1930s Sew-along with Norma: Sewing a flounce

Progress Report1930s Sew-along with Norma

This week I worked on the flounce for the dress.  Flounce and ruffle are words sometimes used interchangeably.  For me, a ruffle is a strip of fabric that is cut on the straight grain, gathered an sewn into the garment.  A ruffle can have trimming or use other notions to add to its effect on the overall garment.

A flounce moves much more than a ruffle will due to its cut and shape.  The pattern piece for a flounce is circular or semi-circular in shape.  It can also be slightly flared instead.  The key features of a flounce are that one part is on the straight grain and the other part is on the bias.  This creates a fluidity that a ruffle will not have.

Flounces use up a lot of fabric.  Cutting goes well on the widest piece of fabric you have.  For this flounce the center front and back pieces are on the straight grain.  The side seam goes on the bias.

It is very, very important not to rush when sewing a flounce.  Before even sewing the side seams, it is wise to baste the flounce at the side seams in a special technique I learned from Claire Schaeffer’s “Couture Sewing Techniques”.  I will show how this is done next week using a scrap of muslin and basting threads in two different colors.  This technique has proven to be very effective in that the drape of the flounce sets in beautifully before the side seams are sewn.  Gravity works it’s power to settle the fabric so that there is very little puckering when machine stitching.

It is important to also stay stitch any other part of the flounce you will hang or pin from when allowing the hang of the side seam to set in.  I did all basting and stay stitching by hand.  Again another time consuming and exceedingly slow procedure.  However, given how shifty rayon faille is this proved worthwhile.  Sewing was so easy.

In the weeks ahead I also have to begin focusing on the belt.  This is going to be another project in itself.  The belt making kits I have come with silver buckles and silver prongs.  These look very cheap and tacky against the rich green fabric for the belt.  So along with an appropriate interfacing for the belt I now need to see if anyone sells prongs and buckles that are close to the green color.  Gold is a possibility but I think it will be too obvious and detract from the way the belt and dress print are meant to blend rather than compete with each other.

Progress Photos


The flounce doesn’t look like it’s doing much after hanging on the dress form for 6 days.  This is because we’re looking at if from Center Front which is on the straight grain.  It also will need some special consideration for finishing the side seams so that the flounces move outward, rather than inward as they are doing right now.

Right now the flounce doesn’t look so great.  It will have more movement once the hem is completed and it is sewn to the bodice.


This close-up of the side seam shows just how much gravity has had its effect on the settling of the hang of the flounce.  Once the side seams are finished and pressed it will be sewn to the bodice.  To be safe I will let the completed dress hang for a few days more before trimming the hem to even it out.




6 thoughts on “1930s Sew-along with Norma: Sewing a flounce

  1. I like this idea for letting the flounce settle. I’m learning all the time from this. I look forward to seeing the details next time.
    I may be imagining this, but I think my mother had buckles and prongs covered in fabric on a dress. Does it sound mad? If it isn’t, I bet someone offers a service…
    I am planning another 1930s skirt starting next weekend – just waiting for the fabric to arrive. I need something smartish but dark coloured for my trip to London in March. I’m also going to look through my 30s fashion book for a dress.

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