Vintage Sewing

A fitting question about the 40’s……

September 1, 2008

So, gang…..

I have a really cool pattern for a six gored skirt that *says* it is my waist measurement.
BUT, when I put it on my dress dummy it was 3 inches too small. Yikes. Now did they figure it would be your waist measurement *minus* a few inches thanks to a foundation garment? Just wondering if anyone knew the answer to this as I will be working on many many vintage patterns in the near future.
Also wondering if it’s okay to post these kinds of questions here, or if there is a more appropriate place to do so.
Hope you all had a fantabulous Labor Day!!

Miss Amelina

  1. I know they tended to wear things higher on the waist where as we where them lower now.
    I’ve made a few gored skirts a bit wider in the waist just by cutting each gore a bit wider near the top with great results.
    Best of luck,

  2. I set the band high on my waist, so I am not sure what in the heck is going on. 🙂 I am almost done with a muslin with 3 inches added in, so we will see.

  3. Can’t help with the question I’m afraid but these type of questions are absolutely fine, wonderful even, as as much information as we can get about sewing from vintage patterns the better!

  4. The pattern size is the actual body measurement size. The pattern then will take that into account, and add wearing ease. Wearing ease in vintage clothes is less than what many modern women are used to wearing.

    Besides making a muslin, which is a safe thing to do unless you’re very familiar with vintage sizing or a particular pattern company, you can flat measure your pattern pieces, subtract the seam allowances and compare that measurement to your own body measurement. You will then be able to see if you need to make a muslin at all or if you’ll need to make one to adjust the fit before cutting the fashion fabric.

    As has been mentioned, the seam allowance may be different than what has become the standard 5/8″. Many patterns from the 1940’s only have a 1/2″ seam allowance. Over six gores, that would equal a difference of 1 1/2″ – enough to really be a problem.

  5. Great advice!!
    I usually pin the pattern pieces to my dummy to check for a quick fit. The waistband would not reach around the dummy’s waist, and the waist is 30 inches….as is the pattern size. After adding 3 inches to everything it seems to fit…a tad tad tad too loosely. But i think once the garment is made in wool with a lining, that will be taken care of. You can check out my blog to see my latest challenge with the pattern. 🙂

  6. this question on seam allowances is quite intriguing. I am used to sewing with a 1cm (3/8″) allowance for wovens, (1.5cm (5/8″) for extra thick ones), and only a 6mm (3/16″)allowance for knits (jersey, interlock etc).
    And I’m constantly frustrated by commercial patterns having wide seam allowances that i have to cut off. so to hear most vintage patterns have narrower allowances to me is a good thing! Anyone know more info on this?

  7. The ones from the 30’s and 40’s (that I have at least) are mostly 3/8 but I have one or two that are 5/8 as well……Guess it pays to read the directions, darnit! 🙂 Remember you can use pinking shears on your seam allowances as you cut the pattern out, that way they are already finished.

  8. It is probably seam allowances, but vintage patterns were drafted with the expectation that the wearer would be wearing foundation. I know this from experience. I made a skirt from the forties in what was supposed to be my size and it ended up being too small. It didn’t hang right or anything. My seam allowances were correct in this case, but it didn’t fit right because I wasn’t wearing a foundation. I made it in the next larger size and took it in at the waist (I have a rather small waist as compared to my hips).

    Hope this helps!


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