18 Vintage-Inspired Sewing Projects [Infographic]

Everything old is new again! Whether you’re a fan of mod, Old Hollywood glam, or retro chic, check out these ideas for bringing vintage elements to life in your next sewing projects.

  1. Classic Capelet

Cute and feminine, the capelet is a classic vintage garment that’s making a comeback. Cut with a narrow shape, almost like a jacket, they make a great alternative to shrugs or bolero jackets and can add a little extra coverage to low-cut or sleeveless blouses. Add a little fullness and they become soft and flowing, perfect for adding textural interest to an outfit.

  1. Circle Skirt

This soda-fountain staple may no longer be sporting poodles, but a circle skirt still has great vintage flair. The math gets a little tricky, but if you don’t want to brush up on your geometry, you can always use one of many online calculators to find the perfect measurements to create a skirt tailored to your waistline and preferred length.

  1. Monogrammed Handkerchief

A classic vintage gift! If you have an embroidery option on your sewing machine, or, better yet, a dedicated embroidery machine, this can be as simple as programming a few letters in and pressing go. Of course, you an also really get into the vintage spirit and embroider the letters by hand. If you’re just beginning, use a simple tracing stitch like backstitch. More advanced embroiderers might want to opt for satin stitch, or add embellishments like leaves and flowers.

  1. Kids’ Pajamas from Vintage Linens

Vintage bed sheets, curtains, and tablecloths are easy to find at thrift shops and flea markets. Though they may have stains or tears that make them unsuitable for their original purpose, the fabric itself is often beautifully printed and wonderfully soft. It makes the perfect material for children’s nightgowns and pajamas.

  1. Colorful Aprons

Pretty and practical, aprons are just as popular as ever. From simple half-aprons filled with pockets to aprons with full skirts and fitted bodices that almost look like dresses themselves, there’s something to suit every style sensibility (and kitchen decor scheme).

  1. Vintage Inspired Handbag

A lady never goes out without her handbag. Once, handbags tended to be quite small, with only room for a coin purse, compact, and perhaps a lipstick. Capture that minimalist style with a vintage inspired handbag. Use heavy felt or woven woollen as your base, and opt for simple lines and minimal decoration—a fabric bow is perfect. A narrow shoulder strap completes the look.

  1. Petticoat

Those full, swishing skirts of yesteryear were no accident. It took a lot of work—and a lot of crinoline and tulle— to achieve that look. Add a touch of vintage flair to your wardrobe, even with store-bought pieces, by creating a petticoat to wear underneath the skirts. Choose a neutral color like white for a traditional look, or go bold with a vibrant shade meant to be seen as you move.

  1. Stylish Headscarf

From Rosie the Riveter to Marilyn Monroe, the headscarf is a classic. Whether you opt for a traditional square scarf, neatly edged in tiny rolled hems, or modern headband styles with elastic added for comfort, it’s a look (and a sewing project) that can’t go wrong.

  1. Heritage Quilt Blocks

You can’t get more vintage than beautiful traditional quilt blocks, plus they make a great scrap-busting project. If you’re not ready to commit to a full-fledged quilt, use your blocks for other projects, like placemats, table runners, or hot pads.

  1. The A-line Dress

The A-line dress is an absolute staple of the vintage closet. With a simple one or two dart bodice and full skirt with a natural waistline, it’s a great introduction to simple tailoring techniques, plus the cut suits a wide range of body types since it’s easy to adjust for wide hips, full busts, and a whole range of waist sizes and placements.

  1. Removable Peter Pan Collars

Child-like and sweet, Peter Pan collars add vintage flair to existing blouses and sweaters. Simply stitch your collar and wear it almost like a necklace, using a brooch, button, or ribbon to fasten it at the throat.

  1. Wide-legged Slacks

Channel your 70s style with a new spin on palazzo pants. In chic, neutral colors and fabrics that are drapable yet crisp, they make the perfect office apparel. Switch to soft, light prints, and you’ve got comfortable slacks just made for a day at the beach.

  1. Kimono from Vintage Scarf

A modern look with vintage roots. Kimono-styled shrugs are easy to make from vintage fabrics like scarves because they’re cut entirely from squares and rectangles, and so don’t require much slicing and dicing of fragile vintage fabrics. Be sure to finish the raw edges of your seams using bias tape or techniques like French seams for added support.

  1. Travel Case

Heading out for a weekend getaway? Create your own set of matching luggage, just like a the retro jet set. From an overnight-bag sized canvas duffle to a matching toiletries case, you can stitch up just the kind of trendy accessories you’re looking for. Remember to switch your sewing machine to the appropriate needle, thread, and settings for working with heavy-duty materials.

  1. Bishop Sleeves

This look adds a retro chicness to your favorite existing patterns. Choose a fabric with plenty of drape, so the soft bell shape of the sleeve falls in graceful folds rather than crisp pleats. Make sure to measure your sleeve length accurately; shortening a bishop sleeve can be a rather length process.

  1. DIY Turban Hat

The turban hat was the headwear du jour in the 1940s, and still has that aura of vintage glam. Unlike the traditional cultural turbans that inspired them, these hats are not wound from a length of fabric, but are instead pleated, folded, and stitched so they can easily be put on and taken off. Make your own in a soft, plush fabric for a hat that’s as much a statement piece as protection from the cold.

  1. Smocked Girl’s Dress

Smocking is a vintage sewing technique that’s time and labor intensive, but the results are simply stunning. Use smocking on a little girl’s dress to give it a subtle shape and plenty of decoration. It will be an heirloom to treasure for generations.

  1. Classic Overalls

Originally, overalls were designed for working men, but during World War II, when women joined the workforce in droves, they claimed overalls for themselves as well. Though traditionally made of denim or corduroy, you can experiment with all kinds of fabrics to achieve different looks. Swap out the trouser legs for skirts, or go extra retro with bell bottomed legs!

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