While most pattern companies try hard to keep up with current fashion, this was not the business model at Famous Feature Patterns. The company existed from the 1930s until the 1990s and sold patterns through newspapers under names like Sue Burnett and Peggy Roberts. This was only one of many companies that distributed low cost patterns through newspapers.
In her interesting book, A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, Joy Emery draws on an interview she had with the last owner of the company in 1996, the year Famous Features closed. “The styles of the patterns were consciously not high-style (even ‘frumpy’), meant for more lasting appeal,” the owner said. (79) Because the company did not care about current trends, their styles could be recycled through the decades. Except for the small changes in the waist treatment, style 8885 from 1945 is almost identical to number 8250 two decades later.
Older women were one of the target audiences for these patterns, which were inexpensive and offered in larger sizes. If someone grew attached to the “Versatile Shirtwaister” when she was in her thirties in 1945, she could make it again twenty years later in a larger size. This might be one solution to mystery of how some women seem to be wearing new clothes that are nonetheless far out of style.