Calandra Cooper

Behind the scenes of old time pattern making.

Calandra Cooper
Behind the scenes of old time pattern making.

Behind the scenes of old time pattern making.

The Sketch

Before the collection showing, the designer’s inspiration began with a fashion sketch of each design that would go in the line.

The Miniature

After the sketches, the designer made a miniature pattern of each design in muslin, fitting it on a half or quarter scale form.

After changes were made on the scale a full-size muslin copy was made.

Each pattern piece was checked against the pattern “staple,” one of a series of heavily glazed paper pattern parts, to ensure absolute accuracy.

The muslin was then made up in every version shown on the pattern envelope, for example, with short sleeves, long sleeve, full skirt, circle skirt and ect.

The muslin was then fitted on a live model to check ease and movement. After any and all adjustments were mad and the muslin re-fitted on a model (as often as necessary to achieve perfection), the designer okayed the muslin.

The Fabrics

Next, the fabric expert determined the best suitable fabrics for the design and the pattern would be made up in the chosen fabrics.

The artist then sketched the perfected design-in suitable fabric-for the pattern envelope and for the pattern catalog. The sketches were perfect in scale and color, including the actual trimmings, accessories and shoes used on the pilot dress and model depiction.

The Diagram & Pattern

The finished sketches and the muslin model then went to the diagram department, where the dress was cut in half.

The right side was ripped apart and the notches and construction indications added to the muslin. The left side of the garment remained whole for comparison during the process.

After pressing the right side of the garment flat and exact duplicate of each pattern piece was made on heavy paper to become the master pattern.

Each size received a master pattern, which was then traced out to include seams, darts, cutting lines and inch-rulers for alterations, arrows for straight of grain and other construction details.

Sewing Guide

The master pattern was used as a guide for the sewing guide, including yardage requirements printed on the envelope.

The pattern pieces were also laid out on fabrics of varying widths and as each layout was completed it was sketched. The same was true for trimmings and interlinings.

An expert then wrote instructions in varying languages, including Spanish, French and English.


In the meantime, tracings from the master pattern went to printing. There zinc plates were made from the tracings, the plates were put on giant printing presses and huge rolls of tissue paper were fed into the press.

Each pattern was printed on a single sheet of paper and later cut apart into the necessary various pattern pieces. The pattern pieces were then folded and placed into pattern envelopes by hand.