Thursday, July 3, 2014

Shades of Blue


I have a love/hate relationship with vintage reproduction patterns produced by The McCall Company and Simplicity.  On the one hand, it is fantastic that they are being reproduced.  I am not, however, thrilled when they make fit, design, or instructional changes to the originals.


But I cannot manage to resist them, even when they keep printing the same basic dress with a few variations.


Don’t get me wrong, I love a full-skirted 50s frock (my closet is proof of this), but there just does not seem to be a whole lot of variety to the designs that are reproduced.  I have a Pinterest board filled with amazing vintage designs I adore, and from the amount of re-pinning going on, I am not the only one who loves these looks.  Even setting aside the designer patterns with copyright issues, there are thousands of stunning dresses and suits and blouses that are being passed over for something like this dress.  It is certainly fun to wear, but is really just a basic mid-century silhouette.


I have the same issue with many of their contemporary patterns as well.  I wish there were more advanced designs showing up in the catalogs.


I absolutely love the fact that so many people are discovering the joys of apparel sewing, but companies seem to be catering to a beginners market to the exclusion of intermediate and advanced designs.


Surely a lot of people have moved beyond a beginner level, and I am perplexed as to why the pattern market has not starting taking that into account.  I have had numerous conversations with many people about this issue, so I am quite certain I am not the only one who would like to see a change.


Until the Big 4 figure that out, I will just have to be content with my personal collection of patterns.  And I will probably continue to purchase the new vintage reproductions since I do appreciate working with factory folded pattern tissue that I know will come in my size.  But I keep wondering who gets to choose these designs, and how do they always manage to ignore the most amazing of the bunch?!


Here is to challenging and fulfilling sewing projects!  With the understanding, of course, that there will always be room for full skirts, crinolines, and polka dots!



Dress & Belt:  Made by me, Butterick 6055
Petticoat:  Made by me
Shoes:  Halogen

36 comments:

  1. I couldnt agree with you more! Really wish there were some more challenging patterns out there. This is why I tend to stay away from modern patterns - whether they be Big 4 or indie. So many shapeless garments like people are afraid to fit. And no intricacy or complicated details. Its sad!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am still holding out hope that the tide will turn and these companies will hear our call for intricate and challenging designs!! Until then, I will keep searching for fabulous vintage patterns . . .

      Delete
  2. Love the dress! such a refreshing shade of blue! I'm with you on the vintage repros--whatever happened to interesting sleeves?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am completely with you on the sleeves - the 1930s had some amazing sleeves and why they disappeared is beyond me!

      Delete
  3. I agree all the lovely details and intricate draping etc on the originals and they print the basic house dress and dumb down the details.so they dont even look like the originals in the end.Its a shame.Id even be willing to pay more for the reproductions if they really were true reproductions and the only difference being modern sizing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I know have a fairly extensive vintage pattern collection which includes some pretty complicated designs 1930's onwards, which has spurred an idea which has been niggling in my brain. Do you think if there was a poll set up where, as a sewing community, we voted to show which we were interested in, the big 4 would take notice? I know they work on a voluntary submission process so it would depend on the owners of the winning patterns to be willing to sent their patterns off. I know I would love to share.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Evidently, the Big 4 have a hard time working with a voting process because they work on such a tight schedule. Simplicity had a one-time voting thing on a choice of a Cynthia Rowley design a couple of years back, but that was never repeated. It's a shame, I think a vote would be a great way to get what we want, and ensure the company that they will have sales.

      A community run poll to influence the new releases . . . now that is a very interesting idea . . . The McCall Company does not require the actual pattern for the Butterick retro line, and I assume it will be the same for the McCall archive collection. The Vogues would have to be sent in, but perhaps not the Buttericks and McCalls . . . I think you may have something here . . .

      Delete
  5. Love this dress, you did such a great job on this dress. You really are an inspiration with your beautiful creations. It would be nice if they came out with a new sewing book and could even guide more complicated techniques to their audience, kind of like an update to Vogue's Guide To Better Sewing. Wouldn't this be great?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Joanna! And I think an updated Vogue Guide to Better Sewing would be fabulous!! I live to learn more complicated sewing techniques. :)

      Delete
  6. The dress is lovely -- crisp and chic! As far as vintage pattern repro's go, I actually don't think this is an area the Big 4 will ever excel in. The fact that they don't have the original patterns on-hand makes the whole process difficult to plan. I'm guessing it probably takes a LOT of time and effort to make happen. Do the sales numbers justify the investment? I wonder. Thanks to the internet, people who are passionate about vintage patterns can pick them up on eBay and Etsy. There's also the Vintage Pattern Library and a few independent companies that make repros. These patterns are (relatively) unique and come with all the original instructions, gorgeous pattern art, etc. -- I wouldn't trade that for anything. I am convinced that this a strictly dollars-and-cents issue for the Big 4. Even the indies are making basic, basic patterns.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not to mention -- and I'll stop here -- that half the time the repros the Big 4 do put out are unexciting, as you say, or they've been tampered with (dumbed down?). Maybe you need to present yourself as their vintage pattern consultant -- you're certainly well-qualified!

