Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vintage bra patterns and what they're worth.

If you've been following A Few Threads Loose for a while you might have noticed that I'm just a little bit obsessed with lingerie. Just a little bit. Though I certainly have enough lingerie patterns in my personal collection (just ask my husband, he'll tell you) I'm always hunting for a new pattern to add to the vast number of little tissue paper beauties carefully stashed away in my studio.

Recently I had my eye on Vogue 6075. I decided at the last minute not to bid too high because I had one nearly identical to it, and because business with Mrs. Depew Vintage had been kind of slow (nice weather sort of keeps people away from their sewing machines, or so I've heard. I wouldn't know; I live in Norway).

Anyways, last night I watched this sweet little pattern sell for $31.95 on Ebay. Believe it or not, this is actually a little on the low side. It got me thinking as I tried to fall asleep last night with visions of sugar plums and bras dancing about in my head. What are vintage bra patterns worth? Do they have a definable value, or are they, like so many hard to find vintage patterns, worth only what us mad collectors are willing to pay for them?

Take, for instance, McCall 7201. This pattern is a very nice example of a vintage lingerie pattern because the illustrations are lovely, it's from the 1940's (a well sought era for patterns) and the pattern features not only a bra and tap pants, but a petticoat as well.

This particular pattern is being offered at two different locales online as we speak. VtgSewingPatterns on Etsy (a well-respected seller who really knows her patterns) has this pattern for $45.
On the other hand, So Vintage Patterns has this little gem for $65. And I can tell you from personal experience that both of these prices are very fair.

This is an average for a 1940's lingerie pattern unless it's truly remarkable or hard to find.

Let's try the 1930's. Pattern values go up quite a bit in that one decade age gap.
(On a side note, in my research for this post I just bought another lingerie pattern. I'm weak. I need help!)

As far as the 1930's are concerned, I'm on a never-ending quest to get my hands on Simplicity S612.

This pattern is part of the fabled Simplicity S-Series (gotta catch 'em all!) from the mid to late 1930's that I've been collecting for the last few years. I have never seen this pattern for sale but I can tell you that it would sell for around $75 to $150 on whose prices range at the higher end of the spectrum. I can also tell you that I would pay $150 for this pattern and not flinch (too much). I want it that bad, and therefore, it's worth that much.

Let's move back a few more years to the early 1930's and take a look at McCall 26 from 1932. Keep in mind that to the collector, the more lovely the pattern illustration, the more valuable the pattern will be in their eyes.

Stock photo from Vintage Pattern Wiki, not the actual pattern for sale.
This truly beautiful pattern is being offered by Anne8865 on Etsy for $48.
(Dammit, I just looked in her shop and bought another pattern. I need to wrap this post up before I empty my bank account!)
Ahem, this pattern is in what I like to call well used-and-abused condition (poor thing), is slightly water-damaged and missing the pattern transfer. And $48 for this pattern is completely reasonable. Look at how beautiful the envelope art is! Look at the charming silhouette of the tap pants and slip! The bra was not originally included in the pattern (I know we were talking about bras here, sorry) and still this pattern is a total find! I once watched this same pattern, complete and in excellent condition sell for about $75 on Ebay. I nearly bought it myself.

It reminds me of another McCall pattern from this same theme, McCall 1848, a beautiful bra and tap pants pattern from 1930.

This one isn't for sale anywhere that I know of, but it would be worth an easy $100.

Now let's step back a little bit more. What are some bra pattern from the 1920's and what might they be worth? Hmmm... good luck finding one! When they do come up, the are snapped up almost immediately, regardless of what they cost. Why? Because they're all so darn pretty.
Allow me (or I should say some genius from the 1920's) to illustrate:

This one sold for a fortune. I was outbid a dozen or so times.
I stopped bidding at around $50 on McCall 25 last year. I don't remember exactly how much it sold for, but I think it was just under $100.

I could go on and on, if I could find more patterns. Sadly enough, when you go farther back than the 1920's, bra and panty patterns are rarer (because they weren't the popular mode of underthings yet) and also the patterns themselves weren't' that attractive looking.

How about you? Do you have any goodies in your collection? Have you paid a fortune for them, or gotten them from Mom (mine has given me some really gems over the last few years) or did you find them for a steal?


  1. I have 2 vintage bra/pantie patterns.
    duBarry 1093b in a size 14 (32 bust)(original cost 10 cents)
    Butterick 9274 Bust 40 (original cost 15 cents)
    Both of the envelopes are in delicate but intact shape. Both patterns have been cut, but not by me. As nearly as I can tell, they are both complete. I am terrified to use them. First, because I don't want to harm them. Second because my bust is closer to a 46.

    I have purchased a few of your patterns. I'm not very tech-savey, but I've managed to complete some satisfactory garments. Thus, I hope you will continue to offer more and more lingerie re-created patterns.

    I absolutely don't understand why the original pattern companies, don't re-issue them. Although, I have to say, I have been dissappointed with some of the 'retro' patterns I have purchased, because they have felt the need to modernize them.

    Will you share some of your S patterns with us???

    1. Hi Auntie,
      Thanks for your comment! I have Dubarry 1093 as well, it's beautiful, isn't it? Have you ever tried making a copy of them with tracing paper and just sing that as your pattern instead? It's much safer that way. I would love to offer some of my S-Series collection as PDFs but I'm still doing research on the copyrights to make sure that I don't violate any laws. I always have to do extensive copyright research with any new pattern I try to reproduce. I do usually end up having to modernize them a bit because they weren't always perfect.

  2. Thank you for this post Anna! My keyboard is all drooly.... Can you just do all of us a solid and keep buying them and then selling them as pdfs? PATTERN FREE TRADE!

  3. These are all so lovely! Thanks for the little tour!

  4. I often wonder about this question of value too. I don't collect lingerie patterns, but go through other collecting phases by decade or designer, and I really wonder what people are thinking with the prices they ask. I guess this is what separates me from the serious collectors!
    I actually get my best patterns and my best prices in ebay lot auctions, where my average price is usually around $8 for patterns from the 20s through 50s. Outside of that I'm willing to pay up to $20 or even on rare occasion $30 for an extra-special pattern, but I just can't see going up to the $100s.
    Now if you talk about sewing books, that's another matter!

  5. oh gosh, the last two are gorgeous. I can understand why these are so irresistible for you... really lovely. I don't own any vintage patterns, but I'm ecstatic to have found your shop!!

  6. These patterns are so lovely! If I am lucky enough to come across one, I have to snatch it. I love the muted colors, the pastels and the dainty lace trimmings!

  7. I had no idea about the worth of these little lingerie patterns. This was such a fun read and informative to boot! :) Thanks Ms. Anna!

  8. Great post! For a long time I tried not to collect lingerie patterns, but then you showed me how practical they are (!)
    By the way, from the numbering and yellow stripe I would say McCall 25 is also from 1932. I would expect 1920s bandeaus to be less popular because the silhouette is so different (see are collectors buying them for the colour illustrations, and not to make up?

  9. I bought an early thirty's, late 20's bra pattern (I think it was simplicity), including a pattern for tap pants for ONLY $3.00! It was missing only one piece, and was in PERFECT condition.

    A very informative read indeed, thank you!
    The Middle Sister and Singer