Sunday, May 30, 2010

Summer Dress: from the vintage pattern collection

I have a fairly big vintage pattern collection. It tells a very clear story about my tastes in clothes, what I want them to accomplish for me, and what I think I might actually look good in. I would go on very specific hunts for vintage patterns such as bathing suits, because I loathe nearly all modern bathing suits. When on a hunt for a specific pattern I decided not to get any that weren't in my size* or at the very least in my size range. Vintage sizes are very different than the standard industry sizing today. Earliest sizing reflected bust size and I don't see any sense in having changed that system. Soon the sizing standards changed to representational sizes like 12 and 16 and 18 and 20.

A vintage size 12 is similar to a current size "0", which is a total joke and implies that women are so vain that they can't understand that numbers are just numbers that describe a physical plane and a woman can have the most gorgeous slender body and have a bust measurement that reads "40", which doesn't say she's fat, it says she's either got a broad back or a full bust or some perfect combination of the two. It's distressing to me that women seem to fall for the trickery of diminishing size numbers.

Most of the patterns I've collected are in the following sizes: 18, 20, 22, 38, 40, and 42.

(The first three sizes represent a bust size and corresponding hip size, the last three ARE the bust measurements.)

I got this dress pattern because an online friend was giving it away so I figured it was fine getting a size 12 which, even at my thinnest I would never have fit into a size 12 because my chest is too wide (bust measurement isn't simply how big your boobs are, it's a measurement you take across your boobs and around your back to figure out what your widest bodice measurement is).

I'm not a stellar pattern grader, in fact, I got a D in it in fashion design school. Grading a pattern is a mathematical art and closer to sizing architectural models than it is to pattern drafting. If you buy patterns in the wrong size and you want to change the size it won't come out right if you just increase all the lines by a half inch. This is why I have always bought patterns in the actual size I was or close enough that simple adjustments would result in a well fitting garment.

I couldn't resist this free pattern though. This is a style I can carry off when my figure is at its best. Although I do think fuller breasts work best with this style, I believe that smaller breasts can carry it off.

And look at that hat!

I mean to write a mini dissertation on why I think vintage patterns are a rich resource for modern designers and pattern drafters. There are few subjects that I get so excited about with a completely geeky absorption. In short, a vintage pattern isn't just cool because the paper is old and the printing is charming, it's cool because it's a true blueprint to the fashions of the past. There really is no more authentic way to suit yourself up in vintage style. It's better than buying and wearing vintage clothes from a thrift or an antique shop.

It's the only way you can have a brand new authentic vintage design.

(Provided you can lay your hands on an appropriate fabric.)

It's a blueprint to the past.

*Back when I started collecting vintage patterns I was generally a size 20 (a bust 38, waist 32, hips 40). I am now off the vintage sizing charts. My goal is to return to a vintage size 20.


  1. I love this style but even in my younger days (especially my younger days) I would have never fit. Are you interested in any other vintage patterns...not sure of the sizes?

  2. I don't let myself collect them anymore because it's expensive generally but I always love vintage patterns. Anything early 60's and before. After that it gets to be too much like my own childhood. My favorite periods of all are the 30's through the mid 50's. Why, do you collect them too?

    I've actually made a few of mine too and even though I can't wear them now, I still have them.

  3. I don't specifically collect them but I have a few I was thinking of passing on to you if you would like them. I think they might be 40's. It has been a long time since I looked at them. One I started to make for myself (I think I even cut it out) then I discovered an important piece was missing. I don't draft patterns so boo hoo. I loved the style of it.

  4. Well if you don't want them anymore I'd love to have them!

    Missing pieces is a big problem with sewing patterns. I actually lose track of pattern pieces myself and so that's a problem. Sometimes the pieces are easy to replace but sometimes not. Even just to look at though, I love the old patterns.

  5. I'll hunt them up and send them your way.