Tag Archives: American designers

Reflections on the Couture Legacy of Norman Norell

It was my distinct pleasure and good fortune to visit the current Exhibition on Norman Norell at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) in New York City last week. For those of you not familiar with this mid-century American designer, you may be surprised to learn of his enduring influence on, and remarkable contributions to American fashion and glamour. He also, in his extensive and versatile body of work, employed the finest couture techniques, making his clothes still the envy of designers and those of us who strive for excellence in our fashion sewing.

Norell: Dean of American Fashion opened on February 9, 2018 and will close on April 14th. Guest Curator and designer Jeffrey Banks and Deputy Director of MFIT, Patricia Mears, collaborated on this Exhibition. Included are examples from his entire career; however, the Exhibition focuses for the most part on his final, spectacular 12 years, from 1960 – 1972. Norell (1900-1972) left his native Indiana to pursue his interest in illustration and fashion design in New York. He worked under Hattie Carnegie, and then at the beginning of World War II he began a partnership with Anthony Traina, the label for which is the well-known Traina-Norell designation. It was in 1960 that Norell started his own eponymous line of clothing, and it was during this period, up to his untimely death in 1972, that he set his real mark on American fashion.

To all of you I commend the MFIT Exhibition website for learning more about Norell’s life and the evolution of his body of work, including a fascinating video presentation by Exhibition Curator Jeffrey Banks. (Be sure to click on “explore the Exhibition website” which will lead you to some excellent content.) It was with this background knowledge that I entered the Exhibition, knowing I wanted to view it on two levels – 1) as a dazzling display of some of the most beautiful fashions ever assembled, and 2) as an opportunity to see up close some of the construction details, style lines, and elegant touches in his fashions, serving as inspiration for my own fashion sewing.

The Exhibit is physically divided into two areas, the first of which serves as a guide to his trademark themes, each with a small grouping of fashions. I was immediately smitten with this selection of LBDs:

All of these dresses have a timeless appearance, making them as stylish today as when they were designed. From left to right, #1 Label: Norman Norell New York. Black sleeveless bodice with skirt and satin sash, 1963. wool jersey, wool twill. Lent by Kenneth Pool [a major lender to the Exhibit.];
#2 Label: Traina-Norell New York. Black cocktail ensemble, 1950. silk chiffon, silk satin. MFIT, Gift in memory of Miriam Abrams; #3 Label: Norman Norell New York. Black dress with belt, 1962-1963. Wool, leather. MFIT, Gift of Mortimer Soloman.

As a way of illustrating the impeccable couture construction for which Norell fashions are known, this “inside-out” dress was displayed.

Click on the photo for a closer look.

It was all I could do to keep from reaching over to see more of it. Noted on the caption were ”the hand-picked zipper and extra wide seam allowance, the deep hem … edged with bias-cut silk so that it is softly defined yet sturdy. Furthermore, the neckline and armholes are minimally interfaced to give shape without impeding movement, and they are under-pressed in order to hide the seams.”

The larger gallery of the Exhibit practically took my breath away when I entered. The large center stage is resplendent with examples of his famous eveningwear, including his sequined “mermaid” dresses.

The low light in the Exhibition gallery only added to the ambience and allure of these creations.

Around the perimeter of the gallery were featured many, many of his glorious coats, capes and dress suits, as well as dresses. I snapped this photo of one of his trademark sailor dresses to show the hand-picked zipper and the large patch pockets applied by hand (note the provenance on this dress in the caption):

Label: Traina-Norell New York. Off-white sailor dress with navy collar and red tie, circa 1957. Linen. MFIT, Gift of Lauren Bacall.

There were so many terrific examples of Norell’s vibrant use of color, including this coral cape from 1962.

Label: Norell. Coral double breasted cape, 1962. Wool melton. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

And I could not take my eyes away from this combination of off-white evening gown with a red bolero jacket and peacock blue sash from 1968.

