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Firsts all round for McCall

January 7, 2008

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McCall’s have always been a bit of an innovator in the pattern world. (Although I don’t own a single modern McCall’s pattern- they’re all too fearsomely hip for me- and now even American actress Hilary Duff has a line of patterns for them. Perhaps when they bring out the Cate Blanchett line I might rethink.) I believe it was McCall’s who were the first to introduce the “printo gravure”pattern, or a pattern in which all the pieces were marked out on the paper, rather than being precut blank pieces with all manner of confusing holes punched out to indicate the grainline, darts and every other marking under the sun. I could be wrong, but their patterns were probably the first to use colour on the envelope illustration in the 1920s. I could also be wrong (I’m wrong about a lot of things) but I think they were also the first to use live models and photography on their pattern envelopes in the 1950s.

But I think this pattern shows another more subtle first (this particular pattern may not have been the very first, but it’s a good example of it), another example of McCall pushing the boundaries of fashion illustration back an inch or two: use of a background setting. Yes, these models actually have a place to wear their clothes, rather than white space, and it actually makes the clothes live by putting them in a context. Like all good marketing, it’s appeal is aspirational. Not only could you make this dress and wear spotless white gloves and look impossibly well groomed with very shiny hair, but that you could also do so in the kind of establishment that has white linen tablecloths, gentle palms, a sense of space between tables and an entrance behind a sweeping silk curtain. Although sadly it would still be possible to run across some hussy wearing the same dress.

Some things will never change.

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