A Guest Rant on “Why Are Vintage Patterns So Expensive?”

by Erin on July 17, 2008


McCalls 3893

I got this great "guest rant" from a pattern seller (who will remain anonymous) and I thought it was worth posting.

[Although] I will note that no one's raised the issue of "How much did they pay people for the valuable vintage they are offering us" or "I bet they paid $5.00 for 20 patterns, how can they charge us $15.00 each for them??" (or significantly more, in some cases).

[It's] a very valid point and I don't want to ruin your comment section by addressing it … I have a good answer for how and why I price my offerings:

Yes I often buy boxes of old patterns for very little cost for the box. But I got up at 4:00AM to be first in line at the estate sale that I thought might possibly have vintage patterns. I stood in line for 2 hours and tried to be first in the door. When I got in the door I started pushing past people and heading for the garage or shed where the patterns usually are and lo and behold there are 2 boxes, rat pellets, roach carcasses and all …

I make my best deal and tote the smelly mess to my car. When I get them home I sit down and go through them to see if there are any beautiful finds that need my immediate attention. I sort by priority which goes first and which gets stored for another day. Then I start with the high priority ones and spread out and check to make sure all the pieces are there and cry when they aren't. I remove old pins (usually unless I miss one), I iron the envelope and the instructions so they are nice and readable.

Then I scan (or rather the DH scans) the envelope and sends it to me. I size it and clarify it a bit so it is readable. If I'm feeling creative I "clean" the front just for my files and cause I like 'em that way. Then it's time to write the listing. Gotta hold that pattern so I know the proper size and measurements … 'cause they're mostly different through the years.

Then I package the little beauty in a plastic bag and file it away until it goes to its new owner … by this time I've spent an average of 1-2 manhours, gasoline (at $4 a gallon) and we don't even count the time spent in line at the estate sale …

Now it's listing time … we all know that eBay doesn't do anything for free (and even website space costs) so I've got 1-2 hours time, a plastic bag, gas money, and then we add FEES. Take away everything else and the fees alone eat into the profit. If I manage to get $9.99 for a pattern and it better be a special one … I get to put $8.00 of that in my pocket. Take away a few cents for packaging and equipment (scanner, computer, iron) maintenance and we're down to $7.50 … O yeah, the 25 cents I paid for the pattern … we're at $7.25. IF THE PATTERN SELLS! Considering the 1-2 manhours involved … That's below minimum wage.

I thought this was worth posting because so many of us forget about the overhead and just plain TIME that's involved in running a small business, especially when you're doing everything yourself (or with the help of your spouse, who may or may not have another full-time job). Sure, I hear people say "I could buy that at the Salvation Army for a dollar," but I always want to ask them "Really? That exact pattern? You're sure it's there? When do they close, by the way?"

You're really paying for everything above, plus the luxury of choice — being able to select from the range of patterns in the seller's web store. And (at least for my advertisers) reassurance that all the pieces are there, and a good chance of a refund if they're not (try that with the Salvation Army …).

One last thing: if you do think vintage patterns are too expensive, you have a lot of options. You can not buy them, for one. Modern patterns are much, much cheaper (if you wait for the $1.99 pattern sales at the major fabric chains). You can set up a wait-for-it search on eBay and hope someone who doesn't know what they have will list it. And, of course, you can always draft your own.

That pattern up above? It's $75 (at The Blue Gardenia, sorry, there's not direct link to the pattern page). Unused, an in-demand bust size, a fancy pattern, and a great illustration. Is it worth $75? It is to somebody!

{ 116 comments… read them below or add one }

Ellie Finlay July 17, 2008 at 6:27 pm

That’s a great rant and I agree with every word she says.Personally, I’m surpised vintage patterns don’t usually cost more than they do!

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Cel Petro July 17, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Supply and demand set the market, and I appreciate having the work laid out for me. Friend with an art gallery constantly hears “oh, I could do that. Arg.

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Anonymous July 17, 2008 at 7:18 pm

Where did this discussion start? I’m feeling like I’ve missed something.Plain and simple, the price of patterns is based on supply and demand. How early a vendor gets up in the morning doesn’t really concern me. We all have some drudgery associated with our jobs, no matter what they are. You are selling something that 99.9 percent of the population would toss into the rubbish bin without a second thought. We KNOW you didn’t pay much if anything for it, and that’s okay. But please, let’s not make excuses for the outrageous prices of some patterns.I appreciate the effort that goes into counting vintage pattern pieces, but I ain’t paying $75 for a pattern unless Coco Chanel personally drafted it!

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ISS Man 71 July 17, 2008 at 7:54 pm

My first reaction to seeing that pattern was that I would pay $100 if that was in my wife’s size. It is a stunning illustration.People who complain in a manner similar to that described are simply reacting without thinking. Once you explain it to them, they tend to understand. It is just easier to rant.Posting information like this really helps educate.Semper Fi,Terry

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Rachel July 17, 2008 at 8:01 pm

I think ebay is quite reasonable…I’ve gotten patterns for as little as $4 including shipping. And I’ve tried checking out estate sales to no avail…either machines but no patterns or patterns in the wrong decade (I prefer 50s or 60s). So I think that the prices aren’t that bad considering I like the design (today’s stuff just isn’t as attractive IMHO) and the fit is better for me. Would I pay $145 for the pattern I saw online that I loooooove…not unless it’s a birthday present to myself. Considering the cost of the pattern, fabric, notions and what-not I think I come out ahead anyways.

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Amanda #1 July 17, 2008 at 8:03 pm

While I do understand the point of the rant, I think it’s ludicrous to say that that pattern above is worth $75. Usually, patterns highlighted on your site sell immediately. I notice that one’s still there. Apparently I’m not the only one who doesn’t think it’s worth that much–no matter what time the seller got up to go to the sale.

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TootsNYC July 17, 2008 at 8:09 pm

It’s true, the price of anything is a function of supply and demand.The supply of vintage patterns is pretty small, and it’s pretty hard to find except through a certain supply stream.The demand isn’t very *broad*, but within its niche, it can be high.If someone can charge $75 for a pattern, and someone will actually pay it, then that is the true value of that pattern.It’s not morally wrong somehow.It might be morally wrong for a drug that saves people’s lives to cost an exhorbitant amount, but not an optional item like a vintage pattern.And likewise, someone who puts in all the effort described isn’t morally entitled to a higher price, nor do they deserve it. They’ll likely GET that higher price, because someone wants the pattern they’ve salvaged and prepared and made available through that aforementioned supply stream.I would imagine that if the folks at The Blue Gardenia find that no one wants to buy that pattern you showed, they’ll drop the price. Until it sells.

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Anonymous July 17, 2008 at 8:11 pm

There’s a lot of this going around. People expect themselves to be paid well but balk at paying anyone else well. (insert your own Walmart rant here) And as you say, it’s up to that “someone” to decide the item is worth the price. There’s a pattern I’ve had my eye on for a while but am not sure it’s worth the $45 the seller is asking. So far, I guess, the answer is ‘no’ but it’s a very cool dress, with exactly the skirt I want on it. As you also say, you could learn to draft it yourself. It’s either time or money – spend your time or spend your money to pay other people to spend theirs. And Erin, that is a beautiful pattern you’ve used to illustrate the point. I’d make it without the flower and wear an impressive necklace. Then I’d go dancing and give that skirt plenty of chances to twirl around me! Thanks for the discussion.Dawn

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lorrwill July 17, 2008 at 8:11 pm

I never wondered this at all. I wondered how anyone could make a living selling them for less than $15 or so! Heck I even chalked up the $85 patterns to being rare/unique and desirable/collectible…supply and demand.The answer left out Pay Pal fees. Once you sell something through PP, you gotta cut them in for their share too. And let us not forget that contemporary pattern go for…how much? $15 – $25 for Vogue patterns unless you are like me and refuse to buy them until Hancock or Joann have the $3.99 sales.Vintage patterns have a certain provenance that make them worth paying more for, imho.

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Bec July 17, 2008 at 8:32 pm

I’m willing to pay more just to have someone else deal with the dead cockroaches. Eeeeewwwwww!!!!1!Hee.

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Ang July 17, 2008 at 9:05 pm

I dont sell a lot of patterns, its not my forte, but this is an interesting post to me as a vintage clothing seller with a website and a real-world store. I have often, in one day, had a customer balk at a dress priced at or above $100 and then a customer who is in town from NYC or the west coast (Im in Iowa) shop like crazy and exclaim as they check out that they love the shop, selection and would pay double back where they live. Im lucky to have an established site and have sold long enough to know what the market will bear so I can price accordingly. I naturally hestitated to ask those prices here in Des Moines….but a year and half after opening, I have found most customers here just as savvy and understanding of the value of vintage as big city buyers. Its still insulting to have people come in and expect thrift store prices and assume I buy from thrifts! I rarely, if ever, get time to shop and the thrifts rarely yield the type of merchandise I offer, in the condition I offer it. I work with estate dealers, private sellers and auction houses. I have a pile of handwashing, mending and stain removal projects taller than me in my dining room! I consign some things so often my price is for 2 people to make a profit. The time I spend…mending, washing, removing stains, researching labels, comparable items online and the prices they sell for, sewing/design techniques, textiles used, dating….add to that the time taking pictures, editing pictures, painstakingly measuring and describing garments as well as the financial upkeep of my shop AND website all factor in to my prices. It makes me crazy to be told someone can buy the same thing themselves at Goodwill (or whatever). I work about 70 hours a week at least to maintain my business. All said and done, Im hardly a jabillionaire. Im a single Mom who gets no child support and I have to maintain a nice apartment, bills, car payment, debts, food/gas/daycare, rent at my shop, utilities there, advertising and a fairly constant influx of expense for stock to keep the shop site current and interesting to repeat visitors. Vintage clothing and patterns are perhaps not necessarily scarce, but not all that easy to find in good enough condition to offer with no work involved to restore or make presentable. And again, the marker is determined by the buyers. If the market wont bear the asked price, the price perhaps will drop. Or go up. Or the item the customer wanted will be sold and gone forever….which happens more often than not in my experience!Thanks for posting this, Erin, sorry to be so wordy!Ang

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libby July 17, 2008 at 11:20 pm

For anyone to get indignant about the cost of something so unessential to life as a vintage pattern is ludicrous. Yes, we love them. Yes, we want them. And if someone is willing to pay $75 for anything then I guess it’s worth $75. Personally, I delight at seeing a pattern as exquisite as this, even if I don’t choose to own it. Phantom Ranter I wish for you that from now on you can simply roll your eyes at these complaints.

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Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 12:09 am

When I find myself going ballistic over the price of a vintage pattern, I usually end up laughing. Why? Because I recognize that I’m reacting at the emotional level of a 2-year-old who wants something, now, on his or her own terms. There’s a sense of consumer entitlement at issue here that I find more disturbing than high prices for non-essential goods.

