Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's the value.

I have been doing a lot of ‘searching’ on Etsy lately. An act not motivated by shopping, but by the desire to learn more about vintage styles throughout the decades. And I think sewing patterns really are a good place to start this sort of 'through the decades' research.

When vintage sewing patterns were first printed, they were current for the era. The older pattern envelopes feature illustrations by artists - impressions of the finished garments. The artists interpreted not only the silhouette of the pattern, but also what the fabric colour or print might be if made at that time. The artists also included the hairstyle fashions current to the era on their garment models. Vintage patterns therefore provide great insight for the would-be vintage sewer who not only wants to sew with a vintage pattern, but emulate an outfit that would have passed as fashionable for the time.

Through my ‘research’ however, I have been struck by the significant differences in the pricing of vintage patterns. I can understand a bit of a difference in price due to the condition of the pattern pieces/envelope, but it appeared to stretch further than this. I began to ask myself “how is the value of a vintage pattern calculated by sellers?”

It seems to me that a lot of factors come into play when deciding on the value of a vintage pattern. From my searching I can conclude there are many factors that are considered before a vintage pattern is priced:

Condition – This seems the most obvious. Consider the condition of the pattern. Is the envelope in one piece? Is there yellowing on the envelope? Are all the pattern pieces included? Is the pattern cut or uncut? Condition is key to the value of a pattern.

Age – How old the pattern is does influence the price. As with most vintage pieces, older patterns are priced higher than newer ones.

Era – The price of a pattern can depend on the era the pattern was published. Many vintage styles/eras often come into vogue and thus these original patterns can demand a higher price.

Rarity – How many copies were sold? Was the pattern produced by a large company or by a smaller one? Does the company still exist? Did the company produce a lot of this pattern or was it printed for a limited time? Has the pattern been reprinted recently (think the ‘Vintage Vogue’ range).

Popularity – Patterns that were very popular at the time of print, or ones that have become popular now, also carry a competitive price (for example, the Walk Away Dress by Butterick is a pattern that is in as much demand these days as it was when it was first printed in 1952).

Size – From my searching, the vintage dress patterns on Etsy mostly range within the 32"-38"bust size. Sizes either side of this are often rarer and appear to be a little bit more expensive.

Garment type – What the pattern designed to make also influences the price. Etsy appears to be heavily saturated with vintage dress patterns at the moment, some you can pick up for only a couple of dollars. Other items, like vintage shorts and blouses, are a bit harder to find and carry a price tag that reflects this.

Phew! What a post. So glad to write about something with a bit of sewing meat to it, I feel like all I have done lately is post photos of my projects!

On a side note - all the patterns pictured in this post are available from Etsy seller Savage Spider. Please be clear that I am in no way affiliated with Savage Spider, I only came across their pattern collection during my 'research' and was impressed with their variety of patterns and their reasonable prices.

Last but not least, I just couldn't resist including this cute pattern in my post...

I wish I had that many dogs to cuddle!

Sam xox


  1. Neat patterns! I remember a lot of those styles. Also, I have made a number of dogs very similar to those.

  2. Did you ever make any of your own clothes Rhoda? I'm not surprised about the dogs... they are pretty hard to resist! Sam xos

  3. I price my vintage patterns based on what other people are selling the same pattern in the same condition for. I often find that the same pattern in the same condition can range from the upper $20s to $1. I mean I know some get much higher than that, but for the ones I sell that's about the average range. I'm not sure what makes some people think that certain patterns in shabby condition are worth $28 when you can search and find 50 other people selling it for under $3. lol. I don't charge a lot for mine because I don't sell my favorites. Anything truly fabulous I've added to my collection unless I have two copies of the same size. I usually will price somewhere inbetween other listings on the low end. I sell them mostly to make back what I paid on them or to not see them go to a thrift store and get cut up for crafts like so many people do now-a-days. What I seel is what was left out of lots or boxes that I've bought and picked what I wanted out of. I don't see any reason to take people for $100 or more when I might have paid 10 cents.

  4. You're soooooo right - seeing patterns being cut up for craft projects causes a tiny tear to appear. I love that you are saving these patterns by making sure they go to a home where they are wanted :-) I saw a pattern selling for over $50 on Etsy last week, and there were others for sale of that style and size. Sam xox

  5. I sell patterns for a living and have to make decisions about pricing every day. Some patterns are destined to be sewn up and some are headed to collections. Some are going to appeal to skilled tailors, others bring back memories, some are historical or hysterical. :-)
    I price them so they will find homes, but reflect the real value they have. I want patterns to be respected and enjoyed.