I think that it’s obvious that I love vintage styles. A little while ago I was browsing through the vintage pdf patterns at EvaDress and found this interesting dinner dress from the year 1938. It is originally from McCall’s and it has a lot of gorgeous vintage details. You can select between long and two different kinds of short sleeves, of which the long ones have some interesting wrist details. The bodice has a deep v-neck and feminine gathers at the shoulders and at the bust. The skirt has both short and long options with a slim silhuette.
Sizing and materials
The pattern comes in two size ranges and I went with the smaller one (sizes 14 to 18 that corresponded bust circumferences of 32″ to 36″). Based on the bust measurements I went with the size 16 which was a good choice. I was a bit worried for a while since at first I did not realise that the seam allowance was 3/8″ and not 5/8″ which is more common. This made the skirt fit pretty tightly, but I was lucky in the sense that I only had to let out the center front seam to fix the problem.
This dress has been designed for drapey fabrics. You could use different kinds of crepes, satins or velvets. I used moss green viscose crepe fabric with a tiny black check pattern on it that I have had in my stash for something like two years. It is a bit wintery, but I think suits the style of the dress nicely. Due to the dark colour I also chose to make the version with long sleeves, so that this dress can be worn in the autumn and winter seasons. I did not calculate the amount of fabric that I ended up using, but the pattern suggest about 3,5 meters for the version I made and the meterage sounds pretty right to me.
Sewing and the instructions
The pattern comes with the original 1930s instructions which are not very detailed. This means that you will have to figure out the technical details. If you have done dresses before, figuring out how to do things is not very hard.
After the sleeves were fastened, it was pretty obvious that I had too much extra fabric in the bust area. I did not touch the shoulder gathers, but I unraveled the horizontal bust seam from the sides and removed some of the gathers. Then I cut away the excess fabric from the side seams. I also took in from the front sleeve seam. Luckily there was so much fabric in the sleeves that I did not have to remove the sleeve completely.
I was a bit afraid of the sleeve finishing but finally it wasn’t too difficult. I must admit that I did some things a bit differently from the instructions, but I don’t see why I should be bothered by it as long as I like the outcome. What I did was that I sewed the bias strip on to the right side, then folded it to the wrong side and finished the binding by hand. I did not bother with the mitered corners at the end of the slit since those are not visible from the outside.
Although I made the shorter version of the dress the hem still reached down to my mid-calves. This together with my narrow hips and the shoulder details made the dress a bit top heavy. I decided to cut the dress so that the hem sat right below my knees. This means that the dress has a bit more 1940s than 1930s look, which is not a problem for me.
The finished 1930s dress
I wasn’t really sure how I felt about this dress but after seeing these images I think I finally think that I like how it turned out. The sleeves are a bit too long and I might have to shorten them at some point but after spending so much time hemming them, I don’t want to unravel everything. Perhaps I could turn the cuffs upwards?
The skirt that is made of several sections drapes beautifully. I think that my figure might benefit from a horizontal seam at the waist but even like this it looks nice. The back bodice has gathers to add a bit of shape and to allow for movement.
This dress has a obvious vintage look and I think that it sort of requires the heels and a vintage-y hairstyle. I asked my hairdresser to cut me a middy-cut that was popular from the 1930s all the way to the 50s. This hairstyle is perfect for those vintage curls although no one can claim that it is low maintenance style! However, my natural hair is so fine that in order for it to look presentable I need a lot of styling anyway.
I can recommend this 1930s dress pattern for advanced garment makers that can deal with the not-so-detailed instructions. There aren’t many vintage patterns available in pdf-format which makes this pattern one of the rare ones. As I live in Finland the postage costs from US or UK can double the prize of vintage paper patterns and I use my money much rather for fabric than for the delivery costs.
About the location…
Today, we visited the Winter Garden in Helsinki. It has been built in 1873 and the beautiful greenhouses full of exotic plants have made it one of my favourite places to visit. They host over 200 different plants and the oldest of them is over 100 years old! The garden is maintained by the city of Helsinki and visiting it doesn’t cost anything. During the summer there is a small café there but you are always allowed to bring your own picnic lunch to eat on the tables and chairs that are provided for visitors.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and thanks for visiting! Happy sewing!