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Sep 2, 2011

Vintage Pattern Treasure Trove!

Readers, a confession:  While I'm not the type of person who would ever wish anybody ill, neither am I thrilled to hear that better things are happening to other people than to me.  It's a character flaw, I know it.

It's not like I'm never excited for somebody when something good happens to them, it just depends on how good.  If they find $10 in the street, say, or stumble up fabulous designer fabric for a mere $2 a yard, fantastic!  But if they tell me they were just cast opposite Matt Damon in an upcoming feature film, or were chosen as the new face of Revlon, or were invited to Monaco for Princess Stephanie's 46th birthday, while I might look really happy for them on the outside, on the inside I'm thinking, Why not me? 

The trouble with being this way is that when something exciting happens to me, I'm not quite sure how to share it: I just assume everybody's going to react the way I would (hello, projection!) and resent me.  I want people to be happy for me and to share my good fortune, but I assume they're thinking, Idontwannnahearaboutit!

That's the price one pays for being an envious person, I guess.  I think that's why it's one of the seven deadly sins.  So what's my point? 

Friends, yesterday I received a treasure trove of vintage patterns in the mail.  I'm not authorized to share too many details about their origin, but I will say that these patterns have been in storage for many, many decades.  Roughly half have been used, the other half are still factory folded.

You already know that I love 30s and 40s dress patterns (actually, I love most pre-Eighties dress patterns), and while I wouldn't call myself a collector -- I only purchase patterns I intend to make -- I have become something of an accumulator, as patterns seem to find me as often as I find them, and when it comes to donations, I Cain't Say No.

With the exception of Cathy's late-Twenties flapper dress, I've never made anything earlier than the mid-to-late Thirties.  The early Thirties patterns, however, are charming, and feature all kinds of dainty details like flutter sleeves, ruffles, and gathered yokes.

The lot in question included four wonderful Thirties Simplicity patterns from 1932-1935, and here is my favorite -- a lounging pajama outfit with three unique variations.  It's even in a size 36" -- perfect!

One version shows Peter Pan collar and matching jacket...

Another has a removable apron -- how cool is that?  A third has shirred flutter sleeves!  Heaven.

I adore the pattern artwork from this period, too.  Doesn't this outfit scream early Ginger Rogers?

Here are two patterns with the de rigueur late-Thirties puffy sleeves and flared skirt that show up everywhere during this period -- even the Emerald City!

Note the charming details on the red bodice of the Simplicity pattern.

Dig the dainty ruffles on the collar and cuffs of this Hollywood pattern.  I call it the milkmaid look -- or maybe I read that somewhere.  And who didn't love Maureen O'Sullivan in the Tarzan movies? (She played Jane, not Tarzan.)

The Forties patterns in the lot are more austere -- no surprise, given the times -- but still charming. I love this ruffled (via drawstring) blouse and tailored slacks pattern.  Are you familiar with Superior patterns?  I wasn't.

And what young Forties femme wouldn't have wanted to wear this smart striped top?

Tennis, anyone?  (And who is "AB"?  Anne Baxter?  Anita Bryant?)

You can see more pics of these vintage patterns here.

How do you feel about those early Thirties patterns -- are they too remote in style and age to work today?  Are flutter sleeves and satin lounging pajamas due for a comeback?  Would you include the apron?

In closing, friends, do you hate me for my incredible good fortune, or are you a) a more mature person who recognizes that, sure, sometimes good things happen, but behind every silver lining lies another cloud, don't think it doesn't; or b) someone who believes that, as nice as those patterns are, they're not exactly equivalent to a birthday invitation from Princess Stephanie.  All is forgiven!

I hope "b."

Happy Friday, everybody!


  1. Happy Friday to you, Peter! There must be German words for your moral shadings of feeling? "Schadenfreuden" is the German for secretly taking pleasure in the misfortunes of another; there must be a word for "secretly envying the success of another"? German speakers out there, help us! Your patterns will look fine on thin persons; I have discovered that puffy sleeves and ruffly details look very bad on my plump anatomy. Kristina in Ohio

  2. omg, Peter, I am the SAME WAY!! I brag about my stuff, but then I hate everyone else's successes (or in your case, windfalls!). So, put me on your hate list: my sister gave me two huge boxes of uncut, factory folded 50s, 60s, and few 70s sewing patterns, about 250 in total. I have a few earlier, but I am so greedy with these sewing patterns it's not even funny!

