Friday, March 15, 2013

What Were They Thinking?

Have you seen the  "You Can't Judge An Ugly Vintage Pattern By It's Cover"  party at  Simple Simon and Co.?   The idea behind the party is that many ‘ugly’ vintage patterns may have some redeeming qualities if you look hard enough.  That is absolutely true. Fashions change over the years, but many things stay the same or return in some shape or form.  Vintage patterns are a fabulous way to bring the past to life, and to put your own spin on current fashion trends.
As a vintage pattern seller, it is easy to say that I have at least 1000+ patterns on hand at a time.  There is usually something on the pattern that can be used, a skirt, a dress or top, even a sleeve style or collar can be adapted to another current pattern. Vintage patterns carry a wealth of information that newer patterns don’t.  Sewing techniques, tips and style ideas abound.
But sometimes, it is very difficult to see the positive for the all to obvious negatives in a pattern.
march 13 006
At first glance, this 1985 Vogue 9238 Maternity pattern looks shapeless and ugly.  But lets look at it a different way.  The skirt is a simple shape that is very wearable today.  The pants are a little short, but that isn’t a big problem, just lengthen the hem!  The vest, well, maybe we’ll leave that out of our wardrobe.  On to the tunic/dress.   Take a look at this current pattern,  Vogue 8771.
Anything look familiar?  The sleeves!  Granted there is a slight difference in shape, but overall the style is the same.  Shape the sides of the tunic from our vintage pattern  and pair it with a belt and skinny pants. You have a totally up-to-date look!
Moving on to our next pattern,  Butterick 6319.  Look past the 80’s hair and headband, and what do you see?  Flashdance?  A bad 80’s exercise class?
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Lets look again. Look at the components individually.  A basic tank top or tankini top shape, a basic underwear or bathing suit bottom, tights or leggings, a basic tee.  Keep in mind that the pattern pieces can be altered slightly to change the fit and style, and the possibilities are almost endless!
At the beginning of this post I said that most vintage patterns have some redeeming qualities.  Most.  Not ALL.  The last pattern I’m going to show you is a 90’s Butterick 4820 Maternity pattern.  If you can see the potential in this pattern, please let me know. It is one of the few patterns I have ever come across in the 1000’s of patterns I’ve owned that just screams  ‘WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?’  I don’t know about you, but when I was pregnant I FELT like a beachball.  I didn’t want to LOOK like one too! This is my entry to Simple Simon's ugly pattern contest.
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So now you can see the advantages of a vintage pattern.  Look past the poor illustrations or photos on the covers of some of them, and look at the ‘bones’ of the pattern. Everything may not be as it seems at first glance.  I like to look at the line drawings first (usually found on the back of the envelope) to see what you are really getting.  Let your imagination soar!
To find your perfect vintage sewing pattern, go to my shop,  Stitching By Numbers,  or check out one of the fabulous vintage pattern shops of my Etsy teamies from  Pattern Patter!  Please check out our shops on Wednesday March 20th, for our HUGE BLITZ PATTERN SALE for 20% off in my shop and others!

Happy Stitching!


  1. Anne - That "Beach Ball" Pattern is the most hilarious thing I've ever seen! Some times the patterns are so usable but the 70's plaids make them unappealing at best.

  2. LOL Anne. I love every pattern no matter how dated or 'ugly'. If fact I think the last pattern is cute, no kidding. Separate the top and bottom and you have a great pair of genie pants. I got so huge with my second son (he was 10 lbs when he was born), if I had that jumper then I would have lived in it (and never leave the house). Great blog post, I'm going to share. Adele

  3. Oh that last one is a gem! LOL
    I would love to see someone do that one to make it actually wearable!

  4. I love the work out outfits. The fabric and the hair are a bit distracting but I bet the leotards could be used for a swimsuit. And the full body one could be a cat woman costume for halloween. (I thought the jumprope was a whip for a second) lol

  5. Great post!! That last pattern is, well, I think hideous. Don't believe a woman would have designed that. Maybe eliminating the elastic at the bottom and lengthening it and adding a high skinny belt might help...and a cardigan :). I always look at the line drawings; that definitely shows the pattern foundation and is a great tip. I am going to check out your shop. I can't imagine having thousands of patterns; that would be a treasure trove to go through!!

  6. I love the 2nd pattern! The workout clothes have me wondering whatever happened to Richard Simmons?

    The last pattern is the worst one ive seen so far! This one could totally win the grand prize ugly award! Great post! I'm subscribing...I'm a pattern junkie. I need you lol

  7. That last one is sooo funny ~ beach ball is right... thanks for sharing these :)

  8. Loved this post! So great! And that last pattern---oh my goodness! I'm still giggling!

  9. Wow. I don't even have words for that last one. :)

  10. Oh my goodness, how crazy is that last pattern?! SO funny!!
    Thank you so much Anne, for your kind and supportive comments :)

  11. How hilarious is that last one.... Although I think the first one so funny too as I can clearly remember those fashions. I think the 80's must have been the worst decade for fashion!

  12. Check out HATCH clothing line. They have these CUTE jumpsuits for preggos that look absolutely awesome, and lots like that "beach ball" pattern! You are right, it's the fabric, etc! That makes or breaks it!

  13. Check out HATCH clothing line. They have these CUTE jumpsuits for preggos that look absolutely awesome, and lots like that "beach ball" pattern! You are right, it's the fabric, etc! That makes or breaks it!


  15. Sorry! I posted the link, it is to a pic of a very CUTE jumper from the HATCH collection, and it looks a lot like the "beach ball" pattern, but awesome! Check it out!!

  16. The exercise pattern view "A" would make a good Cat Woman leotard!

  17. View B in flannel/fleece would make a great option to the Snuggy. A pair of heavy socks and you have a blanket to go. Keep it in an emergency kit in case you lose power/heat during an ice storm.