1940s Sewing Patterns – Dresses, Overalls, Lingerie etc
“Make do and mend” was the motto of the 1940s. This in turn led to an increase in homemade clothing during the war. Many women turned to printed sewing patterns to help them create the latest fashions on a strict budget.
While ready made clothing is available to buy today, there’s something special about sewing your own clothing. 1940s reproduction sewing patterns are easier to follow and come in better size ranges than genuine vintage patterns. We’ve handpicked many of our favorite 1940s sewing patterns for house, day and evening dresses, blouses, wide leg pants, overalls, aprons, lingerie, rompers, swimsuits, and more. We also found some men’s patterns (scroll down or click here to jump), knitting patterns, and 1940s inspired fabric too. Click here to go to our reproduction vintage sewing pattern hub.
For a complete outfit don’t forget to add a 1940s pair of shoes, hat, gloves, and jewelry.
1940s Sewing Patterns – Women
Vintage styles can be so beautiful, but many authentic vintage dress patterns are nearly lost to time. In previous decades, people did sew many of their own clothes, so those paper patterns were well used, and sewing pattern paper is so fragile that it doesn’t age well.
It’s still very possible to find authentic vintage sewing patterns in antique stores–and even at thrift stores and yard sales, where they’re sold extra cheap because people don’t realize the value of what they’re selling!–but once you’ve got your hands on a genuine vintage sewing pattern, you still might be stymied. Sizing often doesn’t reflect today’s bodies, and women’s styles relied on foundational garments that aren’t common now.
I mean, maybe you wear a girdle and a bullet bra every day? Even in the pre-pandemic before-times, I mostly wore sweatpants and sports bras, so, you know, I’m not super savvy on what today’s fashionistas wear underneath their couture.
The general level of sewing knowledge was much higher even a few decades ago, and so even able sewists today can find older pattern instructions challenging.They assume that you know how to do a LOT of things that aren’t covered in most DIY YouTube tutorials!
Fortunately, even though the authentic techniques to make vintage dress patterns can be unwieldy, getting a vintage look is still very reasonable. Even without the foundation garments, even without the advanced techniques, even without antique tissue paper patterns with an unreasonable waist to bust ratio, you can sew yourself a dress that LOOKS vintage.
And you can do it with a free pattern!
Check out my favorite vintage-style dress patterns, below. All of them are free, and all will give your dress that vintage look without the fuss of managing an authentic vintage dress pattern:
1. 1920s Cloche
Add this knitted accessory to the rest of your Roaring Twenties outfit!
2. 1940s-1950s Bras and Garter Belt
These pdf patterns come from tracing authentic vintage undergarments. You’ll need some dressmaking skills to resize them, and definitely sew a muslin!
3. 1960s Knitted Dress
The silhouette of this dress lets you know that it’s an authentic 1960s pattern!
What do you wear over all of those nice, 1950s-style dresses? A nice apron, of course!
5. Bed Jacket and Silk Panties
The original instructions for this project require that you be able to read a diagram and draft your own paper pattern accordingly. Good luck!
6. Bullet Bra
Because you can’t have that vintage look without a vintage silhouette!
7. Button-Front Culottes
Warning: this is a challenging pattern, and you’ll likely have to do some pattern drafting, as well. If you don’t feel up to it, use this pattern as inspiration to alter a simpler culottes pattern to have this more vintage look.
8. Dirndl Skirt
This look is less “vintage” than “traditional,” but it’s nevertheless a classic.
9. Dress Inspired by The Notebook
Because you know you need that in your life!
10. Dress with Gathered Skirt and Sleeveless Bodice
A hallmark of many vintage styles is the clean lines (made possible by those sturdy foundation garments I was telling you about!). That means, though, that it’s very possible to recreate the look by fashioning your own garment with clean, simple lines.
11. Dress with Tea-Length Skirt and Princess Bodice
This classic style suits lots of body types, and offers a variety of sizes to prove it!
12. “Fit and Flare” Dress
Look like you’re wearing vintage Christian Dior in this dress, except that unlike Dior, THIS dress pattern comes in a variety of sizes!
13. Floral Day Dress
In the 1950s, women wore day dresses out and about on their regular errands and activities. That’s why they always looked so elegant!
14. Halter Dress
A halter dress is very Marilyn Monroe!
15. Kimono Sweater
Knit this sweater using the original instructions to add a warm layer to all of those vintage-style sleeveless dresses!
16. Little black Dress
Wear this to breakfast at Tiffany’s!
17. Long Cape
This isn’t itself a dress, but it’s the perfect vintage look to wear with any of the dresses on this list.
18. Long-Sleeved Dress with a Peter Pan Collar
Because everything looks better with a peter pan collar!
19. Child’s Dress with a Peter Pan Collar
Seriously, peter pan collars are ADORABLE!
20. Child’s Dress with Tied Sleeves
To get the “fit and flare” look on dresses like these, even for a child’s dress, don’t forget the petticoat!
21. Pencil Dress
Another thing about garment patterns with clean lines? They’re so easy to modify in a lot of interesting ways!
22. Pencil Skirt
The 1960s called, and they want you to sew this pencil skirt!
Skirts with flare really need a petticoat underneath to show them off to their best advantage.
24. Poodle Skirt
One of the easiest vintage garments to recreate is also one of the most fun!
25. Prom Dress
This formal dress would never look out of place.
26. Recreated Vintage Dress
This is a genuine vintage dress pattern that was traced and scanned. Remember, that means you’ve got to have some moderate sewing techniques at hand and be prepared to use your logical thinking skills when it comes to assembling the pattern pieces!