The beautiful shape of the jacket, with those amazing buttons and bound buttonholes, sets off the sash to perfection. Label: Norman Norell New York. Off-white evening gown with red bolero jacket and peacock blue sash, 1968. Cotton organdy, wool, silk taffeta. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

Another brilliantly hued ensemble is this pink evening coat with matching skirt and blouse from 1964. Note the rhinestone buttons, the beautiful bound buttonholes, the angled pockets, and the lovely seaming detail of the high yoke on the coat which descends into the sleeves.

Label: Norell, Norman Norell New York. Pink evening coat with matching skirt and blouse, 1964. Wool, rhinestone buttons. MFIT, Gift of Lauren Bacall.

Norell was known for his cone and wedge-shaped coats, of which this purple one is an excellent example.  Note the spread of the descending buttons on this coat:

Photography was permitted, although flash photography was not, so my pictures do not do justice to many of these fashions. Label: Norell. Purple cone shaped double breasted coat with Peter Pan collar, 1966. Wool melton. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

This coat and pants ensemble from 1970 is set off beautifully by its wide belt:

Label: Norell. Coat and pants ensemble, 1970. Wool herringbone, leather. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

The collar is absolutely stunning. And those bound buttonholes are a work of art in that heavy wool herringbone weave.

Norell used the talented stitchers of the garment worker’s union to make his clothing.

While I am writing about coats (one of my favorite subjects!), I want to show you details from two which help to illustrate the quality and finesse for which Norell’s fashions are known. First is this pocket detail from an off-white coat with black collar, 1962-1965.

Label: Norell. Off-white coat with black collar, 1962-1965. Wool and velvet. MFIT, Gift of Mrs. Jane Albert

The right edge of the flap is angled slightly to follow the side seam line, a subtle touch which gives it a graceful appearance.

Second is another pocket detail on a beige coat with pilgrim collar from 1968:

Label: Norell. Beige coat with pilgrim collar, 1968. Wool. MFIT, Gift from the collection of Margery J. Davidson, lovingly donated by her son Harold S. Graham.

The pocket is an extension of a princess seam, beautifully angled. And more shaping is apparent to the left of the full-length seam, giving this coat such elegant and refined lines.

Seeing this following grouping of dresses and jackets gave me a new appreciation of the concept of “less is more.” According to the caption, Norell “chose to trim his day and evening wear with mink, fox, and sable. The judicious use of this expensive and sensuous material elevated the glamour quotient of his restrained daywear.”

From left to right: #1 Label: Norell. Pale oatmeal midi dress and bolero jacket, 1967. Wool, crystal fox. Lent by Kenneth Pool. #2 Label: Norell. Pale peach jacket and black gown, 1966. Brushed wool, fox, sheer jersey. Lent by Kenneth Pool. #3 Label: Norell. Red and black check suit, 1962. Wool, black fox, leather. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

One more Little Black Dress has the most beautifully placed buttons:

Label: Norman Norell New York. Black dress with jeweled buttons, 1965. Wool crepe. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

I loved the caption which (partially) stated: “Deceptively simple, Norell’s dresses were visually quiet but strategically constructed… to enhance a woman’s body.”

I could go on and on as there is so much more to celebrate about this remarkably talented “Dean of American Fashion.” Fortunately, the Exhibition is accompanied by a book, titled: Norell: Master of American Fashion, by Jeffrey Banks and Doria de la Chapelle.   Published by Rizzoli, the book is lavishly illustrated and beautifully presented, both in content and inspiration. I commend it to you.

In closing, on a personal note, I cannot help but think back to 1972, the year I graduated from college and the year Norman Norell died. So much has changed in the world of fashion and fashion sewing since those heady years. Seeing an exhibition like this one is a lovely reminder of the true timelessness of quality and restrained elegance, providing endless inspiration to those of us who dream and sew.


