So far this year has been the year of sewing 1930s patterns. I guess to make up for the one or two I have made so far, I've been sewing almost exclusively 1930s things since 2016 turned the corner, with a few 1950s things thrown in for good measure. Here I'm going to show you three of my latest projects, which I created both to fill needs in my wardrobe and to mix and match for different and distinct looks.
This skirt is one of the few times I've used a modern or reprinted pattern - I'm sure you'll recognize it as McCalls' MP384. I believe it's out of print but still easy to find.
It's a quintessentially 1930s skirt, with the yoke and pleat detail. I have to confess...I skipped the lining instructions for the yoke, so the inside looks kind of untidy, and I cheated when doing the waist so it's not as high as originally intended. But I figure if I don't care, it's all good.
When I was deciding what to do about a skirt pattern, I remembered Lily's amazing 1930s outfit and decided to check out which skirt pattern she had used. Here it was McCall's MP384, which I already owned and had been thinking of making anyway! So I went ahead with it and while it wasn't the easiest to put together it wasn't too bad and I was very pleased with the style lines when finished.
I used a short vintage metal zipper for the closure, and did a narrow hem and it still ended up shorter than I expected, so next time I think I'll lengthen it a bit. Classic 1930s styles were fairly long.
The blouse is from a 1950s pattern, but I have an almost identical one from the 1930s so I decided to make it up so I could hopefully wear it with both eras. The bow on the neckline and the gathered yoke and puffy sleeves do look 1930s! What do you think? Does it work?
The pattern I used...
...and a similar one from the 1930s...
It was a fabric hog. I was hoping to get 2 blouses out of this length of white rayon, but after cutting out this blous there isn't much left. But on the other hand, I like it a lot and badly needed some tuck-in white blouses for my closet!
These sleeves are flattering and very non-restricting but not very handy to wear inside a coat!
And to insert a short rhapsody here, oh how I love my serger! To take a mess of gathering threads and fraying edges and turn it into a neatly bound narrow edge is like magic.
For these photos I pulled out a pair of petal pink gloves with the cutest cuffs to add a touch of spring, and wore a belt from another project using this fabric.
My vintage button and rhinestone earrings from a favorite Etsy shop are the exact same shade of teal, too.
But when I want to wear a 2 piece dress, I can wear my 3rd piece - a matching blouse from a 1940 pattern.
It was very easy to make, with just three pieces to cut out plus the bias facing. Just lots and lots of tucks to do all the shaping!
(And lots and lots more tucks!)
The pattern had a Peter Pan collar but I decided to leave the neck plain so I could get a chance to wear some of my little used vintage collars.
Of course I can remove the collar and wear it plain as well, so it has options.
I have to say how very much I love wide fabric! I got 4 yards of 60 in. teal rayon suiting, and out of those 4 yards I got the dress I posted about earlier, and these two pieces, and still have enough left to use as contrast on something else yet.
I've often thought how funny it is that sewing used to be the cheap way to get your own clothes, but usually it doesn't work out that way for me since we exclusively shop at thrift stores. I might pay $5-$7 for a dress at a thrift store, but the fabric to make it will cost between $12-$15, so it's a lot more about the love of sewing for me than budgeting.
On the other hand, when I can get 4 yards of rayon for only $3 a yard and can get 3 garments out of it, that is thrift store prices! So once in a while sewing is still actually the economical way to go.
I know this 2 piece is actually a mix of styles, with a classic 1930s skirt and a later style of blouse, so while I may not wear them together as a costume, I like the ability to wear them together and separately. Solid color skirts are needed in my closet, as well as dark solid blouses, so this outfit scored on several points.
I love the way the skirt pleats play when walking. Oh, and the double buttons! I've been wanting to do something with buttons grouped in twos, and finally got it done. I like how it looks, so I'm sure I'll do it again on future projects
This was a trial and I overcorrected my usual problem with too long of a torso and made this waist too short. I'm hoping it looks okay anyway because of the style, and now I know for next time.
And...one last picture because I like my hat so much and it went so well with my outfit.
I don't know...even with the mixed styles I'm hoping it looks pretty 1930s anyway!
I actually made this dress last summer, and only just now got pictures of it. It was the final version of the same pattern that was used for my 1940s polka dot dress, only with a different sleeve option.
It has the same side pleat detail on the skirt, and the bow sash - this time I did interface it and it behaves much better. The sleeve buttons were added just for fun, and because they were a perfect match.
The cotton print, with its cheerful poppies, is much more summer or fall appropriate, but I wanted to wear it again before the weather gets too warm. Instead of a snowy background, I feel like I should have sunny, green meadows. Oh, well - they're on their way!
Brown accessories were the right color for it since the buttons are brown, so I paired it with my 1940s brown hat and spectator pumps and a favorite brown gabardine 1940s purse that isn't huge to carry but definitely is roomier than some of my other vintage purses. (You've seen them all before.)
And, in keeping with most of my pattern illustrations that show white or light colored gloves most of the time no matter what color the other accessories are, I wore wheat colored gloves with pretty detailing, which I believe may be from the 1940s as well but I'm a little hazy on my glove dating.
This is one of those patterns that could easily be a tried-and-true go-to pattern, since the fit is good and it's very simple to make, yet without looking too plain or boring to sew. Switching out the 4 choices of sleeves, and with an endless variety in combination of buttons, fabric, and sash choices, could make it a ready candidate for everything from a house dress to a street dress to a cocktail dress. Honestly, this dress could be made in a few hours from start to finish, except for perhaps the hand work.
It behaves very well in a semi-heavy cotton, not needing the draping quality of rayon or a limper fabric. And this cotton, while an unusual color scheme for me, was quite pleasant to work with. I have enough left to make a blouse - on the to do list.
I tried out a more coral shade of lipstick with it - again not my usual color for costume wear, but though we often think of 1940s or "retro" lipstick as a cherry red, most color illustrations or photos from the 1940s show lipstick with an oranger tint. (My spell check says "oranger" isn't a word, but it should be since "greener" and "redder" and "bluer" are, don't you think? :-)
Wearing this dress again made me realize again how much I like it, so I'm sure it will get more outings in the future.
This soft crocheted lace neck warmer, with a slidable bracelet for different ways of styling, is Item of the Week in my Etsy shop. Perfect for spring wear, it's half price for one week only - slashed from $16.
My latest sewing project was a late 1930s dress, in a vibrant shade of teal rayon.
(Like the mountains in the background? Me too! But my snowy background is going to disappear in the next few weeks, probably. Spring is on its way here in Idaho!)
This dress is full of fun details...
...and surely these are the cutest sleeves ever! Unfortunately, the also cute sleeves that went with this pattern were missing a piece, so I substituted these sleeves from a pattern from the same era.
I loved working with the rayon suiting, and of course it has a nicer drape and weight than cotton. A solid color was perfect for this dress, since I didn't want a print to hide the details. And making vintage dress patterns in rayon just seems so...suitable...since that was one of the most common fabrics used.
This was my first trial of this pattern, and as usual, the belt hides a few imperfections and the fit is not quite perfect - hardly surprising when I size up the dress from a 14 and the sleeves from a 12. Good thing I am not a perfectionist. I do want to make it again, and should be able to tweak the fit on a second version, but this one is certainly wearable!
I paired it with my trusty brown 1930s hat, a vintage brown clutch and gloves. Funny thing about the gloves - they looked the same color as the clutch in the daylight, but once the sun hit them they turned quite a different shade of brown!
And of course, my new brown suede heels. These beauties, I am told, were worn by the seller in 1947 - but I think they also can work for the 1930s since the top perforations and shape give them an art deco look, in my opinion. I'm still looking for a pair of quintessentially 1930s shoes, but meanwhile, these will work.
The dress was pleasingly easy to put together, even with the interesting bodice detail. I did a hand-pricked side zipper and made a sash style belt without a pattern. My biggest trouble was trying to press everything thoroughly without leaving marks.
Yep, there's a reason this small window of fashion, transition between the 1930s and WWII, is one of my favorite eras!
Due to a hectic last week or so, a bout of the flu galloping around the family, and one of my thankfully rare creativity blank spells, there will not be a tutorial this month. Hopefully we'll get that back on track. But meanwhile, I wanted to share a few fun things from my April 1950 copy of Women's Home Companion.
I posted last year on my discovery of vintage women's magazines, and since then I have acquired quite a stack - although almost without fail, if I am reading an installment of a story that I really want to finish, the "to be continued" issue is still missing from my collection! I hope someday to have a copy of each month at least from the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s, in both the Women's Home Companion and the Women's Home Journal. With 12 issues a year of each one, that might take a while to collect, and even longer to read.But as I said, I have a good start!
I have to say that there were quite a few recipes I want to try from this issue. That's unusual, since many times vintage recipes and meal ideas do not pique my interest, and the more bizarre ones are...rather too bizarre. Like this one, which amused me. Ever try Miracle Whip as dessert with fruit and jello? Me either. Ever intend to try it? Me either!
