April 1, 2018 § 2 Comments
June 14, 2016 § 4 Comments
Royal Ascot begins today. Here’s a look at an Ascot-worthy Halston pattern.
Halston licensed millinery designs with Vogue Patterns during his time as Chief Milliner at Bergdorf Goodman. (See my earlier Mad Men-era millinery post.) Vogue 7082 is a petal headpiece with optional veil:
Here’s the envelope description: Bridal headpiece. Large or small petal headpiece with or without long or short veil is secured to hair with comb; optional ribbon bow. Recommended fabrics: organdy, organza, lace, point d’esprit. Veil: net, tulle. Notions: comb, millinery wire, 2 1/4″ ribbon.
The Halston headpiece was cross-promoted on two bridal patterns, Vogue 1744 and Vogue 1745, as an option for both brides and bridesmaids. Or as a contemporary catalogue has it, “Enchanting bouquet of graduated petals… crowning touch for any member of the bridal party by Halston of Bergdorf Goodman.”
Worn with a matching suit, wouldn’t it be perfect for a day at the races?
April 17, 2015 § 4 Comments
The Museum at FIT’s exhibit, Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s, closes this Saturday. (See Bridget Foley, “That Real Seventies Show.”) If you can’t make it to New York to see it, a catalogue is available from Yale University Press.
The MFIT exhibit organizes the two designers’ 1970s work in three thematic sections: menswear influence, exoticism, and historicism. Since both Yves Saint Laurent and Halston had licensed sewing patterns in the ’70s, I thought it would be fun to present three pairs of patterns in the exhibition’s format.
From Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue 1143 is a ’70s version of the famous Le smoking. Helmut Newton photographed Charlotte Rampling in a similar, Prince of Wales check pantsuit for Vogue (with original text here):
According to the curators, Halston’s most famous garment is the Ultrasuede shirtdress. McCall’s 4391 is a zip-front shirtdress that includes special instructions for working with synthetic suede:
Yves Saint Laurent’s interest in “exotic,” non-Western dress is perhaps best remembered from his Russian collection (Fall 1976 haute couture). From Vogue’s Ballets Russes patterns, Vogue 1558 is a Russian ensemble consisting of blouse, vest, bias skirt, and braid-trimmed jacket—hat and babushka scarf not included (see more at Paco’s blog):
During the 1970s, both Saint Laurent and Halston showed non-Western influence in their caftans and pajama ensembles. Halston pattern McCall’s 3590 combines both:
Inspired by the 1940s, Yves Saint Laurent’s Spring 1971 haute couture collection, Libération, launched the decade’s vogue for vintage. Although the 1971 collection was poorly received, Saint Laurent’s subsequent vintage-inspired efforts were very influential. From 1973, Vogue 2930 is a Forties-inspired dress-and-coat ensemble:
Halston’s historicism focused on the interwar couture of the 1930s, especially the work of Grès and Vionnet. McCall’s 4046 is a slinky dress for stretchable knits. It has only one main pattern piece and is shaped by gathers and side darts:
As the curators note, Halston and Yves Saint Laurent have been seen as embodying two separate styles: minimalist ready-to-wear vs. fantasy couture. Yet comparison of their work shows how their stylistic experimentation led them to common ground, particularly in the earlier ’70s. Interestingly, some Saint Laurent and Halston garments can be hard to tell apart until you examine the construction—something home sewers can certainly appreciate.
February 21, 2015 § 16 Comments
Caftans, long, loose-fitting tunics with origins in ancient Persia, have been gaining momentum as an alternative to more structured formal dress. With any luck, there will be some caftans among the goddess gowns at tomorrow’s Academy Awards ceremony.
They say Tsarina Alexandra was the first westerner to make a fashion statement in a caftan, when she dressed as a seventeenth-century Tsarina for a costume ball in 1903. Paul Poiret also advanced the caftan cause, but it was not until the 1950s that the garment really began to influence western fashion. Here’s a look at caftan patterns from the 1950s to now.
