1930s Sew-along with Norma: Fabric Combinations and Bow Ties Upated


The fabric swatches came this past week and I enjoyed considering all the possibilities.  The coral pink suiting fabric is very soft and light.  I’ve decided this will be the fabric for the dress.  The 1930 dress I’m using as an inspiration is featured in the book “Paris Frocks at Home” published by Butterick Patterns in 1930. As participants and readers of the
1930s Sew-along with Norma  know, the project is taking on a life of its own.The original dress  has unusual ties on the bodice and sleeves of the dress.

I plan to use one of the floral fabrics for the ties.  Neither print is genuinely 1930s but to me there is a feeling about them based purely on association.  My maternal Grandmother Josie loved small floral prints and I think if there were floral prints in her fabric stash they would have been used to make something for my Mom or curtains for the kitchen.  What I have to do is cut and sew strips of the fabric into ties similar to the ones on the original design.  Then I can gauge whether the smaller or larger print will look better against the dress fabric.

I’d welcome your comments on the combinations since coordinating prints and solids is not always my strong point.I think the ties on the original design are a nice touch and unusual in their placement and construction.  For that reason I’m including close-up photos from the book in case anyone would like to try them out.

Fabric Combinations


The pink coral crepe with a rayon challis print.


The pink coral crepe with a rayon georgette print.

How many of you prefer to be as authentic as possible and how many of you prefer to work with a blending of modern and retro elements when creating an outfit?  Personally I take it as it comes because I want to enjoy the adventure.

It’s all in the details:  bow ties on the 1930s dress

Updataed 5-29-16:  Carol of bywayofthanks  has tested the instructions for making the bow ties and posted about at her blog.  She’s worked out lengths and widths for each tie that give good results.  I plan to try them out when it comes time to make the bows for my toile.

All photos are of illustrations from “Paris Frocks at Home” published by Butterick Patterns in 1930.

I do not think I will sew the bow ties the way in which the original design recommends on the pattern instruction sheet.  Putting a bias binding around a soft challis or georgette tie would, I think, stiffen it or worse cause puckering.  I plan to sew two pieces together for each bow tie.  Depending on how they look when turned to the right side I may or may not top stitch.

The unusual part of this bow tie is that one side is shorter in length than the other.  I have always thought that ties and bows need to be equal in length.  I will experiment with just how short one side of the tie should be once the toile is completed and I’ve time to focus on these smaller details.

Here are the instructions from the original Butterick pattern.  If anyone has sewn a bow tie like this please share your experiences with me.


Bow ties adorn the front bodice and sleeves of the dress.  Here you can see the instructions stating that some ties must be made shorter than others.

The bow ties are given a great deal of attention when it comes to finishing.  The edges can be picoted and turned under.  Or they can have a narrow hem.  Either way there is much handwork with sewing and basting for such a small detail.


Another suggested finish is bias binding machine stitched around all edges of the bow tie.  This seems a little too much for challis or georgette but might work on cotton.  A solid color tie with a floral or plaid binding on the edge might be very eye catching if the color combinations work well.


On the sleeve the lower part of the seam is left open about 2″ with a button or some kind of short placket used to snap the sleeve closed.  Then the ties are placed  about the middle of the sleeve with the shorter ties towards the front.  One set of ties is positioned towards the bottom while the lower one faces upwards.


The bow ties on the front bodice follow the same kinds of placement for top and bottom and shorter and longer ties.  Do you think the ties are of unequal length so that when they are knotted the ends will be even?


This close-up of the finished dress shows bias binding for a finish at the sleeves an neckline.  I plan to use the same fabric for the binding as I’m using for the dress.  I think having the bow ties in a printed fabric is enough of a contrast.

The toile is cut and I hope to start hand sewing it together this weekend.  I would so like to work on it continuously throughout this holiday weekend.  However, Summer is definitely at our doorstep so I plan to go out and greet Her by taking a walk along the shore.  If I have time I’ll post some photos here.


7 thoughts on “1930s Sew-along with Norma: Fabric Combinations and Bow Ties Upated

  1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – the ties have to look even when done up.
    I’ll vote for the rayon georgette – I like the print with the plain pink. You’ll know best though because you can see it in reality.
    Small floral prints were popular during the ’30s from time to time, but in any case for me the point is to make garments we will wear rather than worrying about whether it would meet museum or even re-enactment standards. I find it’s interesting to think about the compromises that have to be made for “wearability”.

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    • Thanks, Norma. I’m leaning towards the georgette as well. Yes, it’s true that we make compromises for wearability. One that I’ve made is to keep the sleeve slightly loose below the elbow. I think an elbow dart provides enough shape for a fitted sleeve.

      I notice that the instructions for the pattern and the 1930s instructions for draping a sleeve with elbow dart have a vertical dart added from the wrist at the back of the sleeve for about 2-3″. This gives a close fit that I don’t think is necessary for the sleeve to look good. For the sleeve to be wearable by modern standards I plan to omit the dart this time. If I use the vertical dart just described in the future I’ll be sure to add a little more width at the wrist when draping the sleeve.


  2. That’s interesting. I tend not to consider sleeves much so this information makes me think. I’m enjoying reading about the technicalities and learning from the exchanges.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I vote for the top one, the rayon challis print, I like the multiple colours in it. It looks more 1930s than the other one, which in my mind feels quite 1950s. I love those ties, they’re so unusual. The 30s was great for coming up with detailing that was different and never been seen before (or since!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Cate. I’m definitely going to make sample ties from each fabric. I’ll get to that once the toile is finished. Yes, the 1930s had some very interesting design details that were flattering for all figure types such as godets and flared insets for skirts.


  4. Pingback: Softly knotted bow embellishment | bywayofthanks

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