An Exploration into the World of Designer Sewing Patterns

Category: Store Counter Catalogue

Couture Drama: Yves Saint Laurent, Fall/Winter 1979-80.

YSL Haute Couture AW1979-80

On July 25th, 1979, Yves Saint Laurent presented his Haute Couture collection for Fall/Winter 1979-80 at the Ritz hotel in Paris, culminating in a standing ovation from the audience. He offered the collection as “an homage to Serge Diaghilev and to his collaboration with Picasso”.

Later that same year, Vogue Patterns had drawn three looks from Saint Laurent’s Diaghilev/Picasso collection and delivered them in the form of three patterns: 2406, 2407 and 2408.

2406 - Front Envelope

2408 - Front Envelope2407 - Front Envelope

These patterns were first introduced to North American customers in the January 1980 counter catalog, just in time for the Fall/Winter 1979-80 Holiday season (which I believe would have actually been available in-store for December 1979, however England, and possibly other countries, had to wait one more month for the February 1980 catalog to reach stores).

Vogue Patterns  Catalogue, North America, January 1980.

The catalog offered ‘Blocks of Color!’ and ‘Couture Drama’ by way of Yves Saint Laurent.

Inside Front Cover, Page 1 - Vogue Patterns January 1980 Catalogue.Inside Front Cover, Page 2 - Vogue Patterns January 1980 Catalogue.

Just inside the front cover of the catalog, the Yves Saint Laurent originals are shown photographed on models Clotilde and Eva Voorhees, two top models of the period (Clotilde can also be seen on the pattern envelopes for 2407 & 2408. She was a Saint Laurent favorite for the runway and she even appeared in a television advertisement for the perfume ‘Rive Gauche’ in 1980). According to the ‘Guide for Fabrics and Accessories’ toward the end of the catalog, 2407 is shown with Yves Saint Laurent shoes, and 2406 with Yves Saint Laurent shoes and handbag.

The photographs evoke the excitement of heading out for a night in style to dinner, a fabulous party, or formal occasion. As long as you were quick getting the pattern and then even quicker at sewing, or getting someone else to make up your pattern, you could have been seen wearing the same style in the same season as one of Saint Laurent’s Haute Couture customers!

Nan Kempner at

Best-dressed American Nan Kempner wearing a Saint Laurent original.

Nan Kempner, a woman considered to be one of the best-dressed American women of her time, wore the design that Vogue 2406 was based on. This gown was made from contrasting blocks of black and white silk satin-crepe.

2406 - Front Envelope2406 - Back Envelope

This is a strikingly graphic design that seems to evoke the bold cubist elements of Picasso’s designs for the characters of the French Manager and the American Manager in the 1917 Ballet Russes production of ‘Parade’.

Picasso costume design for the Ballet Russes production of 'Parade', 1917.

Photograph of the ‘Manager français’ character from the original 1917 Ballet Russes production of ‘Parade’, with costumes and sets designed by Pablo Picasso.

Also, in one of Picasso’s sketchbooks from around 1916, as published in the book ‘Je Suis Cahier: The Sketchbooks of Picasso’ (edited by Arnold & Marc Glimcher), there are drawings of Harlequins and, although there was no Harlequin character in ‘Parade’, it is believed that these drawings reflect some of Picasso’s first ideas for the production of ‘Parade’. There can be seen a close resemblance of line between the Harlequin drawing below and the design lines of the dress from pattern 2406. Perhaps those sketches were of some inspiration for Saint Laurent?

Picasso, Standing Harlequin, pencil on paper, 1916 & YSL's 'Picasso' gown, as exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Drawing by Picasso of a standing Harlequin, pencil on paper, 1916, & YSL’s ‘Picasso’ gown, as exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The black and white ‘Picasso’ gown was photographed for Vogue Paris’ September 1979 issue and, as pictured below, for L’Officiel’s fall couture collections issue, No. 655, 1979.

Front Cover of L'Officiel No. 655, 1979.

Front Cover of L’Officiel No. 655, 1979, ‘Special Collections’ for Fall. Model wears Yves Saint Laurent.

L’Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode No 655, 1979.

As seen in L’Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode No 655, 1979.

The editorial shot below shows model Clotilde (once again) wearing the black and white ‘Picasso’ gown (I am unsure of the publication that the image originated from). Thanks to Supermodelicons.com for this image.

Clotilde in YSL.

The black and white gown has also been included as an exhibit in many of the retrospective exhibitions for the fashion career of Yves Saint Laurent, the first being the 1983 exhibition ‘Yves Saint Laurent’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, conceived and organized by Diana Vreeland – the very first of its kind at the Met dedicated to the work of one living designer. Others were the exhibitions ‘Yves Saint Laurent Style’ at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2008 and the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco in 2008/2009, and the exhibition ‘Nan Kempner, American Chic’, at the Met in New York in 2006/2007.

Exhibition 'Yves Saint Laurent Style' at the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 2008-2009.

Installation from the exhibition ‘Yves Saint Laurent Style’ at the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, November 1 2008 – March 1 2009.

Photograph of an Yves Saint Laurent original illustration w. Silk Satin-Crepe Fabric Swatches

Photograph of an Yves Saint Laurent original illustration with silk satin-crepe fabric swatches, from the exhibition catalog ‘Yves Saint Laurent Style’, 2008.

Yves Saint Laurent  Black & White Silk Satin-Crepe Evening Gown, AW 1979-80.

As seen in the exhibition ‘Nan Kempner, American Chic’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, December 12, 2006–March 4, 2007.

On to Vogue pattern 2408: a suit of skirt and jacket that features contrasting blocks of black and royal blue.

2408 - Front Envelope2408 - Back Envelope

An almost identical suit to that of 2408 was also shown in the same collection, only it consisted of blocks of red and black, as seen below in a runway photo published in the October 1979 issue of German Vogue (modeled by Saint Laurent muse, Mounia).

Clipping from German Vogue, October 1979.

In the New York Times article ‘Diaghilev Inspires Saint Laurent’ published July 26, 1979, Bernadine Morris wrote:

“What is likely to hit the copyists’ market first are the two-fabric or two-color suits, which are not too subtle to be easily understood. A ribbed white wool jacket with black velvet collar and lapels is paired with a white skirt with velvet side panels. very slimming, those side panels.”

It is interesting that Bernadette mentions the two-fabric and two-color  combinations, as this is what Vogue Patterns selected from the collection – and for logical reasons. Usually the only means for most home sewers to recreate a designer outfit from a sewing pattern was through fabric and with trim, such as piping and purchased braid. Therefore, any designer looks that would involve highly skilled applications such as intricate embroidery/beading or applique wouldn’t have been commercially viable for a pattern company’s concern.

Also, Bernadette Morris mentions a white and black suit with “slimming” side panels to the skirt – these panels were repeated on the skirts of the blue/black suit of pattern 2408 and the red/black suit, pictured above. The white and black suit with velvet collar and lapels made the cover of Vogue Paris and was photographed for U.S. Vogue and for L’Officiel magazine.

Vogue Paris, September 1979.

Vogue Paris, September 1979.

U.S. Vogue, September 1979 & L'Officiel No. 655, 1979.

As seen in U.S. Vogue, September 1979 (Left) and L’Officiel No. 655, 1979 (Right).

Finally, there is pattern 2407: a romantic ensemble of full-skirted cocktail dress and jacket with the silhouette that was most dominant for evening in the collection – a full skirt of either below-knee or evening length, gathered in at the hip. The upper body for most evening looks was fitted and, if with sleeves, topped with a ‘puffed’ sleeve head. The contrasting blocks of this ensemble are more tonal by way of the luxurious textures of black velvet and black satin. The full skirt is reminiscent of the ballet tutu, and the corselet-style top and satin sandals with criss-crossed satin ribbons evoke the romance of the ballet.

