Wednesday, October 20, 2010

vintage patterns: girls' outerwear edition!

First things first: in my last post, I wrote about Elvie's quilt.  Stay tuned, a tutorial is in the works!  Also, thanks so much to {KID} Independent for featuring Owlette last week!  {KID} Independent is an indie style blog for kids and parents based in Australia, a country that gives me more and more reasons to love it each day.

At a flea market last month, I found a box full of children's clothing patterns from the 1940s-60s (at the latest); I bought all of them for $10 and just about skipped home!  Here is a selection of girls' outerwear; I hope you find these as exciting as I do:

[LEFT: my favorite, Butterick size 4 girl's coat.  "The double-breasted coat with buttons to the waist.  It is nicely fitted, and has a gently flared skirt.  The back belt buttons on neatly.  This is a favorite dress-up fashion for the young miss... and it does for every day as well."  RIGHT: Advance size 8 cape and hat.]

Realistically, I know I won't make half of these.  But they serve as great style inspiration for Owlette, and I've had a difficult time tracking down vintage kid style resources.

[LEFT: Simplicity size 4 child's coat, hood and leggings.  "The flared-back coat, finished with lining, is styled with a double row of buttons and welt pockets...  In style 1, the leggings, made with suspenders, have openings at the sides and are finished with elastic casing in back.  The straps at the lower edge fasten with hammer or metal fasteners..."  CENTER: Simplicity size 4 child's one-piece dress, coat with detachable collar and hat.  RIGHT: McCall size 8 child's coat.]

[This is for my fellow lovers of technical illustrations!  I find them more useful than the pattern front.]

It is clear to me, from reading through these patterns, that our collective sewing knowledge has shrunk in the last several decades.  The reasons for this are obvious; perhaps I'll tell you what you already know in another post.  Inside of one of the patterns I found another mystery pattern, traced onto the funny papers:

[Note the date of copyright on the comic strip!]

So, readers, do you have any tips for working with vintage patterns?  What about for preserving them?  Some of the patterns are water damaged and especially delicate... about a third are unprinted, and have those holes punched in the tissue.  Does anyone have a good resource for deciphering unprinted patterns?  All advice and anecdotes are most welcome!


  1. oooh, i want to make all of these in amy size! i have so much to converse about with everything you're up to these days; why on earth didn't we pow-wow regularly when you lived 4 blocks away? sigh, it never works that way...oh well.

    is the mystery pattern, perhaps, someone's personal alterations for the pattern that came in the same envelope?

  2. I think I was too busy romancing my sewing machine to hang out with actual people! I mentioned to Abbey that you and I talk more over the internet now than we ever did in person--we'll have to make up for it when I'm in town for the Handmade Market. I can't wait to see your loom!!

    The mystery pattern was tucked in with the cape, and looks to be a girl's blouse with maybe some kind of banded sleeve. There are some weird pieces that are probably facing, but there are no marks that indicate whether the front or back pieces are cut on a fold or not. Some of the comics the pattern is traced on have really racist depictions of Native Americans, it's kind of shocking that that was mainstream!