You asked, and I listened. Vintage Dancer now has new shopping comparison pages for vintage reproduction sewing patterns. I have handpicked sewing patterns for women and men by decade, based on common requests I have received, such as 1930s house dresses, vintage aprons, 1940s men’s wide leg pants, 1910s swimsuits, and more. Most of the brands I have picked are small, independent pattern makers, who make exceptional quality patterns with updated directions and several sizes to make your vintage sewing MUCH easier. For example, I just love the variety from Reconstructing History patterns. They have over 250 options for men and women, spanning the 20th century all the way back to medieval times.
Each pattern maker offers a variety of printed patterns (mailed to you) or downloaded ePatterns that you can print at home or from a large scale printer (Walmart, Kinkos, FedEx Office). Don’t be afraid of print-at-home patterns. It takes a little extra time to get the patterns assembled, but you get a much better selection of patterns to choose from. It is VERY expensive to mass produce printed patterns, which is why so few small businesses can offer them at reasonable prices.
Here are some of my favorite patterns by decade:
Victorian Sewing Patterns
Victorian dress patterns: This list of patterns, ready-made dresses, and custom dress makers has been updated with a few more options. I have been a fan of Truly Victorian patterns for years. They are accurate, have great directions, and come in print/mailed versions. You can take almost any picture of a Victorian dress and use one of their bodice and skirt patterns to re-create the dress. This is what I did for my 1893 Worth dinner gown I had recreated for my wedding.
Other popular Victorian era pattern requests are for swimsuits (those funny looking swim dresses), corsets (a must-have), and hoop skirts. Find them all here.
Edwardian Sewing Patterns (1890-1919)
The most sought after patterns of the Edwardian time period (which in the historical sewing world often covers late Victorian to pre-1920s clothing as well) are formal evening gowns of the 1912 Titanic era or white lace tea gowns of the turn of the century.
Gibson Girl skirts and tops are also needed for many theater performances of this era, as well as suffragette reenactments for living history events. For these 1900s day looks, I like Sense and Sensibility patterns. This company specializes in this time period, so the patterns are well researched.
There are many other patterns for this time period for full dresses to sport clothes, separates and some knit wear. Take a look at our favorite Edwardian Sewing Patterns.
1920s Sewing Patterns
When I was writing the 1920s Style Guide series, I included a long list of 1920s reproduction pattern makers. Now I’ve updated this list with links to the specific patterns I like best. The most popular option is the One Hour Dress pattern, a vintage 1924 booklet with a very basic one- or two-piece dress you can make quickly (not quite in an hour, but in a few hours rather than a few days). It is a versatile pattern, since you draft your own simple pattern based on your personal measurements. I have made a few One Hour dresses, and while the pattern is good, I now recommend Frocks the Easy Way instead.
The Frocks the Easy Way booklet was produced in 1929. The dresses are drafted the same as the One Hour Dress, but they have more interesting adjustments, details, and add on accessories that give your twenties dress a …. well… more typical 1920s look. I have made one dress and several hats from this booklet, and I may be making another soon. I’ll need a 1920s dress to wear when I am 8 months pregnant this summer, and this pattern will work perfect for my “new size.”
If you need a more fitted pattern to work with, take a look at all the other great 1920s sewing patterns I found online.
Be sure to read the guide about 1920s fabrics and colors to pick the right material for your pattern.
1930s Sewing Patterns
After researching and writing about 1930s house dresses, I received a flood of inquiries looking for house dress patterns. They are certainly tricky to find, so I understand the dilemma. Luckily, Reconstructing History has a good house dress pattern and many others from the 1930s as well.
Wearing History also has a number of excellent 1930s/1940s patterns, such as wide leg trousers and flowing beach pajamas. There are simple skirts and blouses, too, which are surprisingly hard to find. Everyone who sews a Wearing History pattern raves about how easy they are to put together and how well they fit. You can’t go wrong with one of the patterns. Some patterns are available printed and mailed, while even more patterns are print at home.
Shop all 1930s sewing patterns.
1940s Sewing Patterns
The 1940s are very popular patterns for home sewing. This makes sense historically, since many garments during the war were homemade over expensive store bought options. World War II reenactors especially must turn to using sewing patterns to make clothes that are accurate and fit modern bodies. Because of the demand, there are a lot of great reproduction 1940s sewing patterns from many different brands sold today. Even the big pattern makers (Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick) have jumped on the train and re-released some of their 1940s vintage patterns.
There are many choices for high-waisted pants, Rosie the Riveter overalls, lingerie, and dresses. What there are not many of, at least until recently, were patterns in plus sizes. The big 3 pattern makers have them but so does a small label, New Vintage Lady. NVL specializes in reprinting vintage patterns in plus sizes. The only draw back is they are not re-sized. One pattern comes in one size only. If you feel comfortable adjusting patterns, then by all means these are a great option for you.
Take a look at all the 1940s sewing patterns I recommend.
Also take a look at the guide to 1940s fabrics and colors.
1950s and 1960s Sewing Patterns
By the 1950s, sewing patterns had improved both in providing good directions and in offering multiple sizes. Clothes became cheaper to buy, so fewer women were “making do” with homemade clothing like in the 1940s. Today, the big pattern companies have re-issued some retro patterns from the 1950s and 1960s. They have teamed up with some vintage sewing bloggers as well to create new looks for vintage fashionistas.
I don’t see as many pattern choices coming from small brands for these two decades. Perhaps it is because there is an overwhelming amount of affordable ready-to-wear 1950s clothing, or maybe it is because vintage 1950s patterns are still easy to find. Whatever the case, I put my favorites on these two pages:
Vintage Apron Patterns
The other common request I receive is for vintage apron patterns. Patterns from the 1950s are easy to find, but what about the earlier decades? While looking at clothing patterns, I found quite a few from the 1910s to 1940s that are adorable. Take a look at them here.
Men’s Vintage Sewing Patterns
Not to leave the gentlemen out, there is a not-so-shocking lack of men’s reproduction sewing patterns available. The Victorian era has the most variety, but the 20th century leaves very little choice. I am attempting to change that by finding every men’s vintage reproduction sewing pattern and adding them to the shopping page here. I have only attempted to sew men’s clothing once, and it didn’t go well, so my personal experience with this list won’t help you, but at least you can now find them all in one place.
The most requested men’s patterns are wide leg pants popular in the 1930s and 1940s. The other items are men’s golf knickers or plus fours. Both historical dressers and Steampunk costumers are on the hunt for knicker patterns. I found both of these patterns and many more. The variety of men’s patterns is surprisingly better then I originally thought. Now I need to get over my fears and try to sew men’s clothing again.
What sewing patterns are you looking for?