Discussion Topic: The Appeal of Vintage Patterns

McCall Pattern Company blog: the appeal of vintage patterns

If you follow us on Instagram (and you should because we share lots of cool stuff), you know that we usually post a vintage pattern from our archives each week. Sometimes we’ll tie in a vintage post with what’s happening that week, like Wimbledon, for example. Or, we may just post a vintage pattern because it caught our eye when we were looking through our old catalogs.

Regardless of our motive, each time we post a vintage pattern we always get comments to please, please, PLEASE! reissue that pattern. We haven’t done a discussion topic post in awhile, so today let’s talk about vintage patterns and exactly what it is that makes you go nuts over them.

Here are some questions we have for you about the appeal of vintage patterns:

  • How much does the vintage illustration style have to do with your gut reaction to a vintage pattern? We all swoon over the artwork, but are these designs you’d have the best intentions of sewing? And then actually wearing?

McCall Pattern Company blog: the appeal of vintage patterns

  • Tell us what kind of a vintage pattern lover you are. Do you sew vintage because you’re a retro-style person at heart and this is how you like to dress? Maybe you sew vintage for cosplay or as costume wear? Or, perhaps this is you: You look at vintage patterns and visualize how you can interpret and update them for your contemporary lifestyle.McCall Pattern Company blog: the appeal of vintage patterns
  • Do you think there is one decade with more universal fashion appeal than the others? The 1950s silhouette of fitted bodice and full skirt has long been popular for vintage pattern reissues. Are there other decades—or vintage silhouettes—with as strong appeal as the ’50s look?McCall Pattern Company blog: the appeal of vintage patterns

We’d love to read your comments about this topic, so please feel free to post them here and elaborate as much as you’d like. We really value your input. And if you’d like to see more of our vintage patterns, visit this Pinterest board:


  1. These patterns are more sophisticated. They have more design elements and require real sewing. Yes I also look at how I can interpret them for my lifestyle and look. They are also different and a break from the homogenous variations on a basic style which are everywhere and just reprocessed and dished up year on year.

  2. Vintage patterns take me back to when I was young and thin and dreamed of being very adult and elegant. That’s why I prefer the 40’s, 50’s and some of the 60’s. After that time period patterns became much more casual or drafted to be “easy”. Earlier than the 40’s patterns generally seem to me to be less flattering (very boxy). Of course, I am no real fashion student but I love the elegant silhouettes of the classic movies from the 40’s and 50’s. I have purchased several modern “vintage” patterns (most noteworthy by Gertie) and I have made adjustments to one piece to accommodate my larger size but I haven’t had a chance to pre-shrink my fabric and cut it out to date. Very soon!

  3. I’m a fan of the 70s, the late 70s — disco era… that Studio 54 look. In my opinion, those designs are really transcendent. They look modern and work really well in the present. And fabric choices and styling play a major part. For me, a lot of the vintage patterns of earlier decades are really pretty to look at, but wouldn’t work in my life or with my personal aesthetic. They would make me look like I’m in costume. I would really have to pull them apart. Like I’d take a pair of 1940s Katherine Hepburn trousers and pair them with a really modern/trendy top and cool accessories.

  4. My favorite vintage pattern is a wedding dress from the 70’s. It is a Simplicity pattern, and the reason is: When I was in High School, Simplicity had a national contest for designs. I had been sewing since I was 5, and I was 16 now. I had been playing around with some of my own designs, and making them. Of course, a girl of 16, my thoughts were of a wedding. I designed an empire waist wedding dress, with a six gore skirt that flowed into a short train in the back. The dress had several necklines, sweetheart, another with a high collar, and a boat. The sleeve choices were a puff topped long sleeve , a set in long sleeve, and a gathered sleeve with a cuff. It could also be made into a bridesmaid dress. I won the national contest! For about 10 years I got little checks as the “designer”. This pattern was used for my wedding, and the 4 bridesmaids, my son’s bride also asked me to use it as the basis for her wedding, my granddaughter’s prom dress was also made from the pattern. Simplicity sent me a pattern in each size. (In those days, they were not multi sized!). I am so happy that I made permanent patterns by ironing them onto fusible interfacing, so I still have them 46 years later. What is wonderful is the same basic pattern worked for 3 generations!

  5. Although I am just 50 years old I learned to sew on these vintage patterns, using the instruction sheets as my textbook. I was 11. Here’s why I prefer them today. The instructions were better written. The art work is inspiration! The styles are feminine, no potatoe sacks here. And a big point for me is they are or were one size patterns. The multi size patterns do not help me. Rarely do I find find one pattern that includes the 3 sizes I need for my pear shape. I have found the alterations are much simpler to make on one size. Plus I get the beautiful simplicity of knowing what pattern size to buy and how many inches I will be adding and where. That is vintage bliss to me. Also I do wear vintage styles, my husband loves that I do not dress like him!
    So bring them on, better yet can we just go back to them?

  6. Big fan of vintage sewing patterns. I like taking vintage patterns and putting a modern twist on them. Plus, I enjoy hacking vintage patterns and making something even more awesome. Attended my first 1940’s ball and it was really a lot of fun, but I’m not one to live the lifestyle 24/7. Favorite decades are the 70s, 40s and 50s. I buy all vintage on a gut level, doesn’t matter if I’m ever going to make it or wear it. I love the look and styles so much I just WANT IT!

