Bias Cut 1931 Dress (Part 2: Finished!)

To read about Part 1 click here (look at me learning how to do links! Not such a Luddite after all!)

So…. its finished!

The construction is not perfect, nor is it entirely accurate. But visually the fit and silhouette are spot on; for this dress that was the main goal as it is my first truly ’30s dress.

Picking up where I left off in the previous post, I assembled the skirt as it was pinned, deciding against french seams as they can cause issues with bias stretch. Instead I finished the seams with overlocking – even that may have been a bad idea as the side seams have bubbled a little.

Next came the skirt lining, fortunately I had a lovely piece of silk charmeuse in my stash – despite it being quite a bright purple it works well under the navy chiffon. I sewed the side seams, this time pinking them instead of overlocking to keep them sitting as flat as possible. I was only lining to the knee as per Iris Brookes description …the evening gowns of 1930 suddenly took the plunge and descended evenly to the ground, but with the reservation that the slip or underdress was still only knee-length in a great many examples when the dress was transparent…

The lining was then handsewn to the knee seam of the skirt.

Skirt Lining hand sewn in position at knee seam

To test the length I pinned the skirt to the now finished bodice and discovered that the lining had far less bias stretch than the outer fabric. As a result there was a great deal of excess length in the outer dress. This was a problem because the lining was sewn to the outer at the knee and therefore the excess fabric was bagging around the knee seam. To fix that I pulled the outer skirt up and pinned it where it sat smoothest – with the excess now at the waist where it could be cut off.

Outer skirt layer pinned to match the length of the skirt lining, the excess fabric is visible at the waist
excess 2
When I took the dress off and laid it on the table I trimmed the outer to match the raw edge of the lining – removing approx 5cm

Happy with the length and with the way the lining and outer were now working together, I sewed the skirt to the Bodice.

The dress was going to close at the centre back – despite the fact that most dresses from the time would have closed at the side. Why did I choose the centre back? Well that’s where the bodice pattern wanted to close – and I was fairly confident it would all work out!

The bodice has 3 buttons, but I didn’t want to use buttons to close the skirt as well, so instead I made a placket, and sewed four pairs of hooks and eyes to fasten it.

Placket for centre back fastening, only the potentially visible part has had the outer fabric attached – I didn’t want the whole thing to become bulky.
back close
Completed back fastening. Not the most beautiful inside finish and a little puckery when closed – but it will all be covered by the sash anyway!

Trying the dress on again I now needed to hem it – the hemline was crazy! The parts on the bias needed 20cm trimming, while other sections were barely long enough. The dress didn’t fit the mannequin very well – so I needed someone else to help with marking the hem length while I wore the dress. Luckily I work with a fellow dressmaker. I was perhaps a bit conspicuous at the office swanning around in a backless, figure hugging, evening dress, but it was worth it as Hannah perfectly marked an even hem.

According to Janet Arnold in Patterns for Fashion 2 (containing the skirt pattern I used) the hem should be ‘picot edged’. Picot refers to a trim with looped edges – decorative – usually either ribbon or lace. I did not use a true picot edging, instead opted for a cheap nylon lace from my stash.

lace hem
Attaching the lace at the hem

Last was the sash, which Janet Arnold specified was to be worn with the dress. I did at first think perhaps it would not be necessary, but the sash turns out to be of great importance for comfort as it removes the weight of the dress from the halter. (of course for me it also hides the closure at the back.) I cut a thin sash using my dressing gown cord for reference, and with the help of a friend worked out how to tie a suitable knot incorporating a belt buckle.

And so the dress was complete! And I am very happy with the overall effect, so happy that I struggled to tear myself away from the mirror while wearing it 🙂 Of course there are niggly things which could be improved – but those are mere details on the inside.

Pretty pictures will be taken down in Napier, so for now here’s just a peak of the finished back – one of my best angles?

finished back

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