How to Make 40s Clothing at Home

Updated July 20, 2017

For the vintage lover, wearing 1940s clothing is a must. Finding and buying original garments from the era of swing, big bands, and World War II can be both frustrating and expensive, and some vintage items seem to have impossible measurements. If you want to wear 1940s clothing without paying too much for a dress or sweater that doesn’t fit right, you can make your own clothing using original patterns or reproductions of 1940s patterns. Once you know your way around the 40s style, you can even create your own 40s-inspired patterns.

Find a simple pattern such as an A-line skirt. There are several websites that sell original 1940s patterns, but a 1940s reproduction pattern will be easier to follow and has modern sizing and instructions. You can find reproduction patterns online, or visit your local fabric store and go through the pattern books.

Find the fabric for your pattern size according to the instructions. If you want vintage fabric, check online or in thrift stores, or find 1940s clothing that’s no longer wearable because of moth holes or stains and take it apart for the good pieces. For sizing, take your hip, waist, and bust measurements and follow the sizing instructions on the pattern. If you have an original 1940s pattern and you don’t match the measurements, use the size that has your largest measurement and make adjustments later.

Cut out the pattern pieces. If you’re using an original 40s pattern, remember that it’s more than sixty years old. To prevent tearing or destroying the original pattern, trace the pattern template onto thin muslin or tracing paper, and pin that to your fabric to cut your pattern pieces. You can do this with a reproduction pattern if you want to be able to try different sizes.

Follow the instructions to assemble and sew your pattern. Baste the pieces together by hand first and try the item on to check the fit. Make adjustments as needed, then use a sewing machine to complete it. If possible, have a friend help you with the fitting.

Make a 1940s blouse or day dress next. If you started with a reproduction pattern, look for an original 1940s pattern. You can even try designing your own pattern once you learn the style of the 1940s. There are also patterns available for 1940s hats and lingerie. Try these if you want to go for the full 1940s look.


There are many websites and forums devoted to creating vintage or vintage-style clothing. Visit them for tips and advice on choosing and sewing a pattern. A-line skirts and day dresses are two 1940s styles that are still worn today. You will have an easier time finding these in modern patterns.

Things You'll Need

  • Sewing machine
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About the Author

Erica Ruedas has been writing fiction and nonfiction for at least 10 years. She has served as a staff writer for the Otter Realm for Cal State Monterey Bay, and was inducted into Quill and Scroll at 18. She has recently had a short fiction story published in Toasted Cheese's March 2010 literary journal.