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Dec 12, 2011

Who You Callin' Ugly?

Friends, it is but a tired cliché that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet isn't it the truth?  I open with this photo of Barbra Streisand because when she burst onto the scene in the early Sixties many people considered her to be ugly, and yet today her style is considered iconic.

And speaking of Barbra, if you'd like to dress up like the pregnant bride in Funny Girl,  I have just the pattern for you, Butterick 5564!

This is all my very roundabout way of getting to today's topic, which is ugly patterns.  I want to be clear from the outset, however, that patterns I consider ugly may be your idea of hello, gorgeous, and that's OK.  I'm not here to change minds.

I think there's so much focus at MPB on beautiful things -- beautiful clothes, beautiful wigs, beautiful bloggers -- that we sometimes need a palate cleanser, something to help us recalibrate our evaluation skills.

In the past, I've focused solely on patterns from the ugly decades (the Seventies & Eighties), but this feels much too easy.  Need proof?  Try this:

Or this:

Or THIS!  (I wonder if Bill Hackey ever sewed it up.)

Many people think there were no ugly pattens before the Seventies.   I am determined to change your minds.

Even I believed that the Forties were utterly ugly-pattern free.  Yet how would you like to be the six year old wearing Joan Crawford's old shoulder pads?

And honestly, who but June Allyson could have pulled off this yoked blouse, complete with Peter Pan collar and ruffles.  It's so sweet it makes my teeth ache.

And this patterned jumper -- busy, busy, busy!

But it was in the Fifties that we got our first glimpse of fashions gone haywire, as the Postwar frills got even frillier: bell sleeves, bows, crinolines -- it's all simply too much.

The alternative Fifties silhouette was the sheath.  But this late-Fifties version looks too much like a bottle of Palmolive dishwashing liquid.

Loud prints were the rage in the mid-Sixties, but surely this unfortunately placed strawberry is an error in judgment on a pattern marked Quickie.

Moving right along, the teddy nightgown was a terrible idea, but it's worse paired with long pajama pants, don't you think?

When considering ugly patterns, let's not overlook accessories patterns.   Those Renaissance Italy-inspired chin-strapped hats make me think only of wisdom teeth extractions.

Costume patterns seem like easy targets, but honestly, this is beyond the pale.

And now for the big finish:  The best of the worst:


Uglier...  (Kwik Sew 1926 if you're wondering)


Yes, friends, make the echt-Eighties over-sized, boxy jacket even bigger -- add fringe!

In closing, readers, I do hope your palettes are now sufficiently cleansed.  Truly, are there uglier than these? (If you can find any, let me know.)  Tell the truth: some of you like a lot of these patterns, don't you?  I'll bet some of you own a few of them, too.

If anyone has fringe fantasy Kwik Sew 2031 in their stash, speak up!  We don't want to embarrass you; we want to help you.

Happy Monday,  beautiful people!


  1. I'll admit it: I am in love with Kwik Sew 2031. I'd substitute the fringe for ruffles, as ruffles are very "in" right now.

  2. Kwik Sew 2031 would be a great pattern if you were hoping to go as a shrunken head for Halloween.

  3. and i love the McCalls 4839 .. I could wear that and make it work

  4. My first reaction it Monday? I have NO idea what day of the week it that is scary.

    I do have to admit that I love, love, love Simplicity 5362...

  5. I've seen some real winning Kwik Sews and Stretch and Sew patterns at the thrift stores. (but also, some really great basics so I can't hate!)

  6. This is indeed a great list of ugliness! Here's a more-recent list:

    with funny comments... ahhh ugly patterns, so fun to look at though... gets the giggles out!

  7. That strawberry number is the best worst pattern ever! It's hilarious!

  8. i love ugly sewing patterns, the same way you might love an dog. i just feel sorry for them. they make me feel better about my life choices, you know?

    also, today someone found my blog by searching "male pattern boldness most unflattering sewing patterns." well thank you, i guess.

  9. this is too funny!! I may have worn some of that in the 80's hahahahah but never, ever a hoo haa strawberry!

  10. That strawberry was a subliminal message.....

  11. True confession: that Vogue 5152 at the top of your list? My mom made that for me in the most beautiful bright striped cotton and *ahem* I still have the dress. But yes, my kids laugh at it. If only it still fit.

