1920s | 1930s | Downton Abbey Inspired | Dresses | Pattern Drafting | Vintage Sewing

Sewing a 1920’s Art Deco Evening Gown

By on June 11, 2017
Art Deco Ball - Jennifer Serr
Art Deco Ball - Jennifer Serr
At The Ball

Well, the day (Art Deco Society of California’s) of the  Preservation Ball arrived and I was prepared!  This year’s theme was Death on The Nile (the Agatha Christie Murder Mystery) with a focus on Egyptian Revival of the Art Deco era. I was lucky to be gifted some beautiful fabric, salvaged vintage trims and good luck at Britex for the finishing touches to my gown and headband. Thanks also to Barbara Mooney at Daisy’s, here in Alameda, for lending me the PERFECT necklace and pointing me to some wonderful coordinating earrings (in her shop) that I will treasure for years to come.

Dressed Up with My Handsome Husband
Dressed up with my Handsome Husband

In the end, I’m happy with the final look. My foundation garment worked well on the dress form so that I could drape my gown to my measurements, however, did not work under the dress when I was wearing it.  It still needs some modifications to the cups and the straps showed. Fitting can be a challenge sometimes and often requires multiple fittings (which I did not do this time – ugh).  I ended up wearing a 1920’s-style corset that I made two years ago.  It’s strapless and gave me the right silhouette.

Front View of my Dress
Back View of My Dress
Back View of My Dress

Below are some photos of the process by which I created this dress – Draping the fabric directly on the dress form.  For a more in-depth view of my process including inspiration, sketches and step-by-step photos, visit my blog posts here, here, here & here

Taping the Dress form and foundation for Draping
Taping the Dress form and foundation for Draping
Draping the Back Bodice
Draping the Back Bodice
Draping the Side Bodice
Draping the Side Bodice
Fabric Draped and trims placed
Fabric Draped and trims placed

See more of my projects and vintage inspiration on my blog or connect with me on instagram!

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1920s | 1930s | Mail Order Patterns | Pattern Drafting | Skirts

Creating a Skirt from a 1930’s Dress Pattern

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My Finished Skirt
Vintage Pattern Lending Library Pattern #T3221
Vintage Pattern Lending Library Pattern #T3221

Recently, I’ve given myself the task of creating a “Miss Fisher” wardrobe, inspired by the Australian TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.  If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend to head over to Netflix and watch immediately.  The main character, Phryne Fisher – Lady Detective,  has a fairly AMAZING wardrobe, circa 1928,  filled with a variety of wardrobe staples – wide leg trousers, skirts, matching camisoles etc., and some downright outrageous statement pieces – embroidered coats, custom cloches and coordinating accessories.   All of which I’ve been sketching and analyzing as much as I can with repeated viewing of all the episodes.

The first stop on this journey is the staple pieces.  These are garments I can coordinate with many things.  With Summer approaching, a light weight skirt is was in order.  After struggling to find a skirt pattern I liked, I found a dress that had a great skirt –  Vintage Pattern Lending Library Pattern #T3221.

The pattern is quite sweet – a column shape through the body, with 6 small darts that gently shape the waist, and a skirt that has arched seams along the hip line and fluted panels that give it a nice little fare at the hem.  The pattern comes in one size – created for a 36″ bust.  I measured the pattern and found that it was a good fit for my hips at 42″ but that I would need to shape the waist to fit my own.   It was a fairly easy process:

  1. The pattern was cut at the natural waist line which is indicated at the center of the darts on the pattern. I squared a line at the CF, folded out the darts and shaped a nice waist.
  2. The darts were re-distributed into two darts (each side) at front and back and positioned somewhat centrally on each half of the skirt at front and back as well.  I new I wanted a 32″ waist finished, so my dart depth was determined by measuring the pattern at the waistline, subtracting the different and dividing the darts up accordingly.
  3. Then a waistband pattern was made – 4″ high x 34″ long.  This accounts for 3/8″ seam allowance and a 1 1/4″ tab for the button on the waistband.

The fabric used was a beige colored textured rayon jacquard.  The skirt sewed together beautifully, as per the pattern instructions.  I did serge the edges before assembling, to prevent fraying.  The bottom edge is a simple turn and turn 1/4″ clean finish hem.  And the standard zipper was inserted using a hand picked method.

Hand Picked zipper on the side opening
Hand Picked zipper on the side opening
My Finished Skirt
My finished Skirt

I’m really happy with the results, however, my 13 year old daughter thinks it should be several inches shorter.  What do you think?

See more of my projects and vintage inspiration on my blog or connect with me on instagram!

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1930s

30s Style Vintage Scarf Top with Bias Cut and Vintage Button Trim

By on February 7, 2017
bias cut vintage scarf top

I was thrilled to be contacted by Dressmaker magazine as they wanted to include my scarf top in their January edition in an article about Second Hand Sews.  I was influenced by 1930s scarf clothing when I designed this top and worked out how to cut a scarf (see below) and then stitch it up into a bias top.

cutting diagram for bias top

I have now uploaded a pdf worksheet on my blog with instructions and photos showing how to make the top if you would like to download it.  The link to my own blog is here

Happy sewing everyone!

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1930s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

1930s Dress Made Using Original Vintage Fabric

By on January 24, 2017

1930s ruffles dress front

Every now and again you come across a truly beautiful piece of original vintage fabric. You carefully unfold it, hoping and praying that it’s in good condition. You check it over thoroughly, measure it and finally take the very brave step of washing it. At this point you’re on tenterhooks, will it fall apart the second the water hits it? It survives the wash, it dries well and then you press it, checking thoroughly once again for any holes, tears or marks. And finally, you realise you have one incredible pristine piece of 1930s/1940s fabric that’s long enough to make an entire dress. You, or indeed me at this point, then do one hell of a happy dance!

1930s ruffles dress

As you can imagine, I was terrified to cut into the fabric, but I truly believed that this fabric had found its way to me for a reason. I’m very much someone who believes in buying vintage and using it. Every piece of vintage clothing I buy gets worn, I don’t store things away in a dark cupboard but, rather, enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed. That was how I felt about this fabric. It needed to be made into something and not waste away unloved and unappreciated. And it deserved to be made into something authentic.

1930s dress back

I used an original 1930s sewing pattern and original 1930s sewing techniques from both the pattern and a 1930s dressmaking book. The trimmings, such as the rayon hemming tape, were also vintage. The only modern parts of the dress are the white crepe I used for the yoke section and the metal button blanks for the self-cover buttons. That’s why I call this my brand new almost-vintage dress!

You can see more detail photos and find out more about the fabric, pattern and techniques I used on my blog here.

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1930s | Blouses | Skirts | Vintage Sewing

1930s Bishop Sleeve Blouse & Pocket Detail Skirt

By on December 8, 2016

1930s blouse and skirt

Do you ever have an idea in your mind that never really pans out when it comes to your sewing? Yep, that’s exactly what happened here. Both the blouse and skirt were going to be very different to how they actually turned out, mainly due to not having quite enough fabric for either of them!

The white silk with navy polka dots is actually a vintage fabric I picked up at a flea market. It was very narrow and as a result, the originally planned pattern of McCalls – 7053, from their Archive Collection, just didn’t fit. So after abandoning this idea, I decided to use the top half of this beautiful original 1930s dress pattern instead. It’s been sat in my collection for a while totally unused, but boy am I glad I used it this time.

Vintage 1930s Buttons

It worked out beautifully in this fabric, despite having to redo the front yoke many, many times. The issue was that it needed to be lined to give it some stability and the join at the bottom, where the button placket areas overlap, was incredibly fiddly. After many attempts, both on the machine and by hand, I finally got it to sit right. However, after all that stress I gave up on trying to do buttonholes, so just sewed the buttons in place.

1930s sleeve detail

Instead of finishing the sleeves with a mid-forearm cuff as shown in the pattern, I decided to add a long cuff right down to the wrist. I absolutely love this style of bishop sleeve, it’s so classically 1930s, and of course keeps your forearms warm! I finished it off with four buttons and rouleau loops to allow enough room to get my hand in and out.

The fabric itself, unfortunately, has weakened during the pre-wash and making up stages. As a result, I’ve decided to only wear it on special occasions and to try and find another white and navy polka dot fabric for a more wearable version. I think it would work well in a crepe or a soft cotton lawn.

1930s blouse yoke detail

The skirt was drafted from another original 1930s pattern, which I’ve used multiple times as it’s such a simple design so can be changed to just about any style. The fabric is a deep mustard linen, which I bought from My Fabrics and a dream to work with. It’s quite a heavy weight linen so can be used for both summer and winter.

The design itself was taken from an original 1930s skirt I own but haven’t yet worn. I love the little pockets on it, so decided to replicate them here with a slightly different style button tab. They worked out quite well I think and give such a lovely interest to the front of the skirt, along with the deep single kick pleat on the centre front.

If you want to read more about it, and see the gorgeous original 1930s navy suede shoes I wore with it, just pop on over to my blog.

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1930s | Blouses | Skirts | Vintage Sewing

My Exploring New Colours 1930s Outfit

By on September 23, 2016

1930s coral skirt and blouse

Does anyone else find themselves sticking to the same colours with their sewing? I was very much guilty of this until I made a New Year’s resolution to explore new colours, even ones I’d never worn before. One colour that surprised me on this journey was coral. It all began when I spotted a gorgeous coral linen/cotton mix fabric on the website of my favourite fabric shop, ClothSpot. I fell in love and set out to find a patterned fabric that went with it. I found a beautiful one on Fabric Godmother, which had a mixture of coral, turquoise, mustard yellow and fawn in it. I knew it was the one!

1930s bow blouse

I, of course, stuck to my favourite era, the 1930s. I used the coral linen mix for a complicated pleated skirt and the patterned cotton lawn for a short sleeve blouse. The blouse was made using an original 1930s pattern I bought at a vintage fair (you can see it here). However, I decided not to do it with a Peter Pan collar and instead I created a V neckline and added a large pussy bow.

The sleeves are my favourite part as they remind of the puffball skirts of the 1980s. The cuffs are secured with elastic and you push them up inside the sleeve when you wear it to create the puff shape.

Mrs Depew 1930s skirt pleat

The skirt was the hardest part, not only because the fabric was such a pain and kept moving, but also because of the pattern I chose. It was an original 1930s draft at home pattern which I bought from Mrs Depew on Etsy. The illustration of the skirt and the illustration of the pattern pieces just didn’t seem to add up. You can see how confusing it was here.

I’m still not convinced I did it exactly right but at least the complicated double pleat looks like the skirt illustration. Also, I’m really, really chuffed with how the two pieces go together and make a really lovely 1930s day outfit. I just wish, despite my love of pushing myself with my sewing, that it had been a bit easier!

If you want to read more about it, and see other detail pictures, just pop on over to my blog.

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