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BellaOnline's Costuming Editor


Using Vintage Patterns

Guest Author - Kass McGann

With the popularity of TV shows like Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men, the retro look is certainly in style. Every week we sit in our living rooms in our sweatpants and T-shirts and marvel at the style displayed in these shows about another time. Imagine a time when men always dressed in suits and ladies felt “incomplete” without the right hat! Are you dressed properly to go out to dinner? Does your purse match your shoes? Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to dress like that all the time…

But how can you get that look without looking like you’re wearing a costume?

The answer is to make yourself some clothing using vintage sewing patterns.

Here’s the problem: Surviving patterns from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s were printed on fragile tissue paper that makes them difficult to handle without destroying them. If your pattern falls apart before you use it, it’s no good to you!

Also, antique patterns tend to come only in one size, and the chances of that size being the size you need are (excuse the pun) slim. Unfortunately people are larger now than they used to be. The concept of “plus sizes” hadn’t been invented yet.

Furthermore, old patterns come with very sketchy instructions because they assumed a common knowledge of sewing that we just don’t have anymore. Let’s face it: girls used to be taught how to sew as part of their secondary education. It was assumed that women would sew for their families, so all women knew how to do the basics. We just don’t raise girls this way anymore. So the vocabulary in these patterns seems very technical and “foreign” to us.

So what do you do?

Luckily there are companies out there that are preserving these retro styles while updating the sizes and instructions for modern seamstresses. For example, there are companies reprinting off-copyright patterns from the 1910s through the 1940s. Each pattern is digitized from the original and printed on paper and not tissue so you can use it over and over again. Some companies even grade them in modern sizes and add more instructions so they are easy to use by today's seamstresses.

Using these awesome vintage dress patterns, you can make yourself a fab retro wardrobe without being an expert historical seamstress.

Reconstructing History is a company that updates and resizes vintage patterns and rewrites the instructions for modern seamstresses. They carry everything from medieval styles through the 1940s. Check out their vintage pattern reprints by following this link.
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Content copyright © 2018 by Kass McGann. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Kass McGann. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Brandi Ford for details.


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