Ralph Lauren: 50 Years

Linda Evangelista in Ralph Lauren, Vogue, September 1991
Linda Evangelista in Ralph Lauren, Vogue, September 1991. Photo: Arthur Elgort. Editor: Grace Coddington. Image: TFS.

Tonight at New York Fashion Week, Ralph Lauren celebrates his company’s 50th anniversary. Here’s a look at highlights of Ralph Lauren patterns from the ’70s to the ’90s.

Ralph Lauren: 50 Years (Rizzoli book)
Ralph Lauren: 50 Years (Rizzoli, 2018) Image: Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren started out in menswear, and Vogue Patterns’ first licensing with the brand was for men’s designs. The company released its first Polo by Ralph Lauren patterns in the summer of 1975.

1970s Polo Ralph Lauren men's patterns Vogue 1237 and 1238 spring 1975 photographed by Steve Horn
Vogue 1237 and 1238 by Polo Ralph Lauren in Vogue Patterns, May/June 1975. Photos: Steve Horn. Image: Make Mine Vogue.

That’s Polo Ralph Lauren on the right in Vogue Patterns’ American Bicentennial issue:

America the Beautifuls 1976
America the Beautifuls. Vogue Patterns, January/February 1976. Image: Etsy.

This Polo trench is classic for any gender:

1970s Polo Ralph Lauren menswear pattern Vogue 1581
Vogue 1581 by Polo by Ralph Lauren (ca. 1977)

Vogue’s licensing of Ralph Lauren women’s wear began in 1979. The earliest Ralph Lauren women’s patterns are for Annie Hall and Western looks like those shown in his Fall 1981 Santa Fe collection—prairie skirts, fringe, and serapes worn with cowboy boots and concho belts.

Clotilde in Ralph Lauren’s Fall 1981 ad campaign. Photo: Bruce Weber. Image: Ralph Lauren.
1981 Santa Fe Ralph Lauren dress pattern Vogue 2881
Vogue 2881 by Ralph Lauren (ca. 1981) Image: eBay.

Ralph Lauren’s Spring 1984 Safari collection is said to have been inspired by Out of Africa, perhaps with a dash of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Clotilde in Ralph Lauren’s Spring 1984 ad campaign. Photo: Bruce Weber. Image: Pinterest.
Brooke Shields in Ralph Lauren / Ralph Lauren for Hat Attack, Vogue, May 1984
Brooke Shields in Ralph Lauren / Ralph Lauren for Hat Attack, Vogue, May 1984. Photo: Richard Avedon. Image: Pinterest.
Vogue 1547 by Ralph Lauren (1985) Image: Etsy.
Ariane Koizumi photographed by Elisabeth Novick in Vogue 1547 by Ralph Lauren, 1985
Ariane Koizumi in Vogue 1547 by Ralph Lauren, Vogue, May 1985. Photo: Elisabeth Novick. Image: TFS.

Late ’80s Vogue Career designs by Ralph Lauren feature British model Saffron Aldridge, then the face of the brand.

1980s Ralph Lauren career romper or dress pattern Vogue 2255 feat. Saffron Aldridge
Vogue 2255 by Ralph Lauren (1989) Image: Etsy.

Tartan was one of the main takeaways from Ralph Lauren’s Fall 1991 collection. (As L’Officiel observed, “For Ralph Lauren, tartan isn’t a fashion, it’s a lifestyle.”) Vogue released two patterns from this collection, a dress and trouser ensemble.

1990s Ralph Lauren pattern Vogue 2780
Vogue 2780 by Ralph Lauren (1991)
Vogue 2782 by Ralph Lauren (1991) Image: eBay.

Although the envelope for the dress shows it in solid red, the tartan looks had pride of place on the holiday covers, both Vogue Patterns Magazine and the December catalogue.

VPM NovDec1991 Great Scot! Ralph Lauren embraces the youthful spirit of tartans to balance the bold shape of a fit and flare jacket. Wear it with his elegant slim pant to create the season’s perfect ensemble
Cathy Fedoruk in Ralph Lauren, Vogue Patterns, November/December 1991. Photo: Christopher Micaud. Image: Etsy.
Vogue 2782 by Ralph Lauren, Vogue Patterns catalogue, December 1991
Ralph Lauren dress on the cover of the Vogue Patterns catalogue, December 1991. Image: Etsy.

