sewing: 1930s dress

Yep, finished a dress. Thanks to the Vintage Pattern Lending Library, lots of eras are now available for you to sew. This is my first vintage dress attempt, but I have a couple more in the works. Some terms are unfamiliar to me, and I will keep an eye out for an old sewing manual when I go thrifting. My dress pattern is T1060.
front view

I like the overall finished effect, but my one big complaint is that putting it on and taking it off is a bit claustrophobic. I added a side zipper (not called for in the pattern instructions) and it helped, but I find I still bind around the shoulders taking it off.

You can see in my finished photo above that I did not sew the front skirt point exactly in the center. This is my fault, and not the pattern’s fault. It sewed just right in my mock-up version.

I am not going to completely step you through the pattern, but I am hitting the parts I thought were hard to muddle out of the instructions. Oh, and the instructions are pretty sparse, and do expect you to have good fore-knowledge of dress making.

Okay, to the sewing.

This is a photo of the left front basque. I have turned three of the edges and hemmed them. This is necessary as a first step, and is NOT in the directions.
left front basque

I French-seamed everywhere possible, because I do not have a serger. I ziggzagged everywhere else. I started by French-seaming the front and back yokes, 1/4″ each time.

right sides

Above, I sewed wrong sides together, 1/4″ from the edge. Then folded it right sides together, ironed it, and sewed 1/4″ from the same edge. Make sure no threads or tiny bit of fabric pokes through the sewing though.
hem

Next, you have to gather at the waist the left and right front basques. (While you are at it, also gather correspondingly on the back basque, right and left sides.)
gather

It is not entirely obvious from the pattern line drawings, but all three versions of the dress have a tie around back. This is not taken into the yardage required, and I suggest you buy at least 4 yards of material. The pattern directs you to make two ties, each a yard and half long, but that seemed just too long to me so I made each about 30-inches long.

For the finished collar, I admit I do not know what “finish with piping or picot edging” means, so I cheated and finished with the same kind of binding used on the sleeves. In the future, i’d buy a bit of lace and do that picot thing.

Here is a photo of the front yoke pinned to the right and left front basques. The left front basque otherwise remains free, available to pull tight when you tie the attached tie around back. In my mock-up I just sewed it all flat, and it worked, but not as well as leaving the left front free.

front

This is the most important photo in this post. The left front edge. None of this is clear in the instructions. The back basque, and the right front basque, are both sewed to the skirt yoke. The left front basque needs to be able to swing free, so I sewed it a half-inch above the waistline. The right tie is also sewn a half-inch above the waistline.
complicated

At this point I basted the right side front and backs together using a running stitch, but intended to come back and put in a zipper later. I did not take a photo of the zipper process.

Then I made the sleeves, as per the directions. DO NOT wait until the last step to make the sleeves. There is too much fabric in the skirt to fool around with the sleeves as a final step (same with the collar finishing).
sleeve

The skirt goes together as per the directions, and I just finished up with the zipper from the armpit to a little ways down into the skirt yoke. I used a 12″ zipper, but you could use a 14″ one, too. The finished skirt is then sewn to the top.

I had my sister help with the hemming of the skirt (let the thus-far-finished dress hang on a hanger for a couple days, so the fabric relaxes before you hem). We found that the fabric varied as much as 4-inches needing to be trimmed to make it all hang straight, so do not just think you can quickly finish by hemming the dress as-is. Get a friend to help.

Here is the top of the dress, I hope you can see how the basque is pulled to help define the waist.
sleeves and front

Here is a side view. The wind was not co-operating for any of these photos, so in reality the skirt does hang straight down.
side view

If you DO make this dress, I suggest you use some cheap fabric for a mock-up version. It is not an easy pattern to figure out (unless my instructions are super helpful!) and you will probably do something wrong your first attempt. Oh, and as I found out, there is no ease necessary anywhere in the pattern. If you find yourself with a little ease, you are sewing two wrong pieces together.

Next up, I will finished the ensemble with a matching hat and purse. Just in time for fall, I hope!

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4 thoughts on “sewing: 1930s dress”

  1. Hi

    I am just about to make this dress for a client, thank you for the detailed information.

    I would love to see the photos too, any chance of uploading them again please?

    Regards

    Louisa

    1. I moved the photos so you can see them. If they appear about 3-inches wide, I can’t figure out how to fix that. But try dragging the critical photos to your desk top and see if you can enlarge them.

      The dress needs rayon or silk, and not a stiff cotton like I used. Possibly voile or lawn.

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