Sunday, July 11, 2010

Because Sometimes I Want Something Completely Different. . .

. . .so this week I made myself a 1930's dress. Going for an O Brother Where Art Thou look.

Last Fall was the Season of Dressing 1820's. I must admit, I fell away from that after Christmas, and slowly, with clothing gained from hand-me-downs and thrift shop buys, began to dress more modernly. I realized (again) I really don't like dressing modernly every day and in the summer, don't really feel like wearing a chemise + corset + petticoats + gown every day. So this summer is the Season of Dressing Vintage. I have a few gowns already made, and now this one, with plans for a few more.

This time around, my attempt at a vintage style went much better. I have always had trouble fitting dresses like this. I have been reading my circa 1970's Vouge Sewing Manual lately and came to realize a few things about fit. #1, the book said to be careful to not overfit a garment. An overfitted garment looks just as unattractive as a baggy one. I think I had that problem since I'm used to fitting something over a corset.

Also, I think hem length is really important with dresses that are not full length. In the sewing book, it said to adjust a hem til it suits you. I realized that on myself, there are only a few places on my leg where a hem is flattering. Just below knee length is NOT, and just above ankle is NOT. So freeing myself to make the hem length suitable for me was really liberating!

I'm really happy with how this dress came out. I've been trying to loose some weight and have lost a little so far, so this dress was a nice reward for that. :) I think I could definitely get used to wearing styles like this on an everyday basis. It's not as frilly and femininely romantic as, say, the 1820's or 30's, but, very comfortable and liveable! And best of all, David loves this style. I don't think I've received so many compliments from him since before we were married. ;)

Next up is a dress based on this pattern image; I think it will be a perfect summer house dress!



  1. Dear Sarah,

    You look beautiful! The color of the dress really suits you and the style looks comfortable and so flattering :)

    I agree with you on skirt lengths. I have such a hard time trying to make skirts fit my shorter frame. So far they are either at the knee or at my ankles. That is it!

    I am looking forward to next dress in your wardrobe. Thank you for sharing :)

  2. Your dress turned out very well indeed! And I LOVE your shoes!

  3. I LOVE it! You are making me excited about having this baby and making 'skinny' clothes again. It looks lovely on you, the colour is perfect, and the lace details are feminine without getting in the way of practicality. I wish I had a dress just like it. :) The fit is very good, I think. You might be right about over-fitting. Fitting over a corset and fitting over modern underthings is totally different in terms of ease. I think you nailed this one.

    I can't wait to see what else you come up with! I am working on a shirred sundress which was supposed to be a quickie but has been dragging because it's so hot in the sewing room. After 23 rows of shirring I think I'm done. Now i just need straps and a hem. It's much much simpler than your dress and I wish I could just get it done.

  4. I just love this dress! You look smashing in it. I've always liked the 40's look, but have never really seen much from the 30's and I must say it is quite a nice style.

    The shoes are perfect too :-)

    I hope you have a great week!

    Lots of love,

  5. Sarah, I agree with your husband. The dress is perfect for you! Great job!!

  6. What a pretty dress! I think this style suits you very well. This is so much nicer than almost anything you can buy today, casual and comfortable, yet so much more elegant! And it even matches your house. :)

  7. I think that dress is absolutely perfect. And I hear you about practicality -- I love dressing historically, but I want to be able to run to the store without catching everyone's eye. This dress suits the bill perfectly. And the hat!

    I always play around with hems. I haven't found my perfect yet, but I know it's there. Yours looks lovely -- did you have to change much from the pattern?

    Inspired as always,

  8. Thanks! :) One thing I do like about dresses like this is that they require so little fabric. . .this will really help me use up some of my stash. I often have a few yards left over from big-dress projects and don't know what to do with that, so this is a good way to use those odd bits of yardage up.