  7. I love vintage patterns from the 1960 – 1990 time periods. In high school and many years after i loved this style. Why? It was easier to put an outfit together. Dresses were very complementary to many body types. I felt confident and proud to look for a job right after my high school gradution (1967) because everywhere i went to apply everyone treated me with respect.
    I remember many Jackie O styles from dresses to hats to shoes.
    I received an award from McCalls when in my home economics class for sewing.
    My interest in sewing began when my grandmother came to visit us. I would watch her make clothes and furniture covers. i would grab any scraps and bits of fabric, hide them and make doll clothes later.
    Even the casual clothes were cool back then.

  8. Vintage patterns allow women to dress like ladies and could be worn by women of all ages. I am in my sixties and I prefer dressing a bit more modestly and gracefully. The older patterns did just that. The older patterns also had more style.

    I would love to see vintage patterns for plus size woman as most women are not a size 12. I think the average dress size is now a 14 or 16 not 12.

    1. “I would love to see vintage patterns for plus size woman as most women are not a size 12. I think the average dress size is now a 14 or 16 not 12.”

      Very good point, and one I think pattern companies would do well to heed in general. Just offer as many styles as possible on up into the higher sizes.

  9. If you re-issued Vintage 1960s patterns, I would buy every one of them at full price and i would buy 2 or 3 of each pattern. That is how much i love 60s patterns. I buy them primarily from Simplicity as they and Burda (sometimes) are the only pattern companies that re-issue them (from the 1960s). Vogue has just re-issued 2 patterns. I buy the patterns and I make the patterns. I go nuts over them because i absolutely love the silohuettes. They are classic, easy to wear for my body type, and can work for work and casual. Let me repeat: if McCalls would re-issue these patterns from the 1960s I would buy each one of them, many times over. And if McCalls would issue with slight updating, I’d come to your offices and hug you! Thanks for asking.

    1. I agree some of the best patterns came out in the 60s. I’d love to see patterns from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I’d also love to see lingerie patterns to go with them as it’s difficult to find slips to wear the dresses.

      1. That’s a good point. I have a lot of vintage foundation garments (not just slips) that I inherited from my grandmother, but I imagine many people don’t. A girdle and petticoat pattern would go a long way towards helping people get their 50s silhouettes right, especially.

  10. I have a particular thing for the Vogue Paris Original and Couturier patterns from the 60s and 70s. I find lots of those patterns to be quite modern and I have several that I would definitely make and wear. I like how they are so much of their era. I also love those big pattern envelopes and my preference still runs towards the Vogue designer patterns, there is something so exciting about getting to make a garment by a famous designer, and McCalls is the only company that does this, so please keep releasing the contemporary designer ones – they’re my fave! I know that it’s more difficult (impossible?) to re-release vintage designer patterns though. In saying all this, I’m less a fan of the decades before the 60s as the fit-and-flare look is not my thing and seems dated. I know that others love it, though. To sum up why I love the vintage Vogues I think it has something to do with perceived glamour and a window to another time. This is a great discussion topic 🙂

    1. I totally agree with all that you’ve said!

  11. I use a fair amount of vintage patterns and vintage re-issue patterns, but they are not the majority of my stash. When I wear my retro pieces I always get a lot of compliments. I think its the novelty factor of the details and the refreshing change in proportion. I can understand where you might be trying to understand the true commercial value vs the emotional response – the illustrations are just as unreal as today’s fashion runway models, but nostalgia maybe clouds our thinking or makes us more enthusiastsic in theory rather than practice.
    Personally I would love to see more re-issues that dont involve big poufy skirts. Even better than that would be to have the fit adjusted for these non-girdle wearing times, and the darts modified since we have moved on from the high, pointed bustlines of decades past…
    I can imagine that suggestion might make some enthusiasts unhappy though.
    At my level of experience, when I consider the changes I prefer, there are usually contemporary patterns I own or find in the current catalogs that would give the same effect as a vintage style if I were looking at a real human instead of the cute, stylized illustration. Sometimes this isn’t as obvious to less experienced sewers.

    I find my biggest issue with making vintage styles is finding the right fabrics. There are so few fabrics at my local stores that can really achieve the right silhouette, or I don’t want to make something that needs 5 or 6 yards of material. This keeps me from buying a fair amount of of vintage re-issues I would otherwise get excited about.

  12. I love the vintage patterns, especially the easy fitting designs. I learned to sew with these wonderful guide sheets and designs and have found that as the years have passed, my body has changed shape. Many of the vintage patterns have less fitted lines and are classier than today’s “easy fit” styles. Thanks for making some available again!

  13. Before I begin, let me qualify this by saying I’m not really one of the people who is always frothing over the newest vintage Instagram post. I love collecting vintage patterns – my library runs from the 40s through the 80s – and if a pattern is particularly interesting for some reason, or extremely hard to find secondhand, I’d love to see a reissue. But I don’t lose my mind over the more generic styles… I know how to use Ebay and I have slopers that I can adapt, haha.

    I think I agree with Faye on this – if you actually seek out a real vintage pattern that hasn’t been redrafted for modern reissue, the construction will often necessitate a much more involved, careful and skilled approach that challenges even the most experienced. Modern patterns seem to have steered away from this – whether it’s because most of the pattern-buying population lacks the skill, time and inclination or modern styles are just more simplistic in general. (Of course there’s Marfy, but those are poorly publicized by Vogue and are like $20 per envelope for one piece of an outfit anyways.)

    I think there’s also a glamour factor. I try to steer clear of being aggressively nostalgic for a decade when computers were bigger than my living room, it cost an arm and a leg to call a county over, and racism was something people were proud of, but it’s hard not to be enchanted by the thought of a world where people dressed up every time they left the house. I’m not sure there’s any one decade or style that magically suits every woman, but being able to choose from a range of potentially flattering vintage silhouettes sounds a lot more exciting than t-shirts and jeans.

