I don’t believe in patterns. Most of the time, I can't find what i want, and have to make what was someone else's vision. I do, however, believe in inspiration and education. That said, there are some patterns that I do keep around. They are not current fashion, and they all offer information and illustrate techniques about the garment and its construction. How and when it was worn, how it was to fit, and how it was finished. They offer inspiration, and a glimpse into the fit and fashion of a past time.
The first set of patterns that have found a home in my studio are the Folkwear line of patterns. The company has been sold at least twice, and as I recall, the first time was because the brand was just not profitable. I am not sure what changed, or what the new magic business model is, but I am very happy to see Folkwear Patterns has become an enduring name.
All of the Folkwear patterns are simple. This simplicity lends them a flexibility that begs for you to tweak it your own way. A bonus point of the patterns are the history and technique sheets. They open up ways of doing things that will make your sewing stand out from the rest. Need to learn how to make a knotted frog? Go check out the Chinese Jacket pattern. Want to try out quilting, but can't seem to bring yourself to cut up fabric, and put it back together flat again? The Quilted Prairie skirt will be a wonderful addition to your wardrobe.
I also do a lot of costuming. Sometimes it’s easier to let someone else do the research for you, or at least augment and confirm what you have dug up. For this reason, I also keep a few of the “Past Patterns” around. Most of the time they have actually had their hands on a period piece, so they can see for sure where the seams should go, and what the details actually are.If you can't get your hands on a sample to do your own research, these are what you want to use.
Then there is the dazzling area of actual vintage patterns. They are quaint jewels, each of them. they offer insight into the period. They offer truly vintage looks, without the problems with stains, tears, or disintegration. You will, however run into some differences in fit, and sizing. Ignore the size, and go by the measurements on the package, and you will be fine.
If you find the idea of leaping into unfamiliar techniques and handling fragile pattern paper a bit intimidating, local pattern company Decades of Style has a lovely selection of patterns that they have sized to today's standards. They explain vintage sewing techniques and print on sturdy paper.