Tag Archives: fashion history


Finished Project: 1002 Nights Poiret Dress

I have just finished up my Poiret inspired dress!

Paul Poiret is one of my fashion design icons.  Making a dress that paid homage to him was really fun!

I felt so “high fashion” in it, because of it’s absurdity, so had fun with editing my photos to capture the way it felt.

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If you missed the prior post with more details about the making of this dress, you can find it here.

This “excuse” for making this dress (not that I needed one) was the Historical Sew Fortnightly’s “Fairytale” challenge.  Here’s the info for the challenge:

The Challenge: #6- “Fairytale”  Inspired by Paul Poiret’s “One Thousand and Second Night” party.

Fabric:  The tunic is all poly with little rubber dots on it.  Pretty horrid, but has a great look when made up for the “Poiret” look.  The dress is a black satin rayon, which they actually did have in this time period.

Pattern: Underdress: My Cordelia skirt pattern and the 1910s Blouse pattern with an altered neckline and no sleeves.  Overdress:  Very loosely based on a bodice pattern from the period, but mostly entirely self composed as I went along.

Year: 1913-ish

Notions: Indian import trim, hooks and eyes, snaps, hoop wire, bias facing.

How historically accurate is it?  If it wasn’t for the fibre content, it would be pretty close.  I’m knocking myself for that, though, and giving myself a 40% accuracy marking.

Hours to complete:  I have no idea.  Maybe 12-ish?  It went pretty fast, but I puttered in 15 minute increments on it over the span of three weeks (didn’t make the “fortnight” due date).

First worn: Today for pictures!

Total cost: Hmm…. considering the only thing I really bought for this was the dupatta, I think it was around $35.  Everything else was from the stash.

More outfit details:  My shoes were thrifted, my hat is authentic Edwardian, and the brooches, etc are vintage, with the exception of the necklace and earrings, and the choker I used as an accent on the belt.  All of those are new from Ebay, bought over the last seven years or so.



Sunday Inspiration: 1905 Corset, Suspenders, and Stockings.

I had scanned in several more pages from the 1905 Delineator when I was making up my S-Curve corset, so I figured, rather than getting lost in my abyss of a computer, that I might as well share them now!

Here’s a few little fun ads from 1905 that show some garments that go under what you usually see.  Make sure to read the ads, not just look at the pretty pictures, to get a good idea of what’s going on and what was offered in the period.


“…like all American Lady Corsets, it has the essentials for stylish form building, but the special purpose of this garment is to give a sweeping curve effect to the entire figure.  The lateral sections accomplish this by training the flesh from the front to the sides and back…”

It’s interesting to note these earlier S-Curve ads almost need to talk the reader into buying the “new” silhouette.  I’ve seen several of these in this era, and they’re always amusing.  Note that most often ads of the early 1900s and before emphasized shaping the figure by FOUNDATION GARMENTS rather than by DIET.  Once the 1920′s hit, diet was often advertised as well as foundations, and this continued throughout time… only now do we usually tend to rely on diet alone to achieve the essential shape.  Well, diet and, often, surgery.  Sure, spanx and the like are now used, but they don’t have nearly the effect of the foundations of our mothers and grandmother’s day.  In terms of a fashion history perspective, I find the modern ideals of figure most depressing and, usually, unobtainable for most people.  Combination undergarment + diet for certain looks seems much more achievable, in my opinion.


Although we don’t actually see the “Hose Supporters” here, it’s worth noting that the advertisement shows an active lady.  Sport for ladies was growing from the 1880s on, but it especially was present in the 1890s and early 1900s.  Golf and bicycling, most noticeably.

And it’s also worth noting that not all Edwardian corsets included garters (suspenders or supporters).  There were often separate articles that were purchased and used for this purpose.


And for those fancy garter hooks, here’s hose that will not tear!  In earlier time periods there were elastic, knitted, or ribbon garters.  In the Edwardian era, garters like we see on later foundation garments were in use.  We needed fancy new garter tops to keep up with the wear and tear of the metal on fiber!

