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Vintage Playsuit Sewing Patterns for Summer Fun!

Written by Ellen of Kinseysue, Edited by Mary Beth of The Gingham Life

Soon after the United States entered World War II in December 1941, rationing of certain

items began. Sugar, tires, gasoline, meat, coffee, butter, shoes, and fabric were affected.

The War Production Board was tasked with ensuring that fabric and materials were earmarked for the troops under Order L-85. Included were restrictions on nylon, rubber, silk, leather, and wool. It also issued guidelines regarding new clothing including the length of jackets and dresses, hem circumference, and the width of waistbands and cuffs. Dresses became narrower and skirts shorter. Even the number of buttons was specified (preferably plastic, not metal unless they were recycled from a pre-war garment.) The number of new leather shoes a citizen could purchase was limited since the troops needed boots. One interesting note – wedding gowns were exempt from rationing.

This adorable 3-piece playsuit sewing pattern is available at Kinseysue on Etsy. The bare midriff top is a great example of the effort to save fabric as are the shorter length shorts!

This pattern. Mail Order 8009, won the 1st Prize for Simplicity and Economy. The sleeves of the blouse are cut as one with the blouse as is the collar. and the ties.


The wedge shoe and espadrilles became very popular among women during the war years and remain so to this day. Leather was on the ration list which made the canvas, cork, and raffia very Salvatore Ferragamo is credited with originally creating the wedge which used layered cork and different colors of crocheted raffia. The photo of this colorful wedge is under copyright but is easily found on the internet, as is the unusual cork-heeled and raffia shoe designed for Loretta Young.

Due to the restraints on fabric use, pattern companies were affected. All new patterns had to comply with L-85. L-85 intended to eliminate waste and conserve non-military use of fabric and ensure machinery and the man or woman power to operate the machinery were used for the war effort.

One unforeseen effect of L-85 was the way Hollywood and the fashion industry capitalized on fabric rationing. Citing “morale building” for the troops as well as conserving fabric use, film stars and starlets were shown wearing shorts, playsuits, midriff tops, and swimsuits, both one and two-piece like Simplicity 1302 (left) from Kinseysue The navel, however, was not to be shown. Pattern companies quickly jumped on the bandwagon and began issuing these new, more “revealing” styles. Hollywood Pattern Company changed the upper left corner of their pattern envelopes from featuring a star or starlet to a red star, denoting the pattern complied with L-85.

Many playsuit patterns feature a midriff top with shorts and/or a short skirt. Sarong-style skirts were often included in the pattern.

Here are some examples of war-time playsuits from the members of the Vintage Sewing Pattern Directory.

The Gingham Life has this playsuit with a skirt included - Simplicity 2444

Another pattern The Gingham Life offers isn't a playsuit but the backless, halter top certainly conserved fabric!

This Mail Order 3449 pattern from the 1940s saved fabric by being backless and only having gathers at the hips above the pockets which saved quite a bit of fabric.

Mrs. Depew has this versatile pattern as an instant download!

Mrs. Depew makes patterns and takes the time to write proper instructions. She also rates them for the degree of difficulty. Make the Playsuit for going to the beach, or going on a bike ride, or make the jumper for shopping trips! Make one or make both and have a great time sewing!

Not interested in the instant download? She also offers it in a paper version!

She also offers this bra top and skirt. Depew 3175

This pattern from Mrs. Depew reminds me on one of my favorite little girl's patterns. I found a copy for sale by Redcurlzs! It's Advance 5524

From comes this charming playsuit with an optional skirt.

Simplicity 3587 has no envelope however, it is a very rare pattern. I could not find another copy.

Candy Goeller’s playsuit is from 1948 – (note how much longer the skirt was after rationing ended) and the two charming neckline variations.

Whether you were playing tennis or attending a tea, this pattern had you covered.

Well, that's it for this look back at playsuits. Most of the ones that we focused on were from around the time of World War II. Playsuits in one form or another have been around ever since!


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Unknown member
Jul 16, 2023

These are some pretty cute patterns! I love the idea of a romper - and the nifty idea of having a matching skirt to add to it for a beach to dinner look. I love the halter too!


Jul 16, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I love playsuits! The 1940s were tough times for most of the world but fashions became more playful.


Unknown member
Jul 16, 2023

So interesting! I remember my mother telling me how difficult rationing was and how she re-worked my uncle's clothes (he was drafted) into new clothing for herself and my aunt. I especially recall her saying how hard it was to re-make his wool suit jackets into a jacket she could wear.

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