Tag Archives: copy-cat

Making a Scarf Top, and Thoughts on Copying

Today I’m going to show how easy the Vera Jollytop would be to replicate, but first, a few words about copyright and fashion copying.

In the United States, there is no copyright protection for fashion design.  The reasoning is that clothes are basic, useful items, and as such cannot be copyrighted.  Even though the Council of Fashion Designers of America, led by Diane von Furstenberg, has made attempts to get legislation passed, it has come to nothing.

There is rarely anything in fashion that is actually “new.”  Designers visit and revisit the past, and each other on a regular basis.   Can anyone claim ownership of a French cuff, or a ruffled hem, or a bateau neckline?  It just isn’t possible, and because of this freedom to pick and choose design elements, creativity is fostered.

Of course, the lack of protection also allows companies to make cheap versions of expensive goods.  This is the type of copying that the CFDA opposes.  I suppose that if I were Diane von Furstenberg  selling a $3000 dress, I’d be pretty irritated about seeing a copy of it selling for $60 at some fast fashion store.

I think it is interesting that copying by the home sewer seems to be above this criticism.  Designers have been selling their designs to pattern companies for many decades, and for the price of a pattern and some nice fabric, the home sewer can have her own Givenchy or Diane von Furstenberg or Dior.

But note that there is a copyright symbol next to the Vera signature on my top.  The protection was granted for Vera’s artwork, not for the design of the top.  Vera got copyright protection for all her scarf designs, a protection that is still owned by the Vera Company.  Simply put, it is okay to copy the blouse, but not the art on the blouse.

To copy this scarf top, you need two scarves the same size.  Mine is made from 20 inch squares, which fits about a 36″ bust.  The back and front of mine are identical, but that is not really necessary.  Someone has a similar scarf top on etsy that she made using two Vera scarves with the same colorway, but with different designs.

This is the basic layout of the top.  Place the two scarves right sides together, with the correct top and bottom orientation.  I’ve put in the stitching lines at the shoulders, the sides and for the drawstrings.


This diagram has the measurements for the 20 inch scarf added.  Of course, you’ll have to make adjustments if you use a larger or smaller size.

There is a 4 1/4 tuck taken on the front 1 1/4 inch down from the neckline.  That is to make the front a little lower than the back, and helps prevent choking!

The shoulder seam is sewn between a point 4 1/2 inches on the top side, and 1 1/2 inch down the side.  That leaves a neck opening of 11 inches.

The side seam starts 9 inches down from the top, and is 6 inches long.  That gives a sleeve opening of 7 1/2 inches.

The casing for the drawstrings is sewn directly below the side seams on both front and back.  The area below the side seams is left open.  They used strips of bias seam binding to make the casing and also to make the strings, which are 32 inches long.

Any questions?  Let me know if you decide to make this one.  There is nothing hard about it, just be sure to adjust the measurements for your own needs.

The best explanation of fashion and copyright I’ve ever seen is in an old TEDTalk by Johanna Blakley.


Filed under Sewing, Viewpoint

A Reminder that Fashion Copying is Not a New Problem

When is a Pendleton 49er not a 49er?  When it has a Kerrybrooke for Sears label, that’s when.

For those of you who think I must do nothing but shop for vintage treasures, today was the first time I’ve been out vintage hunting since the first of November.  Between the weather, the holidays and a very needy little foster dog, I’ve just not been about to swing a day in the antique stores and thrifts.  But today I was finally able to get out and about and it sure felt good.

And in the middle of the Salvation Army I thought I had scored a Pendleton 49er.   I could just see the shoulder and the collar of the red, white and grey plaid, noticing the stitched shoulder pleat.  But before I even got my hand on it, I realized it was a vintage copy.  It wasn’t the jacket itself that first gave way the jacket’s secret, it was the label.  I could see a folded over label in the neck, whereas the Pendleton label would have been stitched down.

And while all the design elements were present – pleated shoulder, diagonal patch pockets, big grey mother of pearl buttons,  the construction quality  and the quality of the fabric was inferior to a real Pendleton.  See how wonky the pockets are?  In a genuine Pendleton 49er, the pockets are mirror images of each other.  Also note that the plaid does not match where the sleeve is joined to the body of the jacket.  My two Pendletons are perfectly matched.  Still, it had me fooled for a few seconds.

With all the talk about copying today, sometimes we forget that copying in fashion has been going on for a very long time.