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend.

Inspiration: 1905 Corsets

Today I have, what I think, are the most gorgeous pages of corsets I have ever seen in an Edwardian magazine.  These are both from a copy of The Delineator I have in my archives from September, 1905.

Not only are corsets beautiful, but the page layouts are gorgeous and they include great descriptions of the corsets, and what figure types they are suited for.

“No, 1 is a plain little corset designed especially to soften the angles of an extremely slight figure ;  No. 2, made of fancy sateen with ribbon decoration, shows the natural hip and high bust effect ;  No. 3,  illustrated in white coutil, is for larger hips and high bust ;  No. 4 of white satin, is designed to reduce the too pronounced curves below the waist.”

“No. 1 is a ribbon or tape girdle, especially favored for golf, tennis, and other outdoor sports ;  No. 2 is a novelty corset of brocaded satin, lacing at each side of the front ;  No. 3 combines a bust supporter of white satin ribbon and a hip reducing corset of sateen ;  No. 4 is a slightly boned silk jersey model for a medium figure, giving the high bust effect.”

I love that it includes an image of a ribbon corset! I’d love to make one of those some day.

I find it very interesting that one of the corsets includes a bust supporter.  This is the era when the top edge of the corsets started to move closer to the waist, so it is very nice to know there were options out there for ladies who required or desired bust support in a corset.  Many ladies would wear separate brassieres, which offered very little support compared to what we are accustomed to today.

I have picked up the Truly Victorian S-Curve corset again, which I set aside and has a remained a UFO (unfinished object) since last year.  These are very inspiring for me to finish it by the Historical Sew Fortnightly deadline!

I actually love these images so much that I have added one of them to my Cafepress store.  So you can get T shirts, journals, etc, with the image if you love it as much as I do!

1905_delineator_corsets_journalI do not mind if you share these original images, but please do remember to link back and give credit, as it always takes me a bit of time to clean up the originals and share.  Thanks :)


Corsets: 1916

In our 1910s Suit-A-Long group the question of corset height was brought up.  Here are two pages of corsets from the 1916 W & H Walker catalog.  This was the same year that the pattern was released, so is appropriate to the WWI era and the era of this suit.

1916corset2web 1916corset1webWe see the difference in height of the top of the corset in these images.  There is also a variety in length of the hip.

The size numbers would be for the corset size.  It does not state if these are the actual corset measurements or the measure of the finished waist size.  I am assuming they are the corset measure, as the “spring” allowed at back varied from person to person based on preference.  The corset “spring” refers to the inches allowed at back for comfort- corsets would not be laced edge to edge, but allow, usually from 2″-4″, or even 6″ at the back when laced.

Sizes 18 to 30 have the most options.  We see medium bust and hip (6M50), medium low bust and long hip (2M129),  low bust and long hips (8M49), medium high bust and long hips (3M99).

There is one corset that is for comfort, with tricot for ventilation and front and back lacings (8M98), in the same sizes as above.

There is one corset for “Misses”, which would be for young ladies, and is designed as a “first corset”.  5M89 in sizes 18 to 26 waist.

There is one corset for girls, aged 7 to 13 years, which includes shoulder straps.

There is one nursing corset (7M98), which has nursing flaps at the bust and is available in larger waist sizes than the standard Misses corsets.

There is one corset for larger women, called a “form reducing” corset, which has a reducing flap at the sides, to help pull in the hips, and a spoon bust which “insures absolutely flat abdomen”.

One brassiere is shown on the page (11M29), which was available in sizes 32″ to 46″ bust. The brassiere has the appearance of a corset cover, but was of more substantial construction.  These usually had flat felled seams, boning, or both, and fastened up the back.   They did not have cups or breast support as we’re accustomed to today.  In fact, most styles of dress did not require a separation of the bust, but rather, a smooth line.  It’s a continuation of the “pouter pigeon” look of the S-Curve corset era, but with a slightly higher bust point.  The bust may be restrained, but not as much as in the “flapper” era.  In fact, brassieres would change very little between now and the late 1920s.

There are also various women’s needs that are on the page- mostly of the past “sanitary” variety.  Included are women’s dress shields that are “waterproof”, and a  “sanitary apron”, which would have the long skirt worn at the back so you wouldn’t have any accidents during that time of the month.

I, for one, am happy we’ve progressed… both in terms of undergarments and in terms of these icky “solutions”.  How far we’ve come with both brassieres and sanitary products in one hundred years!

1910s Suit A Long- Original Fashion Illustration + Badge


Today I’m hoping to get some good pattern work done on the 1910s Suit Pattern, so we can start the sew-a-long sooner rather than later.  To keep me motivated I needed a little artistic inspiration.

I just so happen to have the original magazine the 1910s Suit Pattern was featured in!  It appeared in the April, 1916 issue of McCall’s Magazine!


I made us a few little images.  If you wish to participate, you can add these icons to your blog or page, if you wish.  Feel free to save them.



or if you prefer, you can add this one and link to our Facebook group.

1910fbgroupI really hope we can get started in the  next few weeks.  I do have some corrections I need to make to the original pattern before we can get to grading.  I’m hoping to have those corrections finished up this week, with another week or so in production after that before I can offer the pattern up.

Thanks for joining along!


Research & Musings: Regency Stays Vol. II

I had so many thoughts when I posted my last post on Regency short vs long stays, that I had to continue into another post!

If you missed the first post, you can find it here.

Big ol’ disclaimer right now:  This post is entirely based upon my thought process, and questions based on existing materials found online via extant periodicals and personal reflection of extant costumes.  I may be right, I may be wrong, but I’m certainly questioning what I thought to be the “standard” view of corsets of this period.

Late 18th Century:

With Cups


V&A Museum.  1790s Stays


Met Musem: Stays, 18th Century.

Without Cups, Without Shoulder Straps


Met Museum: Stays, 1700-1799


Met Museum:  Corset, late 18th Century.

With Tabs and Straps and Without Cups


Met Museum:  Corset- 1780s-1790s.

In the late 18th century, when fashion underwent radical changes, it seems that understructure had big challenges on how it would conform to the changes.  It took time for some people to convert to the styles, of course, and we were adjusted to the same sort of stays, in little changes at a time, rather than the big changes that were to come in the next hundred or so years.

It seems we could not make up our mind.  We blend the ones similar to those that came before, but are challenged in a way to make the breasts seem to be “natural”, and yet, enhance nature and uplift.  The 18th century stays flattened and brought together, but the cups on the ones above, combined with the structure of the 18th century stays in other places, seem to indicate that fashion was trying to change.

Whatever genius came up with inserting gussets- I tip my hat to them.

In early Regency era periodicals, it seems to refer to the 18th century stays as “long stays”.

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A Comparative View of the Social Life of England and France, Mary Berry, 1828

And yet, we see, by 1803 they were back.

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Ladies Monthly Museum, Volume 11, 1820.

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The Lottery Ticket and The Lawyer’s Clark: A Farce, 1827 (same year as the above)

So, as far as I can tell, we have the types of stays pictured above- where we never quite knew what was going on.  Corsetmakers were playing with length, proportion, cups, no cups, tabs, no tabs, cording, and boning, and lacing.

-  Early 1800s  -

It appears, we have a VERY short period where it looks like short stays were quite popular.  Or, a combination of very short stays and “long stays”.

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Ladies Monthly Museum, Volume 11, 1820.


Across the front it looks like these were probably the “elastic” that was referred to in a period source in my last post, a stay of French origin, the source says.  The museum confirms that these were “probably French”. Across the front would have been small, spiral springs of metal.

Met Museum: Corset, 1805-1818.

And another pair here.


Abiti Antichi, 1800.

It is worth noting, there also appears to have been a use for the “bodice”

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V&A Museum: Bust Bodice, 1820-1829


Met Museum:  Brassiere, 1820.

It’s worth noting, Short Stays were also called “Jumps”

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Which begs the question… is the famous Kyoto wrap stay really a “stay” or is it a “bodice”?  Or perhaps a mutant of both?


Kyoto Museum: Brassiere, Early 19th Century.

So, we see, there is a lot of variety.  When we get to around 1817, we get what most of us seem to think of as the “standard” Regency stays, which in period examples is known as the “Divorce” corset, the “Armenian” corset, the “Armenian Divorce” corset, the “Circassian” corset, or “long stays”.  Stays and corset both seem to refer to the longer type of support, with corset being both spelled as “corset” and corsett”.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 7.02.15 PMLa Belle assemblée: or, Bell’s court and fashionable magazine, 1817
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The Hermit in Philadelphia, Second Series, Robert Waln, 1821Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 7.05.40 PMThe Literary Gazette: A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, Volume 1, 1817

“Divorce” meaning, as far as I can make out, the separation of the breasts by use of the gussets and the busk at center.


Kyoto Costume Institute: Stays, 1800-1820 via Isobel Carr

It seems the long stay was back in fashion, and preferred among the fashionable set.  It is most likely a derivative of the “Armenian” or “Divorce” corset, rather than the “long stay” we see referred to as the stays of the 18th century.

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The Principles of Medicine, on the Plan of the Beconian [sic] Philosophy.  Robert Douglas Hamilton, 1821

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The Ariel, a Literary Gazette- Volume 1-2, 1827.

But criticism of the new version of long stays was rampant, especially among physicians.

 It seems both “long stays” or “corsets” and “short stays” or “jumps” were available at the same time.  However, it seems that the VERY short stays were only in fashion for a short period of time.  It is highly probable that the “short stays” of 1810 and later were more of a “mid point” stay, higher than the waist, but longer than the very short ones with elastic that are pictured above.

So, there we have it.  I will save my last few thoughts for the next post.  I had no idea, when I started, this would be a series!  But now I’m completely fascinated, so have to share my thoughts and findings.

1898- Trim Design Inspiration

I’ve already announced the new, lovely jacket pattern- Sophie.  Here are some great inspirations taken from 1898 Ladies Home Journal that can inspire you to trim your own version in a different way than initially show.  There is no reason why you could not substitute soutache, braid, or even embroidery in the place of topstitching.

Here is the original pattern illustration:


And here are original period illustrations of similar garments:


The swirls in the image above are “black satin appliqué scrolls”.  This could easily be done by cutting bias strips and hand stitching them in place.  It may even be pretty to add a thin braid to the edges.  I think the scrolls on the sleeves are especially fun!


The image above appears to me to be something like a velvet ribbon, or bias cut velvet, edged in a braid.  This would give great dimension to a jacket, as it would have different texture and visual interest.  The topstitching, similar to on our coat pattern, is on this coat as well as the trim.


Although this does not have trimming (except the capes), this is a great illustration of how you could add faux flap pockets and bigger buttons for the more exaggerated 1890′s silhouette.  I would suggest lengthening the jacket below the waist for these styles, too, to make the coat more balanced with the addition of the pockets.  A little fiddling in the mock-up stage could change the coat from a scalloped coat to a straight hem, and the omission of cuffs would put you right in line with the jacket at the lower right.

Have you joined my new e-mail list yet?  Please do join!  I am starting to do promotions that are only for my e-mail newsletter list, and you’ll keep up with my pattern, blog, and etsy happenings!

1898- Home Dressmaker Advice + Free Clip Art

Hello there!  Here’s another bit to share from a Ladies Home Journal from 1898.


Here’s a page of suggestions for the home dressmaker.  I think this term should come back- there’s been past discussion of the term “sewer”, which can mean one who sews, or a sewer for waste.  So people call themselves sewers, seamstresses, sewists.  I LOVE dressmaker.  But I digress, here is the article- reformatted to fit easier onto the blog page.


Also on this page was this cute ad.  Don’t you LOVE the bicycle?  Bicycling was hugely popular in the 1890′s for women, and somewhat shocking!  You know those bike runs people have?   We need an 1890′s one.  Even I would go out and ride a bike if I could wear a costume like this.

I also love the targeted marketing.  We can see what the lady of 1898 would find desirable.  You could probably substitute earning and iPad or teeth whitening today. Lol!


Because the lettering and image are so cute, I have set them aside here for you to use as free clip art!  Feel free to use for your blog or website.  I’d love to see ads using the lettering below!

youcanobtain2 bicycle-clip-art

Happy Friday!

2014- Sewing & Pattern Inspiration

Welcome to the New Year!  This one is going to be fabulous!  I can feel it already!!!

Many thanks on your comments and encouragement on the previous post.  You guys are the best!

For 2014, as of now (since I’m so easily distracted, in general), my inspiration for sewing projects and patterns are going to be:


(image source)

Regency!  Especially 1810s.  I love this period and want to make more daywear, especially a fancy pelisse.


(image source)


(image source)

Edwardian and 1910′s daywear.  Especially WWI era, since this is the 100th anniversary since it started. (More patterns from period originals are coming this year)


(image source)

1890′s, and Victorian tailored wear.  I LOVE sportswear, suits, and tailored Victorian clothing.  I’m hoping to get some patterns out from more of my Victorian era original patterns in my archives, and at very least, sew some more for myself.


(image source- Sew Something Vintage Blog)

And, a perennial favorite with me, 1930′s and 1940′s everyday wear, sportswear, and beachwear.  <3


(image source)

The only fancy dress on my wish list is a Robe de Style, because I’m looking forward to wearing one at Costume College with a group of friends!  I’m planning on doing one that’s more late teens than 1920′s, which I’m having a hard time finding inspiration images of!

What’s on your sewing wish list this year?

De-Coding Vintage Patterns: Part 1- McCall Patterns & The Advent of the Printed Pattern

A few years ago I did a heavy amount of researching and preparing for a lecture I gave at Costume College.  I had been asked to post this to my blog, so I am finally getting around to doing it!  I hope this will be a multiple part series, to help you understand how to use vintage patterns, as well as learn a little about their history.  I’ll also use this as a tool to help explain what I do with Wearing History patterns, since they’re often called “reproductions”, but, in actuality, after you follow through the series, you’ll come to see how pattern companies that offer “reproductions” differ from each other and also from the original source materials.

Why De-coding?

If you’ve ever pulled out a vintage pattern that has holes instead of printing, it may seem like a giant puzzle piece. You may feel like you need a decipher to understand the markings. And the instructions can be so minimal that you may feel like you need a decoder to just figure out how to put the thing together! In this series I will offer tips for using vintage patterns based on my experiences and research.

The biggest factor that seems to dissuade sewers from using vintage patterns are the perforated, or unmarked, patterns. Let me break down a basic history of the printed pattern:

- Pre 20th Century Books & Periodicals -

Sewing patterns were available to the home sewist and the professional dressmaker or tailor in in the form of diagrams, dating back until the 18th century.  These diagrams were often published in periodicals and books.  Although I don’t have original 18th century sources to share, I do have original 19th century publications which I will share at a later date.  Tailoring periodicals were published, and still often are, without a drawing of the finished garment, but with a layout showing the seamlines.  Sleeves often overlapped, as most were two-piece sleeves.  The same was true of dresses of the 19th century- certain pieces overlapped, and by grouping together, you saw which seams matched as well as what pieces went together.  Peterson’s Magazine, and other fashion magazines, included an illustration of a garment and a small diagram for cutting in most issues.  Other magazines, both in America and in Europe, published periodicals that included a fold out pattern sheet with many lines overlapping each other, printed on both sides, which included ten or  more garments.  You would have to follow dotted lines that varied per piece in order to trace out a garment.  All of these types of patterns did not include seam allowance, grainlines, notches, or other markings- other than the occasional mark for a roll line of a collar and, very occasionally, button placement.  Many did not even tell what size a finished garment would be.  The home sewist was expected to have a very good familiarity with garment construction and basic pattern drafting in order to create their own garments.  In fact, many times, a person would take this to their dressmaker and have them made for them, rather than making them for themselves at home.

