1930s Sew-Along with Norma: New drape


I am very happy to share a break through in my progress for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma. I’m finally “getting it” as far as developing a 1930s style is concerned. I credit that to watching the Pre-Code Hollywood films every chance I get. Seeing the clothing in motion has tuned me in on how fluid the lines were and how there wasn’t the heavy interfacings and shaping of the Post-WWII and 1950s era.

It’s been hard process these past 6 weeks but I finally let go of the need to sculpt the drape and add darts and cinching. I also had to do a very hard critique of the first toile.

Why I Changed the Silhouette

The first drape looked good on the dress form. But…

–When I tried it on reality set in.

–The dropped waist did not look becoming at all.

–When the style line or joining seam is placed right in the middle of the abdomen and crosses into the back right across the backside the effect is unflattering.

–The body looks wider and the line makes the naturally curvy part of the abdomen and backside look unattractive. Think about it. This is why the yoke on a pair of jeans is much higher up.

–When I made the first drape I had a hard time figuring out how to work with the ease tuck. This is a 3/8″ to 3/4″ tuck made from the waist up to about bustline level. I put too much ease in–about 3/4″–which accounted for those diagonal dropping areas in the back bodice. By the time I corrected that the toile was becoming too tight.

–I went through as many pattern envelope illustrations I could this week through Google Images. Nowhere did I find dresses from the late 1920s and 1930 with long vertical darts in front or back of the chemise dresses. To be true to the 1930s I had to redo the drape.

–I’ve learned that even though the illustrations show the flared portions of a dress starting at the abdomen or hip you have to think about your own shape as I’ve described here. If you’ve got curves this style has to be changed. This is what I had in mind when I made the new toile.

–I wanted a 1930s style that could look good on not just tall thin women but women of average height (5′ 4″ to 5′ 6″) and average weight (125-140 lbs.) could wear and look graceful in.

–With this in mind I decided to make the flared portion of the dress fall below the widest point on the form, about 3″ below that which places it on the upper thigh. When a woman is walking the motion will begin there and the eye will see that.

–To keep things attractive I decided to add a thin belt like the kind used for some illustrations in “Paris Frocks at Home”.

New Style Lines

I used the lace tape to mark off the location of the ease tuck and where the new level for the flared skirt will be.

I realized that since my dress form does not have a backside it was easy to think a dropped waistline ending in the middle between waist and hips would look ok.  Since the form is flat I had no way of seeing how unflattering it would look.

I feel I’ve come a long way since starting the project.  I’m more comfortable with this technique and can remember it even when I’m sleeping.  Talk about total immersion!  The new bodice was easier and faster to do.  I completed it between Thursday and Friday night.  You can see the ease tuck running parallel to the vertical grain line below the apex.

Another thing I did to get a better shape was forego using the French dart.  This dart has its center at the bustline level.  This helps maintain a better line for the chemise.

I also “got it” when it came time to use the curved ruler.  The side seam came out much better and the curve flows into the straight line below the bust.

Draping the Flared Skirt

The skirt on the previous toile was difficult for me to drape.  I just didn’t have the right touch the first time.  The fabric stretched so much on the front that it was impossible to ease into the bodice of the dress.  Also I did not add the extra fabric for the ease tuck.

The solution this time was to handle it more carefully and use more pins while draping.  Since this is a flared skirt I didn’t add an ease tuck all the way down.  I took a pinch of fabric that was 3/8″ at the upper part of the skirt and tapered it to nothing.  Then when I took the drape apart I measured the bottom of the bodice and the skirt to ensure there wasn’t a big difference in the width of each.

The belt makes the entire dress come together.  Also there is no pulling at the side seams.  When the ease tucks are released there will be more room.

The flares on this dress have less width than the previous one because I don’t want the skirt pattern to need 60″ wide fabric.  I want to be able to use 45″ if necessary and not worry about having to cut the skirt shorter.  It wouldn’t look very 1930s if the length from waist to hem was less than 27-28″.

Sleeveless with a Pretty Collar

I still want this dress to be sleeveless but would like a feminine collar for it.  This past week Naomi at Spare Room Style inspired me with her sweet little capelet that has a blue velvet bow at the collar.  I decided to go through my books for draping ideas for capelet collars.

This pattern is from “Dress Cutting” by Margaret C. Ralston.  I’m thinking of a collar that will look something like this.  Or I will make the capelet separate so that the dress can have more versatility.  I need to play around with the muslin and see what develops.

Next Step

None of my draping books mentioning using the arm with the dress form when draping a cape, capelet or capelet collar.  I think this might be necessary so that the shape of the curve and the amount of fabric needed for movement can be assessed correctly.

I hope to make some progress next week but may not be able to post since I have a family get-together next Saturday.  I’m also running low on muslin so I’ll definitely get an order in for that.

Here’s a big thank you for all the encouragement and sustained interest you’ve been providing.  It does make a difference and I hope you’re learning from me as much as I’m learning from this project.




6 thoughts on “1930s Sew-Along with Norma: New drape

  1. That was really useful – I hadn’t thought about joining seams much but you are so right. I’ve been looking at the seams in the 1930s fashion book I bought and joining seams vary a lot. They obviously thought a lot about seams – clothes sometimes have a very complicated array of them.
    Your new idea looks good. I’m looking forward to seeing it develop.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.