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Readers, I am a huge vintage pattern fan and spend more time than I care to admit searching online, usually on sites like Etsy and eBay, for treasures. There are so many to be found! Vintage patterns are a wonderful window into styles of the past as they were actually worn — even in the relatively unchanging world of men’s fashion.

Men’s shirt patterns are generally all pretty similar, but I have discovered quite a broad range of shirt styles, some of which I actually remember as the fashion of the day, others from old Hollywood movies, and others still from a recurring nightmare where I’m watching nonstop re-runs of I Love Lucy.

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And speaking of nightmares, was there ever a more ill-conceived concept than unisex? The very word conjures up memories of free love, Haight-Ashbury, and folk music.

When unisex invaded the pattern companies, well, is it any surprise the results were unfortunate?

From bad… (Togetherness is a His and Hers shirt???)

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..to worse…

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…to rock-bottom Eighties nightmare (yes: his and hers shirt, pants, and blazer! How’s THAT for togetherness?).

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But I digress.

The heyday of the men’s shirt pattern is the immediate postwar period, when all of a sudden a generation of men had leisure and needed something to wear to it. Adult men could now dress up like their favorite Western heroes…

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Play golf…

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Go on vacation (sometimes together)…

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And smoke pipes…

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The creative peak of the men’s shirt pattern — the late Sixties — was also the beginning of the end, as styles moved further into the costume realm, where most men will not reside — ever.

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Everybody wanted the puffy-shoulder look in the Eighties — and Burda was there to help make it happen!

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By the Nineties, perhaps due in part to changes in the workplace or lack of interest, shirt pattern styles got more casual — and a little dull — where, with few exceptions, they remain. Most shirt patterns no longer even include a separate collar stand.

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In closing, friends, did you, your fathers, brothers, uncles, etc., wear any of these shirt patterns? Have you ever sewn one?

In your opinion, what has happened to men’s shirt patterns — and men’s sewing pattern in general? is it the result of changing fashion, less home sewing, or a little of both?

Share your thoughts!

~Peter

When native New Yorker Peter Lappin bought his first sewing machine two years ago to hem a pair of thrift store jeans, little did he know he was initiating a journey that would bring him fame and fortune. While awaiting his fortune he stays busy writing “the world’s most popular men’s sewing blog,” Male Pattern Boldness, and now contributing to BurdaStyle.

“For more than twenty years I’d lived on the edge of the Garment District without even knowing what a seam ripper was. Now I rip daily!”

26 Comments

  • Missing

    Sep 4, 2012, 02.33 PMby abelcham

    I have seen these patterns when growing up and had a good giggle when looking at them. I make a lot of my husband’s western shirts. Finding nice shirting is a problem. Our son buys his shirts and let me photograph the uniqueness of them and then I traced parts so I can use them when I make the next batch of shirts.

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    May 15, 2012, 08.58 AMby Tristan Alexander

    Peter,

    I really need a copy of Burda pattern number 6287. Do you know anywhere I can get a copy? I’ve scoured the internet with no success.

    thanks,

    Tristan

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    Jul 9, 2011, 05.15 AMby notdeadredhead

    I am so thankful to see what I’m not the only one infuriated with the lack of guy patterns! I had to adjust a kid’s vest pattern to fit my husband (boyfriend/fiancé at the time), because a) I’m uber poor and b) It wasn’t around Halloween, so there weren’t any costume vests that I could work with. However, there’s some hope at least for little boy’s clothing that I’ve found. It’s not necessarily male patterns (or all about little boy’s stuff), but it’s a blog I’ve become rather addicted to. http://iammommahearmeroar.blogspot.com/ I found it when searching for baby patterns to make something for a friend, and I’ve been checking back ever since! Enjoy, and hopefully we can start the male pattern revolution!

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    Jul 7, 2011, 08.50 PMby graveflower

    I must have that Advance western style shirt pattern, Peter. Where did you find it? If it is bought up, can you recommend something similar? I’m having trouble finding that exact design myself and I stink at drafting shirts.

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    Jul 5, 2011, 10.11 PMby jimmy2011

    peter i have sewn some of these patterns as well and i have made minor changers that have work great for me and its all in the textile i believe.

    1 Reply
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    Jul 3, 2011, 10.18 AMby varenoea

    My man wears all of those, providing the pattern is loud and hideous. Not the Western and Apache ones (they’re too tame), but all the Hawaii ones, the striped ones, and the ones with the mismatching pockets.

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    Jul 2, 2011, 05.51 PMby tinybows

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE those vintage men’s Western shirts! I really want to make one for my guy but there’s no way he’s ever going to wear one ever.

