When Is a Designer Pattern Not a Designer Pattern?

A recent blog on Pattern Vault showed Schiaparelli patterns from Authentic Paris Pattern Company that did not use phrases like “after Schiaparelli” or “Schiaparelli-influenced,” which are usually indicators that the pattern has been adapted from an original design, with varying degrees of participation or permission from the designer – sometimes, none.  Betty Kirke’s extraordinary book, Madeleine Vionnet, tells us that:

“In 1922, [Vionnet] brought action against Butterick Publishing Company, claiming infringement of pattern rights. Police raided the Paris branch of Butterick and found a staff of designers converting her dresses into patterns.” (Kirke, p. 221)

[Five years later, Vionnet and Butterick were apparently on very good terms, since she even wrote an article for Butterick’s magazine, The Delineator, in 1927.]  Nevertheless, over the years, Vionnet filed many other lawsuits in an attempt to prevent manufacturers from selling unauthorized copies of her designs.

Is This Dress a Lanvin Designer Pattern?

This dress pattern, Butterick # 5870, was featured in Delineator magazine in August, 1934.

Photographed by Arthur O’Neill, Delineator, August 1934

Photographed by Arthur O’Neill, Delineator, August 1934

1934 aug p 62 Lanvin dress pattern #7870 text

This caption does not use any of the usual ‘hedge words’ like ‘after Lanvin,’ ‘inspired by…,’ ‘in the manner of…’; it says “Jeanne Lanvin’s button-down-the-back dress, sensation of the Paris openings.” Does that mean Lanvin authorized this pattern?

Is This Coat a Schiaparelli Designer Pattern?

Earlier that year, in March, 1934, Butterick coat pattern # 5576 appeared under the headline “The Schiaparelli Wind Blown Coat.” 1934 march schiaparelli coat #5576 koret bags top page

1934 march p 17 no caption schiaparelli coat #5576The caption, however, says “This is Schiaparelli’s newest silhouette. Even in the calmest weather the forward streaming revers indicate high March winds blowing from the rear.” 1934 march p 17 caption schiaparelli coat #5576Questions arise: This may be a Schiaparelli silhouette, but is this a pattern authorized by Schiaparelli? Is it an exact copy? Is it based on a sketch of a coat by Schiaparelli, or on a toile supplied by her? I can’t tell. [A toile is a prototype garment made of inexpensive cloth, from which a pattern for the real garment  is taken.]

Is This Dress a Schiaparelli Designer Pattern?

Butterick pattern # 5874, Delineator, Sept. 1934

Butterick pattern # 5874, Delineator, Sept. 1934

This dress pattern, Butterick # 5874, is presented in the same way as the Lanvin dress above, and in the very next issue of the magazine, September, 1934. But the headline and the caption use the words “in the manner” of Schiaparelli, which not quite the same as ‘Schiaparelli’s Tweed Dress.’

Photographed by Arthur O’Neill

Photographed by Arthur O’Neill

1934 sept p 17 tweed dress in manner of schiaparelli text

Vogue Designer Patterns

Vogue, Butterick, and McCall’s are now all one big company. The company history on their website  tells us that:

“While Vogue Pattern Book featured “couturier” patterns as early as 1937, these patterns were not exact reproductions of actual styles. But in 1949, Vogue Patterns announced “A New Pattern Service—Paris Original Models Chosen From The Collections.” The cover of that year’s April/May pattern book showed photographs of the styles chosen from the eight featured countries [couturiers?], among them Balmain, Schiaparelli, Lanvin, Jaques Fath.

“It was the first time originals from the Paris couture had been duplicated in pattern form. Vogue Patterns became the only pattern company licensed to produce designs from the world [sic] leading couturiers, establishing a precedent which continues today.”

And yet, The Pattern Vault has Authentic Paris Patterns that say “This pattern reproduces exactly the original garment of this design made in Paris by Schiaparelli.”  Sarah at Pattern Vault also has copies of the Authentic Paris Pattern Company booklets for sale on her Etsy store, so it is possible to read the articles in them. (I haven’t – I just discovered them.)  Until some scholar finds copies of the licensing agreements from all the pattern companies, we’ll just have to hope that the designers were participating and being recompensed. I’d welcome comments — I really don’t know the answers to the questions I’m raising.

6 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

6 responses to “When Is a Designer Pattern Not a Designer Pattern?

  1. It appears that the Vogue website is not only guilty of bad proofreading, they are also guilty of bad history! Either that, or the people at Authentic Paris Patterns were lying! It is my guess that they bought the toile, but it is possible that they “rented” it, a semi-legal practice that was still going on in the 1950s. Christian Dior goes into great detail about how people steal designs in his memoir.

    The Butterick “Jeanne Lanvin” is very ambiguous, so I really can’t say if it was an actual Lanvin design. The same goes for the “Schiaparelli.” I think Butterick was just being a name-dropper! But then, I’m just guessing.

    • Thanks for your expertise in pattern history, and the lead to the Dior memoir. Over the years, Vionnet expended an enormous amount of energy and money on lawsuits, trying to protect her work — I learned this from Betty Kirke’s book. The speed with which a wearable couture design ended up in top department stores, and worked it way down to incredibly cheap, shoddy imitations fascinates me, but I know next to nothing about the process. Whether a “design” can be copyrighted is still a murky area, isn’t it?

  2. Pingback: Day Dresses for November, 1934 | witness2fashion

  3. Petite Main

    I thought you might be interested to read here http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-PARIS-Fashion-Book-Spring-1933-Fashion-Plates-Sewing-Pattern-Styles-/152321830538?hash=item237716ae8a that Paris Authentic Patterns were authorized by 15 designers

  4. Pingback: Also Very Thirties: Great Big Collars | witness2fashion

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