Monday, January 23, 2006

Pattern Redundancy

There's been a bit of discussion here and there about wardrobing; how many of what kind of garments should be in Every Woman's Closet. But for a while I've been pondering a variation on many pattern styles of what garments should I have in the cabinet? On the whole, how many skirt patterns do I *really* need? How many pants patterns? How many jacket patterns? You get the picture. There are a number of 'wardrobe' or 'ensemble' patterns that I have that have one outstanding feature -- usually the jacket-- and then a pair of ordinary pants or an unremarkable skirt, for which I have patterns out the ears. How many patterns of straight-leg back waist zip pants with a waistband do I need? Only one...or maybe even zero, since I don't like back zip pants. But because I like that jacket...and that jacket...and that jacket...I've got a bunch of back-zip pants and skirt patterns.

Nancy Erikson has an interesting concept with her Fashion Sewing Group patterns; she publishes basic patterns...a fitted jacket, a boxy jacket, a knit top and cardigan, a coat, a skirt and pleated pants (I'm forgetting something...)and then teaches how to alter these basics for various styles. She's published a couple of books, also printed some 'add on' patterns for the jacket, and frequently writes directions for modifying the patterns for different looks in the by-paid-subscription -only newsletter that she publishes every other month. So the sewing customer purchases and fits the basic pattern, then uses that as a basis for new styles, rather than buying and fitting another pattern.

It does have its appeal! I've got 4 of her patterns and have made up two so far (I still need to tweak the pants pattern a little), but I'm really not convinced it's less work to modify a pair of tapered, pleated pants with a waistband into a flat front straight leg contour-waist style than it is to fit a new straight-let, flat front contour-waist pattern, once fitting techniques are learned (and they have to be learned whichever way you go...unless both patterns would fit right out of the envelope). I hope to get at least one more of those patterns -- the fitted jacket -- made up and tweaked this spring. Right now, the holdup is that I *know* what I need to do to, say, a Vogue jacket to get it to fit but I haven't gone beyond generalities on what I will need to do to the FSG jacket. New pattern line, new fitting learning curve.... But I really believe that once I get over that hump, I'll use that jacket pattern quite a bit.

Anyway, I think the Big 4 could learn a little from Ms Erikson...think of the reduction of printing costs if they stopped reprinting the same basic blocks for all those coordinate patterns and just printed the pattern for the garment that was truly unique. I probably wouldn't buy fewer patterns...I'd still get the fabulous jacket for which I have no similar pattern...but I'd have less redundancy in the cabinet.


  1. Lisa,

    But then how would the pattern companies stay in business!!! They have to have a lot of choices to appeal to the masses so that you buy more and more patterns you don't really need!

  2. Well, the point is that I don't know how many people are buying that wonderful jacket pattern because it has those ho-hum skirts and pants included. They *could* market the jacket pattern, with the photo on the front saying 'Pants from Butterick 1234'; then if someone wanted the pants they'd actually buy two patterns. Me, I'd just buy the jacket...which is essentially what I'm doing now...and I wouldn't have a bunch of copies of the same pattern. Looks to me like that would actually save the pattern companies in the long run, but they obviously believe more people are buying the wonderful jacket pattern because they don't realize they've already got five patterns for those pants with the other five wonderful jackets.

    If they'd actully make style changes to the pants/skirts/other pieces, now that'd be a different thing.

    I should go count someday and see how many basic pants/skirts I've got included with the great jackets/tops for which I purchased the, something else to do in my spare time... ;)

  3. Ok, I'll add another comment...I decided to get some examples of what I'm talking about. Check out the pants and skirts on these two patterns: Butterick 4618 and Butterick 4691. The second pattern does have an extra view for the skirt, but otherwise the skirt and the pants are identical. That tells me that Butterick has printed the same pattern in each of these patterns; if you buy one, you've got the other. Now if I wanted the jacket, I'd get the pattern (when the pattern was on sale for a buck or two!) but the pants and straight skirt wouldn't interest me...I've got too many like that already. So why include them?