sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

1964 Pattern Sizing

Ever wonder what the heck those “Miss”, “Chubbies”, “Junior Miss” and the like labels mean? Here’s the definitions of the Simplicity designations, as of 1964:

Girl: about 5′ in size 14. Girls patterns are designed for a growing figure which is still immature. It has less need for dart-fitting than the other types. Size 14 would be a 32″ bust, 26″ waist, 35″ hip.

Chubbie (I hate this label): About 5′ in size 14 1/2C. Chubby patterns are designed for a figure about the same height as the Girl, but rounder. Back waist length is 1/2″ longer than girl. Size 14 1/2C is Bust 34 1/2″, Waist 31″, Hip 37 1/2″,

Sub-Teen: About 5′ 1 1/2″ in size 14s. Sub-Teen patterns are for a figure still growing but beginning to mature, with more bust than Girl. Size 14s would be Bust 33″ Waist 26″, Hip 36″.

Teen: About 5’3″ in size 14t. Teen patterns are designed for a figure more developed and taller than the Sub-Teen, but not as tall as the Junior figure. Size 14t would be Bust 34, Waist 26, Hip 36.

Junior Petite: About 5’1″ in size 11jp. Junior Petite patterns are designed for a well developed figure which is diminutive in size. This is a size, not an age group. Size 11jp would be Bust 33″, Waist 24 1/2″, Hip 34 1/2.

Junior Miss: About 5’5″ in size 13. Junior Miss patterns are designed for the developed figure that is not as tall as the Miss. For size 13, measurements would be Bust 33″, Waist 25 1/2″, Hip 35″.

Miss: About 5’6″ in size 14. Miss patterns are designed for a well proportioned, fully developed figure that is taller than any of the other types. Bust in size 14 would be 34, Waist 26, Hips 36.

Half-Size: About 5’3″ in size 14 1/2. For a fully developed figure, shorter than a Miss-Woman with narrower shoulders. Waist and hips are larger in proportion to bust. Size 14 1/2″ would be Bust 35″, Waist 29″, Hips 39.

Women: About 5’6″ in size 44. Women’s patterns are designed for the larger, more fully mature figure that is about the same height as a Miss.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion, Vintage Kids

The Peter Pan Dress

Standard Pattern 2023, 1906.

I recently came across the term “Peter Pan Dress” in a 1906 magazine, and wondered what it was so of course I did some research. It was a popular style of the time, of course brought on by the publishing of the Peter Pan stories. The first installment was published in 1902, with further installments in 1904, 1906 and 1911.

Peter Pan Dress, 1907.

The Peter Pan dresses debuted in 1906, and were were made from gingham, lawn, linen or henrietta (a fine, twilled light wool). They were considered to be “outing outfits”, to be worn for play outside. The dresses purchased in shops were made for ages 2 to sixteen. The older girls’ styles (known as “misses’) were usually done as suits, while the younger styles were done as dresses. The dresses generally featured a lowered or dropped waist, pleated skirt, and cuffed sleeves. They usually had some type of emblem embroidered on the collar — often a nautically themed one such as anchors. They sold for $2.75 to $7.50.

By 1912, advertisements are seen for Ladies’ Peter Pan dresses, perfect for “the dressy garment for the office girl or shop girls,” and made in women’s sizes up to 40. These dresses were made from serge or silk.

The style seems to have died by 1913, when mentions are made only of the Peter Pan collar, which continues today.

Peter Pan Dress, 1906.
sewing, vintage fashion


I listed a swatch book from the 1920s in the Etsy shop. It has swatches of Spungola. The only thing it says as far as detail is “36 inches wide”, which must refer to the width of the fabric. Since I found it with some other 1920’s swatch books, I’m presuming that this one is also 20s.

I’d never heard of Spungola, so I went looking. I found that it was British-made “washing silk” and was advertised as being new in 1910. Here’s an ad:

The Daily Telegraph (London), Feb 28, 1910.

Ads mentioned using it for blouses, lingerie and coat linings. It was manufactured in prints and solids. It seems it was quite versatile, but you don’t see many US ads for it and when you do, it is generally advertised for making slips. It was more commonly advertised in the United Kingdom, and there, the ads gave the more varied uses . By 1930, ads disappeared and Spungola seems to have disappeared from the scene altogether.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage fashion

Let’s Talk About Sewing Pattern Prices

I hear a lot about sewing pattern princes on the various forums where I’m a member. Many people question why in the world prices are so high, so let me explain.

This is my process, which of course may vary from seller to seller. The order I do things may change from day to day, but the process is the same as far as what I have to do.

First, I choose what I’m going to list for the day. This is usually me, bleary eyed, grabbing a handful of something that looks cute, shortly after I’ve had my caffeine for the day. I may do this the night before, and take pictures at that time. Sometimes I take pics before I do the listing, sometimes after.

I take photos. I don’t have a real station set up, so it involves me finding somewhere where the light is right, which can be tricky in Indiana. I prefer natural light, but sometimes use a light to help out. I know that some people have a fancy station set up with a ring light, background and all that, but I have never found a space that I like every single time I’m doing pictures, so I tend to move around.

I edit the pictures. This involves multiple pictures. It takes some time to get them right. Why edit, you may ask? Well, Etsy is a little wonky on how the display thumbnails, so I crop the first picture to be displayed. I tend to crop the instructions as well, but I also include pictures of what the envelope really looks like, because I don’t want to misrepresent my stock.

I count the pattern pieces. This involves counting them, but also making sure that the pieces actually match the envelope (if it’s present), whether the instructions are present and complete, and noting any defects or alterations. This takes a lot of time. I sometimes count a bunch of patterns at one time and watch Netflix, but I always avoid ceiling fans, which can result in a huge mess.

Then I write the listing. This also takes time, though I have a template to work from. Again, I have to write what the defects are. I upload the pictures and make sure the first one shows a good thumbnail. Sometimes I have to do quite a bit of research, not just on pricing, but dating the pattern or finding out about the designer, or the style of the pattern. Some patterns have no description on the envelope, so I may have to come up with that on my own. Then I have to figure out a title. Don’t even get me going on that, but let’s just say it can take a LOT of trial and error to get it right so that you can find my stuff on search.

I upload the link to my listing to the Vintage Pattern Wiki. If there isn’t a page for it there, I create one, because it’s not about sales for me there. It’s about creating a resource of historical patterns because they don’t last forever. Paper is fragile and doesn’t last unless it’s taken care of, and a lot of people throw patterns away (again, don’t get me going), so they can be hard to find and quite rare.

I used to list every pattern on Instagram and Facebook, but I’ve streamlined my process and list more occasionally now.

Then I repair anything that I can on the envelope (depending, I may have done this before pictures) by using archival tape to repair it. Then the pattern gets filed. I have about ten pattern cabinets where my patterns are filed (and many, many banker’s boxes of patterns as well). This is the tedious part that I usually do all at one time, after I have a bunch of patterns ready to file.

This is why patterns are expensive. Patterns don’t find or list themselves. I am usually lucky to get five listings done in the Etsy shop every day, which is my goal, but I also have three other shops where I list several times a week or even daily. Sometimes if I get in the zone, I will get ten done. I also have to update the wiki weekly by taking the sold patterns’ links out. I have to do my bookkeeping and keep my inventory updated. This doesn’t allow for messages I get, reading I do to research, the posts I actually do on social media, or the blog. It’s long, tedious work that I absolutely LOVE, but it all takes time. Shipping takes a lot of time, plus daily runs to the post office.

So when people ask why patterns are expensive, this is a small nugget of why. I usually work for at least six hours a day, updating things, doing books, researching, scanning, photographing and more. I have four selling platforms (my webstore, Etsy shop, eBay store, and Facebook Marketplace. I dabble a bit in Amazon too). Pattern sellers are a different breed, and we take pride in not only our work, but in preserving this important piece of fashion history. Many of the items we have are probably one of a kind now. We price not only according to the rarity of our item, but also because it’s our income. This is how I pay the bills.

