Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Vintage Pattern Collection

One of the things I've quietly been doing in the background is collecting old patterns from the 40's, 50's, and 60's. Mostly the 50's, though, as I just love the full-skirted look. I have a small collection at the moment. I keep changing my mind about which one I'll make up first. Advance 7011: this one I bought because of the neat faux-bolero.

I love the yoke with the pintucking details on Advance 7865, and the little bolero is very cute, too:

Anne Adams 4652 is a mail-order pattern, and doesn't have a fancy coloured envelope. It seems pretty normal until you realize that the neat neckline and waistband is created by a removable shrug that buttons up at the waist! You can just see it in the tiny illustration at the left. Isn't that the coolest thing?

I am very tempted by Butterick 6988. It just seems like it would be a really nice cocktail dress if made up in a fancy fabric. I like the band that makes up the sleeves and the neckline.

I am definitely going to make up Butterick 7345; I've already got the fabric for it. I loved the illustration of the china-blue gingham dress at the bottom so much, that I got that very same fabric. :)

I can't find the pattern company for this one, which is another mail-order pattern. It's a 40's pattern, and I just thought the peplum balanced the shoulders so nicely and it's such an elegant silhouette. Usually I find 40's fashions very shoulder-heavy, but I love this.

I think that McCall's 3521 is either early 60's or late 50's, based on the lines. But I got it because of the neat way that both the side panels and the sleeves are formed: look closely -- the side panels don't have a side seam the way that a lot of princess seams do, but they do have (what must be a very dramatic) dart! And the sleeves look to be cut in one with the yoke and back.

McCalls 4364 has the keyhole detailing at the neckline. It's so classy and interesting. Just look:

McCall's 9242 seems very simple, but I wanted to see how they did the scalloped neckline and raglan sleeves.

I think I'm pretty convinced I'm going to do something fancy with McCall's 9567 - I don't know whether it would be better in a silk dupioni or a chiffon overlay. I'll have to see how it's constructed.

I have a handful of mail-order patterns from either a company or a distributor named Patt-O-Rama. They're all in larger sizes so I'd have to grade them to the right size first. Patt-O-Rama 1323 is an older-woman style, I think.

Patt-O-Rama 8266 seems, to me, like a younger version of 1323 above. I think it could be very sweet made up, but care would have to be taken with the neckline tie to make sure it's not too much.

Patt-O-Rama 8450 interested me because of the sleeves and neckline. They clearly use a lace that has a finished, scalloped edge, and the ribbon/tie/accent detail around the neck and down beside the sleeve seams is intriguing.

I admit I bought Simplicity 3862 just so that I could have a basic wiggle dress pattern. It turns out it's a two piece top and skirt. Probably there's a way to construct it as a dress.

Simplicity 3950 is apparently a mid-50's pattern, but it seems more 40's-inspired to me; probably because of the details accenting the shoulder. Which is what attracted me to it.

I think Vogue 7706 is the neatest thing. It was one of the first vintage patterns I got, and I immediately traced out the pieces and started paper-fitting them. I was astonished and delighted at all the darts that are part of this very simple dress.

Readers, we have incredibly dumbed-down patterns today. You'll see one dart on average, and for the most part very basic contruction. In this basic sundress, there are three darts on each side of the bodice, darts on the shoulder straps, and darts in the capelet. The paper fitting alone showed me that this dress is sculpted -- it is way more three-dimensional and body-shaped than anything I've seen before. And look at the clever little use of the button details on the front straps holding on the removable capelet. It's just so cute.

Just reading the instructions to these patterns and examining how they were designed has taught me so much. The techniques that were basics 60 years ago are advanced today. I confess I am starting to look at my (massive) modern pattern collection with a little bit of disdain. I suspect I won't be satisfied with the modern fit once I get used to the 50's fit.


  1. Those patterns are exquisite! I was lucky enough to have collected some vintage knitting patterns several years ago, back in the days when such things were relatively easy to find at the Goodwill. With sewing patterns, is it hard to find them intact? Or are they often missing pieces or ripped to shreds?

  2. From my experience, vintage patterns that are missing pieces or partially destroyed can usually be bought at a discount. However, the more pristine, rare, high-end designer, or old a pattern is means it will cost considerably more. I have gotten lucky and found a few 50s and 60s patterns at thrift shops, but I also look for deals online.

  3. I think the price has steadily been going up in the last several years. Some patterns I bought for $4 - $8 a few years ago are $20-$30 now. Which is very much outside of my range with a few exceptions (certain Vogue Special Designs and Spadea patterns which would probably retail for $50 - $150, which is, unfortunately, outside of my range even for them). I did find most of the ones I have on etsy and ebay back in the day; I still keep a hopeful eye out for patterns at thrift shops though. I don't have any missing pieces for that reason: online sellers need to disclose whether anything is missing and I do avoid those patterns.