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Jan 6, 2011

The Wacky World of Men's Shirt Patterns



Readers, I am stoked about our upcoming MPB Men's Shirt Sew-Along -- so much so in fact that I am using words like stoked, which I hate.

Tomorrow I should have some exciting news about starting dates, pattern choices, and perhaps even a special discount available to MPB readers.   (NOTE: Pleasing My Palate readers may be subject to a small surcharge.)  Stay tuned!

I spent more time than I care to admit researching men's shirt patterns last night, and what a wild and wonderful world it is!

I said in passing yesterday that men's shirt patterns are more the same than they are different and this is true.  I did uncover quite a broad range of shirt styles, however, some of which I actually remember as the fashion of the day, others from old Bing Crosby movies, and others from recurrent nightmares involving dude ranches and Spin and Marty.


And speaking of nightmares, was there ever a more ill-conceived concept than unisex?  The very word conjures up memories of scary counterculture types, Haight-Ashbury, and The Big Cube (see video below).

When unisex invaded the pattern companies, well, is it any surprise the results were unfortunate?

From bad... (Togetherness? Who needs it?)



To worse.



To rock-bottom hatey-Eighties (yes, his-and-hers shirt, pants, and blazer).



But I digress.

The heyday of the men's shirt pattern is the immediate postwar period when all of a sudden a generation of men had leisure and needed something to wear to it.  (Luckily those days are rapidly drawing to a close.)

Adult men could now dress up like their favorite Western heroes.





Play golf.



Go on vacation (sometimes together).



And smoke pipes.



The peak of invention was also the beginning the end...





...as styles quickly spun out of control.





(Please rest assured there will be no Apache shirts in our sew-along and anyone wishing to make one is on their own.)

Since then, most men shirt patterns have become.... well you decide.





Oh my, how time flies!

I bought this 1939 pattern yesterday on Etsy.  I'm very curious about that removable collar in the upper right corner.  Cool or what?



In closing, friends, did your fathers, brothers, uncles, maiden aunts, etc., wear any of these shirt patterns?  What do you think happened to the shirt pattern over the last sixty-five years and why?

Are you getting stoked about our upcoming adventures in flat-felling, topstitching, and placket pressing?  Hope so!

Have a great day, everybody!

52 comments:

  1. A sew-along for me at last. I'm so pleased!

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  2. OMG The Big Cube!! I saw that movie once late late at night and I didnt know if I had dreamed it all or if the director and crew had taken a few LSD before shooting! Poor Lana, this is up there with the late Joan Crawford movies (Bersek, anyone?)

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  3. a long time ago (turn of the previous century? or mid 1800s?), collars and cuffs were removeable, so that they could be cleaned/starched. i believe it also had something to do with reducing wear.

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  4. That said, I'll be following this sewalong with interest. My boyfriend keeps asking me to sew him a shirt, but I can't find a pattern *he* likes (no wonder, the selection is blah). Is anybody trying the Negroni Colette pattern?

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  5. I love the men's shirts that come with the different colored collars. I know that removable collars used to exist so you could take them off and starch them or whatever. But I like the idea of there being different colors/patterns on them.
    Nothing crazy but mixing blue color with a white shirt, or just a subtle pattern. it'd be like wearing a scarf.

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  6. I laughed till I fell off my chair. God I just LOVE some of these patterns.

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  7. I think removable collars were common in those times. I remember reading about the poor family in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, where the father bought starched collars and dickies before a performing gig, or a waiter job. Most common folk probably handwashed their clothes back then, and to keep a collar stiff, it was probably not washed at all, or if it was, it would have to be starched like mad. Just a conjecture! -Catherine

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  8. The Apache shirt isn't freaking me out as much as those Apache pants. Or that movie clip. Or the fee I'm going to have to pay. ;-)

    I think my worst men's shirt style nightmare is the silky/poly disco shirts, unbuttoned nearly to the navel and revealing a hairy chest, a gold horn, and too many chains.

    I'm going to use a stash pattern - Kwik Sew 3422. I should also check the fabric inventory to see if I have anything suitable.

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  9. Uh...

    I owned the patterns for the Nehru jacket and dashiki in middle school...and made them up and wore them, too...no, I'm not proud of the fact. Never the Apache shirt, though -- one must have standards.

    I do Victorian re-enactment (boiling over into steampunk) and do make and wear shirts with removable collars and cuffs. I believe that they are still part of the wardrobe of certain individuals (Karl Lagerfeld being a prime example. Of what, you ask? You decide).

    The shirts themselves (sans collars and cuffs) are also part of my everyday wardrobe. Love them.

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  10. "... a generation of men had leisure and needed something to wear to it. (Luckily those days are rapidly drawing to a close.)"

