You and Me and Rainbows

Early 1970s juniors/teens' bolero, skirt, and hip-hugger pants pattern Simplicity 9376
Simplicity 9376 (1971) Image: Etsy.

Happy Pride! This year you can celebrate all summer with 2017’s rainbow trend. (See Lauren Cochrane, “The rainbow’s not over – it’s the style symbol of the season.”) It’s a vintage motif with roots in the ’70s and ’80s.

The ’70s rainbow trend was well underway before Gilbert Baker created the rainbow flag in 1978. (Read MoMA’s interview.) The groovy teens’ pattern shown above came with rainbow appliqués. Maija Isola’s Sateenkaari (Rainbow) print for Marimekko appeared the same year as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon:

Maija Isola Sateenkaari fabric for Marimekko, 1973
Maija Isola Sateenkaari printed fabric for Marimekko, 1973. Image: Etsy.

As did this Time-Life sewing book entitled Shortcuts to Elegance:

Shortcuts to Elegance: The Art of Sewing
Shortcuts to Elegance: The Art of Sewing (1973) Image: Etsy.

From McCall’s Carefree line, this iron-on alphabet transfer pattern lets you spell whatever you like in rainbow caps:

1970s iron-on rainbow transfer alphabet McCall's 5567
McCall’s 5567 (1977) Set of full colour iron-on transfers.

Meredith Gladstone’s circa 1980 children’s décor pattern, “Cloud Room,” includes a rainbow pillowcase and rainbow-lined sleeping bag:

Early 1980s Meredith Gladstone children's decor pattern Vogue 2360
Vogue 2360 by Meredith Gladstone (ca. 1980) Cloud Room. Image: Etsy.

With the right print, home dressmakers could sew everything from rainbow dresses to coverups:

Early 1980s dress and bolero pattern Butterick 3767
Butterick 3767 (1981) Image: Etsy.
Early 1980s one-piece bathing suit and coverup pattern Butterick 3902
Butterick 3902 (1981) Image: Etsy.

For those making their own Cheer Bear Care Bear, Butterick’s envelope explained the rainbow’s significance as a “traditional symbol of hope,” as well as “a cheerful reminder that things are getting better and even bad times can bring something beautiful”:

1980s Care Bears pattern for Cheer Bear toy Butterick 6230 ©American Greetings Corporation
Butterick 6230 (1983) Cheer Bear. Image: Etsy.
1980s Cheer Bear pattern envelope back, Butterick 6230
Envelope back, Butterick 6230 (1983). Image: Etsy.

Hallmark’s Rainbow Brite licensing with McCall’s included a children’s costume, Rainbow Brite and Twink toys, and a set of mobiles.

Rainbow Brite costume with Rainbow Brite and Twink dolls - McCall's 9231, 9254, 9238 - McCall's Crafts patterns, 1984
Rainbow Brite patterns on the cover of McCall’s Crafts catalogue, ca. 1984.
1980s Rainbow Brite doll pattern McCall's Crafts 9238
With a Rainbow Brite doll—share in the power of the rainbow. McCall’s 9238 (1984) Image: Etsy.
1980s Rainbow Brite Twink doll pattern McCall's Crafts 9231
With a Twink doll—create some color of your own. McCall’s 9231 (1984) Image: Etsy.
1980s official Rainbow Brite costume pattern McCalls 9254
McCall’s 9254 (1984) Rainbow Brite costume. Image: ecrater.
1980s Rainbow Brite mobile pattern McCall's 9523 / 769
A rainbow for your own—McCall’s 9523 / 769 (1985) Image: Etsy.

Of course, there’s no need to find the perfect rainbow fabric. All it takes is the right array of colours…

Eugenia Volodina photographed by Steven Meisel in an Alexander McQueen dress from Irere, Vogue Italia, February 2003
Alexander McQueen dress (Irere, SS 2003), Vogue Italia supplement, February 2003. Photo: Steven Meisel. Model: Eugenia Volodina. Image: The Fashion Spot.