The tartan pieces had already been promoted that same season in the Fall ’91 advertising campaign and a Grace Coddington / Linda Evangelista cover and editorial (“A Shot of Scotch”) in Vogue’s September issue.

Ralph Lauren ad campaign, Fall 1991. Model: Kim Nye. Image: Pinterest.
“A Shot of Scotch,” September 1991. Photo: Arthur Elgort. Editor: Grace Coddington. Image: Pinterest.

Some later covers showing Ralph Lauren in a less WASP-y mode:

Eva Green in Ralph Lauren photographed for L'Officiel by Satoshi Saïkusa, 2011
Eva Green in Ralph Lauren, L’Officiel, Dec/Jan 2011-2012. Photo: Satoshi Saïkusa. Editor: Monica Pillosio.
Rooney Mara in Ralph Lauren FW 2011
Rooney Mara in Ralph Lauren, Vogue, November 2011. Photo: Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Editor: Tonne Goodman.

Fall 2017 Designer Highlights

Cynthia Rowley Resort 2016
Cynthia Rowley Resort 2016. Photo: William Eadon. Image: Vogue.com.

Have you seen the new Fall patterns? I post the designer photos to the @PatternVault Twitter. From now on, they’ll also have a more permanent home here on the blog.

(Speaking of Twitter, I’ve started posting non-fashion tweets to a new, personal account: @DrSarahSheehan.)

Simplicity’s latest Cynthia Rowley pattern came out after the Summer 2017 release and branded for the company’s 90th anniversary celebrations. The pintuck ruffle dress was seen in short and maxi lengths in Rowley’s Resort 2016 collection.

Cynthia Rowley pintuck ruffle dress pattern Simplicity 8414
Simplicity 8414 by Cynthia Rowley (2017) Pintuck ruffle dress. Image: Simplicity.

The setting for William Eadon’s photos might look familiar from The Royal Tenenbaums: the grand staircase of Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall was the location where Margot went out for ice cream.

Cynthia Rowley Resort 2016. Photo: William Eadon
Cynthia Rowley Resort 2016. Photo: William Eadon. Image: Vogue.com.

Vogue’s new Guy Laroche pattern is an off-the-shoulder dress from the Spring 2016 collection, Adam Andrascik’s second for the house.

Vogue 1559 by Adam Andrascik for Guy Laroche
Vogue 1559 by Adam Andrascik for Guy Laroche (2017) Image: McCall’s.
Looks 9 and 15 Guy Laroche Spring 2016 collection
Guy Laroche Spring 2016 collection. Photos: Yannis Vlamos. Images: Vogue.com.

For a biker look—an Andrascik trademark—try it in leather with chain accents:

Look 30, 32 Guy Laroche Spring 2016 collection
Guy Laroche Spring 2016 collection. Photos: Yannis Vlamos. Images: Vogue.com.

Or cut off below the waistband to make a jacket:

Look 23 Guy Laroche Spring 2016 collection
Guy Laroche Spring 2016 collection. Photo: Yannis Vlamos. Image: Vogue.com.

Rachel Comey fans are spoiled for choice with three new Rachel Comey patterns. Vogue’s Fall lookbook cover shows Comey’s Karloff coat in Pre-Fall 2016’s floral brocade. One of the coat’s earliest incarnations was in buffalo plaid with camel contrast:

Rachel Comey's Karloff coat (V1563), Vogue Patterns lookbook, Fall 2017
Rachel Comey’s Karloff coat (V1563), Vogue Patterns lookbook, Fall 2017. Image: Issuu.
Vogue 1563 by Rachel Comey (2017) Karloff coat
Vogue 1563 by Rachel Comey (2017) Karloff coat. Image: McCall’s.
Rachel Comey's Karloff coat, Fall 2014 collection
Rachel Comey’s Karloff coat, Fall 2014 collection. Photo: Gus Powell. Image: Vogue.com.

Two of the Comey patterns are from the Fall 2016 collection—which will be familiar to those of you who follow Anne at Pretty Grievances.

V1556 is a raw-hemmed, sleeveless dress shown worn as a jumper. With sleeves it becomes the Cumberland dress.

Vogue 1556 by Rachel Comey (2017) Sleeveless dress and belt
Vogue 1556 by Rachel Comey (2017) Sleeveless dress and belt. Image: McCall’s.
Rachel Comey Fall 2016
Rachel Comey Fall 2016. Image: Vogue.com.
Rachel Comey's Cumberland dress (Pre-Fall 2016)
Rachel Comey’s Cumberland dress (Pre-Fall 2016) via The Frankie Shop. Image: Instagram.