    Oh Peter, I read your blog not only for the camp but for the pithy reflections on modern society.

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  11. Wait: I get the removable collar thing, but if you remove the cuffs, what remains but a shirt sleeve stump?

    Please enlighten.

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  12. Butterick 7637...oh! I had a version of that shirt back in 1979. it was a yellow gray and white plaid. my friends bought it for me at the thrift store and i wore it to the club the following evening to much acclaim. The plaid was so great coming over the shoulder; it skewed and formed a diagonal ( not quite bias) front yoke. i believe that mine was a commercial version of the shirt as I do not remember thinking anything particular about seaming being home/hand made, and we all would have jumped on the opportunity to sew our own....we were a weird bunch!

    i just purchased a copy....i am going to knit a sweater with the same yoke.

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  13. Oh, how many of those shirts did I look through yesterday on ebay, looking for a dress shirt pattern in my size (finally found and purchased as a make an offer). Unfortunately, I remember those clothes when style went crazy and oh, how I wanted to dress like that. I'm so glad my Mom was against it. I don't have to ever say I did that. Lane

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  14. You may want to watch out for that 80s Burda - are you sure you shouldn't be putting shoulder pads in that? I don't think you're ready for that..

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  15. I love that S8006 "mod meditation guru" shirt! Apparently, judging from what Google just told me, not only is it pretty rare but Simp used the same number for an 80s womens' shirt dress pattern.

    Of course, the burning question is: Would hubby wear one if I got my hands on that pattern and made one for him?

    For fellow Trekkers out there ... that looks to be the exact pattern for the original series dress uniforms ... ;)

    (my geek is showing again, isn't it?)

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  16. Peter, Peter, Peter, you read my mind. How did you know that I had a series (a series!) of posts on men's shirt stylings!!! You even used some of the same patterns. Please don't think I'm copying when mine publish next week. They are part of my on-going Pattern Details series which pulls out details from vintage patterns from collars to sleeves to pocket variations.

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  17. Lsaspacey, all communication henceforth will be via my attorneys.

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  18. Can you at least provide a live link! ;)

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  19. Back in 1979 I made my boyfriend, dad, and brother in law Vogue 9617 in the same plaid fabric. Somewhere I have a photo of them all in their matching shirts. I used the same pattern to make my boyfriend more shirts. I still have the pattern.

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  20. Peter, re: detachable cuffs. At the end of a 19th century shirtsleeve there is a cuffband (or wristband), like a narrow cuff (maybe 1.25 inches wide) with buttonholes in it. The starched cuff lies on top of this wristband and the cufflinks go through a buttonhole on the top of the cuff, through the two holes in the wristband and out the hole on the underside of the cuff. It's like having two cuffs, one on top of the other, only the inner one (the wristband) is much narrower and thus unseen. I was curious about how it would work before I started using them, and it actually works very well. I use a shirt, collar and cuff pattern from Laughing Moon Mercantile; they have excellent patterns for Victorian clothing (I have used several of them).

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  21. I bought that golf one (same shirt, different pattern envelope - that collar opening clearly did the rounds for a while) with the idea of making it up for my husband. He wasn't having any of it. In the end he agreed that, maybe, as a pyjama top, if I really insisted on making it... Needless to say the pattern sits there untouched.

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  22. On the detachable collar & cuffs - starch was an issue because they need much more than the body of the shirt. But these are also the parts of the shirt that receive the most wear & dirt, so instead of replacing an entire shirt when it was worn out just change the collar & cuffs. Likewise, when laundry is done only once a week it is easier to maintain appearances by changing parts. Remember too, not only did men have to worry about ring around the collar they also wore hair oil so both sides took a beating. Same reason there were so many doilies on the backs of furniture in Victorian times - they were anti-macassars. Sorry for the wrong spelling but it was the popular men's hair oil at the time.

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  23. The shirt I made my hubby last summer was from a unisex pattern. Unisex seems to be a codeword for "gigantic and shapeless" ... Which worked for this particular pattern but I wouldn't've wanted to wear it myself.

    Looking at all those makes me soooooo happy with the pattern I've picked! :)

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  24. I've come across toddler dress patterns with removable collars and cuffs... Of course, me being me, I permanently attached them!

    For the sew-along, I'm not going vintage. (Vintage is hard when your sewees are all over six feet tall. This will likely be for my older brother, who is 6'3. The one just younger than me is 6'1, and my youngest brother is 6'7... if this works out, he'll be getting a shirt for his birthday.) I'm buying my pattern on a dollar sale at Joanns, taking a few more measurements that I didn't take for the PJs, and going to town with the sew-along!

