You Can’t Judge An Ugly Vintage Pattern By Its Cover

You Can’t Judge An Ugly Vintage Pattern By Its Cover

By Amy Mayen

When I read that the girls over at Simple Simon & Company were having an ugly pattern party, I almost died. I’ve never been so excited and miserable about a post at the same time.

You see, we have been Spring cleaning. We remodeled Bella’s bedroom over the weekend too. So I was telling her she really didn’t need all the stuffed animals that infest every inch of space in her bedroom. I literally get claustrophobic in there…the wall close in & I feel like the stuffed animals are going to attack me…

Bella’s freshly painted walls and “new” distressed furniture

I’m getting off track. So as I’m telling her to donate some of them to make space, she looks at me and says, “What about your patterns mommy? We could make a lot of space if you went through them and donate some.”

Gulp. And that is how I ended up getting rid of my ugliest patterns, just days before the ugly pattern link up at Simple Simons. To get rid of them was like ripping out a piece of my heart, but being a mother means I have to practice what I preach.

My organized & manageable pattern stash

Fortunately, I did keep some uglies. And I’m going to share them, and tell you why they made the cut while the less virtuous patterns are now up for adoption at Goodwill.

Take a close look at this one. See the big bow and draping on the back of the black dress? That’s hot. I’d wear that now.

The Little Mermaid, in front & to the right- she can die. That dress is a monstrosity. But see front left, the dress with the peplum? That’s in right now. Change the bodice & shorten the length-and you’ve got a winner.

At first glance, these 3 dresses can die too. But, if you follow trends closely, or if you’ve been in the fashion industry for any length of time, you can predict future trends with some degree of accuracy. I know that the high waists, skinny jeans, & peplums we are seeing all over the runway will give birth to the dropped waist in next years Spring collections. So despite the boxy shoulders and gross under the knee but above the ankle length, this one made the cut.

I don’t think this will be a wedding dress. Ever again. But I see a totally redeemable bridesmaid dress on the left. Imagine a light, flowy Spring dress. …maybe it has a sheer overlay? The ruffled cuffs would be the only thing I’d modify.

This was one that got moved from the keep pile to the adoption pile about ten times. It’s the damn bib thing on the bodice! Something about it speaks to me. I’m the pattern whisperer.

Really, the cuffs are a no no right now. The shape of the dress is completely unflattering. But look at the sweet button placket on the shoulder! I honestly have no idea what to do with this one. I’m not an expert at drafting, so why I couldn’t part with this one is beyond me. What do you think? Should I have tossed it?

If you enjoyed this post, check out my Ugly Patterns- Children’s Edition!

About The Author

Amy Mayen

Hello. I'm Amy and I'm addicted to sewing. I borderline-hoard fabric, buttons, & patterns. Sometimes I wish I could pile my fabric up on the floor and just roll in it!


  1. Lou

    I think if you made the last one without sleeves and wore it with a belt to bring the waist in, it could be a reasonable dress. Maybe.

  2. Laura D

    Would it shock you to know that I have a little girls’ version of Simplicity 5721? It was a McCalls pattern–McCalls 3333 from 1987 and that I actually made it for my niece? My only updates were lengthening it because it was shirt length on her, and making the neck bigger, ’cause Bit hates jewel necklines.
    Laura D recently posted…Ugly vintageMy Profile

  3. Anne Maskell

    Can I admit to owning three of the four patterns? I actually made Simplicity 5771 when I was pregnant for my first child. I made it out of black satin with black velvet for the yoke and wore it on New Years Eve. I thought I was the best dressed girl there! It just goes to show how your fashion style changes over the years!
    Anne Maskell recently posted…What Were They Thinking?My Profile

  4. Pam

    A fabulous post, Amy!!! With the exception of the first pattern, I’ve worn dresses like the other three. Take out the puffy, wide shoulders and I had a couple of dresses like the 2nd one that I wore to death (80s I think, maybe early 90s)… to my mind, a very flattering style. And I LOVED the Farah Fawcett hairstyle!!! My own wedding dress had a lot of similarities to the one on the left, with my veil like the one on the right minus the flowers. You can see a pic here…
    And that last one, I hate to admit it, but I wore dresses like these, in my late teens, minus the bib/bodice. I think we called them tent dresses, or if down to the ground, kaftans. What were we thinking!!! There’s nothing flattering or stylish there. I’d toss that pattern… LOL!!!

    Notice the past tense… I don’t even wear dresses now and skirts only sometimes. Maybe I can blame that on clothes from my past… LOL!!! If I lived a little closer to you, I’d be inviting myself over for coffee and to have a look through your pattern stash.

  5. Gina

    Fun post!! I am wishing I lived near you and totally be heading to the goodwill to see if I could find some treasures in your trash. At first I thought the last pattern should have gone with the others to Goodwill but maybe it would be cute as a tunic type blouse but the billowy sleeves would have to go!! Thanks for sharing your uglies!

  6. Rachel

    Haha awesome. I had seen the ugly pattern party post. Yeah there are some winners out there! I have some in my stack I couldn’t bear to part with even without justifying any saving features in them!

    I like the color in your daughters room!
    Rachel recently posted…Filling the Pajama DrawerMy Profile

    • Amy

      Oh gawd! Show them Rachel! We all have dirty little secrets hiding in our stashes!

  7. Simple Simon and Co

    HOW MUCH DO I LOVE THIS POST!!!! SO freaking awesome—and for the record I just bought one of those sweet 80’s peplum patterns and have been working on one of those drop waist skirt monstrosity’s for myself!

    I love your ugly patterns and your explanations. We could totally go vintage pattern shopping together!
    Simple Simon and Co recently posted…Ugly Pattern #1—A Tip Toe Through The TulipsMy Profile

    • Amy

      Peplums rock! I hope you’ll show it one day :)

  8. Hannah smith

    I love how brutal you are! This one can die!! lol – it made me laugh!
    I like your point though. I would never have seen the gorgeous bow back of the black dress if you hadn’t pointed it out! As for the final one – I’m afraid for me that’s one that could ‘die’ as you so rightly put it. Perhaps the style would work on a little girls dress, but otherwise I think you would feel frumpy

    • Amy

      Thanks for the honest opinion!! I think you’re right, it’s more suited for a child’s outfit. I do mostly kids clothes so maybe that’s why I couldn’t let it go? If anyone thinks they can use it and make it great, I’d def send it to them.


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