One result of this last quirk is that Instagram more or less passes me by. So it was only by chance that I came across the Sew Over 50 Sewing Challenge, and the Instagram account which launched it. The idea of the challenge is to make up a garment from a pattern which features an older (i.e. over 45-50) person modelling it; either on the packaging or in other associated artwork, such as online. As Susan Young, one of the founders of Sew Over 50 explains, the number of patterns which fall into this category is shockingly small.
This prompted me to look through my vintage patterns, and I discovered that this situation is nothing new. Even allowing an elastic definition of 'older', I found very few patterns which might qualify. Vintage patterns tend not to have photographs on the envelope, but even where the artwork features a model with clearly grey hair, the features are youthful. Possibly the idea was to imply that the design would be suitable for an older woman without the inconvenience of actually having to portray one.
|DuBarry 5002B, 1941|
Here the figure in the yellow dress is greying at the temples, but that is the only suggestion of age.
|Economy Design E8, 1950s|
The figure at the top left here has slightly grey hair, but I think that it is being used to indicate that this version of the top is a sophisticated 'evening' look, whereas the other three are more casual.
|Simplicity 4320, 1953|
The grey hair in this artwork meanwhile is fooling no-one.
|Vogue 6346, 1964|
To me the figure on the right on this Maudella pattern looks slightly older, but still has a youthful, slim figure.
|Maudella 5151, 1960s|
This Blackmore pattern appears to show an older woman, but this is implied by the figure rather than the face. Blackmore used a different pattern number for each size, and the fact that this pattern is available in bust sizes 40" to 46" (102-117cm) suggests that it is for what would be termed at the time 'matrons'.
|Blackmore 8492, 1950s?|
Hairstyles seem to have also been used to imply age without having to actually show it, as demonstrated by these two patterns from Woman's Realm (a weekly woman's magazine). The pattern on the left implies looks for older and younger women, whereas the one on the right is far more youthful.
|Woman's Realm, styles for different ages|
In fact, the only pattern I could find which clearly featured an older woman was this one.
|Vogue 8129, 1981|
Even here, the accompanying artwork shows a much younger figure. Also, I haven't been able to find any other Vogue patterns from around that time featuring the same model: this appears to have been a one-off.
So there you have it. Of over 500 patterns in my collection, the vast majority of which are for adult women, I can find eight which meet my very generous definition of 'older' women. It's just as well that I make my own decisions about what to make and wear, otherwise my vintage dressmaking days would be over!