    There really hasn’t been a major fashion revolution in several decades now, so a lot of what’s “in” just feels like it’s derivative of these older patterns anyway. Much better to go with the genuine article. People talk about “classic silhouettes” that are always attractive regardless of the trend and I think these are more prevalent in vintage patterns, partially because people tended to keep their clothes longer (and therefore they needed a more universal look) and partially because fashion was less trend-driven in general.

    If I could magically make one thing happen in vintage re-releases, I would get BMV and Simplicity permission to re-release any vintage designer patterns they once produced. Knowing that 50s through 80s era designer releases included huge names like Givenchy, YSL, de la Renta and Cardin makes today’s Vogue Designer section where the biggest name is… Kay Unger? I guess? seem really anticlimactic. Vogue attempting to cultivate a relationship with more of the top houses in modern fashion wouldn’t be amiss either. How cool would an Alexander McQueen pattern release be?!?

    I like just about any decade of vintage re-release as long as the pattern is carefully chosen to be classic and interesting in design. However, I would like to see more of three things:

    First, I’d like to see designs used that are more intricate and truly special to sew, not just a pattern that was basic to begin with and then dumbed down even further for re-release. (This is a more common problem with Simplicity, who seem to be putting out a generic vintage Jiffy pattern with every catalogue now, but BMV haven’t always done a great job either.)

    Secondly, I’d like to see a wider range of decades and styles covered rather than this near-exclusive focus on Forties utility suits, Fifties hourglass dresses and Sixties shifts. BMV has improved in this category recently with the McCall’s releases and the Butterick 1912 stuff, but I know the reach could stretch wider.

    Third, and this is an extremely specific request personally for myself, I’d like to see some “classy” 70s fashions released. The ones we’ve gotten so far from both companies have been mostly super casual, hippy sort of stuff, but the decade had some nice tailored fashions as well that I don’t think get enough credit eg. jumper dresses over bishop sleeve blouses, tunic length vests like in the old McCall’s 3511, wide collared shift dresses, etc. Think like what Princess Anne was wearing back in about 1972, before she gave up on following trends. Maybe not everyone’s taste, but underappreciated IMO.

    1. I agree completely!

  14. I love the original artwork of vintage patterns, especially when the designs seemed more balanced and flatter many body types. I gravitate towards more feminine pieces generally so the 50s are my fave! I don’t think I ever dress like I’m from any other era than my own, though. The retro patterns I’ve used are all with the intention of styling them in a modern way and mixing and matching. I don’t have the skill set yet to translate retro patterns to fit me so I rely on reissues if I want to see vintage. As for its viability as a product for you, it would seem to me that marketing reissues of vintage patterns would be best done by modern styling, showing the customer options for how to realistically incorporate these beautiful garments into their real lives. It’s hard to beat the original artwork so why not showcase something a little different in your photographed samples on the pattern envelope?

    1. There are definitely some patterns for which styling the piece into a modern look is an appropriate or even necessary choice, lest one look extremely out of place. There are also some where the piece so obviously belongs to the earlier decade that leaving off important elements of that decade’s style, like the petticoat and decade appropriate shoes conspicuously absent from B6212, just results in things looking slipshod and incomplete. Wisdom on the part of the catalogue stylist is knowing the difference. 😉

  15. In a word what first drew me to vintage/retro patterns was the peplum…..a design element I love. I notice several other responses have mentioned the uniqueness and femininity of the vintage styles. I love the 40s and 50s the best.

  16. I love vintage patterns!! I have quite a few I’ve found in various places. The thing that usually catches my eye is the dress, blouse, skirt etc., design. I look for unique and distinctive. When I have the extra time, which isn’t much these days, I’ll grade it and make it to wear. I figure anyone can have what’s for sale in the stores but not everyone can have a unique piece of clothing unless they make it themselves or commission it done.. I like unique… :>}

  17. Vintage fashion images of the 1950’s create an idyllic vision in our mind of how we would wear these beautifully fitted dresses with fantastic shoes and perfectly styled hair. The reality of the 50’s was slim figures from food shortages and hard work during the war. Late 50’s saw scarce fabric become available again and women celebrated this with the ‘New Look’. However times had permanently changed and women loved the freedom and the money associated with now working outside the home. As the years went on clothing became more practical and the beautiful styles of the 50’s faded. Will we ever go back to these wonderful styles complete with hat, bag and gloves? I believe for every day we will not. But how lovely to dream with a beautiful illustration on a beloved pattern envelope, knowing that inside this envelope is the pattern to make an era come back to life – if we dare to bring our dream alive.

  18. I think everyone should feel free to dress however they want, but for me personally I think most vintage clothes look like costumes. I enjoy looking at them and can appreciate the workmanship, but I would never buy them.

  19. The vintage patterns I love the most are the unusual items you don’t see these days in pattern releases – lingerie, slips made of woven fabric, playsuits, beach jackets, 1940s bomber jackets, waist cincher belts, blouses with embroidery transfers, etc. I think it’s the novelty that appeals to me, as well as the interest in vintage construction methods. I recently made a dress from a 1940s McCall’s pattern (5969), and I learned so much! And the details and style lines are so unique, not like anything you could find in ready-to-wear or current patterns. I love that with a vintage pattern, you have the choice of either going full-on costumey or tweaking it to make it more modern and wearable. The illustrations are a huge part of the appeal, and I wouldn’t mind if they were brought back to modern pattern envelopes! A pattern is a dream, and that dream is what I’m purchasing, just as much (or even more) than something I’m actually going to sew and wear (and I have the out-of-control pattern collection to prove it – yikes! ;D).

    I don’t know about universal appeal, but the 40s are a favorite decade of mine, followed closely by the 70s. I think the latter translates especially well to current trends, and it’s a shame we don’t see more 70s patterns on reissue. I’ve bought some of the recent releases from McCall’s Archive Collection, but it seems like the Butterick and Vogue reissues are usually the very samey 50s dress silhouettes, which isn’t really my cup of tea. I would love to see some McCall’s sportswear patterns from the 70s reissued – so classic and versatile!

  20. I love vintage patterns because they are more complicated, have less ease and are chicer! I collect and sew 50s patterns so I would definitely sew the reissues.

  21. I love the patterns from the ’50’s and early ’60’s. I love the style of jackets, the fitted bodice over full skirt, or button down blouse tucked into pencil skirts. So many of their styles I love. Makes me think of Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn. Honestly, I believe most of us today are too thick in the waist to carry the look off as well. Were they still wearing girdles then? I notice a lot of the vintage patterns available for resale seem to be smaller sizes. I rarely see a bust over 34 or 36.

    My vintage board: https://www.pinterest.com/ramonamp/sew-it-vintage/?etslf=8412&eq=sew%20it%20-%20vintage

    1. Women in general were smaller and they wore foundation garments aka bras and girdles along with slips. My grandmother was about 5’4 (tall for her time) and wore a size 5 shoe for example.

    2. my bust is 32/31.5″ and I usually make my clothes based on a 31″ bust, and I rarely see a bust around my range as well… usually it is only the 34″/36″. The few vintage patterns I have fit me well – all I have to do is adjust the length for the legs/arms.

      I think about getting the larger patterns, but since my complete measurements are 31.5, 21.5, & 33″ & I am very petite (as in bone-size & mass, in height I’m tall) its not worth it to me to grade the pattern in (I’d sooner self-draft/combine-mix patterns first)

  22. A dress is a dress. Unless you go completely all out with shoes, hair and accessories, then it will still just be a dress with retro flavor. I like them because they’re different. Something that not everyone else will have.

  23. My favourite fashion time period is the late1920’s/early 1930’s. Not an era that most people think of when vintage fashion is mentioned by enthusiasts. Most probably, also, not quite practical for our modern lives. And yet – there are some coats from that period that would look quite at home to-day, and some of the evening gowns cannot be matched in elegance. Even some of the day looks are not far off of what is popular to-day. With the popularity of shows such as Poirot and Downton Abbey, and with viewers swooning over the costumes, perhaps someone needs to lead a revival of certain elements of the 20’s and ’30’s fashions. These years are far enough in the past that finding actual wearable garments in vintage shops is a much rarer occurrence than for garments of later decades. Finding patterns is even more difficult. Though I do not collect patterns for the sake of collecting, I would be pleased to see this era represented in the pattern reproductions. Otherwise, I will just continue to research design elements that can be interpreted for my clothing of to-day.

    1. I’m with you on wanting to see more 1920s/1930s designs. Every time I mention that these are the decades I love stylistically, people swoon.

  24. I love using vintage patterns for their unusual details and for the range of silhouettes they provide. I don’t normally sew them up to *look* vintage though – I always use modern fabrics and will often make small hanges to make them look more modern. For example, I lower high jewel necklines, reduce the size of shoulder pads and change skirt lengths – just little things, and the interesting details remain, but the resulting garment doesn’t necessarily look vintage any more so much as interesting (well that’s what I think!). I have lots of 60s, 70s and 80s patterns (easy to find second hand) and have bought lots of 40s/50s pattern reissues, but would love to see more of the 20s/30s patterns reissued as I love the look of them and have found it hard to get original patterns in my size.

    1. I agree with all of this.

  25. well, I am young and thin and I love retro styles because they are flattering and very ladylike. I have very petite proportions, and am very tall, so I like styles that define my waist, nice (not low) necklines, some very fitted, some with wide skirts, etc.

    I also incorporate it into my daily wear – I do not channel retro, I simply sew it, update it and carry it off to work or on the weekends, to play.

  26. I love the shift dress patterns from the 60’s and into the early 70’s. I’m fascinated by how such a simple dress can be dramatically changed with interesting seaming and fun details like different collars, sleeves, closures, etc. I have several vintage McCall’s patterns in my stash and I’ve made one of them so far. I’ve also made a reproduction shift pattern several times. I wear them all, but I feel like the reproduction pattern was more successful and a smoother project for me. I did not like the single size vintage pattern since I always use multiple sizes. I also had to buy my vintage patterns a size larger than I usually buy because that was all that was available. I found it challenging to grade the bodice down and vowed in the future to only buy vintage patterns that were close to my size through the bodice and add to the hips if needed. I also like some of the suit patterns from the 60’s and the 50’s patterns appeal to me, too, but I don’t feel they would be practical for me for day to day. Shift dresses, on the other hand seem timeless and no one knows (unless I tell them) that mine are sewn from vintage or vintage reproduction patterns.

  27. I love vintage patterns! Why? Because I love the styles!

    I mostly gravitate towards 40s and 50s. They are the best that look on my body shape…the styles I feel the most comfortable in.
    I have hips (always have to grade up a size or two to accommodate them) and a tummy.
    Fit and flare dresses are “my dress”! They are the ones I feel comfortable and confident in.
    Of course…this means I will wear other decades and modern but only if I know I’ll feel the best in them.