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Lisa @ the Vintage Fashion Library July 18, 2008 at 12:16 am

I’ll agree, it’s what the market will bear, but can you put a price on a memory? I just found a pattern the other day, for a 70yo woman. She wore it to prom in 1955, but couldn’t remember the number, the maker….none of it. I got her email (with photo) in January. Found the pattern for her the day before yesterday — not in my store, but on ebay — and her granddaughters are elated. They can now wear grandma’s prom dress to their own prom.Can you put a price on that kind of thing? That’s why I love patterns. They are a piece of history, that without people to preserve them, would literally fall apart in front of us, and be lost forever.And just for the record, I *love* treasure hunts like the aforementioned one. I didn’t make a penny on it, but it’s great to help someone find their dream pattern.Just try to put a price on that.And for the record, I’m not a morning person, so 4am at an estate sale deserves something, in my book. That’s usually about when I go to bed. LOL

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Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 12:45 am

Anon at 7:18, The fact that 99.9% of the population would throw them in the trash is why most vintage patterns sell for $10-$30 instead of $100-$300. Even at $75, you’re only paying 3 or 4 times the full retail price of a new pattern. The “rant” from the dealer doesn’t even mention that most of the time, after waiting in line at that estate sale for 2 hours, there are no patterns to be found. I once went out of my way to an estate sale in a swanky, old-money neighborhood that advertised a sewing machine among the items available. There’s got to be patterns there, right? No, not a single pattern. No fabric, either, for some reason.When I was younger, I would hit the local flea market bright and early every weekend. Most of the time, there wasn’t a single pattern to be found, although I’d usually pick up other items. Can you imagine how many hours you would have to spend scouring estate sales and flea markets to turn up something like this stunning 50s special occasion dress pattern in pristine condition? In your size? Now that I’m a mom, I can’t hit the flea market every weekend, so I’ll gladly pay someone else to do the legwork of finding these gems and bringing them to light.

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Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 12:55 am

Very interesting background on how one seller finds their patterns, especially the vintage one.. I don’t have that luxury of estate sales, but somehow find those lovely vintage 50s ball gown patterns and earlier… One concern I have is the mention of rodents and that has been in the back of my mind for a long time. We don’t know where a lot of these patterns have been,, there is a hantevirus scare to do with mouse droppings.. If I suspect a mouse has been to the pattern first, I throw it out. Has anyone that sells out there encountered this and what is their solution? Can a pattern be sanitized!!!! and thanks again for the insight.. My most unusual antique pattern find was in an antique shop, and they had an old Laura Secord chocolate box in the corner and three patterns inside dated 1920s and 1930s… great find!!!

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Becky July 18, 2008 at 1:14 am

Anon @ 7:18 p.m.:How early a vendor gets up in the morning doesn’t really concern me. We all have some drudgery associated with our jobs, no matter what they are.Yes, all jobs have drudgery, even selling patterns. It is her job, and she deserves to be compensated for her time, whether it’s at 4 a.m. or 4 p.m.

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Ruth Singer July 18, 2008 at 3:00 am

sigh. There is something fundamentally wrong in our society when we don’t think it is worth paying a reasonable fee for someone’s time and EXPERTISE. The cost of most goods comes from the time they take to make / source / prepare rather than the raw materials. Its the same with my work:http://mantua-maker.blogspot.com/2007/02/pricing-your-work.htmlThe finest vintage patterns are collector’s pieces. Its well understood in other fields (like high-quality vintage classical LPs which my mum sells) that rarity value and quality up the price. Look at fine art! How much does that cost to produce, in terms of the raw materials?? Our society still consistently undervalues women’s work and the low perceived value of sewn work and associated ephemera like patterns is all part of that. We need to work towards changing it, not continuing it.

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ansis July 18, 2008 at 4:34 am

I’m fine with those sorts of prices on a number of levels (and goodness the example above isnt’ even the most expensive on that site!). Firstly the price reflects supply and demand, simple as that. If someone will pay the asking price for it then it’s worth it. Secondly, as many people have mentioned, people deserve to be paid a fair price for their time, labour and your convenience. Not everything is made in a sweatshop in China and therefore sold for pennies. And how much is the convenience of sitting on your butt in front of a computer screen scrolling through lovely, preselected patterns worth to you? If you get paid $25/hr at your job and you spend 3 hours searching dusty bins in op-shops to find one pattern, then by my reckoning that pretty ordinary pattern cost you $75. And lastly, I’m blown away that you can actually get an original pattern designed by Balenciaga at all – it’s a piece of social history, possibly unique, and it’s sitting there online ready to buy. Cheap at twice the price really. Obviously not all patterns are so unique, or beautiful like the one above, but some are and boy they deserve the respect that big price-tags command imho!

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Linda July 18, 2008 at 4:36 am

Great “rant”. It helped me to get a better perspective. As to whether I pay a certain price depends on my budget, my “want” factor and whether it is my treasure or someone elses junk. It does get down to my choice, to buy or not to buy. Thanks for posting this.

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the_lazymilliner July 18, 2008 at 6:33 am

In the knitting world, some consider yarn to be expensive only if it’s never used and the completed project never worn. Is that true with vintage patterns? If so, I’ve got lots of pricey old patterns.

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Marge, Born Too Late Vintage July 18, 2008 at 7:10 am

One thing about patterns and cost is that you can use your pattern again and again. So if you pay say $12.00 for a pattern (patterns in my store are $12.00 or less) and make that dress say 6 times you’re looking at $2.00 for the pattern use and whatever you spend for your notions and fabrics.Comparatively speaking, using a vintage pattern allows you to have as many custom tailored outfits as you want for a very reasonable price.

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Elle July 18, 2008 at 7:42 am

Let’s put this in perspective. The original comment was probably made with respect to patterns now selling for significantly more than the $10 to $15 range that most patterns go for.I’ve seen Vogue Paris Originals/Couturier patterns double in price over the last year, and I think that part, but only part, of the reason is because people have become aware of the detail involved in these vintage patterns. So the increase in price is indeed fueled by supply and demand.However, there is an interesting phenomenon developing in the trade of these patterns, which is driving up the supply price (kind of a Reagonomics supply drives demand phenomenon). When I go onto eBay and try to buy a pattern and get outbid by a sniper with 1000s of purchses to his/her name, and then I see it show up for multiples of what was paid, I personally get pissed off and won’t buy from that person again. Yes, my decision. But I actually want to make something from that pattern and now it has moved out of my price range. (And it languishes on that site.)This fuels more similar action. Now I can’t afford the patterns that I was able to buy a year ago. Where will this lead? I hope that Vogue and Butterick wake up and really start digging into their archives, reproducing more of their couturier patterns. Make them available to many, many people who like to sew. If the copyrights have expired, more and more people will copy them and offer them for resale at a much more reasonable price. More power to them. I’ve bought quite a few of those.Frankly, I think some have gotten too greedy. I see a lot of patterns are staying on websites, prices not reduced. Not a surprise. With the economy heading south, it will be interesting to see what happens. Probably more overseas designers will buy them up (this is who can afford the extremely high prices because it is a business expense and they need the design ideas — I had this from a seller of these types of patterns), which means they go away. So I tried to build my “library” while I could, and I’m sad that so many beautiful patterns have moved out of my reach. Does that give me the emotional maturity of a 2 year old? Perhaps I would feel less disgruntled if the actual creator of the designs were getting a chunk of the exhorbitant prices being charged for some of these patterns.I buy from a number of sellers, and I don’t mean you. I mean those who I have stopped buying from. And I have a number of sewing buddies who feel and act the same way. Just to put this in perspective.Regards,Elle

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Jen ~ MOMSPatterns July 18, 2008 at 7:46 am

Interesting post! Ive never really broken it down to a per hour sort of thing, selling patterns.. but I KNOW the amount of time involved in selling them. I feel like Ive ALWAYS got a box full in front of me in some stage of being listed. Ive got the Pieces Need To Be Counted Bins, the Counted, Needs to be Scanned Bins, the Scanned, Needs to be Typed (from the back) and the DONE, Needs to be Listed Bins.My own pricing is based on supply, demand, size condition. Do I have an 80s Butterick A-Line Skirt, Waist 23 pattern with a ripped up envelope? Eh, I might not even list it. Do I have a 50s Vogue Patou Evening Gown, complete, size 16? Do I wanna bite my nails all week hopeful for a bidding war, or just sell it directly in my store for $75?As Im personally trying to leave ebay fees far behind, Im putting more and more of my cherry finds into my store, and trying to establish fair prices. A price where I can be competitive with auction pricing while not creating a frenzy of bids; a price that at the end of the day, Im happy with, and my buyer is happy with!Like Ang, I feel Ive also been doing what I do long enough to know what my good stuff is, and what to price it at fairly. And hey! Most web sites or online sellers offer coupons or discounts for being on a mailing list.. or as a promotion with a previous purchase.. or with multiple buys.. or we broadcast it here with Erin! I know I do! So when you find that hefty priced pattern you MUST have.. no harm in checking around for % off discounts, and never hurts ASKING to barter :)So youve taken YOUR time to read my pre-coffee mumblings jumblings? Visit my store and use coupon code fireworks15 and youll save 15% off your order at my store. See.. that was EASY! lolPeace to the Pattern People! Everyone enjoy your weekend!

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fuzzylizzie July 18, 2008 at 7:58 am

There is something fundamentally wrong in our society when we don’t think it is worth paying a reasonable fee for someone’s time and EXPERTISE. Exactly! And add to that, editing skills. I buy for resale, maybe 1% of the vintage patterns I encounter. I feel that my “eye” is an important part of my site, and it sure feels good when a customer emails and says they appreciate the carefully edited offerings.The majority of the patterns on my site are $15. That is the “make or break” point; any less and I’d not be making any kind of a profit. And then what would be the point? I’d have no reason to continue selling.I believe that when you spend your money, that’s when your opinion matters most! There are plenty of people who are willing to spend $15 for a great vintage pattern. For those who are not, they must spend the time and do the leg work (or seat work, if they shop eBay!) to get their $1 “bargain.”

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Latter-Day Flapper July 18, 2008 at 7:58 am

Gotta confess that the prices of some vintage patterns just make me think it’s time to learn to draft my own. Today’s pattern is lovely but it’s not so complex that it couldn’t be draped herself by somebody who knew a little about what they were doing. Might not be made *exactly* the same way, but you could get darned close (close enough).While I am all for people doing jobs that they love, and people are certainly free to charge what they want for things, I also think it’s true that some jobs are not a living. (I’m not saying pattern selling isn’t or shouldn’t be a living, mind you.) I paint, and I certainly love it enough that I feel it should be my job, but the truth is that it is not necessary enough, to enough people, for it to be my primary occupation. If I were to persist in trying to make it so despite numerous clues that that is not a practical ambition, I can hardly blame the rest of the world.* * * * * * *I wonder sometimes if the “old book” mindset doesn’t sometimes come into play. People tend to think that, just because something is old, it’s valuable. I see this all the time at work: People think that just because their books are old, they’re valuable. The truth is that the vast majority of old books are not valuable (even if they are relatively rare). They’re just used books. Disappointing, but true.

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Fuzzylizzie July 18, 2008 at 8:07 am

Let’s put this in perspective. The original comment was probably made with respect to patterns now selling for significantly more than the $10 to $15 range that most patterns go for.Possibly, but I have read comments on this blog to the effect that $15 is too much for a patern. I remember it so well because Erin used one of my patterns as an illustration, and one of the first comments was a complaint that the pattern cost too much – $15.

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cpeep July 18, 2008 at 8:08 am

Erin, that’s why I sent YOU all my old patterns. It’s too much WORK to sell them :)I’m amazed that people will spend $6 for a cup of (burnt tasting) coffee and won’t invest $8 in the perfect pattern!Carol

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Sold A Moke July 18, 2008 at 8:11 am

I have always believed that if something is priced too high for me then buying it is out of the question. Everyone has this option, because let’s face it, who really needs a pattern? It is a luxury.I too operate a small business and I can tell you that my overhead is large, my time investment is large too. I make sure I am compensated for it, if I weren’t I wouldn’t do it. But I don’t go down the list with everyone to make sure they appreciate how much I do. Nobody gripes to me about my fees because I do a good job and deliver a valuable service. So, either buy the pattern or don’t. The seller just puts it out there and that is literally their business. If it does not sell they will most likely lower the price.

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Mystique*61 July 18, 2008 at 8:24 am

I must admit I wouldnt dream of putting 75 on a pattern like this one but yeah for capitalism if it sells Ill be rethinking my pricing structure for sure. :) I would add though whether youre a collector or reseller of vintage anything – if you run into cockroach carcasses rat droppings at a sale its probably not worth whatever is waiting to be bought – you might cart home something else besides a new treasure!

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Carol@Dandelion Vintage July 18, 2008 at 8:56 am

Wow, this is a great post and great responses. I don’t think buyers take the time to consider all of the time and work that goes into selling patterns and vintage clothing (add cleaning and measuring to the preparation time for getting clothing ready to sell) Plus, you may have to go to 10 sales before you find some patterns or clothing to buy. Not every thrift is full of fabulous and cheap vintage stuff. Not all sellers are paying thrift shop prices for their stock. I haven’t bought stock from a thrift shop in about 5-6 years. If I depended on a thrift shop to provide me cheap stock, I would have gone out of business years ago.Vintage-anything can’t be found in your size, in great condition at your price on every corner. People will pay over $100 for a pair of new shoes. How much do you think it really cost to make those shoes? But someone will buy them because they are super cute, well, made, maybe a good name maker. If you really love something, you decide how much you are willing to pay for it. If you don’t like the price, go find something in your price range – don’t insult or think badly of the seller.

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La BellaDonna July 18, 2008 at 8:59 am

As a designer and seamstress myself, I will never. EVER. EVER! bargain with someone else over the value of what she is selling, whether it’s artwork, or jewelry, or vintage patterns. If I have the money for it, I pay it and say “Thank you!” and move on. If I don’t have the money, I admire it wistfully, smile, and move on. I won’t bargain down what the maker/owner thinks something is worth; this isn’t a flea market (I WILL bargain at a flea market, it’s part of the ambiance, and expected). Either I can afford it, or I can’t.Canine Diamond, I think we must be looking at different books. I have found that some of the books I’ve bought have more than tripled in value, and they weren’t cheap when I bought them. Unfortunately for me, there are plenty of books I’ve meant to get, and then when I try to find them, even though they’re only a couple of years old, they’ve completely gone out of my Book-Buying Range.As far as vintage patterns go, if it’s something unusual, or part of a particular silhouette that I collect, I will pay more for it (if I have the money). If I don’t have the money, well, I have a ruler and a pencil; I don’t expect the seller to drop her price just because I wish the patterns were cheaper! (It doesn’t work with gas, I tried that first; so why would it work for patterns?)

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Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 9:05 am

A pattern drafted by Chanel herself would be selling for way more than $75!

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Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 9:12 am

I have purchased patterns for $30.00 or even $45.00 dollars. I buy from sellers and at prices I think are fair. I have not yet purchased anything from the featured seller because the prices are relatively high compared with other sellers in the market. As a second issue, I am sure that many/most resellers do get up early to be the first in line at an estate sale. On the other hand, in the metropolitan area where I live, resellers often get preferential treatment, including being able to “shop” an estate sale the day before the genral public or for several hours before the general public is allowed into the estate sale. This is a decided advantage in the market. Just saying. It’s the other side of the coin.Amy

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Oldpatterns July 18, 2008 at 9:52 am

I’m sorry to say that the big 4 patterns companies do NOT have an archive. They only keep what is in stock at present and recently discontinued. Perhaps some of you might remember when Vogue began their Vintage Vogue line, they requested people to send them patterns. They do not have a secret stash of all the patterns they created. They, like many of the other people re-printing vintage patterns, have to work with patterns that people saved. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard – “Oh my mom sewed! I threw her patterns out when she died.” I’d hate to think about what will happen to my stash when I’m 6 feet under. :)

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What-I-Found July 18, 2008 at 10:13 am

I didn’t write the rant, but I could have. I sell patterns now, but sold antiques for years and the story was the same. These are jobs that are really labors of love, because you won’t ever get paid for your time. Finding the right pattern and matching it up to the right person takes a tiny miracle…and it has to be the right size! I think of vintage patterns as pieces of history, treasured things to be honored. Use them, wear them, but don’t forget the journey they took to get to you. Tina

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Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 10:29 am

As a pattern buyer, sometimes I see something I really like priced WAY above my budget… but then I think, would I pay that much if I wanted to use this as my wedding dress? I can usually answer yes, so I just close my eyes and imagine how happy the pattern will make the person who can justify its purchase.

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Ladygrande (Texas Marie) July 18, 2008 at 11:08 am

Any item is only worth what someone will pay for it. If someone wants it – they will pay the price for it – and they should not complain. I don’t pay listed price for any of the new patterns. I always wait until they are on sale at the fabric stores for $.99 or $1.99. But, I am lucky on vintage patterns == all the ladies in my family were great at sewing their own frocks in the ’40′s and beyond, and I am the respository of those patterns. I can’t use the sizes myself, but they have family history involved in them. I do buy patterns on Ebay and at other venues – some just for decoration/inspiration, but I only pay what I want to pay – it’s not a “do or die” situation at any time. Put limits on what you are willing to pay, and let it go at that!

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Dusty Penguin July 18, 2008 at 11:13 am

What a beautiful, beautiful dress. I wish I’d found that pattern in April when I was looking for a dress for my daughter’s wedding. I tried on everything reasonably non-ugly in 3 counties for up to $400.00 and couldn’t find anything I was happy with. I bought a pattern and remnant cloth and made a suitably pretty dress, but at that time I would have paid $75.00 for this pattern. Love it! But don’t need it now!

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Elsewhere Vintage July 18, 2008 at 11:54 am

Interesting discussion. As a vintage clothing reseller, this “thrift store” mindset does come up periodically.Look– I do this FOR A LIVING and do you know how much vintage I have THAT FITS ME in my own closet? Not much. Why? Because I can search for hours and hours and days and days and if I’m LUCKY I might find ONE item that I like and that fits me.Most of my own vintage I bought at retail prices from other sellers.Also — every now and then I’ll have a customer exclaim something like “$40!! I could by that at Goodwill for $5!”I say then go do it! I’ll bet you leave empty handed after way more than $40 worth of your time.But what’s really funny is that whenever an item illicits that response, invariably someone else comes along shortly and pays the $40 without blinking.It’s all perspective. Just because it’s not worth $40 TO YOU doesn’t mean it’s not worth $40.AND– I don’t get this attitude that it’s somehow “greedy” for a seller to purchase something at the asking price and attempt to sell it for more? That’s just plain silly. That’s what our whole economy is based on! Every last bit of it!Is it greedy for you to go to work and expect to be paid? I get the feeling that there are people out there that RESENT the fact that those of us who do this professionally actually do make a living. They seem to think we only have a right to do it as a hobby and therefor charge a pittance for our time and goods.No offense, but unless you’re willing to cut your pay in half, please don’t suggest that I cut mine.

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marcia in austin July 18, 2008 at 12:05 pm

I agree with ruth singer that there is still an almost universal down-valuing of things related to tasks and interests that are traditionally women’s. There is also a tendency to look at the final product as an absolute: Is it a vintage pattern reflecting the knowledge and skills of the drafter, reflecting the social history of the time, and miraculously preserved? No, it’s a bunch of old tissue paper in an envelope. Is it a fabulous dress that perfectly reflects the wearer’s personality, a dress in which she both looks beautiful and feels at ease– a dress which took creative thought and planning and skill and effort to bring to fruition? No, it’s… jeez, it’s a *dress* already… you could’ve gotten a dress at the store and saved yourself the trouble… what’s the big deal? People often overlook the intangible things that give an item its value.

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Adrienne July 18, 2008 at 12:24 pm

There are the haves and the have-nots; its nice to be able to afford it, but that $75.00 is more than likely too steep for those of us who learned to sew from our youth not only for personal choice fit, but to save money. Ergo; although I do sympathize with what the seller(s) must put into the patterns in order to make any kind of a profit at all, it still will belong to those who have great jobs or a wealthy dead Uncle. For the rest of us – we as well need to look for a deal to make ends meet. It all makes drafting a pattern look more and more attractive, doesnt it?Best of luck to both sides. God Bless.

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Bradie July 18, 2008 at 12:36 pm

What a great post! As the owner of 10,000 vintage sewing patterns, I can totally relate to what she is saying. I too would haunt those estate sales, and labor with love through counting, prepping, and ironing those pieces. Finally it got the best of me, and my lonely patterns sit, waiting for the day I will renew my enthusiasm for them. I can appreciate every word that she has typed. You deserve every hard earned penny.Bradie

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Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 12:40 pm

I don’t resent those who put in their labor to improve the product (picking through envelopes, matching pieces, etc).I do resent those who get up at 3 am to snatch up the patterns/clothing so they can, without adding substantial value, make the end-users pay more for them. They’re not creating anything. They’re basically parasitic.Are they entitled to make a certain wage? Am I entitled to cheap patterns? No, and no. Do they have a right to make a living this way? Sure, whatever, free country. Do I have a right to be annoyed by it? Yes. I simply have a preference for professions that either create something or add value. Too often resellers do neither, enriching themselves at the overall detriment of the market.

