Today’s post is an updated version of an article I wrote for my website, Fuzzylizzie.com. I’ve been transferring these articles to The Vintage Traveler mainly because there is no interaction on the website, and it’s just more fun for things to be here where people can discuss them if they wish.
For a home sewer, the best way to get “the look for less” has always been to buy and make a dress from a pattern designed by her favorite designer. And since the 1950s, there has been a large variety of designer patterns from which to choose.
Possibly the first designer patterns were published by the Paris Pattern Company. Starting in 1929 this company released the designs of more than a dozen Paris couturiers. They were sold through the Ladies’ Home Journal and in department stores. Today these patterns are a rare find.
Advance patterns had some of the best ready-to-wear designers working for them in the 1950s. Among the designers in their American Designers series were Anne Fogarty, Adrian, Madeleine Fauth and Tom Brigance.
In the 1960s Butterick did a line of designer patterns, Young Designers, which capitalized on the Youthquake trend. Two of the best known designers in this group were Mary Quant of London and Betsey Johnson, but other bright Young Designers such as Jean Muir and Deanna Littell also did patterns for this series. It continued into the 1970s, with designers such as Kenzo, Clovis Ruffin, Jane Tise and John Kloss.
I have quite a few of these patterns shown on a page I’ve made on the Young Designers series.
McCall’s produced a line of designer inspired patterns in the 1920s and 30s. These are quite rare, but it is possible to find patterns by designers such as Patou and Schiaparelli. In the 1950s, McCall’s started featuring some designers, such as Pucci (or Emilio of Capri, as his patterns were labeled) and Givenchy. These Givenchy creations are very much in the style of the dresses he was making for Audrey Hepburn. And in 1966, four designs from the Hepburn movie How to Steal a Million were adapted by McCall’s into patterns.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, McCall’s also had patterns designed by American fashion designers. Claire McCardell did designs for McCall’s, as did Geoffrey Beene and Pauline Trigere.
Vogue is probably the pattern company most associated with designer patterns and they continue to be a leader in this area. Vogue began doing designer adaptations in 1937, calling them “Couturier” patterns.
It was not until the late 1940s that Vogue began the Paris Original line, with designers like Schiaparelli, Patou and Lanvin. The Couturier line eventually was designed by other European designers such as Pucci and Simonetta, and it was not until 1967 that Vogue featured American designers in their new Americana line. Among these were Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Diane Von Furstenberg.
Besides the major pattern companies, there were a few mail order companies that specialized in designer patterns. Probably the best known is Spadea, originally called American Designers Patterns, which had a large and impressive list of designers working for them; Ceil Chapman, Jo Copeland, Philip Mangone, Tina Leser and Helen Rose were just a few. Another brand, Prominent Designer Patterns, featured Oleg Cassini, Estevez and David Crystal.
While adapting this writing for the blog I was surprised to see how many times I’ve actually written about designer patterns. I’ve done a bit of linkage so if any of the designers I’ve mentioned here sound interesting, just give them a click and you’ll be taken to an older post.