An Online Trove of Historic Sewing Patterns & Costumes

As Hal­loween draws nigh, our thoughts turn to cos­tumes.

Not those rub­bery, poor­ly con­struct­ed, sexy and/or gory off-the-rack ready­mades, but the sort of lav­ish, his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate, home-sewn affairs that would have earned praise and extra can­dy, if only our moth­er had been inclined to spend the bulk of Octo­ber chained to a sewing machine.

Not that one needs the excuse of a hol­i­day to suit up in a fluffy 50’s crino­line, a Tudor-style kir­tle gown, or a 16th-cen­tu­ry Flem­ish out­fit with all the trim­mings.…

Accoun­tant Artemisia Moltaboc­ca, cre­ator of the his­tor­i­cal and cos­play cos­tum­ing blog Cos­tum­ing Diary, has primed our pump with a list of free his­tor­i­cal medieval, Eliz­a­bethan and Vic­to­ri­an pat­terns, includ­ing ones for the gar­ments men­tioned above.

Click through the many links on her site and you may find your­self tum­bling down a rab­bit hole of some oth­er cos-play­er’s gen­eros­i­ty.

That link to the cus­tom corset pat­tern gen­er­a­tor may set you on the road to cre­at­ing a per­fect­ly fit­ted Viking apron or a good-for-begin­ners tunic. (Bring out yer dead!)

Fan­cy even more choic­es? Moltabocca’s Free His­tor­i­cal Cos­tume Pat­terns Pin­ter­est board is a ver­i­ta­ble trove of dress-up fun.

The Los Ange­les Coun­ty Muse­um of Art’s Cos­tume and Tex­tiles Project has detailed down­load­able PDFs to walk you through con­struc­tion of such anachro­nis­tic fin­ery as a 1940’s Zoot Suit, a 19th-cen­tu­ry boy’s frock (above), and a man’s vest with remov­able chest pads (hub­ba hub­ba).

An 1812 Ohio Mili­tia Officer’s Coat from the Ohio His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety.

A pair of Nan­keen Trousers cour­tesy of the Roy­al Ontario Muse­um.

A bul­let bra (hub­ba bub­ba redux!)—pair it with a 1940s Vogue hat and hand­bag and you’re ready to go!

A Regency Drawn Bon­net and an Improved Seam­less Whale­bone Under­skirt from E. & J. Holmes & Co, Boston, 1857.

If you’re feel­ing less than con­fi­dent about your sewing abil­i­ties, you might make like an upper-class Roman in an Ion­ian chi­ton.

Or just curl a syn­thet­ic wig!

Press some­one else’s seams with a straight­en­ing iron (above), then kick back and enjoy the vin­tage ads, pho­tos of antique gar­ments, and the peri­od infor­ma­tion that often accom­pa­nies these how-tos. And check out the 1913 patent appli­ca­tion for Marie Perillat’s Bust Reduc­er, a mir­a­cle inven­tion designed to “pre­vent flesh bulging while pro­vid­ing self adjustable, com­fort­able, hygien­ic sup­port.”

Begin with some of Cos­tum­ing Diary’s his­tor­i­cal sewing pat­terns before delv­ing into its mas­sive pat­tern col­lec­tion board on Pin­ter­est.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Browse a Col­lec­tion of Over 83,500 Vin­tage Sewing Pat­terns

Kandin­sky, Klee & Oth­er Bauhaus Artists Designed Inge­nious Cos­tumes Like You’ve Nev­er Seen Before

1930s Fash­ion Design­ers Pre­dict How Peo­ple Would Dress in the Year 2000

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Her cur­rent sewing project is 19 head­pieces for Theater of the Apes Sub-Adult Division’s upcom­ing pro­duc­tion of Ani­mal Farm at the Tank in New York City. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Comments (6)
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  • Heath Needles says:

    I am try­ing to find pat­terns for old style woman’s Baker’s aprons. Would you have this?

    Thank you,
    H Nee­dles

  • Artemisia Moltabocca says:

    Thanks for the won­der­ful for the write-up Open Cul­ture! Also be sure to check my tuto­ri­als page to learn how to enlarge these pat­terns using Pow­er­point, and oth­er free cos­tum­ing tuto­ri­als.

  • Ann says:

    What cen­tu­ry & cul­ture?
    I googled images for 17 cen­tu­ry bak­ers aprons & quite a few came up. You could add coun­try too.

  • Connie says:

    I am look­ing for a greek or aegen fish­er­mans hat pat­tern if you could help it would be great­ly appre­ci­at­ed thanky­ou

  • webbie bofwelo says:

    i a m leuel one i want to do lev­el two through cor­rose­pon­dence or dis­tarnse lern­ing

  • anisadorit says:

    Crime is an offence that takes every­where. There isn’t a sin­gle coun­try, state or city that’s immune to any kind of mis­de­meanor. It can be in the face of a mur­der, rape, rob­bery, sex­u­al assault, phys­i­cal vio­lence, etc. Any­thing done with a pur­pose to harm anoth­er human being is, termed as an offence or a crime
    mejor abo­ga­do defen­sor de deli­tos sex­u­ales

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