I often receive emails from male readers asking me about patterns. There's usually a photo attached -- something right out of The Sartorialist -- of a beautifully attired man in Tribeca or London or Milan, and the question is always, Where can I find a contemporary pattern to make that jacket (or pants, or coat)? And the answer is always the same: You can't.
|Photo courtesy of The Sartorialist|
Here is a confession that won't win me friends in the pattern companies: I have never seen an in-print mens pattern that excited me enough to purchase it. Sure, there are some nice things at Vogue, a few Burda patterns that aren't hideous, perhaps a Kwik Sew with possibilities, etc. With men's patterns it's all about tweaking: Can you take that middle-of-the-road jeans pattern and do it in toile de Jouy? Can you narrow the lapels of that 1977 suit pattern and make it look less Saturday Night Fever? It takes perseverance and patience and creativity -- or the willingness to trace from a book in Japanese.
For men (and those who sew for men), the pattern pickings have always been slim because:
a) Most men don't sew and not enough do to make mens patterns profitable (i.e., supply and demand);
b) Most men don't follow fashion, plus mens clothes don't really change much from decade to decade (let alone year to year); and...
c) Men's tailored clothes require sewing and tailoring skills (and tools) that very few home sewers ever acquire (or have access to).
So it's mainly scrubs, pajamas, and fleece for us.
The late 60's and 70's were an exception. A lot of mens patterns were printed and they can still be found today, often uncut and like new. From this period of plenty, there is one pattern company that stands above the rest, and that is Butterick. Sometime during the 70's, Butterick added the tagline "The Fashion One." Once you start paying attention, you will notice that many of these patterns are fashion-forward and sexy and, despite being forty years old, hold lots of possibilities for contemporary sewers
All the pattern companies were putting out more body-conscious clothes during this period -- bold-patterned leisure suits and bum-hugging disco pants. But Butterick did it with more style. The illustrations were often provocative and, in my opinion, openly courted the "queer eye."
Think men's swimsuit patterns are boring and sexless? How about this number for your next South Beach vacation?
Want stylish separates seemingly inspired by The Mary Tyler Moore Show? Try these!
Attending a Boys in the Band theme party? Try this floor-length caftan cut up to here!
What happened to Butterick, you might ask? How did we go from "The Fashion One" to total blandness?
My hunch is that the more flamboyant patterns didn't sell very well and the target customer changed: more Main Street, less Christopher Street. Perhaps a few heads rolled at the company too.
It's sad, really, because while there aren't a lot of male sewers out there, we that do sew already have all the bowling shirts we need.
I encourage guys -- and the women who sew for them -- to explore the wonderful world of vintage patterns, particularly those groovy old Buttericks. They're not always available at all times in every size, but they do show up frequently on eBay and Etsy.
If more men sewed, things could change, of course. But the investment it takes to create and market patterns, and the accommodations that must be made to common-denominator tastes and fit, make it very unlikely we'll be able to stitch up high fashion for ourselves any time soon.
|Hermes, Spring/Summer 2013: You have a year!|
Be creative and don't give up.
You can read more about the dearth -- but not death! -- of mens sewing patterns here, here, and here.
You can see more vintage Butterick patterns here.
Happy 4th of July, everybody!