“Clothes won’t change the world. The women who wear them will.”
This is a very famous fashion quote which is attributed to the American designer Anne Klein. Coming from someone whose talent and livelihood revolved around creating fashion that has influenced women around the world, this is a beautiful, powerful, and impressively truthful statement. It celebrates the women that bring to life clothes, which carry no personality on their own until they are enlivened by the charisma coming from inside the body. Just as her clothing is timeless and visionary, so also her quote is still so very touchingly appropriate today.
All of this I have mentioned – and inspired by the Anne Klein trends at the recent New York fashion week – are reasons why I am ecstatic to present something I made using a vintage Anne Klein designer Vogue pattern. Unfortunately, my sewing project is not one of her famous separates but more a symbol of the year 1987 date on the design – a one-piece jumpsuit. Vogue American designer patterns seemed to offer many chic and on-point jumpsuit styles in the mid-to-late 80’s, and this one seems to be a common-to-find release by the number to be found for sale over the internet. It is a very Anne Klein version – classic yet a product of its times, tailored yet simple, and complimentary yet comfortable. I absolutely LOVE having this piece in my closet! Also – it has pockets!!
FABRIC: a heavyweight rayon/cotton/spandex printed knit. It is about 1/8” thick, printed in the black and blue plaid one the right side while plain white on the wrong (inside) side, and a tightly stable weave. It has a wonderfully soft feel and supple ‘hand’ that reminds me of a cross between a scuba knit and a brushed flannel. I did use some leftover black poly scuba knit remnants for the neckline facing.
PATTERN: Vogue American Designer pattern #1871, year 1987
NOTIONS NEEDED: lots of thread, some strips of interfacing, and a long 22” zipper (which is of the vintage metal variety)
TIME TO COMPLETE: This was whipped up in about 6 hours, and was finished on July 6, 2020.
TOTAL COST: The plaid printed knit was from JoAnn, and was about $40 something for 3 yards. The scuba knit scraps for the facing as well as the zipper were all on hand so are as good as free.
There is so much that can be said about the life of Anne Klein and the way she impacted history, but I will only give you an overview. “Anne Klein designed classic casuals with every woman in mind. She was a visionary designer who originated the concept of a fully coordinated closet, providing a uniquely American point of view to the global fashion industry. Her trademark separates became the hallmark of a purposeful and stylish wardrobe – one that has informed trends for decades” (from anneklein.com). “Recognized as one of the groundbreaking designers to put American fashion on the map, Anne Klein wasn’t just a designer, she was a champion of authentic style and empowered the way women dressed. 50 years later, her legacy continues to influence contemporary elegance and inspire the modern woman.” (from the Harpers Bazaar article “Anne Klein: The Legendary Designer Who Changed The Way American Women Dressed“)
It was while studying art at Girls’ Commercial High School (now known as Prospect Heights High School) that Anne discovered her talent for design. Within a year’s time, she was employed at her first job in the garment industry with Varden Petites. There, she worked to redesign the firm’s collection and introduced a new style of ready-to-wear clothing for young, smaller figured women that would come to be known as “Junior Miss”
She spent the early part of her career creating petite-size clothing, elevating the category from girly frocks with Peter Pan collars into sophisticated sportswear. This was in 1937 when she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Traphagen School of Fashion, which led to her first job as a sketcher for dress firms on 7th Avenue.
In 1940, Anne Klein began making a name for herself as a designer. She first began designing for Maurice Rentner at his business, Maurice Rentner, Inc., which produced ready-to-wear designs for men and women.
In 1948 she married clothing manufacturer Ben Klein and they launched the “Junior Sophisticates” label. “Junior Sophisticates” offered elegant styles to younger women with smaller figures. Anne Klein was the principal designer at Junior Sophisticates until 1960.
In 1964 she was awarded the Lord & Taylor Rose Award for independent thinking, an award first given to Albert Einstein.
In 1967, she patented a girdle specifically designed for wearing with the miniskirt.
She co-founded Anne Klein & Company in 1968 with Gunther Oppenheim, with a focus on separates, not suits – an innovation at the time – and within ten years her designs were being sold in over 750 department stores and boutiques in the USA.
In the 1960s and 70s, Anne Klein set the standard for professional, grown-up style. The company didn’t just dress women for the workforce. It epitomized their independence, confidence and multifaceted lives.
It was during this time (late 60’s and 70’s) of ready-to-wear fashion, “modern” designs for women, and an increase in the number of women in the workplace that Klein was one of the first to introduce, and to become known for, “separates”: individual pieces which work together as a whole, as opposed to dresses.
March 19, 1974, Anne Klein died of breast cancer at the age of 50.
After Anne Klein died in 1974, Donna Karan and Louis Dell’Olio took over the design direction of the company. Donna Karan, who had been Klein’s assistant, preserved the company’s aesthetic voice for a decade. But in 1984, Karan set out on her own. Today, it is still an American company (privately held as of July 2019).
(Above information from this wikipedia article as well as this “Saving Anne Klein” article from the South China Morning Post.)