27. Reversible Wrap Dress
A reversible garment means that you can have a business side and a party side!
28. Short Jacket
If you put a ton of effort into creating a vintage-style dress with a fitted, high waist, then you won’t want to cover it up with a puffy polyester coat. Try making this short jacket to go along with it instead.
29. Short-Sleeved Blouse
The neckline of this blouse gives it an especially vintage look, although I’m dying to put a peter pan collar on it!
30. Sleeveless Blouse
This simple blouse is the perfect fitted garment to pair with a flared skirt.
31. Sleeveless, Boat-Neck Top
Here’s another incredibly simple garment to make that nevertheless looks much more complicated and sophisticated. You’d never believe that this entire top is simply two rectangles sewn together!
Here’s another undergarment that will make these vintage-style dresses look and feel better.
33. Sun Dress
Look like Ava Gardner this summer with a sundress!
34. Terrycloth Cover-Up
Behold, it’s an actual vintage pattern! Amazingly, this pattern is easy to sew AND uses fabric still commonly available today.
35. Wrap Shirt
This is a very close recreation of a real vintage pattern–and it’s easy!
36. Zoot Suit Pants
Zoot suits are SO fun!
P.S. Do you have the opposite problem: a vintage dress that you’d love to upcycle into something new? Check out this list of ways to upcycle vintage wedding dresses and get inspired!
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First off, what is a house dress? Basically any relatively loose-fitting day dress with easy closures (usually in the front) that was worn to do household chores in. They seem to have started out as simple wrap shapes, like this one:
But you'll also see lots with zip-fronts (my personal fave), as well as more day-dress attributes: buttons, interesting collars, sashes, etc.
But aside from all the cool design features, I've found myself pondering the history and symbolism of the house dress, and I was fascinated to learn that an entire book has been published on the subject. The House Dress: a Story of Eroticism and Fashion looks at the evolution of this garment and goes on to suggest that Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses are direct descendants of the humble house dress. (In this interview with the author, that theory seems a little foggy, but it's still an interesting idea.) But this piece of copy is what really caught my eye:
The idea of the house dress is closely related to the concept of housework and domesticity. At the same time, it is distinguished by not being a uniform, thanks in particular to the decorations of the fabric.In other words, there's a whole lot of gender, class, and race stuff all wrapped up into one seemingly innocuous garment. Women were relegated to domestic work, but there were varying statuses of this kind of work. To be a housekeeper in a hotel would be on the low end of the status spectrum, while being a housewife would carry great status. And yet the clothes were generally quite similar, as the author of the book above points out. See how closely the house dress silhouette resembles a waitress or maid uniform?
And the theory that fabric choice and decoration were the distinguishing factors in this complicated minefield of utilitarian garb is a fascinating one, especially when you look at the ubiquity of trims and appliques in these patterns. Ric rac was very prevalent on house dresses, as were lace and ruffles. But then other trims were more creative. Look at the heart pocket on this late 1930s pattern! I die.
Or perhaps you'd like your pattern with carrot embroidery transfers included?
A matching oven mitt? (Apparently you hook the oven mitt into your dress's belt, so it never leaves your side! Better go get that pie out of the oven!)
Another interesting class signifier is the variations in each pattern. House dress patterns were often sold in two lengths, with the floor length being called a "brunch coat" or "hostess gown." How glam! And doesn't it just scream "Sadie, Married Lady" rather than housemaid?
Over time, the house dress morphed into the more matronly silhouette that we now associate it with.
Silhouettes became more boxy, with gathers over the bust, creating a more tent-like shape.
But I'd prefer to remember the house dresses of earlier days, with their cute pockets and such.
In fact, I'm pretty dead set on making some house dresses for the summer. I think it could be an interesting experiment. How wearable are these dresses today? Do they still scream HOUSEWIFE! or MAID! depending on your fabric and trim choices?
What do you think, dear readers? Are you with me on the house dress love?
15 Free Vintage Dress Patterns
So whether you're in the mood to sew a 1940s-style wrap dress, a 1950s-style dress with a full, gathered skirt, a 50s dress with a sleek, straight skirt, a 1960s simple sheath dress, or another vintage style, hopefully you'll find just what you're looking for on one of these pages.
And, of course, by sewing your own vintage dress, you get to choose your own fabric. And perhaps you'll choose a vintage-inspired print to make your dress feel even more authentic to the period.
And note that some of these patterns are a bit complex. And that the templates provided may have either little or no actual sewing instructions to accompany them. Also, some of these dresses are semi-fitted, which means there will be little room for sewing errors. Therefore, you may want to sew your dress from a muslin fabric first before sewing it from your fashion fabric. By sewing a muslin version of your vintage dress first, you'll be able to make sure you're constructing the dress correctly and sewing the various components in their correct order. Plus, you'll be able to make any necessary fitting adjustments to the dress. Also for this reason, most of the dresses on these pages would probably not make a good first project for a beginner just learning how to sew.
And if you love vintage and are looking for a somewhat simpler project to sew, you may be interested in browsing the collection of adorable vintage apron patterns & tutorials displayed on this site.
Please note: Most of the links below will take you to another website.
Also, this page may contain affiliate links, which means I may make a commission if you purchase something from one of these websites (but the patterns linked to should be free).
Pattern dress 1940s free house
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The fears returned to the girl along with unpleasant memories of the boy's habits. Bring it here, please, she said.Sewing a Vintage 1940s pattern with Vintage Fabric and ONLY Supplies from my Stash
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