1930s Sew-along with Norma: Quick update

Greetings.  How is everyone?  It’s been hot and humid here in Brooklyn.  Not the best weather to sew.  I put the sleeve with vertical elbow dart in.  The results were exactly the same as they were when I drafted the sleeve using Margaret Ralston’s method.  The sleeve, drafted using the French Fashion Academy drafting system, had exactly the same results:  The sleeve swings too far to the front of the dress.

Ralston recommends putting the underarm seam 3/4″ to the front.  As I look at the sleeve again it seems to me that I should try putting the seam 3/4″ to the back of the bodice side seam.  That may get the balance needed for the sleeve to hang just right.

The rest of the dress pattern and toile are completed except for one detail.  I am going to make a needed departure from 1930s techniques.  Now that I have a sleeve in the dress it is not easy to put on.  Even with a slot seam at center back, dressing would be difficult once both sleeves are in the dress.  I could make the neckline wider but then there is my concerns that the V-neckline will look sloppy.  I also do not like to lower a neckline too far below the collar bone in the back.  This has the effect of making the neckline look longer which is flattering if you have a long graceful neckline.  It is also important to be nicely filled out on the shoulders.  If you’re skinny or have prominent collar bones this is not an attractive neckline treatment.  I always think showing less is better in this area for many women.

I have never really liked the side zippers and snap plackets on vintage clothing.  The side seams on fitted clothing goes bias and often this seam sticks out when a zipper is inserted there unless the dress includes a belt.  For my dress, it would be silly to put a zipper into such a loose dress at the side seam.  Also the side seam from underarm to below the bust does taper slightly.

I’m going to have to put a center back seam and use a 22-24″ modern nylon zipper.  I never appreciated a center back zipper until I had to wiggle in and out of the toile last night.  I’m no longer able to wear a size 4 personally but I do use this for practice and creating a portfolio.  At some point I’ll start my own custom made clothing again but my focus is on learning right now.  Having a different size and figure type to work with helps me learn about styles I wouldn’t use for my own figure.

The toile looks very good with a belt but once the dress is on the fullness moves around a lot.  This could result in the dress looking uneven in areas as the fabric moves around.  I am thinking of putting elastic in a casing to very slightly control the fullness at the waist.  In this way when the belt is used there will already be some control so the dress looks neat no matter how much you sit or move.

So please stay tuned.  We’re almost there.  I can really feel the evolution of this dress and hope you do, too.  I realize how many wonderful products and techniques that have developed throughout the decades since the style that inspired this dress was made.  We no longer let the clothing wear us.  Clothing has to move with us and agree with us.  For that I’m just as grateful as the fact that as I was coming of age women began to accept their bodies for the way they were.  The idea of being constrained by girdles and long line bras was on the way out.  Having enjoyed this freedom of movement and ease of getting into and out of clothes so easily I never gave it a thought until I struggled with getting in and out of the toile last night.

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5 thoughts on “1930s Sew-along with Norma: Quick update

  1. We have hot weather here now – probably not by your standards though.
    My 1930s dress has a side placket with snaps. I’ve never been 100% happy with it – it’s very hard to fasten and doesn’t look quite right without a belt. It’s very interesting that you have found the same problem – I thought it was a question of fit because the linen skirt placket worked so well.
    This 1930s sewing has revealed a lot of interesting factors that are bound to improve my modern sewing.

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    • Your skirt placket is very good. I think these variations occur because of fabrics, too. My Donna 1/2 circle skirt has a size zipper that looks too noticeable in the side seam. Perhaps the next time a make a 1950s style circle skirt I’ll use your 1930s placket for the side closure. This is where we get a bigger repertoire of skills and techniques to use. I’ve also learned that no matter how glamorous a sketch or photo looks one has to be realistic and consider the actual person and body shape they are sewing for. Adjustments and changes may be necessary but in the end what we really want is to have something attractive and comfortable.

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