Sunday, 9 January 2011

Pattern Illustrators

I don't know about you, but I have my favourite pattern envelope illustrators.  They aren't credited (as far as I know), but certain works always catch my eye.  Take these Very Easy Very Vogue illustrations below:

I don't particularly love the patterns, but I am always "hearting" them on Etsy because there is something so attractive about them.  Then I realized that they all appear to be drawn by the same artist. 

On the other hand, you probably recognize the woman in these bizarre McCall '70s illustrations.  I call her The McCall's Cutie:  Fake-and-Bake tan, too much rouge, too much teeth, too vacant a stare....

 Marlo Thomas is often transformed into The McCall's Cutie.  Unfortunately.

What about you?  Are there certain envelope patterns that inexplicably draw you in because of their art?  Is there any way to find out the name of the illustrator for a particular series of envelopes?


  1. Hello! Just today I found a nice illustrator in the August 1969 McCalls counter catalogue that I have around. It got me wondering, and I went searching online for any info about sewing pattern illustrators, perhaps names... but nothing came up except you. Love your post!

  2. I know! I looked and looked, and I thought there must be some information out there somewhere. Maybe this is something that is discussed in fashion training... thanks for the comment, and if you ever find something, let me know!

  3. Just found this blog and am glad someone other than me is curious about the illustrators for patterns! The more you look, the more clearly you can discern era and brand just from the illustration. (That McCall's cutie really gets up my nose, I would guess she's modelled on Farrah Fawcett who was a Charlie's Angel of the time) Simplicity in the late 60s and early 70s had an illustrator whose style was much more sketchy and free, but somehow was really good at placing the figures and choosing colour and pattern to make the pattern attractive. The Miss Vogue patterns of the 60s and 70s (you will be getting an idea by now of my own age!) had the most wonderful illustrator whose quirky figures always made me want THAT pattern, even when I knew it wouldn't suit me. Whoever it was went on to illustrate more in the regular Vogue range, and I copy and save all I can find from her/him. And in the 80s, Butterick had an illustrator who was the only one to use larger props (there's one with a palm tree) and did a lot of those patterns with skirt, trousers, top in such a way that you found yourself wanting to change your entire wardrobe and make up everything on the pattern. Often I'm impressed by their ability to suggest fabrics that made what would have been rather a pedestrian item of clothing suddenly intensely desirable...Please let me know if you find out anything more! I may do a bit of research myself

  4. I think that the only way to get this info may be by writing to the pattern companies directly. I've been searching for any literature or online resources, and I haven't yet been able to find anything. If/when I get some information, I'll share it with both of you.

    Aren't those Vogue illustrations amazing?! I think this is my favourite:

  5. If it weren't such a cliche I'd say OMG...I actually LOVED this pattern when it first came out - I was working in a huge fabric store at the time. Of course I bought it - I can even remember the fabric I made it up in...this was in the US, where I grew up...then in '71 I moved to the UK and this, along with much else, had to go the way of all flesh when I sorted out what I could take with me and what had to be left behind. For a little while in the early 70's when I lived near London I got a job actually WITH Simplicity, making up model garments. You wouldn't believe the deluxe treatment I got - I bet it's not like that now. They used to send a limo to collect me and the clothes, to bring me to their offices to do fittings. The illustrator of that particular Vogue pattern did a lot of work for Vogue in the late 60's and early 70's, and had a knack of making them look such wantable garments...I'll see what I can find out from this side of the pond, and will look forward to anything you can dig up too!

  6. Okay, an update on pattern illustrators...or not, as in fact there's been little forthcoming from Vogue/McCall's - I posted a real live paper letter to them just after my last post here, saying among other enthusiastic comments: "Can you tell me anything at all about these anonymous illustrators, about how the illustrations came about? Were/are they 'House' illustrators or are/were they all freelance? How much information about fabrics depicted, styles illustrated, etc., were they given? Did they work from models, from model garments, or just from sketches? Were they encouraged or expected to use real fabrics that were available in the retail market to illustrate the garments? I have a million questions..."

    Ho hum, well, I got a reply today. In full, it reads "Thank you for your letter concerning Vogue patterns. Whenever possible we try to provide our home sewers with the information they desire. I'm sorry, but the information you requested is not available. The illustrators were all employees or freelancers, any other information is not available. We hope this information will be useful for you; if we can be of further assistance, please let us know."

    I feel a bit as if I had sent a little note to the FBI asking if they could just fill in some details about their most top-secret files. Not quite sure where to go from here. An email I sent to Simplicity asking more or less the same questions has gone unanswered. But at least I tried...if I get any brainwaves I'll pursue it further.

    1. I have a Gorgeous pencil drawing of one of the patterns it was signed, A. Lucas. It was a tea dress 1930's

  7. I know; I wrote to Vogue in September and haven't even heard a reply yet! I guess it is a mystery never to be solved.... unless one of them stumbles upon this post and can answer our questions!

  8. A little while after I posted this I did a bit of trawling on the Victoria and Albert Museum site - as you know they have the most wonderful archives of everything textile. Too early to say for certain, but they may be able to help, as there are some mentions of 'pattern illustrators' in one of the lists. I think a 'proper letter' might get more of a response, and if there's any chance of getting any useful information I could even use it as an excuse for a trip up to London! I'll keep you informed with any news.

  9. Wanting to unveil these mysterious sewing pattern illustrators, I wrote a post with some of my own questions and favorites 11/11/10. I enjoyed the post and the comments here, since I was thinking about this topic again today and just conducted a search for Vogue sewing pattern illustrators.
    It was rewarding to find a bit of sewing pattern illustration history (regarding Spadea patterns and fashion artist - illustrator Jean Miller Spadea) at the Fuzzylizzie Vintage Clothing site.
    You might like my Toile La La blog at where you can read the 11/11/10 post about sewing pattern artwork.
    I wish the illustrators had been given credit for their work - so we could today research more of their work.

  10. It is wonderful to find others out there with the same need as me to know who these illustrators were. Back in the late 70's and early 80's I was more attracted to McCalls patterns than any other and have 'collected' my favourites on Pinterest as R10 AKM (if anyone wants to look. The pictures inspired me no end. I get the Farah Fawcett thing entirely and also Diana, Princess of wales was represented later when designs went through a more flowing and modest phase. Somehow patterns envelopes don't look the same anymore so maybe that is why there is a big market in vintage ones?
    R10 AKM


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