VaVaVette DIY – Buying Vintage Patterns

D.I.Y. by Cora Vette – Buying Vintage Patterns

I can write this column in one sentence. Do NOT buy patterns by dress size, buy patterns by bust measurement. – The end.

Over the years, as our sizes have increased, dress sizes have decreased. Call it a matter of marketing.

1940's dress pattern
1940’s dress pattern

I always knew that vintage pattern sizes were different than contemporary sizes, but, it wasn’t until I started cataloging all my patterns for VaVaVette that I really realized how different. In the 1940’s, for example, a size 14 was a bust measurement of 32 inches! Imagine the confusion of an ebay shopper who buys a size 14 pattern, only to sew it and realize that it is the equivalent of a modern size 4! I have even seen some patterns listed on ebay as “plus sized” so buyer and seller beware!!

1950's pattern
1950’s pattern

In the 1950’s a size 14 became a whopping bust size 34. Still, only around a modern 6. I have been experimenting with these sizes and am constantly shocked by the size of these patterns!

In the 1960’s they marketed patterns with “new sizing” and a 14 became a 36 bust, around a modern size 8 (where it remains today). I should mention that modern patterns still measure a different size than manufactured clothing. So, when sewing, you really have to set your ego aside and sew by the measurements listed on the back of the pattern. Trust me, do NOT go by what numerical “size” you think you are. Trust the measurements and make the size that matches closest to your actual measurements. This will save you a lot of time and headaches.

1960's pattern
1960’s pattern

Now, I could write a book about why this happened and why men’s patterns did not have this phenomenon. Men’s patterns have always been listed simply as measurements without a corresponding “number”…maybe they just don’t care, maybe the fashion industry just likes to mess with women. But, I digress…

I will be continuing to sew fun vintage patterns for VaVaVette and will be posting them on our website as I complete them. If you are interested in the corresponding pattern size (out of curiosity) send an email to and I will let you know on which vintage pattern size the garment is based. But, I will not post them on the website because it is very confusing for a shopper to see something that is listed as a pattern size 14 when it is really a modern size 6.

I hope this has helped inform and educate some of you vintage enthusiasts and sewers out there! Remember, it is as simple as – “Do NOT buy patterns by dress size, buy patterns by bust measurement.”

Until next time! Sassy sewing to you all!!

xoxo Cora Vette

More From Cora Vette: DIY Shimmy Belt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *