May 30, 2014

1960's couture

This is another nice little thing in vintage magazines and I don't think I've shown it to you before. Magazines like Libelle (from which these pictures come) wouldn't just offer normal sewing patterns for their readers to order. Oh no.
About twice a year, they came up with something really special: a genuine haute couture pattern. Usually from Paris.
They obtained these patterns under the then normal licensing system (the same system which gave RTW manufacturers the opportunity to legally reproduce couture designs). This meant they would buy a toile and the right to reproduce the design. They would then have to put the pattern on paper, grade it (usually in three sizes) and provide sewing instructions themselves.
Obviously, Libelle would pick designs which could be sewn and worn by the average Dutch woman. And maybe there was a cost issue as well, because these patterns are never for garments by the best known designers of the time.

Here, in September 1960, they are showing this design by Jacques Esterel (a name I've never heard or read before). It's a real early 60's design in its shape and it has an interesting asymmetrical effect. 
Unusually, Libelle has included a kind of 'designer profile' as well (which might suggest that the they didn't expect the reader to be very familiar with Esterel either):

A visit to the salons of Jacques Esterel means taking place in a whirlwind of experiences. Because ever since this engineer is literally and figuratively in fashion, the quiet, chic and conventional French fashion world goes from one sensation to the other. Jacques Esterel, dressed in old wide trousers and a sailor's sweater, "because it's so comfortable", sings to his clientele during his shows. He sings the songs he has composed in a lost hour. For those visitors who don't master the French language, he has a puppet theatre which transfers the cheerful, often risqué lyrics of his songs into images. He writes plays and, with a broad smile and a grand gesture, he doesn't hesitate to offer a countess a spot on the floor when there are no chairs left.
"I don't like that official stuff" he says and that has made him the infant terrible of haute couture. But a successful infant terrible because his designs are so good that celebrities like Brigitte Bardot and Martine Carol are attracted to his collections like flies to syrup. The most wealthy and spoilt some in the world will indeed smilingly satisfy themselves with a place on the floor to see his designs. And queen Farah Diba (the then just married queen consort of Persia as the wife   of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) flew to Teheran for her wedding with no less than nineteen ski outfits designed by Esterel in her luggage! His designs are original. So is what he says! Like this: "A dress is only successful when people say to the lady who wears it: "You've got such beautiful eyes..."

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm all for designers who think a woman has to wear the dress, not the other way round!

And then there's the design Libelle bought for its readers. I don't know whether these pictures are of the dress which was in the original show or of a sample sewn up at Libelle's pattern office.
This is what the editors have to say about it:

Obviously, we won't deny our readers a creation by this Jacques Esterel in our series of haute couture patterns. Anyone with a sense for the new and happening will understand why we were attracted to this two piece outfit. The design is rather different to what you are used to, but that's why it's so welcome at the start of the new season!

Don't say too soon: "That is not for me!" In this suit, you can obscure a short or not very slender waist and because the design flows, it flatters. Of course you know that dark colours will make you look more slender than light ones. Choose a fabric with a soft hand (but avoid those with a high nap), like fine wool gabardine or alpaca.

The jacket, which reaches to below the waist, has an asymmetrical effect because of the wide overlap which closes with three buttons in the same colour and the pocket which is placed just before center front.The shape of the neckline is quite pretty. The jacket is decorated with wide lines of topstitching.

The belt is attached to the jacket and is loosely knotted. In this picture, you can spot the side panel attached to the front of the jacket. So, there is no normal side seam.

There's a side panel at the back too, but it starts at the sleeve seam. The jacket is a bit longer at the back which gives it a flattering line. The sleeve length is in line with the length of the jacket.
The slim, straight skirt is gathered, rather than darted at the waistline.

The pattern was available in sizes 40, 42 and 44 (roughly equivalent to today's Burda sizes 38, 40 and 42) and used 2,10 m fabric of 1,40 wide. It cost 1,50 guilders (normal women's patterns were 1 guilder) and was available until 22 October 1960.... 


  1. I, for one, knew about Jacques Esterel (but being French and fashion-minded, well, I should)! He's most famous for designing Bardot's famous pink gingham wedding dress.
    He also designed some costumes for her, you can see them here :
    His designs may not have been the most innovative, but they were rather easy to wear and, I think, quite influential!