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Lisa @ The Hem Line July 18, 2008 at 12:57 pm

As with any shopping spree . . . if you LOVE IT and WANT IT you will pay the price. I don’t care if it’s a bottle of wine, a great pair of shoes, a new car or a sewing pattern. Obviously the person selling patterns makes some determination of the value based on their own taste as well as market demand. I know as an antique dealer and seller of vintage patterns, I am constantly saying, “If I can get $200 for my Roseville vase, I will sell it. Otherwise I will keep it and cherish it!”

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Elsewhere Vintage July 18, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Resellers are parasitic for saving these items (often from the the trash bin or raghouses or even worse fates) because you can’t get them at rock bottom prices or for free?Sounds like nothing but sour grapes to me.And considering that NOT everyone has the time or inclination to get up at 3am to source these goods, those who do so DO, in fact, add substantial value to these items for the people that they buy for. I know that not a darn one of my clients is going to drag themselves through MY day to purchase something (that will probably not fit them anyway) just to save a few dollars – instead, they’re grateful that someone else is doing all that and bringing it to them. THAT is supply and demand. So it’s not for you? Fine – but that doesn’t make it parasitic or wrong. I find more value in what *I* do than all those millions out there pushing papers and selling insurance under fluorescent lighting.What, pray tell, do YOU do for a living that you so enrich the world?Is a copy editor simply living off the back of the author/writer, bringing up the overall costs of books and “enriching themselves at the overall detriment of the market”? What about the producer? what about the distribution house? Etc etc.EVERY industry is somehow linked to another and sustains itself by connection. To deny that is foolish and ignorant. Would that I could buy all my food, paper goods and laundry soap AT THE SOURCE at much cheaper prices. I should rail at Target and the local grocery for bringing all these things to me under one roof for a higher price! (of course, with the cost of gas, my prices after driving around to purchase items at the source would likely be higher than at the local store!)

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The Crafty Academic July 18, 2008 at 1:40 pm

This discussion prompted me to pony up the $18 for a vintage pattern I’ve long been wanting! Great perspective on the work that goes into the business.I think I tend to get spoiled by the $1.99 / $3.99 pattern sales at JoAnne’s. Good reminder that the modern patterns just don’t have the finesse that the vintage ones do.

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Zoltar Panaflex July 18, 2008 at 1:40 pm

I totally agree with the ‘rant’. I have a perfect understanding that a seller might not be profiteering off of me, but their overhead is such where there is going to be a difference between point A and point B.I have zero problem with someone making a profit. I try to find bargains myself, but I don’t have the leads/opportunities/options that a professional pattern picker-througher might have.I am not one to complain about prices. If I truly want the pattern, I pay the price and clutch the pattern to me like a long-lost Leonardo.Thanks Erin, for bringing forward an oft-neglected truth, and shining some light on yet another facet that most people don’t consider!

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Cookie July 18, 2008 at 1:51 pm

What an interesting topic. Most of the vintage patterns I see seem quite affordable. As for the really pricey ones; they’re like museum pieces, in that they are rare. Yes, you might find that in your grandmother’s attic, but how many grandmothers do you have, and how many attics did SHE have, and did she even sew in the first place? You might be able to search out the same pattern for less (some day, some way) but the time that would take and the travel involved would, practically speaking, make that newfound cheaper pattern more expensive than the original one you fell in love with. It’s the old “Penny Wise, Pound Foolish” thing. Basically, if every vintage pattern were $75 we’d all be in deep, deep trouble. But they’re not. (PS: I am feeling that demon Image Wunderlust again! Please excuse my changing appearance!)

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Cookie July 18, 2008 at 2:56 pm

PS: I’m shocked pattern companies don’t keep archives. It’s not like tissue paper patterns take up THAT much space, do they? This 1966 pattern on the right was just featured on the Burda site as part of a retrospective slide show, and they can’t even tell me what the original pattern number WAS! To a bookworm like me, there’s something rather SCARY about that! (I’ll load the image at the vintage pattern wiki site as Burda 0002, in case anyone ever learns more info and can update it.)

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CEMETARIAN We Dig Memories July 18, 2008 at 3:39 pm

This is one of the most fun posts we’ve had……….that includes both buyers and sellers………and I LOVE the fact that us Offerers of Vintage Lovelies have a new Job Title.professional pattern picker-througher I LOVE IT and I’m going to Steal it, Zoltar.

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What-I-Found July 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Love what Cookie said…how many Grandmas do you have? In my case I don’t get up at 4 AM for anything…but I travel all over the US and go to tiny towns you’ve never heard of. I find patterns in obscure stores and out of the way shops. I am sure that you (or your Grandma) have never been there. But I was…and I gathered together all the really good patterns…just to make it easy for you to find. You’re welcome. ;-)Tina – who sometimes stays up till 4 AM…listing patterns!

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Jen ~ MOMSPatterns July 18, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Hiya Cookie! I sure wish pattern companies had at least ONE of all their patterns as well. Especially the old McCall’s Designer Series ones. I mean come on.. Pauline Trigere? Givenchy? WOW!However, I totally understand why they DON’T! I barely have room for one of each VERY INCOMPLETE archive of each pattern that I sell. Churning out about what.. 2000 a year, since 1920 something.. man, that’s a LOT of room needed for archival and preservation! Hindsight, I bet they wish they had found a way and done it but man.That is a LOT of space! lol

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Karen July 18, 2008 at 3:51 pm

I fit squarely on both sides of this debate. Almost all the time, I won’t spend more than $4 on a pattern. I generally won’t buy single patterns on ebay, unless I need to cheer myself up. I started realizing that I’m collecting though, I’ve only made 5 out of the dozens of patterns I’ve bought in the past year. the vintage ones I’m afraid to touch or cut because they’re rare, unique, and not replacable.I lost myself in one ebay auction and spent about $75 on a pattern as wonderful as this one, and I have never regretted it. maybe i’ll treasure it, maybe i’ll take the time to carefully trace it in a moisture/dust/pet-free safe environment, maybe i’ll just divve in with my sissors. also, I have about a hundred vintage patterns I started collecting/rescuing from garage sales etc. I don’t have the heart to throw them away, but I also don’t have the energy to sell them properly. I feel so trapped!

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Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Um, wow. I am really surprised at how heated and rude this discuss has become. As resellers, you can put something up for sale for as much as you want to. And sure, there may be someone, somewhere, willing to spend very large amounts of money for a pattern. On the other hand, I have been collecting patterns for 20+ years. I have seen the market for vintage patterns expand, and prices (and therefore competition for them) increase, and I have a pretty good idea of what a fair price is for a pattern. I let my judgment guide me. I also know that vintage pattern prices rise and fall. Sellers want to maximize their earnings and are therefore always pushing to see what the upper price range is for patterns. Well, they find it, and then their sales slack and they have “sales” or just re-post the listing on ebay for less. Another innovation that I love to see, are the sites that offer reproductions. Since I am sewing with the patterns, a reproduction is as good as the real thing to me, and for rare/highly desireable patterns, far more economical.For Pete’s sake, folks, the free market works surprisingly well.Amy

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Penny Hodgson-Dell July 18, 2008 at 4:13 pm

What a lively dialogue… and my rationalization for having over 100,000 patterns waiting patiently to be listed,,and 15,000 presently listed, I think I have reached the ultimate limit in house space, is a parallel to the Mormon philosophy. I am not Mormon, but they have a mission to gather all the birth and death and geanealogical records they can get their hands on… I feel like I am doing the same.. I am gathering up all this valuable historic data and treating it like a treasure. A lost part of history..This collection of patterns has led me into other areas, books on 1930s and 1940s fashions etc.. I find it historically fascinating the hats, gloves, shoes on the patterns of those eras… so pattern sellers, we are on a Mission!!! and enriching the world!!! my two cents worth, and yes a seller is the only one that can put a price tag on their product, the web, Ebay and Paypal fees and the cost of living has close to doubled at least…and we have to figure that into the final figure. Thank you to all pattern sellers for providing a valuable product no matter what the cost is… Penny, recently married at the end of June!! never too old to get married..

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Tosha July 18, 2008 at 4:31 pm

WHEW! I am TIRED just from reading! I have never really tried to get a vintage pattern, though looking through your site I can see just how there is a simplistic elegance to alot of them. BUT, when I do I FOR SURE know what I am paying for. And I can tell you, VERY MUCH WORTH IT! Thanks for the insite and the “rant”! :)

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Cookie July 18, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Jen: Its neat that were in a different era now, and pattern companies can store electronically. I dont know how one easily PRINTS OUT a downloadable pattern…but soon well be there! And I agree with Penny: we are on a Mission!!! and enriching the world!!! All I can say is, thank goodness SOMEONE takes the time. Because most of us cant : )

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Julie The Vintage Goddess July 18, 2008 at 5:19 pm

In my case I don’t get up at 4 AM for anything~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~hahahahahame either Tina.That’s why I lots when it seems like there is nothing left around here.(though I did buy a pattern cabinet a few months ago, FULL, at an estate sale…it was, as they say, a good buy)I pay more when I buy lots then at a sale, BUT I am paying for the service provided by the seller who has gone out and done all the things I don’t want to do at the moment, like get at 4am.So that is what I think sellers do, besides save and offer great vintage, we provide a service to the buyer who wants vintage clothing or patterns or whatever, but does not have the time to go out and find it.A service always comes at a price, you just have to decide what you are willing to pay for that service.

