Sunday, 4 July 2021

Vogue Pattern Book, November 1940

There has been almost no sewing this week, so for today's post I'm looking at one of my older copies of Vogue Pattern Book.

Excellent pattern matching on the skirt!

It was originally sold with the November 1940 issue of Vogue. The magazine itself (which I don't have) probably covered the subject more but looking through the pattern book, you would barely know that the country had been at war for more than a year. There are statements throughout that prices may be subject to purchase tax, but I could only find a couple of specific references to the reason why this new tax was necessary.

On the final page, below the details of patterns featured, there is a warning that fewer copies of each issue are now available.

"Every issue since the war has been sold out"

The advertisement for Vogue's knitting books on the back cover mentions the war in a couple of ways.

The back cover

Do knit for war workers

But don't waste wool

The only impact that the war appears to be having on Vogue Patterns, however, is in the "Dressing for winter" feature. This showcases "five of the newest patterns specially chosen for their up-to-the-minute fashion news and because they are all in step with our lives this winter".

Five patterns for winter

Alongside a coat, a suit, and dresses for day and afternoon is pattern 8852, a shelter suit.

For taking refuge during air raids

Other than the oblique reference to the magazine's reduced print run (this, and the move to being a monthly publication are covered in more detail in this book), there's nothing to suggest any difficulties or restrictions with printing. In terms of use of colour, the magazine is fairly similar to the 1934 issue which I wrote about here. There are some page spreads in black and white, some in a single colour, and some in multiple colours. The insides of the front and back covers both feature photography.

Black and white

Blue only

Multiple colours

Photographs on the inside back cover

The feature on "23 new designs on sale early in November" starts with pattern number 8843. This suggests that the Vogue Patterns leaflet which I wrote about here, and which has a highest pattern number of 8728, was issued several months earlier.

Brand new designs

Other than the shelter suit, the patterns featured in this pattern book suggest life carrying on very much as normal. There are couturier designs, patterns featuring the 'new slim lines', furs a-plenty, and evening gowns. The dinner gown which appears on the inside front cover takes a whopping 8¾ yards of 35” wide satin to make. I wonder if anyone who bought this pattern had any idea that in just a few months' time clothes rationing would be introduced, and would last until well after the war had ended?

Couturier designs 349, 348, 352, 347, 350 and 355

The suit on the right (8783) has a detachable fur collar

Pattern 8796, and another fur

Plenty of evening gowns to choose from

Pattern 8825 (and lots of satin)


  1. Fascinating! I am hoping someone will reissue these old Vogue pattern books. Wouldn't it be fun to compare the American and British versions?

    1. Thank you Lynn. At some point, I want to start building a record of what's in each of my copies of Vogue Pattern Book (you can take the girl out of I.T./academia, but you can't take them out of the girl!), but the task is so large that I keep putting it off.