February 5, 2017 § 2 Comments
The Museum at FIT’s current exhibition, Black Fashion Designers, showcases the often-overlooked work of more than 60 designers of African descent. (The show runs to May 16th, 2017). Monday’s symposium is sold out, but you can watch a livestream here.
Many of the designers featured in the FIT exhibit also licensed sewing patterns. Here are some highlights of patterns by designers of African descent, from the 1970s to now.
Sportswear designer Willi Smith (1948-1987) signed with Butterick’s Young Designer line in the 1970s; in the ’80s, he moved to McCall’s with his label Williwear. According to the exhibition notes, Smith branched into menswear in 1982, but this pattern is almost a decade earlier:
Stephen Burrows (b. 1943) licensed designs with McCall’s Carefree line in the mid-1970s. This pattern combines two of his signature elements, colour blocking and lettuce hems:
Scott Barrie (1946-1993) began his career at Vogue Patterns, so his introduction to home sewers was also a welcome back. Chris von Wangenheim photographed Barrie with two models for a feature highlighting his work with matte jersey. The patterns are Vogue 1976 (on Gia Carangi) and Vogue 1994:
Best known for his formal wear, British designer Bruce Oldfield (b. 1950) licensed his work with Style Patterns in the mid-1980s. (See my earlier post here). This dolman-sleeved dress could be made in cocktail or evening length:
Gordon Henderson (b. 1957) was among the first designers in the ’90s Vogue Attitudes line. (According to a 1990 profile, his mother—a psychologist and single parent—used Vogue patterns to economize.) This 1990 design shows his interest in colour and silhouette:
Tracy Reese (b. 1964) has licensed her main label with Vogue Patterns since 2009; McCall’s added bridge line Plenty by Tracy Reese in 2012. Vogue’s most recent offering, Vogue 1512, is a dress from Reese’s Fall 2015 collection.
January 25, 2017 § 3 Comments
Today is Robbie Burns Day. This 1920s children’s pattern makes a full Scottish outfit, including the hat and sporran:
January 12, 2017 § 1 Comment
A 1959 Eastman Fibers ad brings a note of intrigue to McCall’s patterns by photographing them in a nightlife setting, on a pair of vampy women.
Chromspun is the trademark for Eastman colour-locked acetate yarn from Eastman Chemical Products Inc., then a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak—in those days headquartered on Madison Avenue.
December 21, 2016 § 2 Comments
A Celanese advertising insert from the late 1950s shows McCall’s festive styles in the latest synthetic silks—top models and more than one tiara from the multinational chemical company that brought you cellulose acetate.
The booklet frames small, full-length photos of McCall’s designs with close-ups showing off the “brilliant” textiles. Here, McCall’s 4999 is shown in Belding Corticelli’s rayon-acetate matelassé, with McCall’s 5057 in Cohama’s Arnel triacetate faille. The model on the right is Simone D’Aillencourt:
Here, Dovima wears a shimmering gold version of McCall’s 4425 in Lawrence and Klauber printed crepe satin acetate, while McCall’s 4870 evokes Princess Grace in aqua acetate satin from William Skinner and Sons:
Dovima closes the booklet in McCall’s 5012, an at-home trouser ensemble shown in orange and tangerine Celaperm acetate satin peau from Wedgwood Fabrics.
For more on the history of Celanese (est. 1918), see the company website.
Happy holidays, everyone!
December 11, 2016 § Leave a comment
We finally got some snow in Toronto. Here’s a winter-themed cover from the mid-1930s.
The pattern is McCall 8038, a suit consisting of a high-waisted skirt and tunic-length wrap coat with fur-trimmed collar.
(The NRA eagle logo shows compliance with the National Recovery Administration. For more on this Depression-era US policy, see Rebecca Onion for Slate.)
November 27, 2016 § 4 Comments
James Galanos died last month. He was 92. According to his obituary in the New York Times, Galanos authorized only two licenses: furs and fragrance. But he also licensed commercial sewing patterns—first with McCall’s, and later with Vogue Patterns. This post looks at Galanos’ 1950s patterns with McCall’s.
Born in Philadelphia to Greek parents, James Galanos (1924-2016) was a graduate of the Traphagen School of Fashion. He worked with Hattie Carnegie, Hollywood costume designer Jean Louis, and Robert Piguet before founding his own, LA-based label in 1951. He retired in 1998, the year after LACMA mounted a retrospective of his work. Galanos won the devotion of celebrities and socialites with his virtuoso technique and flawless craftsmanship.
