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1930's/40's chilly day ensemble!

Added Feb 11, 2012

by olystyrene

Sydney, Australia






So… the ensemble I’d like to describe here has come together over a period of a year or two. It all started with the gloves, actually. I found the handsome devils in an op shop and needed them to be a little more practical so gave the fingertips a chop. And that was that.

Next came the dress: the pattern was for a stunning dress circa 1939. As it happened, I had recently also watched “The Tin Drum” for the first time, and just adored the costumes used in the film (the film was set in WWII so of course my little heart was racing!). Anyway, there was one city scene where a woman (just one of the extras, as I recall) was walking down the street and wearing the most gorgeous purply coloured floral (I think) dress, and I knew then and there that I had to recreate the feeling of her outfit. Not long after that, I found some floral fabric at the op shop (yep, usual story) – a very lightweight cotton blend of some sort – the kind that goes a bit static-y and sticks to your skin sometimes when walking on carpet. I followed the pattern pretty much exactly, just altering the skirt length a few inches. The best bits about the dress were the lovely draped cross-over front and the teeny-tiny shoulder padettes that gave just the right amount of puff to the sleeves. The problem was, the gathering at the bust was ALL WRONG!!! It looked awful – there was no way anyone could have worn such a dress and gotten away with the bunchy mess that passed for a bodice!! You can imagine my horror, I’m sure.

Anyway, I did wear the dress a few times, pinning the drapes here and there as inconspicuously as possible, but it obviously still didn’t look right. The dress went back in the wardrobe and was forgotten about until a few weeks ago, when I finally bit the bullet and reconstructed the bodice. A lot of excess fabric was folded away and the gathering had to be rejigged – pinned and tried on, and repinned etc etc… until FINALLY the monstrosity started to look much better. The final bodice has much more structure to it and less bag-like froufiness. Phew!

The coat was something I NEEDED to make after seeing a photo of a cream coat in a 1940’s fashion book. I fell in love with the shape of the coat – the ‘swing coat’ sort of shape, as well as the bell-shaped sleeves and the simple collarless neckline. It was beautiful and I had to have it. I found a 1940’s pattern that was waaay too small and redrafted it to fit my proportions (although I should have given a bit more around the neckline – lesson learned!). I Also, altered the sleeve length as the original pattern’s sleeves were 3/4 length. The creamy-beige fabric was an op shop find – on its own a bit of a scratchy/ not so comfy synthetic. I added additional lining to the coat as well (I don’t think the pattern included lining) – this was the final length of lightweight flannel bed sheet I had left over from a previous coat project. The coat pattern had a couple of missing pieces – primarily the pockets, so I had to make that bit up a little and was pleasantly surprised to find my pockets worked beautifully – much like bound buttonholes. I finished the coat with some nice vintage fabric covered buttons.

Finally, last week I found a crochet project that I’d started a while ago and never finished. It was originally going to be a pillbox hat but I opted instead for a floppy pancake hat with a raised border – it attaches with a bobby pin to the hair. Coincidentally, the colour is pretty much identical to the glovesies, and the purply flowers on the fabric of the dress. Don’t you love when that happens?!

And voila!

Material Notes

second hand and vintage fabric and notions




Spring, Fall, Winter
Garment Type
Classic, Romantic, Vintage
Cotton, Blends, Polyester

7 Comments Sign in to add a post

  • Dscf0512_large

    Feb 15, 2012, 10.30 PMby LouisaLoves

    I totally love this whole look. I think the coat is the most beautiful peice and I am so going to have to make one in that style. You are very commited and everything looks beautifully presented.

    1 Reply
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      Feb 21, 2012, 01.58 AMby olystyrene

      Thank you so much! I hope you’re muchly satisfied with your coat and that you post it when it’s finished!

  • Firstroll-3_large

    Feb 15, 2012, 08.41 PMby integerclub

    Dooly, this is so lovely, well done! Shame about all that re-jigging of the blouse though, I reckon gathered boobies don’t really look flattering on too many people.

    1 Reply
    • 3044175_l_large

      Feb 21, 2012, 01.58 AMby olystyrene

      Thanks, Moycey! That gathered bastardry was absolute nonsense. It’s just hard to make it look beautiful when the bodice isn’t a halter and the gathering comes at you from every freakin’ angle!

  • Me_pecks_large

    Feb 13, 2012, 02.12 AMby nessys

    Gosh you did a fab job with this dress – so worth the effort and patience Darl – you look beautiful. The whole ensemble is just gorgeous! Loving the way you work it – you are one talented lass. xxxxx

    PS – is it just me or is the description above a bit out of whack (seems to repeat a couple of times)? Maybe the Burdstyle site is having a “whoopsie doodle” again!

    1 Reply
    • 3044175_l_large

      Feb 20, 2012, 11.41 PMby olystyrene

      Thank you, Nessy!!! And btw, yes that description has pooped itself! I don’t know what’s going on there…

  • Raw_0468_large

    Feb 12, 2012, 12.21 AMby aluckmann

    What do I love more – the gorgeous and perfect dress, the sophisticated coat with the whimsical polkadot lining, or those darling shoes? Fabulous outfit and great story!

    1 Reply
    • 3044175_l_large

      Feb 12, 2012, 01.21 AMby olystyrene

      Thank you! Personally, the hat is abslutely floating my boat at the moment :D

  • 5b24348d8cf0c23295692be6ceaea500b429d3d9_large

    Feb 12, 2012, 12.12 AMby stefanisarah

    I love it! Having read your description, this ensemble has gone through to a lot of work! Congratulations! By the way, I am curious about the initial shape of your dress. Burda has a pattern that is 40’s inspired (http://www.burdastyle.com/patterns/012011-short-sleeve-blouse) and I’ve read reviews saying that the blouse turned up far too big. So I assume it’s the stylistic shape of the era?

    1 Reply
    • 3044175_l_large

      Feb 12, 2012, 01.26 AMby olystyrene

      Thank you, stefanisarah! I’m not sure about the bodice issue being about the shape of the era. I’ve made quite a few 1940’s dresses from original patterns now, and this was probably the only bodice that ever turned out so awful. Thinking about it, I’d say that a heavily gathered bodice is only going to suit a certain type of bust or body. If there was only a small amount of gathering in the dress, it would have complicated things less, but as there was sooo much there – both at the shoulders AND the waist (much like the Burdastyle pattern you were referring to), I’d be very careful next time with getting the right fit. For a start, I’d probably make the piece that is to be gathered much shorter.

  • 036_large

    Feb 11, 2012, 08.53 PMby Debby H

    I think it looks really good together and I admire your patience.

    1 Reply
    • 3044175_l_large

      Feb 12, 2012, 01.27 AMby olystyrene

      Thanks so much! It sounds like patience in hindsight, but really at the time, I was cursing like a sailor and feeling very fed up with attempting the reconstruction of the bodice! ;P

  • Photo-1_large

    Feb 11, 2012, 06.28 PMby marlalalalere

    great look!

    1 Reply
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