Tissue Paper Patterns & The Technological Battle for Printed Patterns
In 1863,Butterick created the first mass produced, sized, tissue paper home sewing pattern. These early patterns did not include printed markings or seam allowances, but had perforations (holes) and notches cut out. Early patterns were folded tissue with a little piece of paper glued to the outside piece of tissue which included information and extremely brief, text only, instructions, an illustration and description of the finished garment, the size, and fabric requirements.

Over the next nearly hundred years, home sewing patterns went through a transformation with top companies competing fiercely to be the first to bring new technology both in the way the actual patterns were made and presented to the instructions that aided the home sewer.

In this post, we’ll primarily at McCall, one of the two big companies who led the innovation in the early home pattern market- McCall and Butterick. These two companies combined helped to create the home sewing pattern like we know it today.

McCall led the way with the printed pattern and the color envelope, so let’s take a look at the progression of changes through their company. Looking at McCall patterns makes vintage sewing seem more accessible, because even their patterns as early as the 1920s seem more understandable than most vintage patterns did up until the 1950s.
McCall started by doing perforated patterns just like every other pattern maker. By the turn of the century it was standard to include seam allowances in the patterns, though patterns of earlier times may not have included seam allowances. The home sewer would need to add them.

mccallad1907McCall Pattern Ad, 1907

-McCall Patterns-

McCall Patterns originally included perforations for pattern markings, like their other competitors, but they eventually joined the competition that was part of the new, popular, tissue paper patterns, and fought to develop new technology that would give them the edge over other companies in the field.

The first pattern company to introduce printed patterns was McCall, who started printing directions on their patterns in 1919, and held the patent rights to their printed pattern technology until 1938. Even after the end of their patent, other pattern companies were slow to adapt to the new pattern printing technology and most didn’t print their patterns until the mid to late 1950s, so don’t expect that a vintage pattern you buy will have printing like those of the McCall patterns, unless you know for sure that that company used printed patterns. Usually they will say “printed pattern” on the cover, but they may only be partially printed. We’ll address that after we take a peek inside McCall patterns.

This pattern is a pattern which was published before McCall started printing on their patterns. It dates from the Edwardian era and what you see on the back cover is all you would get in terms of instructions. There are a few illustrations, which was somewhat rare for patterns this early, as most were text only.  In fact, mail order patterns had instructions which were text only up until the early part of the 1930′s.

mccall1910coatBy the 1910s you can see the addition of a fabric cutting chart. These were for vintage fabric widths, of course, which are different than our fabric widths today.

Here we see an envelope from the early 1920s. Notice that it says “It’s Printed” on the outside. From the advent of printing on patterns, until the early 1960s, most printed patterns by any pattern company will say something about including that technology on the envelope. If it doesn’t say “printed”, it’s probably not printed.

The reason McCall started printing their patterns was because they noticed errors in patterns that were cut with the perforated method. Patterns were cut out on a giant press type machine and the holes cut at the same time- often hundreds at a time. Because of this, the patterns at the bottom of the stack often had problems with lining up correctly- some marks would be as much as 1/4″ out of line. Printing was meant to give a perfectly fitting garment with accurate marks, something that wasn’t always the case with the perforated pattern.

mccall1920sinstructions1Butterick’s corner on the pattern market was to hold the patent to instruction sheets like we’re familiar with now, with step-by-step illustrated instructions, so McCall did their own version by printing on tissue and inserting it in the envelope. Here you can see the suggestions they give for adding design to this dress- here they suggest getting one of their transfer patterns to use for accents. Instructions for construction were usually a drawing of the finished garment with arrows and numbers for steps- not individual step-by-step drawings like we know today.

mccall1920spiecesHere you can see part of one pattern piece. On the pattern piece are instructions for finishing. Early McCall printed patterns were printed with blue ink and the instructions were basic and printed right on the pattern envelope.


