The Stone Ages
The Industrial Revolution
In 1863, Ebeneezer Butterick, a Massachusetts native, changed the world by creating the first graded (multiple sizes in one) sewing patterns for home use. His wife, Ellen, wished for a pattern that would properly fit their son. Butterick, a tailor, began by creating cardboard templates for men's and boy's clothing. He quickly switched to using tissue paper patterns for the ease of folding and shipping.
Ebeneezer ButterickIn 1866, Butterick began to create patterns for women. The patterns were a huge hit and the company hasn't looked back since.
In 1867, Butterick began producing its first magazine. Women all over the world were able to purchase patterns in the latest fashions right from the comfort of their own homes through the mail.
In 1870, James McCall, a Scottish immigrant and tailor, began his pattern company. He also had a magazine to promote his patterns.
Closing out the Industrial Revolution and the 19th century was Vogue Patterns, created in 1899. Vogue Patterns were first printed in the Vogue Magazine and could be purchased for 50 cents. The patterns came in only one size and had to be readjusted.
The 20th Century
With the rise of the 20th century the pattern world saw many great ups and downs.
In 1909, Conde Nast purchased Vogue and created what we know today as the Vogue Pattern Company.
In the early 1920's, Butterick began including an enlarged, improved instructional sheet with their patterns.
In 1927, Joseph Shapiro and his son created the Simplicity Pattern Company. It was their goal to have simple and inexpensive sewing patterns available for the home sewer. They are supposedly the fastest growing and largest pattern company of them all.
When the stock market fell and the Great Depression hit in 1929, stocks tumbled and everyone took a hard hit. Fortunately, it was more cost effective for the home sewer to create clothing then it was to purchase it from the department stores. All the pattern companies quickly recovered and Butterick attained new worldwide sales heights in the 1930's.
During WWII, resources were limited and restrictions were made. Butterick negotiated with the U.S. government on a workable limit for fabric requirements in home sewn garments. Fashions became shorter, narrower, and with fewer details such as buttons and trims. Patterns were also created with fewer pieces in the interest of conserving resources.
After the war restrictions were lifted and we see fashions boom with clothing such as voluptuous circle skirts which required yards and yards of fabric.
In the 1950's, Butterick produced their best selling pattern, the 'walk-away' dress, pattern 6015. Sales were so great that the manufacture of all other patterns ceased until all the back orders were filled. (Pattern 6015 is to the right and yes, I do have this pattern and it is one of my favorites.)
In 1961, Butterick purchased the Vogue Pattern Company. Butterick has tried to keep it a separate and distinct company to ensure each company's unique identity.
Into the 21st Century and Beyond
In 2001, the McCall Pattern Company purchased Butterick and Vogue Patterns. They hope to continue providing the highest quality patterns for our changing needs.
In closing, I hope to have provided you with some great tidbits of knowledge about how clothing, sewing patterns, and the pattern companies came to be. I appreciate you taking the time to read my little essay as I have put a lot of work into it. If you're interested in further reading follow the links in the resource section below.