Best Places for Retro Sewing Patterns

I thought of the perfect gift for my partner! He loves the 1950s/1960s aesthetic of ladies dresses.

Therefore, my gift will be for him to choose a pattern, the fabric, and the notions. I will make the dress for me to wear, and the two of us will go out all dressed up!

Since I’m already looking for patterns, and because I enjoy helping my fellow crafters, I thought I would make a review of places that offer patterns for this project.


Old Patterns or New Patterns?

Since I am planning on making a dress that is 1950s/1960s, you might think it would be better for me to buy a pattern from that era. There are lots of places that sell these older patterns, as you will see below.

BE WARNED: older patterns are antiques, and potentially more expensive.

If you use older patterns, recognize that the instructions may expect sewers to be using older equipment and different types of fabric. We have come a long way in terms of sewing machines, textiles, and techniques in the past 50-60 years. Unless you are a skilled crafter who can figure out modern-day translations for older sewing instructions, you may want to stick with newer patterns that are mid-century inspired.

One Last Thought: Sizes

I am a size 16-20, depending on the dress maker. In other words, I am a curvy girl, and will never fit into something for a 36 inch bust. I’ve noticed that older patterns take into account for differences in height, but I’ve not seen many older patterns that accommodate for larger women. I know there were heavier women in these earlier decades, but you wouldn’t know it judging by the available pattern sizes.

I have made my own patterns from scratch and I have adjusted premade patterns to meet my measurement needs. That said, realize that doing so is a pain in the butt, and it ALWAYS requires additional mini adjustments.

Again, using older patterns is NOT for the novice sewer.


Patterns! Patterns! Patterns!

The Rusty Zipper.com

As you can tell from the link, they have a nicely organized site and sell their patterns at a decent price. When you click on individual categories, you can even select size options. Going through various pattern categories, though, I tried selecting the option for larger-sized patterns, but it often came up with no results. I scanned through the patterns that were available, and I noticed that several of them listed the measurements in the title. Most of the available patterns were for women much smaller than me, so pattern alterations would be necessary.

Eva Dress Patterns

For a smaller site, this one offers a good range of options and it is well organized. The prices are not OMG cheap, but for vintage patterns they are definitely reasonable. By the way, the range of clothing patterns from the 1930s category will blow you away!

Mrsdepew Mrs. Depew Vintage

So this is an Etsy store. If you look at Etsy in general for mid-century patterns, you’ll see plenty of options, but the prices range all over the place. In this particular Etsy shop, the owner has organized everything by decade, and she has kept her price point at a rate that is comparable to present day pattern prices. I also like that while there is a decade-specific aesthetic, the available patterns still cover a wide range of looks from that era.

DOWNSIDE–>Digital Downloads

Okay, perhaps not a total downside, since you have the option of printing patterns to accommodate plus size women. Nevertheless, you have to draft the patterns yourself. According to this tutorial listed on the Etsy site, the downloads give you a smaller pattern piece that you scale up through the methodology presented in the tutorial. As an experienced crafter, it looks straightforward, but it will add SO MUCH FREAKIN’ TIME!!! I would much rather get pattern pieces that are already printed to scale and ready to go.

Simplicity

One of the biggest manufacturers of patterns today, Simplicity has re-released/updated some old patterns from the 1950s, as seen with this link. If you follow this link, you’ll find some of the 1960s options. Not a whole lot of variety in either of these links, and the cost is typical of Simplicity’s brand. From my research, I know you can find some of these patterns on Amazon for FAR CHEAPER.

If you search on this site for vintage patterns for women, which is this link, you get a few more options. In the vintage section, I saw a couple great Agent Carter costumes =0), of course that’s 1940s, but they look phenomenal!

McCall’s

Don’t waste your time! Barely any options and all overpriced.

Vogue

There are a couple options for vintage Vogue patterns, but unless they’re on sale, they are pricey .

In case you don’t know, Vogue, Butterick, and McCalls are all owned by the same people, which might explain the lack of options. Under the Butterick label, there are a couple more options, but only so many. They’re at a slightly better price point, true, but I’ve always had issues with Butterick patterns not fitting well. Their directions haven’t always been clear, either.

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