Du Barry Patterns 1930s Cape Dress

Have you had a sewing pattern in your stash for a few years, just waiting to be made? Du Barry 1230B for me is one such pattern, and today I share my experiences (and incorrect preconceptions) of sewing this dress.

Back in this post, I shared my forthcoming sewing plans. Usually I make sewing plans, then only adhere to them in a rather vague sort of way. For example, I may plan to make a dress, but then get distracted by 1). A sewing pattern I had newly discovered and feel like I have to make it right now 2). Seeing blogger reviews on other sewing patterns, which then makes me feel that I need that particular item in my closet above all my other sewing plans and intentions 3). Getting my eager little paws on some fabric to add to my embarrassingly large hoard, and excitedly prioritising makes with that instead.

So as you can see, I can get side-tracked pretty easily. But, I adhered to my plans and made this dress as I had both planned and hoped. I think in part, that this was actually due to writing and publishing my aforementioned blog post – having my plans in writing somehow made me stick to them more so than I may have otherwise.

I purchased this reproduction early 1930s pattern a few years ago, around the time when I had only just started sewing with original vintage patterns. I remember when I bought it feeling a bit daunted by the design features (which goes to show how far I have come in both my confidence with sewing, and my actual sewing experience/abilities). In fact, when it arrived I put it to one side and didn’t really pay it much attention – until a few weeks ago. I must confess, I was deterred from making the pattern because I really hate sewing buttonholes. My experience with buttonholes has always been hellish, but recently my sewing machine & I have reached an understanding, and he now plays nicely when I want him to sew the aforementioned item of dread. Now that I had reached a stage where I am happy to sew buttonholes, I decided to re-visit this pattern.

But – the joke of it is – this pattern doesn’t require any buttonholes! So all that time I had been putting-off making this dress because of my irrational fear of buttonholes, when there wasn’t even any buttonholes to sew anyway! All the buttons are for ‘show’ only, none of them actually work as a fastening.

In fact, reading through the scant instructions revealed that the dress is constructed in a manner which at first glance, seems quite bizarre. The CF is sewn with the wrong sides together, down to just before the pleat at the skirt. So the inside has a neat seam, whilst the outside has the unfinished edges. Then, the placket is pinned into place to cover the seam edges on the outside. But – the placket is only stitched up to the neck on one side only. The other side is open from the neck to about 3.5inches down to allow for a placket facing to be applied. Onto which poppers are stitched to form a neck opening. There is also an opening at the left hand side of the dress – with the instructions calling for a popper placket. I however, decided to insert an invisible zipper – not authentic, but neater, quicker and easier. For the cape, I firstly finished the edges, using a light gathering stitch to ease in the seam allowances. I then stitched to the bodice with the right sides of the cape matching the wrong sides of the bodice; so the seam allowances were all underneath the cape. To finish, I understitched the bodice and the seam allowances together. This gave a neat inside finish to the neckline.

For the armholes, I used bias binding turned to the inside and slip-stitched. I added machine sewn button loops at the waist side seams in order to keep the belt where I wanted it. Now – onto the buttons and belt. I discovered Harlequin a few months ago when I was looking for a company to make some things for me, for my wedding dress. Their communication, customer service, and the swiftness of dispatch were all absolutely top notch. I was so impressed, that they would always be top of my list should I require any custom made haberdashery items. Naturally, Harlequin were the people I turned to for these buttons and matching custom belt.

Admittedly, it took me a little while to decide on what type of belt buckle, the width of the belt, and which style of buttons I wanted. They have so much choice, and I was pretty tempted to go for triangular buttons – so art deco! I really love how the buttons and belt enhance the dress, and even though I thought contrasting buttons may have been a nice visual touch, I knew I wanted to keep the whole dress one colour and one fabric. That way, the dress can act as the perfect canvas for choosing various coloured and patterned accessories – as I did so here.

Outfit Details

  • Dress Pattern – Du Barry 1230B from the Vintage Pattern Shop
  • Fabric – Yellow linen from London
  • Belt & Buttons made in my own fabric – Harlequin
  • Scarf – Silk Celia Birtwell (purchased years ago)
  • Shoes – Hotter (no longer available in this particular colour)

Concluding Thoughts

This dress is the perfect example of – read the instructions carefully in order to have an accurate idea of the construction and techniques required. I can’t believe I spent years thinking this dress had oodles of buttonholes, when in fact it doesn’t have a single one! I really love the fit and shape of the skirt – much to my surprise. When I made my toile, I fully expected to want to shorten the skirt, but I found I actually really liked this longer length. Skirts in the early years of the 1930s were around mid-calf to calf length, so in that way the length makes it even more authentic. I may sew some swing catches to the cape, as it did tend to fly up around my face in gusts of wind! Overall, I am really happy with this dress, and I most likely would make it again.

