More About Dating Butterick Patterns Online

Dating Butterick Patterns Online: witness2fashion.com Has Been Updated

Butterick Fashion News cover, May 1960, featuring pattern 9366. By 1961, a new 4-digit number series was beginning.

Butterick Fashion News cover, May 1960, featuring pattern 9366. By 1961, a new 4-digit number series was beginning.

A year ago, I found a way to date Butterick patterns using Delineator magazine (published by Butterick) and later Butterick publications, and posted my results at witness2fashion.com. Click here for my original post explaining my Delineator methodology. For Part 2, click here.

Now the pattern number chart for Butterick Fashion News from 1937 to the 1970s has been updated, so the blanks are slowly being filled in. Go to witness2fashion.com for charts of the Butterick pattern numbers published monthly in Delineator magazine from the 1920s to 1937 (click here) or for a chart of Butterick Fashion News flyer covers from the late 1930s to the 1970s (click here.)

Monthly Butterick Fashion News flyers like the one above were given away by fabric stores, so it is possible to date Butterick patterns — roughly — by following the sequence of numbers that appeared on the cover of each issue. (Butterick resisted putting copyright dates on its patterns until late in the 20th century.) Here’s a small portion of the resulting chart:

A small portion of the Butterick Fashion News chart relating pattern numbers to dates.

A small portion of my Butterick Fashion News chart relating pattern numbers to dates. April 1936 was an anomaly; otherwise, the numbers are sequential, in spite of large gaps in my data.

This is an ongoing project; I especially want to find flyers from 1962 and 1963, because pattern number 9968 appeared on the Butterick Fashion News cover in November 1961. A new sequence of four digit numbers began soon after that, but I haven’t found any flyers from December 1961 to October 1964 (when pattern No. 3288 was on the cover).  It would be nice to have proof that renumbering began with a 1000 series in January 1962.

By Nov. 1961, Butterick was running out of four-digit numbers. Numbering must have begun again with 1000  in December 1961 or early 1962.

By Nov. 1961, Butterick was running out of four-digit numbers. Numbering must have begun again with a 1000 series in December 1961 or early 1962.

Times When Butterick Number Sequences Started Over:

Butterick decided to start a new number sequence in 1926, jumping from the 7000’s (in September 1926) to the 1000’s in October. In mid-1940, Butterick ended its 9000 series and began re-using numbers in the 1000’s in July or August.

I found those 1940’s numbers by searching for Butterick Fashion News  flyers that were for sale online and writing down the number of the pattern on the front cover. I can’t buy them all, but here are a couple (before and after re-numbering started) from my own collection:

Butterick Fashion News for February 1940 featured Ski Suit Pattern No. 8793.

Butterick Fashion News for February 1940 featured Ski Suit Pattern No. 8793.

In February 1940, pattern numbers had reached the 8700’s. Re-numbering started that summer. By the end of 1942,  less than three years later, the new series of pattern numbers had reached the 2300’s:

Butterick Fashion News cover for December 1942. This is dress pattern #2306.

Butterick Fashion News cover for December 1942. This is dress pattern #2306.

If you have a Butterick Fashion News flyer from 1961, 1962 or 1963, I’d love to see a clear photo or scan of its cover, showing month, year, and pattern number. Please E-mail to witness2fashion at gmail.com.  (the records for 1953 and 1955 are also blank, in case you have one.)

It’s also possible to date Butterick and other patterns by using the Commercial Pattern Database (CoPA), but this site does not allow you to search by pattern number. You can how their sample [how] their search works by clicking here.     [Edited for typing error 1/13/2015.]

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6 Comments

Filed under 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Dating Butterick Patterns, Dating Vintage Patterns, Exhibitions & Museums, Musings, Resources for Costumers, Sportswear, Vintage patterns

6 responses to “More About Dating Butterick Patterns Online

  1. You are a true scholar (high praise from me.) And I love that ski outfit.

    • Thanks — the Delineator’s I’ve examined from 1917 and 1918 do not have pattern charts at the back, but I still need to check 1919 through 1923 — I got distracted and started reading the WW I issues instead of putting in an order for those volumes to be retrieved from storage! Not very scholarly after all….

  2. Nancy

    A general question, some old patterns I have do not have marking on the pattern piece – you just have to go by the shape as shown on the back of the envelope – is this typical?

    • Yes, unprinted, factory-cut printed patterns were common early in the 20th century, and some companies still made them in the 1940s. Usually they were “punched” or perforated — that is, they have a series of holes that form the letter (A, B, C, etc.) or number (4, 5, etc.) identifying the pattern piece. But you have to read the pattern instructions carefully to find out if the seam allowance is 1/4″ or 3/8″ or whatever. When I look at used, unprinted patterns, I have noticed that some people wisely made a pencil mark or X on each pattern piece to help them see when it was right side up. I am amazed by how little information was given on early 20th century patterns. Butterick’s claim to fame was a separate instruction sheet, called the “Deltor.” Other patterns might not have any cutting or assembly information except the few sentences that fit on the pattern envelope!
      You can find more information (illustrated) about unprinted patterns at http://newvintagelady.blogspot.com/2010/08/vintage-pattern-primer-reading-vintage.html
      A good, brief history of paper patterns can be found at http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/guest-column-collecting-vintage-sewing-patterns/

  3. Fantastic chart, and so very helpful. I don’t have any of the years you need, but I’ll keep an eye out for them.

  4. I admire your detective work! I am always thrilled when I am able to date an undated pattern – it seems to add perspective to my sewing projects – and it is just plain fascinating, too!

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