Sunday, 19 March 2017

Reissue v original - Simplicity 4463

In which I bang on, yet again, about vintage pattern reissues in general and Simplicity 1777 in particular. And also realise that I've been extremely stupid.

As part of my research for my Masters I was recently looking at what actual, as opposed to reissued, vintage patterns are for sale online (and yes, thank you, I am aware that this must be a strong contender for the Most Feeble Excuses of the Year Awards - Internet Browsing section!).

Anyway, I came across this.

Looks familiar, Simplicity 4463

It was missing its envelope, but I immediately recognized the artwork as being the same as this.

Reissued as Simplicity 1777

Over the years I've come across various discussions in the vintage dressmaking online community about how reissued patterns differ from the originals. As this article explains, most reissues are drafted from the pattern illustration, not the original pattern pieces. This is why I was so excited to learn that Simplicity were starting to use their original patterns for reissues.

Simplicity 1777 predates this changeover however, so I was interested to see how the original compared to the reissue.

First up, the pattern pieces.

From the instruction sheet of 4463 . . .

. . . and from 1777

Some of the pieces were pretty much the same. I had redrafted 1777 with my standard alterations, which include shortening the bodice by 4.5cm / 1¾", but my bodice pieces didn't seem that much shorter than the 4463 pieces.

The front yoke

The bodice back was wider because 4463 is cut on the fold and has a side fasten (zip or placket with press studs), whereas 1777 has a centre back zip. More on this later. . .

Bodice backs

The skirt back of 4463 does not have darts, instead it is cut in two pieces. Possibly because for larger sizes the full skirt would be too big for 36"wide fabric. I lengthened 1777 by 10cm / 4" to get a more period-appropriate length, and clearly I was right to do so.

I forgot to allow for the centre back seam allowance in this layout

One of the major differences between the two patterns is in the dress front. 1777 has this as two pieces, whereas 4463 is a single piece. This means that the bodice is cut completely differently in relation to the grain; I've marked the grain lines in green to make it clear.

4463 is almost on the bias, while 1777 is on the straight grain

The skirts are also different shapes. I matched the two pieces up at the small hole which marks the end of the central pleats/gathering.

The hole is marked with a green circle

4463 is far more flared, while 1777 gets its width from deep pleats. At the bottom they are a similar width.

The corner of the 4463 piece is torn, so I've marked the line with a ruler

So those are the pattern pieces, what about the construction?

As I'd suspected, the original does have shoulder pads.

How to make your own, triangular, shoulder pads

At least one of the online reviews which I read of 1777 found the idea of pleating and gathering the dress front into the yoke over-complicated. 4463 only had gathers, which makes more sense. Obviously it's also missing the skirt pleats. I wonder whether these were deliberately added to give more ease, or if whoever drafted 1777 misinterpreted the original artwork?

The front gathers

And now comes the next major difference between the patterns.

Can you spot it? Clue - it's on the dress on the right

When I made up 1777 I had to pull the bodice in a lot at the waist to get it to fit. Now I know why - it's not meant to. The dress actually has a tie belt at the back! You can just see the edge of the bow in the line drawing of 4463, but on 1777 it's vanished.

The tie belt is sewn into the side seam

The yoke is laid over the gathered section and top-stitched, which is what I did. There is not a second yoke piece used as a facing however. Instead there is a straight facing, which is then slashed, and the neckline is finished with a bias facing.

Bias neckline facings for both views

This clears up the final mystery about this pattern. It dates from 1942, and the CC41 clothing restrictions at that time forbade the use of "Buttons for the purposes of ornament". 4463 could not have been sold in Britain with purely decorative buttons (at least not without some sort of warning about this stamped on the envelope).

Of course if I'd thought it through, this is blindingly obvious. With a side fasten, the dress would have to have a opening at the neck in order to get it over your head. Duh! How on earth did I manage to miss this?

So this is what the completed front would look like.

Leaving aside my complete stupidity, it's been an interesting exercise; I've long wanted to be able to compare a reissued pattern to an original. Now of course I'm tempted to make up 1777 again - properly!


  1. Fascinating! I really enjoyed this post.

  2. I love this post and confirms all my reasoning behind why I much prefer to use original patterns. The modern repro ones to me seem to strip out all of the authenticity in the pattern and make everything much more complicated. Early 20th Century patterns were designed for the home seamstress and many didn't have any training, so keeping them as simple and as straightforward as possible was always the aim.

    Also, things like cutting on the fold and doing the bodice and skirt all as one piece allowed things to be made quicker as there was less cutting out, less matching of pattern pieces, and less seam sewing. For the majority who only wore homemade stuff this was so helpful.

    The whole larger sizing and then being pulled in by a belt or ties is a classic thing of this era too, due to the fact that the garment didn't need to be adjusted with weight gain or loss and it could be passed on to someone else if needed. Of course, none of these things are even considered these days.

    I'll get off my soap box now! xx

    1. I've long been curious about how much repro patterns are altered from the originals, so it was great to get the chance to find out.

      I consulted my oracle on all things 1940s dressmaking-related (aka 'Mum'), and she confirmed that back ties were common. She was a girl during the war, so her mum made all her dresses with plenty of 'growing room' as they had to last.

      Yep, fully agree with your soap box views! xx

  3. This is so cool! I have the reissued pattern, and I've been wanting to make it but now I want to make it period-correct! Thanks for all the information!

    1. You're welcome! I want to make a period correct version as well!

  4. I thought I'd replied to this - but clearly haven't! Loved this post, so interesting. The detective work around the original and the restyled modern version is fascinating. i thought you were going to mention the sleeves - the original being slightly more shaped - but maybe that's an optical illusion. And totally agree with your previous commenters (is that a word?) I really prefer these older techniques which seem to be about garment craft, the skill of the maker and using a bit of creativity to utilise available materials. I too could get on a soap box but I think I'm out of the ark!

    1. Thank you Kate! The sleeves are actually quite similar, which is why I didn't write about them. The only difference is that on the original pattern they are about 7-8cm longer from elbow to shoulder than on the reissue. Given that the original bodice is clearly shorter than the reissue, this seems quite odd.

      I think that I'm out of the ark on a regular basis (and people regularly tell me so when they see my mobile phone), so you're not alone!

  5. I much prefer the original version, thank you for the tour of the pattern differences, could be very handy in the future.

    1. You're welcome Rachelle, glad it was useful.