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!


Dye it Yourself – How I Dyed a Pair of Shoes

Have you ever looked at a pair of shoes you own and fancied dyeing them? Well dear readers, that is precisely what I did! In this blog post, I explore and share with you my experiences of dyeing a pair of shoes, using Tarrago Self Shine Colour Dye in Metallic High Silver.

One of the advantages of having a craft as a hobby (or in my case, a passion), is that it gives you the freedom to look at things and think ‘hey, I could have a go at that’. Sometimes, this mentality doesn’t always work out as planned. And of course, there are limits.

However, this mentality can open up many doors to new possibilities – to create items that are truly what you want and need. For the past few months, I have been trying to find the perfect pair of silver shoes to wear on my upcoming wedding day. My first port of call was of course Hotter, but the shade of silver in current & upcoming collections sadly wasn’t quite right for me. I then took a trip up to London to pop in to Revival Retro to try on the Remix Balboa in Silver. Whilst I absolutely loved the colour and the style, they just didn’t fit correctly. I was assured that they would stretch to fit my feet, but I just kept thinking what a prize idiot I would feel getting home and telling Kieren I had spent the best part of £200 on a pair of shoes that didn’t fit!

Juliette by Hotter Shoes.

The shoes I had stashed to one side as my intended wedding shoes, were the Juliette shoes by Hotter from a few seasons ago (see my original post here). I love the style, the heel height is comfortable – but I just couldn’t get past the tone of gold in them. So, I took matters into my own hands – and decided to dye them.

An online search on brands of shoe dye turned up Tarrago – who seem to be experts in the shoe dyeing field. They stock a mind boggling amount of colours, for both leather and suede shoes – including a nice selection of metallics.

Tarrago shoe dye.

*Before I begin – I just want to state this is how I dyed my shoes – but always READ THE INSTRUCTIONS AND LABELS FOR YOURSELF and follow them very carefully!! This blog post is just my vague account of my own experience*

Step One – Remove the Existing Colour

Before picture. This was the shoes prior to any treatment or dye.

The first step (which I found was actually the worst) was to remove the original finish/dye on my chosen shoes. This felt horrible, as I had to literally use a green scouring pad to scrub at the leather. Even though it feels like you may be destroying your shoes, rest assured this is an important part of the process.

This is after applying the Preparer, and removing the original dye from the shoes.

The kit I bought comes with a Preparer; which is basically a chemical liquid to apply to a sponge sourer to then lift off the original finish. I say this was the worst part, for two reasons – 1). Scrubbing my shoes felt so wrong. 2). The Preparer chemical is nasty stuff, it has a strong odour and you must wear gloves (also, I just get a bit jumpy around chemicals in general – I actually had 2 pairs of gloves on throughout this stage!)

I was worried about how patchy the leather looked, but it didn’t seem to affect the finish.

Step Two – Painting around the Sole of the Shoes

After leaving the shoes for a little while so that the Preparer solution could dry/evaporate, I then used the actual dye to carefully paint around any fiddly parts. For example, the edge of the leather at the sole, the edges of the heel, and any parts that required delicacy.

Here you can see I painted around the edges of the shoes, at the sole.

Step Three – The Fun Part: Dyeing the Shoes

Dyeing the shoes.

After all the prep work and fiddly parts were done, I could then move on to actually dyeing my shoes! For this, I frequently stirred the dye bottle with a handy little brush (which comes with the pack), then used the brush to apply drops of dye to a mini sponge (also included with the pack).

After three coats of dye.

Next I gently rubbed the sponge with the dye over the shoes, until an even finish was achieved. I applied 3 coats, then left the shoes to dry out for around 4 hours. I then looked at them to assess whether I wanted to apply additional coats of dye, which I did. In total I applied 5 coats, achieving a finish I was pleased with.

The shade I used.

Step Four – Clean Up

After leaving the shoes to dry again overnight, I then returned to my handiwork the next morning. So, at this point I was really thrilled with the colour – but they definitely needed a bit of a tidy up.

Here you can see the dye on the rubber sole – not good.

This is the sole after I had used a cotton wool bud to remove the unwanted dye.

To remove the unwanted parts of dye from the heel, sole and other rubber parts, I used a cotton wool bud dipped in water. Simple as that. I gently rubbed at the dye, and it eventually came away from the rubber sections.

Step Five – Finished!

From gold to silver!

And ta-da, a pair of silver shoes! I am so pleased with the colour, and also really happy that I can wear these shoes on my wedding day. The fact that I have dyed them make them even more special and unique, and I know I will look back on the dyeing process and it will be another memory connected to my wedding.

The finished result, pictured on their original Hotter Shoes box.


Am I happy with the outcome? Absolutely!

Would I buy a pair of shoes purely with the intention to dye them? Probably not. As you may have gathered, the whole process took maybe a day and a half. Even though the bulk of that time is drying time, it is a lengthy process.

Would I dye a pair of shoes again if they needed to be a particular shade? Yes, I think I would. As I mentioned, I definitely wouldn’t go out buying natural/beige shoes just with the intention to dye them. But, if I needed to dye a pair of shoes for a special occasion, then I would go through the process again.

Also, this wasn’t a drastic colour change – I was going from one metallic to another, so I’m not sure how stronger shades (for example) blue to red would work out.

Have you dyed a pair of shoes? How did it turn out? Let me know in the comments! This was my very first time using shoe dye, so I am curious to hear additional experiences.

Until next time dears!