November 27, 2016 § 1 Comment
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:
Next: James Galanos’ Vogue patterns.
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…
June 3, 2016 § 5 Comments
Carmen Dell’Orefice turns eighty-five today.
Often called the world’s oldest working model, Carmen Dell’Orefice (b. 1931) was discovered at thirteen on a New York City bus; at sixteen she had her first Vogue cover. In 2011, the London College of Fashion devoted an exhibition to her modelling work, Carmen: A Life In Fashion.
Dell’Orefice’s work with New York pattern companies may be seen in postwar publications from Vogue, McCall’s, and Simplicity, as well as more recent Vogue patterns.
A Richard Rutledge editorial for Vogue Pattern Book features the young Dell’Orefice in new patterns for spring, 1949 (jacket Vogue 6716 and blouses Vogue 6065 and Vogue 6707, all with skirt Vogue 6708):
Here, Dell’Orefice poses in an all-red ensemble for the cover of Simplicity magazine, Fall 1958:
Here she wears gown Vogue 9827 on the cover of Vogue Pattern Book’s holiday issue:
After a break, Dell’Orefice returned to modelling in the late 1970s. On these two patterns from the ’80s, she wears Vogue 8195, a caftan-style dress, and Arlene Dahl gown Vogue 8521 in gold lamé:
In the later 1990s, Dell’Orefice posed for many patterns in The Vogue Woman line. Vogue 1972 is a seasonless wardrobe pattern, while Vogue 9821 is a dress and tunic suitable for petites:
Happy birthday, Ms. Dell’Orefice!
April 14, 2016 § 5 Comments
With season 6 of Game of Thrones fast approaching, it’s high time I posted about my Lyanna Stark costume.
(If you object to seeing material from season 5, or interpretation of a book published 20 years ago, read no further. Perhaps you’d prefer my post on Game of Thrones costume patterns?)
For Halloween 2014 I went as Lyanna Stark from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Lyanna is dead by the time of the main action in the books, and the character has not yet been seen on HBO’s Game of Thrones except as a statue in the Stark crypt.
Of the series’ many lost, dead women, Lyanna Stark looms the largest. Eddard Stark’s sister and Arya’s foremother-doppelgänger, Robert Baratheon’s first betrothed, Rhaegar Targaryen’s lover/abductee, and probably Jon Snow’s mother, Lyanna is the Helen of Troy / Guinevere figure behind Robert’s Rebellion against the pyromaniac King Aerys II Targaryen. She’s a ghost that haunts the present in memory, dreams, and visions, but always as the subject of competing narratives: both object of desire and swashbuckling she-wolf.
On the show, Michele Clapton’s costumes for the Starks at Winterfell involve a lot of linen, leather, and fur in northern blues and greys. The men wear leather doublets and Japanese-inspired padded linen skirts, while the women forego jewellery in favour of embellishment and enviable padded neck pieces.* Sansa finds some to wear on her return to Winterfell.
Lyanna’s statue wears a Stark neck roll. But what would Lyanna have worn in the south? In A Game of Thrones, Ned Stark dreams of the statue-Lyanna crowned with pale blue roses (the prize Rhaegar awarded her at Harrenhal) and weeping tears of blood.† Later in the book series, Theon Greyjoy has a dream of the dead that includes Lyanna in a crown of blue roses and a white dress spattered with blood.‡ But blood and roses do not a costume make.
As Robert’s fiancée and a court lady attending the tourney at Harrenhal, etc., I figured she would wear some kind of court dress. To save myself the drafting, and because Lyanna is effectively the anti-Cersei, I used McCall’s Cersei pattern, McCall’s 6940:
I made View A (skipping the belt and appliqué) in dark blue with a pewter contrast, both from King Textiles. The main fabric was a malodorous synthetic; when pre-washed to remove the substantial sizing, it balled up into a wrinkly mess. Some of the wrinkles are still visible. But when a Halloween costume takes over 7 yards for the main fabric, I start with something cheap.