McCall’s introduced designer exclusives by “James Galanos, brilliant young star of American fashion” with two patterns for winter 1956-57. The Galanos designs—full-skirted formal gowns in two lengths—were prominently featured in the holiday issues of McCall’s Pattern Book and the company’s monthly news leaflet.
According to the news leaflet, McCall’s 3894 is “a fabulous ball gown to make in brocade.” The molded bodice is a trademark Galanos touch:
McCall’s 3895 is a bow-trimmed evening gown. As the leaflet notes, “Beautifully low-cut in back, it can be cocktail length.” Recommended fabrics included heavy satin, peau de soie, brocade, and taffeta:
In spring, 1957, McCall’s released two more Galanos patterns: the lavishly full-skirted McCall’s 4045 and 4046.
Here, the back bodice extends into a front yoke. The skirt and petticoat were to be made in organdy, nylon, or silk organza:
The new Galanos patterns were promoted in the March issue of McCall’s magazine (“Galanos designs: Black-and-white for summer evenings”) and in the company’s “Make the Clothes that Make the Woman” advertising campaign.
In the Summer 1957 pattern book, the designs are illustrated in green linen and flower-embroidered organdy:
Today, Galanos’ McCall’s patterns are quite scarce. Perhaps customers balked at the extravagant yardage: the skirt for one dress took over 20 yards of narrow fabric. Galanos’ work with sheer layers continued into the following decade, as seen in this 1961 editorial by Gordon Parks:
August 9, 2016 § 6 Comments
It’s been another hot summer here in Toronto. One of my earliest blog posts, Heat Wave!, surveys vintage beachwear patterns. This summer, let’s take a look at a more elusive beast: designer swimwear patterns.
The earliest pattern I’ve seen for designer swimwear is Pucci’s strapless one-piece, McCall’s 3977. This pattern was available in Junior sizes only. The suit was lined in jersey, and could be made with or without the brightly coloured appliqués:
From another Italian designer, Irene Galitzine, Vogue 1288 is a pattern for a bikini, dress, and hat. The bikini consists of a cropped, cowl-neck blouse and bikini pants with side ties:
The 1970s were the heyday of designer swimwear patterns, often with a coordinating coverup, and always for stretch knits. Vogue 1416 is an early design by Donna Karan; from Anne Klein’s collaboration with Penfold, the pattern includes both a maillot and a halter bikini:
From Bill Blass, Vogue 1455 includes a two-piece swimsuit with bra top and bikini briefs:
John Kloss licensed a number of swimwear designs with Butterick. This ad promotes his patterns with a poolside photo of Butterick 4808:
Another Butterick designer, Gil Aimbez, designed this one-piece bathing suit. Contrast bias binding outlines the cut-away sides and bodice seaming detail:
Like the Anne Klein Penfold pattern above, this Penfold pattern includes both one-piece and halter bikini bathing suits. The one-piece and bikini top are cut on the bias:
Both Penfold patterns can be seen in a Vogue Patterns editorial photographed in Antigua:
From spring, 1978, Vogue 1893 seems to have been the only Catalina pattern. Instead of a coverup, it includes three styles of bathing suit: low-backed view A, strapless view B with built-in boning, and blouson view C is a two-piece:
The magazine recommended making the Catalina suits in Thompson of California’s “second skin Tic Toc warp knit polyester crepes” in various prints:
From 1980, McCall’s 7109 includes three one-piece swimsuits by the Italian label Basile: a mock wrap, belted halter-neck and variations on the strapless suit with gathered bust (available in the shop):
Jerry Hall (right) seems to be wearing the view A style in this Basile ad photographed by Irving Penn:
Also from 1980, Bob Mackie’s strapless, colour-blocked swimsuit, McCall’s 7138, was photographed for the July counter catalogue and news leaflet (seen at the top of this post):
Finally, this early ’90s DKNY pattern, Vogue 2897, is labelled ‘dress and bodysuit,’ but was photographed as beachwear:
After a long swimwear pattern drought, the big pattern companies seem to have noticed the renewed popularity of sewing your own, custom bathing suit. For this summer, Simplicity reissued a 1950s bathing suit pattern, Simplicity 4307 / S8139, and The McCall Pattern Company has released a number of new swimwear designs, including one Vogue and two Lisette swimwear patterns.
Two designers with existing pattern licensing, Cynthia Rowley and Rachel Comey, both have swimwear lines. If we voice our support, perhaps we could soon see patterns for Cynthia Rowley surf wear and Rachel Comey Swim…