Tag Archives: Joy Spanabel Emery

Butterick Starred Patterns: Actual Fashions from the Movies (Part 1)

Katharine Hepburn in Butterick Starred Pattern 5156 5154, Delineator May 1933. P. 71

Katharine Hepburn in Butterick Starred Pattern 5156, Delineator May 1933. P. 71 From the movie Christopher Strong.

As far as I can tell, in 1933 Butterick decided to take advantage of the movies’ influence on fashion by issuing a dozen patterns that were exact copies of the clothes worn in films. The costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly, Travis Banton, and Howard Greer for actresses Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Kay Francis and Mary Astor, among others. The series was called Butterick Starred Patterns. The movie studios cooperating with Butterick were Warner’s, R.K.O., and Paramount.

These patterns are not to be confused with the Hollywood Pattern company; Hollywood Patterns only had movie studio tie-ins, with pictures of stars and starlets appearing on the pattern envelopes. The patterns were not exact copies of movie costumes. As explained in A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, by Joy Spanabel Emery:

“Hollywood pattern styles were not of the garments worn in films, for as stated in the April/May Hollwood Pattern Book, ‘[The designs] are inspired by the clothes of the smartest stars, not copied from them. The dress which may be perfect for the camera may be too dramatic in the office or home. Our staff studies the best previews, then creates clothes in the same spirit, but easier to wear.’ ” — Joy Spanabel Emery, p. 126. [Movies were often previewed a month before general release.]

SoVintagePatterns.com has many Hollywood patterns for sale. Click here and see if you find your favorite actress. Click here to see the Hollywood pattern version of a Scarlett O’Hara dress, translated into a 1939 evening gown or day dress.

Butterick Starred Patterns

Because of their rarity and their genuine movie and celebrity tie-ins,  Butterick Starred Patterns are collectors’ items now. Butterick No. 5215, a pattern for the bathing suit worn by Bette Davis in The Working Man, sold on Ebay in December, 2015, for $113.50 (unused.)

Bette Davis in The Working Man, and Butterick Starred Pattern. Delineator, June 1933.

Bette Davis in The Working Man, and  Butterick pattern 5215, a halter top bathing suit. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns only appeared in the Butterick catalog for one year: 1933. (Joy Spanabel Emery, p 127.)

As it happens, I have just finished going through all 12 issues of Butterick’s Delineator magazine — in which “Starred” Patterns were publicized — from 1933. From April through August, The Delineator featured a different movie each month, with illustrations of the patterns on the same page as photographs of those exact outfits being worn in the film.

Delineator, June 1933. p. 63. Four Butterick Starred Patterns designed for Bette Davis by Orr-Kelly in the film The Working Man.

Delineator, June 1933. p. 63. Four Butterick Starred Patterns designed for Bette Davis by Orry-Kelly in the film The Working Man.

I’ll separate the patterns by designer, starting with Bette Davis in four costumes designed by Orry-Kelly for the Warner Brothers’ film, The Working Man. Here is the text of the article “Four Costumes Worn by Bette Davis.”

1933 June p 63 Bette Davis 500 hollywood 5204 5215 5212 5214 left TEXT

1933 June p 63 Bette Davis 500 hollywood 5204 5215 5212 5214 btm half TEXT

Bette Davis’ bathing suit 5215  in The Working Man is searchable as Butterick 5215 C in the Vintage Pattern Wikia. The pattern envelope shows another, pleated version, too. That view was featured in Delineator’s July issue. It’s been named “Seaworthy,” and there is no mention of Bette Davis or the movies.

Butterick bathing suit pattern 5215 -- "Seaworthy" -- in a feature about resort wear. Delineator, July 1933.

Butterick bathing suit pattern 5215 — “Seaworthy” — in a feature about resort wear. Delineator, July 1933.

In June, Delineator said, “The plaid gingham bathing suit is fashion news, for the cotton suit is the suit of the summer, much, much smarter than the wool one.” In July, the same suit, in an alternate view with pleated skirt, was described this way:

Butterick 5215 as described in July 1933.

Butterick 5215 as described in July 1933.

Two designs for Bette Davis in The Working Man. Butterick Starred Patterns 5204 and 5215. Jule 1933, Delineator.

Two Orry-Kelly designs for Bette Davis in The Working Man. Butterick Starred Patterns 5204 and 5215. June 1933, Delineator.

Bette Davis wore Starred Pattern No. 5204 for her role as a secretary:

Butterick Starred Pattern 5204, a "four pocket" dress for a secretary. Delineator, June 1933, p. 63.

Butterick Starred Pattern 5204, a “four pocket” dress for a secretary. Delineator, June 1933, p. 63.

“It was a grand dress to get fired in.” 5204  is not in the Vintage Pattern Wikia, but click here to see the envelope.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5212 and 5214, designed by Orr-Kelly for Bette Davis. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred Patterns 5212 and 5214, designed by Orry-Kelly for Bette Davis. Delineator, June 1933.

