A Schiaparelli-type Suit, Pictured in Butterick Fashion News, April 1938

Schiaparelli-influenced suit jacket, Butterick # 7819

Schiaparelli-influenced suit jacket, Butterick # 7819

#7819, “The important Schiaparelli-type suit” on the right is decorated with a series of diamond shapes that have a contrast fabric showing through narrow openings. The elongated kite-shaped diamond that bridges the waist may be a practical pocket.

Purple Schiaparelli jacket photographed from Shocking, in collection of  Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Purple Schiaparelli jacket,  in collection of Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, photographed from Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Schiaparelli used many diamond shaped motifs in her Commedia dell’Arte collection of 1939, but this pattern pre-dates that collection.  A purple wool jacket from her winter 1936-37 collection, pictured in Dilys Blum’s Shocking: The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli , p. 97, has oblong areas cut away to reveal a brown velvet underlayer in the pockets. [It really is purple, not blue — a problem with my camera.  I could not find a link to this suit online.] Perhaps the Butterick jacket pattern is a reference to this one, especially if this pattern also has practical pockets. The jacket from # 7819 was featured twice in one issue of Butterick Fashion news; here it is worn open to reveal a Butterick blouse underneath:  schiap influ jacket blue open681

Easier than It Looks

I love the ingenuity of this design.

It appears complex, but if you really look at it, you can figure out how  relatively simple the construction of the diamonds revealing a contrast fabric underlayer actually is. You could apply this idea to almost any jacket pattern.

BFNschap CLOSEinflu suit pockets apr 1938547The jacket front pattern piece has been divided horizontally into four sections. You can see the seam lines where they have been joined together to create a yoke section (A), a yoke-to-bust-point section (B), a bust-point-to-waist section (C), and a waist-to-hip section (D). Section C has a vertical bust dart on each side, which would be stitched before the 4 sections are seamed together. I can’t imagine any reason for dividing the jacket into sections, except to make it easier to reveal the contrast fabric in the diamonds.

A Guess at the Jacket Construction

CAUTION: I have not tried this in fabric – I’m just deducing how it could be done….

After carefully marking the positions of the diamonds on your fabric – probably thread basting, since you would need the markings on both sides of the fabric, you would seam the sections together, A to B, B to C, stopping and backstitching when you reach the horizontal point of the diamond, leaving a gap in the center of the diamond, and resuming the seam at the other point. (The opening would not be a rectangle….) Once you press the seam allowances out of the way, you would baste them into position, put your diamonds of contrast fabric (matching the grain) behind the fashion fabric, baste, check for smoothness, and topstitch along the lines of the diamond. schiap influ jacket close upThen you would topstitch along the folded-back seam allowance, about 1/8 inch from the fold, through all layers. You can see these lines of topstitching in the illustration. (In theory, you could stitch the seam allowances out of the way before applying the diamond backing, but I think this might allow the fashion fabric to gape from stress at the bust-point.)

It’s a nice detail that the lapel is topstitched only where it overlaps the top diamond.

If the below-the-waist diamond is a practical pocket, you would stitch a twill stay-tape to the seam allowance on section D, just beside the fold line, to prevent stretching, and add a thin lining. You would have to topstitch the seam allowance inside the diamond below the waist before applying the contrast backing, so that bottom section of the diamond shape remains open.

A friend suggested that the diamonds and collar are prick-stitched by hand with thread to match the contrast layer. That would certainly be a couture touch, but it’s equally possible that the illustrator was just working within the constraints of a pattern catalog printed on newsprint: big white dashes were the only way to indicate stitch lines.

I repeat, I have not tried this with wool and a sewing machine, but I think it’s a reasonable explanation of why this apparently complicated “Schiaparelli-type” jacket is divided into sections on the Butterick pattern. The famous Butterick Deltor [otherwise known as an instruction sheet] would tell you how to construct it, probably much more clearly than I have done…. I rarely sew for myself any more, but I’m really tempted to try that kite-shaped pocket on a casual jacket — a little bigger, with a zingy color underneath. On a dark fabric, I might even try a different jewel color under every pocket!  Comments and suggestions are welcome.


Filed under 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Not Quite Designer Patterns, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

2 responses to “A Schiaparelli-type Suit, Pictured in Butterick Fashion News, April 1938

  1. To my eye, that diamond right over the nipple area (or should we say bust point) looks a little naughty. Perhaps that was Schiaparelli’s intention.

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