The early ’90s are back—and so are sarouel, or harem pants. Here’s a look at vintage patterns for this distinctive trouser style.
Like caftans, sarouel originated in ancient Persia. Persian sirwāl became Turkish şalvar, entering the Western fashion vocabulary via Ottoman culture and the early modern vogue for turquerie.
Şalvar were introduced to Western women’s clothing in the 19th century as part of the Rational Dress movement: Amelia Bloomer conceived her eponymous trousers as “Turkish pants.” (On cycling bloomers see Jonathan Walford, The 1890s Bicycle Bloomer Brouhaha.) Couturier Paul Poiret is usually credited with making “harem” pants fashionable in the period before World War 1.
In the mid-’60s, harem pants enjoyed renewed popularity as glam loungewear. (I Dream of Jeannie started airing in September, 1965.) This Vogue pyjama with matching, dolman-sleeved overblouse has a cuffed trouser option:
Pucci’s interest in harem pants predates the jewelled version at the top of this post: a short, blue harem ensemble was part of his 1965 Braniff flight attendant uniform. These high-waisted palazzo pyjamas also have a cuffed, harem option, as worn by Editha Dussler:
Anne de Zogheb modelled these Pucci harem pyjamas, which feature an intriguing self-lined skirt with side openings:
Bouffant knickers are a variation on the harem pant. This gold brocade, coat-and-knickers ensemble from Yves Saint Laurent’s Winter 1970 haute couture collection evokes the hippie trail. The model is Viviane Fauny:
From 1976, this Kenzo pattern includes a cuffed harem pant option. (A copy is available in the shop.)
Hot pink harem pants catch the eye on this Very Easy Vogue pattern, which also includes palazzo pants and a maxi skirt:
This gold satin pair, from Krizia, has no side seams:
In the early ’80s, the dropped-crotch, Zouave style of harem pant came to the fore. This Simplicity pattern includes Zouave pants in two lengths:
The trousers in this Versace ensemble evoke the harem silhouette, with draped volume tapering to a fitted ankle (see my Versace post for more photos):
Very Easy Very Vogue got on the dropped crotch bandwagon with three styles of Zouave pants—view C with side drape:
By the early ’90s, hip-hop musician MC Hammer had made so great an impact on popular culture that his characteristic trousers were known as “hammer pants.” Simplicity’s official MC Hammer unisex pants pattern came with not one but two iron-on transfers. (See envelope back here. There was even a doll clothes pattern for the MC Hammer action figure.) Drop-crotch pants could also be found as Butterick Classics and a unisex costume pattern.
Issey Miyake designed these lowest of the low dropped-crotch pants, as worn by Phina Oruche:
Recent patterns heralding the return of the sarouel include McCall’s 5858, Kwik Sew 3701, and the unisex Burda 7546. If the trend continues, perhaps we’ll see a pattern for Rachel Comey’s Pollock trouser…
Whether you call it fake or faux, this season’s fur trend is only fashion’s latest take on synthetic fur.
Many vintage sewing patterns call for fur banding and fur cloth. The reversible coat shown above, Vogue 1019 by Jacques Griffe, is fully lined with the latest black, synthetic fox fur. (Hover for full caption.) More recently there’s Donna Karan’s coat for low-pile fake fur, Vogue 1365, from the Fall 2012 collection:
Here’s a look at vintage patterns that call for fur trim or fur cloth, with an emphasis on the trendy, unusual, and outrageous.
From Winter 1926, this dolman coat by Martial et Armand has a deep fur collar and narrow fur banding at the cuffs:
This opulent, late 1920s evening wrap calls for a length of 4.5″ fur banding. A reproduction is available from EvaDress:
Thirties patterns show many creative uses of fur trim. These two ca. 1933 coats both call for fur cloth accents. McCall 7206 has an attached scarf and contrast lower sleeves, shown in synthetic Persian lamb, while McCall 7207 has a deep fur collar and matching, triangular sleeve patches:
Simplicity 1541’s dramatic, curving collar and pointed cuffs can be made in contrast fur cloth; the fur-trimmed version was illustrated on the cover of the holiday 1934 issue of Simplicity Pattern Magazine. A reproduction is available from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library:
From the autumn of 1939, McCall 3420 is a swagger coat with built-up neckline and optional, tapered lower sleeves and semi-circular shoulder insets. View A is shown in faux Astrakhan (matching hat unfortunately not included):
McCall 3875, a World War 2-era swing coat, can be made with elbow-deep fur cuffs:
This wartime cape pattern, previously featured in my vintage capes post, includes an evening cape with stand-up fur collar:
High-end postwar sewing patterns sometimes assume natural fur will be used and direct the home dressmaker to a specialist. From November 1949, Vogue 1075 is one of the earliest Balmain patterns. The voluminous “melon” sleeves can be made in fur contrast; the envelope back says, “Note: Have fur sleeves made by furrier”:
This Vogue Couturier design includes a wide-necked evening coat with big fur collar and elbow-length sleeves:
From Nina Ricci, Vogue 1217’s cape has a broad shawl collar that can be made in faux fur:
Vogue 1897 is a design from Yves Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 1967-68 haute couture collection, inspired by Queen Christina (see Paco’s post here). The fur-trimmed evening cape requires a taffeta stay for the fur trim unless made by a furrier:
David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (1965) seems to have prompted a fashion for Cossack coats and hats. Vogue-Butterick had Vogue 1983, and McCall’s had this fur-trimmed coat pattern:
There was even a pattern for fur hats for men, women, and children, McCall’s 2966:
Eighties excess brought the more-is-more aesthetic to designs for synthetic fur. McCall’s 7736 is a raglan-sleeved jacket for lightweight fake fur or woolens:
From the Connoisseur Collection, Simplicity 7078 is for fake fur only:
In addition to a hat and stole for fur-like fabrics, accessories pattern Vogue 9981 includes a muff with concealed pocket:
The 1990s were another good time for synthetic fur—so good that Vogue Patterns licensed a designer specializing in faux fur outerwear. Not quite vintage, this reversible coat pattern by Issey Miyake calls for high pile fake fur:
From Alexander McQueen’s Fall 1998 ready-to-wear collection for Givenchy, Vogue 2228’s jacket has a fur-trimmed hem and large, standing fur collar that recalls the 1940s evening cape shown above. (See my earlier McQueen post here.) I have one copy for sale in the shop:
Vogue 2233’s fur-trimmed dress and jacket are from Anna Sui’s Fall/Winter 1998 collection (click to purchase from the shop):
Vogue 2233 is one of the most ’90s patterns ever: Björk meets Britpop. The jacket was worn on the runway by Kirsty Hume—hat by James Coviello:
There was also a pattern for Anna Sui faux-fur accessories, Vogue 7950 (see my earlier Anna Sui series).
Tips for sourcing synthetic fur
Tissavel: This luxury French faux fur mill is unfortunately now closed, but ends can be found on Etsy.
Faux Persian lamb/Astrakhan: Available as a special order from Emma One Sock.
Fur banding:Mokuba carries high-quality synthetic fur banding in various widths.
Working with vintage furs and synthetic fur
Vintage patterns often direct the home dressmaker to a furrier; old sewing books and magazines also provide tips for refashioning vintage furs. (Woman’s Day 5045 came with a special instruction booklet and fur needle.) Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide includes a chapter on fur.
For tips on sewing with synthetic fur, see Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide, Fehr Trade’s post, and Shannon Gifford’s post for Emma One Sock.
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:
A Vogue version of the Dior caftan ensemble, Vogue 8759, is available as a reproduction from EvaDress.
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:
“Hush,” one of the strongest and spookiest episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, stars a model-turned-actor who appeared on Vogue patterns in the mid-1990s. Giles’ girlfriend Olivia is played by Phina Oruche (b. 1972). Born in Toxteth, Liverpool to Nigerian parents, Oruche was a successful model in London and New York before she won her first role in Sydney Pollack’s remake of Sabrina (1995).
Here Oruche models Vogue 1328, Issey Miyake’s jacket, top, and hammer pants:
Vogue 1344 is an ensemble consisting of a top, high-waisted pants, and jacket with custom closures from Anne Klein II:
Here Oruche shows off the lace-up back of Vogue 1353, a summer dress by Betty Jackson:
Ornate trim highlights the seam detail on Vogue 1354, a top and skirt by Geoffrey Beene:
Just for fun, here’s a recent portrait of Oruche by Paul Jones: