Sharing the History of Everyday Fashion

Dating Butterick Patterns
1937 to 1977

     For many decades,  the Butterick Company did not put dates on its patterns. Actual 'store counter' catalogs from the 1940s and 50s are hard to find, but monthly Butterick Fashion News flyers were distributed at fabric stores and also mailed to customers. These 8 page mini-catalogs illustrated and described the newest patterns. 
     Luckily, many of these flyers have survived and often show up for sale on the internet. I have collected a few issues of Butterick Fashion News; since I can't buy them all, whenever I see one listed I record the year, the month, and the numbers of the pattern(s) featured on the front cover. The resulting chart is a work in progress, which I will add to as more information becomes available. There are still a lot of blanks, but, even in a very sketchy state, it can be used to date patterns within a year or so. If you've been trying to decide whether a pattern is late 1930s or early 1940s, or late 1950s or early 1960s, this ought to help.
     Four-digit pattern numbers usually begin in the 1000s and run up to 9999; then they start over. (Sometimes the number series starts over before reaching 9999; this happened in 1926, 1940, and again around 1972.) However, if you have some knowledge of vintage clothing, it won't be difficult to decide whether your undated Butterick pattern #6950 is the one issued in 1936, the one issued in 1954, or the one printed in 1972, using this chart.
     NOTE: the pattern featured on the cover is not usually the lowest number in the flyer. Nevertheless, you can see a number progression when you look at the chart.
     If you have a copy of Butterick Fashion News that is not listed here, and you'd like to contribute to this project,  please contact me with the Year, Month, and the number(s) of the pattern(s) illustrated on the front cover. Thanks for sharing! If you do not know about the Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) and its collection of 40,000-plus vintage patterns with a searchable database, you can read about it by clicking here.

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