Based on the flat pattern measurements, I cut the 12 and made my usual length and grading adjustments. The fit is roomier than I’d like; I could go a size down. I didn’t get to the inside ribbon belt until after the photos, but even that requires a closer fit in the waist.
To give the court dress a northern, Stark touch, I trimmed the wrap bodice neckline with Mokuba faux fur banding. Naomi contributed some blue, artificial rosebuds and her wolf’s head brooch, which stood in perfectly for the Stark direwolf.
We photographed the dress one chilly November afternoon just after Halloween:
I’ve never had such a problem with wrinkles at princess and shoulder seams; I blame the synthetic. Since the lower sleeves are cut on the cross grain, nap and pattern could be an issue — as is visible in the photos. Practically speaking, the dress requires an underskirt, as it’s prone to opening dramatically with little provocation.
I would re-make this in a natural fabric like wool or linen, with some fit adjustments and tweaks to the contrast details for a smoother finish. I’m also tempted to brush up on my hand embroidery and try a Stark neck roll, as well as embroidered sleeves — sleeves to lose yourself in.
* Michele Clapton quoted in Bryan Cogman, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 1 & 2 (Chronicle Books, 2012), p. 44.
† George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones (Bantam Books, 1996), p. 419.
‡ George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings (Bantam Books, 1999), p. 609.
March 15, 2016 § 9 Comments
Dear HBO, Have you considered costume pattern licensing? With a new trailer for season 6, and season 5 out on DVD, here’s a look at
completely official Game of Thrones sewing patterns sewing patterns inspired by Game of Thrones.
Costume designer Michele Clapton won three Emmys for her work on the first five seasons of Game of Thrones. Season 6 will see a new costume designer for the series: April Ferry, who designed the Emmy Award-winning costumes for HBO’s Rome (2005-2007)—which also starred Tobias Menzies, Indira Varma, and Ciarán Hinds. (Read a Costume Designers Guild bio here.)
Given the two-way relationship between Game of Thrones’ costume design and fashion, the costumes are interesting even if you don’t watch the show. (Full disclosure: I’ve made more than a few Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire costumes, including S2 Daenerys, book Quaithe, and Lyanna Stark.)
In spring, 2014, McCall’s released patterns for the most popular women’s Game of Thrones costumes, Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister. Both M6940 and M6941 are available as printable downloads. (I made M6940 for my Lyanna Stark costume; preview here.)
Last month, the company launched a new Cosplay by McCall’s line with three patterns including a unisex Westerosi cloak, M2016, “for those for whom winter can’t come soon enough” (press release here). Their pattern for the cross-fastened cloak worn by the people of Westeros (including Jon Snow, Eddard Stark, and the Stark children at Winterfell) includes an optional fur capelet. There’s also a hooded version similar to Sansa Stark’s hooded cloak:
Simplicity’s Game of Thrones costume patterns emerge in full plumage, but quickly change colours to evade capture.
Andrea Schewe’s Game of Thrones adaptations for Simplicity also started appearing in 2014. Simplicity 1347 combines three Daenerys outfits—wedding dress, Dothraki Khaleesi, and Qarth court dress—with the elf Tauriel from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013). (Now out of print, but see S1010.)
Simplicity 1487 includes court dresses for Cersei Lannister and Sansa Stark. (Now out of print, but see S1009.)
Simplicity 1246 has costumes for Margaery Tyrell and Daenerys, specifically the split dress and cape she wears as leader of the Unsullied. (This version out of print, but see S1008.)
Simplicity 1137 includes two Sansa Stark costumes. Michele Clapton conceived both as showing Sansa’s own handiwork: the dress with flower-embellished neckline from season 1 and ‘Dark Sansa’ from the end of season 4. The necklace refers to Sansa’s needle—“a jewelry idea of [Arya’s sword] Needle.” (See Fashionista’s interview; for more on Game of Thrones’ embroidery see Elizabeth Snead’s article in The Hollywood Reporter and embroiderer Michele Carragher’s website.) Andrea Schewe has posted tips on making the feathered neckpiece. (Still in print with new envelope, S1137.)
Game of Thrones meets Star Wars in Simplicity 8074, a pattern for season 5’s Sand Snakes Obara and Nymeria with Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) (still S8074):
HBO is owned by Time Warner, which has existing pattern licensing for DC Comics. Do you think HBO should license Game of Thrones patterns? I’d be first in line for a King’s Landing halter dress or Varys’ kimono…
February 16, 2016 § 4 Comments
Today is the 90th anniversary of Jean Patchett’s birth.
Jean Patchett (1926-2002) moved to New York City from her home in Preston, Maryland to pursue a career in modelling. She signed with Ford Models in the spring of 1948, and soon became one of the new agency’s top models. Patchett appears on some of Vogue’s most iconic covers. She retired in 1963. (See Cathy Horyn’s obituary for The New York Times, “Jean Patchett, 75, a Model Who Helped Define the 50’s.”)
According to a short profile in Glamour, in her off hours, Patchett enjoyed making her own clothes (Glamour, Oct. 1948). She can be seen in pattern editorials for Vogue, Simplicity, McCall’s, and Butterick from the late 1940s on.
Soon after her first Vogue cover in September, 1948 (October for British Vogue), Serge Balkin photographed the young Patchett in tone-on-tone grey flannel for the cover of Vogue Pattern Book. The patterns are Vogue 6620 (dress) and Vogue 6629 (coat):
Irving Penn’s famous Vogue editorial, “Flying down to Lima,” showing Patchett on location in Lima, Peru, is in fact a pattern editorial. In this café scene, she chews her pearls wearing Vogue S-4967, a dress and jacket ensemble (click the image for a gallery note, or see Devorah MacDonald’s blog for the full editorial):
Patchett poses in dress and jacket Vogue S-4008 on this fall 1949 cover of Vogue Pattern Book:
Wearing the New Look dress and camisole Vogue S-4088:
Richard Avedon’s travel-themed photo was used for both Simplicity’s counter catalogue and the company’s Fall-Winter magazine (where Patchett can be seen holding a copy of André Gide’s Les faux-monnayeurs). The patterns are Simplicity 3327 (topper), Simplicity 3298 (weskit), and Simplicity 3027 (skirt):
Here she poses in a veiled hat and elegant silk shortcoat; the text contains a typo—the pattern is Vogue 7258:
This Holiday issue of Butterick Pattern Book features Patchett in Butterick 5941, a shirtdress with cuffed sleeves:
For the fortieth anniversary issue of McCall’s Pattern Book, Patchett posed in McCall’s 9080 alongside illustrations from past decades:
Lillian Bassman photographed Patchett in this striped summer dress from Simplicity:
Posing for the cover of Burda Moden magazine:
This strapless playsuit must be Simplicity 4715, shown in bias tartan with matching parasol:
Roger Prigent photographed Patchett in Vogue S-4550, made up in Onondaga acetate brocade:
February 11, 2016 § 4 Comments
Now that the temperature has dropped, I wanted to share a near-antique McCall News from winter 1917-18.
The cover illustration shows two women skating on a frozen lake. The fur-trimmed dress on the left is McCall 8125, with ‘aviation cap’ McCall 8130; the dress on the right is McCall 8121.
Inside the leaflet are some interesting patterns for war work. You may recognize overall suit McCall 7860 from my Great War post. Here we see the sleeveless view worn over a blouse:
‘The Conservation Uniform,’ McCall 7970, is a dress apron designated “Official Food Conservation Uniform; for the use of women signing the Conservation Pledge of the Food Commission.” (Often called a Hoover apron—for more, see witness2fashion’s post.) The cap and cuffs were included in the pattern:
The ‘aviation cap’ from the cover is shown with McCall 7897, a ladies’ military dress with optional cape: