Monday, May 22, 2017

Gilbert Adrian: 1950's Suits by California Designer

This 1950's newspaper advertisement for suits is a great showcase for fashion designer Gilbert Adrian.  This regional ad appeared in 1951 while he was at the very height of his career as a fashion designer with a salon that catered to Hollywood's young and fabulous. The fashion illustration is drawn to capture all of the style details that Adrian was famous for, in a layout that uses two suits in different scale, thus calling attention to the larger image. As was common at the time, the artist is not credited.

The silhouette for these suits is very slim, with some shoulder emphasis. Most women were choosing soft shoulders at this time, and the look shown here would not last much longer. These suits resemble the featured suit by Adrian posted earlier here. It is helpful in showing what the skirt must have looked like, along with fashionable accessories of the early 1950's.

The decorative seamlines that integrate darts and a close body fit are signature for Adrian, who was a master of pattern design by this time. While his suits would seem to be 'simple', upon closer examination, they are fitted with creative seam lines that departed from the usual bust darts for fit. He was also using custom made striped textiles and exploring the optical illusion and mitred lines in his work.

The ad copy reads: "British Samer...unsurpassed fabric achieving its perfect conclusion in these Adrian suits. Solid colors as well as a variety of intriguing weaves. $230" department store: Robinson's of California." In current economy, this price tag would be over $2,000.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Gilbert Adrian, American Fashion Designer: 1947 Suit Jacket, Part 2

This black wool jacket by the California designer Gilbert Adrian represents a significant contribution to twentieth century fashion design. By all of its details, along with the silhouette, this design is a classic Adrian piece. The wide shoulders still reflect the Joan Crawford styling that Adrian would ‘invent’ for her movie characters in the early 1930's, long before Paris showed the wedge silhouette.

The style influence is military, with what might be considered military pockets set at up-beat angles. These quirky patch pockets and asymmetrical front closure also exhibit the kind of individuality in fashion design that separates an Adrian suit from others of its era.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the pattern design is how Adrian manipulated the front. He created a 'bowing'out center front line that shaped bust fullness when it was buttoned.

The heavy gold coin buttons are not set down the traditional center front line, rather their are set in the curve of the bustline. Additional fullness is created with a princess line panel inserted with what appears to be side front darts because the bottom seamline for this applied piece is hidden beneath the mock pocket flaps at the hips.

The sleeves have a seam line that appears to join a cuff with the sleeve body, although there is no functional reason for this seam. There are no plackets or buttons on the sleeves.

The lack of cuffs and the 24 inch center front length may be a hold-over from the days of government restrictions, but where patch pockets had once been forbidden due to the war, here they are in evidence.

The semi-circle back peplum skirt is set into the jacket back creating hip fullness only in the rear. This allows the front silhouette to appear very slender and snug. He applied a mock belt in the back with two buttons to add visual interest and visual relief from the solid black back silhouette.

Adrian was able to capture the spotlight with his innovations. Asymmetry and unusual draping appear in his suits and gowns, and were popular with his customers. His consistency in fashion design and his ability to work outside conventional Paris styles give his work a timeless quality that makes it difficult to date or place most styles in a time frame.

His attention to drape, silhouette and detail earned him a devoted class of customer who would remain with him until his early retirement in 1952.

This is the second post on a jacket from the designs of Gilbert Adrian.

Part 1 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Retro Swim Suit to Sew: Vogue 9255

Clockwise, from top left: Vintage Shaheen pattern, Tiki print, blue hibiscus

Finding a good vintage swimsuit pattern is hard to do. How to sew a retro style swim suit has just been made easier with modern sized Vogue 9255.  It seems to offer just the right style for sewing up a two piece bathing suit in a retro style. This vintage reprint sewing pattern is perfect for cottons and quilting fabrics too.

