Making a Pattern

The pattern-making process is virtually unchanged from that developed by Demorest. Once approved, the designer's sketch is drafted to size by the pattern maker in muslin and fitted for an average size—usually size 36 for women. The line and fit of the mock-up is checked before being sent to the grading department for translation to various sizes and transferred to master pattern blocks. The blocks include darts, seams, notches, and other pertinent information. Until McCall introduced the printed pattern in 1921, tissue-paper patterns were made with a series of perforations cut into each piece. The perforation system was partially derived from tailor's markings. The process for making cut and punched patterns remained unchanged and was still practiced by Famous Features Pattern Company until 1996. When McCall's patent for all-printed patterns expired in 1938, other companies converted to printing, although Vogue retained perforated patterns until 1956. With the introduction of computerized-design systems, the time for a new pattern to reach the market has been reduced from 2.5 months to as little as four weeks (Chatzky, p. 154).

Early patterns had scant information on how to cut the garment and little instruction on how to make it.

Table 1: Typical Sizing


Size 14

Size 18


Bust 32", Waist 27", Hip 35"

Bust 36", Waist 28", Hip 39"


Bust 32", Waist 26.5", Hip 35"

Bust 36", Waist 30", Hip 39"

Late 1950s

Bust 34", Waist 26", Hip 36"

Bust 38", Waist 30", Hip 40"

1967 (new sizing)

Bust 36", Waist 27", Hip 38"

Bust 38", Waist 31", Hip 42"


Bust 36", Waist 28", Hip 38"

Bust 38", Waist 32", Hip 42"


Bust 36", Waist 28", Hip 38"

Bust 40", Waist 32", Hip 42"

Sizing Shift. Pattern companies use similar but not standard sizing systems, the proportions of which have shifted over time.

Sizing Shift. Pattern companies use similar but not standard sizing systems, the proportions of which have shifted over time.

Initially patterns were folded and pinned together with an attached label to identify the garment and the number of its pieces. Demorest introduced pattern envelopes in 1872. By 1906, pattern layouts were included on the envelopes by many pattern companies. Instructions for making up the garment were introduced by Butterick in 1916. The instruction sheet was called the Deltor, named for the first and last three letters from Butter-ick's magazine, The Delineator. Both the pattern layouts and instruction sheets, which are now standard practice, were done by hand for each pattern style. Today layouts and instruction sheets are done on computer. For the latter, templates such as how to insert a zipper or set in a sleeve, are plugged into the instructions. Most illustrations, which were originally done by hand, are now done on computer, as are the paste-ups for counter catalogs and other promotional materials.

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