Sewing and Magazines with Boys' Clothing Patterns

Figure 1.--"Child Life" was a magazine for children founded in 1921. It was full of activities and articles for children, but we have notice patterns advertised for children's clothing. This s a cover from a 1939 issue.

Several magazines began regularly including inserts of selactive patterns. Some magazines were created with this expressed purpose. Here there is an overlap between fashion and pattern magazines. We are not positive when the first patterns appeared in magazines, perhaps the 1870s. The Belineator was especially important. The best known today is probably McCalls. Some of the patterns were multi-printed patterns, as well as templates for interior design elements, lace, needlework and crafts. These patterns had all the pattern pieces for several garments laid out on top of each other, and require tracing off of the pattern sheet, grading for size, and adding seam allowance. Illustrations offered a much larger number of patterns for sale. At the time ready-made clothes were still limited--especially stylish fashions. Mothers would purchase a pattern and then either make it or have a seamstress make it.

Child Life (United States, 1921-2007?)

Child Life was a magazine for children founded in 1921. It was full of activities and articles for children. In the days before TV and videos, magazines like this were a great treat. When the magazine was founded, even radio was a novelty. And children loved getting mail addressed to them. Child Life arrived each month with brightly colored cover and pages which included exciting stories, games, and all kinds of new new ideas. There were also interesting period advertisesments. The December 1934 issue, for example had full page ads for Buck Rogers outfits and guns and Lincoln Logs. There were also ads for Crayolas, Kodak cameras, projector sets and Tillicum boats. We also notice patterns advertised for children's clothing. The magazine tried to keep up with the times and had along press run. It ceased publishing in 2007 or 08.

Creative Needle (United States, 19??-2008)

The Creative Needle magazine is an heirloom sewing publication. It specialized in patterns for children's clothing, especially younger children. It focused more little girls' clothing, but boys' clothing was also addressed. It contained many articles, patterns, pictures and instructions for fine sewing, smocking and embroidery. There were instructions for making blouses, button-on shorts, shoralls, longalls, and other items for yoinger boys. And there was a lot of material on embroidery and smocking for these garments. They were based near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Photographic shoots were in that area, although sometimes photographers went to places farther (in one issue the shoot was in Annapolis, Maryland. The company went bankrupt in 2008, and no longer publishes these magazines.

(The) Delinetor (United States, 1872-1939)

The Delineator was founded and closely associated with Butterick Company--one of the most well known companies making home sewing patterns. According to Metropolitan Monthly [February 1874], the Butterick company started printing patterns in 1865, issuing a Metropolitan Monthly as a means of illustrating and advertising their patterns. In 1872 they started publishing their Delineator to provide more scope in a larger publication for there patterns with many more pictures in all categories and sizes. It included other information about fashion and home. The Delineator achieved immediate popularity at a cost of 15 cents per issue or a years subscription offered at $1.50 that included a choice of bonus patterns to a value of $1.00. Prices of individual patterns ranged from 20 cents to 40 cents with a deluxe version sometimes reaching $1.50. By 1883, the circulation was 155,000 copies per month, and 10 years later in 1893 it had reached the staggering number of 500,000. Circulation was worldwide, including 85 countries in such exotic and out of the way places as Ceylon, Chile, Hong Kong, Congo, Curacao, Fiji Islands, Siam, etc. In 1905 the Delineator was still selling for 15 centsd per copy, the same as 1872. According to the same article Butterick was producing about 15,000 patterns a day, and sending them out to all the places mentioned.' The Delineator was graphically reserved, and used stylized representations of contemporary women. It was run by the inventors of the pattern and initiated the fusion of the sewing pattern and magazines. The Delineator, as with most fashion magazines, primarily focused on women's fashions. There was for the time, however, unprecented coverage of children's fashions--including boys' clothes. The magazine is the single most important source of information on late 19th and early 20th Century children's fashions.

McCalls (United States, 1897- )

McCalls has been a leading fashion and women's domestic magazine. It was founded in the 19th century, although I have only limited details. It was founded as The Queen about 1880. It was at first primarily to sell patterns. The title was changed to The Queen of Fashion. The title McCalls was adopted about 1897. McCalls did not become a major mass-market publication until the turn of the century. The circulation peaked at 6 million in 1960. The content varied over time, but fashion was always an important element. The magazine included the work of impotyant authors like Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gelett Burgess, Ray Bradbury, Jack Finney, Anne Tyler, Tim O'Brien, and many more. Two of the major editors were: Harry Payne Burton (192128) and Otis L. Wiese (192849). McCalls was a major company publishing home sewing patterns. McCalls because it published an important woman's magazine could easily market its home sewing patterns. We have found a few McCalls patterns from the early 20th century. An example is a tunic suit which McCalls calls a Russian suit. The patterns at the time cost 10-15 cents. Notice that there were outlets in New York, Chicago, San Franciso, and Toronto. The Toronto outlet shows how closely tied the American and Canadian economies were and helps explain similarities in American and Canadian fashions. A McCalls pattern published in 1908 is another example. We note that by 1916 that they were publishing a catalog of their patterns which appared to emphasize clothing for women and children. McCalls continues to be a major factor in the pattern and home sewing business. The McCalls webite for Spring 2002 reads, "McCalls introduces the newst designs in glamerous evening and bridal dressing. Browse through the McCalls website and you'll find a great selection of brightly colored children's and infant's wear, cozy sleepwear, fleece-wear, and women's/large sizes. You'll also find fun accesories, home decorating, crafts and even Renaissance costume patterns!"

Pictorial Review (United States, 1899-1937)

The Pictorial Review was a magazine designed to market William Paul Ahnelt's American Fashion Company's patterns. The first edition was published September 1899. It gradually evolved into a fashion/woman's magazine. It became one of the major American women's magazines (1920s). As the magazine developed, it came to include excellent fiction, women and children issues, homemaking and recipe ideas, fashions of the time, and advertising. A popular feature was Dolly Dingle paper dolls. The circulation peaked at 2.5 million copies (1931). The publisher sold the magazine to its Vice President, Adman George S. Fowler (1936). Fowler merged it with The Delineator, another fashion magazine with patterns. Only 2 years later the combined magazine closed down (1939).

Sew Beautiful

Sew Beautiful is an heirloom sewing publication. Pyblication began in 1987. It is is one of the most popular American heirloom sewing magazines. The corporate structure is that the magazine is part of the Martha Pullen Co., a subsidiary of Hoffman Media, LLC. As with other heirloom sewing magazines, there is a focus on as the company says to create "classics both new and old to create for your family's treasure chest." Many of the patterns are quite demanding, but there is an attempt to provide patterns that can be achieved by home sewers at all skill levels involving both machine and hand sewing. In addition to garmentys there are patterns for intricate needlework, impressiuve embrodery, and delicate smocking. The magazine specializes in classic styles, "both new and old to create for your family's treasure chest." The focus is on women's and girl's clothing, but there are also charmiong patterns for boys, mostly younger boys.

Figure 2.-- We note Women's World patterns from what looks like the 1920s. We are not entirely sure of the origin. We think it might be from Woman's World, an Australian magazine which was circulating in the 1920s. We have little information about the magazine at this time.

Woman's World (Australia, 1920s)

Woman's world is best known today as a glossy sumarket tabloid for women. This is a relatively recent magazine, dating from 1981. We note Women's World patterns from what looks like the 1920s. We are not entirely sure of the origin. We think it might be from Woman's World, an Australian magazine which was circulating in the 1920s. We have little information about the magazine at this time.


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Created: 11:47 PM 1/16/2009
Last updated: 3:24 PM 11/23/2010