Historical Sewing Patterns

Kate Miller-Wilson
antique sewing machine

If you love the sewing projects and clothing styles of past eras, you can use historical sewing patterns to re-create these heirloom quality projects. Dozens of websites and books specialize in historical sewing, and many offer authentic patterns.

Online Sources for Historical Clothing Patterns

The Internet is a great resource for historical costume enthusiasts and reenactors. The following websites are devoted to clothing patterns from various eras in history:

  • Past Patterns - This exciting company has been in business for more than 30 years. Their online catalog features a wide variety of period sewing patterns based on actual clothing from bygone eras. Some patterns are also available in kit form, which is especially helpful when making period undergarments involving boning.
  • Reconstructing History - Featuring patterns for everything from accessories of the 14th century to ladies' suits from the 1940s, Reconstructing History has more than 150 different designs for period clothing. This site is an especially great source for Victorian clothing patterns, and you'll also find period embroidery patterns to decorate your work.
  • Margo Anderson's Historic Costume Patterns - If you're interested in creating Tudor and Elizabethan-era costumes for historical reenactment, you'll love the designs at Margo Anderson's Historic Costume Patterns. The site offers several different period costume designs, including a set of patterns for a complete wardrobe for the Tudor-era lady.
  • Lost Coast Historical Patterns Co. - This site has an enormous selection of period costume patterns. Whether you need 16th century men's breeches, a Regency-era gown, or a Civil War dress, you'll find the instructions here. This site also carries patterns for historic children's clothing.
  • The Ladies Treasury - This site offers several free patterns reproduced from the original historic designs. If you're new to sewing, these old-fashioned patterns may not be the best choice. However, if you've had a little experience as a seamstress, tackling these patterns will give you the ultimate historical sewing experience. Most patterns are from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Other Historical Sewing Patterns

While making reproduction period clothing is fun, it isn't the only option for historical sewing. You might also consider making an heirloom doll, a stuffed animal, or a quilt based on an antique pattern. The following websites offer other sewing patterns for historical projects.

  • Historical Folk Toys - This site offers crafting kits and patterns for making your own historically accurate rag dolls and other toys. Historical Folk Toys also offers kits for making period Native American children's toys.
  • Hoopla - Offering a huge selection of reproduction quilt patterns based on authentic period quilt designs, this is a great place to find a pattern for an heirloom quilt. The "Little Ones" collection provides designs for miniature doll-sized quilts in these historic patterns.
  • Sew Fun Patterns - This site specializes in downloadable vintage patterns for dolls, toys, quilts, and baby items. This is a great resource if you're planning to make a historically accurate gift for a baby or young child.

More Sources for Antique and Reproduction Patterns

The Internet is a great place to find historic patterns, but it isn't your only option. If you can't find the design you need online, try one of these ideas:

  • Check out your local library. Look for historical pattern books dedicated to the era of the item you'd like to make. Also look at microfilm copies of old periodicals that might have projects you'd like. Many 19th century magazines featured clothing patterns.
  • Visit thrift stores and garage sales. If you're looking for a vintage pattern, you may be able to find it at a thrift store, estate sale, or garage sale. This isn't the best way to find really old patterns, but it's a great source of designs from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.
  • Check eBay for old patterns. Often, antique dealers will sell vintage and historic sewing patterns online, since this is where they can find the widest audience of potential buyers. Keep on eye on the eBay listings to see if the pattern you need turns up.

A Wealth of Options

If you're making a period costume or creating another sewing project from a bygone time, you're sure to find a wealth of options online and in your local library. These classic styles are often elaborate and challenging, but the result is a beautiful re-creation of a historic design.

Historical Sewing Patterns