Go Ask Alice (Patterns)

Natalia Vodianova as Alice in Annie Leibovitz's 2003 Alice in Wonderland Vogue editorial, styled by Grace Coddington
Natalia Vodianova as Alice in Vogue, December 2003. Photo: Annie Leibovitz. Fashion editor: Grace Coddington. Image via HBO.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Liberty London is celebrating with an Alice-inspired Spring/Summer 2015 fabric collection. At the V&A Museum of Childhood, an exhibition on Alice’s influence on fashion, The Alice Look, runs to November 1, 2015, and on Saturday the museum is also hosting a conference, Alice & Fashion. (Read the press release.) The exhibition and conference are part of curator Kiera Vaclavik’s larger research project, Addressing Alice: The Emergence of a Style Icon.

Theo C Tana Lawn cotton by Tamara de Peon - Liberty SS 2015
Theo C Tana Lawn cotton by Tamara de Peon. Image via Liberty London.
Checkmate A Tana Lawn cotton, inspired by an archival 1965 design - Liberty SS 2015
Checkmate A Tana Lawn cotton, inspired by an archival 1965 design. Image via Liberty London.

To celebrate Alice’s 150th, here’s a look at some rarely seen vintage Alice in Wonderland patterns.

This Alice in Wonderland doll pattern with flamingo, McCall 145, dates to 1933:

1930s Alice in Wonderland Doll with Flamingo (Stuffed Doll 19 Inches High) - McCall 145
McCall 145 (1933) Image via eBay.

The costume of the McCall Alice doll seems to refer to Charlotte Henry’s Alice in Paramount’s Alice in Wonderland (1933). According to Vaclavik, the film appears to have “prompted the adoption of the Alice band as hair accessory of choice at hunt balls and wedding processions across Britain” (see her article in the Independent):

Alec B. Francis and Charlotte Henry in Paramount's 1930s Alice in Wonderland
Alice (Charlotte Henry) with the King of Hearts (Alec B. Francis) in Alice in Wonderland (1933). Image: Getty Images via Caren’s Classic Cinema.

Nearly two decades later, Walt Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland (1951) set the image of Alice as we picture her today. Disney licensed two Alice patterns with McCall’s: McCall’s 8626, a girls’ Alice ensemble, and McCall’s 1643, unisex children’s costumes for the Mad Hatter and March Hare. McCall’s 8626 includes a puff-sleeved dress, apron, coverall, and jacket with rabbit-shaped pocket:

1950s Disney Alice sewing pattern - McCall's 8626
McCall’s 8626 (1951) Image via the Vintage Disney Alice blog.

You can see the back of the pattern envelope here.

The Alice pattern was promoted in the August 1951 issue of McCall’s Style News with additional sketches of the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum. It’s worth quoting the original description: “Alice-in-Wonderland dress, inspired by Walt Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ motion picture. Not a fancy-dress costume, but a 4-part ensemble to wear any day of the week. Straight-from-Wonderland ruffled apron that can accompany the little puff-sleeved, full-skirted dress everywhere—to school, to church, to parties. For helping Mother around the house, a jumper-like coverall. And to complete the ensemble, a reversible jacket with the ‘White Rabbit’ in pocket form”:

1950s Disney Alice in Wonderland pattern in McCall's Style News leaflet - McCall's 8626
“Alice in Wonderland” Dress – McCall’s 8626 in McCall’s Style News, August 1951.

This photo from McCall’s Pattern Book shows the March Hare costume and Alice outfit made up:

Alice in Wonderland costume patterns in McCall's Pattern Book, Fall 1951
Alice in Wonderland costume patterns in McCall’s Pattern Book, Fall 1951. Image: Wade Laboissonniere, Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1950s (Schiffer, 1999).

It’s interesting that the 1950s Alice pattern isn’t a costume pattern, but a set of pieces for everyday wear. The pattern adds ruffles to the pinafore, but is otherwise close to Disney’s animated Alice, whose style was based on Mary Blair’s concept art:

Alice in Wonderland concept artwork by Mary Blair - Magic, Color, Flair: The World of Mary Blair
Alice in Wonderland concept artwork by Mary Blair. Image: Walt Disney Family Foundation.

For more on McCall’s 1950s Disney Alice patterns, including a minikin display version, see the Vintage Disney Alice blog.

Happy anniversary, Alice!