In the mid-1950s, Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga’s experiments with silhouette were partly inspired by eastern traditional dress. Dior’s Fall 1955 couture collection (Y line) included caftan-inspired ensembles—coats with high, side-front slits that reveal a slim dress underneath:
You can see echoes of the Dior caftan look in contemporary sewing patterns like McCall’s 3525 and 3532, both from late 1955:
McCall’s 3532, called a “slim caftan-and-dress ensemble,” was featured on the cover of McCall’s news leaflet and in the company’s “Make the Clothes that Make the Woman” advertising campaign. According to the ad, the design is ideal for the season’s “Oriental” fabrics, such as silk twill and raw silk tussah:
Caftans became popular in the 1960s in tandem with the increasing interest in eastern cultures. The Madame Grès version at the top of this post is cut on the bias, producing geometric seaming detail. The caption reads, “Coup of bias-work by Grès—because this piecing-together of bias angles is sinuous, stark, ravishingly Moroccan.”
This dress from Jean Patou by Michel Goma, Vogue 1699, has what the envelope calls a “caftan neckline.” The model is Beate Schulz:
This circa 1968 Vogue caftan pattern has optional flexible trim:
Other patterns from the late 1960s and early 1970s also reference eastern dress. From 1967, McCall’s 9026 is labelled as an abba in two lengths. Abba is an alternate spelling of aba, commonly abaya: a traditional Arab garment, long, loose-fitting, sleeveless, and made from a single rectangle of fabric. (Today, caftans often function as abayat.) The model is Veronica Hamel:
Burnoose patterns were marketed as resort wear. A pompom-trimmed version of McCall’s 2377 was photographed for the cover of McCall’s Summer 1970 catalogue:
Marola Witt models Simplicity’s burnoose in the July 1967 issue of Simplicity Fashion News (thanks to Mary of PatternGate for the reference). The text promotes the design’s ‘Arabian’ exoticism: “be exotic in a JIFFY: … the burnoose, born in Arabia, brought up to date here”:
This Halston caftan pattern from McCall’s also includes a top and pants (you can buy yourself a copy from the shop):
This flowing Dior caftan, modelled by Billie Blair, has lots of neckline detail, full-length sleeve openings, and pockets:
Vogue 1515 by Nina Ricci is a caftan that’s open in front and attached at the neckline to a handkerchief-hemmed underdress:
It’s harder to find post-1970s designer caftan patterns. This wide-sleeved, Oscar de la Renta caftan is trimmed with contrast bands. When worn, the side seams swing forward to raise the hemline in front:
From Issey Miyake, Vogue 2315 is a caftan-inspired summer dress:
Caftan patterns started making a comeback (of sorts) in 2009. Simplicity 2584, a caftan-inspired tunic by Cynthia Rowley, is out of print but still in demand:
Ralph Rucci’s floor-length caftan, Vogue 1181 (now out of print), has an abaya silhouette and interesting construction details—overarm darts, shaped lower sections, and a hook and eye above the low neckline:
The design is from Chado Ralph Rucci Resort 2009:
Matthew Williamson’s short caftan, available as a free pattern from the Guardian, is also a 2009 design:
Would you sew a caftan?
January 31, 2014 § 7 Comments
Happy Chinese new year! In honour of the Year of the Horse, here’s a selection of equestrian sewing patterns from the 1920s to the 1990s.
Like tennis wear, modern equestrian wear begins in the 1920s. Before the First World War, women generally rode sidesaddle; equestriennes wore fashionably voluminous riding skirts designed to fall flatteringly on horseback, with breeches underneath. In addition to 19th-century Harper’s Bazaar patterns for riding habits, the Commercial Pattern Archive’s “Riding” category reveals a 1909 pattern for ladies’ riding breeches (Butterick 3313), and two divided equestrian skirts from the early teens (Butterick 5792 and Pictorial Review 5003).
By 1920 the major American pattern companies were producing commercial patterns for women’s jodhpurs—often called riding breeches. As the illustration at the top of this post shows, some women continued to ride sidesaddle, even into the 1930s, but I haven’t found any modern patterns for sidesaddle riding habits.
Butterick 2255, circa 1920, is a pattern for a riding coat and breeches worthy of Lady Mary. The envelope specifies that the design is for cross saddle riding:
This 1920 McCall pattern for riding breeches shows the pattern diagram and instructions on the envelope (click to enlarge):
I have this 1923 jodhpurs pattern in my collection—for when I learn to ride, of course:
This McCall’s illustration of a riding coat and breeches is from the same year, but it shows a different breeches pattern, as well as a more streamlined riding coat than a few years previous:
Jodhpurs were not just for equestrian sports: they were the “trousers of adventure,” worn for activities like driving, hiking and camping, safaris, and aviation. This early ’30s illustration from Pictorial Review shows the latest sports styles, including beach pajamas and clothes for tennis and golf. The riding habit includes a sleeveless jacket or waistcoat (click to enlarge):
Butterick 5647 is a pattern for cuffed, fall-front jodhpurs with notched back waist and side and back pockets. Nabby at This Old Life made these for her vintage aviatrix costume (click image for post):
McCall 9412, from September 1937, looks to be a rare early pattern for western-style riding pants, with reinforced seat and inner leg. I’d love to see a better-quality image; this one was found in a lot on eBay:
Also from the late 1930s, Pictorial Review 9337 is a pattern for a tailored shirt and sleek pair of riding trousers:
Apart from children’s equestrian patterns, I couldn’t find any patterns from the major pattern companies that were specifically for riding until the 1970s, when western-style riding wear was in fashion. McCall’s 4870 includes riding pants and a shirt-jacket with contrast, embroidered yoke and cuffs. The model is Angeleen Gagliano, who was a horsewoman in real life:
This Butterick pattern by Jane Tise shows the vogue for western shirts:
The influence of the western shirt is evident in this Halston dress with scalloped yoke:
Many of you will remember the 1980s jodhpurs trend, when you could dress for English-style riding far from any stable. Exhibit A is New Look 6013:
Gianni Versace and Claude Montana both showed jodhpurs in the ’80s, but unfortunately Vogue Patterns doesn’t seem to have released any patterns for them. Just for fun, here’s a Lord Snowdon photo of aristocrat Angela Rawlinson in a jacket and tweed jodhpurs by John McIntyre:
Little Vogue 7876, with its young model leaning on a stone balustrade, is interesting for showing the social ambition associated with horseback riding. The jodhpurs are a little loose for actual riding (the similarly styled Vogue 7842 also has a looser fit):
With the advent of stretch fabrics, riding pants no longer needed lots of room in the upper leg. These jodhpurs by Calvin Klein have a sleeker fit that’s more in line with late 20th-century equestrian wear. They come with detachable stirrups, and may be made in synthetic suede:
McCall’s 6737’s riding pants are for stretch fabrics, reinforced with leather or ultrasuede in the seat and inner leg. The pattern also marks a return to the waistcoat:
Vogue 1655 by DKNY brings us full circle: the riding-style jacket was photographed in traditional scarlet at a country estate:
For more on the history of women’s equestrian wear see Mackay-Smith, Druesedow, and Ryder’s Man and the Horse: An Illustrated History of Equestrian Apparel (Simon and Schuster, 1984), which was published to accompany the Polo/Ralph Lauren-sponsored Costume Institute exhibit held from December, 1984 to September, 1985.
If you’d like to sew your own sidesaddle riding habit, reproductions of early French magazine patterns for costumes d’amazone (women’s riding habits) are available from eBay shop Au fil du temps. For a modern equestrian look, Folkwear’s Equestriennes pattern, Folkwear 506, includes a riding jacket, waistcoat, and jodhpurs based on garments in the collection of the Costume Institute.
Special thanks to Naomi for acting as my in-house equestrianism consultant.
June 12, 2013 § 6 Comments
Vintage bridal patterns offer a unique alternative to modern bridal designs. Even if you’re already married, they provide a glimpse into past bridal fashions’ sometimes exotic vintage details—making them tempting even for those not in need of a wedding dress. (Can we expect Debi Fry to make her 1940 bridal pattern, McCall 4004?)
Now that wedding season is in full swing, here’s a selection of vintage bridal patterns, from the Twenties to the Eighties.