    Sarah, I actually found my shoes at Goodwill thrift shop. I went there looking for some pumps; I originally wanted white or cream but I came to discover I just CANNOT wear anything with a skinny heel. After going through five or six pair, I happened upon these. They have a heel, but a sturdy one and they are insanely comfortable, and all leather. . .I was complaining about having to pay $5 for them, but when I saw the original price tag sticker (sale sticker!) on the bottom of the shoes with a $68 price, I thought that after all, $5 was not too bad. :)

  9. Thanks Jenny! I'm not really a hat person, but I loved this simple little straw. . .it reminds me of the hats worn in O Brother Where Art Thou, which is one of my favorite films. :)

    As for the pattern, I used the bodice and sleeve pieces from the original pattern. I had to size them up 3 sizes (mine went to a size 10 and I needed a size 16). I had to shorten the waist 1" and shorten again between the bustline and shoulder 1". Otherwise the bodice pieces are the same as the pattern. I changed the side placket to an invisible zipper in the back, and made the sleeves a tad fuller so I had more puff at the top. For the skirt, I had about 1 yard left to work with so THAT was a fiasco. I thought I would not be able to finish the dress! I cut a straight skirt with a bit of shaping at the hip and darts at the waist but since my yardage was so skimpy, the hip measurement ended up equaling the same as my own hip, so the skirt was skin-tight to the thighs. :( At last I decided to piece the skirt. I cut some length off the bottom of the skirt and added that as pieced vertical bands down the center front and center back. I topstitched that to make it look deliberate. That gave me about 6-8" of ease through the hip which fit much better. My skirt was now too short, so I had to hem it narrowly and then add the eyelet ruffle to get it to the right length. Originally, the dress was not planned to have any trim at all! Instead of fitting the skirt with darts at the waist, I ended up doing light gathers at each side front and side back. There are smooth sections of skirt at center front/back and over each hip to keep the line a smooth, slender one (or at least as slender as I can manage :P )

  10. Oh Sarah, this is a gorgeous dress! It looks so perfectly natural on you. I am impressed at the way you pieced the skirt! I would never have noticed from the photos; it looks wonderful :) And I like the eyelet trim!

    You make a good point about the length of dresses; very often I feel that I'm enslaved to the length dictated on the pattern, with the result that a dress doesn't look as good on me as it could. I'm going to have to work on that :D

  11. Oh Sarah, the best word I've come up with for you in this dress is "fetching" :) ("fantastic", "adorable" and "radiant" were also on the list though!) I'm working on loosing baby pounds as well, so far I've lost 15; which isn't much of my over all goal, but it is certainly a start...and more exciting I've dropped 3 sizes! I've still a long way to go to being even a pattern size 16, but it's good to know others are doing this too. ;) You should make a half dozen of these dress, plus one slightly extra dolled up for Church and you would be set! Oooh, and think of the lovely little full slips you could make for underneath! I really must try this is adorable. :) Oh, and I read somewhere (and have had good luck following) that good "universal" skirt lengths are 3" above the knee (gasp!), 3" below the knee (one of my favorites!), 3" above the ankle (but they suggested this with some reserve I think, since it's a bit iffy on some body types) and ankle length/top of foot. I'm going to wrap this up, lest I become repetitive with my praise of this dress, and you in this dress. ;)

  12. Sarah,

    You look absolutely adorable! I am interested in knowing which pattern you used. I read that you altered it quite a bit, but am I missing where you mentioned the pattern? I can't wait to see your next dress. And you mentioned losing some weight, well, first let me just say that I didn't think you needed to lose any to begin with, but you do look quite slim now. Great job!

  13. Tilly, gee, thanks. :) I like your descriptive words. I'll have to pass those on to David to use. The highest praise he gives is "cute", heehee.

    That is really interesting about the dress lengths! I think this one would fall into the 3" below the knee category. It's not at the fullest part of my calves, but just above that.

    Yes, baby weight can be so hard to loose. I gained about 10 lbs per child, so now about 30 lbs heavier than I was BC. I thought it would melt away on its own, but I've been stuck right around 160 since Malachi was born. For my height and body type thats pretty heavy. I'm 5' 4" and small boned, and have to make petite adjustments a lot if I use a commerical pattern. I've been counting calories again and over the past few weeks have lost a few pounds. It is noticeable to me, but in the overall scheme of things, probably quite slight. :P I'd like to be 140 so thats my goal. Based on Calorie Count planner, it will take me til Dec. 15th to get there, but one step at a time gets the job done! My mom has been counting calories and she looks absolutely gorgeous, she is definitely my inspiration!!

    Jenni, the pattern I used was a Vintage Vogue pattern. I don't think it has a pattern number but is for a 1939 dress and coat. I do think it is out of print now but perhaps ebay or etsy could yield one? With a basic dart fitted bodice though I can think style could easily be replicated by slashing and spreading the upper bodice/chest portion to create the fullness needed for the gathers at the neck. Other than that, it is a very basic little dress!

  14. Dear Sarah,

    That dress is so lovely!! And I have to disagree -- I think it's just as femininely romantic and frilly as 1820s...just in a different way. All those little details (like the neckline on this dress) really make it look wonderfully feminine and sweet. 1930s is one of my favorite time periods for fashion.

    As soon as I saw your first photo, I thought "She looks like the lady in that movie O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU! :) Then I read your first line... So I guess you were right n the money.

    Goodness, I do wish I had more time to sew. But your posts really provide inspiration to get me going again.

    Give the boys and Big David a hello for me and Victoria.


  15. wicked cute dress! and the hat really adds to the look. double thumbs up!

  16. I just adore it!!!! You look amazing!

  17. Sarah! It *IS* beautiful! 1930s fashions are one of my favorites. What pattern did you use? or did you already mention and somehow I overlooked it? You inspire me every time I visit your blog. =)

  18. Wow - you look simply gorgeous! The 30s look *really* suits you! the colour is lovely on you too, and the hat, shoes and belt are the perfect finishing touch!

  19. Oh, and just to say - the style is really slimming - you really don't look like you need to lose weight. Reading your above comment - I'm a good five and a half inches taller than you and a similar weight - but wow, you carry it *much* better than I do! Honestly, you look great!

  20. Cheri - thanks! You know, I thought of you as I was making this dress! And now that it's done, I really need to make a 30's style apron similar to the ones you make to keep it clean! :)

    Rachel - thanks. My extra weight is really all around my hips/lower belly so gathered skirt styles really help hide my tummy bulge. I am also quite a bit bustier than I used to be. I am now of the opinion that a heavy bust really makes someone look a lot heavier than they really are. :P Another tip from my Vogue sewing book was to make sure your support garments give the proper lift to the bustline, since it said a high bustline = a youthful appearance! :D

    Anyway, I really need to loose the tummy bulge. I've had two people ask me lately when my baby is due - and I'm not pregnant! I have a natural slouching/slumping posture and if I walk around like that, I can easily pass for someone about 4 months pregnant! Thankfully the weight I've lost so far is from my tummy area. I just hope it all goes away eventually. In the meantime I'll stick to slimming styles!

  21. I have to agree whole-heartedly with the above comments, and wanted to mention that your smile is Radiant!! :D

  22. Your dress is beautiful and so are you! Well done!

  23. I have a blog award for you over at

    Stop by to check it out!

  24. HI Sarah Jane, I found your blog via Bramblewood Fashion...I just clicked on the link because this blog is called "Romantic History" I thought that was neat and decided to check it out. Your blog is so delightful!!! I especially like the 1930s dress post. Where did you find the pattern? I love pretty much everything from the 1940s and earlier. 1950s is okay...but I don't like that spacey modern look that some homes had..nope , prefer vintage..
    Anyway, I think your site is really cute, and I love how you are living for God, your family etc!!! Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  25. Heather it is great to meet you! I have to agree with you that I like pretty much everything pre-1950's. I used to like the 1950's a lot more than I do now, but really, it just seems too modern to be to be interesting. :) LOVE the 30's right now!

    The pattern is a vintage vouge pattern for a 1939 coat and dress. I think the pattern is now out of print though. :(

  26. Oh I absolutely adore this dress, and it's sooo flattering on you, too. Beautiful pick of fabric, just lovely!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!