Tag Archives: McCall’s

Givenchy For McCall’s Patterns, 1966

I don’t write a lot about haute couture here at The Vintage Traveler. The careers of most of the 20th century greats are so well documented that there’s just not a lot I can add. But I just could not let the recent death of Hubert de Givenchy pass by without mentioning one of my favorite ever sewing pattern lines. In 1966 the movie, How to Steal a Million staring Audrey Hepburn and a wide cast of Givenchy creations, led to four of the suits Audrey wore in the movie being adapted into sewing patterns by McCall’s.

The patterns rated three pages in McCall’s magazine, all with publicity stills of Audrey, rather than pictures of the patterns. In the McCall’s Home Catalog, however, there were sketches of the pattern designs. By comparing the two sets of images you can see that the patterns are very faithful to the original designs as worn in the movie. All four designs were either suits or coat and dress ensembles.

Over the years I’ve managed to find three of the four patterns. An interesting note is that neither Audrey Hepburn nor the movie were mentioned on the actual pattern envelopes. I find that a bit odd as the connection between the patterns and the movie were well publicized in the magazines.

This is the pattern that I do not own. I need this pattern in my life.

I’ve been telling myself for years to make this coat. Maybe now is the time.

I don’t even try to collect couture clothing, as my interests don’t really run in that direction. I have been known to pick up the rare (inexpensive) piece though when lucky enough to find it. In fact, one of the few pieces of couture I own is a Givenchy suit, which dates to 1967.



Filed under Designers

Sewing Brochures from 1961 and 1962

I recently received a group of early 1960s pattern company brochures from friend Rebecca.  How did she know I’d want these?  Am I that transparent?  I certainly hope so.

They all date from June, 1961 to January of 1962, and are from Simplicity, Vogue, McCall’s, and Advance.  As much as I love a great vintage Vogue or Bazaar magazine, these little newsprint treasures reveal much more about what the “average” American woman was wearing.

When I started sewing for myself in the late 1960s, I could not wait until the latest editions of the pattern brochures arrived at the pattern counter.  I would spend hours carefully planning my next sewing project.  Maybe it’s partly due to that fond memory that I have such a weakness for these.

Click to Enlarge

Here are the play options from Simplicity for June, 1961.  The bathing suit in the middle is what was considered a bikini in 1961.  The playsuit of the right with the skirt cover up is also described as a bathing suit.

Pointed hem top patterns for all the women in the family.  Actually, I’ve seen this hem on men’s things as well.  And it makes me want to sew some chevroned stripes.  McCall’s, June 1961.

A note about that hat: I have several examples of this bucket-shaped hat in my collection, but none are nearly as exaggerated as these.

From the same McCall’s brochure is a grouping of swimwear, including a bathing/play suit very similar to the Simplicity one, right down to the skirt.  This bathing suit with matching skirt really was a great idea.  It also shows how swimwear can often be dated by imagining a skirt over the trunks.  Fashion does extend to swimwear.

The January 1962 issue of McCall’s Fashion Digest shows several examples of that most marvelous early Sixties wardrobe staple – the dress and jacket ensemble.  The beige example with the fantastic neckline was from designer Hannah Troy.  And note how similar the pink print dress is to the bathing suit and skirt in the previous picture.


The more high fashion home sewer also had the choice of a designer look from Europe.  These dress and jacket ensembles were designed by Guy Laroche, Ronald Paterson, Jacques Griffe, and Gres.  These were more than just a little more complicated that the designs in McCall’s and Simplicity.

The Vogue Young Fashionables line was quite fashion forward.  January, 1962.

These designs from Advance are labeled “Sew Easy”, but I can see several techniques that might give even an intermediate sewer fits.

And finally, could there be any other looks that sum up 1962 better than these four?  On the left we have three streamlined dresses and suits that have the Jackie Kennedy look bared down to the essentials.  And on the right, the ever popular shirtwaist, though with a slightly less full skirt than just a year or two before.


Filed under Collecting, Sewing

Miss America’s New Fashion Collection, 1961

For those of you too young to remember Toni, it was a hair care line with the premier product being the Toni Home Permanent.  For years the company had an ad campaign in which identical twins tried to fool you as you guessed, “Which twin had the Toni?”

