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 1930s Tennis Dress

In which I don a 1930s tennis dress, without intending to play tennis.

The main appeal for me as a buyer and collector of vintage clothing is wearability. Of course, I adore glamorous evening wear, but there are only so many occasions that call for such exuberant attire. Hence, when I am looking for pieces to add to my wardrobe, I usually veer towards daywear styles – smart separates, suit jackets that can be worn with multiple outfits, blouses and swing trousers etc.

One area of vintage clothing that I am especially drawn to is sportswear. With the growing rise in popularity of leisure activities in the first decades of the twentieth century; this in turn created demand for stylish yet practical sporting attire. As these garments were quite obviously worn for physical activities, not many survive in excellent condition – the same is true of vintage house dresses; another item I am very much enamoured of.

The appeal for me of vintage sportswear is the fantastic original details that are true to the period – yet – as they were made to withstand and facilitate movement – they are incredibly easy and comfortable to wear.

I spied this fantastic early 1930s tennis dress on Etsy a few months ago, and even though she had a few issues, I fell for her deco charms immediately. The main issue with her was intense yellowing all down the back, due to (things are about to get yucky here folks) sweat. It is likely that back in the day, the dress was worn for playing tennis in, became a tad sweaty, then may have been put away without laundering. Not one to be deterred by such an obstacle, I decided I would try my best to rectify the issue.

Firstly, I used Orvus soap to soak her in three times, over the course of a good few hours. Now Orvus is pretty strong stuff, but is also gentle enough to use on antique lace et al, hence my application of it on 80+ year old rayon crepe. *If you are going to use Orvus – please use gloves and follow the instructions carefully*. I then rinsed out the dress thoroughly many many times to ensure all the Orvus residue had gone, then hung her up to dry.

By this point I was having a bit of a panic, as the dress had seemingly shrunk about 3 dress sizes. Anyone that has washed rayon crepe (especially vintage rayon crepe) will know, that it has a nasty tendency to shrink A LOT when it gets wet with laundering. This can thankfully be remedied by ironing whilst slightly damp, then again when dry. Luckily, the dress returned to it’s original size (thank goodness as I was almost thinking I had ruined it after all the trouble of laundering it!)

For an interesting discussion on laundering rayon, and how to rectify the dreaded shrinkage, read this piece over on the Fedora Lounge here.

But the big question – had the yellowing gone? Whilst it had definitely vastly improved, it is still there albeit very faintly. so I am happy with the progress made. I may have to soak her a few more times to try and get the yellowing out completely, but for now I am happy with her. So in conclusion – yellowing much diminished, and I know the dress is 100% clean having laundered it myself. Hurrah.

The fabric is surprisingly strong, especially considering its age. I just adore the art deco details – the decorative pin tucks down the front and sleeve caps, beautiful buttons and the flutter sleeves to facilitate movement. The buttons undo in order to slip the dress on, in addition there is a snap placket at the left hand side to fasten.

It is difficult to see the dress features in some of these pictures, as with the dress being white, the details tended to bleach out  when photographed. Hopefully you can see some of the details, particularly in the close up shots.

Whilst it is unlikely I will be playing tennis in this dress, I will definitely enjoy wearing it in the summer months. And, who knows, I may have a swing at a spot of tennis in it after all?

Outfit Details

Until next time dears!