Saturday, March 30, 2013

Finding Patterns for Goth Home Sewers

Finding Goth-appropriate patterns can be almost as frustrating as finding Goth-appropriate clothing in an ordinary store. How exactly do you decode which patterns will accentuate your Gothy wardrobe when all of the patterns seem designed for soccer moms and the illustrations are in garish yellows and lime greens? At the behest of one of my readers, who simply wrote and asked "how do I find goth sewing patterns?", I've endeavored to find this out.


The first thing to know when shopping for home sewing patterns is that you need to know your measurements. I'm going to assume if you're going to be sewing, you've got a tape measure around somewhere. Use it. While in pre-made clothing, especially with elastic waists, you generally have a bit more sewn-in ease for your measurements, that's not a guarantee with your at-home sewing project. So know your measurements, and find out what size you are for patterns. Now, this depends on where you buy your patterns from, but usually the pattern company will having a sizing chart which should be helpful.

So what about choosing your patterns? As Bane of GIY: Goth it Yourself says, "ignore the fabrics and colors used in the pictures or drawings on the envelope." Instead, look for the overall design. Look for where the item falls on the body, what the shape is, what details are sewn in. The line drawings will help you with this exponentially. Don't let the styling of a pattern push you away. Almost every item of clothing can, if done in black, work with a Goth wardrobe. Well, I say almost. I'll eat my stripy socks if someone can make the jumpsuit pattern from this blog post into a Gothy ensemble.

On that same note, finding fabric is a whole other kettle of bats. Your local fabric store is a great options around Halloween time, and there are also online retailers. If you're feeling particularly bold and artistic, Spoonflower allows you to make custom fabrics from your artistic designs. Once you have your fabric, and any other details you choose (buttons, lace trim, ribbons, grommets, chain, etc.) you'll be ready to turn any pattern into a great Goth garment.

So what patterns to choose? Well, unfortunately, there's no blanket answer I can give to that beyond whatever you like. Simple skirts are probably one of the easier patterns to start with if you're new to sewing with patterns, but beyond that anything goes. And lord knows there are patterns for anything you can dream of. Jackets, skirts, legwarmers, trousers, underthings, petticoats, blouses, t-shirts, coats, and dresses, and that's just the tip of the iceburg. All it takes is a little imagination, and the above reminders about following the lines rather than the styling, and most patterns will fit a Gothy wardrobe.


One place that can be often overlooked when pattern shopping is the costume section. Goths are often cautioned away from shopping anywhere near the costume section for clothing. However, I'm doing to steer you all away from that and claim that costume patterns are a boon for Goth home sewers and you'd be fool to skip past them. Why bother buying Halloween patterns when there are perfectly "normal" sewing patterns to chose from? Well, it's the simple fact that the Halloween patterns tend to have a different aesthetic to them that many Goths are interested in. You're not going to find any dramatic sleeves or bustles in most normal pattern lines, but you're sure to find them in the costume section.

Some pattern shops have two different costume sections. The first is for historical costuming, and the second is for Halloween costumes. I recommend you check both, but note that the Halloween costumes will probably be sized more generously and be looser because most people don't want to be miserably uncomfortable in their Halloween costumes that they'll be wearing once a year. Since historical costuming patterns are used by reenactors who wear their outfits more frequently, you might see more true sizing in them. But, of course, it depends on the pattern.

When finding your pattern, it's necessary to know your keywords. It can be intimidating to find patterns and sift through all the pattern ID numbers, but luckily many pattern shops online offer descriptive words to assist you. Unfortunately unless you're at an awesome seller, "Goth" isn't going to be one of those keywords. So, what else can you search for? Romantic, medieval, Steampunk, Victorian, Vintage, historical, gown, vest, and corset are all excellent options, though of course it depends on your aesthetic. Still, you're more likely to find costumes for a Romantigoth, Victorian, Lolita, Vampiric, Medieval, etc. costume than you are for, say, Cybergoth.

Luckily, you're not obligated to stick to the pattern all the time. If you have a little bit of draping know-how, or are good enough with sewing to make some guesstimations, you can make alterations to the pattern. Hate the collar? Ditch it and make a new one. Pattern is too big in the bust? Make a small bust adjustment. Think the ruching is god-awful? Draft a pattern piece to replace it. It's definitely not impossible.

So, where should you buy patterns? Perhaps the most popular pattern companies that I know of are Simplicity, McCalls, and Butterick. If you're looking for vintage patterns, Etsy and eBay are your best options.

How do you Goth home sewers out there source your patterns for Goth clothing?

19 comments:

  1. I haven't made any goth items from scratch yet, but as a veteran sewer (and daughter of a GREAT sewer), I think your post is excellent! Sewing really isn't that hard if you do two things: 1) Read the pattern directions completely BEFORE you begin cutting, and 2) BASTE it and try it on BEFORE using the machine for the final sewing. It's much easier to remove basting thread to make an adjustment than to pick out a lot of machine stitching!

    One more tip: In my experience, the best patterns, especially for beginners, are usually Simplicity's and McCall's. Butterick's patterns tend to be more expensive, and are sometimes more difficult to follow.

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    1. Thank you very much! I'm glad someone with a bit more sewing experience than myself has verified the post. You have some excellent tips as well. :)

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  2. My partner in crime had gifted me all of his patterns that were mostly victorian inspired male clothing, and womens bustiers, pin up dresses and 80s dresses. I've always said that as long as one has a nice fabric one can use (simpliccity) halloween patterns to actually make amazing garb (that no one would notice it came from a costume).

