An Exploration into the World of Designer Sewing Patterns

GUCCI Spring 2013 vs JEAN PATOU, 1970’s.

When I saw the first ‘look’ from the GUCCI Spring 2013 Ready-To-Wear Collection I immediately thought “I’ve seen this before”, and the vintage Vogue pattern 1216 by Jean Patou came straight to mind. I’ve always liked the pattern but do not yet own a copy. It is from the mid 1970’s but I can not put an exact date on it (can you?). I’ve always thought that the tunic-over-pants look is a very sophisticated daytime style so I think it’s exciting to see it come back again at Gucci. You know what they say, fashion is cyclical.

There are other looks from the collection that remind me of other vintage patterns from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The lounge-wear tunics over loose billowing pants are very Emilio Pucci. The shaped rounded hems of some of the tunics are very Pierre Cardin or Nina Ricci, the high pointed collars are very late 1960’s Fabiani, the safari-style oversized patch hip pockets are very Yves Saint Laurent and Jean Patou, and bishop sleeves and side-buttoned shoulder/neck openings were done by many!

Will you be wearing the tunic-over-pants look?


HALSTON – McCall’s 5103 Spiral Cut Dress, 1976.


Well, this isn’t a ‘Vogue’, it’s a McCall’s and it’s by one of my favourite designers of all time, HALSTON.  I don’t collect patterns of any brand other than Vogue, except Halston for McCall’s patterns. There are patterns which I like by designers who licensed their designs to other brands, such as Bob Mackie for McCall’s; or Rifat Ozbek, Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors for Style patterns, but I have to limit myself to Vogue, and Halston for McCall’s, to keep my pattern collecting at a manageable and affordable scale.

The original company founded by Roy Halston Frowick was named ‘Halston Inc.’ and it was acquired in 1973 by the company of Norton Simon Industries, which also owned the McCall Pattern Corporation, so it is no surprise that Halston’s designs were licensed to McCall’s and not to Vogue Patterns, as some of Halston’s hat designs had been in the 1960’s. According to the book ‘Simply Halston’, by Steven Gaines, Halston’s patterns were ‘enormously popular’.

Many of the patterns have very interesting and ingenious pattern cutting and construction techniques and reflect Halston’s quest for ‘seamlessness’ in his designs, meaning that unnecessary shoulder, side and armhole seams were often eliminated so that the garment’s lines would continue from front to back ‘unbroken’ to give the appearance of seamlessness. Often this type of seaming was used for bias-cut garments.

The McCall’s pattern 5103 is from 1976. It utilises the ‘tube’ cut which first appeared in Halston’s Spring 1974 collection. The ‘tube’ cut could allow a garment to be made completely on the bias, all in one piece of fabric, by spiralling a single seam around the body.

I think the way that the pattern is cut is the most interesting aspect of the design of McCall’s 5103, as the dress appears rather unremarkable in the photograph on the envelope. This may be partly due to the fabric choices and styling, and I also think it has something to do with the sleeves (on the short-sleeved version). Perhaps the short sleeves would look better if they were made shorter. Perhaps an experienced dressmaker could eliminate the sleeves all together and substitute them with narrow shoulder straps and bind the lower armhole edge. Also, to make use of the bias, perhaps a fabric with a very soft drape such as silk charmeuse, tissue faille, or satin would draw closer to the body for a more flattering and lustrous evening look. A stripe or linear print would emphasise the spiral seaming, as is utilised for version A on the pattern envelope. An ombre printed or dyed fabric with the gradation running from selvage to selvage would really look amazing!

Below: The back side of the envelope and scans from the instruction sheet of the pattern list showing the shape of the pieces, and the first steps of construction for the dress showing how the spiral seam is sewn.

 Below: A diagram illustrating the concept of the ‘tube’ cut; a photograph of Karen Bjornson (who was once Halston’s house model and a ‘Halstonette’) modelling a tube dress in a  Spring 1976 fashion show held on December 4, 1975; and a photograph of the same dress on a mannequin. It is interesting that McCall’s 5103 is copywrited 1976, the same year as the collection from which that dress came. (Source: Diagram is from the book Halston: An American Original by Elaine Gross and Fred Rottman, Photographs are from HALSTON by Steven Bluttal and Patricia Mears).

Images and information were sourced from the following books (all are out of print except for a reprint of ‘HALSTON’ by Bluttal/Mears):



Steven Bluttal / Patricia Mears

Publisher:Phaidon Press Ltd, 1st Edition (2001)


ISBN-10: 0714841064 / ISBN-13: 978-0714841069

(A reprint of this book is now available at and I assume that the content is identical to the first edition)

Halston: An American Original

Elaine  Gross / Fred Rottman

Publisher: Harper Collins; 1st Edition (1999)


ISBN-10: 0060193182

 Simply Halston

Steven Gaines

Publisher: Jove (1993)


ISBN-10: 0515110159 / ISBN-13: 978-0515110159

Stay tuned for future posts on other HALSTON for McCall’s patterns!

