Previously I have written about “Wardrobe” patterns and “Vogue Career” wear. The idea hasn’t entirely gone away, and there are contemporary wardrobe patterns available, but the decade of the Career Wardrobe was undoubtedly the 1980s. The decade of the Power Suit – women in the workplace appeared to need a masculine look with padded shoulders and big hair in order to compete effectively.
Many of those 1980s “working wardrobe” patterns (for women who were powerful at work, but still sewed at home) are still available. Women no longer feel the need to do “power dressing” and many of those 1980s styles are too exaggerated for contemporary tastes. While the enormous jackets have mainly gone to landfill, many of the patterns survived. If you shop on eBay you soon realise that these are patterns that no-one seems to want – consequently they are inexpensive. For the price of one vintage pattern you usually get a wide range of work clothes; skirt, jacket, trousers and blouse, sometimes with a dress too. The number one designer for Vogue’s Wardrobe patterns in the 1980s was a designer called Tamotsu.
Tamotsu is a Japanese first name – like Jonathan, or Benjamin. The designer (1945-2013) who produced a huge range of patterns for Vogue during the 1980s was called Tamotsu Toda. He left Japan to continue his education in New York where he remained until he died at the age of 68. Although there is an understated elegance and simplicity to his designs, perhaps derived from his Japanese heritage and training, there is also a very definite American flavour to his patterns. If you have a look at the elements of his designs I think you would see that many are classics rather than 1980s throw backs.
Tamotsu specialised in classic, tailored but unconstricted outfits; soft tailoring at its best. His clothes became popular especially with women who were larger than average – he designed for everyday shapes rather than modeltastic bodies. His business focused more on buyers s14 (US) and above, using Italian viscose and imported natural fabrics to create fluid and luxurious clothes, that were comfortable and good for dressing up or down – true Minimalist style. His clothes were available in the shops usually in neutral tones plus red and navy, aimed at urban office workers.
He said “Sometimes I see people wearing my designs of 10 years ago. They still look good—I like that.”
So I pulled out a Tamotsu pattern (Vogue Career 2034) with a large 1980s jacket but a skirt I though might “still look good” 30 years later. It is a straight skirt with two pleats, pockets and a back pleat.
I used a nice, grey (actually woven with a black and white marled thread close up), soft suiting fabric remnant (about 70cms) that I think may contain both cashmere and silk. It frays badly but has a sheen to it when pressed.
There was enough for a shorter length skirt. It has stitched down pleats and pockets in the front, with a CB zip.
Here it is. It is terribly creased after a long day at work. I admit I could have done with a bit more colour – the outfit is rather bland. But it is soft and comfortable and just the sort of skirt I enjoy wearing. Classic. There is a tiny twist, in that the blouse is not exactly as it seems: while it tucks in at the front the back is cropped and flared so it stands proud at the back (and allows the air to circulate). I got it in the TopShop sale for £15, and it is an idea I may copy. One day.