1920s fashion, designers, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

When a Designer Pattern isn’t a Designer Pattern

I’ve been uploading some patterns to the Vintage Sewing Patterns Wiki. They are from an August, 1926 issue of Pictorial Review magazine, and wow are the styles beautiful. I’ve come across this lately more than once, and figured it deserved a bit of a spotlight: sometimes designer patterns aren’t designer patterns.

We all know about designer patterns by Vogue, which include everyone from Schiaparelli to Oscar de la Renta. Many of you know about the designer series by Advance, which included designers like Jo Copeland and even Adrian (I have two. See them here.). Spadea, of course, did tons of designer patterns by Ceil Chapman, the Dutchess of Windsor, and many, many more. McCalls had patterns by designers like Givenchy and Geoffrey Beene. There are even some mail order designer patterns — Charles James did two. I’ve been lucky enough to have one. But did you know that some designer patterns are not labelled as such?

The pattern above, for example, was “designed after Lanvin.” It is Pictorial Review 3405. It was not labelled as a designer pattern, and most likely was not approved by the couture house, but back in the day, it was regular practice to send people to the couture fashion shows in Paris, with their only purpose to be making copies of the designs. They would sketch out the designs, then come back to America and have patterns made from the sketches. This Pictorial Review has four pages of “designed after” patterns from Lanvin, Worth, Molyneux and more. They’re gorgeous.

In the more modern era, you can find patterns attributed to Alexander McQueen by looking at Givenchy patterns from the era when he was their designer. Here’s one:

I recently sold a Chloe that was most likely Karl Lagerfeld as well. These are the things you find when you do a deep dive into sewing patterns. I find it fascinating, and maybe others do too. I just really love nerding out over the history involved in sewing and the patterns women used. Perhaps they knew what they had. Perhaps they didn’t care. But the details in it are so interesting to me. You never know what you have till you know what you have.

designers, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Van Martin and Being a Creator

McCalls 7575, ©1981,

A new listing in the Etsy shop: this track suit style jacket by McCall’s, labelled Van Martin. It’s from 1981, when track suits were starting to become a bit more stylish. The pattern is only for the jacket though. It looks comfortable, because it has an inverted pleat down the back, to give you room to move, and you can make it with anything from poplin and linen to double knits and velour. It’s pretty versatile (and this one is a bust 40, which is nice for today’s ladies).

Van Martin was a sportswear designer. I like what he had to say in this article from the White Plains Journal-News. He said [sewing] “is a means of expressing my creativity. When you cook a meal, you create something that’s never before existed, and that’s what you do with sewing.” Isn’t that cool? You may buy a pattern, even a pattern that’s existed and been owned by various people for a hundred years, but you still are creating something that’s never existed before, because you are choosing the fabric, buttons, zippers, trims all yourself and making it your own. You are a creator. I love the existentialistic idea of that.

Deep thought for a Monday, isn’t it?

1970s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

The McCall’s Sew For Fun Series

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McCall’s 4376, ©1974

I listed this pattern the other day in the Etsy shop. I’d never seen this series before. It’s called the Sew for Fun series, and the patterns came out in 1974 and early 1975. The styles are the cute boho/cottagecore patterns so popular in the time. This one features a maxi dress with Gunne Sax vibes. It can be made in the shorter mini length as well.

Note: I had a pair of clogs exactly like the ones in the photo.

The patterns featured mainly dresses and tops, are were made in both Miss and Misses’ sizes, with different pattern numbers for each. There are at least two that are unisex: one is a top and the other is for a swimsuit/swim trunks. But the funny thing is those little extra patterns.

This particular one features a stuffed mouse, because every cottagecore girl of the seventies wanted a stuffed mouse, right? I thought at first that it was a pincushion, which obviously any sewist could use. And a young beginning sewist might be pleased to create her own personalized mouse pincushion, right? Only it’s not. It’s a stuffed animal, which seems a little odd paired with the cute dress. But it gets weirder.

McCalls 4416, ©1975. Photo: Vintage Pattern Wiki

Some of these patterns are paired with hats or purses, which makes sense to me. Hats were big in this era, and everyone can use a sun hat. Purses are also a no-brainer. But there are also odd items like garment bags, a wind breaker (for sitting on at the beach, not the jacket), and even a tent. Each of them has a little sewing lesson with it, which is great, but the projects they include are so weird. Like the wind breaker one. If you want to teach someone to make a casing, have them make a pair of elastic waist shorts. But I don’t make those decisions.

