Vogue Patterns and Half Sizes

Vogue Pattern Book, February/March, 1960

Vogue Patterns came late to the half size dress business.  I’ve found offerings from McCall’s, Simplicity, and Butterick from the early fifties, but Vogue only decided to take this step at the beginning of 1960. Moreover, it was a very tentative step.  Rather than providing current fashions in the new size range, the company offered a kind of master pattern, 3004, with popular basic designs.

Vogue Pattern Book, February/March, 1960

“You can choose the silhouette most becoming to you, and make a muslin shell, experimenting with necklines and sleeve lengths, to find the best placement of seams to flatter your figure. Then transfer these adjustments to the tissue pattern to use as a guide in fitting any Vogue Pattern cut along similar lines.” (4)

In other words, the company expected you to make a half size dress at least twice—once in the basic pattern and then again with the standard size pattern, using the changes that you had made in the half size model.

Was this intended as a temporary solution?  Apparently not.  In the same issue, there was a letter to the editor begging for patterns “for the mature figure with a shorter-than-normal waistline.” The editors replied, “Beginning now, Vogue Patterns is issuing a basic dress pattern in half sizes 12 ½ to 24 ½. This basic pattern can be used to analyze and simplify adjustments for all other similar patterns.” (27)

I would love to know what Vogue pattern users made of this workaround.

Vogue Pattern Book, February/March, 1961

Most likely the response wasn’t positive. By the following year the company started offering current styles in half sizes, following the lead of its competitors. The dress on the right above came in standard sizes 12 to 18 and half sizes 12 1/2 to 18 1/2, saving the shorter and wider woman a fitting step. Vogue half size patterns continued well into the 1980s.

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5 Responses to Vogue Patterns and Half Sizes

  1. JS says:

    “[The] company expected you to make a half size dress at least twice—once in the basic pattern and then again with the standard size pattern, using the changes that you had made in the half size model.”

    That’s pretty much the drill for anyone who has significant fitting issues. You make a muslin (or three) before sewing the real thing. *Sigh*

    I still don’t understand why they were called “Half Size.” I imagine someone smaller or shorter, not someone wider, with a more developed figure.

  2. Susan says:

    A fitting “sloper” is still the best way — short of having a custom mannequin exactly like your body — to make multiple dresses or trousers for the same person. Costume shops may have a sloper for any actor who requires several costumes, or who works for the company repeatedly. Butterick still makes a “Fitting Shell” pattern. https://butterick.mccall.com/b5627
    I used to own them in every size, and use them as the basis for period patterns I drafted for female actors when the costume shop didn’t have a set of mannequins in all sizes. (They were especially useful when making costumes for an opera company that drew its chorus from the local community — not all of those singers had lean, youthful bodies!)

    • Lynn says:

      To JS and Susan, Of course you both are right–fitting well is a difficult business and having an accurate sloper is a wonderful thing. But consider the half size woman in 1960 who had picked out the perfect pattern for her mother of the bride dress, only to discover that she first had to make a sloper and then make probably elaborate changes to the regular size pattern. Unless she was highly skilled, she would have had much better luck starting with her dream pattern that already had some of the fitting problems solved.

  3. Susan says:

    Right you are! The MoB would already be stressed enough.

  4. Black Tulip says:

    Interesting post. Vogue Patterns seem to have had a habit of coming late to the party: they lagged behind on moving to printed patterns as well. I wonder if they thought that the cachet of the Vogue name would be enough to keep people buying their product? Expecting customers to make a garment twice is pushing brand loyalty to the limit.

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