1971.

The peplum blouse with short “mushroom” sleeves (McCall’s 2725, view B) is very similar to a Biba evening suit seen in a 19 cover portfolio by David Tack. (Cover at top of post.) Like Seventeen, the British teen magazine also published its feature around the time of New Year’s, 1971.

Have you sewn any of the Biba patterns?

David Tack, Biba screen-printed satin evening suit in 19 magazine, January 1971
Biba screen-printed satin evening suit in 19 magazine, January 1971. Photo: David Tack. Image: Vintage-a-Peel.

Patterns in Vogue: Polar Effects

Vogue 7849 unitard worn in Iceland by Karen Mulder
Karen Mulder in Iceland, Vogue, November 1990. Photo: Hans Feurer. Editor: Grace Coddington.

Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park is one of the latest additions to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In 1990’s “Polar Effects,” the Vatnajökull glacier and Jökulsárlón glacial lake co-star with supermodels Karen Mulder and Kirsten Owen, and two Vogue patterns.

Karen Mulder in Vogue 7849, Vogue, November 1990. Photo: Hans Feurer. Editor: Grace Coddington.

Both patterns are Very Easy designs. In the opening image, Karen Mulder’s unitard is made from an unspecified “shiny” stretch knit from B&J Fabrics. Kirsten Owen’s double-width dirndl skirt is silk taffeta from Jerry Brown Fabrics.

Kirsten Owen in Vogue 9813, Vogue, November 1990. Photo: Hans Feurer. Editor: Grace Coddington.

Patterns in Vogue: The Leather Forecast

Linda Evangelista photographed in V1175 at Stansted airport by Nick Knight, 1994. Editor: Camilla Nickerson.
Linda Evangelista at Stansted Airport, 1994. Photo: Nick Knight. Editor: Camilla Nickerson.

Nick Knight once photographed Linda Evangelista at London’s Stansted Airport in a Vogue minidress.

The pattern is Vogue 1175, a 5 Easy Pieces pattern, cut from white leather from Mystic Leather, NYC.

White looks right against a steely sky or industrial machinery…

Long synonymous with rough and rugged images, leather is being transformed into sleek, sexy shapes with a body-conscious fit (Left: Vogue Patterns; right: Marc Jacobs for Birger Christensen.) Vogue, October 1994 Photo: Nick Knight.
Linda Evangelista in “The Leather Forecast,” Vogue, October 1994. Photo: Nick Knight. Editor: Camilla Nickerson.

Patterns in Vogue: Pillow Talk

Dorothea McGowan in breakfast coat Vogue 9774, 1960 - "fresh, frothy, delicious - almost Victorian in feeling, even to the pale ribbon sash."
“Fresh, frothy, delicious” – breakfast coat worn by Dorothea McGowan in Vogue, May 1, 1960. Photo: Leombruno-Bodi.

This Galentine’s, a midcentury slumber party.

Leombruno-Bodi photographed three models, including Nena von Schlebrügge and Dorothea McGowan, in airy loungewear made from Vogue patterns.

Vogue 5032 and 9774 in Vogue, May 1, 1960. Photos: Leombruno-Bodi.

Left: Red polka dots printed on white cotton: brief panties, a top swung briskly from red ribbon shoulder straps. In Crown Soap n’ Water fabric. Centre: Candy-striped silk, slipping into a perfect fall from narrow, softly bowed ribbon straps. Pink and orange stripes skimming white silk; the ribbon, orange. A.P.Silk fabric. Right: White cotton batiste, embroidered with white medallions; single touch of colour, the trailing, sweet-blue ribbon. Emanuel Roth fabric. All ribbon by Century.

The patterns are Vogue 9774 and 5032, a ruffled breakfast coat and nightgown / short pyjamas and nightcap.

Late 1950s-early 1960s lingerie patterns Vogue 9774 and Vogue 5032 "Very Easy to Make"

Pattern images: Vintage Pattern Wiki, Pinterest.

Free Designer Pattern: Iris van Herpen Dress

Hacking Infity - Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 RTW. Photo: Frederik Heyman
Hacking Infinity – Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 RTW. Model: Iekeliene Stange. Photo: Frederik Heyman. Image: Iris van Herpen.

SHOWstudio’s latest Design Download is a dress by Dutch wunderkind Iris van Herpen.

Iris van Herpen dress photographed by Thomas Alexander for SHOWstudio, 2018
Iris van Herpen’s Hacking Infinity dress. Model: Bethany Sophara Robbins. Photo: Thomas Alexander. Image: SHOWstudio.
Iris van Herpen dress photographed by Thomas Alexander for SHOWstudio, 2018
Iris van Herpen dress, FW15 rtw. Model: Bethany Sophara Robbins. Photo: Thomas Alexander. Image: SHOWstudio.