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?

Vogue Patterns Fashion Society – Fashion Pack 1, Spring/Summer 1980.

The famed costume designer-turned-pattern designer, Edith Head, welcomes you to the VOGUE PATTERNS FASHION SOCIETY!

Here is your first fashion pack for 1980, packed with fashion forecasts, trend reports from Paris, and designer pattern previews for Spring/Summer 1980.




Below: Report on the Spring/Summer 1980 Paris Prêt-à-Porter Collections (7 Pages).



Below: Report on European Street Trends for Spring/Summer 1980 (3 Pages).


Below: You could go to your nearest participating store to view Vogue’s latest pattern styles on parade and if you were lucky you might have met Edith head in person, and get your favourite ‘Edith Head’ Vogue pattern personally signed! Do any of these fabric shops still exist? Do tell…

Stay tuned, your Fall/Winter 1980 Fashion Pack will be arriving soon!

Antonio for Vogue Patterns, 1974.

There’s a new book about the legendary fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez which has just been released, it’s called  Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex, and Disco. I thought I would take the opportunity to share two editorials that he illustrated for Vogue Patterns magazine in 1974 to coincide with the release of the book.

The first editorial ‘The Seductive Stole’ is a double page spread to promote the Vogue pattern 8867 for evening shawls, and is from the Spring 1974 edition.

The second editorial ‘The Seductive Players’ is a four page spread to promote three Vogue accessories patterns 9007, 8974, and 8975, and is from the Autumn 1974 edition. These illustrations really evoke the spirit of the 20’s/30’s Art Deco  revival of the early 1970’s. Silver-screen sirens… planes, trains and automobiles… women on the move!

These magnificent commissions show just how much Vogue Patterns were striving toward the high standards of imagery and content set by magazines such as Vogue and Vanity, for which Antonio provided many commissioned illustrations.

The Seductive Stole:

The Supporting Players:

I have yet to order a copy of Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex, and Disco. I’m hoping that it is everything I imagine it to be, and a tribute worthy of one of the most unique fashion illustrators in history, who played a major part in shaping the fashion spirit and aesthetic of his times.

Vogue Original de Paris.

Bonjour! How’s your French?

Here is a curiosity, and what seems to be a rarity in the world of pattern collecting, at least to someone in Australia (i.e., me!). I acquired this pattern on eBay about 2 years ago and, just tonight, while sorting and culling some of my pattern collection I came across this pattern again. A ‘Vogue Original de Paris’ by Pierre Cardin, complete with label.

This pattern was never used and it is still wrapped in what I assume to be the original cellophane. I’ve noticed on eBay that some Vogue patterns that were made in England from 1960’s were also in cellophane, so I’m guessing that at one point it was common in Europe to receive your pattern in protective cellophane.

As this pattern was printed in England, the pattern tissue is of the white variety which has one side (the right side) which is glossy and seems almost waxy. It is also the same type of pattern tissue that was used to print Vogue patterns in Australia. I find that this tissue is stronger and less prone to tearing compared to the American brown tissue.

An interesting difference from the English language version is that there is a diagram on the back side of the envelope which shows the shape and grain of the main pattern pieces (the collar interfacing and pocket bag are the only pieces not pictured).

The main step-by-step construction sheet is in French, and there is a supplementary instruction sheet with advice on size selection, pattern alterations, cutting fabric, transferring markings and basting which is in four languages, including French, German, Dutch, and English.

I also have a ‘Vogue Grand Couturier’ pattern by Valentino and it is almost identical in its printing layout and language formatting. It is also printed in England. The Grand Couturier series had its own ‘Vogue Grand Couturier’ label.

I remember looking through fashion books back when I was in High School and being fascinated by the far-out ‘space age’ designs of Pierre Cardin, and by the geometric shapes and motifs of his clothes. I had no idea at the time that there were sewing patterns made available of the same designs!

‘From The Yves Saint Laurent Fabric Boutique’.

Here’s an interesting piece of home-sewing history.

I first became aware of ‘The Yves Saint Laurent Fabric Boutique’ when I discovered an old newspaper wire-photo on eBay, which I bought. The photo was originally printed in the Chicago Daily News and is dated March 2, 1970 on the back side. It shows YSL fabric bolts, a YSL Vogue pattern (2216) and a sew-in label pinned to one of the fabric bolts. The photograph is pictured below.

I have since searched for more information online regarding the YSL Fabric Boutique but haven’t had much success apart from a couple of articles and advertisements from 1970 newspapers on a ‘google news’ search.

