1930s patterns are weird.

Really, they are.

I’m hoping to have a slinky 1930s dress done by January 16th as well as finishing my 1890s dress. A new era of research that I don’t have time for! This isn’t really historical sewing anymore, this is downright vintage/modern, so I don’t know much about it (undergarments? closures?). Even though there should be more information about the 1930s than the 1580s, it’s not on the historical costume blogs I follow!

Anyways, I ended up buying a vintage 1930s pattern: Excella 3742

The capelet is so silly, but I think it brings across the 1930s idea well, since a lot of 1930s dresses are indistinguishable from modern ones.

The capelet is so silly, but I think it brings across the 1930s idea well, since a lot of 1930s dresses are indistinguishable from modern ones.

It does not come with a lot of instructions. In fact, all of them are on the envelope:

1 pattern envelope

This envelope is 9 inches long. 1930s home sewers must have had excellent eyesight.


And here’s what one of those pattern pieces look like:

3 pattern piece

HAHAHAH which way is up?!?

Whatnapple is confused

Yes, information is indicated by the size of the circle on the pattern.

However, the internet to the rescue! Thank you to the New Vintage Lady for writing a detailed description of how to read this kind of wonky pattern.

I’m don’t think this pattern has even been used. It really has held up quite well. Aside from a bit more creasing, it doesn’t feel any different than a modern tissue paper pattern.

And let’s not even talk about instructions. My favorite part is the “description” of how to sew the closure.

“Finish for closing.”

Thanks. That was real helpful.

First things first, I’m tracing all the pieces onto another piece of paper which I can hack away and cut into as I please. This pattern is a size 14, which is bust-32 and hips 35. I am a bit larger than that, so this is going to need to be graded up. It is also shoulder-to-floor length 55, so I need to lose about 6 inches off the length.

I’ve got some beautiful green Italian silk charmeuse from the garment district in LA. I officially dub this the Slytherin 1930s gown! Swoooooon. Also, I bought some ugly as hell blue and white polka dot poly charmeuse from Joann to use for a mockup so I can practice with slinky things on the bias (I suppose it can become pj pants or corset linings later).

Yes, I will be sewing silk charmeuse on the bias.

Tim Gunn, you are right to be scared. I’m rather scared myself.

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5 Responses to 1930s patterns are weird.

  1. Nessa says:

    Yes, they seemed to take some of this knowledge for granted in the 30s… which is also the reason why my 1932 summer dress pattern is still lying around uncut. And good luck on the silk charmeuse. I just recovered from an ugly bout of sewing with taffeta for the first time. But I’m sure you’ll do grand with it. :=

    • avantgarbe says:

      Thanks! This will definitely be an interesting experiment. It’s really from what I’m used to (aka up through victorian) where you want to line all the things. Line the lining! Interline the front! Double linen underlining! I asked about lining this dress on HSF, and universally everyone agreed to leave off the lining, and wear a slip.

      • Nessa says:

        Line the lining. 😀 Hehe.
        Well, yes, they started doing away with all the lining some time around the 1920s. But that isn’t my era, so I’m not entirely sure. At least my dress pattern says “Cut one of everything.” No lining mentioned…

  2. Joan Walton says:

    I have 3 1930s dresses (actual vintage) if you ever want to take a look at them. ~ joan

    • avantgarbe says:

      That would be awesome! Especially since the mockup of the top I just cut out is utterly absurd and I have no idea what it’s even supposed to be. My email is mollyeweiss at gmail, let me know when works for you!

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