Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Focus On: McCall's New York Designers' Collection Plus: Arlette of Réal

By Sherri, SewBettyAndDot

We were treated to another fantastic "Sewing Through the Cinema" blog post by Amy from ViennasGrace a few weeks ago; she featured the 1968 film Petulia, starring gorgeous Julie Christie wearing fab mod clothes by the designer Arlette Nastat, also known as Arlette of Réal. In her post, Amy showed us four patterns by Arlette, which are part of McCall's New York Designers' Plus series. We'll get to Arlette in a moment.

McCall's launched its designer series in 1965 as a way to draw in young sewists and those seeking the newest fashions. Butterick had already begun to produce their line of Young Designer patterns in 1964 with Mary Quant as the first designer featured. (Please see this Focus On blog post for more info on Mary Quant.) 

Interestingly, the series was first called "New York Designers' [note the plural possessive here] Collection Plus 1": this was because the first designers were all American with the addition ("Plus 1") of Digby Morton, a London couturier. The first designers were Larry Aldrich, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Laird-Knox, Digby Morton, Originala, Mollie Parnis, and Pauline Trigère. 



Top row, left to right: McCall’s NYDCP 1032 (Larry Aldrich): patternshop

It's interesting that they are all relatively simple A-line garments. Additional info on these designers (and more!) in future blog posts. 

Now, back to Arlette Nastat: born in France in 1937, she was a force in the fashion world from the late 1950s to the 1980s; as late as 1989, an L.A. Times article recommended visiting her Paris shop on Rue de Passy in the Sixth Arrondissement. Arlette was the favorite designer of Brigitte Bardot (and in fact dressed Bardot throughout the late 1960s). Her father was in the ready-to-wear business, and at the age of 19, along with her friend Hélène Varger (also her sister-in-law), she opened a boutique called Real on Rue St. Honoré. 
Image courtesy Pinterest
In a 1964 article about fashion trends in the Schnectady (N.Y.) Gazette, the writer describes Nastat as the "high priestess" of a new wave of style: 


"Simultaneously the new feeling of fun, novelty and creativity is erupting in cities and towns of Europe, the United States and even Japan. Jet airplane travel is setting the pace for a smaller, faster world. Pop art, new dances like the Frug and the LeKiss, fast cars, and the Ye-Ye look in clothes are spontaneous examples of a love for living that is becoming universal everywhere. High priestess of this new wave is Arlette Nastat, the young Parisienne who designs for a shop called "Real," on the Rue St. Honore, and for the Arkins in New York under the name of Mademoiselle Arlette. Such famous fashioned trendsetters as Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda sometime ago found in Arlette Nastat the empathy for creating clothes that projected their image of innocent seductiveness. Today, Catherine Deneuve, the rising young movie star, and Sylvie Vartan, the Ye-Ye singing rage of Paris, head the list of fashionable young women everywhere whose wardrobes consist solely of clothes designed by Arlette Nastat. The Mademoiselle Arlette spring collection is young, bubbly, and infinitely wearable. There is a well balanced wardrobe story, of coats, coat ensembles, suits, dresses and jackets and dresses for day and evening. ...The basic shape is a modified A with a neat spare shape. Pleating, narrow braid trim, military flap pockets, and Venice lace collars are some of the details contributing to the well bred school girl look so popular now.... Many coats have figure skimming dresses in contrasting or matching colors, underneath.... Skirts are gored, box pleated, kick pleated, bias or A line, but never, never straight.... Dresses—the basic shape is the Princess skimmer. Most dresses are sleeveless, the look that Arlette believes to be the most contemporary and flattering to young figures.... Easter egg colors plus a wonderful new shade called gentle magenta are used throughout."

What was "yé-yé"? Derived from the words "yeah-yeah," this European pop music style was made most famous by singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. Most yé-yé singers were beautiful young women such as Françoise Hardy, France Gall, and the glamorous, ultra-cool, gorgeous Sylvie Vartan (if you're not familiar with her, do yourself a favor and Google her!) Arlette designed Sylvie's wedding gown (below--wow!) worn at her wedding to French heartthrob Johnny Hallyday.
Image courtesy weddingsecret.co.uk

In addition to being the costumer on Petulia, Nastat was also credited with costumes in the 1967 films À Coeur Joie, starring Bardot, and La Route de Corinth (dir. Claude Chabrol), which featured cool girl Jean Seberg.
Top row: Jean Seberg in La Route de Corinth; Brigitte Bardot in À Coeur Joie; Seberg
Bottom row: Still from À Coeur Joie.
Seberg images courtesy thelucidnightmare.blogspot.com; Bardot images courtesy luxhedera.wordpress.com