The fashions in the late 1940s and very early 1950s were lovely and feminine, with classic lines that were a middle ground between the fabric restrictions of WWII and the super narrow or full silhouette of the 1950s. This ensemble caught my eye with its color coordination. I may have to try to copy it sometime. Usually I would pair light brown with a dark brown, or with a contrasting color like blue. But I am drawn to the variations on the same neutral color. It was described as a "garden party dress" and that's a good description for it.
And do my eyes deceive me, or do I recognize the pattern in this ad? It's always exciting to come across references back in the day to something in your own personal collection. The bolero this lady is wearing has a collar and cuffs, but otherwise it looks very much like my Nancy Goes to Rio pattern, a costume designed by Helen Rose for one of the actresses in the movie. Which would make sense, since Nancy Goes to Rio was made in 1950!
My copy of the pattern.
I spotted the skirt on the mannequin first, thinking, "Hey, I know that skirt!" Then when I saw the bolero I was sure. The pattern is still on my to make list, but I do love the fabric choice shown here with a solid and a print. The bolero is shown worn with a matching dress (probably sleeveless) which would make a mix-and-match 3 piece. Such a pretty style with a touch of those unusual style elements which makes vintage fashion so special! (Especially as compared with modern "everyday" fashion, which is sad.)
Last week I posted about my navy 1950s suit, where I showed you my new jacket and matching narrow skirt. Today I'd like to show you the other half of this ensemble. How pleased I was to find that three coordinating garments can give me 4 different looks!
So this outfit is a dress with contrast that matches the jacket, which has contrast that matches the dress. That makes a nice layered look at the neck and sleeves, which I like.
I did really like the width of this skirt, and how it creates a tailored look without the super slender lines usually paired with a tailored outfit.
And of course, the jacket can be removed and the dress worn on its own.
I used this dress pattern, which had long been on my to do list but got bumped up to the top when I realized that instead of pleats at the top of the skirt, it featured my favorite inside tucks.
The neck was a little challenging but would be easier to make again now that I know what I'm doing. And the fit was not perfectly to my liking, but again, not bad enough to make me not enjoy wearing it.
But other than a few challenges with putting the bodice together, the dress was easy to make and a flattering style - I'm definitely going to sew it again at some point and see if I can tweak the fit more to my liking.
The one lesson I learned from this dress was to pay attention when a pattern says "not suitable for fabric with diagonal print or weave" - because they mean it! I didn't realize until this was cut out that it had a diagonal print, and thought I'd sew it up anyway. Well, the directions of the print is a little wonky. But thankfully the print is tiny and subtle enough that it's not super noticeable. Lesson learned!
The wool blend suiting I used for the dress doesn't drape quite as well as anticipated but it has a nice weight to it, and yet the short sleeves of the dress make me feel like it's a nice multi-seasonal garment that I can certainly get some wear out of.
It's funny...though it's not a circle skirt, I still feel so very 1950s when wearing this dress!
I've been promising myself I'll do more 1930s sewing, and this is the first of several - my first 1930s dress. I've made a few blouses and have a nice collection of patterns, but somehow never got around to sewing a dress until now.
It is a comfortable dress for wearing around the house, and I like the finished length.
It has a high waist and belt cut in one piece with the front center skirt piece, which led to some interesting sewing instructions for how to put it all together.
It has some classic 1930s elements with the unusual back belt and the sleeves, which I took from another pattern. I have not seen sleeve darts like this in any other pattern so far. And I felt kind of dumb when I left an opening on the wrong side for the zipper. Kind of awkward to zip up on the right side instead of the left!
Being a trial dress, I was anxious to find out how the skirt would fit. 1930s skirts always look so slender on impossibly proportioned sketched models. Yet I know that real women did wear these styles so I had a feeling that once it was actually sewn it would fit. It is more fitted around the hips than later styles, yet I found it not too snug for comfortable wear, so that makes me a little more confident about trying 1930s dress patterns in the future.
I'm not well supplied with 1930s shoes, especially ones suitable for pairing with a house dress, so I ended up wearing these simple leather pumps with a slightly slower heel.
This was also one of my first trials of a 1930s hairstyle. Usually I just brush my hair out and take what comes, unless I go for a more elaborate '40s style. I still am not satisfied with it since I feel it falls short of the sleek, sculpted hairstyles I've seen pictures of. And while the most common style for this era was an off-the-face style, I did find enough examples of a face-framing 1930s hairstyle to feel that that part of it is accurate at least.
So while this is not my super-favorite 1930s pattern ever, it was a fun, not too challenging trial dress for my first attempt at a 1930s dress and certainly fills an everyday dress gap in my wardrobe. More 1930s sewing to share soon!