Why do some patterns become popular, and others not?

Sorbetto, Hazel, Renfrew, Cambie, Wiksten Tank, Scout Tee… I bet every one of us could describe those patterns even if we haven’t sewn them ourselves. We could discuss individual versions (I bet you know exactly who sports a black-and-white polkadot Sorbetto, or a turquoise colour-blocked Hazel!) and endless pattern hacks (sleeveless dress Renfrew, FTW!)

On the other hand, has anyone here sewn, say, a Lily? A Crescent skirt? An Upline Jacket? Recently, I’ve been thinking more and more about why some patterns become big hits, and other… fade away after a season or two. I don’t have any answers, but I do have lots of questions! 

Example #1: Lily vs. Hazel

Colette released these two sundress patterns at the same time. They both have a boxy, square neckline with straight straps, and a relatively straight skirt. Lily is a princess-seamed dress that is more fitted, and Hazel has simple gathered skirt. So why are there only 8 versions of the Lily in the Colette Flickr group, and 50+ Hazels? 

In Hazel’s favour: 

  • It’s a beginner pattern, and quick to make.
  • It allows for fun diagonals on the side bodice.
  • It was the first pattern chosen for the Colette Sewalong 2.0.

On the other hand: 

  • I haven’t made it myself, but it seems to me that a lot of people have trouble with the high-waisted Hazel bodice and the sometimes-unflattering gathered skirt. By contrast, it seems like the few people who have made a Lily are really happy with the fit! 
  • Lily seems a lot more va-va-voom than Hazel without being tight or revealing. At the same time, it’s probably more office-appropriate than Hazel. Those seem like good selling points to me!

It’s a pattern popularity mystery! All I can figure is that the fun stripe options and interesting-but-easy construction won us over initially… and once lots of Hazels started  popping up online, it just gained momentum. Maybe there just weren’t enough versions of Lily floating around to really make us covet the pattern?! Myself, I think I started on Team Hazel at the release, but versions like this and this are bringing me over to Team Lily!

Example #2: Patterns that WERE popular, then faded away

When I first started reading sewing blogs, EVERYBODY was making Beignets. They were so cute and sassy with all those buttons… but then suddenly, like that, they were gone! From the Flickr groups I see that there have been a few posted in the last couple of months… but mostly, we’ve move on to Gingers and Picnic Skirts

Looking through the older creations of indie pattern designers, it’s interesting to see how our styles and preferences have changed. I LOVE me some Sewaholic, but the Crescent skirt doen’t seem to get made often. Colette Crepe was big for a while… but I think that like me, a lot of people gave up on it when the amount of fabric it takes really settled in! Lonsdale was a big hit last year… but I can’t think of one that I’ve seen made this year! 

(Now that I look at it more carefully though, I realise I’m in the process of making a very similar skirt right now myself!)

So what happened to these once-popular patterns? Well, I guess in part that once bloggers have made a few, they just don’t need any more versions in their wardrobe. Maybe fashions changed? Or maybe the momentum just ran out for these patterns, and something newer stole our hearts? 

One proud survivor is the Sorbetto pattern. It’s been a big hit for a year now – testament to how much we love a free pattern and a quick make, I guess!

Example #3: Patterns that never made it big

Today I ordered a really cute dress pattern that I’ve been eyeing for months from an indie company… and yet despite repeated internet searching, I can only find it mentioned or made a handful of times! It’s this Princess-seamed “Go Anywhere” dress from Sewn Patterns. 

Look! It’s got options for cool directional prints or colour blocking… it has pockets… Those are things that sewists love! (Bonus fact: That redhead model is actually the designer!) The pattern gets rave reviews from the Spool Sewing blog and is apparently really easy to tailor for different body types. Sara at the Pretty Pickle included it in her Indie Pattern Wishlist, and it turns out that a quilting store not too far from me teaches the dress as a class. 

And yet somehow, this pattern hasn’t caught on. Why? As snobby as it sounds, I think part of the problem is the company’s graphic design and online presence. The pattern envelope is fairly modern and clean, but the Sewn website is a little old-fashioned. They have a blog, but I can’t find a single version of any of their patterns posted to the blog! No tricks, tips or tutorials… no giveaways… no Twitter or Facebook… and therefore no momentum!

Style Arc’s Linda Pants seem to be one of their most popular patterns. 

Another pattern company that I’m fascinated by is Style Arc. They’ve got the most RTW-type patterns of any company I can think of, and a huge range of offerings. (Seriously, look at how many kinds of trousers they have alone!) From what I’ve seen, people what own Style Arc patterns seem to really like them… and from the sheer volume of patterns I assume that the company is doing pretty well. How come then they aren’t more common among bloggers? They aren’t cheap, but they are no more expensive than other indie patterns. Personally, I get almost overwhelmed by choice – From so many similar designs, how can I know which one is right for me?

#4: Market Competition

Like movies, patterns take a long time to produce… and just like movies, it seems that sometimes we get more than one of a similar type being released at the same time! (For example, this spring’s Wiksten Tank and the Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank.)

This summer, we’ve had Colette’s Iris shorts, Sewaholic’s Thurlow shorts/trousers, and Grainline’s Maritime shorts. (Plus, I remember Sarai hinting that this fall would bring a wide-legged Colette trouser.) That’s a lot of options for a pair of shorts! Of course, they all offer slightly different features… but when it comes down to it, I think most of us can’t afford to buy them all! I’ll be curious to see next summer which pattern(s) remain popular!

Ikat Two-Toned Sorbetto

One of my Sorbettos – a pattern that is here to stay! 

So there we have it: my rambling musings on pattern popularity. I’m really curious to hear your opinions on this. Why do certain patterns take the blogging world by storm? Why do some of them fade away after a season or two? How much are we influenced by wanting what we see on other blogs? And put in a different way, if you were launching a pattern line, how would you ensure your designs became a success? 


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