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.
I love Tamotsu patterns and have held onto my originals as well as buying a few others from eBay. I didnt realized that he had passed away though. Thanks for the updated biography. Interesting fact – I use to purchase a lot of Tamotsu’s fabric from Parons in the garment district. I’m going to have to check and see if I still have any left in the collection.
I always like your background musings. I remember those styles, but they were not my lifestyle. Great skirt on you. Lovely fabric.
I love your skirt it looks understated and elegant and it fits well. I adore grey and white together it’s a great combination.
I haven’t come across this designer before, I’m intrigued to see more of his work.
I have some Vogue wardrobe patterns from the 1990s. I must admit I do still like them. I was just out of University and wanting to get a career job (but working various temp/low level jobs in reality) so I bought a few but didn’t make them up.
The skirt does still look good, I never heard of Tamotsu, I’ll have a look on ebay.
The top is nice, I might try to copy it too at some point. Does the back have any under layer?
I actually really like this skirt, K. It would be a great one for me for work. I might have to copy if I can find the time. The shirt is neat, too – love the back.
I love Tamotsu patterns! So nice to see him honored here with your classic skirt.
Love the skirt fabric. And that blouse is rather genius, isn’t it? About the pleats — they never quite worked for me, but look so great on you! hmmm, would longer pleats hide a tummy issue or further accentuate it? Must say I’m glad those massive jackets and shoulder pads have never come back into style. Love that your blogs are always so full of background information.
Nice skirt, and a new designer to me. I will have to check him out.
That shirt looks great – and what a fabulous back detail!
I love your Tamotsu skirt — it looks so professional! 🙂
I like it, and I love grey and white together.
I remember reading his obituary in the New York Times and having a real ‘aha’ moment remembering his designs. And Kate, that skirt is just perfect on you. The defined waist with smart pleats is very flattering. And you nailed the length. I know your fabric determined the length but that is just perfect on you.
Hello Kate.I was so happy when I found your blog and Instagram just a few days ago. I can learn many things. Actually I’m Japanese but I’ve never known about Tamotsu Toda. The skirt is very cool and suit you. I love the style that your white shirt, skirt, black stocking and shoes. Your clothes are so nice!!
Hello Yumi – thank you! I love your instagram pictures of Ikabana! Years ago (1964) my parents visited Japan and my mother had an opportunity to attend a flower arranging class. I have been to Osaka myself to learn about modern methods of construction for houses. I love Japanese design (and food!) and feel we have so much to learn from your approaches. I hope we can stay in touch.
Have you been to Osaka?! I live in Osaka city. I hope you liked here. I’ve visited London twice for vacation. I loved the city. You also gave me opportunity to read English grammar books again. I enjoy it like a school girl. Thank you so much.
Yumi – I am enjoying following you on IG. Do please let me know if you are coming to London again as we would be very pleased to meet you and spend some time with you.
Thank you Kate. I would love to know if you come to Osaka again!!
I have this pattern, bought new in the 80s. I attended an evening class and actually made the skirt, I recall now, and wore it and liked it, which is more than can be said of my more recent makes, supposedly made with more experience and miss skill! The other items were beyond me. I got rid of a lot of patterns (I didn’t sew; they were to small – regret it now!) but I kept a few of which this is one. The upper size is too small for me these days but could be modified but I’m not sure the skirt is the best shape for my spoon-shaped body.