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:
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.