One pattern several outfits – the “wardrobe” phenomena

1989 Vogue Career Wardrobe 2329
1989 Vogue Career Wardrobe 2329

When I first started sewing my teacher suggested that we all buy a “wardrobe” pattern. These patterns, which during the 1980s when I was learning to sew, were especially aimed at workwear, have a longer history. Here is one from the 1960s, Butterick 3791, which includes the technical drawing on the front so you can see both the wide choice included, and also how easy it would be just to cut off the trousers to make shorts, or the long skirt to make a short one. The pattern maker simply draws a line across the pattern.

Butterick xxxx
Butterick xxxx

A wardrobe pattern would usually include

  • jacket
  • blouse
  • skirt
  • trousers

Some elongate the blouse and include a dress; others shorten the trousers and include shorts; a number of them feature a waistcoat which is just the jacket without the sleeves.  A coat might be included (long jacket) or a jacket with short sleeves. This one “Today’s Wardrobe” from Butterick helpfully tells you what to wear to work every day of the week.

1982 Butterick 6080
1982 Butterick 6080

The beauty of these patterns apart from the obvious one of economy is that the buyer would get a silhouette that has been carefully crafted by the designer. And once you have fitted one item to your personal measurements you could apply the alterations across all the outfits. The other fun part is choosing a set of fabrics which work well together creating a capsule wardrobe, as described so eloquently by two of my favourite bloggers Elizabeth  (EJVC) and Karen. (Kbenco). Although the 80s styling is dated (especially the shoulders and skirt lengths) if you look at the pattern envelopes there is quite  lot to be said for the styling. Those pioneering women executives certainly knew how to put a great look together.

Even Christian Dior provides a pattern that meets the wardrobe criteria.

Christian Dior pattern Vogue 1447
Christian Dior Vogue 1447

The back of the envelope shows just how many items you get for your money (currently on Etsy for about £6). And a great deal of shoulder padding too!

Vogue 1447 Technical drawings
Vogue 1447  Technical drawings

I have never bought one of these patterns myself, mainly on the basis that I found some of the styling rather too Dynasty-like for my taste. Even the modern incarnations seem to be  trying a bit too hard. Many of the jackets are collarless whereas I enjoy making and wearing revered jackets myself. But since completing the SWAP, discovering Geoffrey Beene, and the blog discussions on “Wardrobe” I am warming to them. Although I have many projects lined up I am tempted by buying one of these and working through it, co-ordinated item by item. Maybe if I join the SWAP challenge next year it may be possible to choose this as my challenge.

Of course there are modern version available. Both Catherine Daze and Dr Elizabeth discuss the pros and cons of newly released Vogue 9066, a contemporary wardrobe pattern.

Have you ever had a go with a wardrobe pattern? Has anyone out there gone the whole way and made up everything? And then actually worn all the items?

5 Responses

  1. I find they can be a good source of basics but I’ve never made a whole one. I think you put your finger on it with the 80s thing. The overall effect is usually one of power dressing! Kudos to Vogue for trying a more casual wardrobe pattern in the last release though.

  2. My mother was very keen on wardrobe patterns. As a result, I own several, but have only made all the pieces once – for a SWAP where that was the rule for the challenge! I did wear all the pieces – a jacket, a sleeveless t shirt top, a gored skirt and trousers but never actually wore the t shirt with the other items, finding it too casual for the business look of the other pieces. The t shirt, however, remains a staple that I make at least once a year, so as Catherine says, they can be a good source of basics.
    I find the appeal of the wardrobe patterns is that the necklines/sleeve lengths and overall shaping of the pieces all co-ordinate. It is very annoying to make a co ordinating shirt and jacket and find after the sewing that the collars are unsightly when worn together.
    Thank you for your compliment ;). I am flattered.

  3. Thank you for your interesting feedback. I agree that because all the items are drafted from the same basic pattern, and that they co-ordinate, it should be possible to actually base a wardrobe on them. Unlike buying outfits from the same range in one shop, there is great scope for individuality. I guess I have not yet found one that appeals. I just bought a couple of Geoffrey Beene patterns where I like the trousers/dresses/skirts but find the jackets just too 80s in their styling.

  4. Brenda Marks

    This post sent me meandering through ESTY’s offerings of Dior and Beene patterns. Take a look at Vogue 1770 for a pencil skirt with pockets (relating to one of your original posts). It seems like designers have at least tried to incorporate pockets. : )

    • Yes this is a splendid skirt. I actually want to make a whole Beene wardrobe, but at the moment I am going more towards casual wear as I have lots of work clothes and maybe only five years left at work. In the UK we just don’t have the same patterns available, especially in terms of second hand, being a much smaller market. And the 1980s women’s work wear here was a bit different from in the US I think. So only a few Vogue Beenes come up regularly on eBay etc, and I think I have them all.

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