Vintage Clothing Patterns For Download

David Trammel's picture

Like to sew from scratch?

Vintage Patterns

"Like sewing? Well you’ll love this news: the Vintage Patterns Wiki has released more than 83,500 patterns of pre 1992, out of print patterns for all to use. The browsable collection runs the gamut from Dynasty-inspired pussy bow power suits to Betty Draper-esque frocks featuring models in white gloves to an 1895 boys’ Reefer Suit with fly-free short trousers. Visitors can narrow their search to focus on a particular garment, designer or decade. You can see patterns from the following decades: 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The movie star collection is particularly fun."

What a gorgeous site. Old patterns often have beautiful, complex details because, let's be honest: previous generations were much better at sewing and they devoted more time to it.

One word of warning for any beginning sewists: (Yes, 'sewist' is becoming the preferred term as opposed to 'seamstress' because 'seamstress' is sexist and derogatory, don't you know).

Anyway, do NOT buy patterns by size! Ever! Pattern sizing has NOTHING to do with the size you might wear in a ready-to-wear garment. Patterns are sized by your actual body measurements. That is, you have to measure (or have someone else measure) you at all the body landmarks listed on the envelope. Then choose the size that comes closest without going under. You'll still have to make alterations.

It can be disheartening to think you wear a size 14 but in pattern-land, you're like six sizes larger.
The number doesn't matter: only the measurements do.

Teresa from Hershey

alice's picture

You're right about pattern sizing for sure. Another point is that ladies thinking of sewing for themselves might need to learn how to do what's called an 'FBA' ie full bust adjustment. Commercial patterns (and indeed commercially made clothes) are designed for a maximum B cup bust so ladies who are more blessed in the bust area will need to do an FBA to make the clothes fit.

David Trammel's picture

I remember my mother had a sewing manikin which had adjustable sections, so you could increase the bust size or take in the waist. Might be something to look for at estate sales.

When I was doing costumes in the 90s, I got a name for doing costumes for some of my female friends because I sewed. Sometimes I'd have them put on a body suit and then draw a line down the front and the back, mark off a ruler and then use a flexible tape measure and record the size of the body at each mark. That gave me a basic guestimate as to how to tailor the costume to fit best. It really helps to have the person there as a model, and have the person sewing it able to make adjustments.

A good friend does a sewing class on classical clothing and how to fit clothes to a person. Maybe I'll ring her up and see when next she plans on giving it.

alice's picture

I have heard of people making a mannikin from plenty of gaffer tape over an old t-shirt, then stuffing the form with fabric. I was lucky enough to get one made of looped wire from a car boot sale, you put it on like a jacket and bend and crimp the wire until it's the right size.

David Trammel's picture

Someone pointed out, the link and wiki does not have the actual patterns, just pictures of the envelopes. That sucks big time.

alice's picture

Thanks for writing that David because I was wondering if it was just me failing to find the patterns on the site somewhere.

There is a long list of vintage pattern vendors on the website. If there is a pattern you like, you may be able to purchase it through a vendor.

alice's picture

Thanks for pointing that out Sophie.