I've done the work and found some gorgeous vintage Hawaiian fabrics for inspiration too. These are sourced from easy to find Etsy shops so you can order where every you live.  This suit would also be great in any tiny gingham check to look like a Lanz vintage swim suit, or in a more mid-century modern abstract Pucci print.

Clockwise from top left: Orange Tiki, Golden hibiscus, Brown Tiki, Brown floral

This close up look at the pattern shows how it is darted and the actual cut of the pattern. First thing to notice is that this style does not have any elastic or stretch areas. It means there may be some fitting issues if the suit is going to fit smoothly.

Background fabric: Black and White floral


BRA BACK: Make the back adjustable, and add extra room

Create a tie back: it is be possible to change the button back to a tie back by adding long 1/4" ties.  Insert these at the back where the button panel narrows down, about 4" to 6" from the side seam.

BRA FRONT:  For stretch in the banding under the bust

Create a stretch band: it's possible to add about 1/2" to 1" to the length across the front.  Add 1/8" to 1/4" to seam allowance on the lower bustline seam in each cup.  Tunnel elastic through this band across front between side seams and it will now have a stretch fit in the chest.

BOTTOMS BACK: Leg room stretch

Create back leg stretch:  remove the lower leg darts, create a tunnel using the leg facing, and run elastic through that in back.

BOTTOMS WAISTLINE: More room in the waistline

Create stretch in the waistline: narrow the back waistline darts to about half the pattern's dart depth.  Sew casing using the waistline facing and fun elastic run through this across the back.

BOTTOMS WAISTLINE: 'Straight' waistline fix

Create a looser waistline: add 1/4" to 1/2" to the side seam allowance from waist down about 8" tapering into hips.  Sew the waistline facing all the way around to create a casing and insert elastic into this tunnel.

Front Darts: Some slender or straight waistlines will fit better without the front darts and don't need to have the side seams adjusted.

DRESSES: use the bra top with a dress pattern

This bra top is also an excellent 'bustline piece' to use as the top in a vintage Shaheen style sarong or 50s style dress. Below this bra, add a midriff panel much like the McCalls 6019 fitted dress has.

So if this pattern captures your imagination, try it first in a muslin or 1" gingham check to work out the fit issues first. That will create a pattern that's a keeper!

This post features fabrics from the following shops on Etsy, drop by and see what they have.

Carlas Hope
Cute Bright Fun
Jubliee Street
Neon Pony Fabric
Ranch Queen Vintage
Vintage Inspiration

Monday, May 8, 2017

Glibert Adrain, American Fashion Designer: 1947 Suit, Part 1

Looking closely at a 1940s vintage jacket by Gilbert Adrian can help us understand its style and silhouette. Originally from a 40s suit, this press photo of designer Adrian’s black wool jacket from 1947 shows fashionable accessories on the model, such as her dark gloves. At that time, hair and hats were often small and fit close to the head for a more modern post-war look.

This jacket was selected by the regional fashion magazine "California Stylist" along with only three other styles to represent Adrian’s designs for 1947. The design must have been an influential and popular model from his collection that year (Calif. Stylist, 1950).

The ‘tubular suit’ as shown in "Vogue" magazine, April 1947, was usually seen with a straight and narrow skirt that is below the knee in length.

In a study of the garment structure, the shoulders are structured with ¾ inch thick shoulder pads. Although this seems extreme for 1947, the shoulder width does not extend dramatically from the natural shoulder width. It is evident from close examination from the outside, that the upper torso is heavily hand tailored. The lower front of the body, sleeve hems and peplum are left soft and un-reinforced with heavy interfacing.

Hand sewing is evident in the bound buttonholes, and patch pocket applications. The faille lining is hand sewn to the facings. Overall, the methods used are traditional for women’s tailoring. This suit would have been produced in a downtown Los Angeles factory, rather than custom made at his Beverly Hills salon.

This is Part 1 of a 3 part series on this Jacket.

