This week, a free couture pattern from Callot Soeurs.
Callot Soeurs was one of the old couture houses of Belle Époque Paris, founded in 1895 by the four Callot sisters. Not many Callot Soeurs garments survive, and the house is best remembered for its role in the early career of Madeleine Vionnet. But in 2015, the New Yorker published an article on a collection of Callot Soeurs dresses found stored in Villa La Pietra, a Florentine villa that was once home to American heiress Hortense Mitchell Acton. (See Jessamyn Hatcher, “Twenty-One Dresses.”) Click the image below to see the gallery of Acton’s Callot Soeurs gowns.
LACMA’s Callot Soeurs pyjama ensemble includes a delicate top and harem pants—a radical element of the new women’s silhouette. (See my sarouel post here.)
Here are the museum notes:
This thoughtfully crafted hand-sewn and machine-stitched lounging pajama was made bifurcated by the attachment of the skirt length from the center front of the waist to the center back through the legs. Vertical side-front seams of the skirt were sewn with openings for the feet to create a stylized harem pant. The silk charmeuse skirt draped and outlined each leg while silk tassels at the foot openings would have drawn attention to the wearer’s ankles as she walked. A bifurcated garment of any style during the early 1900s was a provocative fashion that challenged ideas about established gender-appropriate dress.
Olivia Hussey has an autobiography out, reminding us of a legendary bomb: the musical Lost Horizon. Naturally, there was a pattern tie-in.
Ross Hunter’s Lost Horizon (1973) was adapted from James Hilton’s bestselling novel about Shangri-La, with costumes by the great Jean Louis.
There had been another Lost Horizon, in the 1930s, but it didn’t have music by Burt Bacharach.
McCall’s released at least ten patterns in its Lost Horizon-inspired series. The film opened in March, but the patterns came out later in the year. Two Carefree and Extra-Carefree styles from the series in the Fall 1973 Carefree catalogue:
The pattern envelopes bear a tiny version of the film graphics.
Did the hippie trail reach Tibet? Some of the Lost Horizon-inspired patterns look like contemporary western clothing, but most nod to Jean Louis’ fantasia of traditional Tibetan dress, textiles, and embellishment.
Of the two designs for men and women, this robe was the most popular. The men’s and women’s caftan came with its own embroidery transfers.
Unfortunately there’s no pattern for Hussey’s saffron robes.
The early ’90s are back—and so are sarouel, or harem pants. Here’s a look at vintage patterns for this distinctive trouser style.
Like caftans, sarouel originated in ancient Persia. Persian sirwāl became Turkish şalvar, entering the Western fashion vocabulary via Ottoman culture and the early modern vogue for turquerie.
Şalvar were introduced to Western women’s clothing in the 19th century as part of the Rational Dress movement: Amelia Bloomer conceived her eponymous trousers as “Turkish pants.” (On cycling bloomers see Jonathan Walford, The 1890s Bicycle Bloomer Brouhaha.) Couturier Paul Poiret is usually credited with making “harem” pants fashionable in the period before World War 1.
In the mid-’60s, harem pants enjoyed renewed popularity as glam loungewear. (I Dream of Jeannie started airing in September, 1965.) This Vogue pyjama with matching, dolman-sleeved overblouse has a cuffed trouser option:
Pucci’s interest in harem pants predates the jewelled version at the top of this post: a short, blue harem ensemble was part of his 1965 Braniff flight attendant uniform. These high-waisted palazzo pyjamas also have a cuffed, harem option, as worn by Editha Dussler:
Anne de Zogheb modelled these Pucci harem pyjamas, which feature an intriguing self-lined skirt with side openings:
Bouffant knickers are a variation on the harem pant. This gold brocade, coat-and-knickers ensemble from Yves Saint Laurent’s Winter 1970 haute couture collection evokes the hippie trail. The model is Viviane Fauny:
From 1976, this Kenzo pattern includes a cuffed harem pant option. (A copy is available in the shop.)
Hot pink harem pants catch the eye on this Very Easy Vogue pattern, which also includes palazzo pants and a maxi skirt:
This gold satin pair, from Krizia, has no side seams:
In the early ’80s, the dropped-crotch, Zouave style of harem pant came to the fore. This Simplicity pattern includes Zouave pants in two lengths:
The trousers in this Versace ensemble evoke the harem silhouette, with draped volume tapering to a fitted ankle (see my Versace post for more photos):
Very Easy Very Vogue got on the dropped crotch bandwagon with three styles of Zouave pants—view C with side drape:
By the early ’90s, hip-hop musician MC Hammer had made so great an impact on popular culture that his characteristic trousers were known as “hammer pants.” Simplicity’s official MC Hammer unisex pants pattern came with not one but two iron-on transfers. (See envelope back here. There was even a doll clothes pattern for the MC Hammer action figure.) Drop-crotch pants could also be found as Butterick Classics and a unisex costume pattern.
Issey Miyake designed these lowest of the low dropped-crotch pants, as worn by Phina Oruche:
Recent patterns heralding the return of the sarouel include McCall’s 5858, Kwik Sew 3701, and the unisex Burda 7546. If the trend continues, perhaps we’ll see a pattern for Rachel Comey’s Pollock trouser…
This year’s big Costume Institute exhibit, China: Through the Looking Glass, broke the attendance record previously set by Savage Beauty in 2011 to become the Met’s most-visited costume exhibit. (See WWD.) Andrew Bolton’s catalogue, illustrated with original photography by Platon, is available from Yale University Press.
