Browse a Collection of Over 83,500 Vintage Sewing Patterns

My cos­tume design pro­fes­sor at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty, Vir­gil John­son, delight­ed stu­dents with his for­mu­la for peri­od cloth­ing. I have for­got­ten some of the math­e­mat­ic and seman­tic particulars—does dress­ing some­one five years behind the times a “frumpy” char­ac­ter make? Or is it mere­ly one?

I do recall some anx­ious hours, prepar­ing for the school’s main stage pro­duc­tion of the inces­tu­ous Jacobean revenge tragedy, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore. The soci­etal cor­rup­tion of the play was under­scored by hav­ing the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters slouch around, snort­ing mimed cocaine in cut­ting edge, mid-80s Vogue Pat­terns … those big unstruc­tured jack­ets were very a la mode, but they gob­bled up a lot of high-bud­get fab­ric, and I didn’t want to be the one to make a cost­ly sewing mis­take.

What sticks in my mind most clear­ly is that 20 years was the sweet spot, the appro­pri­ate amount of elapsed time to ensure that one would not appear dumpy, dowdy, or obliv­i­ous, but rather pru­dent and dis­cern­ing. Don­ning a gar­ment that was 15 years out of fash­ion might be dar­ing­ly “retro,” but anoth­er five and that same gar­ment could be her­ald­ed as “vin­tage.”

The col­lab­o­ra­tive Vin­tage Pat­tern Wiki puts the mag­ic num­ber at 25, request­ing that con­trib­u­tors make sure the pat­terns they post are from 1992 or ear­li­er, and also out-of-print.

The brows­able col­lec­tion of over 83,500 pat­terns 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. If you click these links, you can see pat­terns from the fol­low­ing decades: 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s1970s, and 1980s.

The movie star col­lec­tion is par­tic­u­lar­ly fun. (Flat­ter­ing or no, I’ve always want­ed a pair of Katharine Hep­burn pants…)

And it goes with­out say­ing that the dog days of sum­mer are the per­fect time to get a jump on your Hal­loween cos­tume.

Those who are itch­ing to get sewing should check the links below each pat­tern enve­lope cov­er for ven­dors who have the pat­tern in stock and pho­tos and posts by com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers who have made that same gar­ment.

The prices and hand­writ­ten jot­tings of the orig­i­nal own­ers will also put you in a vin­tage mood.

The hunt starts here.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Online Knit­ting Ref­er­ence Library: Down­load 300 Knit­ting Books Pub­lished From 1849 to 2012

Fri­da Kahlo’s Col­or­ful Clothes Revealed for the First Time & Pho­tographed by Ishi­uchi Miyako

Google Cre­ates a Dig­i­tal Archive of World Fash­ion: Fea­tures 30,000 Images, Cov­er­ing 3,000 Years of Fash­ion His­to­ry

The BBC Cre­ates Step-by-Step Instruc­tions for Knit­ting the Icon­ic Dr. Who Scarf: A Doc­u­ment from the Ear­ly 1980s

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Comments (26)
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  • Teresa says:

    Thank you for pro­vid­ing these links! Much Appre­ci­at­ed! Have a blessed day!

  • Genevieve Persac says:

    Inter­est­ed in vin­tage cloth­ing pat­terns

  • Laura says:

    A friend just shared this on FB — won­der of won­ders- I was an under­grad at NU dur­ing your time! Also- I worked A LOT of cos­tume crews because I could see- and I loved that ‘Tis Pity- and Dr. Coak­ley, who direct­ed it‑I did­n’t see the authors name but I might have worked on your cos­tume designs!!

  • Dixie DeMarais says:

    I’m inter­est­ed in the vin­tage pat­terns. Would like to find out how much these pat­tern will cost and where I can send for them.

  • Lorette matodes says:

    Actu­al­ly remem­ber my mom using these ..all our clothes were made at home ./

  • Mimi says:

    I have a few old pat­terns, this is great, thanks

  • Dianne Procopis says:

    Great fun look­ing through the patterns…I remem­ber a lot of what I saw.
    nk You

  • Lori says:

    Dix­ie, in the arti­cle above there is a link that says “the hunt starts here”. click on the word “here” and it takes you to the pat­tern selec­tion. or per­haps this will work:

  • Mary Engles says:

    Great fun to review old patterns…the mod­els (drawn) are always smil­ing!! Thanks Kareem.

  • Arvetta Strong says:

    Do you have vin­tage pat­tern but­t­er­ick 2533?

  • Mary Smith says:

    Tried fol­low­ing the links only got ads for tem­plates for Google and Way­fair.

  • Sandra says:

    Where is the actu­al link to get the free pat­terns as Is this a scam

  • MaggieMay says:

    so there’s sev­er­al online arti­cles adver­tis­ing FREE pat­terns but after exten­sive search­ing across the wiki I cant see how to down­load any pat­terns let alone free ones… can some­one please help?

  • So Vintage Patterns says:

    In order to check if a pat­tern is avail­able for sale, just view “Sources/Vendors” if its avail­able there will be a link/s to ven­dor shops.

  • Patricia Dalton says:

    Is there a way to browse all the pat­terns with­out click­ing on one by one and hav­ing to remem­ber the last num­ber to look at the next one? So so slow. Great if I was look­ing for one spe­cif­ic pat­tern but lousy to just look. Thanks

  • Sandra says:

    I am try­ing to buy pat­tern Vouge 8446 in size 12 to 16 dress can any one help

  • Rhonda says:

    I enjoy vin­tage sewing pat­terns for adults, chil­dren, and dolls. There are peo­ple who pre­fer vin­tage pat­terns for vin­tage cloth­ing to be dif­fer­ent and orig­i­nal. Vin­tage sewing pat­terns are used for cos­tumes too. I have a big col­lec­tion of vin­tage sewing pat­terns that are old­er than myself and some from when I was a child. Most­ly, vin­tage pat­terns are sen­ti­men­tal to me. Thank you for your arti­cle.

  • Jewel Kohnke says:

    Inter­est­ed in the vin­tage pat­terns

  • Paulette Young Coleman says:

    I am look­ing for vin­tage Car­ol­er’s cos­tume pat­terns for both men and women — (var­i­ous sizes includ­ing plus sizes) for our choir. We are going to use the cos­tumes this Christ­mas if we can find any. Do you have such pat­terns? Thanks, Paulette Cole­man

  • Maria says:

    Inter­est­ed in sewing vin­tage cloth­ing for myself.

  • Ally Rowlands says:

    I have found a dress­mak­ers mea­sur­ing guide which my moth­er used when tak­ing up our hems. She is nine­ty so it have to be 70 years old if not more. I would like too donate it to a organ­i­sa­tion or muse­um who would appre­ci­ate it.

  • Dottie McKinney says:

    Look­ing for empire waist dress pat­tern. McCal­l’s 7754, Easy stitch n save. from 1990s

  • Pontanier says:

    I would liké pat­terns for chil­dren
    thir­teen cen­tu­ry cos­tumes required
    Chil­dren and women
    Thanks you very much for tout answer

  • Chanel falzon says:

    Hi i would dress pat­tern retoro 1950 wore­men dress­es

  • Jean Cuthbertson says:

    Can you give me some guid­ance
    I am look­ing for vin­tage pat­terns ladies babies toys

    Where would you sug­gest I start

    I do like to look but I would pre­fer to buy


  • Desnos says:

    Je recherche un patron homme ami­ral du 18ème et vête­ments de femme même époque mer­ci de me repon­dre

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