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.
A wardrobe pattern would usually include
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.
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.
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!
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?