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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