Filed under bound buttonholes, Capes, Coats, Cocktail dresses, couture construction, Day dresses, Dressmaker coats, Dressmaker suits, Fashion commentary, Fashion Exhibits, Little Black Dress, Mid-Century style, Suit dresses, Uncategorized

Wrapping My Mind Around a New Dress for Fall

I am not sure why, but I have been obsessed with wrap dresses lately.  I think it began in May when I wore the dress I made last summer from a mid-‘70s Vogue Diane von Furstenberg pattern.   It seemed to make a hit whenever I had it on – and there is nothing like a compliment to make one try for a repeat!  I just needed to find the perfect fabric – and another perfect pattern.

I made the sleeveless version of this dress in a red and white print.

I made the sleeveless version of this dress in a red and white print.

The perfect fabric turned out to be the easy part of the equation.  One of my classmates in Susan Khalje’s Classic French Jacket Class chose this silk charmeuse for her jacket lining:

Wrap dress - 9 - fabric I loved the design so much that I asked for a swatch of it while I was at Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in NYC with my classmates.  Well, you can guess the end of this part of the story.  A few weeks after arriving home, I called up Alice at Mendel Goldberg and ordered some yardage.  I could picture this fabric as a wrap dress with ¾ or bracelet-length sleeves.  However, it is a woven fabric (of course), and even though it does have a slight stretch to it, those vintage Diane von Furstenberg patterns require “stretchable knits”, even including a stretch gauge on the pattern envelopes to ensure success.

Wrap dress - 8 - stretch gauge Out of curiosity I went through my collection of vintage patterns to see what other “wrap” dresses I could find, and although none of these three were quite the look I wanted, I was struck by the variety of wrap dress patterns available, obviously some long before Diane von Furstenberg made them so popular.

This pattern is copyright 1960.  "slightly gathered skirt back of the sleeveless, easy-does-it dress wraps around plain front to fasten at waist-line with tied belt."

This pattern is copyright 1960. “slightly gathered skirt back of the sleeveless, easy-does-it dress wraps around plain front to fasten at waist-line with tied belt.”

A thumbnail diagram on the back of the pattern envelope.  "Dress opens flat for ironing."

A thumbnail diagram on the back of the pattern envelope. “Dress opens flat for ironing.”

Here is a slightly more elegant wrap dress, also from the early ’60s:

Actually, just the skirt is a wrap on this dress, which has so many different looks, all of them quite stunning.

Actually, just the skirt is a wrap on this dress, which has so many different looks, all of them quite stunning.

Finally this Pucci design, which is another elegant wrap dress:

"Slim, high fitted dress in evening r street length has wrapped back closing, soft side back folds."

“Slim, high fitted dress in evening or street length has wrapped back closing, soft side back folds.”

It was about this time that the September issue of Threads magazine arrived in my mailbox.  Now my obsession was in full force, as the main feature article was on Wrap Dresses: Easy to Fit and Sew.

Wrap dress I liked the dress featured on the cover – which happens to be a new Vogue pattern (V8784).  I also liked the fact that it does not require a knit fabric, and that it is to be lined (I could make it using couture techniques).  I did not like the sleeves, however – too baggy and shapeless.

I could not get around the idea that the look I thought I wanted was this D v F dress, featured on the front cover of Vogue Patterns for September/October 1976:

Wrap dress - 6 DvF cover

This presented two major problems, however,  First, I do not own this vintage pattern (yet), which commands high prices when it comes on the market.  And second, even if I did own it, my woven silk fabric would not be appropriate to use for it.

Well, this second part of the equation was beginning to be a problem.  Then, quite by luck, I stumbled on a Simplicity pattern from 1976 in an Etsy store.  The pattern  is obviously a knock-off of the classic Diane von Furstenberg dress I like so much.  However, it is for woven fabrics!  It was in my size, which I took as a “sign” that I was supposed to buy it – which I did.  I thought my search was over.  With a few minor adjustments to the “extreme” points on the collar and the cuffs, I felt sure this pattern would work.

I really don't think there is anything "JIffy" about this pattern . . .

I really don’t think there is anything “JIffy” about this pattern . . .