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    Jul 2, 2011, 02.53 PMby freaky-philomeen

    Inspired by your fantastic post I made a short research on men’s patterns. For maybe the 100th time I have come across this book ’ Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear’ by Winifred M. Aldrich (and there’s one book for women too, which also seems to haunt me).

    So…can anyone say if these would be a good purchase? My aim is drafting basic patterns for dresses (mostly female ;))) and trousers (male and female). My skill level is intermediate, I do not exceed ‘3 dots’ in burdastyle magazine yet.
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    Jul 2, 2011, 05.30 AMby denise2003

    I remember my Grandma used to make men’s shirts for all the men in her life. They were treasured. She always made western style. I have known some other women who made either shirts or jackets for men, and the items were always likewise treasured. I have always thought that men appreciate it when someone takes the time and effort to make them clothes. They might not have much selection, but having something custom-made with their own preferences considered is special to most men. I also have a young up-and-coming 15 year old (my best friend’s son, actually) that seems to have inherited a knack for making clothes for himself. He has no idea what he’s doing (yet) but even without a pattern or any instruction he came up with something wearable and attractive. I plan to encourage this!

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    Jul 2, 2011, 03.36 AMby carolyn-s

    I’ve used Burda 7767 to sew all my men’s shirts, lost count of the number of times I’ve used this pattern! As you say, men’s shirts are pretty similar and the interest is in the details. I often browse through men’s shirts and jackets in little independent boutiques to get ideas for quirky little details to add/implement into the shirts and jackets I make for my husband and sons. From here I’ve gleaned diagonal buttonholes, grouped sets of buttonholes, cool and unusual pocket designs, sleeve decorative details, tabs on both sleeves and shoulders, all of which I have used, and a host of other ideas I have plans to use at some stage. It’s handy to carry a little notebook with you when you are out, to jot down cool details you see on clothing.

    1 Reply
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    Jul 1, 2011, 03.56 PMby mbafarmyahoocom

    I remember my dad wearing a shirt similar to the butterick 3625 but with lots of flowers embroidered on it but I think it was purchased when he was stationed in Hawaii back about the time I was born (’72). Other than that he always wore western shirts and suits. I looked around a little bit for more boy patterns since I have a boy and a girl and I came across this blog that brings together a lot of boy patterns and tutorials.

    http://www.dana-made-it.com/2008/07/celebrate-boy-part-2.html

  • Missing

    Jul 1, 2011, 03.51 PMby gbreier

    No, never made any of those shirts except the western one. (But then, I AM from Texas..) I think it allows a litte to alot of room for creative design. The pearl snaps, embroidery, other stitching or some bling. gives the flair- without leaving the comfort zone for a lot of men. I sew a lot for my husband, and he loves me taking a basic pattern and making something that gets noticed. Even when people don’t like his choice of fabric, they will still compliment me if it is well made!

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    Jul 1, 2011, 03.45 PMby Avery Cassell

    I like to call those fitting seams “prince seams”. I agree that men’s pattern selection is horrendous.

    FYI: Reconstructing History has a slew of men’s patterns that can be adopted for daily wear, including this Norfolk Jacket pattern – http://www.reconstructinghistory.com/products/rh925-1870s-1900s-norfolk-jacket

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    Jul 1, 2011, 12.39 PMby agirlnamedflo

    I have been trying make shirts with my McCall’s 2447 pattern which is has a collar stand and front placket. The problem is finding good shirting. I need nice, normal shirting on the conservative side b/c although my bf “doesn’t care” what I make him…he does;)

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    Jul 1, 2011, 10.36 AMby amyalberici

    Peter, it sounds like you could start a successful market capitalizing on men’s patterns here. The first thing we must admit, men are not fussy about what they wear….but actually are! There is a very thin line that must not be crossed over. There is the Toy Story 3 Ken doll or the simple mountain man type.

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    Jul 1, 2011, 09.57 AMby marmota-b

    I must say the craziest thing of those crazy patterns are Apache shirt trousers! And it’s a photo, so apparently someone made that thing… and made it badly, because the huge pattern on the fabric does not line up AT ALL.

    I remembered the 30s and 40 German sewing magazines in my hold, and the fact that even there, there aren’t many patterns for men. Outside of a war feature “sew something for the soldiers”, which has things like winter gloves and hats. So maybe it’s because most ladies who sew do not sew for men? Because men have always preferred to have store-bought clothes, for whatever reason?

    1 Reply
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      Jul 1, 2011, 11.40 AMby Peter Lappin

      I think you’re right — men also need fewer clothes because styles don’t change as often (or as radically).

