Sunday, 3 March 2019

The 'face' of Vogue patterns

When I was going through my Vogue designer patterns for last week's post on the representation of older women on dress patterns in the past, one model kept appearing again and again.

Diane Von Furstenberg 1976 and Nina Ricci 1977

Molyneux, 1977

Edith Head 1977 and Leo Narducci 1978

Albert Nippon 1978 and ChloƩ 1980

The model's name is Karen Bjornson. Born in Illinois in 1952, she moved to New York in 1970 to pursue a career in modelling, and was soon employed by the designer Halston as a house model. She then worked with numerous other American designers, and appeared in various magazines including Newsweek, Cosmopolitan and Vogue Patterns.

The first appearance in Vogue Patterns which I could find was in the Summer 1973 issue. She was in various features, including this one where she wore a pattern made up in what was described as a "flamboyant rayon print".

I can't tell if it's rayon, but it's definitely 'flamboyant'

From then on, she featured in most of the 1970s issues I own.

Summer 1974 and Spring 1975

By 1976 she was modelling designer patterns.

A Dior design in the Winter 1976 issue

Early Spring 1977 (because nothing says 'career woman' like wearing glasses) and Early Autumn 1979

I have fewer issues from the 1980s, but she still seems to have featured quite often.

Early Autumn 1980 and Spring 1982

Autumn 1985 and Spring 1986

She also appeared on the cover eight times, of which I have six.

Spring 1976, Early Spring 1978 and Spring 1978

Early Spring 1979, Summer 1981 and Early Spring 1983

In the Summer 1981 issue she was the subject of an occasional series, "Who's Who In Vogue", which included the information that by then she had appeared on over 800 editorial and product pages, as well as numerous catalogue covers.

October 1981 catalogue, image from PicClick

I've not been able to find out how long Karen Bjornson worked with Vogue patterns, but clearly it was at least 13 years; which seems to me to be a remarkably long time in modelling terms. In 1989 she moved to Connecticut with her husband and retired from modelling to become a full time mother to their two daughters.

However that is not the end of the story. In 2002 the designer Ralph Rucci asked her to appear in his catwalk show, and further modelling jobs followed. Then in 2012 she appeared in About Face: Supermodels Then and Now, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' documentary about beauty and aging.

The models featured in 'About Face', image from IMDb

Having resumed her career at 50, she is not showing any signs of retiring again just yet. In February this year she appeared with two of her fellow former 'Halstonettes', Pat Cleveland and Alva Chinn, on the runway of Naeem Khan's show in New York Fashion Week.

Karen Bjornson, Pat Cleveland and Alva Chinn, image from Allure

All of which brings me back to last week's post and the Sew Over 50 Sewing Challenge. Obviously not many of us are 1.77m / 5' 9½" tall, or have that sort of bone structure, but if the 'Big 4' ever get round to reaching out to older sewists and their disposable income by producing patterns featuring women who look even a little bit like us (currently this appears to consist of two Simplicity patterns out of a total of approximately 2,000 patterns across all the brands), then reviving the relationship between Vogue Patterns and Karen Bjornson would seem like a good place to start.

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