A few weeks passed as life took me in other directions and with other projects. Then, finally, I eagerly started on the muslin for this dress.   I was eager, that is, until I realized that the pattern piece for the sleeve is missing –  and the pattern is going to require many more alterations than I usually have.

This is not fun.

There – I feel better now that I have said that!  So my quest for the perfect pattern has been a challenge, but it’s not Fall yet.  By hook or by crook, I’ll be wearing a new silk wrap dress before the trees gently release their leaves into the cool, crisp autumn air.




Filed under Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns

Back to the Past

I am finally back in my sewing room, working on my emerald green silk suit.  The event to which I had hoped to wear this suit has come and gone (I wore something else that evening and the world somehow kept on spinning – amazing!), but this sewing project was and is on my Spring agenda and I am bound and determined to finish it.  Until I have made a bit more progress, with something to show for it, I thought I would indulge you with a book review of the 1956 Claire McCardell (1905-1958) book, What Shall I Wear, re-published in 2012 by The Rookery Press, in association with The Overlook Press, New York, New York.

Back to the Past

This book came to my attention by way of The Vintage Traveler blog (thanks, Lizzie!).  I purchased it on Amazon last Fall, and then, to my surprise, it was one of five books chosen by Christina Binkley of  The Wall Street Journal for her annual list of “Best Style Books”.

This annual feature on "style books" is always one of my favorites.

This annual feature on “style books” in The Wall Street Journal is always one of my favorites.  It appeared on December 20, 2012.

Here from Binkley’s review of the book: “This book is a gem.  …It manages to be modern more than 60 years later…  The designer created chic casual items that we take for granted today, such as trim ankle pants and full skirts that permit comfort and movement.  … She demonstrates an understanding of women’s lives. ‘Everyone should have a “pop-over” dress – a sheath that they can just pop over their head and go.’”

Here are some of Claire McCardell’s fashion tips and thoughts which struck a chord with me, especially in relation to sewing and dressmaking:

1)  The simple act of changing buttons (or in sewing, choosing the right ones) can make a dress fit your style.

2) When putting together your clothing (or pattern and fabric) budget, consider carefully where you want to put your money.  Make one major purchase a year, something classic and timeless is always a smart move.

3) Use color extensively and don’t be afraid to stretch from your normal palette.

4) Coats should be a large part of your wardrobe.  Indeed, she recommends compiling a “Coat Collection”.  That’s advice sweet to my ears!

5) Learn how to tie a scarf!  In her words:  “You miss all the fun if you can’t tie things.”  “If you really care about Fashion, sit down right now and learn to tie.  An ascot, a bandanna, a neckband, a bowknot.  This means knowing how to fold first, knowing how to loop next, knowing how to get the knot straight, knowing how to make the ends even – or uneven – on purpose.”

6)  Like all the great fashion designers and couturiers, she emphasizes the overwhelming importance of fit.  All those muslins/toiles we make are worth the time they take!

7) Accessorize your outfits with the appropriate jewelry, shoes, and bags.  Restraint is better than opulence.

8) She was a big fan (and proponent) of the “American Look”: meaning comfortable clothing with clean lines, displaying elegant simplicity.

The final chapter of the book is appropriately entitled:  Fashion has no last chapter.

You can read here for yourself her Essential Eleven.  Pay particular attention to #2!

As a preface to this list, McCardell states:  "There is a great deal in common between the woman who designs clothes and the woman who knows clothes."

As a preface to this list, McCardell states: “There is a great deal in common between the woman who designs clothes and the woman who knows clothes.”  (Click on the photo for a close-up).

Earlier in the book on page 103, she relates her first experience with dressmaking: “Miss Annie … came to the house to make clothes for mother and me.  The process fascinated me from the start – selecting the pictures of dresses in the Vogue Pattern Book, the fabrics to be bought at the dry-goods store, the cutting and basting and fitting, the pockets and buttons and buttonholes…”

Surely sewing and dressmaking have no last chapter either:  What will you wear?  What will you sew?


Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Coats, Scarves, Uncategorized

Eating my words.

I never expected to find a pattern from the decade of the ‘80s that I liked, as my refrain about fashions from that span of time has always been:  “Those ’80s’ styles were just too awful”.  But I humbly ate my words when I finally found a pattern (from an Etsy shop) for a sarong skirt, which just happens to be from 1985.

I won’t be making the bra top… And notice the “big” shoulders on the blouse, which otherwise would be kind of cute, I think!

It’s quite obvious where the Vogue pattern designer got the inspiration for this sarong and “bra-type top” look.  Here is the scoop from Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion , p. 395 (Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, 2010):

“Long straight wraparound skirt made of bright-colored tropical design fabric with deep fold in front, held on by a scarf around waist.  Worn by men and women of the Malay Archipelago.  Adapted as a beach dress style with wraparound skirt draped to one side and strapless top first designed by Edith Head for Dorothy Lamour film Hurricane, in 1937.  Worn by Lamour in many films of the 1930s and 1940s. [my emphasis]

This sketch accompanies the entry for sarong skirt/dress in Fairchild’s Dictionary.

The original owner of the pattern made the long version skirt while I decided to make the shorter version.  She left cryptic notes throughout the instruction sheet.

Here is an example of some of the notes which the original owner made on the instruction sheets.

I made some of my own notes, but I wrote them on the muslin which I made to test the pattern before cutting into my fashion fabric.   I am glad I did, too, as I discovered that the overlap for the skirt was not quite enough for a “street” skirt (as opposed to the beachy/resort intent of the pattern).  So – I made the side panels each about 2” wider.  Then to make the waist still work, I added a dart in the left side front (which is the hidden side of the wrap).  I  made the ties each about 2 inches longer, as I thought they would be more becoming and lay flatter if they had a little more length to them.

Here is the diagram from the envelope which shows the thumbnail details of the two skirts.

I had picked out this tropical-look fabric, ordered a swatch, then the yardage from B & J Fabrics in New York.

Here’s how it all turned out:

Not quite Dorothy Lamour.

A close-up view, showing the ties.

When I was putting my new skirt in my closet, I spied my chartreuse green Tommy Bahama top, which is almost vintage itself, it’s so old.  But, h-m-m-m-m, the wheels started turning and I paired the two together here:

The green in the top actually matches the green in skirt better than it shows here. Just wish I had some green shoes to match…

From 1937 – to 1985 – to 2012, I suspect this is one style which will never go out of style.


Filed under 1980's dress patterns, Asian-inspired dress designs, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, Vogue patterns

It’s a wrap!

What could be easier than this: a garment with no buttons and no buttonholes, secured by sashes which can be forgiving to your waistline and still be flattering?  Diane Von Furstenberg immortalized the “wrap dress” in the early 1970s; its many variations became available to home dressmakers through the Vogue Patterns Designer series, and those original patterns now command significant prices on eBay and Etsy.

This is the label which was provided to purchasers of Diane Von Furstenberg patterns.

But – what came before Von Furstenberg’s classic dress?  Many of us remember our “wraparound” skirts from the ‘60s and ‘70s – some were “reversible”, some were made of a lightweight sailcloth type of fabric and were kind of stiff, some were gathered, and some were A-line.  Towards the late ‘60s, according to The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion (3rd Edition, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, 2010), the term “wraparound” was shortened to just “wrap” – and that is the term we know and use today.  The illustration in this book surely is based on DVF’s classic wrap dress.

Who wouldn’t recognize this as a DVF dress?

One of Diane Von Furstenberg’s famous statements is “I design for the woman who loves being a woman.”  (Think dresses!)  In The Saint James Fashion Encyclopedia (Richard Martin, author; Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI, 1997), she is quoted:  “…I believe in marrying fashion and function – chic style and easy comfort, maximum impact and minimum fuss.”  It’s easy to see that she practiced what she preached (and still does…) when you look at this Vogue pattern:

A classic style by Diane Von Furstenberg.

