Now that’s a wide pant. About 62″ around each hem.

This is a mock up for the 1930s beach pajama project, so they aren’t hemmed at the moment. I’m pleased to report that they for the client’s waist/hips nicely and the length is pretty good, though a bit long in the front. Of course she’ll need to wear the appropriate shoes for the final hem.

Wiiide leg pants, sans waistband

Frankenpattern 30s beach pajama pants

We’ve decided to do the pants in navy linen. The top (third image down, on the right) will be bi-colored in navy and the natural linen of Nick’s cowl. I’ll be looking for a period belt buckle and hopefully matching buttons for the top.

The beautiful linen used for Nick’s cowl


It’s the gowns!… Well it is, but it’s not.

I’m sure the first thing I noticed about 30s fashion were the gowns. Heavens, Ginger Rogers gliding across the dance floor (backwards and in heels) in some floaty confection of a dress. And her partner was very elegant too (Fred Astaire, of course). Flying Down to Rio and Top Hat – that feather dress (first on the left, above)! And I don’t even like feathers!

But what really interested me were the details. The backs, or backlessness, really. The surprisingly casual flesh reveal. What was that about? Weren’t all bygone eras repressed? (Well no, thankfully). And the arm holes. You’re going to think this is weird (I mean, who thinks about armholes unless they pinch, right?), but armholes in evening wear were often practically non-existent. Sometimes the front of the dress connected to the back with a super long strap or clever fold of the front material and I’m sure they had already discovered body tape because you never saw anything but tasteful side-boob. As a matter of fact, for as much flesh as you might see, it was always tasteful, never shocking or “undressed”. More like revealing just enough to invite the imagination. (40s gowns, with the little high belly flesh peek-a-boo, always seemed like a sad, lesser version to me).

1930s low back gown

Look how low that arm hole is. And I’ve seen lower. Lower backs too.

The other thing I love about 30s (and 40s) clothing are the great variety of seam details. Today we have nothing to compare with our athilesiure and yoga pants. The multitude of dart options, plethora of sleeve options, collars, jabots, flounces, pintucks, gathering, roucheing, pleats! They took this design stuff seriously! Take a suit type jacket, designed for a woman’s shape. Today it would have princess seams, possibly an asymetrical hem and/or collar (don’t get me wrong, I love those things). In the 30s the side seams may have been rouched, or perhaps the shoulders would be. The shoulders may have had extra seams that went from shoulder to hem, or had a clever fold detail. Pockets might have been designed into curved seams or been… triangular! There could have been self piping details. Not all in the same jacket, you understand. And it would have fit beautifully. The closest we see to those things today are in expensive ready to wear and some of the more interesting Vogue patterns.


Via:  Look at those seams on the left jacket and the pockets are integrated. And the collar – with buttons! How fun!

I’m enjoying continued exploration of 30s garments and even some girly details that I would disdain in modern styles. I wonder why that is?

What’s your favorite thing about 1930s styles? Or 20s, 40s, or 50s?

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

We probably don’t think too much about types of darts in our clothing. Either they are present or not, short or long, narrow or wide.

When looking at historical sewing you sometimes see darts in groups, such as at the shoulder or waist, darts in odd to a modern eye places, such as near the hip or back of the neck, darts in multiple places, like the armscye and shoulder, or darts that are really more like vertical tucks, which let the fabric ease out at the top and or bottom (this can be especially nice at the ribcage, ending at the bottom of the bust, or top of the hip).

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

Alterations for a prominent abdomen, Art of Dressmaking, Butterick, 1927

What you see in those cases are either straight line darts or those that jog in the middle, reducing the garment by a little wedge shape of fabric.

Clothing Construction, Clara Brown Arny, 1934

But they’re straight. Usually even when they transect the back waist.

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

There are other cases where you see a curved seam in a standard dart location, but that is usually either used to gather in fullness above or below or as a design choice.