    Otherwise, I LOVE 40s fashions! They are lovely for women with hips. ;)

  3. I'm definitely in the A camp -- I figure, wheel of fortune keeps turning so it'll be my turn again soon. Eventually.

    Besides, if you hang around fortunate people, it tends to rub off on you. Like in a giveaway....or something? I'm a size 34 and looking for day dresses (hint, hint).

    I'm a fan of both the thirties and forties, don't think I could pick between the two. Although I do find some of the thirties bodice details a little fussy. But then I like austerity dressing. I blame the movie "Annie" for that.

  4. I, for one, am delighted for you! And why would you not use the 1930s patterns? The styles are delightful; they will suit your cousin's figure; you are a trace-and-use pattern man, so you won't "desecrate" the originals by cutting into them. I don't have any that old except some nearly-shredded-to-bits infant patterns that my grandmother used for my uncle and mother. My favorite garment is the belly-button binder.

  5. I'm happy for you, genuinely happy. Because I trust that the patterns are in good hands with someone who truly loves sewing and vintage and will cherish them. Enjoy! They are beautiful.

  6. Happy Friday, Peter! Since I sew mostly little girl clothes, 30s patterns are no problem. There's something timeless about them and honestly, aside from length, there's not much difference from modern.... well, aside from the fact that they're much more interesting. I just finished a 30s pattern, actually. Butterick 7637 is from around 1932-1934 I think. It's also entered into the Sewing for Children contest on Pattern Review.

    Occasionally, we all end up with fantastic finds. :) Last night, I had a lady offer me my pick of her kids' vintage patterns from 40s to 80s at a bulk discount. We'll see how it pans out, 'cause it depends on what she's got if I want it! Kids' patterns are easier to get in bulk lots, though. I've bought as many as 40 patterns at a time for under $20. Still have to sell most of 'em off!

  7. Peter,
    I have to admit, I'm a little envious of your patterns, but if I can't have them you are the next best person! I personnally love the 30s styles, but you don't see many of those patterns. I would love to make the lounging pajamas with the smocked sleeves.

  8. I don't mind a lick seeing you come into good the Superior pattern! I think most all of them could be relevant to today.

  9. What wonderful patterns! Congratulations on your windfall!
    I am generally happy for other people's good fortune but find it difficult if I'm having particularly bad luck and they're having particularly good luck, but in general I try not to rain on anyone else's parade. I figure you never really know what is going on in the personal and private parts of people's lives (wow alliteration...) so best to celebrate in their joys and share in their sorrows and hope others can do the same for you.

  10. Very human characteristics you're describing. Isn't anybody a bit that way? But, maybe being somewhat less human than others, I'm very happy for you. No Honestly!

    Jan-Theo NL

  11. I am glad for you and thankful these lovely patterns got into the hands of someone who will enjoy them. So many are thrown away of left to be victims of water or mold. Very nice 30's pattern, even the garment illustrations by themselves are really cool.

  12. Ah, yes, that feeling of coveting thy fellow sewers stash... Typically I only feel that towards fabric, and not patterns. I don't really have a thing for vintage patterns, so when other people post pictures and projects, I am usually happy for them and excited to see what they make. Perhaps it is because I don't wear dresses often that I don't feel the need to accumulate vintage patterns? I do like looking at dresses... they are pretty. I just never wear them. So I suppose that having others post vintage pattern finds fills my desire for vintage patterns sufficiently?

    On the other hand, when people post about their amazing $2 fabric finds (like amazing wool coating, printed silk, etc) I am quite jealous. Or those people who can walk to a large collection of fabric stores all conveniently located in the same area and just pick up what they need for the project on hand... In any case, yeah, I understand the envy feeling. I think it is because I can imagine using the fabric for something I want to make, whereas I have no desire to make up vintage patterns. I still like it when people post about fabric though. It at least helps me feel that, despite the fact that it isn't coming to me, the perfect fabric is out there somewhere...

