Dots and Flowers, 1930s

PolkaDotWhen I bought this photo from a favorite ebay dealer, I thought that I would be sharing yet another example of older women’s love of polka dots in the 1930s. But on more careful inspection I discovered that these are not polka dots at all. Instead, they are slightly irregular white flowers on a dark background.

The dress has a geometric insert at the low hip, a common feature in the dresses of the early 1930s. The costume designer Witness2Fashion has written extensively on how this style was inspired by the great French designer Vionnet. You can see how closely this dress follows the lines of  one offered in a 1931 Sears catalog.

Everyday Fashions of the Thirties as Pictured in Sears Catalogs

Everyday Fashions of the Thirties as Pictured in Sears Catalogs

This particular dress looks homemade, since there are many ripples where the bottom skirt meets the hip piece. Little care was taken to arrange the textile pattern attractively. What puzzles me most, though, is the second piece that stretches from the high hip to the waist. Maybe the original dress was lengthened with an extra piece as skirts lengthened in mid 1930s?

Her jacket also intrigues me. It is tightly cuffed at the wrist, making me think that the fabric might be some kind of knit. It has the sheen of silk, though. What it your best guess of how this little jacket was made?

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4 Responses to Dots and Flowers, 1930s

  1. Carol in Denver says:

    If we could see the back side of those sleeve “cuffs”, we may see a row of little buttons and a row of loops. Perhaps a continuous lap opening closed by those buttons and loops. To my eye, the jacket appears to be made of heavy silk or rayon.

  2. eimear says:

    Like yourself and Carol above the jacket looks like a silk, and reminds me of one i bought secondhand years ago which later perished (thats when I found out the delicate nature of antique silk). The jacket/overblouse i had, was a lightish silk lined with a hankerchief weight cotton / linen – it had a leg of mutton sleeve with tight cuff and the combination of the light silk and the lining gave it greater volume than either fabric on their own.

    I love the detailing of the neckline.

  3. Katrina says:

    I agree with the other respondents that the jacket is a woven silk, and the cuffs likely have a row of buttons in the back. That second piece in the dress is indeed a puzzle. Initially I thought it might have been a drop-waist style from an earlier era, and she had added the belt to update the silhouette. But that seam just doesn’t hit at the right place for a dropped waist, or for anything else that I can see. I think you must be right about the alteration for additional length, in which case it’s quite ingenious. Much less fabric to add at that point than at the wide bias hem.

  4. JenO says:

    What really strikes me first about this ensemble is how unflattering that bias draped look is on a mature figure, all of those “V” and diagonal lines just bring the eye down and make her seem droopy and hunched over.

    After looking at this photo up close, I think the dress originally was commercially made because of the tight pleated ruching along the neckline. I think there are two possibilities for what we see here: (1) this may have been a hip length blouse and skirt from the late 1920’s (when she could afford to buy clothes) that were later sewn together to get that length when the hemlines dropped. (2) She’s very petite and was given this dress, which she shortened with that awkward seamline across her hips. It seems like the skirt is out of proportion on her, which it would be if the dress had been too large on her.

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