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Blast from the Past

kbalinski | Posted in Patterns on

Was re-organizing my sewing closet, and almost discarded the box containing these treasures.  So, so, so very glad I checked the contents before putting the box on the curb with the trash!  These patterns belonged to my mother, who taught me how to sew.  While the styles are “interesting”, I find the price of the patterns amazing, and a couple of them show yardages for fabric 36″ wide, not 45″ wide.

I know I’ll nevery make them, but I can’t bear to sell them or throw them away.  I’m planning on purchasing a poster frame, and putting them in it as a collage to hang in my sewing area.



  1. GailAnn | | #1

    Fun!  Fun!  Fun!  Every pattern picture brought a smile to my face!

    Music was happier.  T.V. shows less gruesome.  The News less scary.  Cell phones didn't ring at inopportune moments.  We all had more free time.  And, I think, more FUN!

    Perhaps every generation thinks that about the previous generation.

    My sister is a Bank Teller, has been since just out of high school.  She likes her job, it's warm in the winter, cool in the summer, she can wear nice clothes to work.

    In 1972 she worked 9-4, Monday throught Friday, with a paid hour off for lunch, and was considered "Full-time", with health insurance, 5 days sick leave, retirement, and 2 weeks vacation.

    In 2007 she works 8 hours a day anytime between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm Monday through Saturday, with an UNpaid HALF hour off for lunch, minimum of 40 hours to be considered "Full-Time", Pays a hefty amount toward her health insurance, Pays a hefty amount into her retirment, 5 days sick leave, and 2 weeks vacation.  She does make more money than she did in 1972.

    Bottom line --  She works 7 1/2 hours more a week to keep the same job she had in the 1970's.   Or 375 more hours a year at 55 than Sis did when she was 19 years old.  How much sewing could a person accomplish in 375 hours, do you think? 

    No wonder she is tired, cranky, and stressed. 

    Also, just for the record, Sis used to be an ERA supporting radical feminist.  NO MORE!  She just wants her hard working career girl, daughter, to become a stay at home Mom with 4 beautiful, well-behaved children.  Sisters get to laugh at this.  It would be funnier if that wasn't exactly what my niece wants for her life,too.

    Thank you, for the blast from the past.



    Edited 12/2/2007 8:17 am ET by GailAnn

    Edited 12/2/2007 8:18 am ET by GailAnn

    Edited 12/2/2007 8:19 am ET by GailAnn

  2. User avater
    VKStitcher | | #2

    What memories these patterns bring!  My mom made a lot of clothes for my sister and me, and these styles are so familiar.  As a matter of fact, I remember a red jumper that she made for my sister just like the yellow one at the top left of Number 5757.

    What a cool idea to display them in your sewing room.  That gives me some ideas....I bet there's a box or three of patterns in my Mom's attic still.

  3. Josefly | | #3

    Thank you for showing those patterns. Your idea to display them is great. I had to chuckle, though - those patterns don't seem so old to me. Then I remembered that if I don't qualify as an antique myself, I'm at least a collectible!

    I remember well when 36" fabric was the norm, and when 45" fabric was a welcome change - late 50's. And when $2.75 or $3.00 for a Vogue pattern was an extravagance. And you could find fabric and notions and patterns almost everywhere - "dime" stores, department stores, etc. I wish, again, I hadn't thrown away so many patterns - congratulations on finding your mom's.

    Curious, though - how does the adult sizing chart on your 60's patterns compare to today's pattern sizing?

  4. mainestitcher | | #4

    In 1995 my mother-in-law, Muriel, decided to clean out her house. Her husband had passed away and she had been diagnosed with cancer.  She had several boxes of patterns.

    These patterns told the story on her life.

    There were patterns from her teen years as she was learning to sew.  Tidy, fabric-saving suits and ensembles carried the day during the years of WWII, and several years after.  As she grew older, she was dating and had more festive dresses which were worn while being courted by the man she would marry one day. 

    Looking at her wedding photo, (in classic black and white) I noticed that her attendents didn't wear matching dresses.  Each had on a floor length dress of her choosing, likely made by the wearer.  In those days, it was more economical to sew than buy.  In those days, too, the sentiment of having close friends as attendents was far more important than a theatrical production of only attractive acquaintances in identical hairstyles, wearing identical costumes. 

    The next patterns were maternity wear.  Of course, baby bonnets and little "infant wrappers" were next.  There were matching pajama patterns for two small boys, and a Halloween costume.  Finally, in '53, patterns that were suitable for a baby girl.

    Over the next few years, Muriel's clothing was secondary to the children's and husband's.  "Did you and your brother get matching shirts one Christmas?" I asked my husband.  He had almost forgotten, but yes, they had.  Likely they had been made from the same material as their Dad's.  I could see many patterns must have been used for my sister-in-law as she was growing up.  I wondered how many of these were "first day of school" dresses. 

    Some of the patterns had handwritten notations on the envelope: 

     "black jumper

    this and top 3200"

    The notes sometimes contain the names of neighbors.  I can only guess that if a pattern worked up easily and attractively, that hand-to-hand circulation was used to save expense.  Since each seamstress would make and trim the dress differently for her daughter/granddaughter/niece, a fashionable young lady would be spared the embarrassment of of turning up somewhere in "the same dress" as one of her peers. 

    A pattern from the mid sixties would have been suitable for Jackie O. Simplicity 5828 was a lovely suit , double or single breasted jacket with a sort of portrait collar and below elbow length sleeves. The artist rendering  on the envelope depicts both versions with the models wearing gloves.

    A pattern from 1965 hints that there must have been a special occasion.  The dress is very simple in line, almost no more than a fitting shell, but the back has variations:  a deep V, or a diamond cutout, or fabric ties at neck and back bustline.  The notes read,

     "blue taffeta top  no sleeves   lace overblouse w/sleeves   chiffon over taffeta skirt." 

    The heads on the models are carefully snipped out.  I was left wondering if the hairstyle was something she wanted to re-create, too?

    Through the sixties, sister-in-law transformed from little girl to Junior Petite.  There were proms and special occasions, and finally, a wedding dress and attendents' dresses, each pattern with the wearer's name on the front.  The pattern for  the Empire waisted dress offered variations for a jewel or scoop neckline, detachable train, and still cost only one dollar.  "NEW Sizing" is printed in pink on the envelope front, but if memory serves, it was implemented almost two years before this. 

    Following the marriage of her daughter, there were more patterns for her own clothing, and of course, her grandchildren.  Her last "big" project was creating the bridesmaid dresses for her granddaughter's wedding.  One maid had tattoos on her shoulder that she suddenly decided shouldn't show, so Muriel made extra fabric flowers to decorate that area of the dress.  Inexplicably, the maid then had another tattoo added to her arm two weeks before the wedding.  Muriel's response  was, "You're on your own with that." 

    1. GailAnn | | #5

      Dear Miss Mainestitcher:

      What a LOVELY tribute!

      I'd rather read a story such as you have written than all the bloody fiction or pretentious love stories in the world.

      Thank=you for sharing, it's almost like a Christmas Present to me.  Gail

    2. MaryinColorado | | #10

      Thank You for sharing this story, you write very well.  I think you should publish this in a sewing magazine!  I truly enjoyed it!  What a wonderful tribute to her lifetime of sewing!  Mary

    3. Josefly | | #14

      I just re-read this thread, and appreciated again your description of your mother-in-law's life as revealed through her pattern collection.You said the heads were neatly cut out of the pattern envelopes and wondered if the hairstyles were something she wanted to duplicate. Might have been, but I remember my home economics teacher suggesting we cover the heads of the models, so that we could be sure it was the pattern we liked and not the model's look. This brought back a lot of memories, for the second time. Thanks.l

  5. rodezzy | | #6

    Yes, those are some prices.  Never to be seen again.  Those flare jeans and the whole outfit is back, along with the skinny jeans.  But every pattern there is good today.  Everything old is new again. 

    Yes, they will make a wonderful collage, just for the prices alone it will make a conversation piece.

  6. sewelegant | | #7

    I do love the 35 cents on the pattern!  I also remember very well when 45" wide fabric made the scene and you could make a dress for $1 because 35 cents a yard was very common.  The nicer "stuff" could be .45/yd.  This must have been in the late forties, early 50's because that was when I started to take an interest in sewing.  Where I lived all the department stores had a fabric section, kind of like wal-mart today but with some much nicer choices for the fabric.  When I baby sat (all through high school) it was for 35 cents an hour so when I started working as a nurse's aide at the local hospital when I was 16 the minimum wage of 70 cents an hour seemed like a lot.  Three or four years later I made a whopping 97 cents an hour as an RN so I guess the price of fabric and patterns was all relevant.  Nurses were not particularly well paid, when I got married in 1964 I was only making 2.10/hr... I should have looked into banking!

    I like the idea of framing and displaying the patterns.  I wish I had something from those early years.  I hope you save the insides too because that is another story.  Does anyone remember the old Advance patterns?  The last one I remember buying was in 1964, but they were a mystery to put together!  Maybe that is why they didn't stick around.  I've often wished I had saved one of them.

    1. Stillsewing | | #8

      Thanks very much for the blast from the past. Your patterns remind me of a pair of "hot pants" that I made as part of a suit. I may have been daring but these were fairly decent. however my mother decided that they were too long and she decided to take up the hem. result I could only wear them with the the skirt over them!!! ~Again thanks for the memory.

  7. sleevelength | | #9

    The vest with the bias cut skirt in plaid was my wool lined-garment project in high school. When I was finished I really knew how to work with plaids.  I picked an uneven one.  That was in '68-'69.

  8. smudge01 | | #11


    The collage idea is good but wanted to tell you what I did with some old sewing items.  I took a wreath made of leaves.  Wrapped a measuring tape around the wreath like you would a ribbon.  Took two old patterns and put them to one side overlapping a little so both pictures showed.  Then added all over packages of buttons sill on the card, packages of needles, thimbles, loose buttons, rick rack, an old pincushion.  You can use most anything.  I hung my wreath in my craft/sewing room.  Smudge01


    Edited 3/5/2008 7:12 am ET by smudge01

    1. rodezzy | | #12

      Now that was creativity at work.  I bet it was beautiful.

    2. Josefly | | #13


  9. Palady | | #15

    Astute of you to check the box before placing it at the curb.  Delighted to see the photos.  Smiled at the sight of each one.  Recognized two which are in my bins.   

    By all means consider a poster collage with the envelopes in tact.  It will be a loving addition to your sewing area.

    Along with my patterns from the late 1950's on, there are my mother's from earlier times.  Because I have yet to count the all, I can only say there are many! 

    Like you, parting with them right now is unthinkable for me because I browse the all at times.  Keeping them will probably have my children moaning & groaning at some point. 

    Please let us see how your finished project looks.


  10. Ocrafty1 | | #16

    OK..now I feel old. I still have 3 out of those 4 patterns in my stash...along with about another 80 from the 60/70's as well as patterns from the 40/50's that were Mom's. I still use some of them. The styles are coming back around for the women's clothes and the tiny children's haven't really changed for many years...only the packaging and pricing! 

    I'm going to restart my custom sewing business out of my home. I do a lot of proms/weddings! Last night I checked out Seventeen and Bride's Magazines' sites.  Many of the 60's styles are back...OUCH!  I'm glad I kept the patterns...with a few adjustments I can use them again. :D

    1. dollmarm | | #17

      oh wow - in looking in my stash of pattern I came across some oldies that were of my sisters bride-made-dresses and that was back in the 70's, and I still like some of the designs.  Many styles are coming back and some never really go away.  Just hang on to your favorites and in a couple of yr.'s they return.  That goes with shoes too.  :~) My grandmother never buys a new pattern for any outfits she made. She just added or took away and they always looked in style.  She is 85 and still sews.  One year she made suits for her 3 son-in-law and never took one measurement of them.  She had a great eye for sizing and still does.   This inspires me to take out one and see what I can make for now- that is after I finish the one project I am on.  thanks  for this posting idea

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