Calandra Cooper

Sizing vintage sewing patterns

Calandra Cooper
Sizing vintage sewing patterns

How do you know what size vintage sewing pattern to purchase when selecting a pattern for yourself or someone else?

Purchasing a particular vintage sewing pattern you like in the exact size you need is going to be hard because you’re limited to what’s out there and what’s available. And even if you were that lucky the probability of the pattern fitting you perfectly is most likely-zero.

My advice, don’t make a BIG deal of it. Purchase based on the bust or chest and go from there because you’re going to have to do some extra work, work not very much unlike what you should do when working with a modern-day commercial sewing pattern today.

While it’s a good idea to purchase based on your bust size, it’s only a starting point. After making your purchase you’ll need to compare the waist, hips and neck to back measurements against those of the vintage pattern to get the best “rough” measurements of the changes you’ll need to make.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Vintage sizing isn’t the same as what we see today. Sizing of vintage patterns varied by manufacturer.  At some point, there was an attempt to uniform pattern sizing, but for the greater time periods there was no uniformity in sizing.

  • Vintage sewing pattern manufacturers widely practiced vanity sizing. This is where sewing pattern clothing size numbers dropped, but the measurements remained the same.  This was mostly to make purchasers feel better about themselves and to help manufacturers make more money. 

  • Copy the pattern. This will make resizing and grading easier-no matter the method you use and you’re preserving the integrity of the original pattern for later use or if you have to refer back to it later.

  • Grade/re-size the pattern. I like the old-fashioned, but useful “cut and slash” method. Adele Margolis’ book, “How to Make Clothes that Fit and Flatter” is worth having in your “Help” library, in the book she discusses grading up and down using two methods. The online course “Create Any Size: Pattern Grading for Sewers,” is worth having as a keeper.

  • Make a muslin of the altered/re-sized pattern to check for ease and fit. Making muslins should become the norm in all of your garment sewing.

  • Perfect. Perfect. Perfect the muslin before making a new flat pattern before cutting into your final fashion fabric.