    The 60s with the shift dresses and 70s with the empire waists make me feel as if my tummy is sticking out for all to see. It’s what I’m most self conscious about…probably because I can’t do anything about it. (It’s a complication of my health issues)

    This doesn’t mean I don’t try different styles… they are just the one I love and always gravitate towards.

  28. I think vintage patterns have more style, interesting construction and are made for woven (not the ubiquitous stretch that dominates now) fabrics. I update them, and generally prefer those not with big skirts. I typically use Vogue. I remember a Perry Ellis pants pattern from 70s that was wonderful, I am interested in any sportswear. Look at the website Fiftydresses to see modern looking designer vintage interpretations. Please offer more constructed styled patterns!

  29. I’m in my 40s. I love patterns from the 1900s to the early 1960s for real-world wear. I DO make these pieces, and I do wear them (I don’t cosplay). I find the fit more flattering than modern OTR clothing. I’m not particularly overweight, but I’m not model skinny, either. I can create a lot of silhouettes from these patterns – something for every mood. I also find these styles more comfortable to wear for long periods of time than jeans and t-shirts.

    I’m getting married this autumn, and I’ll be making my dress from a reproduction 1950s pattern.

  30. I like vintage patterns from the 1960’s and 1970’s because the styles are still appropriate today . I look for these vintage patterns at the thrift store because many of the patterns have back neck darts which I need for my back and shoulder shape. Also, my waist fits better in these patterns than todays patterns with so much waist ease. they just seem to fit my body type. I like the occasional french bust darts too.

  31. The detail in vintage patterns makes the onerous cutting and faffing worthwhile I think. Having said that I don’t generally buy vintage re-releases but do snaffle the details to add to my self drafted patterns.
    I unfortunately, do not feel ‘authentic’ in poofy skirts no matter how much I try them. Which is such a shame because it means I’m not living a dramatic and femme fatale ‘Rear Window’ kind of life. Throwing on clothes to pop down to the shops for milk rarely requires ‘dressing up’ and I don’t see that societal change happening anytime soon.
    In summary… ahem… I’d like to see more clever details in modern patterns – don’t hold back BMV!!

    1. Perhaps we should dress up more and look nice. I hate to write this but Americans are starting to look pretty ratty. I find wearing a pretty outfit lifts my spirits and i feel beautiful. Vintage clothing especially clothing from the late 50s to the 70s had a bit of style and beauty. I loved some of the ladylike pant suits found in the late 60 and 70s. I loved the dresses from the 60s. Some of the dresses from the 50s were really pretty too.

      1. I agree. I do not go out in sweats ever! People looks so ratty these days. dressing down may mean t shirt and jeans, but that Anne Klein blazer from 1970s Vogue is worn with them!

      2. I agree completely. It’s a lot easier to find help in a hardware store if I am wearing a dress.

      3. I totally agree!

      4. YES! Not to mention that for me anyway, most of the time a dress is more comfortable than wearing jeans or other pants. Especially a dress that you make to actually fit your body!

  32. I love the design details on vintage patterns and the complexity of the styles. I’m not wild about the fit though, and have to work pretty hard to get them to work. However it’s always well with the effort. I especially like sxties and seventies patterns and think that many contemporary designers just mimic those looks. Burberry for example! I would love it if you would update more of those designs.

  33. I think it’s a very good time to discuss this topic-especially since there has been a decline of vintage reproduction patterns’ releases.
    When it comes to the artworks-for that’s what they are, real art-of course they’re appealing and beautiful, but I think the reason they’re getting people so excited is that they evoke a certain feeling, poise and sense of elegance rarely found today. So they’re not essential-the McCall’s Archive Collection uses only new photographs, but because these photos are well styled and thought through, they serve the purpose perfectly. So it’s not about the artworks per se, it’s more about capturing a certain mood.
    I am a kind of sewist who looks for simplicity and elegance in the patterns, so it’s not really about specific decade. Even though I adore the 1930s, there were still some fussy, ruffled and overdone dresses in the era and they haven’t aged well. But the classic, vionnet- or alix-like evening dress pattern, beautiful in its simplicity but challenging in its construction would be a perfect thing to reissue. Just as would be a well cut 1940s suit, 1950s slim cocktail dress or 1960s clean-lined coat; each with discrete, but unusual detail. They would have wider appeal-pleasing the vintage afficionados, but making room for modern women who appreciate classic, timeless style…

  34. I like vintage patterns because of the design details. The dresses I prefer to do are feminine and structured, and there isn’t enough detailing in new patterns to warrant buying a new one. I’m drawn to interesting yokes, pleats, gathers, darts, and anything that says “mod”.

  35. I mostly sew from original vintage designer patterns because I’m curious about the designs, and many of them have narrow armscyes and waist/shoulder/elbow darts to tweak the fit, which help keep them from being too costume-y. I’m on social media with a lot of people who are doing vintage sewing, and these are the types of things they’re actually making: dresses for 20s – themed parties, 50s – 60s Hitchcock/Jackie style sleek dresses and suits, 30s – 40s beach pajamas with wide pants, halters and turbans, 40s femme fatale dresses, 70s DVF meets Halston knit dresses (often favorites we made back in the day), 40s Rosie the Riveter overalls and playsuits, high-waisted bathing suits, 50s Marilyn wiggle dresses, 40s – 50s blouses with waist darts, and circle or dirndl skirts, often from vintage border prints. A lot of people still make 50s dresses with big skirts from retro quilting cottons, though there are plenty of patterns out now. I like repros that have both the original artwork and modern photos so I know the original idea but can see the actual design.

