Sewing Pattern History And Mail Order Patterns
There are a long list of mail order sewing patterns that existed over the years and I have put together a few by name and time era below.
* Advance Pattern Co., 1930-1965
* American Fashion Co., 1915-1935
* Butterick Pattern Co., 1863-present
* Demorest Publishing Co., 1860-1900
* Domestic Fashion Co., 1873-1896 (not really common, but I thought it was interesting because it is an early company)
* Du Barry Patterns, 1930-1946
* Excella Fashion Co., 1921-1936 (a division of Pictorial Review)
* Hollywood Pattern Co., 1932-1947
* Home Pattern Co., ?-? (produced patterns for Ladies Home Journal)
* McCall Pattern Co., 1870-present (now McCall’s Patterns)
* May Manton Pattern Co., 1899-late 1920s
* Modes Royal Patterns, 1943-early 1960s. This was a very fashion-forward line that competed with Vogue.
* New Idea Publishing Co., 1869-1920
* New York Pattern Co., 1930-early 1950s
* Originator, 1940s-1950s. Similar to Modes Royale, it marketed fashionable, trendy and high-end patterns. They were produced on light weight paper instead of tissue.
* Peerless Patterns, 1900-1950s
* Pictorial Review, 1899-1939
* Reader Mail Syndicate, a mail order company that sold patterns through newspapers and magazines
* Anne Adams
* Marian Martin
* Prominent Designer, mid 1950s-?
* Simplicity Pattern Co., 1927-present
* Spadea, 1950-?
* Standard Fashion Co., 1888-1926
* Vogue Patterns, 1899-present
For many of the rural homemakers of American throughout the 1930s to 1980s, mail order patterns were found in magazines, and newspapers across the country. Thus allowing these homemakers the opportunities to order them and re create fashions from around the world. There was a huge list of mail order sewing patterns and we will not be able to cover all of these. I will mention some of the most common names and as much information that I am able to find in my research below. Most of these patterns came in the mail with the name of the published company on them. Unless there is the original envelope with a postal stamp on them, it is very difficult to determine the actual dates on them.
The list is long but some of the most common names of mail order sewing patterns include Work Basket, Ladies Home Companion, Iris Lane, Spadea, Modes Royale, Excella, Alice Brooks, Anne Adam, Marian Martin, Woman’s Day, Star, Woman’s World, Pictorial Review and more. Here is a little history gathered for those interested in some of these mail order sewing pattern companies. Many of the mail order patterns were often first printed in magazines and newspapers and later sent through mail order to rural America. You can find a list of other mail order sewing patterns at Search Wikia Mail Order Patterns.The best way I have found to date mail order patterns is either by the postal stamp on the original envelope or the style of the illustration of the pattern. I have not found any actual dates on any of them. Most of the ones I have found do not have their original envelopes and the only way of knowing the dates or close to the time periods has been through the illustrations and requirements of the fabric details.
Demorest (Ellen Demorest(1824-1898)
Curtis Demorest was in Madame Demorest’s Mirror of Fashions, a pattern catalog in 1860. Ellen Curtis Demorest created the first paper patterns. Prior to Ellen’s work with sewing patterns she was a very influential and successful hat manufacturer. One day she noticed her maid was using wrapping paper to cut out a dress. Ellen came up with the idea that she could make fashionable garments on paper. Ellen and her husband and sister came up with a mathematical system that would allow her to print patterns in various sizes. She was so successful that by 1865 Ellen had thirty distribution agencies across the nation with over 200 employees. The success of her paper patterns created a success in mail order patterns for women who were interested in creating the latest fashions and accessories. Ellen gave U.S. household women the opportunity to recreate famous fashions from France and other nations in their own home, thus these creations did shape the fashion world our the U.S. women. By 1876 The Demorest Company had already sold over 3 million sewing patterns. Ellen was ahead of her time during her years, and believed strongly in women’s rights in which she advocated by hiring both black and white women in her companies. Anyone who objected to her political views she requested they shop elsewhere. Unfortunately the Demorest failed to have their paper patterns patented and another inventor by the name of Ebenezer Butterick is still the major center of the paper pattern industry to this day.
Spadea (Jean Miller Spadea 1904-1983)
Spadea sewing patterns. The Spadea Syndicate Incorporation actually started in 1951 as a published syndicated column. The column including various sewing information and tips called “You’re Sew Right. Jean created illustrated sewing patterns for various newspapers. Jean was most known for creating sketches for many American designer patterns and offered these in her column. Most of the early patterns she sketched were signed patterns “Spadea”. In the mid 1950s the company changed names to Spadea Syndicate and became Spadeo Fashion Inc. Jeans fashions had become well known as “Spadea Designer Patters. “International Designer Patterns” was launched at this time. Sizing was done much different for Jeans patterns than the traditional sizing methods of most American pattern companies. Sizing was based on each individual pattern makers own sizing charts. The Spadea patterns were made and cut by a master pattern that was actually created from ready to wear garments or actual garments. There were several famous designers who actually reproduced their garment designs by Spadea. Some of those famous designers included Bill Blass, Donald Brooks, Claire McCardel and Joset Walker. Spadea patterns were not printed patterns. Her patterns were made in perforated precut pieces because Jean felt that was easier for the home sewer and a much more accurate way to mark fabric. History and information about this company is not well found, however, Jean retired in 1967 and the pattern company closed in the early 1970s. She died in 1983. I am constantly searching for dates and history of mail order sewing patterns and more about these newspaper patterns and hope to continue to offer more info on specific name mail order companies as I locate their histories.