Now, after reading this timeline, it becomes obvious that this jumpsuit pattern I have sewn from comes after the death of the real Anne Klein, and also after the direction of her successor Donna Karen (who kept the company quite true to brand). However much the designer line has lost its direction in the decades after Klein’s death, luckily, this pattern seems to be very much in a matching idealism of her namesake. How often can a design from the decade of the 80’s be a classic wardrobe staple? How often can an 80’s garment not be identifiably dated? Since when does something from the 80’s not include an outrageous style, bold colors, and memories you’d rather not relive? When it is done by Anne Klein design.
I think the saving grace here is two-fold – the tapered leg pants and the softened shoulder line. The pattern recommended adding rounded shoulder pads inside, but I haven’t so far…I might come back and add them in for a change in the future. The only thing I found is that the booty and the back shoulders were only generous in room, but some of that may be because of the supple knit. The deep 4 inch hems to the sleeves and pants were handy at shaping and weighing down the jumpsuit at strategic places, and I stitched them down by hand for a nicely invisible finish.
For being a designer style, this jumpsuit was incredibly easy to make. Of course, that is partially due to the fact I greatly simplified the construction by eliminating a full body lining. When working with such a soft yet stable knit as I was using, I wanted to take advantage of feeling the luxuriousness of the rayon material and not over complicate it by adding the lining. If I had been using a suiting material or some sort of wool blend, then yes – I would have totally lined the jumpsuit. Even with a full body lining, sewing it would have been relatively easy because there are just a handful of pattern pieces, a few darts, a few pleats, some smartly strategic seam matching, and voila! That is all! I found the sizing to be spot on and I didn’t have to do any fitting tweaks so that also saved on time.
Eliminating the button back bodice placket in lieu of an exposed zipper back made me sad (I liked the look of it) yet it also saved this project in many ways. I avoided the extra stress of figuring out a way to support several large buttonholes in this supple knit. Sure, interfacing will always help stabilize such a spot. Yet, the knit I was using didn’t seem to take well to small detailed stitching, so I was glad both that this was a simple design overall and that I found another way to close it besides buttoning. Using the zipper helped keep the surrounding knit in the proper shape, which is important since for a jumpsuit the center back seam receives the most stress due to movement necessary upon wearing. Besides, a back zipper is so much easier to handle when it comes to having to take bathroom breaks than the complicated possibility of both a zipper up the waistline and several button closings behind ones back. That sounds so fiddly to accomplish on one’s self but looks great in the line drawing! I guess that is the flair of designer fashion…to be a bit superfluous for the sake of visual aesthetic.
I suppose I might have downgraded the design by merely adding a zipper down the back but it is a really good one, though – true vintage, with metal teeth, a self-locking pull tab, and a blue cotton twill tape base. I am guessing it could be as old as the 1940s. Finding one in the wilds of a rummage sale at this 22” length is not that common, thus it has been a true gem in my notions stash that I have been so reluctant to use. What good was it going to do me saving it when that zipper was just what this jumpsuit needed, and was going to give it a really great way to have a moment to be worthwhile? Vintage zippers – even with their metal teeth – are much more pliable and bendable than any modern metal zipper. This old notion was going to be much more comfy to wear and flow much better with the rest of the jumpsuit than any modern one could. Sometimes you just have to take a breath and go use the good stuff for those really good sewing ideas. When the right project come along, splurging on the good vintage notions usually ends up being worth it for me.
The only major change I made to the pattern design was the relatively small step of eliminating the sewn in belt-style waistband. I am on the shorter side, not quite petite technically, and so getting rid of the extra few inches that the belt would have had gave me the perfect proportions. Also, I did not want to define the jumpsuit with a contrast color for the belt waistband piece, nor did I want to complicate it with more of the plaid. I prefer to add in whatever color and interest I feel like for the day through my choice of belt, shoes, necklace, and earrings. I sometimes like this with beige tones, sometimes black and silver, but here I paired it with brown leather and gold (all vintage belt and earrings, by the way, and Charlie Stone brand flats). I would not have had this versatility with an attached belt piece, but most importantly, I would not have had the proper fit. I know I could have just taken some inches out of the body of the dress at the pattern stage, but this little change up was easy and catered to my taste all in one step. This might be a designer style, but if I’m the one sewing it, I am going to personalize it, for sure!
For these times in which casual (aka. lounge attire) seems to be the 2020 work wear, fancy wear, and everything in between, chic sportswear is just the thing we need for today. This jumpsuit is as comfy as wearing pajamas, but much more stylish. No matter if I haven’t a reason, I refuse to forget the joy of dressing up, the delighting in fashion, and the creativity behind sewing. I need all of this and daresay so many others do, too, no matter what the circumstances of the day. This knit jumpsuit is as close as I have yet come to spending my day in yoga pants and oversized tee. This is my kind of parallel. I am so glad I could find out more about the great designer Anne Klein along the way to finding my interpretation. Women of today need clothes that are as empowering, adaptable, multi-faceted, and 100% as capable as we are. Sweatpants do not do any of that for me. This jumpsuit is one of the many me-made pieces in my wardrobe that can, though. Please, find yourself that perfect garment that can help you can the world – big or small…every little bit counts. Remember – “Clothes won’t change the world. The women who wear them will.”