McCalls 4429, ©1975. Photo: Vintage Pattern Wiki

I wonder who came up with these little extras, cause they just seem so odd. I get that they were trying to make sewing fun, especially for the Miss crowd, but somehow I am not sure that they thought it all the way thru. It’s one of the more random ideas put out by the sewing pattern companies.

McCalls 4428, ©1975. Photo: Vintage Pattern Wiki
1900s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns

We Must, We Must….Support Our Bust

New Idea 4155, ©1906

I came across this pattern in a 1906 issue of New Idea Woman’s Magazine. “For stout figures the bust supporter is almost indispensable, as it gives a trim, firm effect to the figure. It is worn over a corset, and may take the place of a corset cover, though many women prefer to wear a chemise or corset cover with it.”

The front is two sections, a top yoke and a lower boned portion. There are five bones which are eight inches long each. The back buttons at the top of the back, and the tape wraps around from the back to tie in front. I’m not sure the purpose of that tape? It is shown plain but some would also embroider it to make it more dainty, as per the dainty fashions of the era. These were made from coutil (corset fabric) but could also be made from heavy linen or heavy muslin.

Edwardian women wore so many layers, I really don’t know how they could survive in the heat. I am NOT a summer person at all, and never have been, and I think I would’ve been in a swoon all the time. I would like this as a stand alone undergarment if I were not a stout woman though. I think it looks super comfortable if it were made without the boning. God knows it looks more comfy than a bra, yes?

1950s fashion, designers, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Fira Benenson

Spadea 1158, ©1958.

I’m reading a 1940s book about the fashion industry, and am learning all kinds of things about lesser known (now) designers. Case in point: Fira Benenson. I’ve seen Fira Benenson patterns before. They are generally 1950s Spadeas, sometimes very early 1960s, but I’ve never heard of her name outside of this. Turns out she’s an interesting person.

I always thought, given her first name, that she had to be Italian, but she was actually Russian. She was a driving force for Bonwit Teller and got her start as the director of imports there before World War II. During the war years, she was the one who designed Bonwit Teller’s collections. She was one of the first retail buyers to return to Paris after the war.

She was very much a team player, saying that no designer designs in a vacuum. “A designer works with the assistance of many people — the fitters, operators, fabric people and her other workers. I would be helpless without my staff.” This is so true, as you’d be surprised how many designers can’t draw, sew or make patterns. Many of them, of course, would never admit it publicly.

Fira Benenson evening dress with jacket in silk shantung, 1942. Photo: New York Daily News.

Ms. Benenson was noted for elegance. She used rich fabrics and embellished with embroidery, shirring, tucking and intricate seams. In 1941, she used a rounded shoulder technique she terms the “hug shoulder” to accentuate women’s curves. That same season, she showed a “soupcatcher” waist, with horizontal looped draping below the waist that created a shelf -hence the soupcatcher name. It was basically a front pannier and based on a Victorian fashion, and created a beautiful, draped effect that accentuated a tiny waist.

Fira Benenson evening dress, 1957. Photo: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

“Miss B”, as her staff called her, was soft spoke and gracious, always wearing black, and generally a shirred dress of her own creation. She always wore a huge black pearl left to her by her mother, surrounded by ribbons of diamonds. She was born in Russia in 1898, the child of the Czar Nicolas’ banker, and came to the United States in 1921, after the death of her mother. She opened her own dress shop and was recruited by Bonwit Teller in 1934 to head up their Salon de Couture. This required frequent trips to Paris to view the collections, as she did not design at this point. She only began designing again in 1940 when the war made it necessary. She opened her own shop again in 1948, going into the wholesale business. She maintained both couture and ready to wear collections, as she felt that women wanted clothes that looked “made to measure” to be widely available.

In private life, Ms. Benenson was the Countess Fira Ilinska, married to a Polish nobleman. She spoke seven languages, collected Belgian blown glass, and was known for her dinner parties, where she did much of the prep and cooking herself. The count and countess celebrated 30 years of marriage in March 1961 with a posh dinner party at their apartment that included many of the same guests who originally attended their wedding, including diplomats, artists, writers and businessman. Four months later, the count died in Paris from heart disease. He was 64. Ms. Beneson died in 1977 in the New York apartment she had called home for many years.

sewing

I Have Questions.

McCalls 6592, ©1962

I love this little blue robe. I’d trim it in eyelet, because I just love eyelet. That being said, the shorter version is cute too, isn’t it?

My first question is about the pocket placement. It seems high, especially on the blue one. I think that the way it’s cut means that they need to be placed high, but doesn’t it look a bit wonky?

My other question is, what the heck is that girl pouring? Purple Kool-Aid? Was it a Netflix and chill day, or was she giving Sissy Kool-Aid for breakfast? Is it some weird science experiment? I need to know.