I decided not to buy the fake 49er.  It was a touch snug in the shoulders, and all but one of the buttons were missing.  So I left it for some other vintage fan to discover.


Filed under Collecting, Shopping, Vintage Clothing

Design Inspiration

I know the topic of modern designers copying from vintage has been pretty well beaten to death, but since I seem to be stuck on the topic of hankies, this one had to be shared.  The skirt above was made by me from vintage fabric, probably from 1961.  More on it later.

This bag is currently for sale at  Anthropologie.com.  They call it the Purebred Tote.  If you go to the Anthropogie site you can scroll over the image and see the doggies close-up.  When I first spotted this bag this morning, I immediately thought of Tammis Keefe.  Of course, nothing on the bag, nor on the site references Keefe as the artist, but I was pretty sure I’d seen this in the form of either a hankie or a tea towel.

So I grabbed a hankie in my collection, a Keefe grouping of dogs,  and while some of the dogs are similar, none were exact.  Still, something told me I had seen those particular dogs before.  Finally it hit me; these were the same dogs that are on my skirt!  A quick trip to the closet confirmed that my skirt and the bag have three dogs in common.

But what about the others?  I felt sure these did come from a Tammis Keefe textile, so I went on a hunt for the  other hankie I know I’ve seen.  Unfortunately, I did not turn it up, but I did find a very interesting photo on True Up, a fabrics blog.  Scroll down to the third entry, and there you’ll see a rare Tammis Keefe silk scarf, with some of the the very same dogs!

Eventually, the other Keefe hanky will come up for sale, and when it does I’ll link to it.

So it appears that not only is Keefe’s work being used and not attributed today, but this was also being done if not in her lifetime, then at least very soon after her death in 1960.  The fabric I used for my skirt was from Robert Kaufman, and there was no reference to Keefe on the fabric.  On the True Up page, note that a Keefe cat was also used in printed circle skirt panels, also unattributed.

I’d like to point out that fashion designs are not copyright protected.  That’s why a company like J. Peterman can buy a vintage garment and reproduce it or why a cheap mall brand can copy the work of a designer who charges much more for his or her work.  It’s why many people are legally reproducing vintage sewing patterns for the purpose of selling them – only the drawings on the envelopes can be copyrighted – not the design itself.   For a great explanation of how this works, you must watch this video of Johanna Blakley of the Norman Lear Center.
But what about a textile design?  Look at the selvedge of the Robert Kaufman fabric. With true irony,there’s the little copyright symbol.  Look at any Vera textile from after 1959 and you’ll find the copyright symbol.  What a shame that once again an artist like Keefe is not getting the credit she deserves.
Note:  The photo of the bag is from the Anthropologie site and is their copyright.  As a general rule, I do not take any photos from other sites without asking, but when a site puts a “download this image” message beneath a photo, I think you can safely deduce that actually means ” Take the image of our product and put it on your blog so we will get free advertising.”


Posted by stephanie Coop:

I enjoyed reading this and learning about Tammis. It took me on an internet journey while I was drinking my coffee.

Tuesday, July 20th 2010 @ 3:33 AM

Posted by Karen/Small Earth Vintage:

Ugh. That bag is cute as sin, but this is another reason (of many) why I can’t stand Anthropologie and will not shop there or at Urban Outfitters. What a shame. While I admire their “look” (which is constantly, and understandably, deified by bloggers everywhere), their practices leave much to be desired. Not a fan.

Tuesday, July 20th 2010 @ 7:48 AM

Posted by KeLLy Ann:

Thanks for the new info. I never knew that about the patterns. I’m an artist, so the whole copyright thing gets pretty annoying sometimes. I think its the whole “ownership” vs “credit” thing…

Tuesday, July 20th 2010 @ 7:52 AM

Posted by Anonymous:

Interesting and informative. I do have to say, modern knock-offs of current art and fashion are annoying too.

Tuesday, July 20th 2010 @ 4:39 PM

Posted by Lin:

arg. lost my original post. I was saying that the tree at the centre looked very familiar too, but I can’t quite find the parallel I was thinking of…

Wednesday, July 21st 2010 @ 11:17 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Lin, bare trees like these are a common Keefe motif.When Keefe died in 1960, her only survivor was her mother, and as far as I know, there is no one to hold the copyright to her work. So it may be legal to use it, but it bothers me that people are profiting from her work without even acknowledging that she was the designer. Most of her work was clearly signed, so you know they know who the designer was.

Thursday, July 22nd 2010 @ 6:29 PM

Posted by Lin:

“Most of her work was clearly signed, so you know they know who the designer was.” A very good point, especially in the era of reissued and reinvigorated Vera and Liberty prints. A continuing business interest ensures the authorship is cemented. A lack of business continuity turns a completely coherent body of work into design flotsam and jetsam. What a shame.

Friday, July 23rd 2010 @ 9:19 AM

Posted by Sarah:

This is a prime example of the valuable work your blog does, Lizzie.Not only do you make sure that these designers are recognised for their beautiful and original work, but you’ve demonstrated how wilfully modern companies will exploit that original work without credit.

As ever, you are raising awareness, thank you!

Wednesday, July 28th 2010 @ 12:52 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Sarah, it nice for you to say so.

Friday, July 30th 2010 @ 6:32 PM

Posted by Lin:

here you go, for comparison while it’s up on Ebay – the Anthropologie bag is a direct lift from one of the dog collection scarves. http://cgi.ebay.com/VINTAGE-FOLK-ART-DOG-SCARF-/140475670342?pt=Vintage_Men_s_Women_s_Accessories&hash=item20b5009f46#ht_500wt_1156

Monday, November 8th 2010 @ 5:37 AM


Filed under Designers, Viewpoint

Giving Credit Where it Is Due

If you know Vested Gentress, them you have undoubtedly seen this, one of the most fanciful of the VG designs.  I’ve seen it called the Gingham Horse, because of the attached bows, and I’ve also seen it in a shift dress and with the bows printed on rather than attached.  I’ve seen it without the field of flowers.  VG got a lot of mileage out of this one.

The vintage skirt pictured is courtesy of Joules.

Now it appears that someone else is getting mileage out of it.  Last week I spotted this in an old farmer’s market in Wilmington, NC that has been converted to retail use.

When I first saw it I was tickled to think I’d found such a peachy vintage dress, but before I even touched it, I knew the truth – this was a reproduction.  The fabric, a slick synthetic, was a dead give-away.  And sure enough, it sported a new label – one of those mid-priced department store teen lines, I think.

I was in shock, but had the sense to look at the tags.  No mention whatsoever of this being a copy of a vintage piece.  Not an adaption, a copy.  And it is possible this has been out a while.  I’ll admit I’m rarely ever in a shopping mall or department store.

I know, I’ve preached this one before, and yes, I do realize you readers are the choir!  But honestly, how in the earth can this be justified?   Is everything that doesn’t have the words COPYRIGHT stamped on it subject to being copied?

This did stir me to do a little on-line investigating about Vested Gentress.  For a company that has been closed only about 20 years, there is surprisingly little information about it.  I did find a blog post from last September where a niece of the company owner posted.  I’d love to hear from anyone who has more to say about Vested Grentress and the company.

Now for all I know, the makers bought the rights to the design, but if that is the case, why not play up the vintage connection?


Posted by Joules:

I have one thing to say, and that is hrumpppph! I could go on… 

Sunday, May 10th 2009 @ 11:24 AM

Posted by Lucitebox:

Lizzie–I saw this repro in a boutique here in the late 90s. It was pricey, around $160, if I recall correctly. And you’re right–that fabric…ick. Apparently, you’re supposed to want a casual sundress to cling to your body because I think it had some lycra in it. 

I don’t know much about VG, but as you know, I LOVE the stuff! As to this horsey print, I have it on one of my all time favorite things to collect–those cheesy 70s embroidered sweaters by Cyn-Les and Shirlee. Sorry to switch gears, but do you know anything about those sweaters? (I’ll never forget receiving one from you!)
Anyway, one of those sweater manufacturers copied this horse print. It’s great and I wonder if it was licensed to them in the 70s. I’ll have to dig to see who made the sweater, but it’s clearly of that genre I collect and not a reproduction.


Tuesday, May 12th 2009 @ 9:20 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Holly, thanks for posting that. I thought that the dress might not be very current, considering the venue. A friend emailed another version of the VG horse dress, which I’ll post next week. This one is made from pink and white gingham, something I’d never seen! 

I really don’t know much about cyn-les and the other 70s embroidered sweaters, and I had completely forgotten about that horse version!! Maybe I ought to do some searching around to learn more.

Saturday, May 16th 2009 @ 10:25 AM


Filed under Shopping, Vintage Clothing