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    Jul 1, 2011, 08.21 AMby dare

    I am very much into sewing for my man but have to admit that even if there was variety in the patterns, there isn’t variety in mens attitudes. The best I can achieve is a well made shirt that looks ‘normal’ but has special details and subtly different fabrics. But its still in essence a ‘mans shirt’.

    BTW I’ve been working on and upgrading Burdastyles Jacob shirt exclusively – with the help of David Page Coffin’s book. I’ve never used another pattern.

    I love the idea of innovating the styles of menswear, but first you have to innovate men’s opinions! And the vast majority of men are conservative when it comes to fashion. They have their niche, be it tailored suits, casual suits or just plain casual (jeans with collars or tees).

    That being said, mens high street fashion at the moment is pretty game at the moment. I would assume though, that most of the guys out there who are strutting on the high street are not sewers.

    Perhaps this is driven by mens fashion being at a very high rate of design turnover, while mens classics have not really changed in the medium term. By comparison, many womens fashion and classic patterns are staples that can be modified to suit trends more easily. (?) thoughts (?)

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Jul 1, 2011, 11.42 AMby Peter Lappin

      Young men who shop at trendier fast-fashion stores like H&M or Zara are going to be more open to change. But it’s true that classic men’s tailored clothes have hardly changed at all. Most men are not open to radical change in their clothes — maybe they fear opening themselves up to ridicule, who knows?

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    Jul 1, 2011, 01.46 AMby Hette

    Yes, I made the Butterick 7673 Capri shirt for my stepfather in 1956 – I was 14 but had been sewing since age 11. It was easy and required only two buttonholes – a big plus in the days before my machine made them ( I didn’t even have zigzag). I also made the Nehru shirt (8006 above) for my husband, who liked the stand-up collar. I think it’s too bad men are in the fashion doldrums and it would be great to see some innovative designs for them. There were plenty of times in history when men were flamboyant in dress, so I take issue with your view that men like to be dull – I know several men who like to be out-of- the-ordinary…. maybe it’s because we all remember “flower power” LOL.

  • Missing

    Jun 30, 2011, 11.23 PMby aldara

    Both my grandfather and father wear/wore a lot of shirts, since they had office jobs. They both weren’t very experimental, though, and while my grandma sewed for herself, I don’t think she ever made a garment for her husband. I do think the gents are getting more experimental, though (I guess it’s the privilege of people in their 20s…). I have one male in my circle of friends who has actually commissioned a couple of shirts from me. He likes Tim Burton a lot and wants one “half white, half black” and one “with lots of zippers everywhere”. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m almost sure I’ll use the Negroni pattern, since the instructions are so well thought out. :)

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    Jun 30, 2011, 11.21 PMby urbandon

    Peter, I have sewn some of those 80’s shirts- hey, it WAS the 80’s. Patterns have died for men. Each season there are more and more women’s but no mens. Flicked through a pattern book at the local fabric store- men’s patterns are lumped in with family/boys/costumes. Maybe women don’t sew for their partners? Maybe there are not enough male sewers? Seems like the pattern houses just stopped bothering. I saw Banana Republic have a ‘Mad Men’ range- the idea could be adapted to patterns. Suppose a pattern house re-released their best 50’s patterns to stimulate the male pattern market? ’Or the Boardwalk Empire ’ Range? Now that I would buy!

    Until the pattern companies keep up with male fashion I will just make my own or adapt those 80’s ones I have.

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    Jun 30, 2011, 10.47 PMby Lucha Suarez

    Oh Peter! I have a lot to say on this subject but will try to restrain myself. The world of men’s sewing patterns is sad to say the least. I do believe that it is a combination of both reasons you brought up. Men mostly wear knit t-shirts day in and day out, atleast the men in my life do. I would love to have a few more options in this arena. As a mother to 4 boys, I would love to make them some bad ass things. We need to start a revoloution in sewing for men and boys. I know that there are men out there who sew and would like a few more options and many women who would like to sew for their men. I fill in the gap mostly by adapting simple patterns to my needs. I mostly make things for myself and my daughter because of this issue. I have recently decided to change this though and make some more stuff for my boys. I even bought a 1970’s shirt pattern that I first saw on your blog, and I am going to use it as a foundation for drafting a shirt for my 10 year old. Thanks again for bringing up the subject, maybe we can make a change and get some better patterns!

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    Jun 30, 2011, 10.39 PMby VictoriaR

    Peter, I haven’t made these exact patterns, but I have sewn some simillar. In the late 60s/early 70s I made quite a few shirts for my brother. One that stands out had princess seams (do they call them that on men’s shirts?) in the front. The center front section was navy blue with stars and the rest of the shirt was red and white stripes. It made quite the statement when worn with a white tie by my shaggy haired brother!

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