(click on the photos to see them enlarged)
Please contact me if you would like to use these photos, thank you.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Valentio, Couture Designer: Website and Virtual Museum

Valentino, the couture fashion designer, has an amazing website and virtual museum full of beautiful couture fashions and inspirations.  The designer's web site shares some great visuals in keeping with the creative traditions of the house, along with press releases, interviews and published articles.

The Valentino Gravani Virtual Muserm with over 5000 photos and documents.

(Have fun with this--and let me know what you liked the best!)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Madame Bruyere: 1930s French Couture in the U.S.

30s couture dress by Bruyere, Paris France
1930's Dress from Bruyere Couture of Paris

This 1930's dress was designed by a French woman who had formed her own couture house in about 1929.  Madame Bruyer (1881 – 1961) was raised in rural France, moving into Paris when she grew older.  As a young woman she worked for several known couture houses, Lanvin being the most famous. 

Although her business was young in 1932, she had a large enough following to be mentioned in an article in "Fortune" magazine that year.  At that time, the top couture designers were Vionnet, Lanvin, Chanel, Patou, Augustabernard, Mainboucher and Schiaparelli.  Bruyer was followed by the American crowd, becoming well known in New York, as official "adaptions" such as this dress were sold at the best stores on Fifth Avenue.

Her first salon was on Rue De Mondovi, as her label lists. An informal survey made in New York stores in the fall of 1931 showed that while Vionnet and Lanvin were the most popular labels for these "adaptions", the Bruyere label placed third.  This was more popular than Mainbocher, Schiaparelli or Chanel.  It was clear that Americans had their own look and preferred styles that differed from the well publicized top design houses.

30s Bruyere couture from Paris, France

These copies were gained by American store buyers in a complex process involving not only the couturier, but also an assistant called an commissionaire who steered the buyer though the purchase process.  Buying agencies were just beginning to be formed where the commissionaire's commission could be avoided.  The average price those department store buyers paid during the 1920's was often $500 cash for a dress design.  Then buyers would bring their couture design back to the U.S. and have it reproduced here for retail sale. Those design purchases were the couture designer's main profit for that design, as they did not earn percentages for sales in the overseas market.  Parisian salon customers and long time celebrity customers would pay much less than that for their designs, and seldom in cash in a Paris salon.

At one time Madame Bruyere stated that it took two months to create a collection.  She presented two shows annually.  Each garment in the nearly 200 garment group was given a name.   Later with her success, she would open a salon in 1937 at 22 place Vendome.  

couture dress from the 30s

In 1947, after the war ended, she participated in a U.S. gift presentation by the French called the Gratitude Train.  She was part of a project where fashion dolls were dressed in outfits from specific eras.  Her's was an 19th century style design.  At that time her employees numbered 328.  

In 1951, Madame Bruyere was contracted with an American dress company: Baron-Peters.  She would design outfits for this company that appealed to the U.S. customer, yet retained her design style, known for its simplicity.  This was her first pre-a-porter experience.  The retail prices ranged from $50 for a dress to $90 for a suit.  She achieved the price reduction by removing costly handwork and details usually found in couture.  In 1958 she was known for her "flowing lines and lady like clothes".  Her clients being well know celebrities and social matrons.  

30s couture dress, by Bruyere, back view shown

As for this dress, the silhouette is very like those worn in the early 1930's.  The brown crepe back satin and net embroidered in chinelle textiles have colors that seem to be like those in her collection for November 1932: inspired by a mountain scene, with maple brown, mist gray and cedar green.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Let's Talk About: Product Design for Your Target Customer

Do you want your clothes to sell?  Designing fashion, accessories or other products to sell requires several steps in the design process if it is going to sell. Meeting and topping the competition is difficult. But with a good foundation of research in the development stage, a salable item can be produced that should sell to the desired consumer.

Who are You selling to?  The Target Customer

Know your target customer's likes and dislikes.  It is important to anticipate their needs and wants so that your brand is what they are looking for.

Needs: Is this product what they need to have?
What unmet need is out there waiting for someone to create the perfect solution to that problem?

While we tend to think of a need as something rather basic, like underwear, socks and winter coats for warmth, it can also be a fashion item. An obvious example is a white shirt to wear with a classic suit. Many professionals need to wear a specific look as part of their job. Are you going to meet this type of need with your design?  Are you going to create a better fit for a specific body type or use a fabric that will be easy to care for?

Wants: Is this product what they want to wear?
Have your found an unmet want that has few products to fill that gap?

This is where fashion at large comes into play. Styles, colors, textures, trims and all of the other elements in a design present a look that the target customer just can’t live without. This is what they want, and they will seek it out to buy it. What is your brand doing to provide a product that provides an answer to this want?

Do you know your Target Customer?
All of this takes knowing your target customer well enough to anticipate what they will be shopping for next. Because the design process is one of trial and error, along with technical development to produce this item, there is a time sequence before the product hits the market. This means that it is important to not only know what is selling at this moment, but what will be selling in 6 months or more into the future.

Forecasting: Can you guess what your product will look like a year from now?
Do you know what direction your customer will be going in at that time?

Becoming competent in this is essential for success. Relying on current product trends to suggest your designs may land your product in the ‘out of style’ category in the not too distant future. Use those trends to launch your designs forward: new fabric, new colors, new trims and silhouettes are needed for the next group of designs so that your brand continues to seem on topic with your customer.


Make your own Resource collection: Use information in this chapter to create a resource for yourself as reference and inspiration. Start a Pinterest board with important photos.  Develop a sense of the needs and wants for your target customer. Use photos, sketches and/or descriptions of existing products to illustrate what your designs need or customer wants.

Do you know what your customer needs?

Find or sketch images that show what your customer needs your product to be like. This may also include technical details such as closures, seam type, fabric fiber content etc. It may help to label a photo with these elements.

Example: One example might be a blouse for a large size career woman. She may need: a princess seamline for better fit, horizontal buttonholes that don’t pop open, stretch fabric with some lycra in the fiber content, longer length to the body, more room in the upper arm of the sleeves, and wider cuffs.

Do you know what your customer wants?

More photos and sketches should show what you think your customer will love in the future. Brainstorm a list of key words to describe this, such as: adorable, sexy, dramatic, playful. This list may be a work in progress as new terms pop into your head as you start to focus on this project.

Find or sketch visual items to support that theme. Fabric and trim swatches, color chips, ‘people on the street’ photos, vintage magazine ads, media personalities and other visuals will help to illustrate what you think your target customer will want next.

Do you know what color, texture, textile and silhouettes are on the horizon?

At this point you will need to check the professional trend reports to see what is predicted for the future in your niche. You’ll want to collect them all into your Pinterest board, sketchbook or notebook for reference.

Once you feel you have gathered up enough visual information from the predicted trends, select the best look for your customer. This will be your guide. Don’t depart from the colors and other elements. Try to make this look the foundation for your future designs. That way you know your customer will find the colors and styles she is thinking about and looking for.

What images, colors and textures mean most in this project.
Create a digital mood board page, collage or wall bulletin board to collect and show all of the visuals that remind you of the direction you want to take your designs into for the future.

Making a habit of following fashion with an eye toward what your Target customer will buy helps to insure your product design will sell.

::   ::   ::   ::

Let's Talk About: Fashion is a series of chapters on the process of Fashion Design.
This is Chapter 13.  If you are interested in tutoring yourself to design fashion, this series is written just for you.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fashion from 1949 to 1980: A video review of styles and trends

Take a little vacation into the past--below is a youtube peek into fashion history from 1949 to 1980:

It's a great way to sit back and take in 30 years of fashion styles, one year at a time.

The illustrations at top are from a French fashion magazine during this era, can you guess the year by watching this video?



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