Butterick Starred pattern 5214 is described in the June article as the “two color dress [which] tends to reduce one’s ‘Boss’ to a state where he will eat out of one’s hand.”

Bette Davis in the dress which Butterick copied as pattern 5214. Delineator, June 1933.

Right: Bette Davis in the dress which Butterick copied as pattern 5214. Delineator, June 1933.

Bette Davis Starred Pattern 5214 is listed in the Vintage Pattern Wikia as 5214 B. Patterns 5204 and 5214 had long or short sleeved versions, so buyers could make an exact copy of the movie dresses.

The “jabot frock” on the left, above, “would make the best possible Saturday dress.” Bette Davis Starred pattern  5212 is also in the Vintage Pattern Wikia.

Costume designer Orry-Kelly first worked with Bette Davis in 1932, when she still thought of herself as “a mousy, twenty-two year old virgin with knobby knees, a pelvic slouch, and cold blue bug eyes….”

“Davis credited Orry-Kelly’s designs for giving her a certain amount of chic, a quality that she did not feel she possessed…. During her eighteen years at Warner Bros.,  Davis came to rely on Orry-Kelly to help her build the characterizations for which she became so famous.” — Creating the Illusion, p. 170

Orry-Kelly and Bette Davis didn’t like each other, according to Jorgenson and Scoggins in Creating the Illusion, but they realized that they complemented each other’s work.  They made forty-two movies together in a period of fourteen years.

“Working with Bette Davis isn’t easy, but she’s worth it. She’s honest and outspoken. She’s one of the very few actresses I know who can look in the mirror and tell herself the truth. When I’m ready to give up and throw out a dress, she’ll give it a hitch or a twist and turn it into something great.” — Orry-Kelly, quoted in Creating the Illusion, p. 171.

Orry-Kelly has an astoundingly long list of movie design credits  (Filmography) at the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb), but he didn’t design all the costumes in all those movies. Studios often listed a department head or supervisor as the “designer” on films. Much of the work was done by assistants. However, established stars developed working (and sometimes fighting) relationships with studio designers. In addition to all those Bette Davis pictures, you may remember Orry-Kelly’s costumes for Gold Diggers of 1933,  Casablanca and Some Like It Hot. 

Next:

Butterick Starred Patterns, Part 2: Orry-Kelly designs costumes for Kay Francis, and Butterick makes patterns from his designs.

 

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Filed under 1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Bathing Suits, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Swimsuits, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage patterns, Vintage patterns from the movies, Women in Trousers

Winter Fashions for Women, 1926

Paquin model imported by Hattie Carnegie; Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Paquin model imported by Hattie Carnegie; Delineator, Dec. 1926.

The lavish use of fur in the twenties and thirties may be repellent to us now, but these fashions for December, 1926, are undeniably glamorous. They are all from Delineator magazine. Two images illustrate clothes in the stores — very exclusive stores — and the rest illustrate Butterick patterns (Delineator was a Butterick publication.) The suit pictured above  is a Hattie Carnegie copy of a wine red velvet suit trimmed with beige fox, from the house of Paquin (French designer Jeanne Paquin had retired in 1920.)

Original model by Frances Clyne, in green and gray. Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Original model by Frances Clyne, in green and gray. Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Titled “Green and Gray,” the caption says “The New York version of the Paris ensemble is made by Frances Clyne in sea green bordered with dyed gray fox. The coat of green French wool swings slightly from the shoulder and is made with the new double animal collar. The frock is of green satin opening over lighter green crepe Elizabeth.” Frances Clyne operated an exclusive New York dress shop; in the 1930s, it was on Fifth Avenue.

This Butterick advertisement showed women how similar styles could be made at home, or by your own professional dressmaker.

Ad for Butterick patterns from Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Ad for Butterick patterns from Delineator, Dec. 1926.

“She has Paris taste and knowledge of clothes, and her Frock is Butterick Design 1155 and her Coat is Butterick Design 1105 made with the aid of the Deltor — a dressmaking chart in pictures for cutting, putting together, and finishing.” [punctuation added.]

Butterick was one of the first companies to offer a separate sheet of written instructions with its patterns. At the start of the twentieth century, patterns came with only the minimal instructions that would fit on the outside of the (usually quite small) pattern envelope.  “By 1920, Butterick referred to the [illustrated] instruction sheet as the ‘Deltor,’ short for Delineator.” [Joy Spanbel Emery in A History of the Paper Pattern Industry.]

I love the bold Art Deco fabric on this sporty coat:

Butterick patterns, Dec. 1926; A Chanel suit, January 1925. Both  illustrations are from Delineator.

Butterick coat and dress patterns, Dec. 1926; A Chanel suit, January 1925. Both illustrations are from Delineator.