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Peter!

      I just love the Vintage Pattern Lending Library! The only issue with small independent companies reproducing vintage patterns is the limited sizing (mostly because I am really lazy about grading up or down a size). There are a few designs that sometimes get graded into multiple sizes, but I cannot imagine how much work that would be for a one-person business, and many of the patterns do not have that option.

      The Big4 may need to start from scratch, but they make their designs available in a large range of sizes, and I imagine they have the technology and resources to make that happen with much less effort than the smaller operations.

      I think you are right about the dollars-and-cents issue. But I am really confused about the dumbing down of patterns in general . . . since home sewing is so popular these days, it only makes sense that after a few years, most people are going to want more involved and interesting designs to work with. So why are things moving in the opposite direction?! Hopefully the pendulum will start to swing in the opposite direction.

      Delete
  7. i totally agree! i also want more intricate designs, with more details. there are sooo many patterns out there that are nothing more than simple darted bodices with different sorts of skirts. and while i can live with the big 4 producing such patterns (that can be purchased for just a few dollars), it makes me very sad to see som indie designers shifting towards this kind of utterly simple designs. sure, they give better instructions, and i can understand that there is a market of very beginners, but surely a true beginner wants to make something with a bit more fun and detailing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been having this same conversation with so many people lately! The market is saturated with beginner projects, to the exclusion of the more interesting and advanced designs, and there are a lot of us out there looking for a challenge . . . hopefully all of the pattern companies (indies included) will start to understand that!

      And in order for a beginner to learn, I think they need to be pushed towards more demanding projects.

      Delete
  8. I've pretty much given up on modern reproduction patterns like those from Butterick and Simplicity (although I still have some hope for Vogue!) I'm lucky enough to fit in to one of the most common sizes of vintage patterns. Plus vintage patterns are so amazing! I can't remember the last time I bought let alone sewed up a modern pattern.

    You always do such a great job with them though! :D

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm with you about many of those Big 4 reissues. There was an interview on We Sew Retro with someone from the McCalls company explaining their reissues. http://wesewretro.com/2014/05/mccalls-archive-collection/ Basically the Vogues are taken from original patterns, but the grading is done on modern pattern blocks, which changes the fit. The Buttericks and McCalls are taken from illustrations and reimagined by modern pattern makers, without using the original pattern. I actually like the selection from Simplicity better, because they do vintage separates and "Mad Men" styles which are more my thing. Burda has some fun 60s and 70s patterns, too. For now I'll stick to slogging through the originals in my collection, though!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Agree the reissue choices aren't great. But have you read this interview with McCall on the Vogue, Butterick, McCall vintage lines? It explains why apart from Vogue, the "reissues" don't come with original instructions & fit. Even Vogue is supposedly resized for today's figure.

    http://wesewretro.com/2014/05/mccalls-archive-collection/

    Given that McCall & Butterick are working from scratch using old catalog illustrations & line drawing it does beg the question why they limit themselves to basic designs. They seem open to suggestions, but want only designs with "wide appeal" however that's measured. Maybe we need to figure out a way to communicate & quantify popularity of more complicated designs...eg liking any vintage Pinterest they share that features a more advanced design?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did see that interview, which had me super hopeful about the new Archive Collection - and I jumped right over to the McCall website as soon as the email came through about the new patterns. But with a somewhat lackluster start, I am worried it will just be more of the same. Pinterest is full of incredible vintage patterns, but the choices that are made for the repro line are nothing like those . . . I am not sure why there is such a disconnect . . .

      I do, however, love the idea of voting on a curated selection of designs that would be possible to add to the re-issued lines on Butterick, McCall, and Vogue.

      Delete
  11. BTW, do real vintage pattern fit assume you'll be wearing a girdle? Seeing as most women nowadays don't, would real vintage pattern not fit properly?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a common misconception. The amount of ease varies from pattern to pattern, even when you are talking about vintage ones, but the proportions are not as extreme as you might think from looking at pictures of Dovima or Marilyn Monroe!

      The only company that I have come across that uses extreme proportions is Spadea.

      I rarely make fit changes to original vintage patterns and I do not wear a girdle. Sometimes darts extend further towards the bust apex and that look is most suited to a bullet bra, but other than that, they suit a modern figure just fine (in my opinion!). I actually have a post about this that goes into some detail http://www.lauramaedesigns.com/2014/01/does-size-really-matter.html

      But the easy answer is . . . you will probably not need to make any more alterations than you normally would with a standard contemporary Vogue, Simplicity, etc. pattern.

