The Weekender Wardrobe 1950s to Today

Before we start sewing, a little on wardrobe or "weekender" patterns:  these patterns include not just variations on one outfit (so, a dress with slim or full skirt and a jacket with long or elbow-length sleeves), but a bunch of different, coordinating pieces  meant to be mixed and matched into various outfits, say, over a weekend vacation.

The earliest "true" wardrobe pattern I could find on etsy was from 1956*. Based on my limited research, I suspect that coordinating wardrobes, and therefore wardrobe patterns, became increasingly popular in the 1950s as women began to wear more and more sportswear like shorts and pants, rather than dresses. Charlotte of Tuppence Ha'penny has some great scans of ready to wear weekend wardrobes from 1950-53, available from Sears. This pattern, like many of the 50s wardrobe patterns, has a casual vacation look:

Simplicity 1590, 1956
Sarai over at Colette Patterns posted a Summer Packing Made Easy tutorial of sorts back in august, and I think the fifties patterns have this sort of feel--you could make each piece from the pattern, throw it in your suitcase, and jet off somewhere warm. Sarai suggests you mix and match neutrals, but the lady above seems to have chosen red!

There are a TON of them from the 60s (making me very happy). This one advertises that it is "Four-part Mix 'n Match Wardrobe... the Scrambled Look." The patterns, while still casual, become more everyday wear, with pattern illustrations showing ladies' looks ranging from Laura Petrie-at-home to officewear.

Butterick 3585

Butterick 2704
All the color-coordination is adorable, don't you think? It almost makes you want to wear only red plaid or yellow and pink floral coordinates forever, right? No?

In the seventies, we see a lot of similar skirt/dress/top/pants/jacket combos, with the added bonus being that wardrobe patterns were also expanded to men, which yielded AMAZING results:

thank goodness for simplicity 7943 
One perk of these mix and match wardrobe patterns (besides having that trendy "Scrambled Look," duh) is that you get a TON of pattern pieces for basically the same price as one pattern. Most of the ones I found on etsy are $8-$15, and you get 5-ish basic items (shorts/pants, jacket, skirt, top, dress). Of course, the items are simple--a basic shift, a boxy jacket--and without a lot of fancy design elements. But I think most of us are able to take these basics and run wild.

Plus, I find it quite vexing as it sometimes seems you expected to pay a great deal for a pattern with "variations" like version a: trim and pockets, version b: trim only, version c: pockets only, a la Simplicity 1776.

Unfortunately, I believe that after the lofty heights of The Go Everywhere 70s Man the quality of these patterns, like general big-4 quality, has been compromised in the more recent decades, leaving with pretty dull offerings in the 1990s and today.

McCall's 6535, 1993
Still with the pink florals, minus all the detail. Also I do not believe you could make all these items in 4 hours even though they are mostly shapeless.

Simplicity has their wardrobe patterns under "Sportswear" on their website. Side note: Vintage Fashion Guild (about which I know nothing) points out that historically, "Simplicity patterns were known for their ease of sewing. These vintage patterns are glimpses into the clothes [...] worn by everyday American women. As such, they are vital statements of vintage fashion as worn by most Americans." Both of my wardrobe patterns are Simplicity, as are many of the similar 60s era patterns on etsy, which seems to make sense--they are mostly simple to sew and very practical! This modern one, from their Sew Stylish collection, is pretty cute:
Simplicity 1699
This one not so much:
Simplicity 1809

miss allie

* I did find this Woman's Day pattern from the 1940s. I can't determine whether it is the seller or the pattern itself that is calling it a "One Pattern Wardrobe." I would consider this pattern "dress variations" rather than a wardrobe, but perhaps variations on a few dresses would be what a woman's wardrobe mainly consisted of in the 1940s. I am much less knowledgeable in 40s-era fashions than many of our retro-sewing friends, so perhaps they can shed some light here?

Woman's Day 3099 on etsy


  1. 4 hours!!! omg it would take me 4 hours to cut all that fabric. perhaps if you had taken a whole bottle of pep pills before hand? there is a whole category of wardrobe patterns on Vintage pattern wiki -

    i have a wardrobe maker pattern which has 7 pieces (butterick 4774) . I think i may have to use this one for this sewing adventure!

    1. Oh I like the details on those separates! I find that most of the wardrobe patterns are very simple shapes but I like the collar and placket or pleat down the front!

  2. Great blog. Wonderful patterns. I wonder if you would consider adding the gadget that allows someone to follow via email subscription? I believe it's the 5th gadget down in the Layout area of the Dashboard. It makes it so much easier to follow a great blog when new posts come right to your inbox. Thank you and Happy New Year.

    1. Thank you for the suggestion! I have added the gadget.

    2. Thanks so much for adding it. I just signed on that way. Happy New Year. Sometimes I wish it were as easy to follow on Blogspot as it is on Wordpress where every blog comes with a button to follow.

  3. I think I'd like to date The Go Everywhere 70s Man. He's a fox.

    At the very least, I suppose I could make all of his outfits for my boyfriend and live out my 70s dream that way.



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