    Also, when my daughter was 2, I made her that Raggedy Ann costume. She was adorable. ;)

  12. Peter:

    Wow - you DO know your June Allyson. That pattern is her to the nth degree. Allyson is one of my pet peeves - my personal gold standard for let's-take-a-talentless-person-and-sell-her-to-the-masses-as-a-star-just-for-the-hell-of-it.

    I had a real shock when I first looked at this page - the thumbnail for Simplicity 5362 made the second model from the left look topless - the sleeveless turtleneck doesn't "read" at the thumbnail size. I was sitting there thinking, "MY, Simplicity was being awfully European back then!"

  13. I WANT that little yellow dress from Butterick 5564 in the worst way. It is adorable! I have to find that pattern now :) Thanks, Peter!

  14. This calls for a "Let's Prove Peter Wrong" Sew-a-long...


    (Disclaimer: I may have had to much coffee today)

  15. AND I found it on ebay just now and I bought it! I can't wait for my new little mod dress ;P Thanks again, Peter. Let's hear it for ugly!

  16. Now, that baby doll jammie pattern is cute... for a three year old. Exhibit A. :) The ugliest pattern I've ever come across I've never found again. Apparently, somebody bought it. It was for a little girl's jumper in which the bib was a huge flower!

  17. I saw that fringe jacket pattern at my local thrift store!!! I giggled out loud when I found it. For some strange reason, I feel like Cathy could pull it off.

  18. My mother (a young thing in the 1940's) always hated June Allyson. In fact, she used the name to designate the sort of phony, sugary, fake-nice girly personality she despised: "a real June Allyson type". So I knew what that pattern would look like even before I scrolled down to it.

    On the other hand, I rather like the McCalls 4839 sheath. Maybe that's just because I always find 50's sheaths quite chic, as I do admit that this one could benefit from a different neckline treatment.

    Well done all around, though, Peter. And you definitely saved the ugliest for last!
    -- stashdragon

  19. Wait: I LIKE June Allyson, it's the blouse I hate.

    @Laurel -- I sure can move the merchandise! Keep that pattern; you can get married in it.

  20. Lol, don't forget Peter that a lot of patterns in the past were designed, or influenced, by men! Most of whom obviously had no idea of comfort, mix and match or ease of care!
    Thanks for the laugh to start the week.

  21. Peter:

    All I can say about June is:

    Watch Norma Shearer in "The Women."

    Now watch June playing the same part in the 1956 remake, "The Opposite Sex."

    Case closed. What keeps "The Opposite Sex" in my video collection is the presence of Dolores Gray, Ann Miller and Joans Blondell and Collins in it. That and the fact that Helen Rose must have been on steroids when she designed the costumes.

  22. ~ * ♥ * ~

    Oh dear, apparently I'm so biased that the so-called ugly 40s and 50s patterns just look yummy to me! Although I do draw the line at six year olds wearing shoulder pads! To ridiculous for me! : P

    bonita of Depict This!
    ~ * ♥ * ~

  23. Simplicity 5362 sure looks a whole bunch like those "Rock Hudson pool party" men's get-ups you featured recently. Am I wrong?

  24. My mother made McCall's 5254 for the five of us one Halloween! Came with instructions for the yarn wigs too. We looked good!

  25. I got a box of free patterns from a friend's mom which had some beautiful things in it, but I think my favorite were the patterns for covers for all of the 70's era essential appliances; toaster, blender, etc *with* frills. (I mean, seriously - who needs a blender cover?)

    As a side note, I thought that shoulder pads were really cool when I was little =D

  26. Far be it for me to correct such a witty and brilliant blogger, but I believe Advance 8489 is a "baby doll" pyjama, not a "teddy".

    Your average teddy is a bit more (ahem) provocative, which is a lot more than you can say for this Advance horror.

  27. Far be it for me to correct such a witty and brilliant blogger, but I believe Advance 8489 is a "baby doll" pyjama, not a "teddy".

    Your average teddy is a bit more (ahem) provocative, which is a lot more than you can say for this Advance horror.

  28. Laughing at all the fug patterns UNTIL I saw the Kwik Sew jumpsuit. I actually BOUGHT one of those in the 1990s (sold by Multiples. It could be worn in so many ways!) and I ROCKED it (without shoulder pads). Kind of sad I gave it away now...

    And that top is SO June Allyson. Love her!

