Alberto Fabiani

I have a few vintage Vogue patterns – from the Vogue Couturier series and Vogue Paris Originals. Making up these patterns is a nice way to access really great dress, costume and coat designs from some of the most famous names of dress design – Yves St Laurent, Dior, Nina Ricci to name a few.

But some of the names of these patterns were not so well known, One of the designers I have been instinctively drawn to is Fabiani, but he is not a designer I had already heard of. Had you?

Alberto Fabiani, was born in 1910 in Tivoli. His parents ran their own fashion house and he went on to apprentice as a tailor in Paris. He took over the family business in 1936 re-naming it Fabiani and it soon became a very successful company. I find his designs particularly intriguing. His garments are sculptured – I love the folding and the crisp look he achieves with wool and other fabrics. There is a spareness to the designs. He is known for his conservative approach but in retrospect I find the designing rather fresh and slightly unusual. In 1955 the New York Times called him “the surgeon of suits and coats”. In 1961 the newspaper called his designs “a quiet marvel of architecture.” I find both these accolades very truthful. Before I knew of this man as a designer I had picked out some of his Vogue patterns as being very contemporary and relevant to me.Here are a few of his designs – the two colour pictures are from the V&A collection. The check cloak is even nicer with its strong contours, fluidity and beautiful wool. Here is a description from the Vogue pattern magazine.

 “Italy’s master tailor, creates wonderfully flattering suits, distinguished coats and exquisite evening gowns…and can claim many fashion-firsts.”

In other words, Fabiani was a classic designer, but also innovative. This can be seen in some of the vintage Vogue patterns that are relatively available in the Vogue Couturier Design series.

I really like the side pockets on the white dress, revealed in a long line of silver trimming, that long horizontally striped dress and matching coat, and the bubble hem and deep neckline on that orange dress. These are all classic, neatly tailored outfits, with a little bit of twist. I didn’t buy these. Let me show you the three I have, all of them with the clean lines and high quality tailoring that I love. They are true classics in that they reflect the era (1960s or 1970s) but they also have a timeless quality.  And I always go for dress with buttons on them.  I want to make all of these dresses up so found it hard to come down to just one for my SWAP.

When I recently suggested some of these items might enter my Sewing with a Plan this year, Jay of Pattern Pandemonium wrote:

I like your designer patterns.  I remember that era, getting a fabric with some heft was important to achieve the nicely rolled look of the yoke which is top stitched down. The ideas were simple but the execution exacting.

This has been my experience so far. Many of these dresses are best made with fabrics with some “heft”. The one of the left 1866 suggests “Flannel, Gardine, Linen, brocade and double knit”. The same list is given with 2065 with wool crepe added.

In the end I went for the  In Vogue 1065  for my Sewing with a Plan. I hope to make the sleeveless, collarless dress in light mauve linen, with silver buttons. However I am bearing in mind the “heft” point. I may need to swap to one of the other designs and a heavier cloth if I am going to have some success with my Fabiani of Italy dress.


17 Responses

  1. Annie B

    I fell totally for the 1691 dress…I’d be ‘swap-ping’ that for what it’s worth. Something about the boob outlines on 2065 looks a bit off to me?
    All so classic and innovative. you

  2. Natasha

    Fabiani is one of my favourite vintage designers! I have the 1866 pattern (tried but needs modifications for ye olde hips) and I also have a couple others untried. I agree with the comment regarding the heft of the cloth…sometimes difficult to find these days. Can’t wait to see how your SWAP comes out!

  3. DementedFairy

    Good choice- although I also love the intriguing neckline on the 1450- no good for busty wenches I’m afraid! Underlining may well be the key to the heft factor, especially if you bond it to the main fabric…quilting glue spray? Not very couture, but if it works…
    I’m also dubious about those boob lines on 2065, but it may work on a small bust. Opportunity for colour blocking perhaps?

  4. Jay

    There’s a few there I could covet, and I’m making a mental note of the velvet trimmed neckline on the Fabiani coat top left. 1065 is a great choice, I’m looking forward to seeing it made up.

  5. Lynn Mally

    What would give you “heft” in a summer dress? Maybe a very heavy linen? Or a really, really high quality cotton double knit? Or a very heavy silk crepe? Or maybe a cotton brocade?

  6. felicia

    I quite like these, which is unexpected since I tend to like robe-like rather than structured garments. I think I like the 1065, although the pix aren’t clear on my computer screen. I really like the 2065 — it looks kind of scifi, with those sculptured breast plates. I wonder if you consider upholstery and drapery fabrics for clothing, ever? I mention it because you can get all the “heft” you want in that part of the fabric store. I think the 2065 in velvet and brocade would be luscious 🙂
    I also would like to suggest that for all your swap pieces this year, you eschew actually sewing, and simply staple the pieces together. They only look at the pictures anyway, right? (I’m joking, and responding to your last post about how lousy a sewer you are!!??)

  7. SJ Kurtz

    Jay is right about ‘heft’. The thrift store I frequent has been full of doubleknit yardage, which I could not resist. Yes, I hated it when it first came out, but it’s like my mother’s cookies:it’s more sentiment than quality.
    I have been hard pressed to find modern styles that would work with the material. Coats and suits are really the only options, until I dial it back to Fabriani’s era. The wide topstitch edge with a roll to it can only be done in modern wovens if you pad it and roll it (inverted piping?).
    Clothing design is influenced by available materials. Think qiana in the 70’s. Linen prices came down in the 80’s, sharper edges and more shirt styles rose. The same story for cashmere in this past decade.
    With my doubleknit stash, I’m good for 2065 (especially in the lesser bust department). Just not much else with any volume.

    • fabrickated

      Thank you for such a knowledgeable response SJK. That has really made me think about double knit which I have never really found appealing. The yellow dress would definitely work best in that.I sort of chose the flared skirt dress as I thought linen would work. Also for the white dress I have wondered if a fairly firm linen might do it.

  8. ceci

    Memory Lane…..I actually had the 2065 pattern and attempted it very early in my sewing career – it was totally beyond my skills and patience and the outcome was not very successful altho I loved it – made it in a heavy woven cotton as I recall, sort of a rust color which matched by hair back in the day. Haven’t thought of that in years…….and would work with the current me, but would love to see you do it, maybe in an aqua wool…..


    • fabrickated

      I really like 2065, despite what everyone says about the bust. I think it would be very flattering. And rust with red hair sounds amazing. It would be fun to make it up again. I hope to get around to it – I actually love it in yellow. I won’t include it in my SWAP this year but I will be on the look out for suitable fabric. Possibly a double knit, as suggested by S J Kurtz.

  9. Amanda

    I have indeed heard of Fabiani, mainly because I own a few of the coveted Vogue Couturier patterns myself 😉 I am very drawn to styles that have interesting design lines and topstitching, of which your collection is enviable! I’m particularly a fan of the 1866, which also has a slight military flair with the epaulettes on the shoulder. Love love love <3

    I think the "heft" is as much about texture as it is about weight – there is a "softness" to these fabrics that my mom and I used to call "sponge fabric" – that "specialty" fabric truly iconic to the 60's which would go up in flame if someone lit a cigarette in the same room as you LOL (she made her wedding outfit out of something similar). I think the really tricky bit is finding an acceptable match for the desired heft with a natural fiber – maybe a brocade or double knit in cotton? I wonder if you could achieve a similar effect by underlining a crisper fabric like silk dupioni or linen with a softer layer like a very light flannelette?

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