In the sewing world, we often hear the term vintage, but what does it actually mean and what era is it referring to? The Oxford Dictionary defines vintage as... denoting something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind.
How far back into the past though? Yesterday is past, but that's not vintage. Nor is last year. How old does a pattern have to be to make it vintage?
On a recent day trip to the Blue Mountains, Mr TMW and I discovered Hazelbrook Cottage Antiques - a treasure trove of fascinating items and knick knacks from days long gone by. Much to my surprise, one end of the store was devoted to Vintage Haberdashery. What a find!!!
Needless to say, I didn't have to time to explore the rest of the shop. I spent the entire time sorting through vintage patterns and looking at garments, hat boxes, boots... So many items associated with sewing and clothing attire from the past.
I picked up a 1953 Australian Home Journal. The magazine makes for interesting reading, especially the adds - little things like boil tested buttons. That brought back memories of an old copper in my mother's laundry. I think she still used it when we were young. She also had a much newer wringer washing machine that did the bulk of the laundry. I think that the copper was used for boiling water. I'll have to check with Mum. Obviously it was common to wash clothes in boiling water, hence the ad.
Look at those skinny waists!!! They're most definitely out of proportion to the rest of the body. I'm sure the picture is exaggerated. I do remember as a teenage (MUCH later than 1953), having an obsession with having a skinny waist. Now-a-days, I think it's all about bust size. Ha, ha.. I wanted that too.
I bought the magazine for the patterns inside; not the women's dresses. I don't think I could ever wear a dress like these. I know dresses with waists and full skirts are back in vogue, but to me they will always be old fashioned. They're the clothes my mother's generation wore and you always want to dress differently to your mother.
I think the little girls' dresses are adorable. Add a little length and they could easily be worn today without looking out of place.The pattern pieces look like they've never been used. However, the only markings are perforations. When I began sewing, pattern markings were printed as they are today.
I'm sure it won't be hard to decipher them. With a quick look online, I've found a few resources. Tips for sewing with vintage patterns:
- Working with Vintage Patterns - up to the 1950s
- Tips for Sewing with Vintage Patterns - mainly 1940s
- Vintage Pattern Sizing
- Vintage Patterns 101 - Top Tips
- How to Make a Vintage Dress: Tips for Sewing Success
- What's Old is New Again: Sewing Vintage Patterns
I also bought a few patterns in envelopes. Simplicity 3499 was produced in 1951. I think that little scalloped bodice is gorgeous. Don't think I'd make the bolero, but I could see the dress working for a young girl, maybe with a few less gathers.
Note how it's just one size. When I began garment sewing (again, MUCH later than 1951), patterns were only ever for one size. I never bothered to trace the tissue patterns. If you were careful with the tissue paper, it was fine. And to be honest, I rarely ever made the same thing more than once. Remember, I was only sewing for myself at that stage.
According to Vintage Patterns Wikia, Butterick 2122 was made around 1961. I'm not so sure of that. Decimal currency was introduced into Australia in 1966. This is an earlier pattern than the one on Vintage Patterns Wikia, as this one has both currencies, which leads me to believe it was made around 1966 - give or take a couple of years. Anyway, still an old pattern.
Butterick 5342 has to be from the 70s. Garment styles from earlier eras usually spanned decades, but 70s clothing was distinctive. Bell bottom pants - I loved them!!! The wider the better. Not so sure that I'd wear them again if they ever came back into popularity. I can see possibilities for that tunic top, though. I can guarantee it has a properly constructed back opening.
Standards for patterns were consistent. The same construction techniques were used throughout the Big 4 pattern companies - Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls and Vogue. Obviously there were degrees of difficulty and I always found Vogue to be harder to sew than the rest, due in full to my lack of experience. The more difficult the pattern, the more skills you had to know, or acquire, in order to sew them.
As far as I'm concerned, the consistency between patterns covers the high quality I referred to in the definition at the beginning of the post.
So, back to my original question, how old does a sewing pattern have to be to make it vintage? All of my purchases were classed as vintage, even the 70s pattern. When I think of vintage, I think of before I was born. I don't like to think of anything in my lifetime as being vintage... LOL!!! Vintage Patterns Wikia talks about vintage patterns as being 25 years or older. By that definition, anything from 1990 or earlier is vintage. Almost all of you will have been born before 1990. Patterns produced after you were born are classified as vintage. Now I'm not alone.
At some point we'll have to stop relying just on when a pattern was made to classify it as vintage. Now-a-days there is not that consistency across patterns. I'm not sure if this has occurred solely with the introduction of PDF patterns. I don't often use paper patterns from the Big 4, but the sizing doesn't seem to be as reliable as it once was. I don't have the same confidence in the Big 4 as I once had.
Don't get me wrong. There are LOTS of wonderful modern day patterns, both paper and PDF. Unfortunately, there are others that are not up to the same high standard. That, however, is a discussion for another post.
We visited several antique shops that day, but Hazelbrook Cottage Antiques and Vintage Haberdashery topped the lot. We ended up at Everglades historic house and gardens at Leura. Well worth a visit if you are up that way, both for the spectacular scenery and the well structured gardens.
I have no immediate plans to sew up my new to me vintage patterns. To say I'm thrilled with my finds is an understatement. What are your thoughts and experiences re sewing with vintage patterns? Do you remember sewing any of them first time around?