Vintage May guest-Simple Simon & Co.

 Today’s Vintage May guest is a two-for-one deal! Not only do these two ladies write the lovely blog Simple Simon and Co, but they share a name! Elizabeth….and Liz…lol! That must get a little confusing. They also run Project Run and Play, which is always so inspiring! I got the chance to meet them in person at SNAP, but sadly we didn’t get to chat for very long. They are super sweet and always have the best projects up their sleeves. I’ve got to make one of these hoop skirts someday, and I adore this cape. I adore their Starboard skirt, and they have lots of great tips about patterns! (and some more in this post, woot woot!) I also am enjoying their Art of Homemaking series-there are some really good tips in these posts, plus they remind me to enjoy the small tasks, boring as they may be sometimes! Anyways…on to the gorgeously adorable outfits they made! swoon!

Hi all!  We are Elizabeth and Liz from Simple Simon and Co.  Two girls who married brothers and ended up with the exact same name.  Confusing?  Yes, very! 

I think we are most excited about Vintage May because we LOVE vintage.  Like, really love.  Like, we have been hoarding collecting vintage patterns since we both began to seriously sew again (going on 4+ years) and our stashes are pretty hefty.  Hefty enough that a new shelf had to be purchased in the last couple of months to hold them all.  And vintage fabric…..well, don’t even get us started on that addiction.  It is a hoarding problem too!

Ok, back to vintage patterns—that’s why we are here, right?

We have patterns from the 1940’s through some super fabulous ones from the 80’s and 90’s–but we love them all and have sewn with quite a few of them.  Vintage patterns were the key to both Liz and I becoming better sew-ers….they really have some great techniques in them!

And today’s outfits are no exception, both are made from vintage patterns and some awesome vintage curtain panels that we found on a recent trip to Savers (cue the Sound of Music here!).

See one of the curtain panels in all it’s glory.  
We splurged and bought all three panels, and still have one left over.
 (It is even more awesome in real-life.  It is textured and pink with a coral color woven into it.)
Let’s start with Grace’s dress…..
It was made from this gem of an early 50’s pattern…..complete with a fitted-bodice
 and matching bloomers underneath.
And Hannah’s mini-secretary outfit….

came from this sized-down 1958 pattern.

And although sometimes the girls are not-too-thrilled with what we make them wear for pictures…
this is how they felt about these outfits!
(and we didn’t even have to bribe them)
Ok, onto the real reason that we are here.  
 Our Advice for Sewing with Vintage Patterns.
1.  DON’T JUDGE A PATTERN BY ITS COVER! (Especially by the fabric choices that they used to make the sample.)  In the beginning, I would never buy a pattern that had a hideous cover.  But then one day I took a second look at a pattern that I was going to put back and realized that it had an awesome HUGE 70’s peter-pan collar on it.  And thought, “Wow.  That might be so cute on a different dress.”  Light-bulb moment!  Just because the pattern is ugly (and I won’t lie—there are some ugly patterns out there) it might just have a great collar, or a great sleeve, or even a great neckline that you could use with a different pattern.
2.  MAKE SURE YOU MEASURE!  This was also an early mistake that both Liz and I made.  We just assumed sizes (both for us and our kids) and were severely disappointed when the clothes didn’t fit.  Because most vintage patterns (up through the 70’s) are sold in only one size—measuring is key.
I will give you a quick example.  Hannah, who is almost 7, still wears a size 3/4 in most 1950’s and 1960’s vintage patterns, so making her a size 6 is not good.  (And I have done it….and I cried the first time. So heed my mistake.)  And well, as for women’s– let’s just say you are not the same size as you think you are.  In women’s patterns, a size 12 bust measurement in the 1954 pattern I am holding is 32 inches around.  So, buy patterns to your measurements!
In children’s vintage patterns you will most likely need two measurements to fit the pattern properly–a chest measurement (high on the chest with the measuring tape tucked in the top of the armpits) and a waist measurement (where your body bends) and you should be good to go.
3.  MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL YOUR PATTERN PIECES!  We both have also made this mistake.  And wasting fabric to find out you are short one facing or one bodice piece is more than a little bit frustrating….so our advice it to check BEFORE you start.
4.  TRUST VINTAGE PATTERNS (most of the time!)  Both Liz and I have learned some great new sewing techniques that we would have never learned any other way.  One quick example, early patterns (especially wartime) are all about saving and using every scrap of fabric.  And sometimes the techniques on those patterns really are ingenious!  What a treasure to add some of them to your sewing repertoire.  On the outfit above, the jacket is meant to be an unlined-lightweight jacket.  If I were drafting that, I would have just hemmed the bottom…..but the pattern called for a bottom facing that fit perfectly and made the bottom-edge much prettier!  I would have never thought of that, but I assure you that I will be using that technique again….
And although there are some duds (I have had 1 or 2) we have both found far more success in the fit with vintage patterns than most modern ones….as long as we have measured correctly.
5.  KNOW THE ERA OF THE PATTERNS!  If you are looking for a sheath dress, then vintage 60’s patterns are for you.  Or if you are looking for a full-gathered skirt or a circle skirts, then the 50’s are for you!  So, look for those style or specifics when you are buying patterns.
Another thing about 1940’s patterns is that most of them are not marked (except for little circles that look like hole-punches for markings)….so if you are a beginner…I probably wouldn’t start with a 1940’s pattern.
6. BUY A VINTAGE SEWING TECHNIQUE BOOK!  I think some sew-ers are afraid of patterns, especially vintage patterns because they can’t read the sewing language or drawings.  I have a couple of different sewing books that I have found at garage sales or thrift stores that have helped me over the years to explain things.  Or, if you don’t have a book, call a sewing friend!  For me that is my mom.  I remember years ago when I first started sewing again, reading and then re-reading the first step of a pattern over and over again because it told me to  “stay-stitch” and I had NO CLUE what that meant.  So, I called my mom….who explained it over the phone and life was good again.  
7.  STICK WITH THEM!  I think this is probably the best advice we can give.  If at first you are frustrated, just keep going.  And you will get it!  Even if it takes a sewing friend (or mom) or just re-reading, unpicking and struggling through it—you will learn through the process. And the next time, it will be much easier.
Thanks, Jess, for having us here today!!!  We absolutely can’t wait to see all of the other vintage goodness that is coming… we have said before…..VINTAGE…is our cup of tea! {And our choice of patterns.}
Thanks to you! I adore those cute outfits, and such awesome tips for sewing with vintage patterns! I think I’ll pick some more up soon!
Head over to Skirt as Top to see what Girl. Inspired has in store for you…hint…it’s adorable. 