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Lanetz Living July 18, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Great Blog,to add my 2 cents. Not all pattern sellers buy dirt cheap. I buy the majority of my vintage patterns from estate liquidators who know what I am looking for. In the last 2 weeks alone I have had a large cash outlay of over $3,000. It is not unusual to spend $5000 a month on inventory. You never know what it going to be found so you have to be ready to lay out the cash up front and then hope it does not stay on the shelves to long. It is a fine balance to find the right price that is fair to the liquidators, seller and buyer.I also do not have the luxury of a spouse that helps and I pay employees $10 an hour to inventory, scan, sort, organize and ship the dozens of orders we get every day. I personally hand pick the patterns that make it to the website but could not offer the the volume and variety of patterns with out paid help. Advertising is another issue that has not been addressed. Erin is “cheap” ((grin)) but to put an ad in Threads, Sew Stylish, Etc costs $100′s of dollars a month. There is alot that goes into pattern selling and even though we are “small sellers” it is still a Business with cost and overhead way beyond the costs of the pattern.Love this blog as it helps for both sellers and buyers to see both perspectives.Hugs,Janet

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Penny July 18, 2008 at 5:25 pm

If someone reading this blog and rant today about patterns wishes to set up an instant online children’s patterns website or whatever they wish to do with them, I have perhaps 500 or more children’s patterns, almost all uncut, some from the 40s to present day and would give them all to a good home for the cost of shipping… It would probably cost close to $100 for a shipment of this size.. You would be pleased and it would be an instant kids and babies and teens pattern business, you just have to do all the legwork and add a price!!! contact me through my website http://www.antiquedollhouseofpatterns.ca if you could use all of these kids patterns all sizes, all ages, all eras for shipping cost only. Then I can have more room for my vintage adult patterns!!!! Thank you.. Penny

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Elsewhere Vintage July 18, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Anon said: *** I am really surprised at how heated and rude this discuss has become.***Yes, I agree. Calling someone parasitic for their career choice IS rude.Its not like we are LAWYERS or something. ;)What it comes down to is that the free market DOES work – and most of the vintage pattern resellers DO sell their items. Often at the prices they want for them.Like ANY retail establishment, they will have sales and reduce the prices of some stock to move it out. Thats inevitable- no matter the form of retail youre engaged in. Even books go on sale.But it amazes me that in THIS market a few seem to view it as sellers being greedy when in every other market, its simply business.Its sure easy to criticize folks who have something you want for a price you dont want to pay – but God forbid those folks defend themselves against unfair attitudes. We ALL live in this world – please try acting like it.

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Mike White Deer Pattern Village July 18, 2008 at 7:47 pm

Iee with every thing that has been said, I don’t have to many high end vintage patterns, but I have many modern ones and they do take a lot of time. and in some markets pattern prices are going down. I have a pattern that I paid 33 for at SA and saw it on an other buying site for 15.00 or more so that can happen but it is rare. I think more buyers should read blogs like this. Maybe they would getr some appreciation of the work we go through

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Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 8:08 pm

Janet at Lanetz, you doll!Your patterns are REASONABLY PRICED. Your site is the best–well organized, good vintage selection (though the B38 section could stand a little restocking :) ) and easy to shop at. Your customer service is A+. You clearly are making money (otherwise, how would you have $5K on hand to shop for new inventory?) and YET you do it by asking a fair price. As a (repeat) Lanetz customer, I appreciate that!It’s hilarious reading people’s defense of this prosaic $75 McCall’s pattern. (Circle skirt + plain, kimono sleeve top=ordinary prom dress. A high school student could draft this. And you can certainly whip up something just like it using current patterns from the Big 4.) The pattern envelope is in poor condition, too, btw. Well, what a hoot! My favorite comments on this thread have been: the ones that admonish that since this is not an essential purchase, one shouldn’t complain about price (in other words, if you’re poor, keep it zipped, please); the commenter who said that $75 is only (!) 3-4 more times than the full price of a current pattern (yes, and it’s also as much as a tank of overpriced gas, 15 gallons of milk, blah, blah, blah), and BellaDonna’s comment that “I will never. EVER. EVER! bargain with someone else over the value of what she is selling, whether it’s artwork, or jewelry, or vintage patterns.” (as if bargaining is some kind of moral failure.)The world of vintage clothing, patterns and notions has changed tremendously since I got into it as college student in the 80s. My friends and I were drawn to vintage for the nostalgia but also for the prices. We could afford to dress well without spending a lot of money. Today I could not afford to buy those clothes that I wore in college! I certainly couldn’t afford to buy the vintage alligator purse I bought in ’86. (Thank god I kept it!)Now vintage is all dominated by the pros. You (or your pickers) get first dibs on everything, mark things up like a million percent and put it on ebay or sell it at shows. So who’s buying? Quirky wealthy people who like to amass “collections” that hang in some secret closet or fashion designers/retailers that want to rip off a vintage item. I was at a textiles show a couple of years ago and the vendors were whispering about how Betsy Johnson had been there earlier and had snapped up a bunch of stuff. That’s who we regular people vintage lovers are competing with for stuff: Betsy Johnson.With vintage patterns it’s mind blowing to see these outrageous $75 ea. prices for an item that was specifically intended for financially strapped people. (Depression era frocks patterns come to mind.) I think that’s why some of us find the prices insulting. Most of us who sew may do it for the love of it, for the custom fit, but ALSO to save money. (Somehow I doubt Melinda Gates, Oprah or the Queen of England sew their own clothes.) My first reaction when I discovered a few of these sites that sell nothing but over $45 patterns was WHAT THE…?! I looked at their offerings and then I moved on. Nothing but nothing is going to make me spend $75 on a pattern. I’m not tempted, it doesn’t tug at my heartstrings, I don’t shed a tear.

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lorrwill July 18, 2008 at 8:14 pm

I have got to add that I can NOT buy the same thing (vintage or otherwise) at any second hand stores in my area. The thrifts are disgustingly filthy, have no sewing patterns, and I have yet to find anything wearable – meaning no ruinous home alterations, stains, fabric that is so thread bare or faded that it is a joke, horrible odors, etc.I have ranted about this more than once since I joined Wardrobe Refashion. I have no thrift stuff to refashion!

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Elsewhere Vintage July 18, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Anon -You don’t seem to get it. But, oh well.This isn’t about a $75 pattern. It’s about those who think they, and ONLY THEY, have the right to purchase these items – because they were “into it” first. Yes, designers buy vintage. Yes, some quirky wealthy people also buy vintage.But if you really think that’s who is supporting your local vintage store, you’re way off the mark.Every damn one of us would be starving, if that were the case.I, also, got into vintage in the 80′s. And you know what? The price of EVERYTHING has gone up since then! Heck, even gas was under $1!! So what makes you think that vintage should be any different?Because you were into it first?That’s such a teenager “I was into this band BEFORE they were popular!” kind of mentality, and I just don’t get it. It’s selfish and egocentric and just plain RUDE to try to tell other (successful!) people how to run their business to SUIT YOU.Get off your high (and anonymous yet apparently rich and fulfilling) horse for a reality check.

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Cookie July 18, 2008 at 9:15 pm

It’s not like we are LAWYERS or something Wait a minute! I work in a law office (uh, between Big Band songstress engagements, of course). I’ll have you know, we NOT only bilk the rich, but we accept pro bono cases as well. Good golly! It’s like they say; “Everyone hates lawyers until they need one.”

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denise@thebluegardenia.com July 18, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Cookie,To add levity into this discussion (and I hope you accept it as such!) I believe writer Christopher Buckley said in one of his books (and I paraphrase) ” . . . And then they REALLY hate them!”Some of my favorite customers are lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries, BTW. So I surely don’t hate ‘em.

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Elsewhere Vintage July 18, 2008 at 11:50 pm

LOL Cookie!I actually LOVE our lawyer! I was more making a poor joke on the typical lawyer stance and how dumb it is to lump all of ANY category of people together.Sorry if it came off otherwise! ;)

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wundermary July 19, 2008 at 2:11 am

I personally wouldnt pay $75.00 for a pattern. But, I can draft, so I am probably not your target girl. None the less, I can appreciate your rant. There isnt any reason why you shouldnt sell a pattern for $75.00, if you can. I appreciate vintage items and understand that what was once commonplace is now special. Pricewise, thats the way the cookie crumbles. I dont care if you picked it out of a dumpster. If youve got the prize, youve got the prize.Once, while selling cute VW bus shaped planters made entirely by hand by hubby me, I dealt with an angry man who was upset that I no longer had a hunter green one left at the end of the day. He said: But, you had one when I was here this morning! and I said: If you wanted it, you should have bought it when you saw it. This isnt Walmart. The people you are ranting about need to go back to Walmart, too.

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Carol@Dandelion Vintage July 19, 2008 at 5:19 am

Its not entirely sellers who decide the selling price of an item. Its Supply Demand that is the biggest factor. Vintage is more popular now that it was 20 years ago. Vintage cannot be found in most thrift stores anymore – especially since alot of the big name stores ship alot of their stuff overseas and other countries send groups of pickers over to hit thirfts and estates sales too. So sellers are competing with many more other sellers now.I was buying vintage for myself in the 1980s too. My mom was buying Victorian, Edwardian and vintage childrens clothing back in the 1970s, so she passed this sickness onto me! Im miffed about the higher prices and the smaller resource too. But thats life. The value of older hard to find items goes up with popularity and time.I feel so lucky to have been able to turn my love of vintage clothing into a job, 10 years so far and still going strong. And I work hard to find good quality stock and I also keep it priced within reason so that I can make a profit and pay my bills and so that my customers can afford to add wearable vintage to their wardrobes. Most of my prices are no higher than what you would pay for new clothing. So Im not inflating my prices a million times what I pay. I dont get special treatment from estate sales, Im not there at 3AM. I stand in line like anyone else. Im paying what theyre paying.

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Claire July 19, 2008 at 8:50 am

There are so many varying opinions on this subject. I, of course, cannot be quiet, but feel I must throw my 2 cents into the ring.I know that a beautiful rare vintage pattern will call for a higher price. I don’t have an issue with $15 for a pattern. I’ve even gone as high as $60-$65 for one that I have to have. I do not buy from those vintage sellers who price evening gown patterns at $175 and everyday patterns at $25. I know a lot of time and effort goes into finding the patterns and maintaining a website..paying Ebay and Paypal fees and so on….. BUT I do feel we hit a point where a seller simply “appears” to be greedy. (notice I said “appears” as the seller may truly not be greedy and it’s not up to me to pass judgement on their motives).There is a “supply and demand” and “what the market will bear”, but let’s compare this to our friends, a/k/a the “oil speculators”. Supply and demand for oil and gas is very high. HOWEVER, do we really deserve to pay such outrageous prices for fuel??? I don’t think so!!This is the approach I take on how much I’ll pay for a vintage pattern. If I decide a Lanvin is worth $75 of my hard earned dollars, that’s my choice. I generally won’t shop, or visit, vintage sources that price all their patterns in a high range.They have a right to charge that amount and I have a right to say no. If someone loves the pattern and says yes, then both a happy and I’m happy for them.I do think that some of the prices need to come down and I’m guessing some of the sellers will begin to see their patterns move faster if they would lower thier prices to something more reasonable. They are not making a profit on patterns languishing on a site, unsold. Whereas a more reasonably priced pattern will move faster and will result in a faster profit and turn-around time.

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Primatoide futile July 19, 2008 at 9:05 am

Just to add a quick comment: where I live, there are no 1$99 sales on the recent patterns from the big four. You are lucky when the pattern is less than ten euros. There are no sales of second hand patterns, and of course I cannot access estate sales in the US. Even Ebay from my country has very little interesting patterns. I am happy and grateful that someone has gotten through the trouble of looking after patterns, bringing them home, checking them, putting them on ebay. I am mostly surprised by the prices : I do not know how the ones on the lower end (I mean around 5$) of the price range manage it. And I have found many nice patterns within my price range (and sometimes, seen the prices rocket over to where they aren’t, but well, that is the game), patterns I would never have had access to without this. The only thing I regret are that some sellers do not ship overseas, but I only have to remember last time I went through the hassle at the post office to understand them.

