Friday, May 20, 2011

The Past of our Vintage Patterns

After my large pattern haul last weekend I have been thinking a lot about patterns, but more specifically the history of those patterns and their previous owners. I didn't know the lady who was the previous owner of all of those patterns I bought, not do I know who was the owner of any of the other vintage patterns I have bought. Still, I wonder about the women, well presumably women, who owned and used those patterns.

First, on the most lighthearted note, I wonder why in the world someone would buy some of those, shall we say, unique 70s patterns. Did women really have a desire to make flowered, bell bottomed,  polyester pants? When at the pattern counter, was she dreaming of recreating Carol Brady's outfits that she had seen on that week's Brady Bunch episode. Did she have a preteen son who was begging for mom to recreate Greg Brady's outfit? Was she selecting a pattern to make pillows to coordinate with her avocado green and harvest gold sofa? So many questions, no way to get answers.

When I see patterns from the 70's I wonder about humorous, lighthearted questions. However, when I see patterns from earlier decades, specifically the 30s and 40s, I have a completely different set of wonders. The 30s were obviously plagued by the Great Depression. When I see a pattern from the 30s I wonder what hardships the woman who owned the pattern was facing. Was the purchase of a pattern and fabric a very special, rare treat for this women? Did this woman enjoy sewing for herself and her family, or was it just another chore that must be completed?

When I move onto the 40's I have other questions that I wonder, though some are similar to the previous questions. When I see a pattern dated between the years of WWII I wonder if the young lady sewing the pattern was at home, waiting on her solider to come back from a far away land? When I see patterns for children, I wonder if she enjoyed sewing for them or longed for the funds to purchase her children's clothes? Could I own a pattern that a woman stitched up to meet her long lost love upon his return home from war? I will never know, but I will always wonder.

When I see patterns from the 50s and 60s, you guessed it, I have questions. When I see fancy party dresses, I wonder what the occasion was? Did this lady want to sew her party dress or did financial restrictions force her to make it?  Was the lady sewing those patterns a housewife, longing to have a job in a "mans world" or was she content in her domestic role? If she enjoyed sewing, was she looked down upon by more feminism inded friends for enjoying such a domestic activity? In the 50s did she try to recreate dresses worn on I Love Lucy? In the 60s did she find inspiration for those lovely little suits on Bewitched?

I suppose I will never find answers to all of the questions filling my head, but it is still fun to wonder. I hope that it doesn't seem that I am romanticizing the past as that is certainly not my intention. I understand that life in the past had its pluses, but it was certainly plagued with hardships that I will never know. I believe that it is pretty safe to say that modern women and men, at least those in the developed world, only sew if they have a desire to. do so. As clothing has become cheaper to manufacture there is no need to sew clothing to make one's family budget stretch farther. Since cheap, mass produced clothing wasn't the norm decades ago, I will always wonder if the person who sewed that pattern when it was new truly enjoyed the process or if she just wished to get the task over with and get on with her life? On a happier not, I also wonder what her finished garment looked like? Would she approve of my fabric choice for "her" pattern?

So, readers, what do you think? Do you ever wonder about the past of the vintage patterns you own? Do you ever daydream of the first person to use the pattern that you're getting ready so stitch up? Do you wonder what their version of the pattern looked like and whether or not they wore it? I love hearing your opinions, so chime right in!

Happy Sewing!

P.S. Don't even get me started on my list of questions when I see a wedding dress pattern.


  1. You know I feel the same way, I hope I can find a little history in those boxes that are on their way.

  2. I have a little more time on my hands waiting for my project to dry. I talked to my grams who was an avid seamstress in her time, talk gorgeous, my grams can look at something once in the store and put it together. For my grandparents, my grams couldn't afford those top dollar clothes, but she could make them and many times with out the pattern. So now, I am working up the courage to document it...sigh

  3. Love these patterns! And I often wonder the exact same things!