Saturday, March 23, 2013

Styling the 1930's

Yesterday I was called upon to create a last minute costume for a last minute understudy in a production of 42nd Street. The actress needed a red dress from the 1930’s.  I do this sort of makeover frequently, though I rarely start it at noon of the performance day.  

A red dress, several sizes too big with plenty of extra room in the skirt was purchased for $3 from a local thrift store.

While I awaited its arrival, I studied my condensed version of the Sears Catalog of the 1930’s.  

The dress was a size 16; the actress generally wears a 12. I started by removing the collar, facing, and sleeves. I put the dress on a properly sized dress form. Since there was no waist seam, I marked the waist, cutting the skirt off an inch below the waist, removing the stitching around the zipper so that it could still be used in the final product. After pressing the pleats out of the skirt fabric, I carefully squeezed the pattern pieces onto it. I used a pattern from my collection that had the proper shape.


 The bodice was taken in at the back darts and the new skirt attached. All of the dress fabric- sleeves included- was required to make a properly shaped skirt.  Fortunately in the 1930’s it was trendy to use a second fabric for the sleeves and trimmings.

. I chose a red and white polka dot fabric from my stash for this.

The actress came out for a fitting before I put in the sleeves, so I was able to tweak the fit first.  It took me about 3 ½ hours to convert a well-used garment from the 1980’s into a stylish dress of the 1930’s. It was challenging and fun, and is a great way to save both time and production costs.


  1. Amazing transformation! I was at the show and the dress fit perfectly......both the actress and the show! Bravo!!!!!

  2. Nicely done and a very satisfying outcome. Congrats!

  3. Well done! The 30’s are my favourite dressmaking decade, style-wise :-). If you’re so inclined, do join the Dressmaker’s Anonymous facebook group, we’d love to have you!

  4. Thanks! I love the 30's but don't get to do dresses from that era very often.