I feel like I bemoan this fact every time one of the Big 4 (Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, and Vogue) release a new season. Hold onto your hats, I’m about to go on a rant.

Where the heck are the repro sewing patterns?

And less importantly, who keeps greenlighting retro apron patterns, honestly? Am I the only person in the world who has no interest in sewing aprons?

As someone who adores the vintage silhouette and patterns that help make a dent in my impulse-bought novelty quilting cotton collection, I feel like commercial pattern companies are trying their darndest to make me miserable lately.

Two problems, as I see them:

  1. Boring modern designs.
    If I see one more shapeless, frilly, cold-shouldered creation I’m going to gouge my eyes out. Oh look, a shapeless top. Oh look, another shapeless top. This time a shapeless dress. Now they have the same shapeless dress as last season except it has a ruffle on it.
  2. When they DO release new retro styles, they release styles that even vintage collectors don’t want.
    If you subscribe to any vintage pattern buy/sell groups on Facebook, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The patterns that sellers can’t give away for free. Darted pencil or a-line skirts and basic darted bodices with interchangeable necklines, collars and sleeves between patterns. Skirts that you could use a calculator to draft yourself. Bodices where if you changed the neckline and removed the sleeves you would just get the same pattern over and over again. I get these are quick and cheap to produce, but if I can modify the neckline of another sewing pattern I have to achieve the same look, why would I keep buying new patterns that are the same as every other sewing pattern?

Simplicity are big transgressors in  both of these areas. GOLLY GOSH, THANK YOU FOR ANOTHER POODLE CIRCLE SKIRT, THE LAST 47 YOU PRODUCED PALE IN COMPARISON TO THIS NEW ONE.

Is this what sewers now want? (No, really, I actually want to know, is this what you want?)

What do I want? I want to wear clothes that nobody else has–something you can’t buy in the stores where the differentiating factor is not just the fabric.

So that’s why I’ve stopped buying new patterns. After last year, I purchased all the outstanding ones from seasons prior on my wishlist and I have not bought a pattern from the Big 4 in over 6 months. I’m in that stage of my life where I’m no longer a beginner seamstress (I haven’t considered myself a beginner for years now) and I want to start looking at more advanced, interesting styles that are fun and challenging to sew and make people wonder how you made it. Magic with patterns.

If you’ve been watching my Instagram lately, you’ll notice that I’ve started to show you more of my patternmaking adventures.

I have been drafting my own stuff for years, and I encourage others where I can to dive into that world without fear. It’s not hard to draft basic things yourself. Nowadays, if I’m buying a pattern for myself, it’s usually vintage, and I’m buying it because I haven’t found a design like it anywhere else. And drafting it myself would just be too painful.

Why do I self-draft now? Because I’m madly in love with crazy pleating and seamwork of ye olden days. You just don’t see intricate designs like that anymore, from anywhere. That is why I decided to write this post, not just because the vintage offerings pale in comparison (when they offer them). Even the modern patterns are as boring as the poodle skirts they replaced.

Maybe this is the turning of the fashion tide with sewing–retro is out, sleek, shapeless, and simple modern is in! But I know there is a community of active retro sewers on Instagram who are still as in-love with those old-timey styles as I am–an entire demographic–that just aren’t being catered for anymore. I find that sad.

What do you think, dear readers? Is it just me, or are any more of you out there who are yearning for more?

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8 Comments

  1. Yes, what it is with the aprons? There are a couple of cute ones but I wouldn’t have thought there was that great a demand for them. Mind you, now I’m thinking they could make good Christmas presents… The only recent vintage re-release that I’m interested in is that tiered petticoat from Simplicity that STILL isn’t available at Spotlight.

    The good thing about growing in your sewing is that you realise what you actually want to sew. I have a whole collection of vintage patterns (actual vintage from op shops) but I’ve worked out that I’m more about the fabric and the print than the pattern. So now I’m basically sewing the same dress pattern with neckline and skirt variations. It’s so satisfying! It’s also great for my budget because all I have to do is buy fabric.

    • Demi

      I feel like maybe there’s an underground culture of sewers (haha, underground–sewers) who only do craft things like totes and aprons and never venture into proper stuff that they must be catering to. There must be some kind of demand, I’m sure they’re not taking the decision lightly to produce 1487 apron patterns a year.

      You do tend to get suckered in by the beautiful illustrations on the front of pattern envelopes! Same happens with me. I’m cleaning my collection of patterns that use a basic darted bodice and starting to only keep weird and wacky ones I don’t think I have a chance in hell of replicating. Darted bodices have their place but you could just as easily make your own sloper and then use that for absolutely everything with the knowledge that it will fit you and won’t require any adjustments so that’s what I’m doing!

  2. What eeks me out even more is the fact that whenever they actually put something out (aside from another Gertie Dress. Nice but argh.), like the walkaway dress, it’s redrafted “to fit the modern body”, resulting in the oh so horrible pattern cover for that one. Who would even be tempted to try that??? I know, many actually did, but how many of them actually enjoyed the result? Until something seriously changes, guess we’ll have to accept that Vintage for them seems to mean either “Gertie” or “Apron”. Gah. I loved your post, it’s just so true, which is also pretty sad, if I think about it…

    • Demi

      The worst part is, it’s not even just “drafted to fit the modern body”, but the style lines have completely changed as well. That walkaway dress is an utter travesty.. Truthfully, I don’t think I’ve seen one iteration that hasn’t been modified to all buggery that I thought looked nice. It’s a “good” thing the true vintage pattern market is in a really big slump right now because it means I’m sourcing originals for much cheaper than what they used to be! But it does signal that retro flair seems to be going out of style :(

  3. The answer is simple- the big 4 aren’t trying to sell to vintage community. At least not exclusively. They are trying to sell to everyone, which means playing it super duper safe. Super duper boring. I think if you are starting to go anywhere beyond the typical stuff, then you are starting to draft yourself, or delving into the world of independent pattern companies. Thank god there are people making and selling patterns like that.

    • Demi

      Independent pattern companies don’t feel any better sometimes. Either they’re avant garde potato sacks or we’re back to the 4-dart bodice with neckline and sleeve variations. Deer and Doe seem to be the best at the creative fit and flare that I’m looking for, but others seem few and far between :(

  4. maybe we should find out how to start requesting specific patterns for Butterick/McCalls/Vogue or Simplicity to reproduce?

    • Demi

      They don’t really have an archive so they rely on people’s donations, unfortunately. Don’t know how we’d solve that problem unless they just.. redraft everything (which, to be fair, they seem to be big transgressors of)?

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