  36. I admit it, I am seduced by the gorgeous 1950’s envelope cover art! However, I do realise that it’s just art.

    For me, a pattern that I’d love to be reproduced has to have unusual or interesting design details. What is the point of reproducing basically the same pattern over and over? How many different variations on a 1960’s shift dress can there be? (And I really can’t see the point in reproducing 6 apron patterns like Simplicity have done. This does baffle me.)

    I’ve only made garments from 2 vintage patterns and 1 Vogue reproduction pattern. The Vogue dress was a challenge to make, but I learnt a lot of new things. It’s a full skirted 1950’s dress which always attracts a lot of compliments when I wear it, but I feel I can only wear it on special occasions as it’s just not appropriate for everyday wear. So that was a success and I love it. The items I made from the vintage patterns, well, one was a success – a bias cut 1950’s top with a little shawl collar fits perfectly and I can wear it with jeans and it doesn’t look costume like at all. It does look a little different to current fashion, but it’s not “old fashioned” in any way. The other was not very successful. It was again a 1950’s style dress with an unusual detail, but the finished garment wasn’t the same shape as on the pattern illustration. It is also not very comfortable to wear, so it won’t be getting worn very much, if at all.

    So my experience with vintage patterns is limited and mixed. I think you do run more of a risk of the garment not looking how you expect with vintage patterns with cover illustrations. Photos are very important to visualise what the garment is going to look like, so I prefer vintage reproductions to include the original artwork (of course!) plus a photo of it on a real person.

    I like my vintage makes to be able to be incorporated into my everyday wardrobe, or be special enough to make a statement when I wear it.

    I love collecting vintage patterns and own far more than I will ever sew up, but I feel I am preserving them from harm. So in a way, I guess I’m collecting things which are pleasing to me aesthetically, but which can also be utilised to create a unique item of clothing.

    As to which decades have universal appeal, I think it is different from person to person. I am attracted to the 1950’s patterns because I love the silhouettes and the unusual design elements. However, I also like the 60’s and 70’s patterns, but they have to have something different about them. Just recently I’ve taken more notice of the 40’s patterns and I think some of them could fit into a modern wardrobe. And as for 1930’s evening gowns – swoon! I think the McCall’s 7154 reproduction pattern is THE most gorgeous pattern I’ve ever seen.

    So, in summary (sorry this was such a long comment!), I’d love to see more vintage reproductions, but please just make them interesting ones!

  37. I feel like they were drafted for a more tailored fit. I love the 60s patterns, but only buy those with back shoulder darts and elbow darts–the things that helped a garment fit and drape so nicely!

  38. Vintage patterns from the 70s are what I usually use because the shoulder and upper chest actually fit, unlike today’s patterns with miles of ease. Suits, blazers, structured dresses were very well done in the 40s and 50s without the words “easy” or “fast”. It was assumed the sewer would aspire to learn new techniques, follow excellent directions and make a beautiful garment. If you read “The lost art of dress” you will see sewers took care to find the best fabrics they could afford, so the pattern also had to be special. The patterns also had finished garment measures on the pattern for each size, which gives the sewer better decision making information for size cutting. Please go back and take a lesson from your own patterns!!! Even if you don’t reprint as many due to cost, please look at your processes from back then, your sizing methods, and bring today’s patterns back to that standard. (The instructions alone from vintage patterns were wonderful!!)

    1. Amen! I agree. Patterns lost a lot when multi size became the norm.

  39. I returned to sewing with a passion about 15 years years ago after a 20 year hiatus. Maybe it was the 80’s;) Anyway, as I waded back in, I found that some vintage patterns really had techniques to teach me – tailoring and construction that aren’t common in new patterns. They helped me get good again. Help me, I even sewed a hand tailored peacoat for my husband this last season.

    I adore interesting features of 40’s suit jackets – the paneling, insets, embroidery, etc…. I still wear jeans to work almost everyday (science teacher after all), but nothing says fabulous like adding one of those jackets. More of these please!

    I don’t know if it’s possible to license McQueen, Schiap, or Dior, but there are many of us who stalk these gems on ebay and would happily pay for similar.

    Summing up, interesting details, unique designs (it’s a reason why I sew) and a challenging sew are the features I am looking for.

    1. “I don’t know if it’s possible to license McQueen, Schiap, or Dior, but there are many of us who stalk these gems on ebay and would happily pay for similar.

      Summing up, interesting details, unique designs (it’s a reason why I sew) and a challenging sew are the features I am looking for.”


    2. Does anyone realize there are NO lined, tailored double breasted blazer patterns anymore? There were a couple of Claire Schaeffer numbers a few years back, but only shorter single breasted ones. The “Blazers” out there are unlined, easy sew or dumpy, not tailored or fitted. I’m not sure I have seen lined, tailored slacks either.

      1. yes, the lack of challenging patterns is becoming a disappointment, and the blazers/jackets being offered are not at the difficulty level of items that were first released years ago (2006 with the pleated pockets one)….

        I found this fall’s release to be pretty disappointing. There wasn’t any vintage patterns, no couture-instructed patterns & where did the majority of fashion designer patterns go – did they all engage in a moment of silence due to the Karan line leaving? (esp compared to 2015’s fall release).

  40. I adore the artwork on vintage patterns. I also want to see a photograph of the actual make. A combination of the two will encourage me to buy a rerelease. I was first drawn to vintage sewing 1950s patterns. They were the silhouette I wanted to wear, but couldn’t find RTW. After sewing and wearing my fill of 50s silhouettes, I have turned to 40s. For me it is about a love of art and history. I don’t wear exclusively vintage, but mix it into a contemporary wardrobe. As others have mentioned above, I seek wearable everyday clothes. I am especially drawn into patterns that have a unique story behind them, or represent a key moment in fashion history.

  41. I have always liked and enjoyed the 1940s look. Except for the shoulder pads, I think that many day dresses of that era have a silhouette that is similar to some modern trends. I especially seek out and and enjoy making anything that is a Claire McCardell knockoff (from the 40’s or 50’s) as those designs have interesting details, and McCardell was not a fan of square, padded shoulders so her jackets and suits tend to not look so stereotypically 40’s and therefore blend in more with modern clothing (when I want to do that). I also tend to make a lot more vintage separates than dresses, although my vintage pattern collection is weighted in favor of dresses. When I want to mix vintage and modern, separates are the obvious choice.

  42. I’m primarily interested in patterns I can wear without looking costumey or retro, which for me means the 60s and up. I say this every time but I’d love it if Vogue re released 70s patterns. The vintage envelope art is definitely part of the appeal, but a lot of the patterns I buy are aspirational rather than things I’m going to make up right away so that definitely helps sell them.

  43. I love to make up and wear vintage reproduction patterns and vintage inspired patterns! I just find them so much more interesting in their design details (like interesting pockets, and collars and sleeves and necklines), and the more casual day wear patterns are often actually pretty practical to wear day to day. I love to wear day dresses, they can be comfortable (more comfortable than jeans!), cool in the summer, and I can feel put together without actually having to put much together! I don’t go for a full authentic vintage look, I don’t want to look like I just stepped off a stage and I have no desire to don vintage foundation garments. But give me a retro dress or blouse to wear every day of the week and I’m happy! My favorite decades are the 30s 40s and 50s.

  44. Am old enough that many of my patterns (have been collecting since I was a mere tot … well, eight years old, anyway) fall into the category of “vintage.” Have always made what I like, whether or not it was currently stylish. Good design is not limited to a particular decade or price range. I refuse to pay more for a vintage pattern than I would for a modern-day pattern. If it is going to be too costly, I’ll just draft one myself, along the same style lines.

    Because I have sewn for so many years, and have sewn extensively, often it is enough to satisfy my urge for a new garment to just riffle through my drawers and boxes of paper patterns, remembering when I sewed what — or the plans I had to make things that never got made at all.

    My husband calls them my boxes of dreams.

  45. For me the appeal is that style designs and the interesting seaming. I’m long torso with a FB, so I have to alter patterns no matter what. I tend to gear for patterns that offer designs that are different from what I can buy at the store (I do still have “basic” patterns, because sometimes you can’t find a black t-shirt in a 50 mile radius).

    There’s that beautiful reproduction 1930s special occasion dress from The Archive Collection that really made me want to see more reproductions like it. The design of the evening dress stands out compared to the rest of the current in-print patterns. It’s a shame for me that I don’t have any need of an evening dress in my life, but I do own the pattern just in case I do need to make it.

    I would love to see some of the more interesting 1970s patterns and even…1980s! I know people tend to have still have lukewarm feelings about fashion in the 80s, but when I scroll on pinterest I’ve always note there’s a few 80s patterns that are workable with modern comfy styles and sensibilities. I own a few 1960s and 1970s patterns that are great for comfort and I don’t stand out in the crowd in that “there’s a costume convention nearby” way.

    However, I do think the general population for my demographic (40 and under) grew up in an area where it’s okay to spend a hour going out to the store (and good thing for otherwise I would never go out as often) and the body shaping lingerie was out of fashion so comfortable clothes was standard. Which I think why the shift dresses of the 60s and full skirt dresses of the 50s are popular with my demographic, they’re easier to wear cause they’re comfy and they fit into the current fashion trend. Plus it helps that they’re easier to alter and sew, and that’s a plus when there’s a trend towards sewing non-costume clothing in the younger generation.

    So generally, unique is the appeal of vintage patterns. There’s the appeal of construction as others noted so it’s the challenge and interesting design that appeals other to vintage patterns.

  46. What I am hearing over and over in these comments is a craving for more detailed garments and a fatigue with the stretched sloppy look so prevalent today. This is echoed with a yearning to “dress” even though it seems so out of sync with today’s life. We choose our clothing every day and how we physically face the world. I manage to leave my flannel encrusted life in the Adirondacks a couple of times a year for Boston. Because I am not there daily the fashion changes are really evident from year to year. Nothing gives you this sense more than watching the young professionals pouring out of the T into the Financial District. Two years ago nearly every woman I saw had on slim, ankle length pants with a cut top, often sleeveless. Last year, I watched as young women exited the subway in floral fit and flare dresses, knee length, vintage vibe, flats and looking so feminine and polished. I can’t wait to get back this summer and see what’s trending. I hope this return to femininity and polish continues. The opinions expressed here certainly show there is a craving to do just that.

  47. I’ve bought a few vintage patterns, and never sewn them. One thing I like about the true (not re-releases) vintage patterns is often the instructions. So often it seem like in re-released patterns, instructions leave out details and cool tricks that made the old patterns turn out and wear so well. OTOH, they also assumed quite a bit of basic sewing knowledge and left out some steps that today’s newer sewers may not know. But then, that’s what a good basic general sewing book is for.

    The other roadblock for me buying vintage patterns – almost all are for dresses, which I don’t wear any more. The only reason I’ve bought dress patterns in the last 10 years is if they have interesting bodice detail and could be used as a top.

    But, dresses or not, I do love the artwork on the envelopes!

