Wednesday, September 18, 2019

McCall's 6988 (1980): Stephen Sprouse Inspired Camouflage Jumpsuit

Last spring, I encountered this stretch cotton sateen at Mood Fabrics in NYC.  It immediately brought to mind fashion designer Stephen Sprouse, who transformed the fashion world in the 1980s.   I happily purchased several yards in both colorways:

Stephen Sprouse was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1953 to Norbert and Joanne Sprouse.  When he was 2, the family moved to Indiana. It isn’t a stretch to say he was a born fashion designer.  As a young child, his fashion sketches showed such talent that his parents wondered if they had a prodigy on their hands (at age 14 he did a summer internship in NYC with Bill Blass).   

Stephen attended the Rhode Island School of Design briefly in the early 1970s.  But he dropped out after securing a job with Halston in New York City, the reigning king of fashion at the time.

After working for Halston for a few years,  Stephen struck out on his own. During the late 70s and early 80s, he formed intense friendships with up and coming artists, designers, models and musicians in the burgeoning NYC punk rock music scene.  Debbie Harry of Blondie was a particularly close friend, and he loved to dress her for shows.  

In 1982 he was part of a show of emerging designers, put on to promote the launch of Polaroid’s SX-70 camera.  His transformative and innovative mini collection reflected elements that would become his trademarks: Day-Glo colors, 1960s inspired silhouettes, graffiti printed on luxurious, high end fabrics and the “energy of the streets.”   He went on to release collections throughout the mid-80s.

In the late 1980s his friend Andy Warhol allowed Stephen to incorporate imagery from Andy’s “Camouflage” series of paintings into his clothing line.  These pieces fetched high prices and are still coveted today.

Throughout the 1990s,  Sprouse’s downtown, “underground” pop art/punk style was always in demand by those in high-end fashion circles.  In 2001, he collaborated with Marc Jacobs to produce a line which included the famous graffitted and “defaced” Louis Vuitton bags (a perfect nod to the admixture of  refined uptown sensibility and the gritty downtown look).  

In 2002, he released an affordable clothing line at Target called “Americaland”, featuring his signature grafitti “street” style done in a palette consisting mainly of red, white and blue.  

(As it so happens Target is releasing a 20 year retrospective of collections created by some big-name designers over the years, including Stephen Sprouse, Marimekko and Isaac Mizrahi!)

So you can see why I was excited to find this fabric.  It is NOT described by Mood as a “Stephen Sprouse” inspired design.  But the melding of graffiti and camouflage surely brings this 1980s fashion genius to mind.

I decided to use this 1980 jumpsuit pattern and the fabric in the brown and blue spruce colorway.  It’s not exactly a utilitarian design, but I hoped the zip front would blend well with the camo:

I encountered no real issues in the creation of this jumpsuit.  I did take care with pattern matching, ensuring that the design flowed at the center and yoke seams (this required that I recut and replace the yokes when I saw that the design repeated too closely).

This is my first piece of camouflage clothing (when you are looking for it, you see it on people everywhere!).  I felt surprisingly comfortable in camo, and very on trend!

from Forever 21

Here is my jumpsuit.  It is very comfortable, looks good in heels and sandals and I love the front zip!

I tried pairing it with this vintage 80s white belt (I prefer it without a belt):

The pattern called for wide bias tape to make the casing for the elastic, but I just used a strip of fabric:

In the year or so before his death, Stephen was in treatment for lung cancer,  but had kept this very serious diagnosis largely private. It was therefore a shock to many when Stephen Sprouse died of heart failure on March 4, 2004.

The Stephen Sprouse Book, by Roger Padilha and Mauricio Padilha and published by Rizzoli, has plenty of photographs of clothing from his runway shows and other clothing lines, and some of those can be found on the website   This book, as well as Stephen Sprouse: Xerox/Rock/Art were my main sources in writing this post.   

These are wonderful volumes on the life and work of a great American fashion designer, Stephen Sprouse, whose influence is still felt to this day.

Polaroid of Stephen Sprouse taken by Andy Warhol in 1984

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