In 1980, McCall’s Patterns introduced a “working wardrobe” designed by Pati Palmer and Susan Pletsch. It included a blouse with collar variations (M7233), a skirt and pant pattern (M7234), and a blazer (M7263). The fall 1980 McCall’s pattern magazine claimed: “They will take you from the office, straight out to dinner, and do overtime on weekends.” (McCall’s Patterns, Fall 1980, 41.) All the pieces were popular, but the blazer was a runaway hit. Women were heading into the workforce in record numbers in the eighties, and blazers were highly recommended wardrobe staples. In their sewing reference book Jackets for Real People, Marta Alto, Susan Neall, and Patti Palmer write that the pattern sold one million units in the first year of its offering.
What was different about the jacket? First of all, any pad stitching (the hand technique that gives structure to high quality tailoring) was eliminated. Instead, the pattern used “all fusible interfacing construction for speedy and easy tailoring.” Second, the pattern makers recommended inserting the lining by machine, now called “bagging” the lining, rather than by hand. And finally, they replaced welt pockets with patch pockets.
The instructions for this pattern were also different. They included a variety of tips that sewers could use or skip as they saw fit. “Quick tips” sped up the process; “fit tips” gave recommendations for a better fit; and “pro tips” were designed to make the jacket look more professional. The main fit tip was to cut out the paper pattern and pin it together to check major disparities before you began to cut the fabric. The pro tips integrated more classical tailoring techniques into the process, like hand stitching tape along the collar roll line.
These tips revolutionized the pattern industry, designer and historian historian Claire Shaeffer told me. They changed the way that many patterns companies designed their instructions. You can see their influence on Shaeffer’s own patterns, which provide insights into how to make your garment with couture techniques or more quickly with shortcuts.
My 1980 pattern, bought on ebay, does not yet have the fit alteration lines that Palmer/Pletsch patterns are now famous for. If you want to make a tailored jacket in a (relative) hurry, a newer version of the classic blazer, M6172, is still in print. Snatch it up before it’s gone.