|Despite the growth of the ready to wear trade in the 1930s, paper pattern manufacturers were keen to situate themselves as a fashionable option. Vogue patterns in particular drew on signifiers of high style such as the couturiers of Paris.|
To help with this process, the fantastically-named ‘Madame Demorest’s Emporium of Fashion’ sold paper patterns to middle class American women from the mid-19th century. But the Emporium was swiftly overtaken by Ebenezer Butterick in the 1860s. A merchant tailor by trade, Butterick experimented with graded shirt patterns and when he moved into children’s clothing the business really took off. He moved to New York and by 1871 he had over 140 operatives throughout the States, with an astonishing average daily output of 23,000 patterns. Butterick used aggressive advertising tactics, investing a lot of money into marketing and targeting working class shoppers as well as the middle classes. His first London branch was opened on Regent Street in 1874.
|Film stars were increasingly being used to sell fashion throughout the 1930s as the movie industry expanded and the cinema became a more acceptable pastime for middle class viewers. The association we have today with celebrity and fashion was in its infancy with fan magazines like Film Pictorial above.|
|This McCall pattern from 1932 perfectly demonstrates the costume designer Adrian’s maxim of ‘above the table dressing’. Famous for creating Joan Crawford’s wide shoulders, Adrian believed that film costume should all be about the close up: ie, the neckline and sleeves were key to the designs.|
The influence of Hollywood is clear in this McCall pattern from 1932. The same year, ‘Letty Lynton’ was released, starring Joan Crawford swathed in organdie ruffles (left hand picture). The dress caused a sensation and was referenced in fashion magazines for years to come.