Fur Cloth for Fall

Anne St. Marie photographed in Vogue 1019,
Anne St. Marie wears Vogue 1019 by Jacques Griffe, Vogue Pattern Book, August/September 1961. Photo: Kazan.

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:

Joan Smalls wears a faux fur coat from Donna Karan FW 2012
Model: Joan Smalls. Image: vogue.com.

Here’s a look at vintage patterns that call for fur trim or fur cloth, with an emphasis on the trendy, unusual, and outrageous.

1920s

From Winter 1926, this dolman coat by Martial et Armand has a deep fur collar and narrow fur banding at the cuffs:

1920s Martial et Armand coat McCall 4667 illustrated in the Winter 1926 McCall Quarterly
McCall 4667 by Martial et Armand in McCall Quarterly, Winter 1926-27. Image courtesy of Debby Zamorski.

This opulent, late 1920s evening wrap calls for a length of 4.5″ fur banding. A reproduction is available from EvaDress:

Late 1920s evening wrap pattern - McCall 5945
McCall 5945 (1929) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

1930s

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:

McCall 7206, 7207 Spring 1933 coats
Two coat patterns, McCall 7206 and 7207, illustrated in McCall Fashion Book, Spring 1933.

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:

Via eBay
Simplicity 1541 (1934) Image: eBay.

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):

1930s coat pattern shown in check or faux Astrakhan - McCall 3420
McCall 3420 (1939)

1940s

McCall 3875, a World War 2-era swing coat, can be made with elbow-deep fur cuffs:

1940 coat pattern - McCall 3875
McCall 3875 (1940) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

This wartime cape pattern, previously featured in my vintage capes post, includes an evening cape with stand-up fur collar:

1940s cape pattern in evening or street length - McCall 4134
McCall 4134 (1941)

1950s

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”:

1940s Balmain coat pattern - Vogue 1075
Vogue 1075 by Balmain (1949) Image: Etsy.

This Vogue Couturier design includes a wide-necked evening coat with big fur collar and elbow-length sleeves:

1950s evening dress and coat with fur top-collar - Vogue 190
Vogue 190 (1959) Image: Etsy.

1960s

From Nina Ricci, Vogue 1217’s cape has a broad shawl collar that can be made in faux fur:

1960s Nina Ricci dress and coat pattern - Vogue 1217
Vogue 1217 by Nina Ricci (1963) Image: Etsy.

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:

1960s Yves Saint Laurent Queen Christina evening dress and cape pattern - Vogue 1897
Vogue 1897 by Yves Saint Laurent (1968) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

1970s

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:

1970s red, fur-trimmed coat pattern - McCall's 2676
McCall’s 2676 (1970) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

There was even a pattern for fur hats for men, women, and children, McCall’s 2966:

1970s faux fur hat and bag pattern - McCall's 2966
McCall’s 2966 (1971) Image: eBay.

1980s

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:

1980s jacket pattern - McCall's 7736
McCall’s 7736 (1981) Image: Etsy.

From the Connoisseur Collection, Simplicity 7078 is for fake fur only:

1980s faux fur coat pattern in 2 lengths - Simplicity 7078
Simplicity 7078 (1985) Image: Etsy.

In addition to a hat and stole for fur-like fabrics, accessories pattern Vogue 9981 includes a muff with concealed pocket:

1980s hat, stole, and muff pattern - Vogue 9981
Vogue 9981 (1987) Image: Etsy.

1990s

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:

1990s Issey Miyake reversible faux fur coat pattern - Vogue 2182
Vogue 2182 by Issey Miyake (1998) Image: Etsy.

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:

1990s Givenchy fur-trimmed suit pattern by Alexander McQueen - Vogue 2228
Vogue 2228 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1998) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

Vogue 2233’s fur-trimmed dress and jacket are from Anna Sui’s Fall/Winter 1998 collection (click to purchase from the shop):

1990s Anna Sui fur-trimmed dress & jacket pattern - Vogue 2233
Vogue 2233 by Anna Sui (1998) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

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:

Kirsty Hume on the runway, Anna Sui FW 1998
Kirsty Hume, Anna Sui FW 1998. Image: firstVIEW.

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.