  48. I really love 1920s-40s patterns. There’s a huge abundance of 50s and 60s retro patterns, so more of them just seems like white noise. Original 1930s patterns have an old Hollywood glam look and unique details, but they’re often expensive and hard to find (unlike 50s patterns which are abundant). I usually reproduce vintage styles pretty authentically for everyday wear, so vintage illustrations are more valuable to me. Modern drawings or photos are usually styled strangely to look “old” but not accurately for the period. Vintage drawings allow all customers to see the original and imagine what they can do with it instead of having to work with someone’s interpretation of the original.

  49. Yes the 1950s New Look with tiny waist and full skirt is a vintage favorite. It doesn’t work for my shape though! My favorite vintage era is the 1960s with it’s pared down shapes and simple shift styles. Interesting seaming and use of color liven things up. Yves St Laurent’s famous collection inspired by paintings of Piet Mondrian are a classic example.

  50. I am a fan of the 40’s and 50’s and also late 80’s/early 90’s I have made many of the Vogue and Butterick 40’s and 50’s reissued vintage patterns. Last year for a Florida destination wedding, I made and wore all 50’s Vintage dresses. I receive tons of compliments on them and many don’t realize they are vintage. I also love the fitted suits, mostly Vogue and Dynasty line in McCalls, from the late 80’s and early 90’s. I am in my early 60’s and prefer to dress rather formally. These styles are awesome. I/m not a fan of the late 60’s or 70’s, lived through that once and didn’t like them then. The early 60’s are ok. I have purchased many Vogue patterns from the 80’s and early 90’s from resellers on Etsy.

  51. This is a great discussion and have so enjoyed reading the comments left by others. I am in my early 50s and am fairly new to sewing. I have bought several vintage Vogue patterns from the 60s and 70s. I agree with others that they have been a great means to learning new techniques and skills. Of the things I have made, I get the most compliments on my wrap dress and a vintage wrap skirt (V9194) that I found on Etsy. I find the streamlined sillhouttes of 70s patterns very wearable and current. They also bring back great memories of pattern and fabric shopping with my mother who was an avid sewer in the 50s, 60s and 70s and a devotee of Vogue patterns. My requests would be for more reissues of separates, especially blouses, and for reissues of 30s patterns, which also have nice long lines, but are harder to come by on Etsy and are often perforated patterns, which I find a bit intimidating.

  52. I have yet to actually sew with a vintage pattern but have spent a lot of time looking through them online and have purchased a few. I gravitate towards ’90’s era styles like very simple slip dresses or long sleeve princess line dresses. I look for patterns that are simple in design, relatively timeless (though I do love a good ruffle or pleat!), and are not available in today’s offerings. I have yet to sew one because of the size differences. At least with ’90’s patterns the bust/hip measurements are on the back! And McCall’s are my favorite brand to look for from this time! Hopefully some will be reissued but until then… Etsy!

  53. I buy and sew a lot of vintage girls patterns. Most of what I own are 60’s and 70’s, but I have some both older and newer. I like the fit of the older patterns. I was disappointed with the “reprint” of the apron dress that you released this spring. I own the old one in size 6 and was excited to be able to make the size 4 for my younger, but I got both patterns out and found the new size 4 was larger than my old size 6. I won’t be bothered to sew up the new one until my older daughter outgrows the size 6.
    I look for classic children’s styles that are hard to find in both patterns and stores. I haven’t bought any rereleased patterns for myself since i haven’t seen any rereleases in my size (I usually a 24 in McCall’s patterns.)

  54. I loved the peasant look of the 60’s! So easy to make and so many fabrics to choose from. I started sewing when I was 16, buying my Singer with the money I earned from an after school job. My wardrobe was the envy of the neighborhood! I traded patterns with other people around the same size so we stretched our $$. By far my favorites are the maternity styles that I sewed in the 70s. The details were wonderful. During my first pregnancy we went to 6 weddings. I made 2 different dresses and wore them with accessories. With the right choice of fabric, the looks were great. I couldn’t do any hems at that time so I had to have my mother in law chalk and pin the hems. I am disappointed with the limited availability of a range of fabrics today.

  55. I returned to sewing and collected vintage patterns from the 60s and 50s as I like the classic styling and shapes. I enjoyed learning new sewing techniques I have brought reissues both Butterick and Vogue. I leapt at V9187 and V9189 as staples even though I have them in my collection as originals. Few of the other vintage patterns have attracted me in recent seasons though.
    It would be good to have Vintage as a category again on the Vogue pattern site for ease when searching. (see retro style on Butterick)

  56. Remember those ‘seams slimmer’, and ‘pounds thinner’ patterns? They way they achieve fit through dart placement, etc, really does flatter most women. You might consider re-releasing some of these vintage goodies…. while having models of obviously different heights and weights modelling them… Might want to rename the line though.

  57. I love this pattern of wedding dress from the 70s.Actually i like vintage patterns and i enjoy hacking them to make even something more interesting.I think patterns should have more style and are made from best fabrics.

  58. I much prefer styles from the 60s and the 70s (I have a strong preference for the latter). I own a few 1970s vintage patterns including some lovely Vogue Paris Original and Couturier patterns. I picked them up from particulars selling what they consider old “passé” patterns. Gems for me! I just finished making McCall’s 5371 from 1976 to attend a wedding (so easy to sew!). 40 years later…it is still so very stylish!

  59. I was born in 1954 so the vintage designs are like all things “nostalgic” – they remind me of the clothing my mother wore and I agree with others that there is just more design elements and opportunities for a better fit. Too many patterns copy ready to wear items which are designed to be simple so that they sew up in a few minutes but for the home sewer that’s rarely the point.

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