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May 26, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Cathy caught in knockoff scandal!


Oh, the shame of it.

Imagine my distress when a commenter yesterday noted that a nearly identical dress to TED, which Cathy looked so lovely in, had been posted yesterday on Pattern Review!

And sure enough -- look.

Only that this dress -- identical in every way to the Simplicity dress, mind you -- was a vintage Vogue pattern from the same era:

Look familiar?

Loyal followers of MPB, I knew in my heart of hearts that Elaine was a selfish b (as she reminds us daily) but I never, never thought she would stoop so low as to send me a designer knockoff.  I'm not sure how to proceed: Do I call 911?  311?  

How did Simplicity get away with this?

There's a section in "The End of Fashion" -- which I finished yesterday by the way and highly recommend -- all about the famous lawsuit between Yves Saint Laurent and Ralph Lauren over a tuxedo dress.  You can read about it here.

When is a knockoff a knockoff and when is it "inspired by" or a "tribute"?  I think this topic is more and more relevant these days as retro looks are just about everywhere.  But if you read "The End of Fashion" you'll know this problem has been going on for many, many decades.  

Then there are websites like this one:

Or this.

They don't even try to hide the fact that they are ripping off the originals.

I'm a little torn, frankly, because, while I obviously want to protect my cousin's reputation, I myself am not beyond picking up a pair of knockoff sunglasses on Canal Street.  There, now you know.

In this day of the Internet and globalization, are we really getting something better when we buy the original?  Are we supporting fair labor practices when  "Made in Italy" can mean made by Chinese immigrants in some Italian sweat shop.  Are we allowed not to care?

Have you ever purchased a knockoff, or knocked off a look yourself in your sewing?

I'm curious to know where you stand.

Jump in!


  1. Peter, it's funny that this comes up today. I just watched this TED talk about how the lack of copyright actually helps fashion.

    Yet I think we all know Cathy is duly mortified. This is a most dastardly trick by SS if I've ever seen one. Knock-offs are right up there with fake YSL logo bags. Horrifying and so not Cathy's style.

  2. OMG, what an spooky coincidence: TED stands for "The Elaine Dress" too!!

  3. I guess I am guilty (while not being charged yet for) knocking off. I seek for inspiration on internet and I am usually inspired by patterns and their construction. Hence, I often copy some of the elements of the garment that I liked. Here are some of my knock-offs:

    I was so shameless that I even posted patterns and tutorials for some of my copies.

  4. I'm guilty as well; in that I look for inspiration everywhere. I do tweak the styles for my own needs. I just wanted you to know that I now own S6672. After seeing how wonderful it looked on Cathy, I couldn't resist. I tracked it down and paid more for it than any other pattern I own. Oh well. Wasn't it Coco who said something about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery?

  5. I see very little in fashion which is truly original. So no, knock-offs don't bother me because most of the time you can't even tell who made the original. For me, the value in designer products is in the materials used and the construction-- if the designer has bothered to focus on quality.

  6. I knockoff rtw all the time, for myself. That really is the difference. Your knockoff is maybe after an old, out of print pattern, but who knows where the inspiration for the Simplicity pattern came from. I've seen this happen for years. Vogue pays for a designer garment to make a pattern from and then they knock it off themselves.

  7. At some point, pattern overlap was bound to happen. The big four have literally thousands of patterns (and often recycle old ones, as well) so it it little surprise that there is such a similarity between those two. It is entirely possible that both companies were knocking off another RTW item (as we see all the time, like the Vogue Roland Mouret Galaxy dress...swoon). I wouldn't let it get to you - this merely calls for revenge! Don't get mad, get even!

    Let the prank war begin?!

  8. I've absolutely no qualms about knockoffs! I sew so I don't have to fork out tons of money for clothes I love. I JUST knocked off an Athleta sweater last night. They wanted $88 for it. I paid $15 for everything. No shame here!

