1930s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Mystery Vintage dress

May 15, 2012
A few months ago I was given this beautiful vintage dress by my mother-in-law.  She bought it several years ago, but having only ever wore it once, decided she’d like to pass it onto me! I’d  love to be able to give her a little more information on what period the dress hails from, and date it as accurately as I can.  I wonder if any WeSewRetro readers can help?
My guesstimate would be that this is a 1930’s piece.  Perhaps earlier rather than later in the decade as there’s definitely a hint of flapper style about it.  If anybody who has knowledge of clothing from that period can shed any light, I’d be SO grateful.  Or indeed if you have anything at all to say on when you think the dress might originate from, please chip in, I may be completely wrong so I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts.
Here are a few tailoring details:
  • The dress is totally handmade, from what appears to be plum coloured silk crepe with dark green lace inset details.  There’s an impressive amount of hand finishing too.
  • It has two kick pleats to the front and back and a dropped waist.
  • The neckline is low, with a ruffle detail and shoulder tucks.
  • It has what I think is called a dicky i.e. a detachable triangle of fabric that fits across a low neckline to preserve one’s modesty!
  • The sleeves are slightly puffed with a cuffed edge and lace inserts to add volume.
  • It’s just below knee length on me (I’m 5′ 2″).
  • There’s a lovely shaped detail to the skirt, which is mirrored on the back bodice yoke.
I know there are many, many bloggers out there who are very knowledgeable about such things, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
There are a few more details and pictures on my blog, Handmade Jane. Thank you so much in advance! x
  1. Absolutely gorgeous!
    I’d say probably 1929-1932. It’s got the long, sleek line of the 20s, with some of the leftover accents of that period, but definitely has an early 30s look as well. It might have had a matching belt at one time, in which case it certainly would be ideal for early 1930s. What a lovely gift! You don’t often see these anymore, especially with the lace, in wearable shape.

  2. I’m almost in agreement with Lauren, but I would date it 1931-34. Those distinctive side-gored dresses with the skirt cut in one with the bodice come in about 1931 (I see side gores in 1930 but not that shape). By 1935 most bodices are cut separately from the skirts and the skirts have vertical seaming through to the waist.

    For comparison, check out McCall 7215, which I have previously seen dated 1932:

    …and this Bunte Mode (German, and not exactly the height of style) pattern from 1934:

    I do think yours almost certainly had a matching belt. Oh, and those are called “lantern” sleeves. (The term is being misapplied by some modern designers to a fitted sleeve with a very deep ruffle depending from it, but a true lantern sleeve is gathered in again at the wrist like yours.)

  3. Wow, that’s so helpful Jessamyn, thank you. The McCall 7215 and Bunte Mode shapes are very similar to my dress. Now you mention it, I think a matching belt would have been part of the dress – when I tried it on, the first thing I did was add a belt as I thought the dress really needed it!
    Thanks for clarifying the sleeve shape too, it’s all invaluable information. x

  4. I’m REALLY late to the party here, but stumbled upon this post. I agree with the above comments, but also wanted to add that it is possible this dress was not originally plum. I had a weirdly similar 30’s dress from the same period at one time (not anymore or I would take a photo!) which also had a combination of crepe and lace. The lace was green and the crepe body was a purpleish tone, just like yours. On further inspection I actually figured out that the body of the dress had actually faded to this purple colour from an original green! Seems like a huge shift and I’m not sure what caused it (could be the quality of the dye, light exposure, could be many things). What tipped me off was the fabric in the seam allowances was much less faded and still (kind of) green!
    Have never seen quite this change with any other colour of dress so thinking that the greens from this period may not have been so stable?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.