The pleated, bishop-sleeved Bartram dress is pure sewist bait in silk jersey.

Vogue 1558 by Rachel Comey (2017) Bartram dress
Vogue 1558 by Rachel Comey (2017) Bartram dress. Image: McCall’s.
V1558 by Rachel Comey on the cover of Vogue Patterns, October/November 2017, and Sew Today, October 2017
V1558 by Rachel Comey on the cover of Vogue Patterns, October/November 2017, and Sew Today, October 2017. Images: McCall’s, sewdirect.
look 27 Rachel Comey Fall 2016
Rachel Comey Fall 2016. Image: Vogue.com.
Rachel Comey's Bartram dress, Fall 2016
Rachel Comey’s Bartram dress, Fall 2016. Image: Instagram.

Update on shopping local: Thanks to everyone who’s provided me with updated information about designer royalties from pattern sales. Since publishing this post, I’ve learned that Simplicity pays royalties to all licensed designers, including on web sales.

For other brands: if you would like to know whether royalties are being paid for online sales of designer patterns, you could contact the companies directly for more information.

Dress by Adam Andrascik for Guy Laroche photographed by Greg Lotus for Vogue Italia, May 2016
Guy Laroche dress (V1559) in Vogue Italia Suggestions, May 2016. Photo: Greg Lotus. Editor: Valentina Serra. Image: The Fashion Spot.

Alexander McQueen Fabric, Part 2: Tartan

McQueen tartan dresses from Widows of Culloden (FW 2006)
Dresses in the McQueen tartan from Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2006-7 collection (Widows of Culloden). Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Everything Just So.

If Alexander McQueen’s innovative prints reveal his interest in technology, the designer’s work with tartan shows his engagement with history. Continuing our celebration of Savage Beauty at the V&A, this post looks at McQueen’s use of tartan. (See Part 1: Prints, or my roundup post here.)

The MacQueen clan tartan appears extensively in the designer’s breakthrough collection, Highland Rape (Fall 1995). The collection—which used Lochcarron tartan and lace found in Brick Lane—was a highly personal response to the violence of the Highland Clearances and fashion’s appropriation of Scottish culture (watch Tim Blanks’ show video here):

McQueen wool tartan jacket and skirt from the collection of Isabella Blow - Alexander McQueen FW 1995
Jacket of McQueen wool tartan with green wool felt sleeves; skirt of McQueen wool tartan; both from the collection of Isabella Blow. Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1995-96 (Highland Rape). Photo: Sølve Sundsbø. Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Highland Rape runway photos - Alexander McQueen FW 1995
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1995-96 (Highland Rape). Images: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

McQueen also used his family tartan at the house of Givenchy. In his second couture collection, Eclect Dissect (Givenchy haute couture Fall 1997), which was built on the idea of a mad scientist, the McQueen tartan was cut on the bias for tailored pieces overlaid with black lace:

Two tartan looks from Eclect Dissect - Givenchy couture FW 1997
Alexander McQueen for Givenchy Fall/Winter 1997-98 haute couture (Eclect Dissect)

The McQueen tartan reappears the following year in Joan (Fall 1998). Named for Joan of Arc, with an opening soundtrack of burning wood and runway covered in cinders, the collection thematized martyrdom, with the McQueen tartan referencing the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (see Constance C.R. White, Review/Fashion, and Kate Bethune’s note; full collection at firstVIEW):

Joan - Alexander McQueen FW1998
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1998-99 (Joan)
Joan - Alexander McQueen FW 1998
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1998-99 (Joan)

McQueen also worked with other tartans. The check pattern might be manipulated to appear blurred or bleeding, or it could be overlaid or embellished as in Eclect Dissect. In The Overlook (Fall 1999)—named for the haunted, snowbound lodge built on a Native American burial ground in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)—a long, grey tailcoat was lined with tartan to match loose trousers, and an overlaid tartan jacket was paired with a balloon skirt in a large blanket check with tartan accents (full collection at firstVIEW):

Sunniva Stordahl and Hannelore Knuts in grey checks and tartan in Alexander McQueen FW 1999 (The Overlook)
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1999-2000 (The Overlook). Models: Sunniva Stordahl and Hannelore Knuts.

McQueen’s 1960s-inspired collection, The Man Who Knew Too Much (Fall 2005), included bias-cut separates in a wool ombré check, together with a black, white, and pink check party dress covered in beaded fringe:

Raquel Zimmermann and Carmen Kass in tartan looks from The Man Who Knew Too Much - McQueen FW 2005
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2005-6 (The Man Who Knew Too Much). Models: Raquel Zimmermann and Carmen Kass. Images: style.com.

The Girl Who Lived in the Tree (Fall 2008), a fanciful narrative of the British Empire, had several bias-cut pieces in a black, white, and red tartan, and two coats in a grey mohair tartan for a bleeding effect:

Alexander McQueen FW 2008
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2008-9 (The Girl Who Lived in the Tree). Models: Sara Blomqvist and Alanna Zimmer. Images: style.com.

There were several pieces in the McQueen tartan in Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2006 menswear collection, which was inspired by vampire movies Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Interview With the Vampire (1994). Vogue editor Hamish Bowles wore the appliquéd kimono-and-pants ensemble to the Costume Institute gala in 2011 (see the collection and read Tim Blanks’ review on style.com; video at AlexanderMcQueen.com):

McQueen menswear FW2006 tartan
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2006-7 menswear. Images: style.com.

The same season, McQueen returned to Scottish history with Widows of Culloden (Fall 2006), a romantic collection commemorating the final battle of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. The show invitation had the title in Gaelic: Bantraich de cuil lodair (see Kate Bethune on Widows of Culloden). As in the Givenchy couture, the McQueen tartan was cut on the bias, embroidered, and trimmed with lace and tulle (click to enlarge):

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

For more see Jonathan Faiers, McQueen and Tartan, and Ghislaine Wood’s essay, “Clan MacQueen,” in the V&A catalogue.

Like other traditional tartans, the McQueen tartan can be ordered from Scottish textile mills in different weights and fibre contents. (It’s often listed as ‘MacQueen.’) Alexander McQueen used tartan from Lochcarron, a mill established in the mid-nineteenth century in the Scottish highlands.

McQueen / MacQueen tartan swatch
MacQueen Modern tartan swatch from the Scottish Tartans Authority.

As a memorial to the late designer, Scotweb owner Nick Fiddes designed a mourning version of the MacQueen clan tartan.

What would you make in the McQueen tartan?

Sourcing Tartan Fabric

  • Lochcarron has an online shop; Lochcarron tartans are also available through Mackenzie Frain and other suppliers.
  • My swatch is from the Scottish Tartans Authority.
  • The House of Edgar’s MacQueen Modern tartan is available from the mill’s retail site, tartankilts.com.
  • If you prefer ordering locally, many Scottish shops stock fabric and can special-order tartans they don’t have in stock.

Update: In an apparent nod to Alexander McQueen, Outlander costume designer Terry Dresbach dressed Bonnie Prince Charlie in the MacQueen tartan.

Prestonpans, Outlander, season 2, episode 10
Bonnie Prince Charlie (Andrew Gower) and Jamie (Sam Heughans) in Outlander, season 2. Image: Scotland Now.

YSL Wedding Dress (or, Adventures in Tartan)

Last year I made my own wedding dress using an Yves Saint Laurent pattern. Vogue Patterns magazine recently published a photo:

Vogue Patterns, June/July 2011. Photo: Jon Thorpe.

(Hat by Emilliner by Emily Clark. Read her fabulous millinery blog here.)

A similar shot won our photographer Jon Thorpe an ISPWP award for Best Bridal Party Portrait. (Congrats, Jon!) Our wedding was also featured on The Wedding Co. blog in June. But you’re here about the dress…

I didn’t set out to make my own wedding dress; I had been looking into custom work or something off the rack. When both of these options fell through I decided to make up a pattern in my stash, Vogue 1894 by Yves Saint Laurent:

Vogue 1894 Yves Saint Laurent pattern evening or cocktail dress
Vogue 1894 by Yves Saint Laurent (1996) Evening or cocktail dress
Technical drawing for Vogue 1894

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Dress: Close-fitting, slightly A-line or slightly flared, lined dress, above mid-knee or floor length, has bust pads, foundation with inside belt, front slit and side zipper. Recommended fabrics: velvet, wool crepe, silk-like crepe. Unsuitable for obvious plaids.