So that is an item ticked-off my sewing list, and of course an eligible Vintage Pledge item, hurrah! The next garment I am working on is another 1930s dress, and after that I feel a Merchant & Mills make coming on.

Have you ever been put-off a sewing pattern at the thought of some of the techniques required – only to discover that the imagined techniques are not actually required? (I fear perhaps it is just me, but I know I won’t make that mistake again! Haa ha!)

Until next time dears!

Vintage Pledge Update and Latest Sewing Plans

Now that we are in July, the time has come for the fantastic #vpjuly on Instagram. Run as part of the Vintage Pledge (organised by Marie of a Stitching Odyssey blog, for more information click here); #vpjuly sees a number of daily prompts for participants to share on Instagram. This year, it is only running for two weeks rather than the entire month.

I’m not sure where the time has flown to lately, as I almost had to do a double-take when Marie announced on her blog & Instagram that it was time for #vpjuly. Anywho, I have made more of an effort to post daily this time, and it has been so much fun seeing everyone’s daily posts! (you can find my posts & profile on Instagram here). It has also prompted me to think about my general Vintage Pledge for the remainder of the year. My initial pledge was to make my wedding dress using a 1930s pattern. Well dear readers – challenge DONE & COMPLETE! I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to have finished that mammoth task, especially as in the beginning it seemed that so many factors were fighting against me. Our wedding is in September, so I shall remain frustratingly secretive and sparse in details here until after the big day (sorry!)

Anyway, now that my ‘main’ pledge item is complete, it has freed up space in my brain for me to ponder other vintage pledge makes and possibilities.  Call me crazy, but many of these potential makes are just whispering ‘honeymoon attire’ to me. It seems that my appetite for sewing has not been dulled by the ordeal of making my wedding dress, in fact quite the contrary. So, I am now turning my mind to thinking what I want to wear/take on honeymoon.

Du Barry Pattern 1230B purchased some years ago from the Vintage Pattern Shop on eBay

First up, is an early 1930s day dress using a beautiful plain sunshine yellow linen. Even as I start to type this forthcoming sentence, I can barely believe it myself – but a few months ago I was having an Instagram dialogue with Faith Evangeline of @sewingtreble and I realised I didn’t own any plain yellow dresses! For someone who loves yellow as much as I do, that was a bit of a bombshell, even to myself. So, of course I needed to remedy this appalling state of affairs asap. I have actually had this pattern in my stash for maybe 2 or 3 years now, but just never got around to making it.

As I was leafing through one of my original 1930s fashion magazines, I found this picture (left) – the cape collar looks so similar to my pattern! The pom poms look super cute too. I am intending to keep the dress all yellow, so will be getting matching cover buttons made, and also a matching belt. As I discussed in one of my recent posts, I am *trying* to steer myself towards plains colours/non-patterned garments. But read on and you shall see, this is a stipulation I sometimes just don’t want to adhere to.

Hollywood Pattern 1160 purchased from Lady Marlowe Studio on Etsy

Next up, is another 1930s dress, but this time a more formal/evening style. I saw this amazing fabric from Clothspot (sign up for their newsletter and always be the first to know of new fabrics – they have new arrivals every Friday!) My heart fluttered, and I just couldn’t take my eyes off it. I had to have it. Find it here (if there is any left!)

I am intending on making this square neck full length dress, which is actually very simple in both construction and style. The perfect base to showcase the stunning print of the fabric.

What particularly attracted me to this pattern in the first instance, was the lovely jacket/tunic. I found this chartreuse draping crepe when I was in London recently, and I am undecided whether to use it for the jacket to wear with this dress.

Either way, I’m sure I will put the crepe to good use! I know some people do not find chartreuse an attractive shade, but it is so unusual that I adore it!

1931 Matinee Blouse by Decades of Style

*Side note* I know this pattern doesn’t qualify as a Vintage Pledge item, being a reproduction pattern inspired by original styles, rather than a straight-up trace of an original.

And lastly, again going back to my plain fabrics decision, I am hoping to make the Decades of Style Matinee Tunic in plain black crepe – but with a black velvet devoré cowl neck. Yes, I know the devoré has a pattern to it, but I honestly felt I almost couldn’t bring myself to make something completely plain and black.

I am going to make the longer version, and haven’t decided on the style of sleeves to make yet. I purchased the pattern as a PDF download, as I recently discovered a site called Print Your Pattern. Unsurprisingly, they do exactly as you would expect from the title – print your pattern. You can upload your PDF downloads, and they will do the printing for you. No faffing about with numerous pages of A4 and getting in a pickle with sticky tape/glue. The pattern was printed and delivered to me super fast, so I will definitely be using them again.

That concludes my list of makes for the next few weeks or so. Also, alongside these I will be adding some flourishes to my bridal accessories, and making Kieren a few pairs of trousers.

Do you have any exciting sewing plans? Or do you sew items on a garment by garment basis, planning as you go along?

Until next time dears!