I’m dreaming of a 1930’s Christmas party

Nerdy Husband announced last month that his work’s Christmas function was to be themed 1930’s and partners were invited. Could there possibly ever be a more beautiful sentence uttered?*

I love costumes and I was quite disappointed that this year we didn’t get to go to any Halloween parties. Halloween isn’t really a big deal here in NZ (or in Australia), we didn’t even get a single trick-or-treater despite our street being full of children. I think Halloween is more of an excuse for adults to have fun dress-up parties and after an Alice and Wonderland themed 21st in 2009 and a Halloween party (evidence here and here) shortly after I was hooked and I had some really awesome costume ideas.

Then the following week Humble Husband carefully phrased that we probably wouldn’t be going since he would be out of the country on said date and having already filled a flash drive with google images for investigation I was crushed! 😦

This week I received an email from Apologetic Husband, it read, “You better warm your sewing machine up honey because you are going to the ball!” and there was an attachment (cleverly edited by me to maintain some sense of confidentiality)

So…we go to the ball! And this makes me very happy 🙂

Except that now the date has been bought forward to the end of November so there isn’t much time, but I relish a challenge and I intend to “win”, even through it isn’t actually a competition, in my mind it is and I always win the competitions in my mind 😉

Once-again-in-the-good-books Husband’s requirements are simple: Black pinstripe gangster-style suit (which may or may not be sewn by me), wing tips, Sinatra style hat and fake tommy gun.

For me the 1930s conjures up images of effortless glamour, long gloves, art deco jewellery and long strings of pearls. I’m no history buff, or fashion history buff for that matter, but I’ll do my best to keep it fairly authentic. I know I want to avoid the flapper girl, which for me is more 1920s (and I expect to see plenty of those)  and that poorly fitting costume shop look offering. I really want my dress to look like I got it in the 1930s and just happened to have it hanging in my wardrobe, I want to be that awesome.

Here are my favourite images so far:

So what is it about these dresses that makes them “1930s”? What do I need to include in my design to capture that era? After a bit of analysis here are the common design elements that I like the most and will give my dress a distinctly 1930s look:

Draped Sleeve

Panelling to the skirt and midriff


They are also all loooong – floor length or lower shin to ankle (not always the most flattering length) and I don’t really do long so I’ll have to think carefully about my hemline.

The only problem now is how I get the pattern I want. I don’t like my chances of finding something similar in a modern pattern and altering it (my usual attempt at “drafting”) or am I up for a quick and fast self-taught drafting lesson? My bookcase is full of enough books (Harriet Pepin, Natalie Bray, Winifred Aldrich to name a few) and I have been meaning to commit to learning more about pattern drafting…or do I hunt for a suitable authentic 1930s pattern and then deal with all the fun (and expense) of a vintage pattern? I’ll keep you posted 😉

Oh and shoes! How could I forget the shoes?!

Oh this is going to be such a chore 😉

*”Honey I’d like to take you shopping for a new sewing machine” springs to mind…but I cannot complain because he did take me dress dummy shopping and that’s how Scarlett came home with us.


8 thoughts on “I’m dreaming of a 1930’s Christmas party

    • Hehe, yeah, he’s a pretty versatile kind of guy 😉
      You lion costume is amazing, well done! I think the ears are my favourite bit, so cute! Costumes are so much fun, fantasy sewing is so satisfying I think.

  1. Would you like me to email you some pages from my new old pattern drafting book from 1935?
    I also have some vintage 1930’s evening gown patterns you’re welcome to borrow, but they are very tiny sizes, and grading them is a job even I couldn’t be bothered with.

    • That would be great Sandra, thank you. I’ve made a sketch, I’ll pop it up tomorrow and I’ve been thinking my way through it but some genuine 1935 drafting would be a big help. I’m excited and nervous at the same time, I hope I can do as good a job as what I am imagining in my head! 😉

    • They do, but they are hard to get their hands on here in NZ. I’ve made a sketch now anyway and I am kind of in love with it, now I just have to work out how to make it 🙂

  2. I’m thinking bias cut and some sort of heavy silk satin in slightly ‘off’ colours. Maybe a pale olivey green or pale rose pink.

    • Oh yes, they are bias cut, good point. And I was thinking a heavy silk satin too, now what colour? I look a bit ill in shades that are too light but most of my inspiration images are black and white so I can’t tell what would be authentic – this might be one area I make a concession on and just choose a colour I like 🙂

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