Commercial Pattern Archive

The Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) at the University of Rhode Island is both an extensive collection of commercially-produced paper sewing patterns and a unique scholarly database used by costumers, fashion designers, museum professionals, scholars, and vintage aficionados the world over.  It was founded by Joy Spanabel Emery (1936-2018), Professor Emerita of Theatre.

The Collection

Theatrical costumer Betty Williams (1931-1996) pioneered research on commercial patterns in the early 1980s.  Through her research she amassed a major collection, which was donated to the University by her estate in 1998.  That donation is the core of CoPA and has since been combined with the collection of the URI Theatre Department and those donated to the University by Professor Emery and the Fashion Institute of Technology (NYC).  The collection is augmented with continued additions of early and contemporary patterns.

Currently encompassing more than 56,000 patterns from 1847 to 2016, the CoPA pattern collection is housed and preserved in URI Libraries’ Special Collections unit.

Additionally, CoPA maintains a collection of books, pamphlets, journals, both scholarly and popular, and ephemera on the subjects related to tailoring, textiles, and fashions and the commercial pattern industry.   A great majority are cataloged in URI Libraries’ catalog.

Related resources in Special Collections include the following collections of research material:

Materials housed in Special Collections (including the CoPA collections) do not circulate.  For an appointment or for information about using CoPA collections, contact

The Database

The Commercial Pattern Archive database provides a unique tool for researchers and designers to recreate or date clothing from the mid-19th century to the present. Collections from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom are represented in the database which functions like a union catalog of pattern collections. The database contains more than 64,000 records and includes over 50,000 images of clothing and pattern schematics.

Originally subscription based, the CoPA database is now free to all users upon registration.

The database is available at

Information about Donations

CoPA is currently only accepting patterns (and related fashion periodicals, journals, and catalogs) that fill gaps in our collection.

Please contact Karen Morse, Director of University Archives and Special Collections, to discuss possible donations. She can be reached by email at or by telephone at 401-874-2128.

We gratefully accept financial donations to assist with the continued care and maintenance of the collection through the Joy Spanabel Emery Endowment Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation.

Contributions can be made via credit card on the Rhode Island Foundation Online Contribution page.

Checks can be mailed to:
Rhode Island Foundation
One Union Station
Providence, RI 02903

Please include “Joy Spanabel Emery Endowment Fund” on check.

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