  29. Merciless. Merciless, I tell ya! Actually, I agree with all with two exceptions:

    1. That first pattern was pretty good for it's time frame
    2. View 3 of the June Allyson blouse

    I have never had any of the patterns shown. Thank Goodness!

  30. LMAO

    I nearly bought Simplicity 5362 last week to make the blue button front pants for my miss22 who is a very eclectic dresser.

    And i love McCalls 3839 the 'Palmolive dishwashing bottle' dress hahaha; i'd wear it with nae a care in the world haha

    Cliche or not; beauty really is in the eye of the beholder!

  31. The first two and a couple of the later ones were not all that bad. The rest are truly uglyyyyy.

  32. Oh my -- this was so much fun, and I needed a good laugh this morning! I agree with the other commenter that View 3 of the June Allyson blouse isn't bad. Not that I'd wear it; I'm way too irritable to prance around in sweet ruffles batting my eyelashes at people. I'd much rather channel the Funny Girl in the shocking maternity bridal gown.

  33. lladybird's blog is hilarious!
    I think I had a jumpsuit like that Kwik Sew one, and I looked great in it! Yikes!
    Also, I made and wore a "dishwashing detergent bottle" dress, we called it a "chemise" when I was 14, and it looked great. They were meant to be really tight in the hips. Little hat, kitten heels. Wow!
    I am still laughing out loud.

  34. HA HA HA! LOL! Peter, thanks for giving me a much needed laugh. Your descriptions are right on point. That strawberry! I didn’t even notice it was labeled “Quickie” until you pointed it out! HA HA HA HA! (Although I DO like the shift withOUT the strategically placed strawberry.)

    Sorry, Elle, but the first thing I thought of when I saw Vogue 5152 was Glinda the good witch from the Wizard of Oz – even though I remember all too well when that style was considered all the rage. I once had a dress similar to the yellow dress from Butterick 5564 and the Kwik Sew 1926 looks v-e-r-y familiar.

  35. Kwik Sew 1926 will come in handy if I ever decide to go to a costume party as Pat Benatar!

  36. I'm pretty sure my kid sister had a frock very much like the short version of Vogue 5152, probably with a velvet bodice and taffeta sleeves and skirt. Way back then, it wasn't a bad dress; there are definitely worse examples from that period. Today I look at it and my biggest objection is that the lower edge of the bodice is cut straight across, rather than pointed or scooped; most women who wore that style ended up looking boxy through the torso.

    I'd definitely make the skirt from McCall's 5108 (the jumper pattern), but I'm not a jumper fan (no offense to your cousin). And Simplicity 2483 is cute in the third view, sans Peter Pan collar, but OMG you are so right about June Allyson!

  37. That pregnancy wedding gown pattern (Butterick 5564)is the pattern from my wedding dress at my first wedding. My best friend's mother offered to make the dress. We made the view e top, but made it full length--from white sand crepe. I remember there was a trim with some blue in it on the underbodice.

    And as luck would have it, I was 10 weeks pregnant at the altar, so it really was a pregnancy wedding dress, even if I wasn't showing yet.

  38. My mom made my sister and me the raggedy ann costumes for halloween one year. Complete with calico fabric for the dress. She recently gave them to me for my kids to play with. Thanks mom...

  39. oooh--simplicity 2132 depicts my 8th grade graduation dress (store-bought), and boy, did I think I was gor-geous!
    Actually saw Funny Girl on Broadway! my college roommate's father had a business associate who put us up in his classy residential hotel in our own suite, took us to many fine dining establishments like Tavern on the Green, got us great seats for Funny Girl--and made us feel like a couple of swells! Thanks for the memories!!

  40. I'm another one who was Raggedy Ann in the 80's (from the 5254 pattern). I went trick or treating with a little boy done up as Andy, and we got a TON of candy!

  41. Yes, but your parents weren't wearing matching outfits, were they? (see pattern) ;)

  42. I have that Simplicity hat pattern! I think I got it at the same thrift store as this hilarious smocked pillows pattern:

    They seem to be simply for my amusement whenever I go through my collection...

  43. I USED TO OWN THAT RAGGEDY ANN ONE! I totally got that in a bag of vintage patterns I was gifted and kinda sorta spent ages trying to pawn it off on people before I sucked it up and just... disappeared it.


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