**Update: The Vogue 1894 design is from Yves Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 1996-97 ready-to-wear collection—you can see a runway photo here (Corbis photo here).

Our friend, fashion designer and bespoke tailor Ray Wong of RayW, was making my wife’s dress. She wanted a wool tartan for it, so the three of us spent a Saturday afternoon browsing swatch books at two of the Toronto area’s Scottish shops, Cairngorm Scottish Imports and The Scottish Company. At The Scottish Company one of the mannequins caught our eye: it was wearing a kilt of grey tartan which the friendly staff told us came from a mill named House of Edgar. Among the loose swatches they brought out was a black-on-black tartan called Dark Island. Here’s a photo of the Dark Island fabric:

Black Dark Island tartan by House of Edgar. Image via mackenziefrain.com.

A tone-on-tone tartan like Dark Island is known as a ‘shadow’ tartan or solid sett tartan. (‘Sett’ refers to the pattern of a tartan.) The production process for Dark Island is really interesting: according to the Scottish Tartans Authority page for this tartan, “An ecru (white) yarn has been woven on a Jacquard loom with the sett being formed by stitches other than 2/2 twill and then the finished fabric has been piece-dyed black. The sett is highlighted because of the differing light reflecting qualities of the stitches.”

Despite my pattern’s warning about the unsuitability of plaids, I couldn’t think of a better choice, and we decided to order House of Edgar fabric for both our wedding dresses. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anyone in Canada who actually maintained stock of House of Edgar fabric. After corresponding with a number of merchants, including Kitchener’s Keltoi Gaelic Clothing and Jacobite re-enactment suppliers Mackenzie Frain, the most economical option proved to be ordering direct (through the House of Edgar retail site, tartankilts.com). Soon we had a courier package from Perth, Scotland containing several kilograms of wool fabric.

I’ll say right now that any credit for the fit must go to Ray, who very generously finished my dress for me at the last minute. I made a muslin in a size 12 (which should have been my bust size) but it was just enormous; I think I must have gone down a size or two for the final version. The foundation was a lot closer to the right fit. I got as far as having all the separate elements—dress, lining, and foundation—ready before I handed everything over to Ray, who handled the dress’ final assembly and hemming the day before the ceremony. (Eternal thanks, Ray!)

I read everything I could find on tartan matching before daring to cut into my Dark Island fabric. I ended up using a technique I first learned of from the Selfish Seamstress (read her blog post here): cutting one set of pieces from a single layer of fabric, then flipping the pieces and using them to cut out the second set. The dress is underlined with silk lining from King Textiles, which gave each piece a luscious drape. To match a tartan perfectly at the seams, The Vogue Sewing Book recommends a basting technique called slip basting… but I just crossed my fingers and basted very carefully before doing the machine sewing. I’m really happy with the results.

House of Edgar tartan swatches and the Vogue Sewing Book (1970).

The pattern called for a boned foundation with inside belt and bust pads. This meant I needed spiral steel boning and boning tips, wire cutters, and pliers to fit the tips to the boning. (I got my boning and tips from Leather & Sewing Supply Depot Ltd. in Toronto’s garment district.) I found the boning didn’t handle well with the wire cutters and ended up using our bolt cutters instead. I love the mini-arsenal of hardware and tools that goes into making this kind of evening wear.

The foundation is basically an inner bustier consisting of two layers of lining, an extra-long side zipper, and boning inserted into ribbon casings. The inside belt is an attached length of grosgrain ribbon that fastens on the side with hooks and eyes. The bust pads were sewn from layers of fleece machine-sewn together, then encased by hand in lining fabric. Here’s a photo of the finished underpinnings:

Foundation with inside belt and bust pads, Vogue 1894.

Without further ado, I’ll close with some wedding photos showing the finished dress. Here’s a closeup of those bodice points:

Finished bodice, Vogue 1894. Photo: Jon Thorpe.

Despite the front slit, the weight of the dress meant it tended not to show my shoes, so our photographer kept asking me to flash them:

Wedding shoes revealed! (Camilla Skovgaard shoes.) Photo: Jon Thorpe.

This shot shows the tartan matching best, as well as Ray’s fantastic dress for my wife, Naomi:

Left: Vogue 1894; right: dress by Ray Wong. Photo: Jon Thorpe.

Finally, here’s a shot from the ceremony showing the dress at rest:

Photo: Jon Thorpe.