About the time I purchased this pattern on Etsy, I saw this fabric on Mood Fabric’s website:

This is a cotton twill, but it’s stretchable!

The bright, happy design reminded me of some of the original DVF-designed fabric, although this fabric is actually by Oscar De La Renta.  No, it wasn’t a stretchable knit which the pattern stipulated, but it was a stretch fabric, so I took a gamble and ordered it with my DVF pattern in mind.

I actually liked the heavier weight of this fabric (I’ve never been a fan of sewing jersey knits), but I had to be extra diligent to minimize bulky seams on the interior of the dress.  Instead of self pockets, I made the pockets out of some leftover white silk lining fabric from my raincoat.

One of the pockets.

Instead of turning under edges on the facings, I double-stitched and pinked the edges, and used stretchable hem tape for the hem.  It all seemed to work and here is the finished dress:

This cheery fabric could brighten any day!

A bit of a back view.

I was thrilled to get that original label with my pattern – and here is the finishing touch for my DVF wrap dress:

My final stitches on this dress were to attach the label.

Feminine, timeless, versatile:  her dresses are more than fashion – they are enduring style.


Filed under Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns

Decisions, Decisions.

For several years my mother-in-law had a sign on her refrigerator stating “So many men… So little time”.  As a wife and a mother of three sons, I guess she was either telling the truth – or maybe doing a little daydreaming.  I don’t post things on my fridge, but if I did, it might read, “So many patterns… So many decisions”.  And that, too, would be a combination – of the truth – and quite a bit of daydreaming!

Usually as I am working on an item, I am already thinking about the next one – and I often know what pattern I’ll be using next.  However, I finished my silk tunic not quite decided yet.  I figured I was ready to tackle something a little more complicated, after the easy construction of the tunic (and a few days off doing other things!)  So what was it going to be?  I had it narrowed down to these five patterns/projects:

1) View B of this dress (for summer), made up in a Moygashel linen, with a contrasting belt.  This pattern has persistently been popping in my pattern box ever since I purchased it on Etsy  in early January.

The length of this dress as shown on the envelope is very 195os. I’ll be making it in knee-length.

2) No, this pattern is NOT vintage.  I signed up for The Couture Dress class taught by Susan Khalje on Craftsy, and this is the dress pattern which is sent with class enrollment.  Actually, views A and C both have a 1960’s feel to them – classic and chic!

So – what will it be? Sleeveless or short sleeves? It will definitely be the straight-skirt version. And I love the square neckline.

3) Ah, Molyneux!  Another short-sleeved dress to be made in linen.  The seaming detail is so lovely on this design.  I will have to practice my “pouty” look, however, if I hope to look an inch as good as the model on the envelope.

The kimono sleeves have gussets, which will make this dress comfortable to wear.

4) After missing out on several Diane von Furstenberg-designed patterns on eBay, I was very excited to find this one in my size on Etsy in mid-May.  What is it about D von F’s dresses that makes them so timeless?

I owned this pattern in the ’70s, when I bought it for $1.50 at my local fabric store. Sadly I didn’t save it or the dress I made from it, so I had to buy it again! I originally made it up with short sleeves, but now I prefer the sleeveless version.

5) I featured this pattern in a post shortly after I started my blog.  Whether you call this a “swing” coat or a “clutch” coat –  it’s 1950’s style has been in my mind for months!

I love this coat with the sleeves pushed up, as shown in blue.

The truth of the matter is that I will eventually be making dresses or a coat from all these patterns, but as I usually work on only one project at a time, I had to choose just one.  Which one?  It is underway as the thread- and scrap-covered floor of my sewing room will attest!  I made my decision . . . but I have many stitches to go – and many stitches to go – before I can post it.


