PART 2 Condition-Sizing



As one begins collecting vintage patterns, it helps to know a little about the various conditions in which patterns are found. Condition can greatly affect the value of a pattern. The most desirable state that any pattern can be in is for the envelope to be pristinely clean and intact, the instructions present, and the pattern itself to be uncut, unused and still in factory folds. Some designs have enough merit that they remain valuable even if the pattern has been cut and used.

One often finds vintage patterns that have edges cut with pinking shears; this can make a pattern difficult to re-use. When hunting patterns, learning how to easily and quickly judge a pattern’s condition becomes a critical time saver.

Occasionally, although the envelope is badly damaged or the pattern is used and has a piece or two missing, a pattern may still be valuable (Issey Miyake’s first patterns for Vogue are an example).

A pattern does not have to be styled by a famous designer to have merit or value, value can be a very personal thing. The sole fact that a pattern is old may not make it desirable. A collector judges a vintage pattern much like one would judge a garment. We all don’t have the same tastes in clothing – whether it is contemporary or vintage.

Collect what you like, and also what interests you. If you are buying to resell, remember that unused is always more valuable than used. Plain, simple styles including very plain dresses, skirts or sleepwear are not particularly sought after, regardless of the era. Beautiful details and a well-composed design can make patterns from any company and in any condition a collectable item.



Vintage pattern sizing are smaller than current clothing sizes. Pattern sizing has been fairly standardized between the major companies for most of the 20th century. In 1968, the sizing was enlarged a little across the pattern industry. The “new sizing” logo appeared on pattern envelopes from 1968 through 1970, as customers adjusted to the changes. Some pattern companies (i.e. Butterick and Vogue) did not print copyright dates on their patterns. Checking for old or new sizing can often help determine an approximate date of printing.

Most lovers of Vintage Patterns are more than happy to adjust or grade these patterns to fit. When searching for vintage sewing patterns, it is most important that you search for your BUST MEASUREMENT and NOT search for SIZE, if you do not do this, you will come unstuck, and this is why………………

Please bear in mind that the body form changes on average every 7 years, hence the reason vintage pattern sizes/measurements are NOT the same as modern pattern sizes/measurements. For example a 1940s pattern, size 14 measurements will NOT be the same as a modern pattern size 14 measurements. Vintage sizes are different from modern sizes. The measurements will be different!

Try and ignore the SIZE on a vintage sewing pattern, please look for the body measurements instead, particularly the BUST, then compare it to your personal body measurements; BUST, WAIST and HIP. Otherwise you will come unstuck! I do hope that makes sense.

Make sure you are familiar with your own 3 basic measurements, BUST, WAIST and HIPS when shopping for vintage patterns. Should the measurements of a vintage pattern not match your personal measurements then you need to adjust your pattern accordingly.

So to reiterate……it is the BUST MEASUREMENT on a vintage pattern that is important to you, and NOT the SIZE! Does it fit your BUST MEASUREMENT? And if not then the next best thing is to adjust or grade.

I recommend anyone gets into a good habit of being able to ADJUST or GRADE vintage patterns to your own personal measurements. I email customers all the time about this. You will be laughing if you can do this and it’s dead easy! Should you wish for any information we have compiled a booklet on the subject full of information I have collected over the years from my ‘Fashion Design and Pattern Cutting’ days from the London College of Fashion. If you learn to adjust pattern sizes you can buy any vintage sewing pattern I promise! It’s just getting skilled at it. It’s all simple methods and techniques for both ADJUSTMENTS and GRADING. If you are use to using sewing patterns and can sew there is no reason why you cannot adjust or grade. All you need to do is follow the principle and techniques of adjusting. It certainly is a skill of it’s own, however it compliments sewing and home dressmaking and once you do one pattern you will be able to move onto another with more confidence. The whole world of a variety of Vintage Patterns opens up to you!