May 12, 2014 § 6 Comments
(A late Mother’s Day post since I was under the weather yesterday.)
In honour of Mother’s Day, this models post is devoted to a mother and daughter who both modelled for designer sewing patterns: Nena von Schlebrügge and Uma Thurman.
Nena von Schlebrügge (b. 1941) was born in Mexico City to German-Swedish parents who had fled Nazi Germany. In 1957, two years after she was discovered by Norman Parkinson, she moved from her native Stockholm to London to pursue modelling, later moving to New York to sign with Eileen Ford.
Nena von Schlebrügge appears on a number of Vogue Pattern Book covers and Vogue patterns from the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Here she models one of Vogue’s first Dior patterns by Yves Saint Laurent—Vogue 1472, a skirt suit and full coat with big, shaped collar:
Von Schlebrügge can also be seen on Vogue 1484 by Madame Grès, a 3-piece ensemble that includes a voluminous coat with three-quarter sleeves, loose back panel, and elegant contrast lapels and lining:
Uma Thurman (b. 1970) is the daughter of Nena von Schlebrügge and her second husband, Robert Thurman. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Uma Thurman dropped out of her prep school there to pursue acting in New York City, where she worked as a fashion model before landing her breakout roles in Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).
Here Thurman wears Simplicity 8054, a wrap dress with halter back and capelet sleeves, in classic red:
Here she models a pure ’80s LBD with big shoulders and flutter sleeves, Simplicity 8055:
Nena von Schlebrügge later became a psychotherapist and director of Tibet House and the Menla Center; Uma Thurman is an Academy Award nominee for her role in Pulp Fiction (1994). Thurman’s presence is already evident in her Simplicity patterns. Isn’t the family resemblance striking?
June 12, 2013 § 6 Comments
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.
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:
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:
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:
A reproduction version of this pattern for a bridal gown or afternoon dress is available from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library:
A copy of McCall 8331 recently seen on eBay was accompanied by this wedding portrait, which shows the dress made up:
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:
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):
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:
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:
Also by John Cavanagh, this 1960s bridal design with a cathedral-length Watteau train was modelled by Jean Shrimpton:
No bridal pattern survey could be complete without this Halston pattern for bridal headpieces:
From the early 1970s, this Pierre Cardin bridal gown, shown in a silk knit, has an optional overskirt with handkerchief train:
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):
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):
Perfect for steampunk weddings, Vogue 2180 by Bellville Sassoon has an elaborate bustle that gives it a neo-Victorian flair:
February 20, 2013 § 15 Comments
Oscar season is upon us, and that means goddess gowns. Goddess gowns usually share elements of classical drapery and the simple construction of the toga and chiton. Here’s a selection of patterns for Greco-Roman-inspired evening wear.
This 1920s evening dress from the House of Worth features elegant back drapery, with a beaded appliqué holding more drapery at the left hip:
The illustration for this 1930s Lanvin ‘scarf frock’ plays up the classical mood with a fluted pedestal and ferns:
This late 1940s one-shouldered evening dress has a long panel that can be worn belted in the back or wrapped around the bared shoulder:
Toga-like drapery distinguishes these short, Sixties evening dresses by Pauline Trigère and Jacques Heim:
This late ’60s Yves Saint Laurent evening dress has a classical simplicity, with the bodice gathered into a boned collar:
This Pucci loungewear has culottes on the bottom, but still has that ‘goddess’ flavour (modelled by Birgitta Af Klercker):
Angeleen Gagliano models this mid-Seventies Lanvin evening dress and toga:
This Pierre Balmain evening ensemble, modelled by Jerry Hall, shows a more literal interpretation of classical dress:
Finally, this jersey gown with beaded waistband, from Guy Laroche by Damian Yee, is an example of the recent trend for goddess gowns:
(From the Spring 2007 Laroche collection, the pattern is
still in print now out of print.)
September 25, 2012 § 8 Comments
The cape trend of the last two years shows no sign of abating. (Read a Fashionising post about the trend here.) In terms of sewing patterns, Donna Karan’s V2924 was ahead of the trend (see Erica B’s version here) and this fall we have V1322 by DKNY. Paco Peralta has several cape designs available including the sculptural Funghi. In vintage reissues, Butterick has re-released some vintage cape patterns in their Retro line: B6329 (from 1935) and B6411 (a reissue of Butterick 4570 from 1948).
I often find myself reaching for the vintage version of a current trend, and I’ll have a cape project to share with you soon. While looking for the right pattern, I was struck by the variety of cape designs over the decades. Here’s a selection of vintage cape patterns from the Twenties to the Eighties.
Two 1920s patterns in my collection have capes with interesting details. This mid-Twenties pattern for a dress by Renée also includes a cape with button/strap closure:
And I still love the pointed yoke of this Miler Soeurs cape (see my grey version here):
The Thirties were a good decade for capes. This 1936 copy of McCall Style News shows a matching cape and dress ensemble:
Sewing bloggers’ 1930s capes show how contemporary these vintage outerwear styles can look today. Debi’s mid-Thirties cape pattern has a similar look to the ensemble illustrated above, but with a false front creating the illusion of a matching jacket. Click the image to see her finished version:
The fashion for capes continued into the Forties. The decade’s strong-shouldered silhouette is visible in these two cape patterns from my collection. The first, from the early ’40s, has a pronounced, boxy shape and optional broad stand-up collar:
The second cape shades into New Look sleekness, with a narrower collar and lower hemline:
In the Fifties, capes showed a de-emphasis on the shoulders and a fullness that carries over to the early ’60s. Vogue 1089 by Robert Piguet is actually from 1949; I thought it might really be a capelet, but the envelope description calls it a “flared cape with diagonal double-breasted closing below soft shaped collar”:
Here’s an illustration of the Piguet ensemble by Bernard Blossac:
This mid-Fifties cape by Jacques Fath has big, buttoned cuffs at the arm vents. The shaped collar is part of the suit underneath:
The Sixties were another good decade for capes. On this Vogue Pattern Book cover, Wilhelmina Cooper exemplifies the “thoroughbred look” of Fall 1963 in a tailored yellow cape:
This elegant cape by Nina Ricci has a wide shawl collar and is shaped by released inverted darts. The model is Maggie Eckhardt:
Astrid Heeren models this fabulous mod cape by Pierre Cardin:
This late ’60s design by Pucci is modelled by Birgitta af Klercker and was photographed in Rome at La Cisterna:
As the Seventies progressed, capes generally kept their collars, but gained a new fluidity. This mid-Seventies Halston “poncho-cape” has a collar and button front, but is reversible:
This late ’70s Chloé design by Karl Lagerfeld, featuring Jerry Hall, includes a three-quarter length, circular cape with pointed bias collar. The cape gets its strong shoulders from an inside button and tab at each shoulder:
In the Eighties, fluidity gained the upper hand, as seen in these full, collarless, and unstructured capes by Yves Saint Laurent:
Would you wear a vintage cape, or do you prefer the cape’s more recent incarnations?
April 15, 2012 § 12 Comments
Vogue 1556, a shift dress by Yves Saint Laurent, is a design from the Fall 1965 ‘Mondrian’ collection. (See my post on the Mondrian collection patterns here.) Of the five designs Richard Dormer photographed for the February/March 1966 issue of Vogue Pattern Book, Vogue 1556 is the only one shown in colour, showing off the Florence Knoll chair in the background. When I found a copy of the pattern in my size, it went to the top of my to-sew list.
The envelope description reads: One-piece dress. Shift dress with wide contrasting yoke and hem band has long sleeves slightly gathered into contrasting band cuffs. The original was made in four-ply silk crêpe from Onondaga.
The dress can be made in cocktail or evening length. I decided to make the cocktail-length version illustrated on the envelope back, a monochrome dress with sequin contrast:
I found a black wool crêpe and Bemberg lining at Designer Fabrics, and some fabulous square-sequinned fabric on sale at Fabricland. The pattern went together like a dream. The only adjustment I made was to let the hips out a bit and widen the hem band accordingly. Luckily the hem and sleeves were just the right length without any adjustment. Underlining gives the dress that typical Sixties weight; I also used the Bemberg lining to underline the sequin fabric, but I think it could have benefited from something a little heavier.
The dress fastens in the back with two separate closures: a lapped zipper for the body of the dress and buttons or snaps for the yoke. I had a lot of fun putting in my first lapped zipper. The pattern gives special instructions for the sequinned version of the dress: snaps for the upper back instead of buttons. I recommend using sturdy snaps—the light ones I used are prone to popping open.
As special fabrics go, sequins are fairly high-maintenance. The sequins needed to be removed from all seam allowances and their attaching threads caught by the stitching. This could be challenging when hand-sewing the backs of the contrast bands, but the results are worth it, I think.
Readers of We Sew Retro may have seen the photos of Vogue 1556 that Naomi took for my interview back in December. Since the original Vogue Pattern Book Yves Saint Laurent editorial was shot in the Knoll showroom in Paris, I arranged to photograph my Vogue 1556 dress in Knoll’s Toronto showroom. The new showroom is in a converted warehouse in Liberty Village (more details on the LEED-certified space here). It was a pleasure to spend a winter afternoon in their industrial space full of Knoll textiles and furniture:
On a wall near the entrance is a quote from Florence Knoll on architecture and interior design (I’m sitting on an Eero Saarinen Womb chair):
We couldn’t leave without photographing the dress beside a Florence Knoll lounge chair:
We took too many photos of Knoll chairs to include here, but here’s just one more:
We loved this textiles display featuring upholstered dots:
This last photo was taken by the showroom entrance:
A big thank you to the Knoll staff for welcoming us into their showroom. Special thanks to photographer and friend Rachel O’Neill for her fantastic work.
March 15, 2012 § 1 Comment
I love finding pattern designs in ad campaigns. Vogue 1016 by Yves Saint Laurent is a long-sleeved, full-skirted formal dress with a dramatic décolletage and optional stretch-lace camisole:
The news from Paris that season was lower hemlines, with pleated skirts and tartans at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. (See Bernadine Morris, “Review/Fashion; New Tricolor in Paris: Stars and Stripes.”)
The late, great Helmut Newton photographed the Vogue 1016 dress for the Rive Gauche Fall 1991 advertising campaign:
Newton’s photograph shows a woman standing in the well-appointed bathroom of a Parisian hotel. (Another campaign photo shows Karen Mulder in the parking garage.) She wears the long-sleeved version of Vogue 1016, sans cami and done up in black Bucol silk. The dress is worn with big, dramatic accessories: a collar, ear clips, and a pair of gold (!) booties. On a shelf before the mirrors are two glasses of red wine; written in lipstick on one mirror is the message ‘ADIEU ET MERCI, SUSAN.’ Although the model’s elaborately coiffed head is turned away from the camera, she looks back out at us from the inscribed mirror.
The photo’s grand hotel setting and atmosphere of bad-girl mischief are pure Helmut Newton. (On the photographer and his work see Lindsay Baker, “Helmut Newton: A Perverse Romantic.”) Some might relegate its subject, the Vogue 1016 dress, to a period of post-Eighties decadence, but the interplay between photographer and designer is interesting. The two had a long-standing professional relationship, and Anna Wintour, quoted in Helmut Newton’s WWD obituary, hints that Newton’s photos of Yves Saint Laurent’s work could be as influential as the work itself. Does Newton’s photograph colour our view of Vogue 1016?
January 9, 2012 § 15 Comments
Yves Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 1965 collection, inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian and Serge Poliakoff, included one of the most iconic garments of the twentieth century: the ‘Mondrian’ dress. David Bailey photographed the multicolour Mondrian dress for the cover of Vogue Paris’ 1965 September issue, and Saint Laurent’s Mondrian designs spawned countless knockoffs, including sewing patterns and knitting patterns. Today, Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dresses may be viewed in museum collections such as those of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (On the construction of the Mondrian dress and on fashion inspired by modern art, see the posts by Couture Allure and oh mighty!)
In early 1966, Vogue Patterns introduced Yves Saint Laurent with five pieces from the “Mondrian et Poliakoff” collection. The designs were photographed in mid-century splendour at Knoll International, Paris by Richard Dormer. The first page of the Vogue Pattern Book editorial shows model Merle Lynn standing before a 1954 Florence Knoll lounge chair:
Vogue Patterns chose a simple, red-accented Mondrian dress for the highly sought-after Vogue 1557:
The photos of Vogue 1567, a dress and coat, show a 1955 Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen (hair by Alexandre of Paris):
And the last page of the editorial shows what looks like one of Knoll’s signature textile wall panels:
The description reads: One-piece dress. Sleeveless shift has narrow, contrasting inserts around the hem, down center back, and crossing high in front to create a yoke.
Richard Avedon photographed Jean Shrimpton in this Mondrian dress for his final issue at Harper’s Bazaar:
You can see a photo of Veronica Hamel in the same dress here. (Thanks to Paco Peralta for alerting me to these last two images.)
The Vogue 1567 envelope gives a better view of the Tulip Chair:
Here’s the description: One-Piece Dress and Coat. High-waisted dress has contrasting bodice with high band collar, a button-trimmed inset, and sleeve banding to match gathered skirt. Self belt. Long sleeved, double-breasted coat with yoke seam has wide, button-trimmed belt and pockets in seams. Trim stitching.
And the bold teal of the wall panel may be seen on Vogue 1569 (I haven’t been able to find a pattern image for the fifth pattern, Vogue 1571):
The description reads: Suit and Blouse. Long sleeved, slightly fitted jacket has wide hem band and optional purchased or self belt. Trim stitching. Tuck-in blouse has high shaped neckline, squared-off armholes, and welt pockets. Gathered skirt has pockets in seams and optional purchased or self belt.
Vogue 1557 and 1569 were both featured on the cover of the Vogue Patterns counter catalogue:
Illustrations of Vogue 1557 were also commissioned for the monthly Vogue Pattern Fashion News (more illustration scans posted by Damn Good Vintage—click the image for the post):
Although Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian collection was inspired by modern art, Vogue Pattern Book’s editorial at Knoll situates pieces from the collection in the context of modern design. The editorial is interesting, both for how it frames the designer’s garments and how it ignores his celebrity. The designer’s name is prominent on the news booklet and first counter catalogue—arguably more overtly promotional publications. But the name Yves Saint Laurent is not included on the magazine’s cover or even mentioned in the Editor’s letter; there’s no photo, no bio like those we see in later decades. The emphasis is firmly on the designs and their place in contemporary visual culture.
Next: My version of Vogue 1556.