As Amy noted in her Petulia post, here are the four McCall's Arlette patterns--based on costumes from the movie and modelled by Julie Christie--that we can track down. The two on the top row are from Pattern Patter team shops and are currently available to buy--these are rarities, so snap them up while you can!
Bottom row: McCall’s NYDCP 1041 (Arlette of Real for Joan Arkin) (courtesy VintagePatternsWikia.com) 
McCall’s NYDCP 1042 (Arlette of Real for Joan Arkin) (courtesy VintagePatternsWikia.com)

The "for Joan Arkin" notation under "Arlette of Real" refers to the designer Joan Arkin, whose husband Andrew Arkin marketed Arlette's clothing under the Mlle. Arlette (and the Real line for juniors) label in the United States. Despite a LOT of research, I've been unable to unearth why "for Joan Arkin" is on these patterns--she was a designer herself, but it was her husband whose company marketed adaptations of Arlette's clothes for the American audience. (If anyone knows anything about this relationship, please let us know!). Andrew Arkin was the son of Leonard Arkin whose New York fashion house produced clothing under various labels, including Leonard Arkin and Andrew Arkin. The Advance pattern company produced several patterns by Leonard Arkin. Whew! The fashion connections are intermingled and far reaching! 

Arlette designed for the cool French girl (and she was one herself): Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Silvie Vartan...whose style do you like the best? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. There is an accent on the "e" in "Real" but Blogger wouldn't let me put it in after the first few times. Argh!

24 comments:

  1. Very interesting article Sherri.
    These iconic styles are the epitome of the 60's.
    Fantastic read....Thank you !

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  2. It's fun to learn about this fascinating decade. The looks are burned in my memory but, since I was a child, I didn't know anything about what was creating that world. I just took it for granted. I also appreciate that, not only do I learn from you, I also can use this as a great platform to jump off and do my own research. Since you were kind enough to suggest Sylvia Vartan, off I go through the world wide inter Web! Thanks so much!

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  3. Sherri-wonderful research! Love the photos of Sylvie Vartan-fabulous wedding dress! I'm am so fascinated by the amazing woman that Arlette Nastat designed for. Thanks so much, wonderful information! :)

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  4. Wonderful information, and a great article!

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  5. Great research and an informative article, thank you!

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  7. I've seen these patterns but knew nothing about the designer.

    Thanks Sherri--this is most informative and I plan to do some further research--you've whetted my curiosity.

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    1. Barbara, if you find out anything else about Arlette, do let us know! I scoured the Internet but actually could not find a photograph of her. And I'm sure there are magazine articles/ads with her clothes...this is when I wish I had access to a big collection of late 1960s periodicals--in the flesh, to turn them page by page!

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  8. A very interesting article. Thanks!

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  9. Excellently researched. It's great to learn so much new information about the designers behind the styles. Thank you!

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  10. I really enjoyed this post -- and remember wearing similar A-line dresses during my junior high and high school days!

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    1. I'm glad you like it...and isn't it interesting how many of the A-line dresses we see in these photos/patterns are in pastels, or "Easter egg colors" as the excerpted article puts it.

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    2. Ha! That's so true! I think I wore more pastels back then than I do now!

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  11. Love the 60s styles...still have a few I saved from the 60s...A very interesting and informative piece as I hadn't heard of Arlette....

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  12. I so enjoy learning about the designers - thank you for all of the terrific information.

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  13. Fabulous article, Sherri! I love Geoffrey Beene's dress! Thanks for your post!

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  14. Thanks for the article! I had no idea that there was more to these patterns than I thought. No wonder they sell so well!

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  15. Sherri - I am always so impressed with the research that you do every month! Thank you for telling the story! I love this one!!

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  16. My very first boy-girl dance I worn a lace up the front mini a-line dress that looks like it came one of these patterns. (It was one of the first "purchased" dresses I remember having) I just came across a picture of me prior to the dance. I will send it to the team.

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  17. Love these patterns! They're so 60s, yet glamorous probably because I've seen the styles in movies.

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  18. Informative and well written. Actually found one last week...would have just passed it by.

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  19. I am trying to find out some history on a beautiful red wool coat I have; maybe this is the same Arlette? Would love any suggestions/ideas! Heres a photo of coat and label: https://www.instagram.com/p/-5CZSOFCEe/
    Thanks for great article!

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    1. Hi there--I (Sherri from Sew Betty and Dot) wrote this blog post. While I don't know for sure--and there is a dearth of information on the Arlette label, I would guess that it is indeed linked to Arlette Real (as distributed by the Arkins). Whether or not she actually designed the clothes they sold under her name isn't clear...it could have been a licensing deal. Again, I have no proof, but the name is unusual enough that I would have to think it is the same Arlette we're talking about here--and the time period fits, too. It's a fabulous coat, by the way! Hope this helps!

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