From what I‘ve read, It seems that the fabrics were sold in fabric stores and fabric counters in department stores beginning in late 1969 or early 1970, and as far as I can tell, only within the United States. Fabric bolts were displayed on and around chrome steel and glass tables in, it seems, an island display concept within existing fabric stores. A ‘pattern book’ released with the fabrics by YSL was a guide recommending how to mix and match certain sewing patterns with the fabrics from the range. Each purchase of fabric came with a cloth label to sew into your new creation. What a novel idea! You could buy a YSL Vogue Paris Original pattern and make it up in a YSL approved fabric, and then insert a YSL cloth label into your creation. In one article, not included here (Fort Pierce News Tribune, December 03 1969, page 7), it states that the fabrics are made by Burlington Industries.

I wonder how long the business operation lasted and whether it was an  over-all success?

Click on the images to enlarge them and read the articles for yourself. I would absolutely LOVE to get my hands on one of the original YSL sketch/pattern books!

If anyone out there has further information on this topic then please share!

A wire photo originally published in The Chicago Daily News on March 2, 1970.

The newspaper clipping attached to the reverse of the wire photo reads:
“Destined to be one of the most popular selections from the boutique, this brown-and-beige plaid with subtle orange stripes is visualized by St. Laurent as a versatile double-breasted coat, the pattern No. 2216. A washable blend of 50 per cent polyester and 50 per cent cotton, it has an invisible vinyl coating and sells for $4 per yard.”


Vogue Paris Original 2216, the same pattern pictured in the black and white photograph above.

Below are the promotional news articles and advertisements that were published to anounce the release of the Yves Saint Laurent Fabric Boutique.

Cape Giradeau Southeast Missourian News Article.

A news article about the YSL Fabric Boutique, published in The Cape Giradeau Southeast Missourian newspaper, December 11, 1969. Notice the plaid coat on the model, it’s made from the same fabric as pictured on the fabric bolt in the wire photo above, second image down from the top. Also, the coat seems to be of the same design as Vogue pattern 2216, and was likely made from the pattern for promotional purposes.

Another article about the release of the Yves Saint Laurent Fabric Boutique, published in The Los Angeles Times newspaper, May 17, 1970.

YSL Fabric Boutique at Gimbels

Part of a full-page ad for Gimbels department store, published in The Milwaukee Journal newspaper, February 3, 1970.

An advertisement for The YSL Fabric Boutique at The Chandlers, does anyone know if this was a fabric store or a department store? Published in The San Mateo Times, February 3, 1970.

 …And just for fun, a while ago while on a google images search, I found these images of a vintage home-made dress that was for sale at Swank Vintage. Because the dress has the label sewn inside, I’m assuming that the fabric is from the YSL Fabric Boutique (thanks to Swank Vintage for approving the use of their images).

I can’t identify the pattern used (and if it’s a Vogue designer pattern, then usually I’m quite good at picking them!), can you?

YSL Fabric Boutique Garment from 'Swank Vintage'.

If you’re interested in Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue Patterns, or sewing then I recommend these blogs which I follow:

Welcome, Pattern Enthusiasts…


Well, this is my very first entry on my very first blog.

I have a fascination with the world of designer sewing patterns. I just love the way that they correlate with the fashion you find in the history books, because they were the actual fashions! When you flick through a vintage Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar magazine you can come across divine clothing which you can only dream about ever wearing, but with sewing patterns you can bring your favourite vintage designs by your favourite designers and couturiers back to life! It is amazing to me to think that a woman, especially one who was living in a rural area far from the fashion capitols and existing on a modest income, could go to their local fabric store and pick up a pattern and go home to make themselves a Dior (or at least a good imitation).

First and foremost I love the clothing designs and learning how the pattern is cut and constructed. But to me what gives the pattern allure and charm is the image on the envelope. Fashion is all about selling an image and, back in the day, Vogue Patterns took their image as seriously as the best fashion magazines and employed some of the best photographers and models to market their patterns, which was only appropriate to a company that licensed their designs from the best designers in the world.

There are already several blogs out there which I admire and follow that are based around sewing patterns, and I thought that I have something that I could add to the discussion, so that’s why I started this blog.

Finding information regarding vintage sewing patterns can be very difficult. Usually, if one can’t find the information they’re after on the Internet then the information has to be sourced from vintage magazines and books, which can be hard to find and very expensive, but even then there can be many questions left unanswered.

I’ve been collecting vintage, and new, designer sewing patterns (mostly Vogue) for just over two years now. I’ve acquired quite lot of knowledge and information regarding patterns and sewing culture from throughout the years. It wasn’t always easy to get that information, however I must admit that the hunt was part of the fun, but not being able to find what I was after was frustrating at times. Therefore, I thought that sharing this information may be appreciated by other pattern enthusiasts with the same insatiable appetite for those paper packets of fashion history!

Stay tuned…