Heirloom Doll Costumes & Restoration
Mary B. Lytle · 2806 E. 9th St. · Tucson, AZ 85716-5242 USA · 1-520-881-5545
E-mail: puppen@heirloomrestoration.com

Using Period Fashion Pattern Books
to Make Doll Clothes Patterns

By Mary B. Lytle Copyright © 1996

59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns   Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns: Complete Lady's Wardrobe   Turn-Of-The-Century Fashion Patterns and Tailoring Techniques   The Voice of Fashion: 79 Turn-Of-The Century Patterns With Instructions and Fashion Plates   The Cut of Women's Clothes: 1600-1930   The Edwardian Modiste: 85 Authentic Patterns With Instructions, Fashion Plates, and Period Sewing Techniques
Patterns for Theatrical Costumes : Garments, Trims, and Accessories from Ancient Egypt to 1915   Pattern of Fashion 1: Englishwomen's Dresses and Their Construction: c.1660-1860   Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen's Dresses and Their Construction c.1860-1940   Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women: c.1560-1620

There are many books of period fashion patterns on the market that can be a great resource to doll costumers except for a couple of snags. The first snag is that the pattern pieces are generally reduced to fit on one page (or at the most two) and therefore not proportional to each other – a sleeve pattern can end up the same size as a bodice pattern! The second snag is fairly obvious – the pattern pieces are too small to trace and use as is, and even if they are proportional, they are scaled to the human figure. These snags can be a real dilemma to even the most experienced doll seamstress. However, it really doesn't take rocket science to unravel them. The following is a xerographic method for creating doll-sized patterns from the patterns in these books.

But first a word about xerography and ethics. It is generally understood by the compilers of these books that the buyers of the books will use them as references and resources. However, it is unethical, not to mention illegal, to reproduce copyrighted material for distribution or sale to others. The royalties earned on the sale of these compilations are small compensation for the effort and expense that went into them. It is only right that you pay the owner for what you use.

Now to the xerographic method for creating doll-sized patterns from the patterns in these books. As I indicated, it doesn't take rocket science to unravel the problems of scale. It does require some math, however. It may help you to know that I am no math genius. If I can do this, anyone can do this. Have a little patience, take it slowly and carefully, and the pay-off will be a unique, new dress pattern for your dolly!

Materials: You will need a sewing gauge and measuring tape to take some measurements, pencil and paper, a calculator, and access to a self-service copying machine.

Step 1: Not all the pattern pieces for a particular garment are drawn to the same scale. It is necessary, therefore, to convert all the pieces to a common scale. There is a line drawn the length of the pattern piece with a number given at the bottom or the side of the line. This is the "scale line". This provides you with the information you need to determine the scale in which the pattern piece is drawn. Here's how you do it. Measure the "scale line" with your sewing gauge. Say, for example, that your measurement of the "scale line" is 3.5". And say, for example, that the number given at the bottom of the "scale line" is 18.75. With your calculator, divide the number given on the "scale line" (18.75) by the number of your measurement (3.5). The result – 5.36 – tells you that as the pattern is drawn, 1" represents 5.36", the human scale of the pattern. If the pattern were drawn full-size, it would be 5.36 times larger than it appears in the book.

You must repeat this process for each and every pattern piece, keeping note of your results. When you are done, choose one from among the scales you have calculated. This will be your "common scale" to which you will convert all the pattern pieces. It really doesn't matter which scale you use – any one will do.

Step 2: With your calculator, divide the number of the "common scale" by each of the scales you calculated in Step 1. The result is the percentage by which you must reduce or enlarge that pattern piece to render it proportionate to your common scale pattern piece.

Going back to our example, say my "common scale" turns out to be 4.63. I divide 4.63 by 5.36 (the result from Step 1) with a result of .86. When I xerox the pattern piece in Step 1 at 86%, the copy will be in proportion to my "common scale" pattern piece.

Repeat this process for each pattern piece, keeping note of your results. When you have xeroxed each pattern piece as drawn in the book at the percentage reduction or enlargement you calculated, you will have a set of xeroxed pattern pieces that are proportionate to each other and ready to be enlarged or reduced as necessary to fit the doll you are going to costume.

Step 3: Measure the doll's chest over the underwear and add a quarter to half an inch of play. Then measure the bodice pattern pieces from Step 2, excluding seam allowances, at the chest line. Divide the doll's chest measurement by the total of the measurements at the chest line of the bodice pattern pieces. The result is the percentage by which you must xerographically enlarge (or reduce) all the pattern pieces to roughly fit the doll.

The final fitting of the pattern pieces must be done in the usual way by cutting the pieces out of muslin or paper towels, basting them together, putting them on the doll inside out, and making alterations as necessary to custom fit the doll.

I sincerely hope you find this information helpful for creating some authentic, period costumes for your dolls. Write to me and let me know how you fared with these instructions!

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