    BTW: Although I wouldn't put it past SS to have malicious intent in her pattern "giving", Cathy's totally gorgeous in her new dress.

  9. Hehe... I wanted to refer to the TED talk as well, since I saw it this afternoon, but someone else already did. I think that video explains a lot.

  10. This is such a hot topic! It's hard to say, I have bought some things that were knock offs and I have to say that I am not able to pay even $500 for a handbag. I can't afford it and probably will never be able to. I read an article that Gertie (Blog for Better Sewing) referenced a few weeks back about $550 chinos. Before reading that article I would have said, "I will NEVER pay that much money for a pair of anything." After reading the article, I'm much more inclined to say that I would (if I had the money) knowing they were made in the US, the workers were paid a decent wage and the quality workmanship is of the highest.

    Sewing for myself, I know what quality workmanship is, so I don't think its too much to ask that a pair of well made, high quality chinos be priced at what they are acutually worth. And for those designers that knock them off at a fraction of the cost, I say, how low can you go? It's just plain evil to steal someone else's idea. They'll get theirs.

  11. OK - I've been sewing "the Big Four" since 1964(ahem)and this sort of stuff has gone on all the time. Supposedly, one of the biggest selling patterns was a version of Scarlett O'Hara's party dress the year after the movie came out, but Walter Plunkett never complained. And the other 3 members of TB4 used to rip off, simplify, etc. things that Vogue brought out - and Vogue always had "their" version of the designer item (for more timid sewers) along with the designer original. As for knockoffs - if designers want to differentiate their work, then bring the manufacturing back to their home country and put some real value into the goods and the process instead of using the same offshore contractors making "fast fashion" for WalMart, Target, et al and let people know that fact. At least then consumers will know that.

  12. well now you know why simplicity was calling it a "designer fashion"

  13. Interesting topic. There is another great book "Deluxe" that addresses this issue with regards to luxury goods. Is the Vuitton bag made in China with the same leather at the same factory by the same workers that officially "fell off the truck" actually a knock off? 98% of the world's shoes are made in China regardless of the "Made in" labels...

  14. Peter, it was so great to meet you today! Maybe next time I'll get to meet Cathy and I can tell her how lovely this dress is, knock-off or not.

  15. Coco Channel said without copying there would be no fashion.

    And if you pay attention you will see the garment industry sometimes takes ideas from home sewers. We all steal from each other, big deal. Yes I knock off the big boys, but I will never buy clothes from them, so they don't lose a penny. With all the people there are in the world a whole lot of us will have to go naked if they ever start copywriting clothing.

  16. It's normal that people should look to other people's work to find inspiration for their own. That's what makes the world go round and it's no loss to anyone.

    And I guess how people choose to spend their money is their problem BUT I have a real problem with any industry that steals other people's work and designs and use it for their own profit - whether it's pirate copies of CDs and DVDs or the army of fake/ counterfeit goods out there. And those people who go one step further and sell fakes as authentic should just be sent to a sweatshop in hell for their sins... There, that's them told!

    Don't think Cathy should worry about wearing a vintage knock-off though. Surely Vogue and Simplicity will have slugged it out decades ago and Cathy's version is by far the nicest in any case!

  17. Being inspired to reproduce a designer garment or accessory, or the details of a historic or couture piece is what fashion sewing is all about. We sew for ourselves (mostly)to be able to express who we are, without having to buy into the overpriced world of luxury goods, and the fickle nature of seasonal fashion trends. This is entirely different than buying knock-offs. If you really are interested in this issue, you should have a look at this If it is important to you to have a Chanel bag, or Dior dress, then save your pennies, and buy originals, made by fair labor practices. Knock-offs on the streets are contributing to a myriad of social ills perpetrated against women and children in less developed countries. (for an excellent documentary about unfair labor practices in our OWN country, see "Made in L.A.", about immigrant women earning slave wages making garments for Forever 21 stores; it had me in tears for these women). They can even be dangerous to your own health (google fake perfume-you will be duly horrified). anyway, don't mean to get up on my soapbox, but think before you shop! The flea market is a great place to pick up bargains, but be aware of what you may be contributing to when you buy that knock off Coach bag....