2407 - Front Envelope2407 - Back Envelope

Below you will see some examples of other dresses from the collection that share similar elements to that of 2407, whether it be the shape of the full skirt or the shape of the bodice.

L’Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode No 655, 1979, B.

As seen in L’Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode No 655, 1979, this dress has a similar bodice and skirt shape to that of Vogue pattern 2407, however this dress has a skirt of glittering tulle that is suggestive of a tutu.

Yves Saint Laurent Black & Yellow Evening Gown of Silk Velvet and Silk Satin, AW 1979-80.

Yves Saint Laurent evening dress of black silk velvet and yellow silk satin, AW 1979-80. This dress was owned by Betsy Bloomindale and was donated to the FIDM in Los Angeles (Image will link to the FIDM’s blog article about the dress).

Interestingly, the three patterns 2406, 2407 and 2408 were not promoted in any issue of Vogue Patterns magazine (as most new designer patterns would have been) or, as far as I know, in any Vogue Patterns News flyer. Also, unusually, the pattern details and yardage requirements were not available in the counter catalog for these patterns and in their place the consumer was advised to ‘Please see pattern envelope for additional information’. Another point of interest is the ‘Vogue Customized Collection’, where an asterix next to the pattern number inside the catalog indicated that the pattern had to be specially ordered from those stores that had this label affixed to the front cover of their Vogue Patterns catalogs. This would most likely have been a policy for smaller or independent pattern retailers who wouldn’t have carried the full range of patterns. Directly below is an image taken from ebay of a copy of the January 1980 catalog with the ‘Customized Vogue Collection’ label affixed to the front cover.

'Customized Vogue Collection', Vogue Patterns Catalogue, January 1980.

This copy of the Vogue Patterns January 1980 catalog had a label affixed to the front cover stating “Customized Vogue Collection – WE CARRY VOGUE’S NEWEST AND MOST POPULAR PATTERN COLLECTION in all sizes – Other patterns with * may be special ordered”. This included Vogue 2406 and 2407.

2406 & 2407 - Pattern details unavailable.

Patterns 2406 & 2407: “PLEASE SEE PATTERN ENVELOPE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION”.

2408 - Pattern details unavailable.

Again, for pattern 2408: “PLEASE SEE PATTERN ENVELOPE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION”.

It is also interesting that the patterns were made available within the same season as the collection from which the designs were taken – usually patterns would be released the following season.

I must say that these patterns are some of my favorites – it is for the beauty of the designs and for the glamour associated with Haute Couture, and it is because the designs originated from such a special collection from one of the world’s most brilliant designers. What a treat that these patterns were ever produced!

To end the post, below is a photograph of Yves Saint Laurent himself inspecting a display of two of his ‘Picasso’ dresses, most likely photographed sometime in the early to mid 1980s. The black and white ‘Picasso’ dress of Vogue pattern 2406 can be seen on the right.

Yves Saint Laurent, circa 1980s.

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Robe de Mariée de Christian Dior: Autumn/ Winter 1979-80

 2545

I’ve always thought of this Christian Dior pattern as extremely elegant, and I just love the shape of that skirt! This design was taken from the Christian Dior Haute Couture collection for Autumn/Winter 1979-80, designed by Marc Bohan, and that pegged balloon skirt was a major theme in the collection and was used for evening gowns and cocktail dresses as well as for the traditional climax of an Haute Couture show, the bridal ensemble, translated into pattern form as Vogue 2545.

2545 Back View

I can’t seem to find 2545 in any of my Vogue Patterns magazines from 1979 and 1980, so I can’t identify the exact time of release, but I’m guessing it must have been sometime in 1980. 2545 must have been a  popular pattern as it was still available for purchase in the April 1988 store catalogue, if not later than that. I can see why it would have been popular, it is so beautiful, so classic, and a refreshing alternative to the usual A-line or column silhouette of bridal gowns. It has always reminded me of the gown worn by Grace Kelly when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, hers was designed by Helen Rose, a costume designer from MGM studios. It shares a similar silhouette with the Dior of 1979, both have a slightly similar bell-shaped skirt with deep tucks at the waistline, both have a fitted bodice with long sleeves and a high neckline, and both have a cummerbund to finish the waist.

Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco on their wedding day, 1956.

Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco on their wedding day, 1956.

Below are some images of gowns from the same collection that feature the bell-shaped skirt.

Advertisement: Dior, TARONI.

An advertisement for evening gowns from the Dior collection. Taroni was the supplier of the fabric. Notice how the two gowns on the left feature the same pleated-bow trim as 2545? The bow motif is also repeated as an accessory to be worn in the hair.

Three views of an evening gown by Dior.

Three views of the same evening gown featured in the print advertisement above. It is from the collection of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Two looks from the Christian Dior AW 1979-80 Haute Couture collection.

Two more looks from the collection. The evening gown on the right is also featured in the print advertisement above.

There is a video on youtube with brief clips of this Haute Couture collection by Dior and also of an Yves Saint Laurent collection from the same season, however I’m quite sure that the Saint Laurent collection is the Rive Gauche (prêt a porter) collection. The picture and sound quality isn’t great but the bridal gown of 2545 is easily recognisable, and also the gowns that precede it with the same shape of skirt can be seen. There’s a gorgeous lilac number in there, too. It’s interesting that both Dior and YSL show very similar trends for daywear in the form of plaid and tartan. I also love seeing the models doing their own make-up surrounded by the buzz of anticipation before the show!

Youtube clip of the Dior Autumn/Winter 1979-80 Haute Couture Collection.

Youtube clip of the Dior Autumn/Winter 1979-80 Haute Couture Collection. Terri May is modelling the bridal ensmble.(As in my Way Bandy post from last year, I apologize that I cannot embed videos into my blog posts, but click on the screen capture for a link to the youtube clip).

I’d be thrilled if someone asked me to make this dress for them for their special day. I would most likely soften the shoulder line by reducing the size of the shoulder pads, or for a wedding held during warmer weather I’d change the bodice to a strapless or sleeveles version  with a more open neckline. But really, the bodice could be adapted in almost any way as long as it was still close fitting, and the dress would still be amazing because it’s all about that fabulous skirt! I have a few copies of 2547 in my pattern collection, just waiting to be used some day…

Copies of 2547 can currently be found on eBay and etsy, including the etsy store ‘patternvault’.

UPDATE: June 14, 2013:

I recently acquired some Vogue Patterns magazines from 1981 and in the March/April issue I found Vogue 2457 included in a two-page bridal feature, along with an Emanuel Ungaro design. I’m not sure if this is the first intance of 2457 showing up in Vogue Patterns magazine, the only other issue could be the Septemner/October 1980 issue, which I don’t yet have in my library.

Here is the two-page spread (remember to right click and open in a new tab to see the larger version):

Brides In Vogue, Vogue Patterns, Page 72, March-April 1981.    Brides In Vogue, Vogue Patterns, Page 73, March-April 1981.

YSL For Dior, Lagerfeld For Patou, Autumn/Winter 1959-60.

1954 Wool Secretariat fashion Design Competition.

Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Colette Bracchi (far right) with models wearing their winning designs for the 1954 International Wool Secretariat fashion design competition.

Vogue Pattern Book, December 1959 - January 1960.

December 1959/January 1960 (U.S.) issue of the Vogue Pattern Book.

I’m aware of at least one other blog that has covered this topic before me, but I just can’t resist adding it to mine!

A very curious coincidence occurs in the December 1959/January 1960 (U.S.) issue of the Vogue Pattern Book. It features a brief profile of the Haute Couture House of Jean Patou, with Karl Lagerfeld as the recently-appointed head designer, and also features the introduction of three patterns featuring designs from the House of Christian Dior, whose head designer at that time was Yves Saint Laurent.

Dior Feature Article.

The article on the Christian Dior patterns, as it appears in the Vogue pattern Book for December 1959 – January 1960 (remember to click on the images for an enlarged version to read the article).