Filed under Coats, kimono sleeves, Linen, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns

Spring-Summer Fashion Show – A Day Remembered from 1976

I was working in center city Philadelphia in 1976.  The venerable John Wanamaker Department Store was just a few blocks away from my place of employment – and often I would grab a quick yogurt and crackers for lunch and then head over to the Fabric Department to spend the remainder of my lunch hour dreaming among the bolts of silks and linens, cottons and wools.  It was about this same time of year – mid-March – when I saw a notice about a fashion show, which was going to be held at the store.  It was to feature Vogue patterns, and the sole fabric of choice was to be American-made silk.  Well, this was quite enough to make a girl’s heart go pitter-patter; this was one show I was not going to miss!

When the appointed day arrived, somehow I carved out the time from work and scurried off to the top floor of the Wanamaker building which housed the “designer fashions” department.  I was feeling a little young and naïve among the well-dressed ladies in attendance, but that did not deter me!  I was in heaven as I saw one gorgeous outfit after another, all in glorious colors of the most beautiful silk fabrics.  I came away with the printed “program” from the show and have kept it all these years.  Here is the front of it:

The symbol for American Silk featured on the cover of the Program is still used today.

I came away with a couple of other things as well – a Vogue pattern which had been featured, and a piece of American silk in which to make my chosen design!  First, however, a few words on the company which sponsored the Show – and a few peeks into the rest of the printed program.

Here is the statement at the bottom of page two of the Program:

“All fabrics in the show are pure silk and made in America by the American Silk Mills Corp. and distributed to the over-the-counter market by Logantex, Inc.  You will find the fabrics in the colors in the show as well as other favorite colors in the fabric department.  Fashion note:  the identical silk fabrics are presently being used by leading American designers in their spring and summer ready-to-wear collections.”

American Silk Mills is still in operation, but it seems they are no longer producing dress goods, just drapery and upholstery fabrics.  Logantex is still a distributor of fabrics.

The Show was conducted by Charles Kleibacker, whom I remember as very charming and very sophisticated on stage.   He was known as “Master of the Bias” and gave some styling and sewing tips that day on using the bias in dressmaking.  He died in 2010 at the age of 88.

The show was divided into five “scenes”:  Day Dressing in Silk, Sporty Silks, Silk Chic – The Layered Look, At Home in Silk, and Evenings in Silk.  Twenty-eight patterns were featured in twenty-four “looks”.  The diagrams of these outfits are in black and white, but the colors and types of silk used for each are designated in the  descriptions.  Here are the four pages of designs (click on the images to see them enlarged):

Not all the Vogue patterns featured were from their Designer Series, but of those that were, they were all American designers - very appropriate for the Bicentennial Year!

The sailor middy and skirt outfit shown at the top of the page was memorable in its Fire Engine Red, Canton Navy Blue and White.

You can read some more about Charles Kleibacker at the top of this page from the Program.

The designs on this page give a good feel for the various weaves of silk which were featured in this show: crepe de chine, "Shan-Twill", broadcloth, and linen. Shantung was also one of the weaves.

Reading the color descriptions and combinations is totally inspiring.  For example, View 6 featured Shocking pink, Pure pink, and Blossom pink.  Olive and Pistachio were paired in view 8, while view 13 brought Mariner blue, Sun gold, Chrysanthemum, and Canton Navy together in one stunning outfit.  View 24 was a fabulous finale piece in Straw, Apricot, Desert Coral and Wheat.

However, the colors which spoke to me the most that day were the Hyacinth silk linen, the Desert coral silk linen and the Melon twill.  I could only afford to buy one length of fabric – I opted for the pattern shown in View 2, an Anne Klein shirtdress –  and I purchased the hyacinth blue silk linen.

I made a wide self belt and wore this dress with the collar up in back as pictured.

Here is all I have left of the fabric, two scraps!

This photo cannot show you the depth of color saturation, nor the perfect weight and weave of this silk linen.

I remember wearing the dress to parties and feeling very happy.  Isn’t that what beautiful clothes are supposed to do?


Filed under Dressmaker details, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns