1930s Sew-along with Norma: First toile of bodice


The dress I’m making for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma continues to progress.  The bodice was cut out using a lightweight muslin.  I basted in the grain lines by hand and also sewed the darts the same way.  The shoulders and side seams were pinned by lapping the back seam allowance over the front.  This is a preliminary to see how the details look.  There are some corrections that are very obvious but overall, it’s ok.  I’m very pleased about that because this was my very first time to use a vintage draping system.

Corrections and Changes to be made

There are more photos behind the cut along with my observations.


It was very difficult to pull the bodice over the dress form even when the shoulders were collapsed.  It would not go on, I know, if a head was attached to the dress form.  Clearly this is a big problem.  Even when I unpinned the left side seam to the hip it was difficult.

One thing that was good is how nice the fit is in the back.  The neckline, though, is just a tad bit too high.  I was getting a clue as to what was wrong and where the correction was needed.  Please note that the armholes and neckline have seam allowances in this first photo.

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1930’s skirt pleats and details

Carol of “By Way of Thanks” has provided great scans of false pleats from her copy of “Weldon’s Encyclopaedia of Needlework Illustrated.” These photos and descriptions tie in with the skirt Norma is making as part of the 1930s Sew-along with Norma of SheSewsYouKnow.


1930's skirts

Frissell, Toni, photographer. [Five Women Holding Hands and Walking Together in a Row, Sky in Background]. [August, 1935] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2013650613. (Accessed March 31, 2016.)

Here are a couple of scans of pleat treatments from the book Weldon’s Encyclopaedia of Needlework Illustrated. It’s undated but I think it might be from about 1935. The price was under $20 with shipping.  I found my copy at http://www.amazon.co.uk/.

The False Pleat looks very interesting. I will have to play around with the idea using paper. It looks like it could be similar to EmilyAnn’s Kickpleat shown in the last photo on her post at https://retroglam.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/secretary-blouse-and-sheath-skirt-skirt-toile-version-1/. In this case, “the Kickpleat runs the entire length of the skirt from waistline to hem”. I’m not sure how it would work out for a center front or side front walking ease pleat yet. In the drawing below a line of stitching holds the top of…

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1930s Sew-along with Norma: Transferring the Drape Pt. 2


This posting completes the series Transferring the Drape.  It is part of the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.  My dress has evolved from a fabric drape into a flat paper pattern.

The pattern paper is pressed before the drape is pinned to it.  Then the rulers and patternmaking tracing wheel is used.  After transferring the front and back bodice to paper, the measurement of the shoulder lines is taken.  The back shoulder line should always be 1/2″ longer than the front.  For a sleeveless garment 1/4-3/8″ is good.  The drape worked out well in this area.  The front was 3 3/8″ and the back was 3 3/4″.

Transferring the drape to paper


1. I find that using the ruler guarantees an even line gets transferred to the paper.  It also stops the fabric from moving around.  The shallow curved ruler is good for transferring the lines of the upper part of the armhole.  I also used it to contour the hip curve at the side seams.


2. The Fashion Design Ruler is better used on the lower part of the armhole.  It also has a curve that can be used at the hip line.  Which ruler to use will depend on your preference and which rulers you feel comfortable handling.


3.  The clear plastic ruler can be used for drawing straight lines that aren’t too long.  For the skirt I used my 24″ L-square ruler.  But for the bodice along the shoulder seam and dart legs the clear plastic ruler was good.

When all lines are transferred to the paper, the drape is removed.  The impressions from the tracing are marked in using a pencil.  I recommend using a ruler along the lines to keep everything even and smooth.

The paper pattern

 The impressions of the tracing wheel  were not something I could photograph.  I’m also sorry the pencil lines did not photograph well either.  But I think seeing the finished shape for the pattenrs gives you an idea of how the process turned out.

drapetopaper21_zpse4oolo5fFront bodice and skirt of the dress.

 drapetopaper22_zpsxfixjicuBack bodice and skirt of the dress.

The bodices and skirts were pinned together at the side seams and measured to make sure they are each the same length.  Later I will review the paper pattern again to make sure the neckline curve is smooth at the shoulder line.  I will also look at the armhole curve.

So there you have it.  From all that fabric and pins to a paper pattern.  The next challenge is making the toile and checking the fit.  I will pick up on that soon.  I have a check-up next Saturday and since I go to a clinic I’ve no idea if I’ll have time when I get home to cut the muslin.  So stay tuned until then.  I’ll post any interesting 1930s fashion ads I find during the meantime.

Comparison to the original pattern pieces this style takes inspiration from






1930s Sew-along with Norma: Transfering the Drape, Pt. 1


This posting is part of the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.  Since there are so many photos I’ve created a few postings by category.  This one presents how I prepared to transfer the completed drape to paper.



  1. The drape was removed from the dress form and any corrections were made to the marking.  I then thread traced the new lines.  Each piece was lightly steam pressed.



2.  I then prepared a list of the key body measurements that were marked off on the drape:  Chest, Bust, Waist and Hip.  These are the measurements taken without any style ease.  Then I used a tape measure to measure the amount of width was at each point on front and back bodices.  I added the total of each together.  I now had calculations for how wide the garment was at Chest, Bust, Waist and Hip.  But since these amounts represented only 1/2 the total circumference of the form, I multipled each one by two.

2″ of style ease is good for a closely fitted garment and sometimes 3″ is better.  After subtracting the body measurements from the measurements I obtained from the drape I had a better idea of which areas would present a fitting problem.  For example:

Body measurement at the hip for the size 4 form=36″
Measurement at the hipline of the drape on bodice front and back bodice=9 1//2″+9″
for a total of 18 1/2″ on the drape.
Multiplied by 2=37″ at the hip
37″ (hip line of the drape)-36″ (hipline body measurement)=1″ of ease

You can see that the hip will need some adjustment to provide more room for sitting and moving.  I did not change anything at this point.  I plan to cut 2″wide seam allowances at the side seams so I can adjust the fit when I make the toile.


3.  I get all my rulers ready because it’s good to use a variety when transferring the drape to paper.  I did not show a photo of the patternmaking paper but I highly recommend getting professional quality patternmaking paper.  This is the kind with blue dots that form perfect squares, lines and right angles.  The quality of the paper is such that it’s easy to work with when folding for darts before cutting.

Rulers, patternmaking paper, scissors   and pins should be the best you can afford to buy.  I do not recommend using brown wrapping paper for patternmaking.  Its too stiff and hard to work with.



4.  Have very sharp pencils ready.  A special tracing wheel is used that has very, very pointy edges.  Mine is about 20 years old and is called a Superior Tracing Wheel.  It has to be this sharp because the markings have to be discernible enough for you to see on the paper so you can mark them in pencil.



Coffee Break: Fall 1930 Fashions

During my lunch hour I was researching material for my family history blog.  As I went through the issues of “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle” for 1930, I saw these ads for fashions that were available at Wannamakers, a department store that was located in Manhattan.

I thought it would be enjoyable, and maybe inspirational, if I post ads like this when I come across them.  Hope you all enjoy.

I found the ad for the bra and girdle of great interest because the shape reminds me of how my drape turned out.







What strikes me is the contrast between the girdle and the outer garments.  They look roomy and comfortable.  Yet underneath it all, women were still subjected to boning, elastic and lacing.




“The Brooklyn Daily Eagle”
Brooklyn, NY
Tuesday, October 7, 1930
Page 9
From the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Newsstand
URL for this page:  http://bklyn.newspapers.com/image/57409933/?terms=paris%2Bfashions






1930s Sew-Along with Norma: The finished drape of my dress

Finished Drape for 1930s Sew-along with Norma.

Now that I’ve been through the process of using the method of draping presented in “Draping & Designing With Scissors and Cloth 1930s” by Sandra Ericson I can say that I like it.  It’s much simpler than the one I learned at French Fashion Academy.  Yet I think that learning a more difficult system made it possible for me to work my way through the gaps in Ericson’s book.



One last detail to work on


The back of the skirt lies smooth against the bodice.


But…the front is slightly bigger than the bodice curve.  I decided to put more pins and steam the fabric after spritzing it with water.  I plan to do this a few more times.  I figure if a sleeve cap can be steamed into shape and shrink a little so it fits the same can be done here.

Next Steps

The hem has settled even more and needs to be evened out.  After this everything is unpinned.  After any changes are thread traced, the drape is lightly pressed and all markings transferred to patternmaking paper.  I’ll show an overview of how that is done in the next posting next week.

1930s Sew-along with Norma: Draping the Skirt Back


Close-up of illustration for draping a flared bias skirt without side seams. The Plumb Line is marked by the solid line at the side seam. From “Draping & Designing With Scissors and Cloth 1930s” by Sandra Ericson.

This skirt is part of a dress I’m making for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.

Draping the back of the skirt introduced me to a concept called “The Plumb Line” as a way to mark side seams after draping fronts and backs of skirts or bodices. This proved very useful since the skirt seams were on the bias. After allowing the grain to settle over 2-3 days I noticed that the hem line “grew” more uneven and the side seam I’d marked with pins also slanted a little to the front.

In the close-up of the illustration of a bias skirt drape, the grain line marked before draping is a broken line. At the side seam there is a solid line with a little circle at the bottom. This is a tape measure prepared to measure the Plumb Line. I’ll explain how this is done as the photos of the drape present the process. It will make more sense once you see it in place.

Draping the back went better than the front because I knew where I wanted the flares. I recommend marking these places with pins on the form. This preparation helps you better assess the placement of each flare. If I had done this I would have saved time fussing with the flares while I was draping. When it came to the depth of the flare I went by eye and tried to create the same arrangement that was in the front. I judged by viewing the flares from the side as each one was draped.

Draping the back skirt and finding the Plumb Line

1. 3″ in from the lengthwise grain a straight line is drawn in tailor’s chalk along the full length of the fabric. This line is pinned to the CB line on the form. The fabric is smoothed towards the side seam with pins placed along the waist or hip or wherever the skirt will be sewn.

2. At the point where a flare is wanted, make a clip, put a pin in the form. While holding the fabric, move it downward so that the flare forms. Pin the fabric again. It will begin to move lower and lower as more clips are made and flares created. I found that 2-3 flares between on each side between CF-Side and CB to Side were enough.

3. The first flare is formed.
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