The sheath dress is from Hacking Infinity, Iris van Herpen’s Fall 2015 ready-to-wear collection, which explored the idea of terraforming. (Read more at the designer’s site, or see Suzy Menkes on her 2015 studio visit.) The collection’s leather and 3D-printed shoes are by Noritaka Tatehana.

Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 rtw look 12 - SHOWstudio design download
Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 RTW. Photo: Kim Weston Arnold. Image: Vogue Runway.
Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 ready-to-wear. Image: firstVIEW.

Science, technology, and science fiction are strong influences for Van Herpen, and Vogue’s reviewer cited Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall as an intro to the terraforming concept. Several looks referenced the stillsuits from David Lynch’s Dune.

Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 RTW
Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 RTW. Photos: Team Peter Stigter. Images: Iris van Herpen.
Hacking Infity - Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 RTW. Photo: Frederik Heyman
Hacking Infinity – Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 RTW. Model: Iekeliene Stange. Photo: Frederik Heyman. Image: Iris van Herpen.
Chani (Sean Young) in David Lynch’s Dune (1984) Costume design: Bob Ringwood. Image: Pinterest.

The plissé material, seen in the SHOWstudio piece, appeared both as one element in a mix, and for entire garments in black and bronze.

Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 RTW. Images: firstVIEW.

For Fall 2015, Van Herpen developed a fine, metallic fabric woven from silk and stainless steel. The translucent silver material was coaxed into “a sheen of nebula-like colors” with heat and hand-burnishing. Plisséed and pleated into circular forms, it evoked planetary bodies and infinity.

Detail backstage at Iris van Herpen's Fall 2015 show
Detail backstage at Iris van Herpen’s Fall 2015 show. Photo: Morgan O’Donovan. Image: Facebook.
Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 RTW
Iris van Herpen Fall 2015 RTW. Photos: Team Peter Stigter. Images: Iris van Herpen.
Hacking Infinity FW15 Iris van Herpen dress photographed by Juergen Teller
Iris van Herpen dress in T Magazine, April 2015. Photo: Juergen Teller. Image: Iris van Herpen.

The pattern download comes in A4 sheets, with a test line to check the scale.

Iris van Herpen SHOWstudio dress pattern diagram
Iris van Herpen dress pattern diagram. Image: SHOWstudio.

Download the dress pattern (34 pieces)

Size: 38

Notes: Prints on 100 A4 sheets. Plissé panels are hand-sewn to base dress.

Fabric recommendations: Plissé panels: plissé or printed fabric on a cotton base fabric. Stretch fabric is recommended for the skirt. Straps & facings: silk, non-stretch fusible interfacing. Lining: silk or cupro.

Notions: Back zipper.

The competition is still open. Will you be entering?

Patterns in Vogue: Hutton Meets Warhol

Model reclines on a large Andy Warhol silver helium-filled pillow wearing a Vogue Pattern 6928 dress
Lauren Hutton with Warhol pillows. Photo: Gianni Penati. Image: flickr.

A Vreeland-era Vogue Patterns editorial shows Lauren Hutton with silver, helium-filled pillows by Andy Warhol, who would have been 90 this year.

Andy Warhol photographed by Stephen Shore at Silver Clouds, Leo Castelli Gallery, 1966
Andy Warhol at the Leo Castelli Gallery, 1966. Photo: Stephen Shore. Image: Phaidon.

The Mylar pillows were the stars of Warhol’s Silver Clouds show at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. (More here.) The patterns are Vogue 6733 and Vogue 6928, both “Easy to Make.” Shown in silver cloqué, the short dress was adapted as a dancing dress; the long dress was designed as a nightgown. (Regina Novelty earrings; Bernardo sandals. Hair by Marc Sinclaire.)

Happy New Year, everyone! All the best for 2019.

Lauren Hutton in Vogue, July 1966 Photo: Gianni Penati.
Lauren Hutton in Vogue, July 1966. Photo: Gianni Penati. Image: Youthquakers.
Lauren Hutton in Vogue, July 1966. Photo: Gianni Penati. Image: Youthquakers.

Vogue 6733 and Vogue 6928: 2 patterns worn by Lauren Hutton in Vogue, July 1966

Pattern images: Mrs. Wooster, Vintage Pattern Wiki.

Silhouette News for Fall, 1956

McCalls PB Fall 1956
Anne St. Marie in McCall’s 3793, McCall’s Pattern Book, Fall 1956. Photo: The Dodenhoffs.

There are only two weekends left to catch Balenciaga: Master of Couture at the McCord Museum. Anne St. Marie’s look (above) was inspired by Balenciaga.

From the inside note: “The new straight-coat fashion favored by Balenciaga, fall and winter coverage for its own sheath dress and everything else in your wardrobe. In colorful Anglo tweed and coordinated red wool, interfaced with Armo hair canvas to hold its line. Earl-Glo Sanitized taffeta lining; B.G.E. buttons. Emme hat; Mark Cross bag; Superb gloves.”

Pattern: McCall’s 3793.