I was at the Scripps College reunion a couple weeks ago and, looking up from my lonely enjoyment of the excellent hors d'oeuvres at the president's reception, caught sight of a young woman from the class of 2004 who was wearing a beautifully retro dress with a tight fitting bodice and a full, gathered skirt.
"I love your dress -- it's so retro!" I don't find it very easy to talk to strangers, but now and then circumstances will move me to burst forth before I've a chance to think. In order to excuse my intrusion, I mentioned that lately I'd been looking at a lot of vintage patterns online. And as it turned out, we both sewed (though she hadn't made the dress she was wearing), quilted, and had been involved in homeschooling. (I'm a retired homeschooling mom; she grew up as a homeschooling student.) So it turned out to be one of the most interesting interactions I had during the whole weekend.
I've always thought that clothes from the past were more interesting than contemporary fasion, but until I started poking around the Internet, I had no idea there were so many people sewing vintage patterns. One of my favorite sites is Sew Retro, a blog to which many sewing bloggers contribute, often linking back to their own blogs for additional pictures and sewing details about a particular project. I love seeing how they've solved various sewing problems, and seeing how their fabric and color choices can totally change the "look and feel" of a vintage garment design. However, I sometimes feel a little odd when one of the bloggers is raving about having scored a fantastic vintage pattern from the 1970s on eBay. Vintage? Um, I think I have some of those in the bottom of my pattern bin. (And as far as I'm concerned they can stay there. The '70s were an ugly decade.)
Another site I've just begun exploring is the Vintage Sewing Patterns Wiki. Each entry features a picture of the pattern envelope and, if available, links to reviews of or blog posts about the pattern, and a gallery into which members can upload photos of the garments they've made from the pattern. Patterns are catagorized not only by brand name and number, but also by type of garment (i.e. dress, jacket, etc.) and even design features such as full skirt, scallops, or shawl collar. A few entries even have a bit of history, such as Butterick 6015 which was a run-away best seller in the '50s. (It's currently been re-issued as Butterick 4790.)
Well, if I can just stop hitting their "View Random Page" link, maybe I'll dig out some of those old patterns and upload them.