I get such a reward out of what I do. I hope people understand the work it takes though, because it’s not for the faint of heart. If you don’t love it, you won’t last long because it’s long hours, can be very tedious, and the reward is usually $10-$20 at a time. I’ve fortunate that since I do this full time, I make more than that, but still, Mama has to pay the bills, so I work hard, and it’s a huge payoff mentally to know that I’m helping to keep fashion history alive.

1950s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Advance Imports

Advance Import 105, circa 1954. Photo: Merete Hvalshagen 

I cam across this pattern on Pinterest today and was fascinated. Advance Import patterns are hard to find. It’s difficult to use the word “rare” for anything that is mass produced, so let’s say they were limited editions, so not many still exist today. I’ve had a number of them over the years, but never two copies of the same pattern. They aren’t easy to find, and there are collectors who covet them fiecely. They are always fashion-forward and couture styles, like this one.

It’s always been presumed that the Advance Import line was created to do line-by-line copies of designer garments, likely out of Paris, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with the actual designer’s name on it. I’ve often said that one day in my spare time (that I don’t have), I will sit down and try to match pattern to designer, but of course I haven’t done that yet. I’m not even sure how many Advance Import designs were created. If there are more like this with the designer’s name on it, it’ll make the job easier.

I also can’t find much about Emanuel of Spain, though he made some awfully fetching suits like this one. Isn’t it pretty?


Ooooh! Shiny!

I’m still working on my organization project, which I estimate should be done about thirty years after I’m dead. I keep plugging away though, and this is why. I came across some swatch books I bought some time back. They’re mostly from the 1910s to 1920s, and several are just one page of swatches. This particular book though, was a catalog of yarns from a 1954 loom catalog. I turned the page and lo and behold, what should I see but shiny LUREX!

People throw around the word Lurex a lot when it comes to any kind of shiny metallic fabric, but this is the real deal. It’s so pretty, and it came in lots of colors and widths. These particular ones are likely only meant for weaving (since they’re in a loom catalog). I think they’d look gorgeous framed on a wall, but I’d likely get nothing done for looking at them. Aren’t they pretty?

sewing, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

I Feel Pretty

Pictorial Review 7837, circa 1935

It’s 45 degrees (Fahrenheit) here today, and we’re supposed to get three inches of snow tomorrow, but such is life in Indiana. That being said, spring is definitely coming, and there’s no more beautiful sight to see than beautiful spring fashions.

This gown is Pictorial Review 7837. It’s from 1935, I believe, and so pretty. It’s made for those gorgeous spring chiffons, taffetas and organdies, and I see it in a pastel. The cover is damaged a bit, so this is a photo of the back. I feel like it could easily pass for a prom or bridesmaid’s dress today. Even the illustration looks a bit modern – see her haircut? Make it with the peplum and it looks distinctly different than without.

My prom dress was a Gunne Sax knock-off but if I had it to do over, if I couldn’t afford the real Gunne, I’d go for something like this. The fun thing is that it not only is an early printed pattern, but it also includes a sheet that explains how to alter the pattern before cutting the fabric. Very modern, yes?

Now available in the Etsy shop.


Completing the Uncompleted

I love it when people buy incomplete projects and complete them. Case in point: this quilt which someone bought, completely unfinished, with the intent of completing it for a woman long gone. She ended up turning it into a HUGE cross-country project that involved embroiders from every state, and a big quilting bee in Chicago that brought the entire project together. It is an amazing story that if you haven’t read it, DO.

I’ve connected people with patterns they were searching for over the years. One lady emailed me years ago, looking for the pattern for her 1956 prom gown, a shirred confection which had a gorgeously hand stitched skirt. She didn’t have any information about the pattern, just a photo of her in the dress. I ended up finding it for her, and she was so happy. She and her granddaughter made it to wear to the granddaughter’s prom, 45 years later. It was amazing.

So yeah, I get requests, and I love the challenge. My kids will tell you, as will most of my friends, about my researching skills. A good friend won’t even pick up his phone anymore to look for an answer because I always beat him in finding it. My eldest son told my daughter when she left for college “do not give Mom names. She will find out.” And he’s right. If I want to know, I generally find out.

So I got a request over the weekend, asking if I had the pattern for this particular tablecloth.

Her friend had the unfinished tablecloth but no pattern, and the sender wanted to also make it for herself. It’s a chicken scratch pattern. For those who aren’t aware, chicken scratch is embroidered on gingham. I love it. It’s easy and cute. There are collectors out there, and there must be a new interest in it, because my chicken scratch instructions are the best seller in my shop (consider though that most of my items are one of a kind so they can’t be best sellers, but I sell the heck outta those instructions). Sadly, I did not have this pattern.

It’s odd, because there are tons of finished projects identical to this out there. Tons. But finding the pattern was very elusive. I found it for a pillow, but not big enough for the tablecloth. I kept searching, and finally found it in Canada on eBay. It’s strange that a pattern so apparently popular is so elusive now. I had to switch up a lot of keywords to find it. I searched for transfers too, since there are chicken scratch transfers. Even searched for mail order patterns and transfers in the newspaper archive. I think I surprised myself in finding it and probably only did because of dogged determination to prove to myself that it exists. I still think it’s out there somewhere in a more vintage pattern or transfer, since the one I found was 70s/80s, but as the customer was elated to find it at all, I’m no longer searching.

I am, however, waiting for my new challenge to come along. It doesn’t happen that often anymore because of the Vintage Pattern Wiki, Facebook groups and the like, but it’s always fun when it does. The less details, the better. I like a good challenge.

sewing patterns

The E-van-juh-LEESTA Vibe

Someone emailed me about this pattern today, because like a goofball, I forgot to actually post pictures of it when I listed it on Etsy. Oye vay. These things escape me sometimes. If you saw what things look like around here, you’d understand, as I organize 10,000 patterns. But I digress.

This pattern is a great example of the influence that Linda Evangelista had in the early 90s. Arguably the most beautiful supermodel ever, she dominated the field, especially after she cut her hair short. I have a Vogue pattern that I believe is illustrated with a photo of her (the angle is wrong to be 100% sure), but this drawing definitely has Ms. Evangelista’s vibe.

If you haven’t seen it in the news lately, Ms. Evangelista was disfigured during a beauty treatment, and can’t model anymore. It’s a shame that our fashion industry is so narrow in who they will dress, because she is just as beautiful now as ever. Some might say “well, what’s the big deal? She should stop whining” but if you understood how the fashion industry works and just how narrow their definition of beauty is, you might get some idea of why she is so distressed. Imagine looking in the mirror and not recognizing the body that buys the bread and milk. It’s really sad. That being said, I’m glad that she is speaking out, trying to protect others from what she has gone through. And Ms. Evangelista, if you are listening, you are still more beautiful on your worst day than 99% of women on their best day.

And if you’ve ever seen Pose, Episode 1, Season 1, you will know that Bianca named her iconic drag house the House of Evanglista. Or, as she says “E-van-juh-LEESTA.” ::snaps::

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion, Vintage Kids

It’s All In The Details

McCall 7319, Circa 1933

Look at the mastery of details here, in not only the garment, but the illustration itself. This pattern shows why the 1930s were so spectacular. That little twisted belt effect at the waist. Those cowl sleeves on the middle version. Even the little detail on the puff sleeve is a simple but perfect detail to make this dress special.

You won’t see dresses like this in Target. The cost of putting those details in is prohibitive in today’s disposable, fast-fashion society, and it’s a shame. This dress would take a child from Easter, to springtime tea, to summer weddings, and straight into Christmas (though you might have to size up. Kids grow, after all).

Add the details of the illustration, and I’m really in love. The little shoes. The slouchy socks. This era of McCalls patterns are the ones that, if I were having babies today, I would frame and put on a nursery wall. They are just so delicately beautiful. What do you think?