Vintage Pattern Selling is Dead

I'm sure you've all noticed.
The bubble has popped.

The furvor is over and all that remains are a bunch of mediocre patterns and the novice sellers who think they are worth more than they are.

For the time being, let's remove supply and demand from the pattern selling equation. We all know that panic bidding is really what drives up the prices in our little world. Sans that, drove up the prices. You see, actual demand has gone to the side and been replaced with laughable price tags from someone looking to gouge because, "I found a pattern and it has to be worth something!"

It's not as if I long for the heyday of 6 years ago when vintage sewing patterns were their most expensive. I long for those times because of the ample variety. Oh, so many types of patterns in all price ranges were available to those shoppers just starting out all the way to the super serious collector dropping $400 on a 20s hat pattern (it happened!).

That's what made me start selling to tell you the truth. I'd buy a pattern, feel like a glutton for having so many and sell off a few to spread the wealth. That snowballed into a nice little side business that I was actually able to pay rent with for a time.

But over the last few years not only did the supply diminish, the quality did as well, as new "insta" collectors came on buying patterns based on the pattern envelopes (you know what I mean-the obsession with evening gowns), other collectors saw the prices drop and stopped listing their choice pieces. Also, repros shot in like gang busters, shaving off those sewists who really just wanted to make the garment over owning a piece of history. Soon the major pattern makers go into the repro game (with wishy washy success) and the retro styles became sub mainstream, so people were soon able to find looks that mimicked the vintage aesthetic in their local malls.

All of this added to the bubble popping, only, like every popped bubble, many don't get the message.

This is my pattern. It's in my possession and I just sold it in a lot for a little over $100. So in that bulk, it sold for a little over $1.

This same pattern is listed here, on ebay at these two insanely different prices. Not only is this pattern late 60s, it's a costume pattern and not rare in the least. It's a left over, as are most that are listed these days. Decent enough to notice, but not desired enough to acquire.


And that's where the patten selling market is now. A niche that either will list an average 30s pattern for $250 that no one will buy, a 60s "Mad Men" dress pattern for $50, or $5 (I mean really, do these sellers search listings before they post!?), or mis-catagorize a patten in order to carry more views. I mean have you seen the "1930s" pattern category? It's laughable.

Where does this leave those of us who still troll the sites and places and regular haunts looking for that beautiful pattern discovery? I guess in the same places were were always known to be. I don't think those people will ever stop collecting, or ever think that the hey day will return, but part of it is the hunt.

For me now, I look for nice designs that may often get overlooked because they are plain or some other collector may not see their potential.
This is my newest one, in my size and only $5. I've always had a soft spot for plain patterns.

It's the discovery, that treasure that can be yours and the story of finding it that you will attach to the pattern, any vintage find really. It's what we often live for, and as long as I have legs, antique malls and a decent amount of disposable income, I'll be a vintage pattern collector for life!

Your thoughts?


  1. I have paid a redonkulous amount of money for patterns I really love. It's true.
    I'm more a "collector who sells off to clean house". I've sold stuff for crazy money because for that moment, it was a hot item, the more obscure OOP book the better (bought for $5, sold for 300$ twenty years of lugging it around later). Which is why I feel qualified to comment on this.

    "It has to be worth something" seems to drive pricing at both ends of the spectrum. The book/pattern/album/remnant that is overvalued and the same object that is underpriced. The ponderable has always been the thing that is so outrageously priced that no sane human would buy it. The only argument that I can make for that 'ask' is a false total evaluation of someone's goods for a business sale. Or, planning for a fire.

    (oh man, that sounds bitter)

  2. As an Aussie we are very much at the mercy of the madness that is pattern collecting via ebay or etsy. Patterns older than 1960s are few and far between here and usually are very expensive for their condition.
    I get a bit annoyed when those fairly average gown patterns go for ridiculous sums as it just inflates value beyond what it truly is worth IMHO.
    Like you, I like the plain patterns - or I always look for style lines that are different to what I already own, and filling gaps. Sometimes I can still get a bargain but with the Aussie dollar being so terrible, even the most average 40's shirt dress pattern is creeping towards $50AUD once you factor in the shipping. *hmmph*

  3. Meow, Kitty! That's a lot of money! But I hear you, plain patterns are a great deal :)

  4. Wow, I'm glad you had the courage to write about this. I thought about JUST this same thing the other day.

    It's dying, but not yet done or dead.

    The pattern selling business is fickle, but browsing through Etsy the other day I just about wanted giggled out of my skin...some of the prices for patterns (worth really no more than the price listed on the original envelope) were fascinating--

    The "it must be worth something" attitude is in full-effect.

    I sell and collect, mostly collect. And although I have a website--which I thought has some pretty good information-the site pretty much went ignored outside of some loyal regular customers--which was really nice. I stopped selling there maybe three years ago because of time and other life obligations.

    But, I was always perplexed by the fact that if I offered great patterns at reasonable prices--visitors seemed scared to buy---because prices elsewhere were so inflated.

    Full disclosure--I plan on selling most of my collection...shamefully I have over 5000 patterns, but I definitely agree----there's not much special out there warranting the totally crazy prices I've seen from some sellers.

    A "come down to earth" reckoning is definitely in order.

  5. Totally, Callie!
    And you know my tastes in patterns, if you think I may like something when you decide to sell your,s please let me know! :)

  6. I actually started buying vintage patterns after starting to read your blog about three years ago and realizing I could find plus size patterns--which, as an aside, I owe a huge, grateful thank you to you, you showed me I could reclaim the vintage style I had in my 20's, when I was about 5 sizes smaller. I bought some things off of Ebay--mostly staying up late and spending hours looking through the patterns for good deals. I got a great 1930's pattern with a 40" bust that way--poor photographs, minimal description, I think I was the only bidder. I've been fortunate over the past year to have the great luck to find some wonderful garage sales--I live in a suburb just outside of Cleveland, OH. Last summer I went to one where two women were selling their deceased mother's fabric and patterns. I got about 10 mostly 40" to 44" bust 40's and a few 30's patterns for about .25 each. Pretty poor condition, but all the pieces are intact. Found a few more this summer. I am a super bargain shopper though, and only a collector, I don't sell patterns.

  7. Hmmm...story of my life. I have a box full of NOS 1940's Butterick patterns. I'm trying to get them listed on a few Facebook groups but I'm having a hard time determining what to list them for. Any suggestions on how to price them? I know it often comes down to what people are willing to pay but that still doesn't help me with a starting price.


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