A Dramatic 1933 Evening Gown

A few years ago, I made a 1930s evening gown that was briefly used in the filming of a short film. After being lightly used, the dress was returned to me, where it sat in my closet for a year or two. I wore it once for an event last year but it was rather voluminous on me as I had made it to fit someone a little larger in the ribcage and bust. That, combined with the fact that the design and style had been suited to a particular purpose for the film but wasn’t something I was terribly keen on for my own use, meant that I was entirely willing to rework it a bit for a 1930s themed anniversary party I attended earlier this year.

The inspiration for the original dress was this rather modern looking 1930s dress. It worked well for the original purpose, but I wanted something more dramatic for myself. I love the black and white pictures of 1930s evening gowns (like these: an image dated 1931 and Ginger Rogers in the 1930s) and wanted something with that feel. I also noticed that a lot of the dramatic 1930s dresses I like (a 1933 dress at the V and A, a dramatic 1930s dress with burgundy velvet accents, another 1930s dress that uses velvet as an accent) use velvet for contrast, particularly for straps and hanging sections in the back.

I had extra burgundy velvet left over from my 1832 dress and decided to use some of that to update the existing navy dress. I also did a few alterations, taking in the bust and lowering the center back. In color, it looks like this.

I was particularly trying to imitate the style of the dress and the pose in the image below, which is from Vogue in 1933 (photo by George Hoyningen-Huene and dress by Augusta Bernard).

The background in my photo isn’t quite as dramatic, but I think the idea is there. I’m more pleased with the photo in black and white than I am with it in color.

After comparing my pictures to my inspiration I realize how much more drama is possible with a mix of fabrics that appear dark and light in the photos. (However, discussing how colors appear dark or light in black and white images is a whole side topic…) The point is: contrast! Maybe next time I can do better.

After all that, are you wondering what the front of the dress looks like in its re-worked state? I was a little stumped about how to transition to the velvet straps in front and took inspiration from this purple dress for the horizontal bands.

It’s not my favorite dress and it doesn’t fit perfectly (being made for someone else and all), but it was fun to wear and easy to dance in (foxtrots, one steps, waltzes, and Charlestons!) . It accessorized well with my black American Duchess Seabury shoes and new-to-me sparkle dangle earrings. I feel I did my best with the materials I had on hand and the existing dress, so I think it’s a win overall.









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