I’m sure many of you do buy vintage patterns, but if you are yet to try this, I thought I’d put together a post with some information on buying vintage patterns. I do buy many patterns from the seventies, but I hope that much of this post applies to all eras.
Where do I buy my vintage patterns?
1. Charity shops
I’m always on the look-out for new patterns and generally have a browse whenever I find a charity shop. I have bought many patterns for 50p to £2.
I do try to check to see if the patterns are complete, which can be interesting to do in a crowded shop. Alternatively, you could just put your trust in the original owner and hope he or she was an organised soul who stored the patterns with care. All is not lost though, if there is a missing piece or two. I have made up garments when I’ve had to guess some pattern pieces. This isn’t too much of a challenge if you are missing a belt carrier, pocket or even a facing. These can often be reliably reconstructed from the shape and markings on other pattern pieces. Generally it is these smaller pieces that are most commonly absent.
The sellers on here have more of an idea of the value of the patterns they are selling and therefore they tend to be more expensive. I usually buy only patterns on Etsy that I really lust after or are a difficult find in the UK. I bought my seventies jeans pattern on here simply because I have never seen a jeans patterns in the UK from this era.
With Ebay there is quite a high turnover of stuff. This means that I will browse nearly every week to see if anything interesting comes up. Prices can be very much down to the individual seller. Sometimes I can pick up a complete bargain (I’m assuming the seller is having a clear-out!) Sometimes the pattern can be rather pricey. Pattern job lots are a particularly cheap way of picking up a bargain, although not all the patterns may be of interest to you. I ended up with a bunch of sixties patterns this way. Most were great, but I did get several cape patterns that were very similar and I’m not sure that my wardrobe needs that many capes!
A note on sizing – Vintage patterns use sizing that often different from modern sizes. Usually the sizes are smaller. I would recommend referring to the waist, bust and hip measurements to select your size, or measure the pattern against a garment that fits.
4. Reproduction vintage sewing patterns
I must admit this is an unexplored area for me. For fashions from the 1940s or 50s or earlier these patterns can be extremely useful as it is so much harder to find vintage patterns from the earlier part of the twentieth century.
There are also reasons why you may find a reproduction pattern more convenient to use. The language and sewing instructions have been updated, which makes them easier to follow. Plus, you don’t have to worry about damaging the flimsy tissue paper of your original vintage pattern.
Vintage patterns usually only come in one size per envelope and if you don’t feel comfortable grading up or down, you might not pick the pattern simply because it is the wrong size. Some reproduction patterns are supplied in multiple sizes (see below), which is helpful.
Vintage patterns with multiple sizing:
The large pattern companies also produce a variety of reproduction patterns in their vintage ranges. These also have multiple sizing:
Here are a few other sites with a selection of vintage pattern reproductions:
Since last year I have, of course, added to my collection of patterns, so I thought I just share some of these with you:
Molyneux Dress (Vogue)
I succumbed to the temptation with this pattern. I’m not usually a dress person, so the fact that this pattern called to me in itself makes it special. Most of these Vogue Paris Originals are particularly pricey too. (I’m obviously a girl of expensive taste. The envelope recommends either a stable knit or a woven. I would like to make this up in a ponte roma fabric, but haven’t yet found the right fabric for it yet; it’s so hard to come by wool or cotton ponte.
Long-sleeved jersey top, trousers and skirt (Simplicity)
This is one of those patterns that has lots of potential. I’m especially interested in the trousers with those waist ties. Unusually, this pattern has a jersey top included which is quite rare for a charity shop find. There’s also a maxi skirt.
Selection of Shirts (Style)
I have lots of shirt patterns already, but I clearly couldn’t resist another one! This one has both short-sleeved and long sleeved options.