  18. I was too lazy to post earlier that "Designer Fashion" is code for "we copied a designer you may have heard of but whose name we can't print for legal reasons".

    Tell Cathy it's a "tribute" dress. :)

  19. Peter, thanks so much for stopping by my What I'm Wearing post today. I wonder if we could get a mini-indoor trampoline on your balcony. On second thought, that might not be such a good idea.

  20. Australians have knock off everything. It's an 8 hour trip from my front door to where I can be buying cheap knockoffs from a street vendor in Thailand (the home of all knock offs). All this for less than the price of an internal flight. I am wearing shoes with a Gucci logo on them as I type.

  21. Peter, I've noticed that each season the big four come out with at least one pattern that is identical. I can say this because during my jumper phase (hangs head in shame) I had essentially the same pattern from each pattern company. I tend to pick the same pattern from each of the different pattern companies. Anyway, how many times can you reinvent a pattern? And the Vogue pattern didn't have a sleeveless version. Personally I liked the simplicity pattern better. Also, I still plan to send you the patterns I emailed you about, just have to get out of school. I don't this Anonymous understood you were kidding around about Elaine. Subtlety is lost on some people. Don't stop questioning, I love your blog.

  22. Geez, anonymous. No offense, but get a life and a sense of humor.


  23. Peter, I enjoy your questions too. I think one can understand a knock-off cycle, participate in it, realize the socio-economic impact of it, and still ask questions about it. There is always something new to learn.

  24. "Made in Italy" is even more likely to mean "made in China by slave labor, but the boat may have passed through Italy on its way to you". At least I have had eyewitness reports of expensive Italian yarns spotted sitting in Chinese factories, all labeled up and ready to go. And the E1.99 linen at my local supermarket sure seems to be of that ilk, even Chinese-made acrylic costs more than that in France.

    Fashion rip-off has been a longstanding tradition, alas. Not surprising that Simplicity indulged in it even back then. Check Fehrtrade for a recent article on the subject of pattern knockoffs specifically, and fashion-incubator fora long-running discussion of the subject. But at least Cathy is safe, as she made only a personal item and isn't (hopefully) planning on producing thousands for resale.

  25. Bad news . . . Cathy has been known to wear another knock-off pattern (and I'm wearing a dress made out of the same pattern even as I type this). Simplicity 7705 (printed in 1976) is a knock-off of the Diane von Furstenburg wrap-dress pattern she did for Vogue (#1549) around the same time period.

    I copy (call it "knock off" if you will) designer garments on occasion, because I simply cannot afford the designer ready-to-wear versions! A couple of years ago, I cribbed together my version of a Yves St. Laurent suit that I saw in Oprah magazine . . . the original suit cost well over $4,000, which is a bit out of my price range (my version probably cost me about $75). I make these garments for my personal use, I don't sell them, so I really don't see any problem with copying them . . . same as I don't have a problem with trying to replicate a fabulous restaurant meal at home. I do draw the line at purchasing obvious counterfeit items such as purses and shoes . . . I won't purchase such items.

  26. Have you seen this in the NYtimes today? I thought of this post when I saw it.

  27. Cathy Lane has been, and remains as, innocence personified.

    She has stood unsullied while the dreck of the modeling agencies, the lecherous photogaphers, and a laundry list unscrupulous self-promoters have all sought to exploit and glom onto her.

    Cathy has neither succumbed to a tawdry lifestyle, nor had her good name and likeness tied to dubious products.

    All of this will blow over just as quickly as Cathy stepped out of that unfortunate frock (which she rocked - THOSE LEGS!).

    Copyrights, and copy cats...who cares?

    Let's celebrate our favorite original,
    Miss Cathy Lane!


  28. What a beautiful tribute. Thanks, Testy!


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