  13. Mr. Lappin, How could we begrudge you when you so generously share these lovely patterns with us via pictures? To stash them away without bestowing upon us the pleasure of seeing them - that would be disgraceful.

    What I love about earlier patterns is two fold: the creativity of details and the multi-purpose functionality of the patterns.

    One word that I think applies ONLY to patterns from the 30s and 40s is SMART. "Smart looking outfits". "She looks smart in that dress". You just can't say that about fashions or patterns from later periods.

    Please - continue sharing your good fortune with us via your blog. I truly enjoy perusing!

  14. I am thrilled for you! I LOVE the striped blouse pattern and the lounging pajama outfit.

  15. Yep - I hate you. I'm consumed with jealousy right now. Especially over the Maureen O'Sullivan pattern. I'm trying to become a better person and maintain an aura and goodwill towards you but it's very hard.

    What a find.

  16. I'm happy for Cathy!

    She's likely to commission a few of these, and that can only mean one thing, more photo shoots!

  17. I love both the hollywood and the Simplicity pattern, and I am totally jeal of your recent finds.

  18. Can I be both delighted AND envious? It’s a wonderful windfall and while I may be just a teeny tiny bit envious, those patterns are far better in your hands than in mine. You really appreciate them and might make garments from some of them. I just enjoy looking at them and really appreciate that you are sharing the pics!

    Please keep sharing so that I may live vicariously.

    Ginger Rogers was the first thing I thought of when I saw that ‘30s pattern. The apron is intriguing. It appears to button to the bodice of the dress. I love all the charming details in vintage patterns and I think some of the styles will work today. I’ve seen flutter sleeves and ruffled necklines. I really like the Superior pants.

  19. That is an amazing lot of patterns!!

    I am definitely not the envious type, since I love to share all my goodies. I hope none of my blog readers are out there pouting about my finds, lol. I am however, a bit envious of those like yourself who live so very close to the garment district. My only brick and mortar store options are a Joann and a quilt shop.

    I have one Superior pattern from the 40s. I believe they were patterns produced by Sears Roebuck. I think they're very difficult to find.

  20. Sadly, I'm a bit like you! So whilst I'm happy for you and grateful that you shared details of these stunning patterns...I'm also a little jealous! Haha!

  21. LOVE the superior pattern! I am super happy for you in that I get to see Cathy in some early 30's styles--my favourite!! You will love making them too....I've found patterns from that time period are brilliantly drafted. As someone who also just recently received a surprise gift treasure trove of patterns--I am thrilled! I love sharing--especially vintage patterns!

  22. Ever since I learned to draft my own patterns (a necessity since I'm so oddly-proportioned), I don't get so green-eyed over other people's vintage patterns (especially from the '40s). I can admire the cover art as I figure out how to knock off the bits I want. So I can offer my sincere congratulations (as well as my thanks for showing us your haul)!

    I definitely think the '30s and '40s patterns could work today. I'd make and wear the blue dress on that one Simplicity pattern. I love the shirred flutter sleeves on those lounging pajamas (and know a couple of younger women, into retro styles, who would even go for the button-on apron). And that 'Maureen O'Hara' dress is absolutely adorable. In the right fabric, on the right girl? Absolutely!

    One thing about wearing clothes from that period--especially the '30s--is that they do seem to demand more impeccable grooming than most people want to bother with today. Even casual clothes from the period have an air of formality to them. Jennifer commented on how the word 'smart' was used to describe looks from those decades, and she's dead on.

    The '30s and '40s were the decades in which my grandmothers were young women, forming their own sense of style. Even as trends changed, and clothing overall became more casual, you wouldn't have caught either one dead with her hair a mess, her nails in need of polish, or wearing sloppy clothes. Both of them entered young adulthood under very difficult economic circumstances, and dressing as well as possible and putting in the effort to make oneself look "smart," "respectable," and "presentable" were how they maintained dignity and nurtured beauty despite hardship. It was a way of saying, "I matter; I only own two dresses right now, but I am still worthy of respect."

