Vintage dressmaking love: a 1930s velvet evening capeĀ 

Popular through the 30s, 40s and 50s, an evening cape made of a luxury fabric like velvet is an instant wardrobe pick me up. 

Because of its propensity to be crushed if not cared for properly, I had been aware of a length of velvet that I have had in my little studio for a while. 

When looking through my sewing patterns last night I came across a gorgeous 1930s evening cape marked July 1938 in pencil. It would be a perfect marriage, I decided and I took a deep breath, fortified myself with a cup of coffee and finally cut the treasured velvet.

To say the pattern was light on in instructions is an understatement but at the time the pattern was produced most women would have some experience in making their own clothes if not access to a seasoned dressmaker. 

I made a decision to stabilise the Cape front with a selvage edge of silk organza attached with catch stitches and added silk organza to the “Medici collar”. I hemmed with catch stitches….

I plan to make a satin lining today and wear over a black dress for my sons kindergarten performance this evening. Nothing like a deadline!

In the interim here is what Constance Talbot had to say about capes and evening coats in my beloved “The Complete Book of Sewing”…

Simplicity 4612 1940s style mothers day dress for high tea at Old Parliament House

Before I get started on my own dress, this girls dress was made using the Geranium dress pattern widely famed online, for my daughter with a long skirt in Michael Miller fabric (I think it was Cloud 9 for the bodice with a batiste lining). Probably her last wear as she has been growing. But it was fabulous as a birthday party dress when she turned 2. 

On to my vintage reproduction dress…. I adore all the fashion illustrations of romantic floral from the 30s and 40s (which also experienced quite a resurgence in the 80s and 90s). With the addition of revers styled from those appearing in Vogue 5134 this was dress was made for mothers day high tea, using Liberty “hasketh” (100% viscose). The revers on this type of dress appear more frequently in late 30s designs from which I also drew inspiration, (an example of late 30s Australian Women’s Weekly fashions below)…

There were no issues with the fabric but I would warn other sewists using this fabric to be extra careful with cutting the pattern pieces given the subtle one directional pattern of the snowdrops. This was probably the most expensive fabric I have worked with. Mistakes with this equal crushing moments of realisation. Not that I did that (cough, cough).

Alterations included shortening the sleeve and skirt (I used a rolled hemming foot on my Singer 222, did both skirt and sleeves, very fast work). Most seams were trimmed with my vintage Singer pinking attachment. I love working with such a beautiful machine! The waistline seam was lapped.

Anyway, I loved wearing this dress! And it was a great occasion to work towards completion.


1940s floral dress in Liberty print rayon for mothers day… Ooh la la

Enjoying an almost perfect morning with my little girl, Ken and Barbie and Constance Talbot (author of one of my favourite 40s sewing books “The Complete Book of Sewing”).

The Winter sunshine on our patio is gorgeous but I am ever watchful for spiders, having been bitten by a redback a few years ago. Not an experience I recommend at all!

Looking forward to Mothers Day on Sunday and will hopefully have completed this pretty 40s dress project. Being in love with a chosen fabric certainly helps. AND I always love sewing with my Singer 222. Such a wonderful machine.

I plan to fully baste the lapped waist seam before stitching…. I have learnt my lesson with previous projects!

Hope everyone else is also having a great week! Happy sewing!