Antique Spotlight: Collecting Vintage & Retro Patterns

Antique Spotlight: Collecting Vintage & Retro Patterns

There’s a romance in looking back at the kinds of clothes we wore “back in the day” and a fascination with certain styles from long ago. With so many period TV shows and movies we see some of the wonderful clothes worn “upstairs” or “down”, Edwardian, flapper, frugal during War, extravagant later, bold, modest, strange and classic.

This is Nancy with Dusty Old Thing and I have two favorite periods: The “New Look” following WWII and the ‘60s classic lines. Like many of us, I took Home Economics in school. Sewing and Cooking and Basic Homemaking were required in Junior High for girls. The boys got a shorter course. In high school I took more Sewing along with all the college prep classes. Those were the days when designer patterns were replicated by Vogue and when quality fabric filled department stores.

By the time I was in college my mother had met a seamstress who sewed in her home to supplement her income. She was very skilled and enjoyed challenges. We kept her supplied in fabric and patterns, especially for party dresses. They cost less than new dresses. They also lasted.

The Victoria and Albert Museumin London curated an entrancing exhibition in 2007-08 called “The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947 – 1957”. The exhibit traveled to several museums in the United States and captivated museum-goers with the elegance of the period. V&A’s collectionis searchable. A few similar dresses can be found in vintage designer patterns.

Today I’m fascinated with vintage patterns. At thrift shops and yard and estate sales I peruse the baskets and boxes filled with them. I look for the designer patterns or those that are just classic for the period. I say that someday I’ll make them.

We can also find vintage patterns online. Vendors include:

Costs for the patterns I saw ranged from $10.00 to $275.00 with, of course, the rarest designer patterns in good condition commanding the highest prices. Vintage patterns are also available on Ebay and Etsy.

There is aVintage Pattern Wiki where users can share information about old patterns and find some links to vendors.

The common thread in many of the vintage patterns is that they were elegant. They were meant to be made with quality materials and to last. There’s a yearning in that.