Vogue 1857: Pierre Balmain Dress Pattern for Design & Sewing Inspiration

This classic dress design from Pierre Balmain was created in the late 1970's in that wedge of time after the 1960's silhouette had finally expired, and before Armani's big shoulder influence was in full swing. Along with such artists as Halston and Yves Saint Laurent, Balmain used soft, drapey fabrics to create a fluid silhouette and a more sophisticated look than had been worn earlier in that decade.

This dress is inspired by men's shirting from the 1700's and earlier. Complete with shoulder yoke and flowing sleeves, even the neck tie is included in this look. The film "Barry Lyndon" had been released mid-decade, and there was a renewed interest in historical styles from the 18th century, especially from men's wear.

In current fashion trends, we still see neck drapery, most commonly as scarves, but with a strong 1970's revival, the look we see here is also available.

In pattern design, this garment has a classic dress construction, with waistline seam, darts to fit and a back zipper. There is a mock 'blouse' look with slight gathering around the waistline and worn with a belt. The sleeves have gathers at the top, a look we see often in dresses from this era. Even with the gathered 'blouse' at the waistline, this is still a very narrow looking silhouette. The hem length is 4" below the knee or full length. The sleeves do not have pads or inner ruffles, rather they fall naturally.

Cover art was giving way to photos at this time. Here we can see that Christie Brinkley has the cover, with her healthy "all American" look of the era. Both model and illustration have very spare accessories, keeping this look minimal and clean.

Fabrications for this type of dress were very light silks with a 'scarf' like hand. Often they had tiny damask motifs or slight shiny designs to the weave with solids and patterns of equal importance. At a lower price point, this is when the many polyester silkies would hit the market, common in both yardage stores and ready-to-wear. This textile would wash and wear easily, perfect for the little 'secretary dresses' that survive today with elastic waistlines and 'pull over' styling.

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