The dress shown with the coat (left) shows the lasting influence of Gabrielle Chanel’s outfit from January 1925. The proportions of the tops are slightly different to balance the skirt length, which has risen drastically in just two years.

Here are four more styles from Butterick, featured in the same December 1926 issue.

Butterick coat and dress patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Butterick coat and dress patterns, Delineator, Dec. 1926.

Back views and description of Butterick 1174 and 1157, Dec. 1926.

Back views and description of Butterick 1174 and 1157, Dec. 1926.

The deep armholes of the dress at left required a similarly constructed coat:

Back views and description of Butterick patterns 1185 and 1158. Dec. 1926.

Back views and description of Butterick patterns 1185 and 1158. Dec. 1926.

[Fine ‘Plaits’ means fine pleats, not braids.] The backs of many 1920s dresses and coats were straight and plain, but this coat is snugged to the hip with tucks in front and back.

So far, I have not seen any mention in Delineator magazine of how women obtained the furs which were so often an important design element in Butterick coats. (Working with real furs is not the same as sewing with fabrics, and where would a small-town dressmaker find whole skins?)

Also, notice how similar many of these 1926 cloche hats are, with pinched or dented crowns.

Four cloche hats from Dec. 1926 Delineator.

Four cloche hats from Dec. 1926 Delineator.

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Hats, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns

A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, by Joy Spanabel Emery

Book cover image from Bloomsbury Publishing site. Please do not copy.

Book cover image from Bloomsbury Publishing site. Please do not copy.

I’ve been looking forward to this book, A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, ever since I corresponded with its author, Joy Spanabel Emery, about the Commercial Pattern Archives Site at University of Rhode Island.  Her book  about the history of sewing patterns is now available from its publisher, Bloomsbury, or from Amazon or Abe Books. You can read reviews and summaries on their sites: Bloomsbury Publishing , AbeBooks.com , or at Amazon. I just found out that it is currently available in paperback for $35 or less, or in hardback. 272 pages; 125 colour illustrations and  75 black & white illustrations. Reviews mention that there are also scale reproductions of 9 patterns included for those who wish to enlarge them and make the garments.

Joy Emery is Professor Emerita of Theatre and the Curator of The Commercial Pattern Archive at the University of Rhode Island, USA.  She is also the author of Stage Costume Techniques.

Publisher’s description of  A History of the Paper Pattern Industry:

“This accessible book explores this history, outlining innovations in patternmaking by the companies who produced patterns and how these reflected the fashions and demands of the market. Showcasing beautiful illustrations from original pattern pamphlets, packets and ads, as well as 9 complete patterns from which readers can reproduce vintage garments of different eras, the book provides a unique visual guide to homemade fashions as well as essential exploration of the industry that produced them. ”

Chapters include:

Chapter 1 Tailoring and the Birth of the Published Paper Pattern

Chapter 2 Development of Dressmaking Patterns

Chapter 3 Nineteenth Century Technology

Chapter 4 Early History of Pattern Companies 1860s-1880s

Chapter 5 New Markets and Expansion 1880s-1900

Chapter 6 Shifts and Balances 1900-1920s

Chapter 7 Blossoming Economy 1920-1929

Chapter 8 Surviving the Great Depression 1930s

Chapter 9 The War Years 1940s

Chapter 10 Shifting Trends 1960s

Chapter 11 New Challenges 1960s-1980s

Chapter 12 Reinvention and Renaissance 1980s-2010

9 Pattern Grids 1854-1968

Endnotes, Bibliography, Index

The Commercial Pattern Archive collection, of which Joy Spanabel Emery is curator, has over 56,000 commercial sewing patterns, and is available to the public for research (by appointment.) The enormous CoPA database can be searched online. For full access, you can subscribe for a modest fee (which is used to pay the students who work scanning and entering new patterns into the database). Or you can sample the database for free if you click on Sample.

 

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Filed under A Costumers' Bookshelf, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns

CoPA: The Commercial Pattern Archive

All three of these undated patterns were dated to 1974 using the CoPA Sample data search. What a great reminder that 1960s styles influenced fashion well into the 1970s!

All three of these undated patterns were dated to 1974 using the CoPA Sample data search. What a great reminder that 1960s styles influenced fashion well into the 1970s!

If you are interested in costume history or vintage sewing patterns, you will probably enjoy a visit to this amazing website. The Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) is a searchable database — with pictures — of more than 56,000 vintage patterns.  It gives you access to vintage patterns from several collections:  46,500 patterns from the 1840s through 2000 in the collections of the University of Rhode Island; plus many patterns from the Kevin L. Seligman Collection at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (18,000 items!)  and patterns from individual collections and other museums. More patterns are being scanned and added regularly.

