I'm a sewing enthusiast in Beacon, New York, with a love of all things retro. This site is all about tutorials, tips, inspiration, and lots of spirited discussion about sewing as it relates to fashion history, pop culture, body image, and gender. My first book, Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, is now out from STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books! Also look for my line "Patterns by Gertie" from Butterick.
So, I just received a copy of this lovely dress pattern from this Etsy seller who has lots of great vintage finds. You'll notice that it's marked "slenderette" in the black box at the top of the pattern. I've been racking my brain and the internet to try to figure out what that term could possibly mean. Unfortunately, the pattern doesn't specify anywhere, and I can't seem to find any specific information online. But as far as I can tell, these patterns were made for women of a certain size. Now, the pattern I bought is for a 34" bust, which of course doesn't jibe with our modern idea of plus-sizes. But when I did specific searches for slenderette patterns, I saw a lot of larger sizes that you don't normally come across that often in vintage patterns: lots of 40" and 42" bust sizes.
For what it's worth, there was also something called a "half-size slenderette." The bust sizes run in odd instead of even numbers: 35" up to 41", as far as I can tell. One site specifies that the half-size slenderettes were for women 5' 3" and under.
But I also found a slenderette in a bust size 32". Damn, I'm confused.
What can we make of all this? Were these patterns actually made for plus-size women? Or were they suppose to give the impression of slenderness?
Furthermore, what in the world could a word like "slenderette" possibly even mean? Slender means slim, and "ette" is a suffix added to a word to make it diminuitive and feminine. Kitchenette. Bacholorette. Smurfette. So, I guess slenderette is like extreme slenderness. Whoa.
Does anyone have any clues or ideas about these patterns? I'd love to hear your thoughts.