Vintage Patterns Sewing: Problems and Tips

Tips on sewing with vintage patterns

by Marga van der Vet

September 13, 2020

Sewing with vintage patterns

Vintage sewing patterns are very popular. Not only because their value is high (especially when they are collector's items!) but mainly because many seamstresses also consider it as a sport to actually make clothes from the vintage sewing patterns. They make the clothes to wear themselves or for Cosplay and LARP events. But there are some common problems and we have tips to avoid them.

Vintage Patterns Sewing Is More Popular Than Ever

If you make your clothes yourself, your goal is to make sure that it does not show... Seamstresses prefer not to hear the "Selfmade?" word when they should actually be proud of the fact they made the clothes themselves. But they are afraid that there is always an undertone in that comment that if you can see that, then it is just not good enough. Of course, that is nonsense, because self-made clothes are often unique, beautifully tailored and much more sustainable. 

With vintage clothing, however, there is a different tenor. "Self-made" makes more sense and sounds like a compliment. Finally, the vintage garment is often striking because of the shape and lines and therefore super feminine design. If you have found the right size, or if you have done some pattern adjustments, the clothing is also nicely tailored.

Sewing with vintage patterns tips

Cosplay and LARP

Vintage sewing patterns are often used for Cosplay and LARP, such as historical clothes patterns and also all other retroes and vintage patterns.
Because of the shapes of the vintage historical clothing, they often go with corsets, crinolines or you can use them to make mega dresses. 

Pay Attention: The Pitfalls of Vintage Sewing Patterns:

1. At the time when the vintage patterns were designed, there were no elastic or stretchable fabrics. The sewing patterns frequently recommended fabrics such as gabardine, chiffon, linen, lace, cotton, jacquard and wool. The clothing had to be properly tailored because the fabric will not help you feel comfortable or make you look super-shaped like stretch fabrics do...

Tip: don't make these patterns of elastic or stretchy fabrics. This can cause the pattern to be incorrect and give strange results. Choose fabrics which are recommended for the sewing pattern or the ones you like to both sew and wear.

2. In vintage patterns, there are many darts and pleats. If you want to create a nice upper body or a nice waist, you can count on it that there will be a lot of darts in the pattern that will create the desired shape. With some fabrics, this is difficult to achieve and it looks less beautiful than you had hoped for.

Tip: learn to work with darts and pleats and consider it as a challenge. Use a sewing mannequin (adjusted to your size) to pin the darts in and 'play' with it until it fits. Take your time so it doesn't become a frustration. Once you get the feeling for 'shaping', it's more fun than you think it would be!

3. Most of the patterns that show over-exaggerated waists often illustrated on the cover of the sewing pattern. But remember that back then women were always wearing corsets under their outfits. Nature was given a helping hand to create the waist that most women can now only dream of ...

Tip: Do you still want a (very) small waist to fit in the vintage dresses? Buy an elasticated waist corset, one that fits snugly but creates a little more waist. In the 'shapewear' section of underwear, you can often find pleasant waist shapers that you can wear comfortably without gasping for breath or torturing your body. A tight, shape shirt also works wonders and often not only fits comfortably but also looks really nicer under tighter dresses or blouses.

Sewing with vintage patterns
4. Collars often have different or even strange shapes (see picture above). The ends of the collars are often sharper, longer or sometimes weirdly shaped. Sometimes this really fits into the overall picture. Sometimes they are over-the-top or make the clothes look old-fashioned instead of interesting.

Tip: adjust the collars to your own ideas. Copy the bottom length of the collar from the pattern on to a tracing material, like Pellon 830 Easy PatternYou then have the basis. After this, you can make the collar ends as long, as straight, as round or as short as you would like.

5. Finally, we would like to point out that vintage dresses are often midi length. Or blouses are just a little too long (these were often worn in the skirt, never loose/casual over it). The length of the midi dresses and skirts can look nice, but also old-fashioned or messy, or accentuate thick calves, for example.

Tip: very simple: adjust the length. Do this as the very last action. Try on the dress in front of a mirror, or on the sewing mannequin and let someone else help you. Your own perspective from above often gives a different picture than a person who is further away and sees a better overall picture. The length of blouses is easier to adjust. If you like to wear a blouse loose, don't make it too long, this looks more sloppy than nice and casual.


Vintage patterns

Advantages of Vintage Sewing Patterns:

But there are also many advantages of vintage sewing patterns. As we have already mentioned: the sewing patterns are often ideal for Cosplay and LARP and often eye-catchers because of the beautiful shapes and special lines. Moreover, the fabrics that are used are also different or have a nice 'retro print'.

Another plus is that many vintage patterns can be very fashionable today.  The blouses are often classic, timeless and just super feminine

Finally, the vintage sewing patterns are often ideal for indulging in buttons and beautiful trims. Just like our beloved Chanel style jacket! Be creative, indulge yourself and make it unique. Get rid of mass production, throwaway clothes.
Create your own clothes with beautiful vintage sewing patterns!

About the Author

Marga van der Vet

Marga van der Vet is a 50+ Dutch model and seamstress. She specializes in sewing Chanel-Style jackets and started a few years ago to share information about sewing Chanel-Style jackets and all about the brand Chanel.  Lately, she has expanded the website with blogs about sewing for LARP, Cosplay and Fantasy events. Marga lives in the countryside in the North of the Netherlands with her family, her dog and horses. Modelling and Haute couture are, of course, very glamorous but she has a sustainable and green lifestyle. SewingChanelStyle promotes sustainability and women who are having small arts and crafts businesses.

Also in Blog

garden path
The Power of Gratitude

We’ve heard it before time and time again, but I’m going to tell you once more – the power of gratitude is real and it can also have an impact on reducing stress while promoting your overall emotional well-being. 

Continue Reading

model wearing a sun hat
All About Hats

This blog is all about hat-making. Making hats is a fun hobby because it allows you to make the exact hat that suits your style and that you like to wear. You can make hats in two different ways.

Continue Reading

Chanel black and white tweed
Facts and Fiction Behind Chanel's Iconic Tweed Fabric

You may love, or hate, or be totally indifferent about Mademoiselle Coco Chanel. She had good taste. She was an opportunist and a shrewd business woman. She was a woman who understood the power of mystery and the importance of discretion. She reinvented her past to elevate herself to the highest ranks of the society.

Continue Reading