Black Fashion Designers at FIT

February 5, 2017 § 2 Comments

black fashion designers

Scott Barrie dress, ca. 1973, in MFIT’s exhibition Black Fashion Designers. Image: Museum at FIT.

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.

Butterick 6680 by Willi Smith () Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

Butterick 6680 by Willi Smith (ca. 1979) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

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:

1970s Willi Smith menswear pattern Butterick 3254

Butterick 3254 by Willi Smith (1973) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

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:

Burrows

McCall’s 4091 by Stephen Burrows (1974) Image: Etsy.

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:

vogue patterns septoct 1978_barrie

Scott Barrie in Vogue Patterns, September/October 1978. Photo: Chris von Wangenheim.

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:

1980s Bruce Oldfield dress pattern Style 4494

Style 4494 by Bruce Oldfield (1985) Image: Etsy.

Patrick Kelly (1954-1990) first appeared on the pattern scene in the late 1980s with this dramatic peplum suit. (Read my Patrick Kelly post here, or download the free one-seam coat pattern.)

1980s Patrick Kelly peplum suit pattern Vogue 2077

Vogue 2077 by Patrick Kelly (1988) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

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:

1990s Gordon Henderson jacket, skirt and top pattern - Vogue 2566

Vogue 2566 by Gordon Henderson (1990) Image: Etsy.

Also in the Vogue Attitudes line, patterns by Byron Lars (b. 1965) remain popular today. (See my earlier post.) This shirt dress and leggings ensemble was photographed on the street in New York City:

1990s Byron Lars dress and leggings pattern Vogue 1529

Vogue 1529 by Byron Lars (1995) Image: Etsy.

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.

Plenty by Tracy Reese shirt dress pattern M6506

McCall’s 6506 from Plenty by Tracy Reese (2012) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

Tracy Reese FW 2015 dress pattern Vogue 1512

Vogue 1512 by Tracy Reese (2016) Image: eBay.

Fall 2015 collection. Image: Vogue Runway.

Tracy Reese, Fall 2015 collection. Image: Vogue Runway.

For more on the Black Fashion Designers exhibit, see the museum notes and Alexandra Jacobs’ article in The New York Times.

Nae Cotillion

January 25, 2017 § 3 Comments

McCall 3324 detail

Detail, McCall 3324 (ca. 1923).

Today is Robbie Burns Day. This 1920s children’s pattern makes a full Scottish outfit, including the hat and sporran:

1920s children's Scottish ensemble McCall 3324

McCall 3324 (ca. 1923) Girl’s Scotch Costume.

Bad Girls Do It Well

January 12, 2017 § 1 Comment

Late 1950s Eastman Fibers Chromspun ad feat. McCall's 5020 and Pierre Cardin suit McCall's 5099

C’est Vous! 1959 Eastman Fibers advertisement featuring McCall’s 5020 and McCall’s 5099 by Pierre Cardin.

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.

The patterns are McCall’s 5020, a strapless cocktail dress, and McCall’s 5099, a skirt suit by Pierre Cardin, both shown in Wesco Chromspun fabrics.

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.

Create Your Brilliant Season

December 21, 2016 § 2 Comments

Dovima wears McCall's 4425 for Celanese, 1959

Dovima wears McCall’s 4425 for Celanese, 1959.

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.

"Create your brilliant season with opulent fabrics of Celanese Contemporary Fibers" - 1959 Celanese insert

Celanese Contemporary Fibers advertising booklet, Fall 1959.

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:

1950s dress patterns McCall's 4999 and McCall's 5057

Left, McCall’s 4999 in Belding Corticelli matelassé; right, McCall’s 5057 in Cohama faille. Celanese insert, Fall 1959.

The blue ensemble on the left is McCall’s 5023, made in Celanese Celaperm acetate satin faille from the David Hecht Co. Anne St. Marie poses in McCall’s 5029 in Onondaga rayon-acetate brocade:

1950s dress and jacket ensemble patterns McCall's 5023 and McCall's 5029

Left, McCall’s 5023 in David Hecht Co. satin faille; right, McCall’s 5029 in Onondaga brocade. Celanese insert, Fall 1959.

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:

1950s evening dress patterns McCall's 4425 and McCall's 4870

McCall’s 4425 in Lawrence and Klauber printed crepe satin; right, McCall’s 4870 in William Skinner and Sons satin. Celanese insert, Fall 1959.

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.

Dovima wears McCall's 5012 in Wedgwood Fabrics' satin peau

Dovima wears McCall’s 5012 in Wedgwood Fabrics’ satin peau. Celanese insert, Fall 1959.

For more on the history of Celanese (est. 1918), see the company website.

Happy holidays, everyone!

McCall Style News, November 1934

December 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

1930s fur-trimmed tunic coat illustration - McCall 8038 (1934)

McCall 8038 on the cover of McCall Style News, November 1934.

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.)

James Galanos: McCall’s Patterns

November 27, 2016 § 4 Comments

Gold and black metallic evening gown built over a pellon and black silk taffeta by James Galanos, 1954

Metallic evening gown by James Galanos photographed at the Costume Institute, 1954. Image: Bettmann / Getty.

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.

Jean Patchett photographed by Nina Leen in Galanos, 1959

Jean Patchett in Galanos, Life magazine, February 23, 1959. Photo: Nina Leen. Image: Life archive.

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.

Galanos label

Image: the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

1950s

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.

Clothes to make you beautiful this Christmas: Galanos gown McCall's 3895 on the cover of McCall's Pattern Book, Winter / Holiday 1956-57

McCall’s 3895 by Galanos on the cover of McCall’s Pattern Book, Winter 1956-57. Image: eBay.

"Holiday news: Galanos designs for McCall's" - illustration of McCall's 3894 and 3895, 1956

“Holiday news: Galanos designs for McCall’s.” McCall’s news leaflet, December 1956.

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:

1950s James Galanos evening dress pattern McCall's 3894

McCall’s 3894 by Galanos (1956) Image: the Vintage Pattern Wiki.

McCall's 3894 by Galanos in McCall's Pattern Book, 1956

McCall’s 3894 by Galanos in McCall’s Pattern Book, Winter 1956-57. Image: eBay.

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:

1950s James Galnos evening dress pattern McCall's 3895

McCall’s 3895 by Galanos (1956) Image: eBay.

A Galanos design in the McCall's catalogue, February 1957

A Galanos design in the McCall’s catalogue, February 1957. Image: Etsy.

In spring, 1957, McCall’s released two more Galanos patterns: the lavishly full-skirted McCall’s 4045 and 4046.

1950s Galanos evening dress and petticoat pattern McCall's 4045

McCall’s 4045 by Galanos (1957) Image: eBay.

Here, the back bodice extends into a front yoke. The skirt and petticoat were to be made in organdy, nylon, or silk organza:

1950s Galanos evening dress and petticoat pattern McCalls 4046

McCalls 4046 by Galanos (1957) Image: eBay.

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.

"Make the Clothes that Make the Woman - with exclusive McCall's patterns by Galanos, Givenchy, Trigère, Sybil Connolly, Emilio of Capri!" McCall's 4046 by Galanos

“Make the Clothes that Make the Woman” advertisement featuring McCall’s 4046 by Galanos, spring 1957.

In the Summer 1957 pattern book, the designs are illustrated in green linen and flower-embroidered organdy:

James Galanos patterns illustrated in McCall's Pattern Book, Summer 1957

James Galanos patterns illustrated in McCall’s Pattern Book, Summer 1957.

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:

"Full-length evening dress is draped in pink and rose with a light orange hem. Like most Galanos styles, this one is deceptively simple but it is intricately and artfully constructed so that it is not bulky despite the amount of chiffon used -- 75 yards in all." Life, April 14, 1961.

Gloria Vanderbilt in a chiffon evening dress by Galanos, Life magazine, April 14, 1961. Photo: Gordon Parks. Image: Shrimpton Couture.

Next: James Galanos’ Vogue patterns.

Designer Swimwear: Vintage Patterns

August 9, 2016 § 6 Comments

1980s Bob Mackie swimsuit pattern McCall's 7138 photographed for McCall's summer news flier

McCall’s 7138 by Bob Mackie on the cover of McCall’s news, July 1980.

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.

1950s

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:

1950s Emilio Pucci bathing suit pattern McCall's 3977

McCall’s 3977 by Emilio Pucci (1956) Image: eBay.

1960s

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:

1960s Galitzine bikini, coverup, and hat pattern Vogue 1288

Vogue 1288 by Irene Galitzine (ca. 1963) Image: eBay.

1970s

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:

Vogue 1416

Vogue 1416 by Donna Karan at Anne Klein for Penfold (1976) Image: Etsy.

From Bill Blass, Vogue 1455 includes a two-piece swimsuit with bra top and bikini briefs:

1970s Bill Blass jacket, pants, and swimsuit pattern Vogue 1455

Vogue 1455 by Bill Blass (1976)

John Kloss licensed a number of swimwear designs with Butterick. This ad promotes his patterns with a poolside photo of Butterick 4808:

Butterick Kloss ad 1976

Butterick 4808 by John Kloss, Butterick advertisement, 1976. Image: eBay.

Another Butterick designer, Gil Aimbez, designed this one-piece bathing suit. Contrast bias binding outlines the cut-away sides and bodice seaming detail:

1970s Gil Aimbez swimsuit and coverup pattern Butterick 5449

Butterick 5449 by Gil Aimbez (ca. 1977) Image: Etsy.

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:

1970s Penfold pattern Vogue 1655

Vogue 1655 by Penfold (ca. 1977) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Both Penfold patterns can be seen in a Vogue Patterns editorial photographed in Antigua:

1970s Anne Klein / Penfold halter bikini pattern by Donna Karan, Vogue 1416 in Vogue Patterns magazine

Beach beauty: halter bikini Vogue 1416 by Donna Karan at Anne Klein for Penfold, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1977. Model: Clotilde. Photo: Albert Watson. Image: the Fashion Spot.

Vogue Patterns MayJun 1977 Penfold

Vogue 1655 by Penfold with Vogue 9808, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1977. Models: Lisa Cooper and Clotilde. Photos: Albert Watson. Image: the Fashion Spot.

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:

1970s Catalina swimsuit pattern Vogue 1893

Vogue 1893 by Catalina (1978) Image: Etsy.

The magazine recommended making the Catalina suits in Thompson of California’s “second skin Tic Toc warp knit polyester crepes” in various prints:

Vogue 1893 by Catalina, Vogue Patterns, May/June 1978. Image: Vintage Goodness.

1980s

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):

1980s Basile swimsuit pattern - McCall's 7109

McCall’s 7109 by Basile (1980) Image via PatternVault on Etsy.

Jerry Hall (right) seems to be wearing the view A style in this Basile ad photographed by Irving Penn:

vogue italia 1980 penn basile

Basile advertisement in Vogue Italia, 1980. Photo: Irving Penn. Models: Michelle Stevens and Jerry Hall. Image: the Fashion Spot.

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):

1980s Bob Mackie swimsuit and cover-up pattern McCall's 7138

McCall’s 7138 by Bob Mackie (1980) Image: Etsy.

1990s

Finally, this early ’90s DKNY pattern, Vogue 2897, is labelled ‘dress and bodysuit,’ but was photographed as beachwear:

1990s DKNY bodysuit and hooded dress / coverup pattern Vogue 2897

Vogue 2897 by DKNY (1992) Image: Etsy.

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

Cynthia Rowley for Roxy wetsuit, 2010

Wetsuit by Cynthia Rowley for Roxy, 2010. Image: Pinterest.

Willy Somma self-portrait for Rachel Comey Swim, 2013

Willy Somma self-portrait for Rachel Comey Swim, T Magazine, May 2013. Image: nytimes.com.

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