One of the show’s major draws was Wong Kar-wai’s art direction, with styling by William Chang Suk-ping. (See Rosemary Feitelberg, “Chinese Arts Examined at the Met” or read the press release here.) Like Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men and mid-century American dress, Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000) and 2046 (2004), with costume design by William Chang, have virtually defined the image of mid-century Hong Kong fashion.
It’s possible to find vintage sewing patterns showing a Chinese influence, especially cheongsam patterns, from about the 1950s on. The earliest Vogue patterns I’ve found that show a Chinese influence date to the early 1960s.
Two circa 1962 Vogue patterns I’ve had in the shop got me thinking about early ’60s Chinoiserie. One is for a cheongsam and pants, the other for a cocktail dress and sheer cape or ‘Ming’ stole:
Interestingly, although Vogue 5571 is clearly a pattern for a cheongsam or qipao, the envelope text says nothing to identify the garment as Chinese. Vogue 5648, on the other hand, calls its voluminous coverup a ‘Ming’ stole—a garment for which I can find no evidence whatsoever.
The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) is known for its voluminous clothing. Vogue 5648’s Ming stole has deep, two-piece sleeves and back fullness released from gathers at the neckline. Here’s the back view:
By contrast, the instantly recognizable cheongsam or qipao is a product of the modern period, a hybrid garment with a complex history traceable to Manchu dress in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Vogue Patterns’ mid-century Chinoiserie seems inseparable from the context of the Cold War. In 1962, it had been just over a decade since Mao’s 1949 proclamation of the People’s Republic of China. The Hollywood films Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) and The World of Suzie Wong (1960) had helped popularize the cheongsam in the West with their depictions of love affairs between an American man and a qipao-clad Chinese woman in mid-century Hong Kong.
For more on the cheongsam/qipao see Juanjuan Wu, “Reinvented Identity: The Qipao and Tang-Style Jacket,” chapter 6 of Chinese Fashion: From Mao to Now (Berg 2009).
Caftans, long, loose-fitting tunics with origins in ancient Persia, have been gaining momentum as an alternative to more structured formal dress. With any luck, there will be some caftans among the goddess gowns at tomorrow’s Academy Awards ceremony.
They say Tsarina Alexandra was the first westerner to make a fashion statement in a caftan, when she dressed as a seventeenth-century Tsarina for a costume ball in 1903. Paul Poiret also advanced the caftan cause, but it was not until the 1950s that the garment really began to influence western fashion. Here’s a look at caftan patterns from the 1950s to now.
In the mid-1950s, Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga’s experiments with silhouette were partly inspired by eastern traditional dress. Dior’s Fall 1955 couture collection (Y line) included caftan-inspired ensembles—coats with high, side-front slits that reveal a slim dress underneath:
You can see echoes of the Dior caftan look in contemporary sewing patterns like McCall’s 3525 and 3532, both from late 1955:
McCall’s 3532, called a “slim caftan-and-dress ensemble,” was featured on the cover of McCall’s news leaflet and in the company’s “Make the Clothes that Make the Woman” advertising campaign. According to the ad, the design is ideal for the season’s “Oriental” fabrics, such as silk twill and raw silk tussah:
A Vogue version of the Dior caftan ensemble, Vogue 8759, is available as a reproduction from EvaDress.
Caftans became popular in the 1960s in tandem with the increasing interest in eastern cultures. The Madame Grès version at the top of this post is cut on the bias, producing geometric seaming detail. The caption reads, “Coup of bias-work by Grès—because this piecing-together of bias angles is sinuous, stark, ravishingly Moroccan.”
This dress from Jean Patou by Michel Goma, Vogue 1699, has what the envelope calls a “caftan neckline.” The model is Beate Schulz:
This circa 1968 Vogue caftan pattern has optional flexible trim:
Other patterns from the late 1960s and early 1970s also reference eastern dress. From 1967, McCall’s 9026 is labelled as an abba in two lengths. Abba is an alternate spelling of aba, commonly abaya: a traditional Arab garment, long, loose-fitting, sleeveless, and made from a single rectangle of fabric. (Today, caftans often function as abayat.) The model is Veronica Hamel:
Burnoose patterns were marketed as resort wear. A pompom-trimmed version of McCall’s 2377 was photographed for the cover of McCall’s Summer 1970 catalogue:
Marola Witt models Simplicity’s burnoose in the July 1967 issue of Simplicity Fashion News. (Thanks to Mary of PatternGate for the reference.) The text promotes the design’s ‘Arabian’ exoticism: “be exotic in a JIFFY: … the burnoose, born in Arabia, brought up to date here”:
This Halston caftan pattern from McCall’s also includes a top and pants (you can buy yourself a copy from the shop):
This flowing Dior caftan, modelled by Billie Blair, has lots of neckline detail, full-length sleeve openings, and pockets:
Vogue 1515 by Nina Ricci is a caftan that’s open in front and attached at the neckline to a handkerchief-hemmed underdress:
It’s harder to find post-1970s designer caftan patterns. This wide-sleeved, Oscar de la Renta caftan is trimmed with contrast bands. When worn, the side seams swing forward to raise the hemline in front:
From Issey Miyake, Vogue 2315 is a caftan-inspired summer dress:
Caftan patterns started making a comeback (of sorts) in 2009. Simplicity 2584, a caftan-inspired tunic by Cynthia Rowley, is out of print but still in demand:
Ralph Rucci’s floor-length caftan, Vogue 1181 (now out of print), has an abaya silhouette and interesting construction details—overarm darts, shaped lower sections, and a hook and eye above the low neckline:
The design is from Chado Ralph Rucci Resort 2009:
Matthew Williamson’s short caftan, available as a free pattern from the Guardian, is also a 2009 design: