McCall’s Archive Collection

We have quite a bit of fun over on the WeSewRetro Facebook page (have you been playing our vintage pattern dating game over there?) and when I posted this 1940s McCall pattern, reader Carla wondered why we don’t see any reissued vintage McCall’s patterns similar to the Vintage Vogue and Retro Butterick lines.

Pretty good question, right? I thought so too, so I had a little chat with the lovely Meg from the McCall Pattern Company to find out…and got an exciting exclusive scoop in the process – guess what McCall’s will be releasing in June? Read on to learn more…

Hi Meg! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Can you tell us about the process of taking a single-sized vintage pattern and rereleasing it as a multisized pattern? How do you approach the sizing, considering modern women tend to run slightly larger and often wear less restrictive undergarments than in, say, the 1940s?

Ok, so the process we undertake depends on the brand:

“Vintage Vogue” patterns

These are authentic patterns, reissued just as they were originally published. We take the pattern pieces and resize them to today’s size 10, and then we follow the normal grading process from there.

Sewing one of our reissued Vintage Vogue patterns is the best way to have an authentic vintage sewing experience, just the same as when your grandmother or great-grandmother first sewed this pattern. We go through a complete process to re-create these patterns.

Anyone with an old Vogue Pattern who thinks it might have wide appeal for today’s sewers is welcome to send us a photo of the envelope front and back toeditor@voguepatterns.com. All pattern pieces and the instructions must be accounted for, nothing can be missing or damaged beyond use. If we decide to use your pattern, we’ll ask you to send the entire pattern to us so we can work with it to re-create it. In return, you’ll receive a credit on the pattern envelope and on the catalog page, plus you can choose five free patterns. And we return your pattern to you.

We get asked all the time why we don’t reissue designer patterns, like DVF’s iconic wrap dress pattern. We would LOVE to do this, but it all boils down to licensing agreements with each designer, and these agreements were negotiated years ago and are no longer in effect. It bums us out as much as it does you. Negotiating licensing agreements with designers these days is a far more complex process than it was back in the 1940s-1980s, but that’s a story for another time.

 “Retro Butterick” patterns

We go into our archives and re-create the pattern from the illustration and line drawings. Since we are basically starting from scratch without a pattern, we can follow our normal sizing and grading process for today’s women.

“McCall’s Archive Collection” patterns

This new pattern line will debut with a pattern from the 1930s in the McCall’s Early Fall catalog, coming in June. We follow the same process here as we do with Retro Butterick—we go into our archives and replicate what’s in the pattern illustration.

Awesome! A new retro pattern line from McCall’s – I can’t wait to see the first offering!  I know you have an archive room at McCall Pattern Company headquarters and I’m sure I’m not the only one who would fistfight a moose to get a peek in there. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

We do have an archive room, though it’s not very big, more like a large walk-in closet. But it has the coolest stuff in it! Tons of old pattern catalogs for Butterick, Vogue Patterns and McCall’s. Old Delineator magazines going back to the late 1880’s. (Delineator was created to market Butterick patterns but then grew into a general interest magazine for women.) Sewing books. Company newsletters. Original artwork. At one time we had an actual archivist who maintained our archives. If you’d like glimpses of what’s in the archive room, visit our Pinterest boards featuring photos of old pattern catalog pages  (mccallpatternco).

This is going to make you sad, but we do not have paper copies of our patterns that were created in the pre-digital days. It’s unfortunate, but we just don’t have the space to store the thousands of patterns we’ve issued in the decades we’ve been in business. We have donated many old patterns to museums and educational institutions, though, and we do maintain a huge collection of our brands’ pattern catalogs through the years.

With such a long and amazing back catalog of patterns to choose from, how do you go about choosing which patterns to reissue?


