The Seven Pieces to Sew for College, Then and Now

college students in the 1950s and in 2014. Any parents out there packing a daughter off to college or university for the first time? I came across an article in a 1950 issue of Vogue Patterns Magazine called “7-Part Plan for a College Wardrobe.” Let’s compare those pieces the “college girl, young woman newly graduated into business, and the newly married” needed in her wardrobe then with their 2014 wardrobe counterparts today:

The "short coat" of 1950 is the cape of 2014. This pattern is Vogue Patterns V9038.
1. A cape is the contemporary answer to the “shortcoat” of 1950. This cape pattern is Vogue Patterns V9038. Sew it in a a soft, warm wool so your college student feels like she’s wearing a blanket. This satisfies their toddler-like craving for anything that’s soft and cozy.
One-piece dress for college in 1950 and 2014.
2. Few college women live in dresses today like they did in 1950, but a dress can be handy for things like career externships. McCall’s M6989 is conservative but flirty and young, and we especially like designer Melissa Watson’s take on her own pattern (far right).
The skirt for college in 1950 and in 2014.
3. The “separate skirt” still gets a lot of mileage in 2014, especially if it’s one that can be dressed up or down. For McCall’s M6842, choose a ponte knit that won’t need ironing after being left at the bottom of a dorm room closet for three weeks.
The shirt for college in 1950 and in 2014.
4. A tailored shirt is still a wardrobe staple in 2014, but a flattering and chic wrap blouse is what will be worn this semester and next.  Sew McCall’s M6991 from a silky poly charmeuse or georgette that doesn’t require your precious to make a trip to the dry cleaners.
The jacket for college in 1950 and in 2014.
5. Don’t expect it to happen too often, but there will be times when your college student will want to shed her sweatshirt and wear something a little more tailored, like a jacket. Go collegiate prep with Butterick B5926.
The suit to wear for college in 1950, and the "suit" to wear for college in 2014.
6. Ok, we struggled to come up with a 2014 counterpart for the 1950s ubiquitous suit. Personally I can’t think of the last time I wore a suit, much less picture a college student or recent grad wearing one. But yogawear in 2014 is everywhere, from college campuses to the Hamptons. (Tip: Visiting the Hamptons and want everyone to think you own a summer house there? Walk around looking like you just left yoga class.) Try Kwik Sew K3988.
The strapless dress to wear at college in 1950, and one to make in 2014.
7. Colleges and universities still have formals and parties where a little strapless dress is just what a girl wants. Your college student is finally at the age where she can appreciate owning a one-of-a-kind dress you made for her, and she’ll feel sad for her friends who have to borrow their sorority formal dresses from Rent the Runway. We like Butterick B6019, which has a sophisticated, retro feel to it.

What was your college uniform like? Did it include any of these pieces? Tell us here! And for more patterns that work for today’s college students, check out our #NowTrending Pinterest board.

Video: McCall Pattern Company Fall ’14 Collections

We made a video and we’re so excited to share it with you! It features two members of our team—Carlos Correa, Vogue Patterns designer, and Rachel Banbury, marketing associate—talking about and showing what we consider some of the key patterns from our fall 2014 collections. You’ll see sample garments from Butterick, McCall’s and Vogue Patterns. These are the same pieces the models wear on the pattern envelopes.

Our goal with this video was to help inspire you as you plan your fall/winter sewing. Leave a comment and let us know what you think. And tell us what other types of videos you’d like to see us to create. Thanks!

So…A Sewalong?

sewalongs hosted by The McCall Pattern Company

Now that we’ve got this blog up and running, it’s time for us to get serious about hosting a sewalong. Help us get an idea of what kind of sewalong you want (or don’t want) by taking this brief survey below. You can also leave a comment here with any additional thoughts about sewalongs, or, suggest a pattern you think would work well for a sewalong. Thanks!

Please take our survey about sewalongs.


  • Garment most interested in sewing? Dress, followed by jacket, then top or pants. But all close.
  • Difficulty rating? 63% picked average
  • Brand preference? 68% said it didn’t matter as long as they liked the pattern
  • Likely to participate? 60% said yes to a sewalong in September or October
  • Participated in a sew along before? 65% said not yet