In the Twenties and Thirties, bridal patterns usually did double duty as patterns for formal dresses. This 1920s Peerless Patterns sign features a wedding illustration promoting a number of patterns:
This fantastic bridal or evening dress is short, in keeping with the current fashion, and may have one or two extended side panels that give the effect of a train:
Thirties bridal patterns have the same glamour we associate with the decade’s evening wear. This pattern for a bridal gown or dinner dress dates to circa June 1934:
A reproduction version of this pattern for a bridal gown or afternoon dress is available from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library:
A copy of McCall 8331 recently seen on eBay was accompanied by this wedding portrait, which shows the dress made up:
In the Forties the bride begins to take centre stage on pattern envelopes, although evening and bridesmaid versions are still included. This bridal or evening dress was reissued in the Vintage Vogue line as Vogue 2384:
This strong-shouldered, postwar design has a sweetheart neckline and waist piping detail. The pattern also includes a bridesmaid’s dress with short, shirred sleeves (click image for the technical drawings):
By the 1950s the bride, in her full-skirted glory, dominates the pattern envelope. This Jacques Fath design for a bride’s or bridesmaid’s dress has a bustled back and tiny shawl collar. The bridesmaid’s version simply lacks a train:
John Cavanagh was known for his connection to the English court. He licensed several bridal patterns with Vogue, and designed the Duchess of Kent’s wedding dress in 1961. (See my earlier post here.) This short-sleeved Cavanagh design has a simulated train; the smaller figures show bridesmaid’s and evening versions:
Also by John Cavanagh, this 1960s bridal design with a cathedral-length Watteau train was modelled by Jean Shrimpton:
No bridal pattern survey could be complete without this Halston pattern for bridal headpieces:
From the early 1970s, this Pierre Cardin bridal gown, shown in a silk knit, has an optional overskirt with handkerchief train:
Although it isn’t for everyone, Yves Saint Laurent’s couture bridal design for a gathered, bias dress, filmy coat, and five-yard veil distinguishes itself by showing the bride as wayward Vestal virgin (see Paco Peralta’s post here):
Released in 1980, this opulent Dior design for a bell-skirted bridal gown, complete with bias necktie, cummerbund, and bow-embellished headpiece, is drawn from the Christian Dior Haute Couture collection for Fall 1979 (read Dustin’s post here):
Perfect for steampunk weddings, Vogue 2180 by Bellville Sassoon has an elaborate bustle that gives it a neo-Victorian flair:
February 7, 2013 § 4 Comments
It’s almost forty years since Beverly Johnson (b. 1952) became the first black woman to appear on the cover of American Vogue, in 1974. (Donyale Luna had appeared on the cover of British Vogue in 1966.) One of the decade’s most successful models, Johnson had moved to New York City to pursue modelling after losing her summer job; she had been a pre-law student at Northeastern University.
To be accurate, Beverly Johnson was the first model of mixed black/indigenous background to make the Vogue cover, as her father’s ancestry is part Blackfoot (see story and slideshow at Vogue Italia). Whereas her first agent told her she would never make the cover of Vogue, Johnson also faced obstacles with “the leading black magazines, Ebony and Essence, [who] wouldn’t put me on their covers at first, because I wasn’t ethnic-looking enough” (read her recollection at Vogue online).
As far as I know, Johnson was also the first black model to be photographed for Vogue’s designer patterns. Johnson’s relationship with the pattern company seems to have begun the year before her first Vogue cover. This Sybil Connolly pattern, from October/November 1973, is the earliest pattern I’ve seen featuring her:
You can see an alternate shot on the cover of Singer’s booklet, How to Fit Patterns:
These three designs featuring Johnson, by Ungaro and Bill Blass, were released in May 1974. Instead of their usual sandy-haired male model, Vogue 1011 pairs her with another black model:
Here she models for a McCall’s pattern by Halston:
Johnson appears on several early Calvin Klein patterns, including this set of casual separates (in series with the pantsuit modelled by Angeleen Gagliano):
You may recognize these two patterns, from Dior and Balmain, which seem to have been quite popular:
In terms of high-profile, evening dress patterns, the only ones I could find featuring Johnson were these two, by Teal Traina and Belinda Bellville:
Beverly Johnson also modelled for Simplicity, as well as Vogue magazine’s features on Vogue patterns. (Although Vogue Patterns was by then owned by Butterick, Vogue magazine continued to run editorials featuring Vogue patterns—see my Gia Carangi post for more.) Here Johnson appears in a 1972 advertisement for the Simplicity Catalog:
In this 1976 patterns feature, Johnson models linen tops with Karen Bjornson (the patterns, left to right, are Vogue 9544, Vogue 9635, and Vogue 9559):
In this Vogue shoot, Johnson’s cardigan is Vogue 2924 by Fabiani:
The caftan shot at the top of this post is from a four-page patterns editorial photographed by Kourken Pakchanian. Here is the full editorial:
The patterns are: top left, Vogue 8585; top right, Vogue 8573; bottom left, Vogue 2881; bottom right, Vogue 8587. (The halter top, sarong, and bikini are all from V2881; the envelope photo shows deeply tanned, Caucasian models.) Corbis had the full image of Johnson in the V2881 bikini: