Category Archives: 1930s

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!) 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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1930s Beach Ensemble

In August, I attended the 1920s Crane Estate Lawn Party again for it’s 3rd year. The last two years I’ve worn dresses (my 1926 sailor dress and my 1922 blouse, hat, and parasol ensemble), but this year I had hoped to go to the beach prior to the lawn party and I really wanted a more beachy ensemble than a dress. It was also on my to-do list to make a 1930s beach ensemble, so I bent the time period of the lawn party a bit and decided to make and wear a new 1930s beach ensemble despite not actually making it to the beach.

It was a super hot day, unfortunately, so I spent a lot of time huddled under an umbrella in the direct sun before we got smart and moved to the shade. Before we hunkered down to avoid the sun I did get some good pictures, though! My hair turned out very well–I’m quite pleased with it, though I can’t remember what I did to get it to look like that!

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The halter was made using Leimomi’s tutorial “How to make a 1930s style handkerchief halter top“. I used an old striped silk twill fabric remnant rather than a handkerchief, so I had to finish my edges, but I also had to piece the fabric to get the right beginning square rather than rectangle shape. I also made my square a bit bigger than a scarf’s dimensions so that my lower back would be totally covered by the halter. And I used hug snug for my tie, because it was all I had on hand that matched. The halter was pinned around my body to a comfortable point on each side.

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Front.

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Back.

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My inspiration: one of the images that Leimomi includes in her tutorial post (just like the lady in the middle, I decided to make my center front seam decorative and do a chevron–it makes me very happy!). Beach pyjamas on the Cote D’Azure, colourized postcard, 1930s

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Cutting and piecing to get the chevron.

The pants I drafted myself. They’re actually based on the same pattern I made my dotty tap pants from, adjusted to have a waistband, full length legs, and much more fullness in the width of the legs! The pants close with an invisible side zip. They are constructed from soft washed crepe-like polyester fabric that is super comfy to wear while lounging around on picnic blankets. And bonus, both of these fabrics have been in my stash for years: the stripe for about 7 or 8 years and the pants fabric for about 4 years. Free, and yay for using up stash fabrics!

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There are more very fun examples of wide leg beach pajamas on my 1930s Sportswear Pinterest page. I’m looking forward to finding other opportunities to wear these again and hopefully getting pictures of them on a beach at some point!

Support 10·38

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles broadcasted a radio adaptation of War of the Worlds. “In a 40 minute show, Welles and other actors from his Mercury Theater company recreated what was supposed to be an alien invasion from the planet Mars. Thousands of radio listeners thought it was true and a wave of mass hysteria seized New York. For many, that night was hell on earth, but for one man, it was heaven.”

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Orson Welles broadcasting War of the Worlds in 1938.

Intrigued? This is the plot of a short film titled “10·38: A Broadcasted Dream,” a project which is currently in the funding stage.

The goal is $20,000 and the campaign is about half way funded on kickstarter, but it’s all or nothing and the funding won’t go through unless the end goal is reached in the next two weeks. And if the project is fully funded and all everything gets approved, I will be designing the costumes (and I’m hoping that includes building a few of them)!

So, throw in some old time radio (which I actually do listen to, it’s fabulous!), some historic fashions from 1938 (obviously, you know I love historic clothing), and some monsters (ok, maybe I’m not such a fan of monsters!)… and you can help support the production of a film that can transport viewers to another time and place, just as old time radio broadcasts like War of the Worlds used to do. So please, if you’re at all interested this supporting this project, consider sharing it  with others and supporting it!

 

 

Cute Claremonts!

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1930s Claremonts from American Duchess

Lauren of American Duchess just keeps rolling out lovely new shoe styles! This most recent one is super cute and tempting! There have been hints that black and maroon might be coming in the future so I’m going to hold out for those. Because how awesome would these be in maroon??? But don’t let me stop you from ordering the brown ones… they’re seriously tempting, right???

Patterned Stash Additions!

If you look at my clothes, modern and historic, you might notice that I usually wear solid colors. Yes, I do mix solid colors in outfits. But there it is: I hardly ever wear patterned fabric. I want to branch out a bit, at least in my historic wardrobe, so when I saw these patterned fabrics on sale I couldn’t resist.

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So here they are: my most recent stash additions. On the left, a rayon challis with a slightly lilac tinted grey background and little teal clovers all over. On the right, a super lightweight cotton lawn with dots in shades of purple and pinkish/redish/orange. What for? I’m thinking 1930s or 40s for the challis and a 50s summer dress for the lawn. I’m pushing the envelope, thinking outside my normal eras! Of course, these projects are pretty low on the list of things to get done… so don’t expect to see them again soon. But maybe this summer the 50s dress could be a fun project. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll know I have patterned fabric in my stash, and that’s enough for me!

Bolero jackets in the 20th century: 1930-1950

Evening Ensemble designed by Elsa Schiaparelli 1938

A few posts ago, we took a look at Bolero and Zouave jackets from the mid-19th century and Bolero jackets from the 20th century: 1900-1909. While I was looking at images related to those posts I found a few amusing boleros from the mid-20th century and decided to share those with you as well!

Let’s start here: with this evening ensemble designed by Elsa Shiaparelli at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My first thought about this was something along the lines of the following: “The dress has a lovely shape. What’s the abstract embellishment on the bolero?”

Gymnast bolero designed by Elsa Schiaparelli 1938

Well, look carefully at the Bolero picture. It’s decorated with gymnasts!

Evening dress by Elsa Schiaparelli 1938

Here’s the back of the dress without the bolero over it. Such lovely lines. In the picture on the right, you can also see the texture of the dress fabric. It’s difficult to discern what it is. Looks to me like it might be a jacquard  or watermarked fabric. Do you have other ideas about what the fabric is?

This next bolero was designed by Balenciaga in the 1940s. Its style is much more traditional than Schiaparelli’s gymnast bolero. The beading and other trimming on this Balenciaga bolero is exquisite!

Balenciaga Bolero 1946-1947

The Oxford English Dictionary includes these quotes regarding boleros in the definition. They are good context for the style and use of boleros in women’s clothing during the mid-20th century.
1941    ‘R. West’ Black Lamb I. 407   The boleros the women wore over their white linen blouses.
1968    J. Ironside Fashion Alphabet 35   Bolero, a short jacket reaching to the waist, worn open over a blouse‥sleeved or sleeveless‥worn by Spanish dancers and bullfighters.
I’m including this final bolero just for fun. I can envision it with a slinky black bias-cut 1930s evening gown with a low cut back… It even has a matching belt! This bolero strongly reminds me of the style of Ginger Roger’s dresses in her videos with Fred Astaire. I’ve also included just a few fun pictures of Ginger’s fabulous dresses below so you can see her general style. Beautiful!

Evening Bolero 1933

Evening Bolero 1933

Belt to go with Bolero 1933

Top Hat 1935

Carefree 1938

Flying Down to Rio 1933