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  25. I've inherited a vintage Advance shirt pattern that my mother-in-law used to sew my father-in-law's shirts. Might be fun to use it for my husband. I'd have to alter tho - my better half is considerably shorter than his dad was (what happened there?)
    As for the removable collar thing, MY mom said it was a bit of shock after marriage to my dad that he expected her to 'turn' his collars when they started to show wear!

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  26. Where was McCalls 7590 when I was looking for a pattern of that exact style? I love it. I ended up bastardising a Burda pattern to get that look. Do you own that pattern or did you find it on the web somewhere? I want to buy it!

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  27. It's for currently for sale on Etsy, Carol.

    http://www.etsy.com/listing/57124799/vintage-60s-sewing-pattern-mccalls-7590

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  28. I like your DuBarry and the pipe smoking shirt... I hadn't planned any shirts for husband (he has plenty of linen field shirts...) but I might join in to make the shirt for his vintage pj's... hmm...

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  29. If I hadn't started a running program, I'd run out right now to buy tobacco and start smoking a pipe! Thanks for all these great patterns. I just hope there won't EVER be a caftan sew along. Seriously, has anyone ever worn one?

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  30. I love, love, LOVE the caftan. I can definitely see you "poolside" in that hot getup.

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  31. How quickly we forget...

    http://malepatternboldness.blogspot.com/2010/02/aye-aye-caftan-with-poll.html

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  32. I see you snuck a new sew-along button onto your sidebar, and I promptly stole it and added it to my blog too.

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  33. Debbie, I owe you an eggplant casserole big time! XOX

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  34. Thanks for the stroll down fashion lane. It looks like there were a couple of wrong turns along the way.

    I have several shirt patterns here in my collection of patterns... I say collection because I purchased them to sew but it just never happened. So I'll look through there first to see if something strikes my fancy.

    I guess I need to look up the Negroni shirt. Perhaps it is just an outside joke and I am on the outside.

    I would like to have leisure time and something to wear to it as well!

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  35. If you're ordering it, wait a day -- more tomorrow!

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  36. I SO want to see The Big Cube now.

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  37. The Apache shirt... Is it bad that I have that pattern? Is it worse that I like it and wish my boyfriend were open to wearing it??? Aw, well, at least he loves the 70s short-sleeve button-up I made for him. It even has turned-up cuffs!

    As for a sew-along, I'd love to participate! I have the current shirt from Simplicity that I've sewn a good six times now. I like this idea of "mindful" sewing. If I get my machine fixed before Feb, I'm in!

    BTW Peter, you're awesome :D

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  38. That see-through shirt with the guy's nipples showing is just disturbing.

    I will sew-a-long, but for the little men in my life. There are actually some rather sophisticated and fashion-forward offerings for boys in Ottobre magazine. Perhaps I will get a jump on Easter.

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  39. Ahhhhh, I was thinking of getting the Negroni pattern anyway! :)

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  40. Erm, think I may stick to M2447 for my challenge. It looks rubbish, but the line drawings are a little more promising - at least this one has a yoke which many of the modern patterns don't.
    Peter, I'd be stoked if I knew what it means! Have included your button on my blog

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  41. I have that Simplicity unisex pattern (only the woman's version thank God) but even so I have a feeling it's not gonna sell if I put it in my vintage pattern Etsy shop for all the reasons you explain! The guy in the pink see through top is scary too.

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  42. My husband was just saying the other day that I haven't sewn him anything. And I still haven't been part of a sew-along (timing never worked), so maybe this is fate?!

    I will stay tuned for more instructions :)

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  43. I have made many shirts for our little boys but none for husband. I keep meaning to but have never found the right pattern, so with much joy and stashed fabric I look forward to this sew-along. Not to sure about husband tho.

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  44. Hoohoo what a post. Back in the 70s my dad made a shirt similar to those in the last few patterns - very disco-hippie boy. We still have it and I'll see if I can dig it out.
    I absolutely want to join this, as I have a men's shirt pattern I've been meaning to sew for my Jason for awhile. It is an 80s western style but it has this great historically inspired wrap front.

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  45. Where did you get all those patterns!

    Sadly I traveled through most of those times of scary fashions...peace man!

    Happy Sewing, this will be fun to watch :0)

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  46. Trying to order the Negroni and the code won't work??

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  47. Okay, figured it out - you can't cut & paste - you must type it in manually. :)

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  48. Peter,
    Here's the link to the live post. Part 2 will post on Wednesday.

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  49. ROFL. I've been trying to get my hands on decent vintage shirt patterns for my (very butch) girlfriend. That DuBarry one is fab! Negroni is going to be a lifesaver ;)

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