Jules Francois Crahay's Signature Silhouette for Nina Ricci - Vogue #1017

While recreating the previous Jules Francois Crahay's dress for Nina Ricci, I became enamored with one of his signature styles that skyrocketed him to fame: it is a dress with a deep, plunging neckline; a bouffant skirt; and a tightly-belted waist.

By the late 50's, Paris couture showed several seasons of the loose, no-waisted chemise, but, just as soon as women became comfortable wearing loose, no-waisted dresses, the Paris designers found inspiration with the tiny-waisted figure again...with Crahay leading the way. His "type" of dress favored small, wide midriffs, and low, often revealing necklines.

Below is the sewing pattern designed by Crahay for Nina Ricci, a 1960’s Vogue Paris Original #1017 dress pattern published through Conde Nast:

Vogue Paris Original Jules Francois Crahay for Nina Ricci, #1017, c. 1960
Vogue Paris Original Crahay for Nina Ricci Sewing Pattern, #1017, c. 1960

This pattern is a one-piece dress with a petticoat. Notice his signature silhouette, showcasing a bell-shaped skirt with a plunging neckline.

When questioned about the practicality of the signature plunging neckline on his silhouettes, Crahay said to an interviewer, in the Oct. 12, 1959 issue of Life Magazine:

"I couldn't do a dress for a generously endowed silhouette like Bardot's. I like a woman to be extremely feminine. She must exist - but not too much." - Joules Francois Crahay

While the photo you see below isn't the same dress as this sewing pattern, it gives you an idea of Crahay's deep neckline, that he brought to the Paris couture, with the reintroduction of a tight-waisted silhouette, in 1959.

This was the single most popular dress in Paris in 1959. The photo is of Henrietta Tiarks wearing a Crahay for Ricci. She later became the Duchess of Bedford.

Henrietta Tiarks wearing Crahay for Ricci, Life Magazine, March 2, 1959

You can sense the similarities between the dress Henrietta wore, and the dress we will be recreating. Below is the model, Nico, wearing the identical dress we will be recreating. It is made from a black organza fabric.

I found another version of the dress in my Oct/Nov. 1960 issue of a Vogue Pattern Book, made from gold brocade fabric:

Vogue Pattern Book, Oct/Nov 1960, Crahay for Ricci Vogue #1017

The side-by-side photos you see below are the same design, but notice how they look a bit different. One seems more belled and "bouffant," while the second one, from the Vogue Pattern Book, looks more "slender," sitting closer to the body. I began analyzing the difference, and after examining the pattern, I have concluded that "View B" is meant to be more voluminous than the photo you see above in the counter book. The pattern comes with three different variations, and View B is cut differently...

View B vs. View A

The grain line for view B, runs horizontally, not vertically. This leads me to believe that the black dress you see above is cut on the cross grain, which is why it looks more "poofy." It is unusual to cut a pattern on the cross grain, unless one is working with kimono sleeves, a border print, or with lace. The entire pattern for View B is cut on the cross grain!

"This leads me to believe that the black dress you see above is cut on the cross grain, which is why it looks more "poofy."

View B is cut entirely on the Cross-Grain, Crahay for Ricci Sewing Pattern 1018 Vogue Paris Original
View B is cut entirely on the Cross-Grain

As quoted in a previous blog post, Charles James always said, "Follow the Grain!" So we will see where the grain line takes us with View B, which, I believe, will lead to more volume and poof.

In the next blog post, I will show you some of the construction methods used to recreate this Crahay for Ricci dress. I am excited to recreate an important part of couture fashion history.

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