New Year, Vintage You

Vogue 2321 illustrated by Lamont O'Neal on the back cover of Vogue Patterns catalogue, Sept/Oct 1999
Timeless Style… Vintage Vogue. Vogue Patterns catalogue, September/October 1999. Illustration: Lamont O’Neal. Image: eBay.

Happy New Year! Vintage reissues give a taste of the pleasures of sewing vintage, without the bidding wars and grading. Here is an overview—with rarely seen archival images—of the contemporary vintage pattern lines from Vogue, Butterick, and McCall’s. (Simplicity responded to requests for comment with promotional copy.)

Simplicity 1777 on the cover of the Simplicity catalogue, Early Autumn 2012
Simplicity 1777 on the cover of the Simplicity catalogue, Early Autumn 2012. Image: eBay.

Vintage Vogue

Launched in time for Holiday 1998, Vogue Patterns’ Vintage Vogue line provides true reproductions of vintage patterns borrowed from private collectors. (See my earlier post and discussion, How Do You Take Your Vintage Vogue? or get the details on the Vintage Vogue Search.) Alas, the terms of the old licensing agreements mean that Vogue can’t reissue designer patterns.

Deco evening dress pattern Vogue 2241 remains a favourite; I recently came across a version at Toronto’s Spadina Museum. I found an illustration of the original, Vogue S-3543, in a Vogue Patterns news leaflet from December, 1931. The description reads, “Here is a frock that expresses the newest movement of the mode, its originality and charm. It has a slender moulded look from the décolletage to the circular panels that trail slightly on the ground”:

1930s Vogue Patterns1Dec1931
Vogue S-3543 and Vogue 5849 in Vogue Patterns, December 1, 1931.

Butterick donated the original to the Commercial Pattern Archive:

At CoPA; donated by Butterick Archives. Original B36, hip 41, 1931.
Vogue S-3543 (1931) Image: Commercial Pattern Archive, URI collection. For research purposes only.

Retro Butterick and McCall’s Archive Collection

Both Retro Butterick and McCall’s Archive Collection patterns are recreated and sometimes adapted from archival materials, not the original patterns. With archival images, sticklers for accuracy can restore these adaptations to the original vintage design.

Early Retro Butterick pattern B6408 is based on Butterick 4391, a “Quick and Easy” late 1940s design for an evening gown with hooded scarf:

Quick and Easy 1940s evening dress and hooded scarf pattern - Butterick 4391
Butterick 4391 (1948) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

McCall’s introduced The Archive Collection for Early Fall, 2014. The recent 1920s coat pattern, M7259, is based on McCall 5057, a 1927 design by Agnès:

1920s coat pattern illustration - McCall 5057 (M7259)
McCall 5057 by Agnès (1927)
1920s Agnès coat pattern illustration - McCall 5057
McCall 5057 by Agnès in McCall Quarterly, Winter 1927-28.

The Archive Collection’s Deco evening dress, M7154, is based on a design from spring, 1930: McCall 6057. An original copy sold on eBay in June, 2014 for over $800 US.

1930 evening gown pattern illustration - McCall 6057 (M5154)
Catalogue illustration of McCall 6057 after Patou, 1930. Image: PatternVault on Etsy.

The McCall 6057 gown is a couture adaptation: the design is after Patou. Here is the description from McCall’s magazine: “The Patou silhouette is beautifully exemplified in a formal evening gown which has curved bands at the neckline and hipline, a short bolero and inserted panels lengthening the skirt”:

No. 6057. The Patou silhouette is beautifully exemplified in a formal evening gown which has curved bands at the neckline and hipline, a short bolero and inserted panels lengthening the skirt.
No. 6057 after Patou, McCall’s, April 1930. Illustration: Lebrun.

For more on the McCall Pattern Company’s vintage lines, see We Sew Retro’s interview.

Vintage Bridal Patterns

1930s Blanche Rothschild illustration of a bridal gown, McCall 9284 circa June 1937
McCall 9284 illustration by Blanche Rothschild, ca. June 1937. Image: PatternVault shop.

Vintage bridal patterns offer a unique alternative to modern bridal designs. Even if you’re already married, they provide a glimpse into past bridal fashions’ sometimes exotic vintage details—making them tempting even for those not in need of a wedding dress. (Can we expect Debi Fry to make her 1940 bridal pattern, McCall 4004?)

Now that wedding season is in full swing, here’s a selection of vintage bridal patterns, from the Twenties to the Eighties.

1920s

In the Twenties and Thirties, bridal patterns usually did double duty as patterns for formal dresses. This 1920s Peerless Patterns sign features a wedding illustration promoting a number of patterns:

1920s Peerless Patterns advertising poster with bridal scene
1920s Peerless Patterns advertising poster. Image: PatternVault shop.

This fantastic bridal or evening dress is short, in keeping with the current fashion, and may have one or two extended side panels that give the effect of a train:

1920s evening or bridal dress pattern - McCall 4985 CoPA-KLS
McCall 4985 (1927) Image: Commercial Pattern Archive, Kevin L. Seligman collection. For research purposes only.

1930s

Thirties bridal patterns have the same glamour we associate with the decade’s evening wear. This pattern for a bridal gown or dinner dress dates to circa June 1934:

1930s bridal gown or dinner dress pattern - McCall 7852
McCall 7852 (1934) Image: Etsy.
McCallFBJunMidSummer1934
McCall 7852 on the cover of McCall Fashion Book, Mid-Summer 1934. Image: eBay.

A reproduction version of this pattern for a bridal gown or afternoon dress is available from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library:

1930s bridal gown or afternoon dress pattern - McCall 8331
McCall 8331 (1935) Bridal gown or afternoon dress.

A copy of McCall 8331 recently seen on eBay was accompanied by this wedding portrait, which shows the dress made up:

San Francisco estate wedding portrait showing McCall 8331
1930s wedding portrait from a San Francisco estate. Image: eBay.

1940s

In the Forties the bride begins to take centre stage on pattern envelopes, although evening and bridesmaid versions are still included. This bridal or evening dress was reissued in the Vintage Vogue line as Vogue 2384:

1940s Vogue Special Design wartime bridal pattern S-4532
Vogue S-4532 (1944) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

This strong-shouldered, postwar design has a sweetheart neckline and waist piping detail. The pattern also includes a bridesmaid’s dress with short, shirred sleeves (click image for the technical drawings):

1940s bridal pattern - McCall 6353
McCall 6353 (1946) Image: Etsy.

1950s

By the 1950s the bride, in her full-skirted glory, dominates the pattern envelope. This Jacques Fath design for a bride’s or bridesmaid’s dress has a bustled back and tiny shawl collar. The bridesmaid’s version simply lacks a train:

1950s Jacques Fath bridal pattern - Vogue 1331
Vogue 1331 by Jacques Fath (1956) Image: carbonated on flickr.

John Cavanagh was known for his connection to the English court. He licensed several bridal patterns with Vogue, and designed the Duchess of Kent’s wedding dress in 1961. (See my earlier post here.) This short-sleeved Cavanagh design has a simulated train; the smaller figures show bridesmaid’s and evening versions:

1950s John Cavanagh bridal pattern - Vogue 148
Vogue 148 by John Cavanagh (1958) Image: VADS.

1960s

Also by John Cavanagh, this 1960s bridal design with a cathedral-length Watteau train was modelled by Jean Shrimpton:

1960s John Cavanagh wedding dress pattern - Vogue 1347
Vogue 1347 by John Cavanagh (1964) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

No bridal pattern survey could be complete without this Halston pattern for bridal headpieces:

Vogue 7082 Halston of Bergdorf Goodman 1960s bridal headpieces pattern
Vogue 7082 by Halston of Bergdorf Goodman (c. 1965) Image: eBay.

1970s

From the early 1970s, this Pierre Cardin bridal gown, shown in a silk knit, has an optional overskirt with handkerchief train:

1970s Pierre Cardin bridal gown pattern - Vogue 2520
Vogue 2520 by Pierre Cardin (1971) Image: eBay.
Vogue 2520 Pierre Cardin back
Illustration and technical drawing for Vogue 2520. Image: eBay.

Although it isn’t for everyone, Yves Saint Laurent’s couture bridal design for a gathered, bias dress, filmy coat, and five-yard veil distinguishes itself by showing the bride as wayward Vestal virgin (see Paco Peralta’s post here):

1970s Yves Saint Laurent bridal pattern - Vogue 1590
Vogue 1590 by Yves Saint Laurent (c. 1976) Image: Patrones Costura on Etsy.

1980s

Released in 1980, this opulent Dior design for a bell-skirted bridal gown, complete with bias necktie, cummerbund, and bow-embellished headpiece, is drawn from the Christian Dior Haute Couture collection for Fall 1979 (read Dustin’s post here):

1979 Christian Dior couture bridal gown pattern - Vogue 2545
Vogue 2545 by Christian Dior (1980) Image: PatternVault shop.

Perfect for steampunk weddings, Vogue 2180 by Bellville Sassoon has an elaborate bustle that gives it a neo-Victorian flair:

1980s Bellville Sassoon bridal or evening pattern - Vogue 2180
Vogue 2180 by Bellville Sassoon (1989) Image: eBay.

For more on the history of bridal fashion, see the V&A Weddings page and Edwina Ehrman’s The Wedding Dress: 300 Years of Bridal Fashions (V&A, 2011).