Category: 1930s

Schiaparelli and Prada’s Impossible Conversations

I finally had a chance to check out the Schiaparelli and Prada exhibit at the Met over the weekend. I’ve been a huge fan of Schiaparelli from even way before this exhibit, having found out about her when I first started learning how to sew and then subsequently sewing vintage patterns.

+ + +

The first part of the exhibit, Waist Up/Waist Down, paired Schiaparelli’s embellished jackets with Prada’s skirts. Schiaparelli focused more on the upper part of the body since most of her clients back then sat in cafes and would be more likely to be noticed that way and Prada focuses on the lower half.

The second part (Ugly Chic, Hard Chic, Naif Chic) talked about similar elements of their clothes, whether through the use of similar fabrics, motifs (insects, military style, lips, sari fabric, fur, feathers or leather).

+ + +

The third part showed Prada’s clothes next to digital projections of Schiaparelli’s clothes.

All through the exhibit they had an imaginary video dialogue projected on the walls between Prada (playing herself) and Schiaparelli (played by an actress), talking about their lives and what influenced them.

+ + +

Lobster Dress, 1937: white silk evening dress with a crimson waistband featuring a large lobster painted (by Dali) onto the skirt

+ + +

This exhibit is one of the smaller ones I’ve seen in the Costume Institute, but it was good to see Schiaparelli’s incredible well-preserved pieces, most dating back from the 30s or 40s. Personal favorites: Schiaparelli’s lobster dress, dress with cape attached, light pink dress with butterflies (fitted bodice and full skirt), dinner jacket featuring a beaded optical illusion of a vase of roses/face on the back; Prada’s black pleated skirt with rayon and beaded appliques of cherry blossoms.

Source:,, Schiap wiki

Stealth Project: Wearing History Shorts, circa 1930s


Back view.

+ + +


Front view.

+ + +


Alternate side view.

+ + +


View of shoes and toes.

+ + +

I needed a pair of shorts to wear to a Fourth of July barbecue over the weekend, so I made these high-waisted shorts in a span of two days. They are very comfy and are approaching granny-chic, but I’m fine with that.

Construction notes: I’ve made the trousers before from the same pattern, and just altered the leg length for shorts. I used leftover navy blue gabardine and a leftover button from my last project. I used cotton sateen as interfacing which was a bad idea, since the waistband came out too bulky and my machine messed up my one and only buttonhole. The button was big enough to hide my mistake though, and it’s still very much usable.

I don’t know if I’ll make another pair or shorts this summer, but if I do I plan to put in pockets.

It took an entire month and my hair is straight-ish but I finally managed to coax my hair into looking like something vintage-related. Slowly but surely.

Finished project: Wearing History Trousers & Blouse, 1930s reproduction


Front view.

+ + +


Front detail view.

+ + +


Yet another front view.

+ + +


Alternate front view.

+ + +


Crouched front view.

+ + +

I finished the trousers and blouse from Wearing History Smooth Sailing. Since they are my absolute favorite, this is the pattern review for the trousers only.

Project Details:

Pattern: Wearing History Smooth Sailing trousers, circa 1930s. Reproduction pattern.

Pattern Sizing: Size A, 28 waist.

Description: High-waisted trousers. These are inspired by a 1930s style, but can easily pass for 1940s.

Did it look like the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Fabric: Gabardine. This fabric had a good amount of drape and structure at the same time.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? This is the second time I’ve made these pants. This pattern is awesome! I love the easy-to-follow instructions.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: None! I serged my seams to finish them, added an invisible zipper, and a hook and eye. I left out the belt and belt loops because I was lazy.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Again: this pattern is awesome! This is my TNT (tried and true) high-waisted trousers pattern.

Sewing updates: Wearing History Blouse

Here is my progress so far on the Wearing History blouse. I finally got over my fear of buttonholes and learned how to use seam binding.

+ + +


Front view, before setting in sleeves.

+ + +


View of collar and pockets. It looks obscured by the heavy floral print, but the pockets are there.

+ + +


I used painter’s tape to mark the buttonhole placements on my fabric.

+ + +


I finally got over my fear of making buttonholes. (I’ve been bringing my projects to a buttonhole place at the garment district.)

+ + +


Button view.

+ + +


Back view.

Finished object: Wearing History Smooth Sailing, Trousers


Front view.

+ + +


Alternate front view.

+ + +


Front view, with cardigan and knit top.

+ + +


Side view.

+ + +


Back view.

