Readers, I am a man of strong passions. Not typical passions, perhaps, but strong passions. And sometimes fleeting passions: remember the identical cream-colored Samsonite train cases and (still) stinky vintage American Tourister luggage set?
My latest passion is for a certain kind of sewing pattern: the designer pattern. I'm a little embarrassed about it, though. I mean every pattern was designed by somebody. They didn't just materialize out of thin air. So what's the big deal?
Designer patterns are different. They tended (and still tend) to be more complicated, dressier outfits, and they cost more (35 cents -- ouch). They were also often physically larger.
Vogue Paris Originals (the best known line) even came with a special sew-in label!
And they (generally) boasted a famous designer's name: Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Pauline Trigère, Mary Quant, Givenchy!
Sometimes there was some confusion about provenance, as Paco Peralta has shown so hilariously on his blog. Whose dress is this, anyway? (Nina, Yves -- GET IN HERE!)
Kind of makes you wonder...
There were men's versions too, of course. Perhaps slightly less special, and never requiring gloves.
I'm guessing that in the days when a handful of European cities, like Paris, dictated style, the designer pattern lines were the first to introduce the latest trends, and then, later on, the same or similar trends worked their way down to the regular pattern lines. Anybody know for sure?
From 1949 to roughly 1952, Simplicity had a special Designer's Pattern line. Of course they didn't share the actual names of the designers, we just had to take their word for it. I love these patterns, friends. It's not that they're so elegant -- they're not. In fact they're fussy -- nearly every one has a few too many bows, trim, gathers, and other frou-frou -- but they're lovably fussy.
Cathy and I have decided that the early Fifties is her best era, style-wise (she's just not naturally Youth Quake, let's face it), and I've been digging around in search of these Simplicity patterns, which I only recently discovered. Naturally, I hate to pay big bucks for patterns, but anything with a lace overlay seems worth a little bit more, don't you think?
I was looking at the back of the pattern at the top of today's post, Simplicity 8243, and realized in short order that this is essentially two rather simple garments combined: 1) a slip, and 2) a kimono-sleeve one-piece dress (not unlike the one Cathy just modeled!). Make the slip in taffeta, do the dress in lace or similar sheer fabric and voilá -- a designer original, no? (click on pic for larger view)
I mean, it might require drafting a detachable Peter Pan collar, but how hard could that be?
In closing, friends, I ask you:
Are you a sucker for any pattern that has "designer" in the name (or the name of an actual designer) or are you just as happy to use the knock-off -- of which there were always many.
Do you have the confidence to go the Frankenpattern route, or do you feel you must adhere slavishly to a pattern as originally drafted?
Are you willing to tweak, or even perform major surgery, to achieve a "designer" effect by copying elements you've seen elsewhere?
Are you sitting on a large collection of Simplicity Designer's Patterns in a 36" bust you're eager to part with?
P.S. You can read my latest BurdaStyle piece here.
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns. I also sew for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!