Costume Couture: Commercial Pattern Radness!

Are you into creating your own wearable works on art? Do you not always have either the time, supplies or know-how to pattern or drape a garment from scratch? Luckily, whether you’re a seasoned stitcher or a beginning sewist, there are a plethora of commercial patterns at your disposal for your costuming needs.


Some pattern companies are readily hopping onto the cosplay train, creating patterns that are inspired by current superhero, fantasy and sci-fi themes, while others have always catered to the historical recreationists, providing patterns based off of extant garments and other research. Today, I’m going to give an overview of some of the pattern manufacturers whom you might want to check-out when you’re next in the market to sew-up a new frock, suit or other outfit.

Disclaimer: These opinions are mine and mine alone! Granted, I have honed these opinions over 25-plus years of sewing experience, but if you have had success with certain patterns and companies, you should use what you feel comfortable using and take my advice with a grain of salt!

McCall’s, Butterick and Simplicity.

Okay, yes, these are three separate pattern names, BUT I’m going to group them together for a couple of reasons. Firstly, McCall’s and Butterick both now fall under the umbrella of the McCall’s Pattern Company (along with Vogue, but I’ll get to them later). Simplicity is owned by the Simplicity Creative Group (which also offers patterns by Burda). HOWEVER, (and secondly) in all of my sewing adventures, these three varieties all make a reasonably easy-to-follow pattern. Additionally, they’re all readily available at, say, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts stores.

An all-purpose unitard from McCall's.
An all-purpose unitard from McCall’s.

While I have generally had good experiences with the aforementioned patterns, they’re definitely not foolproof or perfect. I take the directions into consideration, but sometimes I’ll break out into my own construction methods to attain the results I’m looking for. And while typos and misprints in the instructions are not impossible, they are a rarity among the thousands of patterns printed by these companies.

Butterick's Making History patterns, along with others from McCall's and Simplicity, also offer a selection of children-sized patterns.

Butterick’s Making History patterns, along with others from McCall’s and Simplicity, also offer a selection of children-sized patterns.


The great thing about Folkwear is that their patterns don’t change or get discontinued with the same frequency as the above companies. Folkwear also offers a very unique variety of dresses, suits, vests, underthings and outfits from many different time periods. Overall, their patterns and construction directions are easy-to-follow.

One of my favorite Folkwear patterns!
One of my favorite Folkwear patterns!

The one downside to Folkwear is that the sizing is not always particularly inclusive to all body types. Some patterns have options up to a 3X, but others do not. After a little research, I found some promising information regarding their sizing on Folkwear’s website.

Laughing Moon Mercantile.

In all honesty, I’ve only just discovered Laughing Moon’s patterns this year. While they’re definitely for an experienced stitcher and there aren’t a large number of patterns available, they seem to be a great overall pattern company for all sorts of historically-inspired garments, and I look forward to checking-out some of their other offerings. Additionally, the sizing options are pretty thorough, and the fit seems to be pretty accurate, right off of the bat.

Laughing Moon Mercantile offers corsets for everyone!
Laughing Moon Mercantile offers corset patterns for everyone!

Their patterns come with a plastic-comb bound instruction book that lays flat (woo!), plus they give tips on how to construct things in an historical manner and in a modern manner, plus there’s an information/reference section on the history of the garment/ pattern itself, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Patterns to shy away from:

  1. Vogue. While they have some temptingly awesome-looking designs, and amazing re-prints of vintage garments, the patterns are more expensive than others, and the instructions and construction methods tend to be unnecessarily convoluted. Frankly, they’re just not worth the frustration.
  2. Burda. Personally, their designs, modern or historically-inspired, aren’t particularly attractive, and their paper envelope patterns have so many size options printed on them, they tend to be difficult to follow.
  3. New Look. While these patterns tend to be easy to construct, the resulting garments have weird proportions and don’t fit terribly well (but maybe that’s just me).
  4. Reconstructing History. Don’t just shy away from these patterns— don’t use them. They’re confusing, poorly marked and don’t seem to take into consideration the modern body  type: this is VERY IMPORTANT when you’re using an historically-based pattern. Body types have changed and developed over the years, and what fit our ancestors simply doesn’t fit us the same way nowadays. I have tried several, and none of the muslin mock-ups made were translatable into actual garments.

Like I mentioned earlier, however, if you have a pattern you love or have had great success with, go ahead and use it to your heart’s content!

What are your adventures in sewing, readers? Have a pattern suggestion, or costume you’re proud of? Have any sewing  or pattern questions? If so, leave a comment below!

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