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    1. Ooh I need a partner in crime as generous as yours! Good find. :)

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    2. I do this all the time. Even in my business. Fabric choice is probably the hardest part, it can be a little trial and error. I've bought the most gorgeous, smooth black fabric, made a skirt and wore it here in Georgia and nearly died of heat stroke.

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  3. I love this post! So many excellent points.

    I buy a lot of basic black fabric (as well other "gothy" colors, like purple, grey etc). I buy cotton weaves and knits, silks and linen and sew what I like (I lean more towards Edwardian and Victorian looking stuff). The right styling makes it goth.

    It's tedious but self-drafting a basic bodice and skirt block that fits you very well is worth it. It only takes a little manipulation to mimic the lines you see in a commercial pattern that you like. It's especially useful for those who have little to no access to commercial patterns (like me!!)

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    1. Thank you so much!

      I'm sure it's worth it, but surely it requires a bit of mathematical and geometrical skill to be able to draft something like that! I think about it sometimes, but I'd rather leave it to the people who do this for a living! :)

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    2. I promise it doesn't take a lot of math (I know because I'm allergic to math) You just need enough focus to follow directions step by step (this is what makes it tedious). ;p

      Barring that, you can just trace a well fitting blouse or skirt on paper and none will be the wiser. >:)

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  4. Simplicity used to do a series called Begotten which were very Goth - I think they may be out of print, but I found all mine on eBay. They're definitely worth trying to find!

    Simplicity also has a series called Vintage Closet which has some great patterns. And Laughing Moon Mercantile has wonderful corset patterns.

    I made a men's Goth-looking coat out of Butterick 6844, which is a priest's cassock pattern. I made it out of melton wool and embroidered the collar and cuffs, and it really turned out nice! And I've also found lots of vintage patterns on eBay from the 20's and 30's that have dramatic sleeves, fitted waists, long flared skirts and other Goth details. But with those, you definitely need to do a test first, because the fit of clothes back then are definitely different than they are now! :o)

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    1. I'll have to make a note to look up Begotten, then! It's nice to see patterns specifically geared toward pretty gothy aesthetics. :)

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  5. I'm obsessed with that skull lace in that photo. Please tell me its not a stock photo!!! I want it so hard.

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    1. Nope! I took it. It's actually from this Gothic lamp shade sold by Victorian Trading Co. :)

      http://www.victoriantradingco.com/store/catalogimages/1a/i13751.html

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  6. Thank you very much for this post! I've been wanting to get into sewing my own clothes and it's so helpful to have a guide! It's really nice to have some tips on where to start, and I'll definitely take your advice here.

    Also, I could definitely make that ladies' jumpsuit pattern fit into my wardrobe! XD Imagine it in black with white details and black ribbons on the yoke-- so it becomes more like an old-timey sailor suit-- worn with stripy black and white tights or knee socks, rocking-horse boots, and spiky orange and black hair. Kind of a disturbed-little-Victorian-boy look. I would totally wear that, though I might try to modify the pattern a bit so that the legs were knee-length and puffy rather than mid-calf.

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    1. You're welcome! And yeah I'm not actually going to eat my socks but that is a good idea, a very excellent way to make it gothy!

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  7. I would suggest generally starting with the formal wear section of pattern books rather than the standard sections (or going straight to the "higher end" pattern companies like Vogue) as they often have more elegant options like fishtail skirts which work better in a goth wardrobe than the soccer mom casual options :)

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  8. I have found a couple of great places for gothic style sewing patterns. Bemygoth.com has several PDF patterns on her web page under shop. I've made the skirt and just love it. Also, I have found Lolitapatterns.com . They have one free skirt pattern at the moment but are getting ready to release a dress pattern. Check them out and tell me what you think.

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  9. I'm cheap so I've been sewing my own stuff for years. I've been disappointed a few too many times with overpriced things ordered off the net.

    My only comment about costume patterns is STEP AWAY FROM THE CRUSHED VELVET! Nothing says cheap-ass costume louder than purple crushed velvet. That stuff's fine for the very occasional skirt or maybe a trimming or a purse lining but I usually avoid that crap like the plague.

    Natron und Soda has some gorgeous things, if you're used to using charted patterns. Sometimes Google Translate doesn't work on every page but most of the time you really only need to be able to see the measurements on the pattern pieces. I've made a handful of their skirts and I'm heading over there in a bit looking for a new dress.

    http://www.natronundsoda.net/

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  10. On the eat your stockings comment... I think I know a way. However, I need to know if I am allowed to make slight alterations to the pattern or if I am only allowed a fabric selection. Please respond to Sarah.Mustang01@gmail.com as I am here on a homework assignment from my wife and probably won't frequent too often.

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  11. I hadn't read through all the comments with my first post but I was thinking of cutting the bib on a diagonal and loosing the lase in favor of leather lining with either an interfacing with steel studs or a random spattering of grommets rework the midrift section into something more form fitting like a bodice or corset. Then black lace in place of the cuffs on the sleeves. I like the stripe pattern idea but some type of black and purple print might work as well. Then a split side leather lace breech styl for the pant legs shortend to knee length with mid calf stilleto boots and either lace stockings or striped socks to knee length to complete the look. I picture it more as a pirate/goth kind of look but it might work.

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