Hot! ATSW: Vintage Plus-Size Patterns

Ask

Knowing how bad I am at answering emails, I figured that an "Ask The Sew Weekly" will get me replying more quickly and (hopefully) helping more than one person. Our inaugural question comes from Jen.

Jen writes:

Love the blog. I've been following for months now as I gear up to sewing my first garment. Now that I can finally sew a straight line, I want to give it a go. But I'm having trouble finding plus sized patterns. Simplicity seems to have the largest selection, but nothing that would work for what I have in mind–a sun dress made from a 1970's vintage sheet (picture large orange, green and white flowers).

Can you suggest any sources for plus sized sewing patterns? Or will I have to learn to re-size patterns fresh out of the gate? Would that be too much for a newbie to take on? Should I put the sheet away, make a few garments based on the available patterns, then learn to re-size?

Thanks so much. I'd really appreciate any advice you could give me.

While the big name pattern manufacturers (Simplicity, Butterick, McCall, Vogue) do sell and market to plus-size sewers, the options are quite limited if you want to find a vintage look (or unique look) for that matter! Thankfully, there are independent businesses out there that have decided to create better options for plus-sizes. New Vintage Lady (Etsy Shop)  has reproduced vintage patterns (mostly from the 1930s and 1940s) for 40" and over busts. 

I suggest abandoning the search for new patterns and truly go vintage. Search the "vintage" category on Etsy for your bust measurement and "pattern." Every seller lists their patterns differently so try different variations including "bust 52," "b52" "52" etc… You should also be searching eBay using the same terms (include vintage). And, depending on the style of the dress, you may be able to go up or down one or two sizes without doing too much resizing. As a beginner sewer, there are a lot of tricks you can do that are short of resizing patterns. Make a muslin and try that thing on constantly while sewing. Since bodies vary, you may realize that your bust needs to be smaller than the skirt (or vice versa). Trial and error is the best way to make a good fit. Just don't feel like you need to be an expert on resizing. You'll be surprised by what a little tweak here and there will do.

Another bit of advice is pick a dress style that is forgiving to fitting issues. The simple dresses from the 1940s with their kimono sleeves and belted waists are very forgiving. Never  underestimate what a belt or sash can do!

Here's an article on vintage plus-size patterns over at BurdaStyle that might be useful as well.

The most important thing is to not feel like your options are limited to the "modern" styles that are out there in the commercial pattern space. You'll see that with a little bit of searching (okay, maybe a little bit of frequent, diligent searching) you should be able to find a pattern that works for you!

Do any of The Sew Weekly readers have more advice? Please share in the comments!

Author

Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.

13 Comments

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  1. Keep an eye here too, I’ll be releasing a lot of 30s and 40s patterns in bigger sizes!
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Big-Beautiful-Doll/212029092151496

  2. Great info!
    Larger bust size patterns aren’t always plus size patterns. Misses and Plus Size patterns are built off of a different block, so even if the bust size matches yours you should still make a muslin to check fit :)

  3. Good point, Lauren! Thanks!

  4. I recommend looking for Mail Order type patterns; Anne Adams, Marian Martin and others. Most of these were offered in newspapers and magazines and they had multitude of sizes from all eras (30s-80s). I’m a tall 18/20 and have had good luck finding close to my size with just a bit of tweaking. Check out my flickr for some examples of these pattern styles: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kirkbyky/sets/72157610975529388/detail/

  5. Thanks so much–this is all so helpful!

  6. You aren’t limited to etsy or ebay either. There are several independent vintage pattern sellers online. I carry lots of plus size choices, come visit!
    http://www.mainstreetmallonline.com/patterns/store.php?ref=2

  7. If you’re interested in going the Big 4 repro route, check the finished sizing of the pattern. Modern patterns have a lot of ease so the pattern just may fit after all.

  8. I’ll have to have a look at all of these links too. Great question and many great answers.

  9. Thanks for recommending me in your write up! :)
    I’ve been sewing exclusively with vintage patterns for about 10 years, and it’s always been hard finding them. I think that’s why I started to reproduce them because I’d always get asked where I got the pattern for my dress or suit.
    Some of the designs I managed to get over the years are just too awesome for me to keep to myself, or in today’s buying market, could go three figures!
    For those with more questions, are some blog posts I did on finding vintage patterns and working with vintage patterns in larger sizes.
    http://newvintagelady.blogspot.com/2011/06/stout-woman-revolution-this-pattern.html
    http://newvintagelady.blogspot.com/2010/06/stout-woman-revolution-mail-order.html
    Please stop by the blog, or ask me a question via email. I could gab about stout patterns for hours (I wish I were kidding about that).
    Thanks and have a great 4th!
    NVL

  10. Jen, I’d definitely take a look at some of the pattern fitting books (check out my review of my favorite book on this, from a newbie perspective!)
    http://shesthekatspajamas.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/librarians-corner-pattern-fitting-with-confidence-zieman/
    Depending on the size of your bust, if you’re larger than a B cup, it may be better to select the pattern to match your shoulder measurement, and then just do a super easy bust alteration, rather than buying a too large everywhere else pattern and then having to do a billion finicky alterations.
    I’ll be tackling this soon myself!

  11. Lanetz Living has a Plus section:
    http://www.lanetzliving.net/inc/searchresults?s=plus%20AND%20size&ss=plus%20size&n=370303
    If you search in the left-hand menu, you can filter under View by Subjects (Style) for Vintage exclusively as the link above gives all the Plus patterns posted.

  12. I’m late to the party here, but I sell plus size (or any size) patterns on Etsy, http://www.embonpointvintage.com will get you there.