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There are plenty of things that intimidate modern sewers about vintage patterns, but the scariest issue to overcome is usually sizing. If your bust measurement is larger than 36”, it can seem impossible to find a pattern for you. Believe me, I know how frustrating it is to see all the fabulous patterns out there, and then to discover that you can’t find it in your size. But plus size ladies don’t have to give up on the idea of sewing vintage. Quite the opposite! Retro styles are especially flattering on women with curves. Here are some tips for dealing with the size gap.

1. Persistence. Plus size vintage patterns are certainly out there, but you need to develop an obsessive dedication to finding them. One of my favorite bloggers, Carolyn recently made this comment on my blog:

Plus size vintage patterns can be found but it takes a great deal of looking. I have amassed a little collection of them and actually made a few. Believe me it’s easier to start with a vintage plus pattern than to grade up.

My favorite spots are Lanetz Living, Out of the Ashes and the Blue Gardenia . . . You will need to spend a lot of time trolling for patterns, but they are out there to be found!

www.lanetzliving.net
www.risingfeenix.com
www.thebluegardenia.com

2. Explore independent reproduction companies. Eva Dress is a company that grades original vintage patterns into multiple sizes – some up to a bust size 50”. Decades of Style is another great independent business that offers true reproductions in a large range of sizes. (See two great options above!)

3. Try reissues from the Big 4 Pattern companies. Vogue, McCalls, Simplicity, and Butterick all reissue their own patterns from decades past, usually up to a size 22 (a 44” bust). Keep in mind that these are not true reproductions: they are updated for today’s sizing and techniques. In some cases, this can be a great thing. Other times, you might find you need to do a bit of finessing to get the vintage silhouette you want.

4. Use contemporary patterns to make retro styles. Vintage style is really all about silhouette and styling. Sheath dresses, capelets, pencil skirts, secretary blouses, and dirndl skirts are all shapes that are available in modern patterns – right here on BurdaStyle! Look at the Lindsey Cape, the Fatina Shift, the Emily Variation 1, and the Alexis skirt are all great options that can be easily customized with vintage flair. Do some visual research on retro elements, and with some very basic patternmaking skills, you can make vintage-inspired looks that are completely unique.

Remember, the great thing about sewing is that you can tailor clothes to fit you, no matter what your body type. Spend plenty of time fitting your garments, and you will look and feel fabulous. Have any more tips on sewing vintage for plus sizes? Please share them in the comments!

14 Comments

  • Meme_small2_copy_large

    Jul 7, 2011, 01.21 PMby jemimabean

    Hmmm. I disagree with the comment that reproductions are the “way to go”. You miss out on the amazing and beautiful vintage construction details. A good sewing primer at hand will help you through the parts you don’t understand (I have a 70s Reader’s Digest sewing book that has EVERYTHING in it).

    As much as I appreciate the info given here, I’d prefer to read a plus-size vintage pattern/sewing article written by a plus-size “vintage” sewist. The experience of shopping, finding, and the little tips/tricks would be much more attuned to the needs and interest of those who actually use plus size patterns.

  • Missing

    Jun 25, 2011, 05.32 PMby viviene18328

    There are some vintage patterns available that include special fitting instructions so you can take into account if your bottom half is larger (which mine is), etc. There are also a fair amount of tutorials online to help with adjusting patterns. I always use a muslin model first to make sure the fit is just right.

  • Missing

    Jan 29, 2011, 03.45 PMby viviene18328

    I happen to own Born Too Late Vintage Patterns, http://borntoolatevintagepatterns.com and am based on ArtFire. I specialize in plus size patterns so feel free to come and check out our items. I am plus sized myself which is why I started specializing in plus size patterns. :)

  • Photo_on_2010-02-05_at_15_52_large

    Dec 1, 2009, 11.05 PMby daston

    I work in a sewing shop in Los Angeles where we sell the Decades of Style patterns, and we actually teach a class for the dress on the right (the button dress). Reproduction really is the way to go with vintage patterns. Aside from the sizing issues, vintage pattern instructions are damn near impossible to follow. The point of sewing your own clothes is to make them fit properly. The only thing I’ve found to work every time is to make a muslin of a pattern and to fit it and make alterations to the pattern from there. Spend a little extra time to make it work. It’s definitely worth it!

  • Img_1414_large

    Nov 29, 2009, 07.37 PMby Syrena B

    the problem I have with sizing is that I have a small bust and a more than ample bottom! … So, when I buy for my hips, I have alot of extra material on top and if I buy for my top, I cannot get it over my behind… :(

    1 Reply
    • Img_1414_large

      Dec 31, 2010, 03.25 PMby Syrena B

      I forgot to mention that I am also a short 5’4" in height….

  • Vatten_large

    Nov 24, 2009, 11.04 PMby ichigogirl

    Just saw a REALLY pretty 1930’s dress on ebay, size bust 44… (I would have bid on it if it had been my size…)

  • Vatten_large

    Nov 24, 2009, 04.06 PMby ichigogirl

    I love the dress on the right hand side… it’s gorgeous! I agree that there are a lot more vintage patterns in small sizes than in big sizes, but quite often when I search for the small ones I run into sizes about ten sizes too big, so don’t give up, they do exist, and they aren’t THAT rare. I guess the really big sizes (in the obese-range) were a lot less common though. Also, I find the vintage patterns (I buy almost exclusively 1930’s and 1940’s patterns) didn’t run much smaller than they do now, I thought they would but often the smallest size available (it’s often printed that it’s the smallest one available on the enveopes) is slightly too big for me (just like with modern patterns/clothes). And although I’m a bust 33 (I’ve bought quite a few teen-patterns in adult styles…), the bust 32-pattern I’m working on now seems to run a bit big. I think I’ll post it any day, tonight is the big button-hole night :-)!

  • Glasses_0_large

    Nov 23, 2009, 05.22 PMby gertie

    No, sadly. :( I’m still holding out on 2. The shirtwaist dress and the suit. I did find a few of them through google alerts!

  • Madmen_me_large

    Nov 23, 2009, 01.08 PMby zozowahine

    Gertie, I guess you had to set up alerts to find the Vogue Patterns for your Vogue Better Sewing challenge? Have you found them all yet?

  • Madmen_me_large

    Nov 22, 2009, 08.59 AMby zozowahine

    Another awesome post Gertie! I am often pleasantly surprised by how many larger than 38" bust vintage patterns I find when trawling ebay. If any larger ladies (or ladies of any size come to think of it) were on the hunt for vintage patterns then I would suggest getting on ebay and setting up an automatic search in the patterns section including the key words ‘vintage’ and their bust measurement. It won’t make all the options turn up, because I’ve found that sellers don’t always mention the bust size of a pattern, but this way ebay will do some hunting for you and email you the results when they turn up, so you don’t need to do all the work.

    2 Replies
    • Glasses_0_large

      Nov 22, 2009, 07.07 PMby gertie

      Ooh, great tip. Thanks! I have about a million eBay searches set up. The other thing I do is Google alerts. It’s not a perfect system, like you said, but it is a time saver.

    • Da810f03a0d5db1cdb3b8d267111c9fcc7ad2eda_large

      Nov 23, 2009, 12.12 AMby auntchelle

      This is definately what I do. As I live in Oz I find that I usually have to purchase from the UK or the USA. Very few plus size are sold in Australia.

  • 046_large

    Nov 22, 2009, 07.46 AMby shela

    I am full figured and I have been trying to draft the pattern using one similar, I haven’t actually made anything yet.

    • This is a question
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