This 1961 booklet from Toni doesn’t feature twins, but it does have the reining Miss America, Nancy Anne Fleming.  In the early 1960s, the Miss America contest was a very big deal, so it must have been an advertising coup for Toni to have her represent their products.  But it’s not just Toni.  As you can see, McCall’s Patterns and Everglaze Fabrics teamed up for this interesting campaign.

The pattern and sewing machine companies must have been really excited about Fleming being chosen Miss America.  In one of the most original talent presentations ever, Fleming took a rack of clothes she had sewn herself onto the stage, and did a little fashion presentation.   It was like a commercial for home sewing.

And the promotion of sewing by Fleming didn’t stop after she won the coveted crown.  In this booklet, she not only talks about sewing, but also models a collection of eight designs that McCall’s called the Miss America Collection.  Each design was made of Everglaze fabrics, and a new hairdo was designed for each outfit, complete with roller setting instructions.

Some of the outfits and the hair styles are too old for a nineteen-year-old, but others, like the two above show just how youthful early 60s fashion could be.

Do they still refer to Miss America as a “queen” or has that fallen by the wayside?

It’s possible that this booklet was included in specially marked packages of Toni.  In the back there is a coupon for a free pattern from the collection, along with a reminder that “Everglaze fabrics are among America’s favorite cottons.”

After her reign was over and she crowned the 1962 Miss America, Maria Fletcher of Asheville, Fleming used her scholarship to attend Michigan State, where she graduated in 1965.  She was married, had two kids and a career in broadcasting.  She was on an episode of the Love Boat in the 1980s, and married for a second time to Jim Lange, the longtime host of The Dating Game.  Today she lives in California.  I wonder if she still sews.


Filed under Advertisements, Curiosities, Sewing

McCall’s, October, 1917

In 1917 there were more women than ever working outside the home.  Many who were doing the jobs of farm and factory laborers had begun to wear pants or overalls on the job.  Suits were fashionable for the office set, and they often had an air of the military about them.

But tea and evening dresses remained very feminine in the traditional sense of the word.  Frocks were shorter, but no less frilly.  The skirts were quite full, and fell from a waistline that was above the natural waist, but was not quite an Empire waist.   In just a few years the waist would disappear and the skirt would become very narrow.   To learn more about the tubular styles of the early 1920s, you need to read Witness2Fashion’s analysis of them here and here.

I love this cover from 1917.  I wonder if she really did pair the yellow beads with her pretty blue dress.



Filed under Fashion Magazines

Designer Sewing Patterns

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.


Filed under Sewing

McCall’s 4093

I just fell in love with this sharp little blouse from 1957.  Best of all, it was super easy and very quick to make.  I don’t think it took more than 2 hours, and that includes cutting it out.  There are no darts, and the only part I had to even think about was matching up the points at the top of the sleeves.

I used a great turquoise eyelash I bought last year.  This came from an antique store in Rutherfordton, NC.  When I was a kid my mom and her friends would drive down to Rutherfordton and nearby Spindale to visit all the wonderful fabric mill outlet stores.  They would come home with bags full of the stuff, most of it made right there in the adjoining factories.

This fabric supposedly came from the Rutherfordton Tanner of North Carolina mill.  It’s very crisp, and I think it looks great made up in this pattern.

The details:


Posted by KeLLy Ann:

omg! That is just cracker jack! 

Monday, May 3rd 2010 @ 7:18 PM

Posted by Karen/SmallEarthVintage:

Ah, that’s fantastic–so cute! I love the triangle buttons. And I’ve learned a new fabric term (eyelash!). I always learn something new on your blog, Lizzie. 

Tuesday, May 4th 2010 @ 7:10 AM

Posted by stephanie Coop:

That is adorable! 

Tuesday, May 4th 2010 @ 7:27 AM

Posted by aurelia:

That is just too, too, too cute for words! Great find. 

Tuesday, May 4th 2010 @ 9:40 AM

Posted by Jennifer:

Super cute top! Are the buttons vintage, too? 

Tuesday, May 4th 2010 @ 11:56 AM

Posted by Nancy @ $25V:

Oh! So cute! What a great summer top, nice pattern find! 

Wednesday, May 5th 2010 @ 9:44 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Well, thanks everyone! Now I’m all motivated to make something else. 

Jennifer, yes, the buttons are vintage too.

Wednesday, May 5th 2010 @ 6:57 PM

Posted by Stacey:

Love the buttons you used! 

Friday, May 7th 2010 @ 3:12 PM

Posted by Brenda:

Lizzie you are always full of surprises. I didn’t know you were a seamstress as well as a fountain of vintage information. Love the blouse, love it! 

Wednesday, May 12th 2010 @ 7:24 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Brenda, I’m not happy just to collect stuff… I have to be making it too! 

Thursday, May 13th 2010 @ 6:07 PM

Posted by Grandmom:

That blouse is so cute, wish I had that pattern.:) 

Sunday, May 30th 2010 @ 4:29 PM

Posted by mariebayarea:

this is such a pretty lightweight top for summer.:) 

Sunday, June 13th 2010 @ 1:53 PM

Posted by Sarah:

Love that top – and your finishing is so neat and accomplished! 

‘Eyelash’ fabric is a new term to me as well, so thanks for adding to my woefully inadequate fabric vocabulary!

Monday, June 14th 2010 @ 2:05 AM


Filed under Sewing, Shopping, Textiles

Almost There…

It seems like forever that I’ve been trying to complete a set of four particular McCall’s patterns.  These were four designs that Givenchy designed for Audrey Hepburn to wear in How to Steal a Million.  Thanks to blog reader, Petite Main, I now have 3 of the four. Her sharp eyes spotted the pattern above on the Vintage Pattern Wiki.  If you love patterns you really ought to check out the Wiki.  I need to remember to add ones I have for sale that are not already pictured.

Ironically, the pattern was offered for sale by my friend Lisa at Miss Helenes and the Vintage Fashion Library! Lisa has a huge selection of patterns at both sites, and I have it on good authority that she’ll soon be adding some spectacular designs from the 50s!

But back to the Givenchy.  I first blogged about this two years ago.  Since then Birgit of Stitches and Loops has helped me locate two of these, although I was badly outbid on eBay on 8340.  I really didn’t think there would be much interest in the pattern.

Why?  Because McCall’s did such a poor job of marketing these.  There is no way to tell from the pattern envelope that these four designs were actually designed for Ms. Hepburn.  There is no mention of the movie.  And frankly, the illustrations are just not very exciting.  I mean, here is this pattern made up in that great check, modeled by Audrey:

photo from McCall’s, 1966

Or maybe it’s just the hat that makes the difference…

So how did I find the movie connection?  From one of life’s happy accidents!  I happened upon a July 1966 McCall’s magazine and bought it because of the pictures of Audrey.  When I really got to looking at the photos, it occurred to me that I had one of the patterns.  That set me on a quest for the others.

So, just one more.  Maybe I’ll actually make one of them!


Posted by Shay:

My absolute favorite outfit from that film was the cocktail dress/half-veil/cigarette holder ensemble she donned to make herself look the role of femme fatale for a meeting with O’Toole. No, it’s not a great movie but it’s great fun.

Wednesday, April 1st 2009 @ 8:30 PM

Posted by Lisa:

Oh, what a difference Audrey makes! I really thought that it was a rather meh pattern when I was listing it, but 60s coats are pretty popular styles. Who’da thunk it was Givenchy? I’m tickled!

Wednesday, April 1st 2009 @ 9:07 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

I watched this movie again this morning just to see the 4 outfits featured. The tattersal check coat is the very last ensemble in the film, and oddly enough, Hepburn is not wearing the matching hat.Shay, I love that too. It is great how they glittered up her eyelids so they could be seen better beneath the veil.

Sunday, April 5th 2009 @ 1:09 PM

Posted by Shay:

I wonder what luck I would have finding this coat pattern in a size 40 or 42….it is so wearable.

Monday, April 6th 2009 @ 11:16 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Shay, it was made up to a 40, so it is out there. The more I look at it, the more I love it.

Monday, April 6th 2009 @ 1:17 PM

1 Comment

Filed under Collecting, Designers, Sewing