Vampire Vamps! McCall 4455 by Martial et Armand

Young woman Kim McKean Bill Compton Stephen Moyer 1920s Chicago 1926 True Blood Season 2
Young woman (Kim McKean) and Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), 1926 (True Blood, Season 2)

For my vampire flapper Halloween costume, to wear over my 1926 Chanel evening dress I made McCall 4455, an evening wrap by Martial et Armand:

McCall 4455 1920s Martial et Armand evening wrap pattern
McCall 4455 by Martial et Armand (1926) Wrap with optional shirring.

The wrap has a dramatic standing collar, a generous flounce, and the option of a shirred facing; pleats shape the shoulders, and the collar is reinforced with canvas. Here’s the colour illustration, from a page of evening designs in the McCall Quarterly:

McCall 4455 Martial et Armand wrap pattern Summer 1926 McCall catalog
McCall 4455 in the McCall Quarterly, Summer 1926. Image courtesy of Debby Zamorski.

Martial et Armand was a Paris house established in the late nineteenth century; for more details see Past Perfect Vintage’s recent post. I found these contemporary Martial et Armand sketches in L’Officiel’s online archives:

L'Officiel 1920s Martial et Armand dessins originaux original drawings
Original sketches by Martial et Armand, L'Officiel no. 58, June 1926. Image via jalougallery.com.

I thought the shirring on version A of the wrap would compete with my dress, so I made version B, the plain version. I chose a black velveteen and used some black lining that I already had. The pattern didn’t give ‘with nap’ yardage for 36″ fabric (the width of my velveteen), and I soon found out why: the back flounce piece is too wide to fit this width. I needed to cut the back flounce in two pieces.

To ensure the velveteen didn’t slip, I used a diagonal basting technique I found in Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques which is known as ‘cross stitching.’ (See her diagrams on Google books here and here.) This technique involves hand-basting over the seamline with diagonal stitches, then basting again in the opposite direction so that you have a series of ‘X’s across the seamline. Here’s a photo of the diagonally basted flounce:

cross stitching basting sewing velvet velveteen

I was surprised to find instructions for making the collar and facing. The Printo Gravure has four-step, illustrated instructions on “how to sew collar and facing with interlining to garment” which call for an interlining of percaline. Percaline? According to Merriam Webster, percaline is French, from percale, from Persian پرگاله pargālah: percaline is glossy, percale isn’t. According to the Oxford Dictionary, percaline entered the English language in the mid-nineteenth century; percale originally referred to a fabric imported from India in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but later came to refer to a light cotton fabric. (I love the history embedded in textile names.) When my inquiry was met with confusion at my local fabric shop, though, I just went with some interfacing I had in my stash. I catch stitched the canvas along the collar seamlines, but didn’t try any pad stitching.

One difficulty I encountered was with the ease at centre back. Dazed from too much diagonal basting, I forgot how to ease with double rows of stitches and used only a single row, so that there were gathers at the back. I didn’t remember until after I’d hand-stitched through the collar seam. I redid the entire area, only to find I had produced… nicer gathers. I did pre-steam the velveteen, so I’m not sure whether it could have been shrunk further. I wish I’d been able to get it right, but there it is.

Here are some photos of the finished wrap. Despite having seen the illustration, I wasn’t prepared for the drama of the standing collar:

1920s evening wrap pattern Martial et Armand McCall 4455

The shoulder pleats turned out well:

1920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 4455

Here are some detail shots of the collar, front and back:

1920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 44551920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 4455

Some action shots showing the fullness of the flounce:

1920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 44551920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 44551920s evening wrap pattern by Martial et Armand McCall 4455

I hope you’ve enjoyed my foray into Twenties designer patterns. The lack of instructions was certainly an adventure, and made me realize just how many techniques I have no clue about! If you’ve sewn with 1920s patterns, I would love to hear about your experience. Twenties sewing book recommendations are also very welcome—I have Laura Baldt’s Dressmaking Made Easy (1928) but it doesn’t address all the issues I encountered. How can you attach skirt drapery just right, or ease a bulky fabric like velvet? Would a five-inch standing collar benefit from pad stitching? And how does one make rosettes for evening?

A big thanks to Naomi for taking such fabulous photos!

(Cross-posted to Sew Retro.)