Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Homemade 1930's Underthings

Ever since our really-super-hot event in June I have felt a little burned out on making 1860's things. I do have a few shirts in various stages of completion for a couple friends but I haven't done much else to build up our kits. I may want to make Anne a new dress before our event in August but that is mainly because I think the skirt on her new dress came out a little skimpy and a fuller skirt would look better. But that's just in the maybe-possibly-someday-if-I-have-time-if-I-feel-like-it stage.

I've been really digging into family ancestry lately, partly because I do so in fits and starts whenever I have time and inclination and partly because I am determined to really, finally at last find a record of a Civil War soldier in own bloodline and find out what their story is. (And so far my research has proved at least several Union soldiers who were great-great-great-great uncles and 1 who was a Confederate, who deserted, but NO RECORD of a direct ancestor yet!) 

Anyway, while researching my great-grandmothers line in West Virginia I became very invested in her life story. I've talked about my great grandma on my blog a little bit in the past. She came from a not well-to-do family and her husband, his family, all their parents, grandparents and great grandparents and on as far back as I can trace all were from the same general area of West Virginia (or Virginia, prior to 1863). I have happy memories of this little, spunky, kind looking lady who made exquisite things and helped spur me down the path of fiber arts. She married the love of her life, my great-grandfather, on August 8, 1931 in Ripley, West Virginia. My grandma was born not long after. 
My great grandparents

I really wanted to make a 1930's outfit representative of something my great grandma may have worn in the 30's. I have made a few 30's dresses in the past but I wanted to do a better job this time; to make something that really was real, if that makes sense. Something my great grandma may have made by hand or on her own sewing machine and put on for day to day wear around the house as a woman of modest means in West Virginia. 

My grandma, sometime around 1944
To start properly, of course, you need the right under layers! I pulled out my book Women's Wear of the 1920s by Ruth Countryman and looked at the patterns they had for under things. While most of the under things in this book are from the mid 20's, there are a few from the very late 20's and 1930. I decided to use their pattern for the 1930 panties and try the 1929 darted cup bra. The bra was a flop (ok, yeah, bad pun) 😂 so I looked online at original 1930's brassieres and original patterns from the 30's showing how a homemade bra would have been cut and sewn. In the end, I chose to make a two piece cup like this original:

I made both garments from light pink, lightweight cotton from Wal Mart that is actually surprisingly nice in quality. It's not as fine as true voile or lawn, but it still washes very nicely and is smooth and soft and doesn't create much bulk. 

I made the brassier fronts and back in two layers, bound the edges with narrow binding and made narrow shoulder straps as an extension of the binding. I liked how it looked, being plain, but originals often seem to be decorated at least a little with lace. At the encouragement of a friend who put up with my anxious musings upon the subject (much praise for their patience!) I added lace and ribbon to decorate the top and bottom. I was so happy with the fairly good fit. 

Next I tackled mocking up and making the 1930 panties from Women's Wear of the 1920's. These weren't difficult at all and I got them made in a day. Each leg is cut in one piece and the waist edge is narrowly bound. A hook and eye (probably actually vintage to the 1930s or before!) closes the back placket opening. 

Finally, I needed a slip to go under the thin cotton calico my dress would be made of. I didn't want to use the same cotton as the other under things as a slip needs to be able to, well, slip, over the bottom layers and have the dress easily slip on overtop. I ended up finding a mystery fabric at Wal Mart for 50 cents a yard that had a nice slippery feel and was light enough to not add much bulk. So, the fiber is almost certainly not historically accurate but it will result in me being able to wear all these things together without the layers catching on each other and bunching up.

The slip is based on simple ones seen on original pattern covers from the 1930s. While I saw a lot of bias slips with seams on the torso and waist and hips, I chose to go with a one piece slip that hangs down straight from the neckline, with a little shaping to make it slightly A-line. It is lightly fitted with darts at the side bust. 

I aged a few photos in photoshop to make them look old-timey. 😉 I still need to figure out a good 1930s hairstyle for medium length hair. ..I never do my hair at all so any sort of style is challenging for me! 😂


1 comment:

  1. A very intriguing post! I have been ruminating on sewing my own bras, and made an attempt that was okay. Do you mind sharing the links to where you got your research? Finding good information is usually my shortcoming.


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