My 1930s dress toile

You may or may not remember long long ago in January when I told you about the 20s and 30s inspired pattern making course I have been doing this term.

I started by gathering inspiration, and then came up with the one on the left as my final dress design.

With the sleeves to be beaded something like this.

Rather than design and make a dress that would rarely get worn, my intention was to make a slightly more practical dress. However, a practical dress meant that I wouldn’t learn as much, so practicality went out the window! I lengthened the skirt to floor length, cut it on the bias (at a 45 degree angle to the normal grainline), and added a more shaped dropped waistline. A whole new dress really!

I made the pattern to my pre-bump size so am not actually able to fit it at the moment. This means I have only made it to the toile (rough) stage. And this was it before my lesson this morning…

It is very rough, and the cheap and nasty polyester that I got to do the toile either doesn’t press or melts under the iron, so it was a tough job getting all the seams looking anywhere near good!

By making this toile I was able to see what needed altering on my pattern to make it work better. For example, I had sewn the bust darts too long, so altered my paper pattern by shortening them by 2cm.

You can also see from the photo that the sleeve is a bit flat and isn’t scalloped yet like my initial design.

To remedy this I first marked three points on the sleeve and slashed up towards the shoulder.

I then added more fabric under the existing sleeve to add extra width.

The next step was to measure how much fabric I had added, and transfer this to the paper pattern. In the case of the middle slash, I needed to add 4cm.

By doing this for all three slashes, and then taping pattern paper into the gaps, I had created a fuller sleeve.

I then added the scalloped shaping and toiled the new sleeve. Much better!

I found this bracelet that I made, and am wondering if something like this would be nice on the sleeve edging (you need to use your imagination a bit for this – I only pinned it on!).

In a similar way to altering the sleeve, I also dropped the neck a bit but will have to make my final decision when I can get in to the toile to see exactly where I would like it to sit.

I also learnt about cutting and sewing on the bias, ways of finishing vintage dresses rather than lining them, and some other stuff, but I think I might save all that for other blog posts so that I don’t bombard / bore you with them all today!

Have a good weekend everyone!

Image source


More of my drawings: 1920s & 1930s

On Fridays I have a class called Vintage Fashion: 20s and 30s. I love it!

What could be better than actually being allowed to spend a whole lesson in the library, just looking at beautiful dresses?

That’s what we did last week as research for our moodboards, which will then inspire our own designs, from which we will create patterns, toiles, and possibly finished garments for. Exciting!

For those who aren’t sure, here are a couple of 1920s dresses from this amazing website.

Callot Soeurs dress

French beaded flapper dress

Think straight, angular silhouettes, a boyish figure with a flat bust and low hips, and the waistline dropped to the hip.

Embellishments such as beading, sequins, embroidery and applique were popular ways to adorn garments.

By the 1930s the silhouette was much more feminine, emphasizing the natural form of the woman’s body. The waistline moved back up to its natural position, and many dresses were cut on the bias. This meant that the fabric clung to the body, hanging in a smooth vertical drape.

Here are some stunning examples by Madeleine Vionnet.

So here is my moodboard:

And here are the drawings I have done so far from this inspiration. I was trying to think about what I wanted to learn about (bias-cutting), what I would actually wear (more likely a day dress), what would flatter my shape most (1930s), and what would look pretty (sparkles!).

Does anyone have any favourites – I’m only allowed to choose one!

Image sources 


I hope you are all sitting comfortably today, and are ready to concentrate as I think I may be about to confuse us all!!

I am going to attempt to explain grainlines after being taught about them in my Pattern Cutting class a few weeks ago. I honestly do think I understand them in practice, but trying to explain them to you in an easy to understand way might be a bit beyond me (those that are far more knowledgeable on such matters feel free to point out any errors). Here goes though!

I drew a little diagram in a past post, which shows the main things to understand about the construction of fabric. Here is a more professional one as a reminder:

On a pattern the grainline is shown by a straight line with an arrow at each end. Here they are the lengthwise grain, the crosswise grain and the bias grain.

These straight lines should always be parallel to the selvedge edge when laying out pattern pieces. This is done by using a ruler to ensure each end of the grainline is the same distance from the selvedge / selvage.

I am going to tackle each of the grainlines individually to try and explain them a bit more in regards to skirts. Essentially, the grainline that is used affects the way that the skirt will hang.

Lengthwise / Straight grain

This image shows the front of a skirt. It is cut using the straight grain through the centre front / middle. The lines indicate this grainline, and the red line with arrows shows what would appear on your pattern.

By cutting the fabric this way, along the warp, the skirt will hang straight and the sides will go out.

Bias Grain

The bias grain is 45 degrees to the original grainline. It means the fabric will hang in a softer way, and pull to the body. This grainline has the most stretch and give.

You can also achieve interesting results using the bias grain on patterned fabrics. Imagine this was a checked or striped fabric on the front of a skirt.

Gore Grain

The final grainline we were taught about was the gore grain. This grainline can be used if the skirt is made of four pieces, and the grainline is put through the middle of the leg.

It was a popular grainline in the 1940s as it didn’t waste as much fabric as using the bias grain, but was much more flattering than using the straight grain which can look a bit like a triangle!

McCalls 9215

It is created by marking the centre point between the centre front and side of the pattern piece, and the centre point on the hem. You then join these two points with a straight line and this is the gore grain.

You can also create a bias gore grainline which is 45 degrees to the gore grainline.

I found this diagram helpful in summing everything up.

Now, once you have got your head round all of that and done your hair, you are ready to place your patterns and get cutting 🙂

Image sources
Singer Sewing Book, 1969
Basic Pattern Skills for Fashion Design, Bernard Zamkoff and Jeanne Price