And then there are curved darts. I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered them. I guarantee that I’ve used them before, either as lazy sewing or to adjust fit, but I’ve only just realized that they can be a design intention, meant to solve a problem. Don’t laugh at me. I’m working with a pant pattern that has a long, slightly inward curving waist dart. The paint is high waisted and if the dart didn’t curve in, it wouldn’t fit the small of the back. But of course such darts can also be used for specific figures: inward curving for a flatter bum, outward curving for a rounder bum.

Straight dart at bust, 1970s pattern

Slightly inward curving dart, 2017 high waisted pant pattern

1930s Beach Pajamas inspiration

Sewing and wearing costumes is fun, but it turns out I really enjoy researching various historical periods – the clothing, fabrics, notions, reasons hemlines were a certain length or the development of construction methods and what was considered the most up to date.

Currently I’m re-reading my 1927 Butterick sewing manual and pursuing a couple of more detailed early 30s manuals, while working on a set of Beach Pajamas. They’re based on the pants from this 1931 McCall 6431 pattern:

and the top from this 1933 McCall 7344 pattern:

I’ve used a modern pant pattern to match the hip size of my client and altered it based on some wide leg 1970s pants. Actually, I altered it much further than that (Caution: Winging It). The modern pant leg opening was about 35″, the 70s pant about 42″, and as you can see, the desired effect is much wider. I suspect at least 60″, if not more. To keep from piecing the fabric, should we go cotton, I couldn’t go too crazy. I’ve mapped it out to about 60-64″ opening on 3.11 yards on 54″ linen. We’ll see.

My current plan for the top is to drape it on my client, based on the general size of a jacket I made her previously. What could go wrong there?

Next step: the pant mock up, likely in 4 hideous quilting cottons from the stash.

As I do more research into various periods of historic costume I find myself having a more and more difficult time properly trimming various garments. Sure there are places that sell historic trims, but how often are those going to match what I’m making? Many historic trims were made from the same fabric (or contrast fabric) as the garment they went on.

My search into historic trims led me to fabric manipulation and to ribbon trims for hats. Many of the techniques are related.


I just got a reprint of an old book on hat trims and this is my first attempt. It’s a ribbon cockade that goes on a hat or is for a dress decoration in the 30s/40s. I made it with a thinner that usual grosgrain ribbon I had on hand that is about 3/4″ wide. I’d say I used about a yard. The technique involved folding the ribbon into a continuous strip of triangles and tracking the selvedge, not unlike making ribbon roses as a kid. A final trim would have a button in the center and maybe another layer of trim under this one.

After a healthy smattering of posts I seem to have run out of things to talk about… Or I’ve been working diligently on gift projects I can’t yet discuss. ‘Tis the season.


Today I’d like to share an interesting website I just stumbled on via Pinterest. It’s called Unsung Patterns: An Archaeology of Home Sewing. The image above is from this post on, of all things, corset bags. It appears to date from the 1910s or so and features an embroidery design bag. The bag itself is made from a strip of fabric 9″ x 1 1/2 yards long, folded in half and stitched on the long sides.

I must say, though I store corsets and have seen modern commercial versions of bags (usually one side is clear plastic), it never occurred to me to make one. My corsets tend to live folded into large handkerchiefs. Silly me.

Other entries on the blog feature some other unique items, including early 19-teens aprons, 1930s pirate costumes (not as bad as you might expect), a 1920s Martha Washington costume, some German patterns and a variety of early century work wear, all with a little history and background included.


I’m rather interested in aprons right now, so this post on a 1926 “Bungalow Apron” from the New Jersey based Aladdin Apron Company (great name!), with its musings on the possibilities of women going beyond the home sewing realm into cottage industry is particularly appealing.

It’s an interesting site to peruse. Enjoy!

Just when I’m researching 1930s corsets and extrapolating a 30s garment from a teens one, Mrs. Depew unveils one of the intermediate eras, the 1920s Foundation Corset.


It’s hard to see exactly how many seams it has, but I imagine it has four more in the back. The top line is part way between the over bust Victorian models and the shape of the 1911 corset. The bottom length and garters look to be long enough to both shape and smooth. Of course it’s slimming, or rather flattening… I’d say my 30s corset falls nicely in line.


Mrs. Depew does have their own 30s pattern as well.