Dating sewing patterns

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At the time, producing dress patterns for the home sewing market was the exclusive province of Mc Call's and other magazines.

In the early 1940’s, Simplicity embarked on a major sewing education program, by which traveling representatives, fashion shows, and educational literature were presented and disseminated across the country (more on the Simplicity website ).

First class was intended for letters and postcards, second class for newspapers and magazines, fourth class for parcels and third class for advertising circulars (the ever-unpopular junk mail) and “miscellaneous items” – basically anything that didn’t fit in first or second class but wasn’t a parcel. This coincided with an increase in the bulk mailing rate from 12c per pound to 14c per pound, but as the minimum price per piece remained at 1c this little titbit of information isn’t of much practical use to us. Theoretically, it should be possible to date a pattern by identifying the postal meter that printed the postage.

Pricing for third class really didn’t change that often, which makes it difficult to date precisely by the amount of postage on the envelope. If you’ve ever purchased a meter from a major manufacturer, you’ll know they are pretty serious about serial numbers and accurate records which is unsurprising considering a postage meter essentially prints money.

I’ve seen a reasonable amount of mail order patterns in a 48″ bust, which is as common as unicorns in vintage patterns from the Big Three regular pattern companies (Mc Calls, Simplicity, Butterick).

If you’re striking out finding larger vintage patterns, consider giving mail order patterns a try.

I know there is some information floating around the vintage pattern community concerning dating Pitney Bowes meters, but I’d exercise caution in assuming a meter was created by a Pitney Bowes machine.

Pitney Bowes is just one of many meter companies, and it’s not always apparent from an unmarked meter stamp who created it.

Mail order patterns were commonly mailed third class. The identifying phrase for bulk mail changed on December 21, 1954 from Section whatever of the Postal Laws and Regulations to simply “Bulk Rate” Up until 1952, the minimum per piece of third class bulk mail was 1 cent. Bulk mailings were priced by the pound but this minimum stipulation helps us date any piece of third class bulk mail marked 1c to before 1952. Which is something my hairdresser did for me for most of my teenage years.Let’s look at some clues that can help narrow down a possible date range for vintage mail order patterns…The NRA, or National Recovery Administration, was a major component of Roosevelt’s New Deal, which is far more interesting, controversial and involved than I could ever do justice to here.Suffice to say, businesses who supported the NRA (whether willingly or for fear of public boycott) put the blue eagle emblem on their packages. marked on your envelope, you lucky devil, it’s pre- October 1, 1932.

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