Parallel Worlds with a Common Interest in Fashion History: Collectors, Costumers, and Theatrical Designers

The CoPA site is a project of the Costume Commission of the USITT. (The United States Institute for Theatre Technology.) Theatre Technology isn’t just about lighting instruments and scenery materials; over the years, the Costume Commission — people who design and build costumes and teach costume history, etc. — has become its largest (and a very active) division. As a former member (now retired) of the USITT, I’d like to introduce the resources of USITT to members of the Vintage Fashion Guild, costume re-creators, vintage collectors and other researchers. We all have a lot in common!

You Can Sample CoPA Searches: Give It a Try!

UPDATE 1/24/2018: Since this post was written, the CoPA site has changed; according to Joy Spanabel Emery, whom we all need to thank for her work on this project, the full benefits of the site are now available without a paid subscription! You can now search by pattern number, and have access to the entire online archive. You do need to subscribe. And, if you use this site, a donation would help to keep it being enlarged and maintained.

She wrote, “Since the CoPA database is now available at no cost, the Sample option is no longer necessary. At present an enrollment form is necessary for access. The from can be downloaded from the website…. We are now relying even more heavily on volunteers and financial donations to the Joy Spanabel Endowment Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation.

I urge you to try this amazing archive of vintage patterns! The Log In page will allow you to download the subscription form. Click here.

[DELETED: Although you may want to subscribe in order to make full use of the scanned patterns and the entire CoPA collection,  you can access sample searches by clicking here. LINK IS DEAD ] There is a lot of information available to anyone — for free. If you want an overview of patterns and fashions from, say, 1920 to 1929, just scroll down to 1920 and then hold Shift as you scroll to 1929. If you want to see every sample in that time period, leave all the other settings on “Any.” If you want to limit your search to a certain type of garment (e.g. bathing suits) or a specific designer, or just one pattern company, or a keyword (e.g., “halter,” “corset,” or “pedal-pushers,”) that is also possible. If you want to search the whole archive, select all the Collections, the same way you select a range of dates.  DELETE: You can do repeated sample searches for free. CoPA says this gives just a sample of the collection, but I was able to date five of my undated Vogue designer patterns in a few minutes. (They happened to be included in the collection. However, you can also use the search to place your pattern within a number sequence, even if you don’t locate that specific pattern.)

REVISED 1/24/18; SEE ABOVE or CLICK HERE for the new, 2018 CoPA Home page. If you want to take advantage of the entire collection and be able to see images of the pattern pieces as pictured on the envelope, so that you can drape a version of the pattern on a mannequin, you will need to subscribe, but the subscription only costs about $10 a month (Minimum of 4 months. There are Group Subscription Rates, too. See below.)

Explore the CoPA Site for More Great Information

Read about the history of  CoPA site at PROJECT.  ON the 2018 site: ABOUT US or NEWS .

The FAQ explains how the patterns were dated and answers other Frequently Asked Questions about the archive. INSTRUCTIONS will help you to use the search engine and to print images. [Note: The USITT member who showed me this site says that MAC users sometimes have problems; the sample search works wonderfully with my PC.]  PARTNERS  is especially interesting because it lists several other pattern collections in the United States, Canada, and England, with summaries of their specialties, plus contact and visiting information. Some of these collections are represented in the CoPA Archives. You may discover a collection near you; for example, the Sterling Historical Society in Sterling, MA has “a good representation of very early Butterick patterns and papers.” The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has 18,000 patterns and pieces of fashion ephemera that belonged to USITT member Kevin L. Seligman. These collections can be visited by appointment. [Note: some of the Partners information is being revised. CoPA is an active, growing database.]

More Information about the Commercial Pattern Archive

Here is some other information from Joy G. Emery at the University of Rhode Island, who has been working on the CoPA project for many years:

“All proceeds from the subscriptions are used to pay student assistants working in the archive. In addition to the patterns we have an extensive collection for fashion and tailoring materials that are available to visiting researchers.
“Unfortunately subscribers can’t search with a specific pattern number. But looking at the pattern company and year(s) (determined by the style of the fashion), it is easy to determine what year the specific pattern number was issued.
“We don’t include separate numerical lists of each pattern company’s numbers. However, there is an option to view a list of 200-plus company numbers for the patterns in the Archive by hiding the images.
“Questions about group membership – and any other questions regarding the database or archive can be referred to  jemery@uri.edu .”

Book to Watch For: A History of the Paper Pattern Industry

A History of the Paper Pattern Industry: The Home Dressmaking Fashion Revolution, by Joy Emery, will be published at the end of May by Bloomsbury.  This should be of great interest to collectors and fashion historians. Thanks to Joy for sharing all this information in her book and on the CoPA Database, for generously including her own pattern collection in the database, and for her help in checking this post for accuracy.

 

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Filed under Dating Vintage Patterns, Exhibitions & Museums, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns