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How Vintage Patterns Reflect On the Culture of Fashion Today

Julie Ripley is a Senior Lecturer on BA (Hons) Textile Design.

I love working with vintage patterns, so when I was given this one from Vogue (figure 1) I was fascinated.  And nervous.  Because this kind of pattern presents many creative challenges that indicate big changes in the culture of fashion since they were made.

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Fig. 1 – Vogue Pattern from 1954

If you are eagle-eyed you may have spotted that the design is by Elsa Schiaparelli, the great surrealist couturier. Born in Rome in 1890, Schiaparelli, or ‘Schiap’ as she was known to friends including Salvador Dali, became one of Paris’ leading designers between the wars.  Her quirky tromp l’oeil knitwear, dresses and jewellery (figure 2) delighted celebrity clients including royalty and film stars, allowing her to open her ‘Schiap Shop’ at 21 Place Vendome in Paris in 1931. Unlike her rival Coco Chanel, Schiaparelli left Paris during the Nazi occupation and found the city and its fashion scene transformed when she returned in 1945.  By 1954 she was out of business. Continue reading