designers, sewing patterns

Dazian’s Patterns

I’ve come across a few Dazian’s patterns over the years, and they’re always unique. Dazian’s produced some sewing patterns, always for dancewear or theatre costumes. The patterns I’ve seen have been for both women and children, though there are some even harder to find men/boys ones out there. I think the actual pattern line was pretty short lived, and although the ones I’ve seen always appear to be late 40s and early 50s, the company’s website states that they actually didn’t start putting out patterns until 1961. I would have never guessed.

Dazian’s as a company was pretty cool. They actually started with theatre costumes in 1842, and the company lasted over 100 years. It was started by Wolf Dazian, said to be the most knowledgeable costumer in history, though he also designed stage props. Dazian’s costumes were worn by such notables as Sarah Bernhardt, Caruso, Anna Pavlova, Al Jolson, and Maude Adams. Mr Dazian was known.

Dazian’s created costumes for Ziegfeld, of Follies fame. It was said that Ziegfield would walk into the shop carrying armloads of sweet peas, demanding the color be replicated into fabrics. He did the same thing with butterflies. He was a creative genius, but seemed to have trouble paying his bills once the costumes were done, according to Emil Friedlander, the manager of the company in the early 40s. Another customer was P.T. Barnum, who bought custom-made costumes for Mademoiselle Fanny — an orangutan.

He created a military style coat for Maude Adams that was trimmed in 14 carat gold — his most expensive costume by 1941, at a cost of $1350. Legend also had it that he created a fountain for a performance of Anna Pavlova. When she sent her rep to threaten to kill Dazian due to the noise of the water, he offered to remedy by changing the water from “hard water to soft water.” After banging around on the pipes for a while, Ms. Pavlova declared the noise to be much improved. The man was a genius at costuming and handling people.

Dazian’s expanded to the West Coast in 1929, so that they could serve not only the New York clientele, but the growing Hollywood scene as well. Wolf Dazian had pretty much locked up costuming nationwide by this time. Though he died in 1902, his son Henry had been heading the business for some years, and it continued to grow. Henry was quite the aficionado as well. He was director of the Maurice Grau Opera company, and was such a foodie that he was known to travel abroad just to taste a particular dish. Though the company remained in business for years after his death in 1937, Henry Dazian’s will stipulated that many of the company’s assets be converted to start the Dazian Foundation for medical research. He died after a long illness of heart disease, finally succumbing to pneumonia and the effects of diverticulitis. He had never married.

Dazian remains in business today as a fabric seller, primarily for curtains and drapes for theatres, including Las Vegas. That the company has managed to thrive for 180+ years is nothing short of amazing, and the diversity of their business is fascinating to behold.

The illustration above is one of a group I acquired recently. Several are signed by “Fern,” and though I have no idea who she is, I do admire her expertise. They all include cute notes about what fabrics to use and other details. I think that these are actually costume illustrations and not patterns, but I can’t be sure, given how few of the patterns are out there. Aren’t they adorable?

sewing patterns, vintage clothing

Interesting

I blogged about this pattern illustration some time back. Look at how weird it’s drawn. It looks rather juvenile, especially when compared to other similar patterns of the era. This is Butterick 4699, from the 1940s. I love the style and, like it says, it’s Quick and Easy to make. But that illustration is disturbing. The faces are so crudely drawn, and when you add the claw-like hands to it, it’s really kind of creepy.

Then I came across this:

Same pattern, without the wonky faces. Doesn’t it look so much better? Now, I’m not sure I’ve seen other Butterick patterns from the era that were drawn only in outline, but in this case, it’s a vast improvement. I have no idea what happened here, but I’m thinking that the fashion editors rethought it and reissued the pattern without the weird illustrations. What do you think?

Both are available in my shop. Click here for to purchase Ms. Outline (waist 24).