By the late 20s or early 30s McCall added color to their envelopes, as you can see here.  This is from 1932.  It is important to note, for pattern dating purposes, that when McCall started printing their patterns, instead of doing perforated patterns, they included a copyright date on their pattern envelope.  It is also of note that McCall was the only pattern company to include a copyright date on their pattern envelopes during the 1930′s.  The exception is the year 1939, when Simplicity started adapting the printed pattern technology, after the McCall held patent expired.  Printed patterns by Simplicity are dated 1939.  Unprinted patterns by Simplicity did not include a copyright date in 1939.

-A Little Side Track Into Patents-

Patents protect the technological advances, not the actual garment design.  Patents would be taken out for envelope layouts, printing techniques, packaging, methods of marking, etc.  As long as a patent was in place, the company or person who did not hold the patent could not use the technology.  This is why, in early pattern development, certain companies held the patent for printed patterns (McCall), while others had them for step-by-step illustrated instructions (Butterick).  It was only after BOTH those patents expired that you saw both of those technological advances in the home sewing pattern industry being available by the same pattern company.  Other pattern advances were patented, but instructions and pattern printing were the big ones that changed and shaped the industry.  A patent date would last for 17 years from filing date (current patent term is 20 years from filing date).  Patent dates ARE NOT the same as copyright dates, so are not an accurate way to date vintage patterns.    Now, back to where we were…

The instructions were still printed on the pattern pieces, though there is more information included now than there were in the 1920s patterns. Below can see a cutting chart.

Below you can see the instructions for putting the dress together. Vintage instructions assumed you knew how to put a garment together with little help, since most women learned sewing in school or from their family. Another way to learn was by book- and sewing books and sewing instructions had different purposes, just like today. The instructions told you basically what steps went in what order, and the book would teach you technique.

Basic finishing was included in the instructions, however, as you can see here.

At this time the patterns were still printed with blue ink, but that was soon to change to a more familiar looking printed pattern to our eye.


By the early to mid 1930s McCall moved on to another form of printing. Here’s a cover image from 1934, two years after the pattern we just looked at. You can see the color cover image is now printed directly on the envelope, not pasted on, like the prior envelope.

mccall1934FWe now have a separate instruction sheet, too- though the content still looks like it did on the tissue paper counterpart of two years ago.

mccall1934Finstruction1mccall1934Finstruction2 But the pattern is now printed with a double set of outside lines called a “cutting margin”, which was meant to ensure accuracy. The sewer was meant to cut right down the middle of the two lines to get an accurate cut.


McCall printed patterns didn’t change again until the 1950s, but we’ll take a quick look at cover design from this point until the 1960s so you can see the way the design changed.  The seam allowance, however, did change.  It was 3/8″ from the Edwardian era until the early 1940′s, and then it changed to 1/2″.  During the later 1940′s, it would change again to 5/8″.

mccall1935FHere’s an envelope from 1935

mccall1937FThis one is from 1937

mccall1940F Here’s one from 1940.

mccall1942F And another from 1942.

By this time, McCall had more advanced instruction sheets. The patent with Butterick was expired, so McCall started adapting the step-by- step instruction method as well. McCall patterns from the early 1940s and later are much more familiar to use than other vintage patterns because by this point they combined these techniques we take for granted today.

McCall1942instruction1 McCall1942instruction2
Continuing with the cover art changes and cover layout changes, here’s an envelope from 1949

From 1955. Notice now they are McCall’s with an “apostrophe S”.

And from 1960. But notice it still says “printed patterns” on the cover.

We will stop at 1960, since my area of experience also stops around then.  What I would like you to notice, is also the information on the back covers of these envelopes and how it changed.  Layouts changed, but also measurements.  The silhouette changed based on how fashion dictated, and often proportion was changed due to undergarment structure.

I will continue this series by taking a look at other pattern companies next time.  In the meantime, feel free to comment below to let me know any thoughts, questions, or comments.