Thursday, May 26, 2011

Burda Magazine - Then and Now

I got my first issue of Burda Magazine in July of 2008. The news service I bought it from gave me a free copy when I bought a subscription. (I don't think they do that anymore). I've let my subscription lapse after two years, now that I have hundreds of patterns at my fingertips. My library happens to have a subscription if I'm ever dying to see the most recent issue.

I picked up this tattered copy from 1977 on ebay. Burda magazine began in 1950 and started including traceable patterns in 1952. Long ago, it included recipes, knitting patterns, and lots of ads. Now, it has cut the ads and recipes, and has more feature items: analysis of the runways or biographies of designers. I'd really like to see an issue from the 1950s!

From September 2001.

From March 2009.

From November 2010.

Just about as interesting as the changing fashions is the evolving tracing sheets. This one's from 1977. The lines are in just two colors. Each pattern piece in the magazine is indicated by a number, which you locate in the margin. One of the lines in the piece you want to trace will be parallel to this number.

By 2001, they had added multiple colors and notes on the pattern pieces (such as fold lines and grain lines).

For several years, they reduced the number of patterns per sheet (by adding more sheets) and it was comparatively EASY to trace.

In the 9-2010 issue, the crazy overlapping lines were back again.
This is an instruction sheet from 1977. The magazine didn't have any sort of master list of the patterns included. You had to flip through the entire magazine.

Now the magazines have both a photo view of all the garments and a black-line drawing view.

The modern directions seem a little longer now than in 1977. I wonder if the instructions were as cryptic then as they are now?

One other interesting thing I noticed: modern Burda patterns each come in varying ranges of 5 sizes each (for example 36-42, or 44-52). Most of the vintage patterns came in just one random size; a few came in 2 or more - making grading and fitting patterns a little more challenging.


  1. Um, wow to that 1977 pattern sheet! I guess I shouldn't complain about the current ones so much.

  2. Hope this doesn't post twice, had issues the try before. Those earlier pattern sheets look impossible LOL.. I have never bought that magazine but will have to take a look at it if I see it at the store when I am in town.

  3. Great to see the older magazines, i have only bought a couple of issues but i think i will be getting June's issue.

  4. What a neat post. Thanks for sharing. My subscription runs out with the June issue I just received. I decided not to renew at this time, but instead bought two Japanese pattern books to try. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. The comparison is really interesting. There isn't much in this June's issue that I think I want to sew, but I liked seeing their sewing how to. It was too basic for me (wow - can't believe I said that!), but I hope it means they will feature more how to's. Such as their method for inserting a fly front zipper.

  6. I only have three modern Burda magazines, which should keep me going for a while! But I also have about four old magazines from the seventies, inherited from my Mum, which are just like yours. I think the biggest difference, (apart from instructions coming in English now too, which isn't really an issue because putting pattern pieces together is usually no biggie), is the range of different sizes for each design. It was a pain if you really loved one particular design, to not have it in your size. Grading patterns is far more difficult that working out how to put the pieces together!
    In another note, I finished my bell-bottom/flared jeans! And I'm very happy with them... I was initially tossing up on whether to go flared or not with my fabric, your challenge decided me. Thank you so much for the inspiration!


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