February 1960 Store Catalogue.

The Dior designs for Vogue Patterns, as they appeared as a feature in a February 1960 issue of the Vogue Patterns store catalogue.

1470  1471  1472

Above: 1470, 1471 & 1472 from Christian Dior, designed by Yves Saint Laurent.

Jean Patou profile featuring Karl Lagerfeld.

The article profiling the house of Jean Patou, featuring Karl Lagerfeld as the recently-appointed head designer, as it appears in the Vogue Pattern Book for December 1959 – January 1960. I’ve always admired Lagerfeld’s designs, from past to present, for his use of seaming and design lines, and silhoette, and for the sense of relevance to the present that is always evident in his work.

1461  1466

Above: 1461 & 1466, two of the three patterns from Jean Patou, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, as featured in the December 1959 – January 1960 issue of the Vogue Pattern Book. 1463, a pattern for a dress in two variations, is the third pattern for which I can not find any further information.

Paris Originals Line Drawings.

Line drawings for the front and back views of all the Paris Originals featured in the December 1959 – January 1960 issue of the Vogue Pattern Book.

 I’ve been a fan of Yves Saint Laurent since I first became interested in fashion design, and I have come to admire Karl Lagerfeld the more I have come to know of him and his work.

Now, as anyone who has read the book The Beautiful Fall (or Beautiful People for the French edition) by Alicia Drake will know, both Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent had quite similar career beginnings and aspirations, they both started their fashion careers at about the same time, and, as the book suggests, they had a long-running sense of competition and rivalry in their lives and in their careers. It truly is a fascinating book for anyone who is interested in the two designers, or in fashion, period.

According to The Beautiful Fall, in 1954, Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld were both studying at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris, and this is where they first met, however they were not in the same class but became friends and were for some time after.

In the same year they both won prizes in the 1954 International Wool Secretariat fashion design competition, Lagerfeld won the coat category and Saint Laurent won first and third prizes in the dress category.

Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain were in the jury, and the previous year Christian Dior had been a judge. I believe that Saint Laurent’s winning design was made by the house of Givenchy, but Lagerfeld’s was most certainly made by the house of Pierre Balmain. Lagerfeld was subsequently offered a job at the house of Pierre Balmain and joined as an apprentice in 1955. After four years he left Balmain to take up the position of designer at Jean Patou in 1959.

Saint Laurent joined the house of Dior as an assistant in the studio of Christian Dior in June of 1955.

After the death of Christian Dior in 1957, the first collection solely designed by Saint Laurent was for  Spring/Summer 1958 and was shown in January 1958. It became known as the ‘Trapèze’ collection, which was the name given to the silhouette that was chosen to be the fashion message of the season from the house of Dior.

The first three Christian Dior designs on offer from Vogue Patterns are from the Fall/Winter collection of 1959-60. The bubble/bloused  ‘hobble’ skirt silhouette of the dress of 1470 was a recurring theme in that collection and there were many variations.

Saint Laurent’s sixth and final collection for Dior was the infamous so-called ‘Beat’ collection for Fall/Winter 1960-61 which was shown in July of 1960. The collection was badly received by the Dior management, and soon after they breached their contract with Saint Laurent and replaced him with Marc Bohan as head designer in October of 1960.

It is interesting to note that Marc Bohan was working for the house of Jean Patou as a designer when he was contacted by Christian Dior in 1957 with the offer of a job in the design studio, and that Lagerfeld went on to work as a designer at Patou two years later in 1959.

There’s a certain symmetry to Lagerfeld’s and Saint Laurent’s starting point in fashion, first meeting and studying at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris, then their success with the 1954 International Wool Secretariat fashion design competition, and then working for Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain, who had themselves worked together at the house of Lucien Lelong at the beginning of the 1940s and at the beginning of their careers. So what a coincidence it is that we should find these two articles featuring the designs of both Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent in the same issue of the Vogue Pattern Book!