+ + +

I finished these trousers last week and have only had a chance to properly photograph them over the weekend. I’ve been wearing them almost every day since it’s gotten very cold here. I finished these in one day (about ten hours?), from making a muslin to getting a finished product.

+ + +

Pattern Review:

Finished object: Wearing History Smooth Sailing, Trousers

Pattern Used: Wearing History Smooth Sailing, Mid 1930s Sports Trousers, size A

Pattern Description: High-waisted trousers, 1930s style.

Pattern Sizing: I used packet A, Bust 30-32-34. I cut a size 34, waist 28 for the trousers.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Very easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I made a muslin before I cut this in my fashion fabric, and it turned out pretty well. The high-waist is comfortable and flattering, and very practical.

Fabric Used: 60″ wool fabric with a good drape, 2 yards. $10/yard.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: No revisions except for shortening the pant leg, since I am short. I serged the edges before I assembled the pieces together, and seamed up the left pants leg before I inserted the invisible zipper. I interfaced the waistband as well.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes!

Conclusion: This will be my TNT (tried and true) pattern for wide-legged, high-waist trousers. I’ve already made another one so far since finishing these.

S/S 2011: Another Storyboard


Wearing History Wool Trousers, circa 1930s

I know I’m supposed to be hand-sewing the facing on my Anne Adams dress, but I couldn’t resist a practical stealth project. This deviates from my plan to make garments one season ahead, but it’s in the 20s in the NYC region this week, and I needed something warmer to wear other than my wool skirt. This garment is part of my Fall/Winter 2010-2011 capsule.

Black is very hard to photograph, and black fabric indoors during winter is even harder. Proper photos upcoming.

+ + +


In progress shots.

+ + +


Esteemed Sewing Assistant, assisting.

+ + +


Channeling my inner PJ Harvey and my inner Katherine Hepburn. I usually wait until it’s daylight to photograph my projects, but I love these pants.

+ + +


Channeling my inner Kat Von D.

+ + +

Pattern Review:

Fabric used: Black wool – 2 yd, $24

Notions: zipper – $1

Total cost: $25

Pattern: Wearing History Smooth Sailing trousers

Year: c. 1930s?

Time to complete: 7 hours. This includes making a muslin for the trousers.

First worn: January 24, 2011

Wear again: Yes. I’m making a cotton gabardine version now for Spring/Summer.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: None. Surprisingly it fit right off the envelope. I serged the edges as I went along, and it came together smoothly.

Sewing Inspiration: Carnivàle

Carnivàle is an HBO TV series set in the midwest during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. It follows a group of circus performers and their struggles. Stylistically, Carnivàle is beautiful. The colors are desaturated and everything looks like it was covered in a filmy layer of dust. The costume design is outstanding. There are a few stereotypical flowered dresses, with small flowers in a cotton/calico print, and a few deluxe fabrics used for the more interesting carnies (Carnivàle workers). I’m more into the 1940s than the 1930s, but I love well-filmed horror/dramas with striking cinematography. Here are some screenshots.

+ + +

Rita Sue Dreifuss is one of the carnies who started in vaudeville work and travels doing strip-shows. She is often seen in grey-blues or neutral calico prints.





+ + +

Libby Dreifuss is Rita’s daughter. She also does strip-shows. She is often seen in diaphanous white floor-length dressing gowns and calico flowered dresses.



+ + +

Lila Villanueva is also known as the Bearded Lady of Brussels. She is the dressmaker of the carnival, and is frequently dressed in rich fabrics and bright colors. Her wardrobe is probably my favorite.




+ + +

Ruthie is a snake charmer and barker for the strongman acts of her son Gabriel. She had a very striking Asian-inspired dressing gown.



+ + +

Sofie is a fortuneteller in a mother-daughter act at the carnival. Her mother, Apollonia, is catatonic, and can communicate with Sofie telepathically. Sofie is seen in earthy tones of rust, dark green and brown with cream neutrals, in a tomboyish fashion.




+ + +

Alexandria and Caladonia Potter are twins conjoined at the hip. They don’t have a very distinctive style, but just the fact that they are conjoined at the hip and are doing things very close together accentuates their unusual aspects.





+ + +

The men in Carnivàle are also striking. I happened to find a larger screenshot of their outfits.


Sewing Inspiration: Public Enemy

Marion Cotillard’s character Billie Frechette has an amazing mid/late 30s wardrobe in Public Enemy. The real Billie Frechette was known for her personal relationship with the bank robber John Dillinger in the early 1930s. She was half Native American and half French, and spent two years in prison for harboring a criminal (Dillinger).

+ + +






Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers