First some history, before Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls and Vogue became "The Big 4" they were simply creative people who found a market for their goods. My favorite is Butterick who started making and selling women's patterns on his kitchen table in 1863 at the encouragement of his wife. To read more, One Yellow Cottage has a great piece on Dating Patterns.
But with each pattern company came a different measure of sizing. By 1937 a complaint was made to standardize the pattern making industry. Please pop over to this blog and read about the survey the U. S. Department of Agriculture published in 1941. Or Fashion Incubator has a wonderful in-depth 3 part series on the history and evolution of garment and pattern sizing.
While pattern sizes have not changed as quickly as RTW there was still a bit of vanity sizing going on and more importantly different UNDERgarments!
Wonder why those patterns had such tiny waists? Yep, corsets, girdles, Bullet bras! So never fear my friends, women didn't really look that way naturally!
You can expect to do alterations when you buy vintage patterns; but really, we have to alter most patterns we buy, vintage or not, since we are all wonderfully and uniquely made!
Gertie has the best list of vintage pattern alterations with quick explanations on how to do them! I have used her method of letting out the waist on a couple dresses now with beautiful results.
The oldest vintage patterns only came with the bust size printed on them since it was assumed the seamstress would adjust the waist and hips to suit her personally. Most vintage patterns also came only in one size. Don't let that stop you though, there a lots of great tutorials on grading up or down a size and remember you may only need to adjust one part, ex. using Gertie's method.
Here's my online picks for grading:
Casey at Elegant Musings
Megan Neilsen's fast method
Another thing to remember is Ease. To explain this simply, garment or wearing ease is what you need so you don't rip out of your clothes like the Incredible Hulk when you sit down, bend over or take a breath. Style ease is dependent on the look the designer was going for. Here's an example:
|Lots of style ease|
|Very fitted not a lot of style ease|
Depending on the style you may be able to buy a smaller size if it is more loose fitting; or larger if the vintage style is fitted and you don't want to do a lot of changes.
I feel like there is a lot going on in this post, with links sending you here and there. Here's my short list of buying vintage pattern tips.
1. Buy by Bust Measurement not Size. You can use your full or high bust measurement.
2. Decide what undergarments you are wearing and plan alterations accordingly.
3. Remember most vintage patterns only came in one size which makes cutting and fitting easier.
4. Consider the garment's ease.
5. Join WeSewRetro, it's a great community, with a vast experience base to bounce questions and ideas off of. Or contact me and I'll do my best to help ya too.
So ends my vintage pattern ramble. Please feel free to leave comments adding any more tips you may have on buying or using vintage patterns. Or correcting any incorrect info I may have posted. I tried to link back to my sources and get accurate stuff but ya never know...