Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

vintage patterns

fashionnut | Posted in General Discussion on

A recent issue of Threads dealt with vintage clothing, I have a slew of patterns that belonged to my mom from the 50’s and 60’s I need to figure out how to set them up to fit the modern figure. I also inherited patterns from the 40’s and they definatly have to be altered. Any suggestions? experiences? one of the patterns from the 40’s is a jumper flared skirt and wide shoulder straps very in tune to fall style. Thanks Cyndy


  1. nmog | | #1

    I've just started buying vintage patterns from some websites, and most of the websites have a link on how to alter a vintage garment up or down sizes. Given that in the 40's a size 12 had a 30 inch bust, I'll be doing some heavy alterations to mine!!
    You can just google 'vintage sewing patterns' and you'll get loads of websites. Good luck in your hunt!

    1. fashionnut | | #4

      thanks the other poster gave me some great advice as well seems I have my work cut out I might tackle this during Xmas break. Cyndy

  2. happycatuk | | #2

    Have you drafted yourself a sloper/master bodice pattern with your minimum ease included? Or have a fitted/semi fitted pattern with which you are happy with the fit? I'm in the process of adding 'fitted ease' to my sloper, which I can then use to adjust commercial patterns to my figure.Once you have a two-dimensional version of yourself there are a couple of good articles on Threads (mainly for those who are petite admittedly, but the principle is exactly the same) which show you how to dissect it along key areas and overlay it on a comercial pattern to expand it/contract it. This would probably be the best way to increase the body of a garment, then scale any details (ie collars, pocket flaps etc) up or down to give you the best proportions for your final garment. Oh, and don't forget to try the new hybrid pattern as a toile first, to iron out any problems before you cut your fashion fabric!Hope that helps x

    1. stitchagain | | #3

      Thanks for your advice this is what I was interested in as well.

      What are the articles from Threads?

      Do I look up sizing for petites?


      1. happycatuk | | #5

        Hiya,Try the following article online: Your sloper as a fitting tool - http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00036.asp It's in the Fitting section of threads' website. Having had a scrabble around, the best picutre explanation of where to cut up your sloper is in Threads' April/May 2001 article "Fitting the Petite Figure", where it states that the cutting locations will be familiar to those who know pattern grading.No idea if this will make sens without a picture, but this is the discription given:"As you see in the same drawing, there are two horizontal zones where it makes sense to slash or fold your bodice sloper: above the arm-hole and below the arm-hole. Likewise, there are four vertical zones: center to neck/shoulder, neck/shoulder to end of shoulder, end of houlder to side seam, and angled along shoulder slope." I will try and post a picture when technology allows me, grr ...

      2. happycatuk | | #8

        Right, let's see if I can get this picture on here .. the written description makes much more sense that way ...

        1. user-51823 | | #9

          thanks for posting the illustration (a picture is worth a thousand words!!)i'm not the OP, but if her problem is similar to the one i've described, the confusionis due to a bodice made up of, for eg, 13 rather unusual shapes - a fat V, a few rhomboids, a sort of heart shape, a long plaquette, 2 fat triangles, a wavy yolk, a fan shape to be ruched, etc etc etc--- that need to be fitted together with great difficulty and lots of gathering and easing.
          it's hard to figure out-- does each piece need adjustiong? if not, which ones? same amount on horizontal surfaces as on vertical? for me, it's a mess.
          i do hope the patterns the OP is talking about are easier to deal with.

          1. happycatuk | | #10

            Wow, I'm no expert (to put it mildly!), but it sounds as if you're trying to scale down some fiendishly complicated patterns there!Hmm .. maybe my approach will help give you a rough guide to fit once you've graded your chosen pattern down to your nearest 'standard' size. How to get to that glorious point, though ...Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple things; find a book that gives step-by-step procedures for grading, the industry's way of scaling a sample size up and down to cover the required dress sizes. I have a couple of pages on it in the back of my copy of Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich, but you may need something more dedicated/industry-based.Failing that - and this is the approach I would go for - do you have a dress form? Cut the pattern out in calico, and fit the pieces to each other in 3D, against your own size. This way you will become familiar with the way so many complicated pieces fit together, and you can scale them down in situ so they still interlock together afterwards.Once you have made a garment on the model and tried it on to check fit and ease etc, you can then use it as a template to create a tailor-made pattern which you can they lay onto fresh calico (though you could skip this step I guess). Once that's been trialed and you're happy , you can then cut it out in your fashion fabric.Any other ideas, anyone?

          2. Tangent | | #11

            Re- other ideas....   when I was learning how to make Victorian 1860's and 1870's dresses, I drew out scale-sized, un-altered,  pattern pieces  and made them up first in paper, then in muslin, to see how it all fit together.  This uses a lot less fabric, and you can use scraps, the colors won't matter.

            I used graph-paper, and found a doll that was a convenient size with reasonably lifelike proportions to use as a dress-form. If you're really ambitious, you could make your own dress-form based on the shape of the pattern.

            If you use 1:6 scale, you can easily convert measurements on your ruler....  12 inches would measure 2 inches in 'scale' size.  In other words, 1/6 of lifesize.  Another good size to work with, a bit larger, is 1:4.   Make your own scale rulers, in any scale size you want, on graph paper and tape the strip to a piece of flexible plastic for instant size-converting.

            If you're getting your patten from a book, you might be able to figure out the % size difference and get it photocopied already at the correct scale-size.

            BTW, don't use "Barbie" dolls, they are too small to work with for this, and their proportions are way off.

          3. user-51823 | | #12

            nice idea about making a scaled-down muslin. i think i'm just too lazy now.
            i did try one of the dress patterns i was talking about without altering to see how it came out and hopefully use as a starting point to figure out where to scale back, but it came out like a tent and i just didn't have the mental energy to tackle the project. that was about 10 years ago. this thread has inspired me to possible try it again.

  3. user-51823 | | #6

    i am interested to hear how your size conversion goes. i have dozens of beautiful viontage patterns, mostly 1930's and 40's, that i have been too intimidated to re-size.
    they are mostly quite large and i am a modern size 8 -- or on a good day, 6 :-)some dresses consist of 40+ pieces, lots of inserts and fitting details, and trying to figure out how much, and exactly where, each piece would need scaling down is a nightmare.

    1. fashionnut | | #7

      stay tuned I am looking for a book that was included in the bunch of patterns that I got from an estate sale, this stuff wasn't sold so I got everything for free. If I remember correctly this book was about altering patterns. I understand that this is a daunting task which is why it will be something I will do during the Xmas break. Cyn

This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All


Shop the Store

View All
View More