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Sewing Menswear Using Vintage Patterns

When I first started sewing, one of my challenges was finding patterns I wanted to sew. Few fabric stores in New York City’s Garment District sold sewing patterns, so it was easier for me to purchase patterns online. I found many more options among the vintage patterns for sale on Etsy and eBay than on the pattern company websites. There were more styles to choose from, a wider variety of garment types, and, often, better prices. As a long-time fan of vintage clothing, I also found the illustrations and photos on the pattern envelopes to be inspiring.

I used this 1930s Simplicity pattern to make my wool camo-print jacket, above.

This vintage 1970s McCall’s cardigan sweater jacket pattern is one of my favorites. Note how it reflects the unisex aesthetic of the era.  My version is below.

There are many reasons why sewing menswear from vintage patterns is an idea worth exploring. Unlike women’s fashions, most menswear styles have changed little over the last 80 or so years. That said, depending on the style, a garment made from a vintage pattern can risk looking “costumey.”  I’ve found that minor alterations (shortening the rise of pants, narrowing a shirt collar) can bring a garment up-to-date.

Benefits of working with vintage patterns

Vintage patterns (which I’ll define as anything pre-1990s) were generally printed with only one size per pattern envelope, unlike contemporary, multisize patterns. As a result, there’s no need to trace the pattern unless you think you’re going to make major alterations and want to preserve the original.

Printed one size per envelope, vintage patterns require no tracing.

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  1. user-7827015 | | #1

    Great article. Thank you.

  2. user-5910757 | | #2

    That was a good lesson about vintage patterns. The clothes Peter makes are very stylish!

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