1910s

What Do You Think of This 1914 Blouse?

I came across this whilst trying to date another pattern for collar, cuffs and vests from the same time period. I find it fascinating.

May Manton 8462, 1914.

I thought at first that the “vest” is a different garment, but it’s not. It’s attached, and only gives a vest effect. A faux-vest, if you will. I like it in theory, and it’s interesting to look at, especially with the contrasting fabrics, but I think in reality it wouldn’t lay right when you sit, and would probably bunch up at the waist. What do you think?

Description in the ad: “Here is a blouse which shows distinctly new features. It is quite simple and severe enough to be made of linen or pique and is well adapted to the various tub silks and to combinations of materials. Since the washable silks launder quite as well as cotton and linen, it is easy to combine them and the combination is extremely handsome. In the illustration, striped tub silk is made with vest, collar and cuffs of pique but in the back view, white linen is combined with colored. The long plain sleeves are exceedingly fashionable but, in spite of that fact, many women prefer the shorter length and these can be cut off as shown in the back view. There is just fullness enough in the blouse to be becoming while the plain stitched vest gives a tailored finish.”

I have so many questions. First, combining linen and silk when laundering would be a nightmare, yes? Add colors and whites together and how in the world did they make this happen? What kind of laundry wizardry was involved here?

1950s fashion, 1970s fashion, Celebrity, designers, Hollywood, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

70s Does 30s

Vogue 2286, from 1979.

When people mention something is 70s does 30s, or 80s does 50s, for example, do you know what they mean? Fashion has a great way of repeating itself, as seen in this iconic scene from The Devil Wears Prada, where Miranda dresses Andy down like no other:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ja2fgquYTCg&w=560&h=315]

So when someone says 80s does 50s, they mean that it’s an 80s style, done in the vibe of the 50s. This is how I actually realized I loved vintage, because all of my 80s dresses were done in a 50s vibe, with a few 80s does 40s thrown in for good measure. I had a wonderful white peplum dress with red polka dots that was a particular favorite, which my ex also dumped coffee on during a five hour drive to Boca Raton for a wedding. Nothing like showing up with a huge coffee stain across you lap. But I digress.

This beautiful Bill Blass patter is a great example of 70s does 30s. The disco era is full of echoes from the 30s, with the beautifully cut bias maxi dresses, and this one is no exception. It also has a great tuxedo vibe, which is reminiscent of the Annie Hall look of the same time period. It’s a beautifully draped menswear inspired dress, and that is one hard thing to pull off. Also, because of the jacket, you can wear it in winter if you’re daring, and taking off that jacket would give you a great Grace Kelly “Rear Window” reveal vibe, seen here at :57, in her 50s does 30s top:

Well, maybe not that dramatic, but still — you’d catch everyone’s eye when that jacket comes off.

What do you think? Click here to purchase.

1970s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns

Fabulous Friday: Happy 4th of July

McCall’s 3142

Do you have plans for the holiday weekend? We don’t, as usual, but that’s fine with me. Our neighbors will be shooting off fireworks way too late in the evening and driving our dogs crazy, but the weather is supposed to be nice so we will enjoy the outdoors during the day and hide with the dogs huddling in fear at night at all the booming around us.

So in honor of the holiday, I wanted to show you this flippy little sailor dress, which is perfect for the holiday weekend. The sleeves and skirt are flared, so it’s perfect for most shapes, and it’s quick to make too. Click here to buy.

Have a great weekend and stay safe with the explosives, please.

designers, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing

Fabulous Friday: Not Really Vintage, but…….

Vogue

OK, so it’s not really vintage and I’m late to the game today, but I got up at 4am the last two days, to watch two wild toddlers, so I need a bit of a break here. Nonetheless, I’m working through listing the 10,000 patterns I got a couple of weeks ago, and came across this one.

It’s Vogue 2940, by Anna Sui. Anna Sui is a very underrated designer who you don’t hear a lot about, but she has made some gorgeous stuff, including this little beauty from 2007. It’s got a very Pride & Prejudice vibe to it, and considering that the Kiera Knightley version of the movie came out in 2005, I guess that’s why. The regency vibe is unmistakable, but it would fit in perfectly for lovers (like myself) of Gunne Sax and cottagecore garments. It also may just be the perfect summer dress, as I could see it going from shopping to a wedding to church, and just about everywhere in between.

So forgive me if this one isn’t actually vintage. It’s not even quite listed in the shop yet, though it should be this weekend. It’s not even my picture. But I do feel that it is too lovely to ignore. What do you think?