sewing patterns from the 90s

In an attempt to stop myself from impulse purchasing while at work and unable to flip through my patterns (we’ll call this The Shirtdress Problem, since I currently have three shirtdress patterns…with no shirtdresses made to this day), I have taken photos of every pattern I own, and uploaded them to flickr for reference.

The most hilarious/heinous realization from this is that I still have patterns from when I was learning to sew. In high school. And at this point, not only do they not fit me (because I didn’t know about tracing sizes), but they are a glorious feast of 90s fashion, which doesn’t get better with age, but is far less painful as years pass.

[Sidebar: when I re-watched Buffy a few years ago, I was able to let go of so much embarrassment related to high school photos of me, because I realized that Sarah Michelle Gellar looked just as hideous in those clothes as I had. Pop culture history can restore self-image – you heard it here first!]

Let’s start with the oldest:
Butterick 6406

This was my 10th grade Homecoming dress! My mom made it, and it was one of the last thing she ever made for me because of how traumatic the experience was for both of us. (The trauma was because of a 15-year-old’s discomfort with her changing body.) If you want to see the dress, and some 90s hair realness, check this out. (Bonus points for the clunky/sensible dress shoes that vaguely  match those on the Butterick model. And for the awkward hand-holding.)

Speaking of 90s realness, can we just catalog everything 90s in these photos and illustrations?
-the romantic curls
-the fancy, probably french-twisted, updo
-that crazy curly topknot!
-Sharon Stone hair?
-the chokers!
-the matching silk stoles (and the fact that I KNOW THAT WORD because it was a thing in the 90s)
-the weird kitten heel
-the clunky/sensible heels
-the sheer black pantyhose

What am I going to do with this pattern? TOSS IT! I have no reason to hold onto this, even though that pink version is vaguely tempting. (I can’t resist a tea-length princess seam dress. And everything about that sketch. She is essentially the hot nemesis in every 90s Teen Movie, right?) But I recall, now that I’m wandering down memory lane, that Mom and I revisited this pattern, and she made me an adorable tea-length white eyelet version of this dress…the summer after I graduated from college?…and though I willingly wore it in public without a Modesty Cardigan, the shape of this pattern was much more boxy than hourglass. It would take a lot of tweaking to make this pattern work for me, and besides, I already mentioned having a weakness for a tea-length princess seam dress, didn’t I?

So, of course, I have other patterns that fit that description:Butterick 6534

I made the tea-length version of this in college, cutting it out and sewing it on the gross carpeted floor of a dorm room one hot summer when I stayed on campus. I made it out of a cheap black cotton, and lined it with something equally cheap. The seams were unfinished (they always were, until recently), but I wore that dress to PIECES. I called it my Audrey Hepburn dress, and I always felt SO classy, even when the black fabric started to fade and the unfinished seams kept trailing loose threads. I might still have it stored away, ostensibly to be used for scrap fabric, but more realistically because I wouldn’t be able to part with something so well-loved, even if I can’t wear it in public any longer.

Untitled Untitled
Untitled Untitled

I found some photo evidence!
-The black dress when it was literally falling apart and I would wear it “casually” with a tank top and flip flops.
-A brown linen-like version I made, with the bow-band, which made the dress slightly too long in the torso. I still have that version, and if it weren’t for the long torso, I’d probably wear regularly. (I had done some extra fitting on the top of the dress, adding a band to help it fit closer. Unfortunately, I hadn’t made pattern pieces or notations of these alterations, so they weren’t reproducible.)
-A green version, with a monstrous skirt and petticoat, made with something like 10 yards of cheap cotton fabric, to emulate this short-lived dress trend. It was comically huge, so huge that I had to learn what a tuffet was, so I could describe it more effectively. I wore it once in public, and have recycled the fabric for many random projects.
-Another green version, made years later, which was the death knell for this pattern in my life. The problems were: the fabric (another lightweight cotton), the construction (VERY RUSHED = no attention to things like those horrible puckered seams), and the pattern (no alterations from previous versions, so first it was too large and then, after quickly taking in some side seams, too small).

At this point, the pattern pieces are practically in shreds, and I know the bodice ALWAYS needed to be extended, but I had never marked or remade the piece to indicate what should happen. I could probably reclaim this, if I went through a few cycles of pattern drafting and muslin-making for the bodice, and the idea of re-creating that Audrey Hepburn dress magic is still tempting. But, realistically, I don’t wear strapless dresses anymore, and I’m not sure this will have the same charm with a thicker strap.

So, if this blog series is an attempt to not only document but discern my feelings about old patterns, and make choices about what to do with each one…
Butterick 6406 – Toss it. No regrets. I only held onto it so we could enumerate the 90s-ness of the illustrations.
Butterick 6534 – Hold on to it. If I don’t re-make the bodice pattern in the next year, will someone please force me to throw it away?

One thought on “sewing patterns from the 90s

  1. Pingback: sewing patterns from the 90s – part 2 | Maggie Makes It Better

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