  1. Thanks so much for this incredibly useful
    Post. I bought a gorgeous 50’s pattern and I’ve been so daunted by it. Yesterday I actually cut the pieces. One piece was going to be to small so I recut it. I find the pattern confusing and the darts are beyond me so my lovely friend is coming over next week to sit down with me and help 🙂

  2. You are so right about patterns and sizing. I have quite a few of my mother’s old patterns (think 60’s) and they are very different. Come to think of it, retail clothing was very different back in the day, too. In the 60’s I wore a size 10. Today it’s a size 4. Go figure. We think we need to be tiny so they’ve re-sized us into thinking we really are! (And that’s why there are “0” and “00”‘s sizes out there!)

    The girls’ dresses are very cute. And love that fabric! The gloves are such a nice touch. I had many pairs growing up!!

  3. These are just darling!! The girls, the clothes, and the fabric …too cute!! 🙂 🙂 xo Holly
    {would love if you’d stop by my blog sometime too!} ~Hugs~

  4. I made a dress for my daughter from a vintage pattern. I ripped out and re-installed the zipper 5, maybe 6, times. But now I am a pro at the invisible zip. Moral of the story: Don’t be scared, give it a try!

  5. I had a secretary suit just like this when I was little. I had totally forgotten about it until I saw your post. So cute! Thanks for the tips!

  6. Thanks a million for having us Jess!! (And congrats on your new arrival!)

  7. Thanks a million for having us Jess!! (And congrats on your new arrival!)

  8. Thanks a million for having us Jess!! (And congrats on your new arrival!)

  9. Thanks a million for having us Jess!! (And congrats on your new arrival!)

  10. Ooh, what a wealth of information! Thanks Hugs and blessings, Cindy

  11. Great suggestions. I have a small collection of vintage patterns that I’ve never used…simply because they are a bit intimidating.

    Love the dresses and fabric choices as well.

  12. great tips – i have a vintage pattern in my stash and this will make it feel less daunting! thanks, simple simon!

  13. Great advice!!

    The pattern I made that’s going up tomorrow on SAT has the little holes you talked about…I thought it was 50’s but maybe it’s 40’s?

  14. Love the outfits and the advice!!! 🙂 PS I think #1 still applies to today’s patterns. 🙂

  15. I love seeing the covers of vintage sewing patterns ~ the illustrations back then are so fun !

  16. parabéns . maravilhosas

  17. Very helpful tips! Those outfits are so pretty, great job!

  18. Oh my gosh! Those dresses are soooo cute!!! 🙂

  19. Anonymous says

    I have recently started “collecting” vintage patterns too! I have only sewn up a couple so far but i just love the fashions through the decades. Your dresses are so adorable. I wish the 50s styles were still around more. The little girl dresses (and don’t get me started on bloomers) are too cute!

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