We are very influenced by popular culture when it comes to deciding what patterns to reissue, and customer feedback plays a big role here too. In fact, thanks to customer feedback, we’re issuing Downton Abbey-inspired sewing patterns in the Fall issue of Butterick, coming this July. If there is a particular type of vintage pattern or era you think we should bring back, then by all means let us know! You can send an email to facebook@voguepatterns.com, leave a comment on one of our pattern brand’s Facebook page (we have Facebook pages for Vogue Patterns, McCall’s, Butterick and Kwik Sew), or tweet us (@mccallpatternco).

Thanks so much for this opportunity to chat with We Sew Retro. We love seeing what you sew with our vintage patterns, and you inspire us. Happy sewing!

So there you have it, readers. The new McCall’s Archive Collection will start in June with a reissued pattern from the 1930s. Which 1930s McCall pattern do you think it will be? I’ll be sharing some of my very favorite McCall patterns from the 1930s over on our facebook page today and I’ve had an obscene amount of fun creating a ginormous 1930s McCall pinterest board which you can find by clicking here. What’s your favorite McCall pattern from the 30s?  Have you sewn something from a 30s McCall pattern? Pop a link in the comments so I can pin it…

• Meet the Author • Katherine


I'm the editor at WeSewRetro so don't hesitate to get in touch with any problems or questions. In addition to keeping the good ship WeSewRetro afloat, I do an amateurish but enthusiastic job of raising a daughter, teach university professors how to dominate a computer by day and study for a masters in literature at night. My daily coffee consumption would kill a small horse. I'm having a clandestine relationship with bias binding and my idea of hell is turning a spaghetti strap right side out.


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20 comments… add one

  • This is soooo exciting!!!

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    • Omg!!!!

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  • Thanks for this scoop, Katherine! It’s so interesting that they have different processes for the different retro lines. And now I understand why they weren’t interested in my vintage ’20s and ’30s McCalls ;)

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    • Yes, I was surprised too – I always assumed they were going back to an original pattern and resizing from there.

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  • It seems to me as if you are missing a wonderful educational opportunity here. Given that you now have three brands to play with, why not distinguish the levels of authenticity? For instance, Vogue could have authentic reissues, in the original sizing and original instructions, which fashion historians would love. Anyone with this depth of interest would likely have enough sewing knowledge to adapt them to individual figures. Butterick could have what Vogue does now, historical patterns redrawn in modern sizing. And McCalls could be as described above, patterns of another era, recreated from scratch.

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  • This was a fabulous interview. The archive room sounds like a treasure trove for sewers.

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    • Can you imagine if they had kept all the old patterns? I can barely stand it!

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  • Aaaaaaahhhhh!! Sssssssoooooooo excited!! I hope they do a 1940 release soon too!

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  • Ahhhh! This is so exciting! I’ve been wondering the same thing, when Vogue, Butterick, and Simplicity all have retro lines of varying authenticity. And I have many, many vintage McCall’s (and McCall, before they added the S) in my stash. Actually the McCall’s pattern illustrations from the 1940s are my absolute all time favorite – they are so gorgeous and lush.

    I don’t really sew 1930s style, as my figure is distinctively ‘hourglass’ and the slinky styles of that decade aren’t the most flattering for me. (Give me a Fifties frock with a giant skirt, and we’re in business!) However, the addition of the Archive line means I will be buying McCall’s patterns again for the first time in years.

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  • I have a collection of 50’s patterns inherited from my mother…I used to make them up when I was in my teens…they are very precious as they are so much a part of her. I also have a large collection of Needlework magazines from the 50’s and 60’s with patterns and embroidery transfers in..also precious as they were my grans…..

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    • You’re so lucky to have those, Jane. When I’m hunting for vintage patterns, I’ve spoken to so many people who have inherited their mother’s/grandmother’s collection and just thrown it in the trash. So sad.

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      • Thank you for this interesting post. In it you answered many questions I have had for a long time!

        I was born in 1957, and I was sewing a lot in high school, until I graduated in 1974. I used new patterns in all the 4 major brands of those times … Vogue, Butterick, McCall’s and Simplicity. I was, unknowingly, attracted to the styles that I now identify as 40s and 30s. We all thought these were new looks, created especially for us … perhaps teenagers these days know that everything old is new again! Your wesewretro is making people so well-educated.

        An item on my list of “Burning Desires To Do In Life,” is to own again a particular Vogue pattern from my original collection, that I foolishly gave away in a box of other neat 60s and 70s patterns back in the 1980s. No, I don’t know the number, only that I made it up in the summer of 1973. And Vogues don’t tend to have dates on them. Makes it kind of hard to find! I keep waiting to see an image of it listed for sale somewhere, and now I understand that Vogue does not likely have a copy in their archives, and they would need the pattern itself to create a reissue.

        You saved me, and perhaps others, time and psychic energy by making it known what is and is not possible through asking Vogue to find things in their archives; I’ll just focus on finding it myself. The day I do will be my lucky day … it keeps me excited about getting up every morning!!

        Thanks for this site – it has rekindled in me the happy feelings of my youth, and inspired me to take up sewing “retro” styles again!

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        • Thanks for the kind words, Vondi :)

          Can you describe your 1970s Vogue pattern? I bet we can find it online somewhere – perhaps on the Vintage Patterns Wiki: http://vintagepatterns.wikia.com/wiki/Category:1970s

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          • Hi Katherine!
            I visited the site you suggested – another fun place to look …!

            The Vogue I’m looking for is a blouse, possibly with wide-leg slacks as well. There is a possibility my memory has slipped :0 and it could have been a Butterick, but I know it wasn’t McCall’s or Simplicity. (Don’t want to start a wild-goose chase!!)

            It had a reverse-facing type band about an inch wide around the jewel neckline, that was cut all in one piece with a pair of side-by-side front vertical bands that extended down about 8 inches at the center front. The bodice was gathered on each side into the bands for about 3 inches at the fullest part of the bust, and the bands connected and closed at the center front with buttons and bias loops. As I recall, I made half inch covered buttons. Sort of like a glamourous, shapely, collar-less polo shirt!

            The sleeves were long, gathered into the shoulder, and also gathered at the wrist into a narrow band, echoing the neckline and front band treatment. The cuffs also had a bias loop and button. The thing that excited me so much at the time, was the long zipper in the left side, opening at the hem. The first time I had ever done such a thing, and “lapped,” not centered, which was another first! The blouse was very fitted, not much ease, meant to be worn over the slacks, not tucked in, and the zipper made the button-loop-front merely decorative. It was never necessary to open the buttons once I put them into place. It turned out slightly too small, only fit me on skinny days. I really needed a 14, my bust being 37 inches at the time, not the 12 I normally could get away with using in the other brands of patterns. (One of the reasons I’m thinking it was Vogue – their fit is so right-on.)

            Whew – long story! But, I’m hoping, not too much for people like us who are passionate for patterns!! I hope I was able to convey the image. When I get this pattern, and when I learn how to post pictures and things on the internet, I would sew it again and share with you all on wesewretro. Thanks, Katherine, for letting me chat on and on :)

  • First, I’m thrilled to hear about their new releases. 2nd, quite intrigued to see if I have any that could be re-issued by them (probably not). And 3rd, thank you for such an interesting post. Hopefully they’ll get a real archive with a little display area for us pattern geeks someday.

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  • Wonderful & insightful interview! I wanted to know the answers to all of those questions. I loved looking behind the scenes & I look forward to the releases! Thank you!

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  • One word, Woopdedooo!

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  • Thanks for the info! Exciting news!

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  • A great site for looking up — and dating — vintage patterns, including Vogue, is the Commercial Pattern Archive at the University of Rhode Island. It is called CoPA; you can sample their search engine for free; there are over 56,000 patterns in the database, and it is growing. I blogged about the site at http://witness2fashion.wordpress.com/category/dating-vintage-patterns/
    or you can do a search for Commercial Pattern Archive. Click on Sample to try a search of the database.

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    • Thank you, witness2fashion – I’ll try to find my Vogue there!

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