1930s Dress: Construction Update

Here is a quick*  “where I am up to” on the 1930s dress: First up on Saturday morning I went fabric shopping to my new favourite fabric mecca The Fabric Warehouse. They have some amazing fabric in right now, great quality and good prices too. I chose a really nice weighted satin in a lilac and a so-close-we’ll-call-it-the-same-colour sheer for the sleeves. I got 4.5 meters which is probably waaay to much but I am envisioning a matching clutch, time permitting.

And then I began to cut 🙂

To keep my neck edge in check this time I decided to use my newest sewing investment, a roll of Stay-Tape. I probably could have just stay-stitched the edges but I want to give this dress a more lasting finish and besides, I like trying new sewing techniques.

There aren’t really a lot of images that help you to understand where exactly to apply the stay tape so I ran it along the edge of the fabric, within the seam allowance and stitched it down 10mm from the edge (I am using 15mm seam allowance). I did this to the open back as well. I was really happy with the result and continued on with my construction.

Husband quite likes the idea of Stay-Tape, he walked around all weekend telling things to, “Stay! Because the tape says so!”

Then I realised I should probably draft myself a sleeve pattern 😉 …

…and test it out…

Initially I finished the edge of the sleeve with a narrow hem but it looked terrible. So I glanced at my overlocker…thinking about attempting a 3-thread rolled hem edge finish. I’ve never had much luck with it in the past, the last time I tried the chain kept falling off the fabric and it ended in disaster. Hmmm, so I got out my threading cheat sheet and adjusted the appropriate dials for a quick test…success! But I decided to get Nerdy Husband’s opinion as well:

Me: “This looks terrible doesn’t it?” *holds up ugly hemmed sleeve.

*Nerdy Husband stares at the sleeve for a full five minutes trying to gauge the correct answer, it’s dangerous territory, he knows I am after either agreement or reassurance….nervously he responds: “Yes (?)”

Me: “But this looks better, aye?” *holds up test swatch of rolled hem.

*Relief floods Nerdy Husbands face, he’s on to the game now, “Infinitely!”  *jabs finger at ugly hemmed sleeve, “That one looks like it came from K-Mart”, a clever comparison, three-thread rolled hem wins and so does Nerdy Husband.

That's better!

Then I basted it to the shoulder…

I’ve chosen to underline the upper part of the bodice with my left over lilac cotton and I am under-stitching all the edges I can get to so that it stays out of sight. To keep the finish really clean I’m using my new favourite bodice assembly technique that I picked up in the instructions while making my Rooibos Birthday Dress. Basically, through some clever sewing science and trickery, it allows you join up the shoulders, neck and armholes all inside out with no visible seams. I don’t think it’s right to scan in the Colette instructions so I’ll show you how I did it with photos.


Great! After you join your shoulder seams lay the self fabric onto the lining with right sides facing and sew all around the inner neckline edge. Then turn it through the neck hole so that you are looking at the correct side of the fabric. See below:

Now begin to roll one armhole edge towards the other. (Click any images to make them bigger)

When you get close to the opposite armhole you flip the self fabric towards you, on top of the rolled part. Next flip the lining part towards you but underneath the rolled part so that the armholes line up.

Now you can pin and stitch the armhole. To prevent accidentally catching any of the fabric that is rolled up inside I put a second line of pins outside my seam allowance.

Now you can turn it through! Reach inside and carefully pull the rolled fabric out.

Start pulling...

...keep going...

...keep going...

Ta dah!

Ok, not really, you have to do the other side as well, I cheated and did it already. But you’re a pro now so just follow the steps above again, for the opposite side.

It’s about now that I remembered that I forgot to buy the zipper! Oh, well, that means another trip to fabric heaven on Sunday, bugger 😉

After that little bit of cleverness I attached the centre front diamond panel, and then: DISASTER!

There was this little bit of thread peaking up at the top of the triangle so I grabbed it to pull it out…except that I grabbed the most infinitesimal bit of fabric as well and put a huge pull right up the left hand front piece, argh!

It’s hard to see but IT’S THERE!

It was the stupidest thing and I was so mad at myself. I stared at it hoping it would disappear, hoping I’d just fallen asleep at my sewing machine and it was all a bad dream but it wasn’t, so I raged away at myself for a bit longer. Nerdy Husband came in and told me it wasn’t that bad, probably no one would notice it. But I can tell that I’m going to LOVE this dress and I need a big sewing win after the whole Gok Coat outcome. This will be the most formal gown in my closet (not including my wedding dress) so I want to be able to wear it again and be proud of it.

Then my Dad made a surprise visit, a welcome distraction, and after he left I sat down with my unpicker and began to disassemble all my hard work.

Last night at 8pm I got the new panel in place so I was back to exactly where I was on Sunday at 3pm before bad luck struck me down. But it’s not so bad, the bodice was where all the major construction and piecing work was. The skirt is (relatively) easy after all that, I just have to decide if I’ll line it and what with.

To console myself I went out at lunchtime yesterday looking for shoes and jewellery. I got myself a long string of fake pearls and some blingy art-deco chandelier earrings – very glam Hollywood.

The lady at the shop wouldn’t let me try on the long white gloves but I might give them a miss anyway, too much? I also found my 1930s Gangster Husband a Panama hat and white suspenders. He was most pleased with me.

Here is what awaits me tonight when I get home, the front and back skirt parts ready to be cut out…and I did cut the side panels too conservatively, more flare is required!

*You know when someone says, “This will be quick” it never is 😉

8 thoughts on “1930s Dress: Construction Update

    • No I don’t, because my photos from the big night were terrible and I really wanted to do the full look for photos. I really should try to get some this Christmas, I have a couple of parties that it will be appropriate for 🙂

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