      Delete
  12. such a great color on you. really like that photo collage - a nice touch to your blog post:)
    I agree about the extreme simplicity of most new patterns, the same dress over and over. I have made some coats and jackets multiple times because there is nothing new and interesting in the pattern choiced. Keep speaking up about it. Happy Fourth!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hopefully someone will hear us, right?! Now that I know there are a lot of us that feel the same way, I am more inclined to keep yammering on about it until someone starts to listen!!

      Delete
  13. I love this dress on you! The blue on blue polka dots are great, and those pockets are a lovely touch. I've sewn very few Big 4 reproductions for a lot of the reasons you mention. What it makes me wonder is if we're really just not their target market. I think perhaps I've always assumed that they were likely created not for sewers who do a lot of vintage sewing, but more for sewers who *don't*. Those looking for costumes, or fun one-off type projects. Like they're just cherry picking what they think are good ol' standards that would have more of a mass appeal. It definitely keeps me more inspired by my vintage patterns in general!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tasha! I was actually thinking of you when I was stitching my pockets into place!

      And you are probably right - they are creating a bit of "vintage-lite" for someone to perhaps wet their feet in the vintage pool with a stereotypical vintage silhouette and therefore want to keep things on the bland side. But how great would it be to have easy access to some of the over-the-top amazing designs that show up on Pinterest?!

      Delete
  14. Such a pretty dress, and I especially like those amazing pockets! Despite my love for simple design, I totally agree with your take on vintage reproductions. Why put out patterns over and over that someone could draft/modify from modern styles fairly easily when there are so many amazing details out there??

    ReplyDelete
  15. What a glorious dress! I think the pockets may be my favourite part.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I can't help but think part of it is the number of sheets that these patterns probably took, and that they were produced as single size sets. Add to that changes in instructional style. And probably the number of patterns that have simply been tossed or lost when the companies consolidated.

    I am looking forward to reading Joy Emery's "A History of the Paper Pattern Industry" when it's my turn for the library copy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my gosh, that book looks wonderful!

      Delete
  17. I agree the big pattern companies choice of patterns can be very...stilted. But I suppose they are assuming once you get past beginner level you can start making your own modifications. There are very few patterns I now sew without making major changes....I just look for basic 'shapes' I can use as a base to modify.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Stellar dress! From the cut to the pattern to the tranquil colour palette, I adore it all and really, really think that is looks like a million dollars on you.

    ♥ Jessica

    ReplyDelete
  19. What a beautiful dress! I went right off to buy the pattern. With due respect to all the thoughtful opinions expressed above, I do love me an easy-to-sew vintage style dress. I have sewn some dresses from intricate vintage dress patterns, but they tend to hang in the closet and be saved for special occasions because so much work went into them I am afraid of them getting mussed up in every day life.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wonderful dress -- especially love those pockets! As expressed above, I'm wondering if the Big 4 are targeting their "vintage styles" to non-vintage-sewing enthusiasts, which is why they offer simplified patterns. I think the Big 4 companies are so large that they focus on patterns for the lowest common denominator -- not the enthusiasts who want exceptional design details, challenging techniques, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Would you be able to post a tutorial on making a crinoline?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Laura Mae, great job on the dress! It looks fantastic on you. Mind if we share it on our social media?

    To Laura Mae's readers: We read this post and your comments. We hear you and we would love to have your suggestions on which vintage patterns you think we should reissue. Please take a look at our Pinterest board (http://bit.ly/vintagecatalogs) or your own vintage pattern images and send us an email with your top 1-2 suggestions for pattern reissues to Facebook@mccallpattern.com. Please, no more than 1 to 2 low-res images per person and please do not send any designer patterns, as licensing agreements unfortunately prohibit us from reissuing those.

    Laura Mae, if you'd like to repost this comment in a new blog post, please feel free! We look forward to hearing from you and your fans. —Meg Carter for the McCall Pattern Company

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meg, Thank you for the kind words – and you may certainly share the dress with your followers.

      Thank you for taking the time to read the comments, and I will certainly spread the word about sharing our absolute favorite designs with you as suggestions for future reissues!

      Delete
  23. I completely understand what you are saying here, I feel the same way about sewing books! Especially since starting my job at a haberdashery I've noticed how much of the same is being published. We have tons of books on sewing and new ones come out all the time, but the vast majority of them are about 'starting to sew' and include mostly beginner's projects. It's great to see popular bloggers get the chance to make a book and be published but I rarely buy those because it's just more of the same information... Of course it also depends on what publishers want, but isn't it a bit sad how my favourite books on more advanced techniques like tailoring are 50 years old?

    ReplyDelete