Nina Ricci

The first perfume I ever wore – a gift undoubtedly purchased in Duty Free by my father – was a bottle of L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci. It was real first date night stuff and at the age of 14 or 15 I thought it the height of sophistication. So the name Nina Ricci, and smell of L’Air du Temps, was associated with a feeling of joy and happiness – love, gifts, happiness and something both French and grown up. I have had a good associations with this company for as long as I can remember. L’air du Temps contains carnation, bergamot and rosewood with rose, jasmine, violet and iris – so it is no surprise that I still like floral perfumes and associate them with femininity. And then there was the bottle – the one I had on the right included an opaque glass dove. The original bottle, issued after the Second World War, was designed by Marc Lalique. Today I find the scent overwhelmingly sickly sweet, but I still remember the overall effect very fondly.

Lair du temps perfume bottles
L’air du Temps

Now, as I slowly start making a 1966 Nina Ricci suit, I thought I should find out a bit more about her.

Nina Ricci
Nina Ricci in 1942

Nina (b1883) was an Italian whose family moved to Paris. She apprenticed to a dressmaker at the age of 12 and worked for others,  until 1932 at the age of 49 when she set up her own fashion house with her son Robert who managed the business side. Bravo Nina – I love it when people really launch themselves in middle age. So brave and exciting! She was very sucessful and helped ensure that French couture rebounded after the Second World War. In the early 1950s she handed over the designing to Belgian Jules-Francois Crahay, in 1954, and in 1964 to Gerard Pipart who remained in charge for over 30 years. When he died in a couple of years ago the head of French Fashion industry said:

“He was a central figure at a pivotal moment for fashion. He was considered at the time as one of the most talented designers. He was extremely inventive and creative, and broke with accepted codes of the time.”

Nina lived until the age of 90 and died in 1970.

Vogue licensed a range of patterns from the House of Nina Ricci in the 1960s. They seemed to buy a relatively large quantity of designs from Nina Ricci than the other design houses,  and these wonderful patterns often become available on eBay and other internet sites. Here are some which may take your fancy.

In response to my previous posting about using Nina Ricci pattern VPO 1660 Jane mentioned she had just finished Vogue 1623 (the white dress, top left), and was just sewing in the label. Although a specific designer label was provided with these patterns many of the second hand ones have the label missing. I seem to remember you had to specifically ask for the label at the counter. Possibly they have been lost over the years. Anyway my VPO 1660 doesn’t have a label.

Jane also mentioned that she traced off these patterns due to their fragility. I know I should. But I don’t really have the time. I just cut them up and make alterations. I have used some vintage patterns five or six times. They do get a bit tatty, especially from the tailors tacks, but  I just repair them with “magic tape” . I should, given their age and providence, perhaps treat them with more respect, but I figure I can probably trace off the pieces if they really do get a bit tatty. Any views on tracing, preservation or just getting down with the paper and scissors?

I am finding the process of making up this pattern alot of fun. I will post about the dress, and the overblouse, once I have a bit more to show than cutting out and tailors tacks.

4 Responses

  1. symondezyn

    i love these Vogue Paris Originals!! I have a couple from other designers, and I have always wanted the Nina Ricci Vogue 1940 but it’s way WAYYYY too expensive for me LOL. I have only used one vintage pattern in the past, and I traced but then again, I trace everything just in case my alterations don’t turn out and I have to start over 🙂

    I really look forward to seeing the progress with your suit – I’m sure it will be stunning!! 🙂

  2. Stephanie

    How lovely! I enjoy knowing a bit of the historical detail, including the personal touch. Your suit is going to be great. I’m waiting with baited breath to see it…and to tell the truth you might have inspired me to make one of those coat dresses above…after I finish my many projects! 😉

  3. Jane

    I only trace the unprinted patterns when the tissue is so fragile it practically disintegrates when you touch it, as for example Lanvin 1395 which I made at the same time as the Nina Ricci – life is too short and there are far too many patterns to sew to trace, then muslin and finally sew. Who ever made the Ricci first had chopped it out with pinking shears and the tissue was fine so I just muslined, which I definitely think is worth while.
    You brought back memories mentioning that one had to specifically ask for the labels. Being another northerner you will probably remember the glorious (to my novice eyes) fabric department at Kendal Milne in Manchester where you had to practically beg for the label – I still have them to this day as I was way too ambitious and most things ended up as wadders.
    Anyway, the new Nina Ricci is in my bag en route for Newcastle where I am attending a meeting tomorrow and if it is anything like as warm as the Lanvin which I am wearing now I will expire – but will try and get a picture. I used a heavy black wool Jersey for both of them from Stone Fabrics in Totnes which has worked beautifully and I think, looks authentic – if not imaginative!
    Really looking forward to seeing where your pattern takes you – will be beautiful I am sure.

  4. tigerlounge2000

    Your blog is brand new to me, but I’m really enjoying reading it! Especially your posts on fashion history and hand painting fabric. I recently sewed an amazing Nina Ricci double breasted coat from the early ’70s – let me know if it takes your fancy, and if you’d ever be interested doing a Nina Ricci temporary pattern exchange. Her patterns seem phenomenally well drafted, and full of super chic details – but also quite hard to find on ebay. I lucked out with this one.

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