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Ang July 19, 2008 at 9:43 am

I am honestly surprised to see how this conversation has devolved into a debate about the worth of what some people do for a living. I debated whether to post but its tough to sit comfortably with being called a parasite. Given that the ultimate goal of what I do, what any of us do by sourcing and reviving vintage/antique/old items is recycling, its a rather odd term to use.The reality is that vintage clothing and patterns have increased in popularity and their visibility by the general public has become heightened. A person who was used to buying great vintage in the 80s certainly has reason to be annoyed with the competition that has created to be able to GET good vintage, but the upside I feel outweighs it. I cant tell you how many times Ive had someone come into my shop who saw a story on TV about vintage, or someone wearing vintage on the red carpet, or read about my shop or big city boutique in a paper or magazine and told me had they not heard that people like those old clothes, they would have thrown away Grandmas closet full of dresses. Thrown away!! I bet I hear that same story or a variation of it once a week…never mind the stories about what WAS thrown away. If vintage were only worn and valued by a small super-secret sector of the public, my bet is literally millions of pieces both beautiful, wearable and valuable in the scheme of fashion history would be rotting in landfills. My first big buy, the one that enabled me to take a hobby I loved and make it a career, was the estate of a woman named Jean who had no children. The house was jam packed and the clothes were not something anyone wanted or wanted to worry about. I bought them all, new/old/worn out/mint in package. With that I also got her wedding dress invitation from 1928 and all the correspondence from her family to her from the 20s to the 50s. Jeans life in clothing, as it was reflected from the 20s til the day she died, would now be in a landfill. As it is, every piece that I sold kept a little bit of Jeans soul alive….every piece cherished and worn again rather than vanishing from the Earth forever. Because I do what I do and have made it a career, I have a shop. Because I have a shop, I have a yellow page ad. And because of that very ad, a year or so ago I got a call from a woman sorting through her neighbors house. The neighbor had passed away, alone, no children. The house was in serious disrepair. There were old books, which lead the woman to think some clothes may be old. She looked in the yellow pages and saw my ad and called me. The clothes were in rough shape, mostly newer, utilitarian and for living in a house with no heat (very eccentric, this woman was!)….but in a box on a cedar lined closet, up high and nearly out of reach were 2 Claire McCardell dresses (one of which Erin featured here a while back!). This fascinating woman had gone to a University in Europe when she was younger…well read, well travelled. And she had 2 special dresses for social events. These were those. I was not only thrilled to handle 2 Claire McCardell dresses from the 50s, but thrilled to keep these dresses by an important designer in Americas history from going to the burn pile, and thrilled to keep Annes dresses she cherished so from being destroyed. Make no mistake. IF vintage had not gained popularity to the degree that it enables me so many others to make a living doing it full time for me to place that little ad in the yellow pages, those dresses would be ash. I did not beat someone else out to get to those dresses, plain and simple.What I know for fact is this….most vintage does not make it to the Goodwill to sit on the magical-mint-condition-$2 a pop Vintage Clothing rack. Most of it gets burned or pitched. If people didnt make a living selling it, if there were no market at all, the awareness would simply not be there. If that makes me a parasite….and if being a parasite in any way helps keep these lovely clothing, patterns and antiques from being thrown away…..then call me a parasite. I know better.Ang

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Jilly July 19, 2008 at 11:40 am

What a great post and awesome comments. I never knew the amount of effort that goes into selling vintage patterns, clothing etc. online. I have a limit, 45 is tops what I’ll pay for a pattern. It’s just my limit and I’ve paid for several at that price. But, I am so glad that there are people out there like Ang and all the others that I have bought from that are preserving and selling vintage stuff. How dreary our life would be without it! I have often thought of going into biz in the vintage area, but man, too much work!! Rather get a regular paycheck so I can spend it at your lovely shops! Jilly

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propriatress July 19, 2008 at 12:40 pm

buy it or don’t buy it! All the various view have been expressed already…I’m sure most buyers of vintage widgets had no idea what it takes to make a business successful, and the long hours we work…being self-employed is very different from holding down a job as an employee.Yes, we sellers provide a Shopping/Finding service for you, the wonderful buyer ….I have no issues with anyone else going to estate sales at the wee AM’s…spending hours trolling the thrifts, and garage sales…If you put in the work, you get to have it before me!I love the idea of someone sitting at their computer for a few minutes, looking at websites of lovely pictures, shopping on ebay or etsy, clicking a few buttons, and then a few days later, as if by magic….Their lovely Vintage Widget is being held in their hands…all from the comfort of their chair.

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WhiteStone July 20, 2008 at 4:55 pm

No comment on the price of patterns. HowEver! That is The Dress I Wore to Prom! Really! Everyone else was wearing chiffon but I made mine from polished cotton so I could wear it later! I really, really liked that dress.

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Rachel July 20, 2008 at 11:02 pm

Oh my gosh, I just googled vintage patterns and found you. I’m struggling with deciding if it’s worth learning to sew in order to make some stuff I really love. Then I about had a heart attack looking at the patterns I really love…from the 50s. Yeah, I’ve pretty much realized it is not a money saver to sew my own stuff (even if I could learn). But still oh, so tempting. Great site! I’m bookmarking you.

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sandritocat July 20, 2008 at 11:08 pm

I’m fairly selective on the patterns I purchase~they have to appeal to me in style and size. I too, only purchase a small percentage of the patterns I come across, and they are getting harder and harder to come by over the years. I agree that not all pattern sellers buy at dirt cheap. My most recent buying spree, I purchased patterns for $1,$3, $5 and $10. I’m willing to pay more for patterns I know will be “hot”. The most I’ve ever sold a pattern for was $65 and it was on Ebay at auction. Most my patterns are $5 -$8 in my store with some $15-$30. Would I pay that much for a pattern? You know if it was my favorite dress pattern my mom made me as a child or a prom dress, Yes, I would too!

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sandritocat July 20, 2008 at 11:10 pm

Oh, I forgot to add~just for reading this great (and long) post, come on over to my etsy store and save 10%!

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When Ladies Dressed July 21, 2008 at 9:26 am

It is with great interest that I’ve read this blog entry and all of the responses. I love vintage patterns and have a little collection. I noticed as with many things, the cost of vintage patterns on ebay seems to have risen in the last year. I regularly pay $10 – $20 for a vintage pattern that I like, and often I pay $50 – $60 for ones that are more unique or collectible. Recently I’ve been outbid more and more despite maximum bids of $70-80. I’m getting priced out on the more desirable ones. What can I do? I made a decision to attend estate sales and auctions. My husband and I have always enjoyed “the hunt” for stuff. We both have various types of things that we like… Small kids have prevented us in recent years from attending sales and auctions, but we are going to pick it up again. In fact, we went to a preview a couple of weeks ago; although I didn’t return to the auction, there were a few things I’d have liked and on a different day I’d have tried for them. I know it’s hit or miss, but I’m willing to take the misses for the hits. I have no intention of reselling, just picking things up for myself. Like Erin said in her post, we have choices: don’t buy, set up a wait-search on ebay or draft your own… she didn’t mention, however, that you can go and hit sales and auctions yourself, if you have them in your area. I realize it’s not an option for some folks, but for me it is, especially since I have the time. In the meantime, good luck to everybody who has a passion for collecting vintage patterns.

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La BellaDonna July 21, 2008 at 11:42 am

“and BellaDonna’s comment that “I will never. EVER. EVER! bargain with someone else over the value of what she is selling, whether it’s artwork, or jewelry, or vintage patterns.” (as if bargaining is some kind of moral failure.)”Anonymous, if I think something is “a moral failure,” I will step right up and say so; no one will ever have to guess, or make assumptions. I stated that I will never[. EVER. EVER!] bargain over the value of someone else’s work – not that you couldn’t, or shouldn’t. My point of view: I’m not going to dicker with the seller over what something is worth. I happen to think a lot of people’s work is undervalued. If someone’s selling something I want, and I have the money, I’ll spend it. If I don’t have the money, I won’t. Just because I don’t have the money doesn’t mean it isn’t worth what its maker/current owner is charging for it. It means I don’t have the money. Do I wish that I DID have the money? Sure, for lots of things. So what? I don’t see why that should affect the value the seller places on what she has to sell.

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velvet plazq July 21, 2008 at 12:11 pm

I bought 8 patterns , allin my size for $1 each in a vintage store in Va. Why? Because people didn’t buy them there. I jsut got lucky. She may never have patterns for me again, but I am glad I found the ones I did. If something is rare, beautiful and I love it…I will save my money for it. And if someone else’s get before me oh well. I barely find time to sew the patterns I have. I definitely don’t have the time to LEARN to draft patterns, then to draft them…sheesh! To me it’s worth my time (and money) for Jen, Marge, whoever, to find it for me and sell it to me at a fair price.

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Cookie July 21, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Elsewhere + Blue Gardenia: I must say that since I began working in a law office, I’ve become pretty horrified in grasping the reality of what well paid lawyers can do for you. God help you if you can’t afford a decent attorney, or worse, don’t speak English! Have you ever tried to read a standard summons or a municipal code? Terrifying! Most people (including me, probably) can’t even make out the fine print on the back of a parking ticket, unaided! It really does seem to boil down to whoever has the most expensive legal defense wins…if only because cases can be tied up for so long before going to court, and most people just can’t handle that, either financially, schedule-wise, or emotionally. If I may get biblical (AND I’M NOT EVEN RELIGIOUS!) Jesus wept.

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Doris July 21, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Thank you for this post. It is SO true and so applicable to much more than vintage pattern sales.

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Anwen July 21, 2008 at 4:27 pm

A few thoughts:The anonymous person who complained of vintage resellers driving up prices compared to twenty or so years ago gives the impression of being just as elitist as she thinks ‘new’ vintage buyers are. Also, I am poor *and* disabled, and frankly the vast majority of non-internet resources for vintage stuff are horribly inaccessible to a multitude of disabled people – either shops with narrow floor space and steps, markets which are too big and exhausting for people with mobility problems who don’t actually use a wheelchair, masses of dust and such to trigger all kinds of respiratory and allergic conditions or some other thing. The internet, on the other hand, I can shop in my own living room.I am constantly amazed at how cheap some of the vintage patterns are – I mean, there are patterns on momspatterns and the other sites for $4.50 – that’s less than I can buy any new pattern for! Over here (UK) the lowest any sale ever goes to is 2.95 (about six bucks) for New Look or half price (6 or 7, so $12-14) for Vogue (the other Big 4 companies generally are somewhere in between).Also, I went to a shop the other day which said it was having a clearance on fabric remnants and ‘vintage patterns’ – it wasn’t very far out of my way and I got some nice pieces of cloth, but the patterns were tatty and old-but-not-vintage (late 80s/early 90s ugly shapeless tops and tent dresses for the most part) and cost 1.50 ($3) each. The patterns on vintage reseller sites, on the other hand, while they are often not to my taste and the sites certainly carry the more recent (80s-90s) patterns, they are generally the higher quality type (designer ones and such) with design interest and such.

