This project is a throwback to 2006! It was the winner from the July Poll which I used to run on the old website!  It was the circa 1939 Mail Order pattern… most likely by Marian Martin.

It took me forever to get this done, mostly because I’ve been extremely busy, aside of the insane redraft … more below.

Pattern Description:
This is a mail order pattern that arrived in an envelope postmarked December 1939.  The distributor was Marian Martin.  There were actually two patterns in this envelope, so I’m not sure if this one was original to the contents or not…

This dress has bluson gathering at the underbust, and an assymetrical button closing at the center front.  There is a very strong Art Deco look to the piecing of the skirt.  Although many garments were bias cut at the time, this one was not.

I love the style, which is very iconic.  It also has a very slimming silhouette.

Pattern Sizing:
The smallest size this pattern came in was a bust 38 inches, and they came one size per envelope.  I had the 38B pattern.

Because I usually cut 32B patterns, I had to significantly regrade (and redraft) some areas to fit to my frame.

The instructions were pretty good, about on par with modern Vogue instructions.  I know that isn’t saying much, but just as Vogue assumes you know what you are doing, this pattern does as well.  Back then, EVERYONE sewed.  Women even went to universities to learn to sew.

This is an unprinted pattern, which all seam allowances were 3/8″.  Please see my tip on working with unprinted patterns here.


Fabric Used:
I used a beautiful Kimono print (content unknown, but it was $$) from F&S fabrics (a store near my DBF’s parent’s house) in LA.  The contrast was a gabardine.  The floral also has a texture to it.  It is exquisite.  The base color may look black in the photo, but it is truly a deep dark navy (of which it was rather challenging finding the coordinate gabardine for the center front)

I added details of Italian imported buttons (also from F&S – the button lady is the “soup nazi” of buttons,  sadly she was stolen by Mood in LA) and a horn buckle (also from F&S, dyed also in a deep navy, almost black).
This pattern had to be completely redone.  My notes on the drafting process have been lost in my website migration.  This was originally a B 38″ and had to be redrafted to B 33″.

Basically, I obtain a multisize pattern which has a few similar traits (especially neckline and shoulders), and follow the grading rules applied there to get to my size.  Grading by eye is a skill that you develop over time, but using multi-sized patterns is a good place to start.

I made one mistake in the first draft (by eye), and had to re-do the upper bodice once.  I had forgotten to petite the length. The sleeves and belt were entirely new drafts because I didn’t want too much pouf and too much width.  I did a reduction on the sleeve cap to eliminate the excess pouf, and a reverse slash and spread to narrow the arm.  To widen an arm, so to narrow it, it is the reverse.

The skirt and bodice weren’t pieced together, but rather lapped and topstitched.   The attachment of the skirt to the bodice in the rear was done similarly.

Changes I made include:

  1. They used a placket closure on the side back then.  It would have been fastened with snaps (no zippers yet).  I replaced this with an invisible coil zipper.
  2. The lace was to be applied to the finished garment, I sandwiched this into the facing application instead
  3. The buttonholes were to be bound, which I decided I didn’t like on that particular fabric, not to mention purely decorative.  I omitted them, and sewed an eyelet for the shank, and permantly stitched them to the facing underneath.
  4. I narrowed the belt for my belt buckle

This is an absolutely breathtaking dress in person, and once again you have chosen so wisely! I’m not currently doing polls for my next major project, but I will bring them back sometime soon!