Harper's Bazaar, September 1959.

Above: Audrey Hepburn wearing a Christian Dior dress (designed by Yves Saint Laurent)at Maxim’s, photographed by Richard Avedon for Harper’s Bazaar (September 1959); with her are Art Buchwald and two other models wearing gowns by Pierre Balmain and Jean Patou (it is most likely that the Jean Patou was designed by Karl Lagerfeld).

Patou 2  Patou 1

Above: As featured in the December 1959/January 1960 issue of the Vogue Pattern Book, are the Vogue patterns from Jean Patou: 1463 (left) and 1461 (right). Notice how 1463 has a horizontal band toward the hem which is quite similar to the Christian Dior design from 1470, minus the bubbled skirt. The model wearing 1461 on the right is holding the coat that is included in the pattern, in this case made from some kind of fur or faux fur.

V&A YSL for DIOR, Autumn/Winter 1959-60.   1959-60

Above: Two designs from the Christian Dior Fall/Winter collection of 1959-60 which also feature the bubble skirt silouette of Vogue patern 1470. The image on the left is of a dress gray wool flannel and is from the collection of the V&A museum in London. The image on the right is of a dress with matching jacket and contour belt of black silk faille and long scarf of black satin, as it appeared in the book Yves Saint Laurent, published by the Metropolitan Museum  of art, new York, in 1983 as the catalogue of the exhibition of the same name held at the Met in 1983. The ensemble is also held in the collection of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

As a side note, before I purchased the U.S. issue of the Vogue Pattern Book for December 1959 – January 1960 on eBay, I had already purchased the U.K. issue and it did not include the Christian Dior feature or any reference to the Jean Patou pattern 1463, however it did still include the feature on the house of Jean Patou and the patterns 1461 and 1466. All I can assume is that there was a time difference or delay in the release of certain patterns from the U.S. to the U.K., or that it may have been a licensing issue.

Click to find this book at abebooks.com.  Click to find this book at abebooks.com.  Click to find this book at abebooks.com

The Beautiful Fall (ISBN-13: 9780747585466) or Beautiful People (ISBN-13: 9782070402595, in French);

 Yves Saint Laurent, ISBN:

0500273782 (Thames And Hudson, softcover, as pictured above)

0870993607 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, hardcover)

0870993615 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, softcover)

0517553090 (Random House, hardcover)

All books may be purchased at abebooks.com or amazon.com.

Vogue Patterns Fashion Society – Fashion Pack 2, Fall/Winter 1980.

Here is your second fashion pack for 1980, featuring the ‘FRONT PAGE’ pattern booklet with the latest pattern styles, and a supplementary pattern catalogue (exclusive to Vogue Patterns Fashion Society members), a Fabric Swatch Folio with the latest fabric trends, and many special offers for Fall/Winter 1980. Below is another welcome letter from Edith Head.

Below: The ‘FRONT PAGE’ booklet featuring the latest Vogue patterns. I think the newspaper style/format lacks the sophistication of the Spring 1980 Designer Preview portfolio (in the previous post), anyhow here it is:

                   

                   

Below: Another Vogue Patterns fashion show, this time for Fall/Winter 1980/81.

Below: A special offer was available for members on all patterns in a supplementary catalogue of older and recent patterns. The pages of the catalogue are of the same size and paper quality as the store counter catalogue (I photographed the front and back covers and the designer pattern pages only).

  

  

  

 

Below: A ‘Fabric Folio’ of real fabric swatches. It all looks very Ralph Lauren, Town & Country, on the hunt, etc….

                   

         

Below: An intriguing offer…

Below: For completing and submitting this very detailed survey, a member would be entitled to one free pattern of their choice, not a bad deal!

                   

Below: A brief, yet interesting, history of the Vogue Patterns company, particularly the part about the English printing plant being fire-bombed in WWII.

And that’s all, folks. Sadly I don’t have any more material on this topic. I wonder when the ‘Vogue Patterns Fashion Society’ ceased?