Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Simplicity "Slenderette" Patterns: WTF?

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.

Damn euphemisms.

Does anyone have any clues or ideas about these patterns? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I don't know about the patterns, but I do remember having to shop in the "Chubette" department when I was in grade school - how degrading is that?

  2. Chubette?! That's terrible! Makes me think of "Mr. Pinky's Hefty Hideaway" in the movie Hairspray.

  3. I had to go check because I just bought a very similar pattern off of ebay. It has many the same characteristics--I was inspired by Sarai's yellow frock! Mine says slenderette too. For me, it is a marketing technique! Anytime I see the slenderette, I don't question it...I believe, it makes me look ten pounds lighter!(lol) Now why a B34 has slenderette on it--sounds just wrong!

  4. I like these slenderette patterns. I thought I'd read somewhere also that they are for shorter women (like me!), and that the slenderette styling was just to make you look longer.

  5. I've been reading a lot of old 1940s Charm magazines as of late, and I keep seeing ads for half-sizes, which is also puzzling to me. I'm going to have to ask my mom what that meant - she was a teen in those days so she might remember.

    When I was a kid in the 1970s, Sears had three types of sizing for kids' clothes: regular, slim, and chubby (girls)/husky (boys). I was always thankful that I was a "regular" :)

  6. Does it mean petite? Or maybe it's like the Young Burda patterns which are supposed to be more youthful?

  7. You got me curious about this! I only looked at a few patterns online, but it looks like these may be for skinnier women. Or bigger-boobed ones!
    a regular simplicity: Bust 32, Waist 26, Hip 35
    a slenderette: Bust 32, Waist 25, Hip 34
    I'd want to find some from the exact same year and more sizes to make sure it holds true, but that's my guess, anyway!

  8. Looking at the range on ebay....I'm going with "slenderette" means "big boobs". could they mean it's supposed to be flattering if you're top heavy?

  9. Interesting! I have never come across any Slenderette patterns, but I do have a couple Simplicity dresses from around the 60's that have the phrase "A Look Slimmer pattern" printed on the front. The styling incorporates more vertical seamlines/princess seams that extend to the hems of the dress.

  10. Wow, thanks for sharing your research, Sarah!

    I wrote to Simplicity to see if they could help, and they actually got back to me and said they were researching it! I'll let you know what I find out.

    In the meantime, I'm sewing up this pattern, so we can see how slenderette I look in it. :)

  11. Cool! I'll be looking forward to the update. In the meantime, I am going to try and drag out my pattern binders and see if I have any slenderettes myself and check them out!

  12. I have a half-size Slenderette pattern in front of me and on the back it specifies "Specially sized for Misses and Women about 5'3" and under." Hope this clears up the mystery!

  13. I came across this post while researching a Slenderette pattern that I have in my possession. I'm sure by now that you've found an answer, but...

    I found this on Vintage Patterns Wiki...

    Slenderette patterns were intended to make one look more slender

    Simple enough I guess. Even women back then wanted to look slimmer than they were. We never change.

  14. They were patterns to make you look slimmer. Lots of long lines, gentle darts, emphasizing up & down rather than side to side. Love 'em!


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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