    Given the current hard times, and the prospect of more to come, I would not be surprised to see a revival of this sort of dogged, "down, but not out" attitude. I hope to see it, at any rate.

  23. I would only hate you if they were in my size.

  24. I'm always happy to see vintage patterns go to someone who treasures and will look after them. As long as they don't end up in a rubbish bin and are lost forever - now that would make me look like picture #2!

  25. Jennifer really nailed it on the head. I'm delighted for your windfall because you shared it with us. I think the patterns are really cool. Thanks, Laurie

  26. Peter, you have worked hard for your fame and fortune -- and enriched our lives by your efforts. You deserve your good fortune, I am happy for you. [Really -- when Elaine says it -- ok, she really means it, but pretends she doesn't. Moi, I just mean it. ;-) ]

    Besides, you posted the pictures of the patterns, so I can take them as inspiration myself, without needing to store them. ;-)

    Also, what Magical Realist said -- very good info.

    I hope you make wonderful garments using them, which I can then steal ideas from, I mean, take as even more inspiration.


  27. Beth, when does the "fortune" part begin? ;)

  28. Enjoy! You must deserve them if you received them. :)

  29. LMAO Peter, don't you just a teeny bit wish we were envious of your booty haul??? YOu crack me up! love it all.

  30. Congratulations!
    What amazes me about the clothes and the people who wore them back in the day, is the fact that nobody ever looked wrinkled. Except for Rayon, there weren't a lot of synthetics ( or am I wrong ). There must have been a whole lot of ironing going on behind the scenes. And absolutely NO AIR CONDITIONING!

  31. I tend to be pretty happy about other people's good fortune-- if it can happen to you, it can happen it me, it's more proof that life can be good. Alternatively, I can feel pretty bad when misfortune befalls someone else, even strangers. Maybe it's coming from a large family with a lot of kids, but I don't see such a large separation between and others.

    I love the 30's patterns, and I'd love to see Cathy in the smart, striped blouse. Heck, I wouldn't mind making myself one someday.

    I wish this woman was in The States and not New Zealand. What fun to have a professional make a suit or good coat and not be looking at Vintage Vogue pattens on ones dining room table for the last year thinking, "I'll get around to being good enough to sew that."
    As for your stash and new cool computer and awesome life in The Big Apple and your wonderful blog-did I leave anything out? Enjoy them all in good health. I can't speak for anyone else but your blog is something that I look forward to everyday. Great ideas for sewing and love the general questions that you throw out to get us thinking and sharing ideas. Please, do a few yoga poses so that you can limber up and give yourself a well deserved pat on the back.

  33. Nice to know they have gone to a good home- you have a lot of sewing to do!

  34. Oh yes, I am not so secretly envious when a fellow sewer stumbles onto, receives a gift of or out bids me - again - on a wonderful 30's pattern. The looks are very current to my eyes, feminine but not weak.

    Please make Cathy the suit on the right hand side. Just right for a game of croquet on a crisp fall day or a stroll around a fashionable city to beguile passersby...

  35. I am happy for you and happy that they went to someone who appreciates them and won't cut them up to make a sewing room organizer (link below):

  36. Oh wow! What an amazing gift.

    Funnily, I just wrote a post last week about the "Why not me?" attitude...I'm glad it's not just me :)

  37. Personally I'm thrilled for you, but I run a children's theatre company (i.e. the final stop on the Underground Discarded Fabric and Sewing Notion Railroad) so I have stashes I haven't even gone through yet. Vintage patterns, imported covered buttons, bias tape in every color of the rainbow, and 211 miles of various shades of tulle (a dance wear manufacturer just happened to go out of business the day I had a U-Haul). Oh, did I mention we have a hat storing vault? I could not be more thrilled for you and your little pattern collection. Bless your heart.

    But seriously, dude, love the blog, love the pics: mano a mano!


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