Wednesday, April 3, 2013

T is for Tucks

The ABCs of Vintage Sewing series is back!  I hope you didn't think I abandoned it after the letter 'S'? (ahem).  Today's letter 'T' is all about tucks!  A tuck is a fold in the fabric that is sewn into place.  When the tucks are small and placed closed together, they are called 'pintucks'.

According to the 1943 edition of the 'Complete Book of Sewing' by Constance Talbot:
"In soft materials, tucks control fullness and take the place of darts.  These are marked in the pattern or must be planned to give fullness where it is needed.  A large tuck at the shoulder line is sometimes used to cover the shoulder seam... Every tuck in a group must be exactly the same width, and the space between tucks must be carefully measured."
Tucks are a very common feature of vintage sewing, existing in fashions from almost every decade.   Historically, tucks were also used to shorten a finished garment--so that it could be subsequently lengthened later by removing the tucks.  This was especially popular for children's garments.  Of course, this could be done in the opposite way as is mentioned in Louisa May Alcott's book, Little Women when Amy says:
"My only comfort," she said to Meg, with tears in her eyes, "is that Mother doesn't take tucks in my dresses whenever I'm naughty, as Maria Parks's mother does.  My dear, it's really dreadful, for sometimes she is so bad her frock is up to her knees, and she can't come to school.     -Chapter 4 {source
Here's a look at different styles and uses of tucks in vintage sewing patterns throughout the decades:

1. Companion Butterick 8315 pattern, available at Adele Bee Ann Patterns Etsy Store; 2. 1930s Day Slip, various sizes, available at Mrs Depew Vintage Etsy store; 3. 1938 McCall dress pattern, available at Cynical Girl's Etsy Store; 4. 1930s nightgown in various sizes, available at Mrs Depew Vintage Etsy Store; 5. 1930s New York 632 Pattern, available at JFerrari Designs Etsy Store; 6. 1930s Simplicity 3152 dress pattern, available at Pattern and Stitch Etsy Shop

I just love the tucks of the 1930's.  They often appear in the form of very small pintucks but give such amazing detail to any garment.  I love that the detail also appears on everyday wear like nightgowns!!

1. McCall 7663 dress pattern, available at J Ferrari Designs Etsy Shop; 2. DuBarry 6044 halter top pattern, available at Cynical Girl's Etsy Shop; 3. McCall 5881 skirt pattern, available at Adele Bee Ann Patterns Etsy Shop; 4. Advance 4769 blouse pattern, available at RetroMonkeys' Etsy Shop; 5. McCall 7203 dress pattern, available at Floradora Presents Etsy Shop; 6. Simplicity 4566 blouse pattern, available at Cynical Girl's Etsy Shop

When I think about tucks, I automatically think of the 1940s.  I just love the use of tucks in blouses and shirt dresses and also the innovative use of tucks like in the halter top (#2) and horizontal decorative tucks (#5) in the patterns above.


1. Marian Martin 9090 dress pattern, available at Floradora Presents Etsy Shop; 2. McCall 5038 dress pattern, available at RetroMonkeys' Etsy Shop; 3. Simplicity 2033 dress pattern, available at J Ferrari Designs Etsy Shop; 4. Simplicity 4556 dress pattern, available at Adele Bee Ann Patterns Etsy Shop; 5. Butterick 6293 dress pattern, available at Cynical Girl's Etsy Shop; 6. Butterick 5694 blouse pattern, available at RetroMonkeys' Etsy Shop

The 1950s also made innovative use of tucks to give the beautiful feminine 50s silhouette by taking out fullness at the waistline, bust area or hipline.  I just love all these pattern examples!

Sewing Tucks:

One of the best links for sewing perfect tucks is the tutorial from Tilly and the Buttons.  While you are at it, check out her delicious Mathilde blouse pattern and her latest creation, the Miette skirt pattern!

Have you worked at all with tucks or pintucks?  I just love them as a vintage style detail!


  1. Yeah! Thanks for continuing! I already thought I missed the last part of this serie!

  2. I love the look of tucks, but I've never sewn any. I love the quote from Little women! :)

  3. I love the tucks in 1940s blouses and have a great 40s pattern I'll make, one day!

  4. Some beautiful patterns! I love tucks. I've used pintucks on a couple of things both for myself and my daughter, and I often use them in place of darts on day dresses and blouses. They keep the fitted look with a bit of extra comfort.

  5. I love the Day Slip (No. 2 1930's). Fabulous tucks! So pretty and easy, once you know how!

    Lots of love

    Caffy Bundana

  6. What a nice overview of tucks--thanks for the lovely images from the 30s, 40s and 50s. This kind of vintage detailing seems so different from what we often see now. Instead of taking something extra and sticking it on the fabric to "embellish" it, a vintage pattern will use what's on hand--the fabric!--to make a garment feel special.

    1. It's so true...I just love some of the amazing fabric manipulation of the 20s and 30s!

  7. I LOVE tucks. I just think they are sew pretty! I saw one in the Sew for Victory sew-along, that reminded me of Call the Midwife, for which I now have plans...

  8. What great images! I don't think I have any garments with tucks, but I love these styles! It's such a nice design detail.

  9. I love tucks! Such a gorgeous detail. I am currently recreating a dress where the whole front has tucks and then cute buttons down the middle and cinched at the waist. Will post on my blog when it's done. I had to make my own pattern for it, but it's well worth the time.
    (I haven't seen your other ABC's so will do whilst I drink a cup of coffee :)


  10. I'll have to check out that tutorial because tucks have driven me mad in the past...
    Adorable tho!

  11. First tucks I have done were on the Mathilde, which I only just completed.. I think I did okay.. but they are difficult to keep straight :)

  12. I made a blouse with tiny pin tucks once. It was a favorite for a time with the matching narrow skirt. The pattern was from the 70s and the fabric blue. I was freckled, green eyed, and auburn haired and my younger sister was a dark blond with tanned skin and clear blue eyes. She tried the outfit on and I gave it to her. I have never again made anything for myself in the color blue. It just looked so good on her I knew it wasn't my color.

    I have been planning on trying out a pin tucker attachment. Although the tucks used more creatively are nice a button front blouse with pin tucks is also a great wardrobe item. If one can master the pin tucker it should certainly be easy to pin tuck fabric and then place the pattern. Just popping pin tucks into a pattern can be quite nice.

  13. I loved your look through time and pattern history of tucks. So global, if you will, at such a small detail. It is the details that make styles special. I also loved your hooded dress. Who knew? Thanks for your insights in the details, I love reading your blog because of this! (Cherie from Phoenix)


I read each and every comment--thank you so much!

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