Buying Costume Patterns on Ebay


I am outraged – how can any honest Ebay seller push patterns at extortionist prices? See the pattern pictured just below this paragraph? The purchasing price is criminal. In response to these predatory sellers, I have put together a few tips when buying reenactment/historic costume patterns on Ebay. Whether you are purchasing a commercial pattern (Simplicity, Butterick), a theatrical pattern (Sense & Sensibility, Buckaroo Bobbins), or an out-of-print (OOP) pattern, I have valuable information that you need to know before giving your hard-earned money to an Ebay seller. 

 1). NEVER buy a commercial pattern (Simplicity, Butterick, McCall’s, Burda, Vogue, etc.) on Ebay without checking the sales (current or up-coming) at your local fabric store. At least once a month your local fabric store will have their commercial patterns on sale for far less than what you can purchase them for on Ebay. The fact is, most sellers on Ebay who peddle patterns buy these at their local fabric store when they are on sale for 3 for $5.00 or $1.99, and then they sell them to you at a 500% mark-up or more.

Using the example above, this seller is wanting $67.50 for a pattern by Simplicity that costs $17.99 – a pattern I bought for $.99 on a super sale day at my local fabric store. Furthermore, this pattern is licensed to Buckaroo Bobbins, so even if Simplicity were to stop printing and selling this pattern today, the same pattern can still be purchased from Buckaroo Bobbins for less than $20. You should not purchase a commercial costume pattern for more than 35-50% of its original retail value if it has been OOP for less than 3 years – in other words, the pattern above should not be selling for more than $6.50-$9.00. If a commercial pattern has been OOP for 3-5 years, it shouldn't be any more than 75% of its original retail value. If a pattern has gone OOP within the last year, you may still be able to purchase the pattern from the manufacturer – I have had great success doing this with Simplicity and McCall patterns, and they sell their OOP patterns at deeply discounted rates right on their websites (sometimes free shipping is included).

Keep this in mind: costume patterns never go out of style and have a much longer retail life than modern fashion patterns. For example, there are theatrical pattern companies that have carried the same pattern(s) for 30+ years, such as Folkwear. And while commercial pattern companies cannot say that their patterns have the sort of retail longevity as theatrical pattern companies (they could, but they choose to rotate patterns every few years), Simplicity, McCall, and Butterick costume patterns have a life of several years - in many cases, patterns are reprinted and reissued (see Simplicity's Celtic gown pattern 0663 - this pattern has been reissued over 12 years as pattern number 8855 and 3623). Costume patterns are more available and have a longer life-span than other clothing patterns - in turn, this makes them more accessible and more reasonably priced over time.

2). Shipping a clothing pattern first-class does not cost more than $3.25, because most patterns weigh no more than 4 ounces and are no thicker than 1/2 inch. Priority mail is nice, but not cost effective for the Ebay pattern buyer. There is absolutely no reason to pay more than first-class postage and a modest handling fee for a pattern, unless 1) It is a vintage commercial pattern or an OOP theatrical pattern – in this case you may want to insure your purchase because these patterns are usually rarer and not easily found or replaced (USPS insurance prices start at $2.05); 2) You wish to be supplied a tracking number, therefore your pattern will have to be shipped as a first-class parcel rather than a large envelope (again, patterns generally weigh no more than 4 ounces, costing about $3.25 as a first-class parcel). Knowing this, why would a seller charge a good-paying customer $5+ or more for shipping – shop smart!
3). Do not buy a pattern from a seller who does not disclose the pattern’s manufacturer. Somewhere in the title or in the description for the pattern, the name of the company who made the pattern should be listed (Simplicity, Butterick, McCall’s, Folk Wear, Mantua Maker, etc.) – no exceptions. Why? It is a matter of disclosure. You want the opportunity to fully research the pattern to see if it is one you should purchase (price comparison, pattern’s functionality, pattern’s ease of use, is it an OOP or vintage pattern, etc). More importantly, you want to know exactly what you are paying for. You would not buy a pair of jeans, or shoes, or any other item on Ebay without knowing the name brand or manufacturer, right? The same holds true for a clothing pattern – shop smart!
4). What is the difference between a commercial and theatrical pattern? Commercial patterns are designed for mass-sale and are drafted in such a way that they compliment the modern figure or body-type, and are made to be put together using modern sewing and tailoring techniques. In short, they are made for ease of use and to fit the general population. Some of the more common commercial pattern companies are Simplicity, Butterick, McCall’s, Vogue, Burda, Easy Sew, New Look, and Marfy.  

Theatrical patterns are specialty patterns designed for reenactors and theaters, therefore they are usually historically accurate in design and construction (because they are often copied or drafted directly from an historical garment), they are not always so easy to construct (so you must have a good working knowledge of draping and garment design), and they cost about 30% more than your average commercial pattern. Some theatrical costume proprietors are Mantua Maker, Buckaroo Bobbins, Sense & Sensibility, Fantasy Fashions, Mill Farm, and Period Patterns. Both commercial and theatrical patterns have their pros and cons, so I advise you to research your patterns carefully before making a purchase. Start your research at The Great Pattern Review, an invaluable resource for novice and professional dressmakers alike. 

Wishing you the best in all your creative endeavors - blessings and happy sewing!