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Anonymous July 21, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Anwen-Nobody is complaining about the prices of sellers like mom’s patterns or lanetz. However, the price of $75 for the pattern on this post is really ridiculous. That’s what my complaint is about. This particular pattern is not that old or unusual (there tons of patterns floating around from the 50s). If this were a technically complicated pattern from the 20s or 30s, I’d consider the price close to reasonable.Your post reminds me of another thing. International buyers with stronger buying power (go Euro!) are also driving up the prices of items in the U.S. Elsewhere Vintage wrote:”This isn’t about a $75 pattern.”Actually, yes, that IS what the discussion is all about. At least for me it is. It’s NOT about “I got into it first.” It’s about the fact that NEW and OLD (that would be me) lovers of vintage patterns who actually use them and sew with them are getting priced out of the market. It’s about the fact that patterns were always intended for people who made their own clothes. (In other words, the cash-strapped.)But hey, whatever. Why stop at $75? Why not price vintage patterns at $750? Or better yet, $7,500? It’s funny to hear dealers justify their prices. “Oh, I get up early in the morning.” “I have to scan the patterns.” Why not be honest and admit that what you charge has nothing to do with that. You charge the maximum that you think you can get for the item. (If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be a good business person.)This morning I found an online seller who is selling recently out of print patterns from the Big 4. There are plenty of these to go around yet. No scarcity. This dealer has them for like $25-30 each, more than they cost new a few months ago. Why? Because she thinks she can get that for them.

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CatMacGregor July 21, 2008 at 5:26 pm

I’m late in coming to the discussion, so I apologize if I repeat something already stated.I think it helps to understand what goes into the price of an item. Especially when you break it down into a per hourly rate of what the person is making. Not forgetting to add in small business mean providing your own insurance/401K/etc. Do I think $75 is too much for a pattern? Yes – for me. Everyone has a different budget. I am a beginning level sewer with a fondness for vintage. If I were a serious collector of patterns, $75 probably wouldn’t even bother me. If I made more money and had more discretionary spending, I might be more inclined.

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Nancy (nanflan) July 21, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Ananymous at 4:46 pm:Yes, they sell the maximum they can get for a pattern. That’s a big part of why they get up early and scan all those patterns in! Some patterns don’t sell, some sell for less than they’d like. The seller needs to make up for it with other items in your stock. Nothing wrong with charging what the market will bear. As to the online seller marketing recent OOP Big 4: good luck with that. Most people who sew won’t deal that way, especially if they can still be found on the pattern co. websites or through their sewing friends. I’ve even see online sellers try this with Big 4s that’re still in print. What’s wrong with these people?Heck, I’ve been seeking a particular Calvin Klein pattern for a while and I won’t buy the one that keeps popping up on eBay because the buy it now price is what I consider too high. I’ll take my chances with another seller’s auction, thank you.

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Anonymous July 21, 2008 at 7:00 pm

I notice that despite the tremendous publicity from Erin’s influential and highly trafficked blog, and despite the overwhelming support by most posters here regarding its $75 price tag, this pattern remains unsold. Whenever other patterns have been featured here, they’ve sold almost instantly.

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Anonymous July 21, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Can I say something kind of off topic? I, too, shudder at the cost of some patterns, but I figure that I make less than 20 grand a year and so there are a lot of things priced so that I shudder. But my off-topic point is that I like to poke around at estate sales and yard sales and NOTHING is more disappointing than to get somewhere and realize that someone came and bought out the entire stock of whatever was there. This is, of course, entirely someone’s right, but it’s also entirely someone’s right to demolish a historical (if unimportant) building if they own it. These are two unrelated things that drive me nutty. So that’s it – I have anger that I can’t poke around in some dusty, buggy patterns because I don’t want to get up at 4 am. Sigh. But I do enjoy Lanetz Living! (Did I just negate my nag?)

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Myra July 21, 2008 at 8:26 pm

I can see charging for the work involved, but I agree with many, if you can afford it, get it if you want, if not, go on down the road. I used to collect depression glass, got what I wanted and stopped when the pieces I wanted got out of reach. Same here. I will pass on something if the bids get too high and set a search on ebay. Or do what I just did, trade a dealer (antique, etc.) for something else they may want that you have/can provide, whether it be a much sought after pattern or labor.

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lorrwill July 21, 2008 at 8:37 pm

kinda on and off topic. Did you see yesterday’s email from Julie at Damn Good Vintage?!?!? (for those of us on her list) Some really, really gorgeous stuff in there! There’s even a McCall’s pattern reminiscent of the one on this post. I didn’t look at the price…

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Anonymous July 21, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Ang, your eloquence amazes me. Thanks for your post about Jean and the other estate at which you saved the clothes, and thanks from a vintage collector for preserving fashion history!

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Oxanna July 22, 2008 at 1:53 am

When a discussion involves money and emotion, basic economic principles seem to go out the window.First: there is no set price that the seller is “entitled” to, because they got up early, scoured garage sales, and scanned in the envelopes. Nobody owes them a red cent. There is a price which they feel adequately covers their costs (tangible intangible – time, etc.), and makes it worthwhile to go to all that trouble. If they couldnt set a price high enough to satisfy themselves, they wouldnt be in the business at all, and patterns might end up locked away in small town basements, crumbling/rotting away in obscurity, or thrown away.On the flip side, there is no set price that is reasonable for a buyer – except what the buyer is willing to pay. It’s that simple. The market determines the price. The market may vary by where the seller and buyers are located (small town vs. the Internet). One buyer may want to purchase only patterns that have been thoroughly examined, are clean, free of tears, and will be shipped in 15 layers of bubble wrap. She’ll probably pay more for what she wants. That’s not unjust, that’s a fact of life. In addition, she may value it more because of the amount she paid for it. If every pattern cost $1, people would be snapping them up like hotcakes and using them rather disposably. (Remember, there are other people who buy patterns – people who will happily chop them up for arts and crafts, and not preserve them. It’s not just the historically minded out there.)Someone posed this question:But hey, whatever. Why stop at $75? Why not price vintage patterns at $750? Or better yet, $7,500? If someone tried to sell this exact pattern for $7500, it would never sell. Why? Because buyers would refuse to pay that price. Again, it’s market forces that affect how much a seller can charge and how much a buyer will pay for an item.Two hundred years from now, that same pattern might well be worth $7500 to somebody. Today, it’s not worth $7500, but that’s not because of anything inherent in the pattern. It’s simply what people are willing to pay for what they see in that pattern.

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Jen ~ MOMSPatterns July 22, 2008 at 8:25 am

Good morning, everyone!Exactly why I don’t think I’ve ever thought of breaking things down in a Per Hour sort of way.. BECAUSE at the end of the day, you’re right! Someone is only going to pay what they’re going to pay, and something is only truly ‘worth’ what that buyer ends up paying! And I STILL can’t get into the mindset of ‘all the work that went into getting this ONE PATTERN online for sale’ when it’s beat up, tore up, crumbling in my hand and a small size! Whether I paid .01 for it or $8.. I just might be at a loss on that one! lolAnd in regards to my comment of ‘asking for a price reduction or discount’.. I hope that didn’t come off as EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS UP FOR NEGOTIATION! I DO think that MOST everything CAN be; but agreed. You can’t go into Walmart or the Grocery Store (or Prada lol!) and ask to barter. It is what it is! What I meant was that there ARE times if something online seems priced high, there are other options for acquiring it at a lesser price. Mainly via coupons from mailing lists, blogs, or repeat/returning customer discounts. Hope I clarified that one! I truly appreciate the positive comments for the pricing at MOMSPatterns, you guys rock :) I’ll take this opportunity for one more plug – coupon code fireworks15 will save you 15% off your orders at http://www.momspatterns.com til the end of the month.. AND I spent about an hour last night moving some more patterns into an On Sale section where there’s nearly 200 patterns there priced $1-$4!Now, I have to go comment on those shoes! Hope everyone has a fabulous day!

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Julie The Vintage Goddess July 22, 2008 at 11:04 am

Thanks lorrwill for the “shoutout”!”Exactly why I don’t think I’ve ever thought of breaking things down in a Per Hour sort of way..”Jen, that’s because we, like most small business owners, would need a stiff cocktail if we thought about what we get paid per hour.;-)

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Jen ~ MOMSPatterns July 22, 2008 at 11:45 am

Julie, baby!Oh is THAT why there seems to be a neverending river of vodka martinis in my house?! Now it all makes sense!!!!lol

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Anonymous July 22, 2008 at 12:12 pm

Actually, everything IS up for negotiation, especially at a place like Prada where sales people work on commission. Try it some time. (You’ll have better luck at the end of the month.) Of course your offer needs to be reasonable. Usually the higher the price, the more likelier something is negotiable. (Think cars, real estate.) There is an art to negotiation. If done properly both buyer and seller benefit with their egos intact. (Most sellers like to move merchandise.) On a separate note, wealthy people are the most likely to bargain. (For example, Donald Trump has claimed he doesn’t pay retail anywhere, not even a department store.)oxanna-When I asked “why not $7,500″ I was making a point. People price their patterns based on what they think they can get away with. If this seller thought she could get $7,500 she’d certainly be putting up for that price. The point I was trying to make is that there is no correlation between the “work” that goes into something and the cost of that item.

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Wendy July 22, 2008 at 12:18 pm

I’m a vintage pattern seller with a small shop, and it’s been fascinating to learn from this discussion how customers see sellers. I’m surprised by the wide range of thoughts and feelings about the mundane process of searching, finding, counting, scanning, pricing, listing, and selling patterns.Of course, the market sets the prices, as with everything else that’s bought and sold. I wonder if some of the resentment about prices at the higher end is rooted in a feeling of regret that we can’t go back in time and purchase them at their original price, or receive them as family heirlooms, or just go back in time. I often wish I’d saved my own patterns from the 60s and 70s. And my favorite dresses.My aunt was a seamstress in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. What happened to her patterns? My mother sewed beautiful clothes for me. Where did her patterns go? I’ve worked very hard to hold onto a few pattern gems for my collection, rather than sell everything I find. It seems like it should be easier to hold onto our sewing pattern history. But, if it were easier, I don’t know if I’d value it as much.

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kathleenCrowleyCostumeCouture July 22, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Great Rant!Most just do not realize or care what goes into what is coveted.You always have to break down the time put into selling something.If you even knew what vermin crept on or around the fabric some of your clothing has been made of, you would bathe in bleach!!!!!Thanks for sharing!I love your blog!X

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daisyfairbanks July 22, 2008 at 12:53 pm

The idea that people sew to save money is obsolete. Back in the day, when clothing was manufactured in the US by small manufacturers with workers who made a union wage, to buy a dress off the rack was a splurge. Buying a pattern, fabric and notions was the thrifty way to go. There were no stores with racks bursting with discounted clothing that was mass-produced overseas by an underpaid labor pool. Women carefully crafted their own wardrobes with a deliberateness that if for the most part lost today. They also didn’t have three bedroom closets overflowing with clothing they bought “on sale” that they just never got around to wearing. Having a modern and vintage consignment store I can attest to the consumer waste visible in most women’s closets today. Bu back to sewing. Those who sew today aren’t doing it because it’s cheaper. They do it because they love to, and because the quality and uniqueness of a handmade garment can’t be purchased in the store. For the level of quality they represent, vintage sewing patterns are a bargain.

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Anonymous July 22, 2008 at 5:32 pm

The idea that people sew to save money is absolutely not obsolete. I say this as I wear a lovely top that cost me less than $5 to make (that includes the amortization of the pattern, purchased new at a chain fabric store; the fabric itself, bought by the pound at a sale bin at my local garment district; the thread, etc.). A top like this at my favorite boutique would run $80-120. (And mine is better built. The pattern matches perfectly at the seams. Ahhhhhhh…) A dress at J. Crew or Anthro starts at about $150. At the cool, independent stores I like, dresses start at $100 and go to about $350. I can make a dress using the best materials for $40-75. Can I afford to shop for clothes at Target or J.C. Penney? Of course I can! But I’m tired of wearing horribly drafted crap that falls apart before the season is over. I got fed up with shopping at poor people stores. It’s demoralizing to realize you can only afford to wear crap. Pretty soon you start feeling like crap too. This is what drove me to get my trusty old singer out and have it serviced. Do I enjoy sewing? Not as much as I like getting a chic, quality dress for a lot less money. I’m not sure how much sewing I would do if I won the lottery.Please, give us an example of a millionaire who sews.

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Heather July 22, 2008 at 6:53 pm

You have made an excellent point, my dear! There are so many costs involved with running a small business, especially when you are doing all the work yourself. I totally understand your point completely and truly enjoyed reading this piece!

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lorrwill July 22, 2008 at 9:47 pm

So I take from all this that Jen, Janet and everyone else who makes those gorgeous vintage patterns available at prices (even us poor folk can afford) should at very least get a big hug as well as our repeated business.When I win PCH then I can snap up some 1930′s patterns ($60 – 80) that I have my eye on.And on a final note, I have a couple of 30′s and 40′s patterns I bought to use and just can not cut. I have to trace them first. Very carefully. On the light table. They are a part of history and who knows? Maybe when I keel over, they will become someone else’s treasure.

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Elsewhere Vintage July 23, 2008 at 1:49 am

Anon-You may be talking about a $75 pattern. I am not. No pattern is worth $75 to me as I no longer sew. What I’m talking about is someone slandering an entire industry of people based on their career choice – a choice that is generally based on a love of what they do. It takes a lot of bitterness for someone to try to make that into a bad thing.What I found most interesting was this:** “It’s about the fact that NEW and OLD (that would be me) lovers of vintage patterns who actually use them and sew with them are getting priced out of the market.” **Do you think that those on this thread who’ve said they are willing to pay $45 or more for a pattern do not deserve them?I’m not quite sure what you think these people (many of who have said they appreciate the service their vintage/pattern dealers provide) do with said patterns once they have paid for them? Shockingly, many of them use the patterns for sewing!While it may be more difficult for you to buy patterns at cheap prices, it is just as difficult for many of these people (who are willing to pay $40/$75/etc) to go out and find them – whether because of time, location or inclination. I simply do not think this makes them any less deserving – all of the people who buy these items are doing so for the love of the item. Some pay with time, some pay with money.No one I know is getting rich off vintage – most merely get by. For every item that makes a tidy profit, there are many more than won’t. Personally, I go through what I do for vintage because I love it – and after I have adored the item for a time, I pass it along to yet another caretaker- generally someone who does NOT have the time to go in search of the items they love. Do I sell everything cheap? No, I don’t. I try to charge enough to cover the separation pangs I’ll feel when the item is gone. But I am lucky in that a good amount of people enjoy the items I find for them and are happy to pay me to continue searching for them as they cannot do it themselves.For this, you call me (and the many fine vintage dealers out there) a scavenger? Hardly sporting.

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Jessica July 23, 2008 at 9:59 pm

Anonymous, as a current university student I buy vintage clothing. Sure, I can’t afford to buy a million dresses or a million vintage patterns at the prices I see most of them at today, but it’s taught me to be selective and only buy things that I really want or would actually wear/use. I make my own clothes and buy second hand because it’s fun, much more exciting when I find something I do love, and it’s more ethical – a form of recyling and less supportive of sweatshops. Of course some patterns/clothes I would never buy because of the price, so I don’t, but there you go. The clothes/patterns I do have I love and use often, and thus that makes them value for money, albeit they may have not always been entirely cheap at the initial purchase. The best way to protest against prices you do not like is to not pay them and forego the product, easy enough. You obviously have patterns you like and make good quality clothes that you love anyway, which is terrific and I suppose all that matters in the end.

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Anonymous July 24, 2008 at 12:22 pm

Anon at 8:08, you have to realize that when we were wearing vintage 50s and 60s clothes in the 1980s (Yes, I was buying and wearing vintage 20 years ago, also), those clothes were only 20-30 years old. That’s why they were so cheap and abundant. If you want to wear 20-30 year old clothes from the 70s and 80s now, there’s tons of it at yard sales. And it’s cheap because most vintage clothing dealers do not want stuff from the 70s and 80s. In another 20 years, that stuff from the 70s and 80s will be as expensive (adjusting for inflation) as the stuff from the 50s and 60s is now. If you’re still looking for 50s and 60s pieces now, those pieces are much older and the supply is smaller than they were in ths 1980s because people throw old stuff away. It would be like trying to buy clothes from the 1930s and 1940s in the 1980s. I bet you didn’t find that stuff for cheap back then, because I sure didn’t.

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Anonymous July 24, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Perhaps someone mentioned this, but there were so many comments, I couldn’t read them all. And let me also comment that this is my personal opinion and you may not agree, but….I don’t mind paying a high price for a vintage pattern I really want. What really irks me, particularly on eBay, is when someone lists a pattern and then they are asking $5, $6 or more to ship the pattern. I happen to know that it costs less than $1 to ship a pattern via 1st class mail and about $4 for priority mail, so where do some of these people get off trying to list paterns this way? I’ve often passed on a nice pattern because I felt people were being less than honest with their shipping fees…I’d rather they start the bidding at $15 and charge a buck or two to ship.

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Julie The Vintage Goddess July 24, 2008 at 8:31 pm

I happen to know that it costs less than $1 to ship a pattern via 1st class mail Actually a 3 or 4 ounces pattern costs about $1.50-$2.00 to ship now depending on how much packaging material your seller uses.I agree that $5 or $6 is too much to ship.

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Claire July 29, 2008 at 10:42 am

This post has nothing to do with the price of vintage patterns………I’ve been pondering the Donald Trump comment about how he brags that he never pays retail, even in a department store.I come from a bank/brokerage background and I’ll tell you the reason the rich can negotiate fees and prices…..it’s because they are rich and the store/dealer/broker/car store/bank, etc, wants to keep them as a customer and wants the rich guys to refer his/her friends.If a business can boast that they have Donald Trump and friends as customers then how much more likely are they to start picking up even more customers. (Like in England when a business can state the Queen shops in their establishment)Yes, many items are negotiable, but out in the business world you’d better already have pots of money if you want to negotiate, otherwise you’ll just get in line and pay the going rate. Ask me how I know…………..

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Claire July 29, 2008 at 10:44 am

PS. Unless you are in the market right now for a large SUV or truck. Right now the dealers will practically give one away to anyone who will take the vehicle off their hands.

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Felix August 5, 2008 at 8:20 am

I love this intelligent discussion you started and the details of economics being openly discussed are very interesting and informative. I am an artist, striving to price my efforts in such a way that I can live from them, as plumbers and dentists live off theirs.I am interested in how one makes enough to live on, following a passion.This post is highly informative, as are the comments people have left.

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Anonymous November 6, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Wonderfully enlightening conversation. I have spent over 8 hours of my day cataloging old patterns for my wife, and honestly think that any human who spends this much time to preserve a pattern and re-enter it into the market place is doing a historically significant duty . I don’t feel so alone knowing that others dredge through rat feces to bring a vintage pattern “back from the dead” kudos to you !

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Anonymous June 1, 2009 at 9:20 am

Hi, I sell vintage patterns on eBay for anywhere from 2 cents per pattern up to about 80 dollars, depending on the pattern. I spend Thursday, Friday and Saturday scouring Estate Sales and Garage Sales and yes it does take a lot of time, energy and gas. It also takes time to check the patterns and scan them and list them, but I really do love it. My hope is to get more of my patterns listed so I can eventually start making money because, even though I may sell a $50 pattern once in a while, most of my patterns are of the $5 variety, and eBay had gotten greedier and greedier with its fees and percentages. Just a short note about digging through nasty sheds and garages: Being a pattern seller myself I can appreciate that patterns are hard to find, however, I am disgusted by anyone who would sell patterns that had been littered with rat poo or roach carcasses. I think that is disgusting, revolting, and downright dangerous. I walk away from huge pattern stashes that are not clean. I also buy vintage patterns eBay and I pray I’ve never bought from rat lady because it sounds as if it could be an unhealthy purchase. EW!

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VictorianTimeMachine June 1, 2009 at 9:45 am

SHIPPING COSTS FOR REGULAR SIZE SMALL FORMAT PATTERNS WEIGHING 5-6 OUNCES:$2.07 (Not including price of envelope and other packing materials such as plastic sleeve.)”Package” postage is charged when seller uses cardboard backing or unbendable envelope.If you don’t care whether or not your priceless vintage pattern is bent, folded, crushed, etc… then ask the eBay seller to slap the sucker in a paper envelope and save yourself about a dollar. Most sellers of vintage patterns are really nice folks.As for the boobs charging 5-6 bucks shipping on a pattern, they won’t last long – they’ll either be suspended by eBay (who does NOT allow excessive shipping) or they’ll just disappear. When no one buys their stuff they’ll scratch their heads and fade away… LOL

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