1930’s Summer dress

A little while back I managed to get my hands on my first actual vintage sewing pattern. Even better; it was a 1930’s one! People looking for vintage patterns will concur that the older the pattern, the rarer, so that made me very happy. The seller wasn’t sure what size it was, and just told me it came in all the sizes listed on the back. As I suspected, when I got the pattern it was only in 1 size, but I was lucky that it was exactly right for me!

This is the pattern envelope front. The envelope is damaged along the folds, but all the pattern pieces are in a very good state (very minor short rips around the notches), and the pattern instructions as well.

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Included are a dress with either long or short sleeves, and a jacket. These were the pattern pieces.

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There’s a fabric market that comes to the town where I live, and this spring I found some lovely dress fabric coupons perfect for a 1930’s dress. I had to find 2 the same, as one wouldn’t be enough for the dress, but managed to find one in a lovely red flowered dress fabric.

First was mock-up time! I’ve had some experience with modern simplicity patterns being either too narrow in the back, or too full in the bust. That’s because I’m a bit smaller on top than the standard size, so I was ready to make some adaptations. This is what my dress front blouse piece looked liked after the small-bust adjustment. Cutting and overlapping so that the waist, shoulder and armhole seams stay the same, yet there’s less width across the bust. I looked at online tutorials for this, google is your friend!

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Fitting and tracing is not really my favorite part of sewing, but tea and blueberries are  good companions!

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I only took one progress picture after this… I really loved working with the vintage instructions. I’m also seriously impressed by how they managed to get 3 sewing steps in one picture and still made it make sense. The pattern instructions were one side of the sheet, both dress and jacket, and I didn’t once feel lost despite their compactness.

They also gave several ways of finishing the raw seams, and I decided to pink them for this project! The neckline and sleeves are finished with bias tape, and facing along the neckline split. I appreciated how all hems and facings needed to be finished by hand. With my experience with historical sewing I know how much prettier some things turn out when done by hand, and I think it’s something we’re just not used to anymore.

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As that’s the only progress picture I have, some images of the final dress!

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I was a bit too lazy to set-up the full photo equipment, so just one image of the dress on me, from a slightly odd angle… It looks better on me than on my dress form though, so to show the difference.

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Time for details!

The top of the bodice.

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Sleeve gathers.

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The back neckline has darts for shape. Tiny stitches where the facing is attached.

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The front bodice attached to the skirt. There are gathers on 2 sides, and the skirt is top stitched.

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The only difference I made to the original pattern was to use a invisible zipper, which I believe weren’t actually invented yet in the 1930’s. The instructions do show how to put a zipper in, although they don’t actually call it that yet, and they do also provide a hooks-eyes option.

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All in all this was a very enjoyable project, and I really like the dress. I have several reproduction-vintage patterns I still need to make up, and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for originals in the future!


5 thoughts on “1930’s Summer dress

  1. Ooohhhh, lovely! Amazing that the seller didn’t know the size when it says clearly on the envelope! That said, it’s a 1930’s 16, not 2017’s!
    And finishing by hand rules!

    • I was a bit surprised yes, I told her to look at the envelope, but she only looked at the size table on the back, which shows all sizes it comes in, not the one it is. Then again, it was quite cheap for a 1930’s pattern, so I don’t think she was too familiar with vintage patterns. I was really happy it fit me in any case! And yes, hand-finishing can make so much difference to the final look. And after sewing Victorian bodices, your idea of what ‘takes a long time’ changes so much that it still feels like I did this in very little time 😉

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