Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mystery Vintage Dress

A few months ago I was given this beautiful vintage dress by my mother-in-law.  She bought it from a vintage shop several years ago but having only ever wore it once, decided she'd like to pass it onto somebody who would appreciate it.  Me, me, me!!  


It fits me perfectly, but the dress and my figure are probably not the best pairing.  I'm too curvy and I think the style would look best on somebody taller, flatter and a bit more gamine.  Nevertheless, it's a wonderful period garment that I'm very happy to have in my wardrobe and get out to play with from time to time.  I'd also love to give my mother-in-law a little more information on what period the dress hails from, and date it as accurately as I can.  This is where I need your help, lovely readers!

My guesstimate would be that this is a 1930's piece.  Perhaps earlier rather than later in the decade as there's definitely a hint of flapper style about it.  I also feel very strongly that this dress would have been worn with a hat as was typical then. If anybody who has knowledge of clothing from that period can shed any light, I'd be SO grateful.  Or indeed if you have anything at all to say on when you think the dress might originate from, please chip in, I may be completely wrong so I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts.

Here are a few tailoring details:

The dress is totally handmade, from what appears to be plum coloured silk crepe with dark green lace inset details.  There's an impressive amount of hand finishing too.

It has two kick pleats to the front and back and a dropped waist.

The neckline is low, with a ruffle detail and shoulder tucks.  




It has what I think is called a dicky i.e. a detachable triangle of fabric that fits across a low neckline to preserve one's modesty!


The sleeves are slightly puffed with a cuffed edge and lace inserts to add volume. 


It's just below knee length on me (I'm 5' 2").

There's a lovely shaped detail to the skirt, which is mirrored on the back bodice yoke.  


This is what made me think it was reminiscent of 1930's styles as my 1930's blouse has a V-shaped yoke.  


But when I re-examined it more closely, the V on my blouse was pointing down rather than up like the dress.  Anybody know if this is significant?

So, lots of nice period details, I just need to work out exactly what period we're talking about.  What do you think?  I know there are many, many bloggers out there who are very knowledgeable about such things, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much in advance! x

28 comments:

  1. Oh it's beautiful! Not an expert on vintage fashion, but it is quite reminiscent of the WWII era - perhaps late 30s? I'm sure someone more expert that me would tell you for sure though!

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    1. Thanks Michelle, I agree, it's lovely. x

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  2. Hey Jane, I do fashion history at uni and it looks like an early 1930s dress, although it sounds like it was made for a shorter lady as most from this period hit mid calf. There was a bit of a revival in cinema for tudor style costume and so split sleeves became popular perhaps the lady who made it saw Mary Pickford in "The Taming of the Shew" in 1929? http://asunnydayinla.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/img_0627.jpg

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    1. Yes, I think the wearer was probably short too as the proportions are so well fitting on me (a shorty!) Thanks for the Mary Pickford link, my MIL will love that. x

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  3. What a gem of a dress Jane!
    I agree with your assessment of the era. I do see a real flapper influence, so would tend to limit it to the very early 30's at the latest - partially because of the shorter length, as that dropped in the 30's.
    It's so hard to tell though - if it was designed for an older woman say, the style may not exactly have been cutting edge fashion at the time!
    Imagine trying to date today's fashion in 100 years!!

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    1. Yes, there's a lot to take into consideration so we're never going to get it totally exact, but it's fascinating hearing everybody's ideas. Yes, fashion today would be VERY difficult to date, especially sewing bloggers who make all their clothes from vintage patterns! x

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  4. Hey Jane,
    just popped over from Sew Retro,
    Maybe ask the Vintage Baroness? She handles so many vintage dresses.
    I'm no expert, but it looks like 1930s to me as well: puffed sleeves and this many detailing with two fabrics/colours.
    Like Sherry says, early 1930s, hemlines seem longeer after that. And to me, waistlines seemed more defined later, less so closer to the 1920s. Or some kind of belt is missing? But the emphasis seems towards the hips, not so much on the waist.
    But wow, it is pretty!

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    1. Thanks superheidi, I agree that the two fabrics/colours is very reminiscent of 1930's (from my teeny, tiny knowledge of that era). I've received a couple of comments on Sew Retro, both of which point to the dress having a matching belt at some point so I think you're right there too. Thanks again. x

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  5. I'm no help with dating pieces, I just wanted to pop in & say that dress is BEAUTIFUL. What a lovely gift for your mother-in-law to give you!

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    1. Aw, thanks Lauren. It was a lovely gift, I'm very lucky. x

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  6. Hi Jane. I would say early thirties. The dress still has a flapper feel. I do research for the theatre where I design costumes part time but really,it could have been a country bumpkin who made it in 1939 for all we know!

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    1. Yes, I didn't think of that! There are so many factors to consider but I'd go along with early 1930's. x

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  7. Wow, your mother-in-law is quite something. First she finds this amazing dress, then bequeaths it to you (knowing it's going to a good home!)...

    I think the back is beautiful. The upturned V probably does a great job of lifting the focus off the deriere. I'll have to remember that. Sorry I can't offer any useful ideas as to the dress' origin, but maybe if you email the blog address to the V&A, someone there might throw some light on it...

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    1. Thanks Marianne, I know, I'm very lucky. x

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  8. What a gorgeous dress! What are the finishes on the seams like? I know that's one way to have a closer guess at the era, don't know much more than that though! There's a useful page here: http://vintagefashionguild.org/tips-tricks/quick-tips-for-dating-vintage/

    I have heard that 1930s dresses often came in two parts, a slip and then a sheerer over-dress, and the slip often had all the information like the maker label, which could be the case with this lovely dress.

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    1. That's a helpful link- thanks. There are two different seam finishes: on long straight seams, the edges are turned in and stitched and on smaller and curved seams, they're overcast by hand. A total labour of love in my opinion! x

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  9. I'm no expert, but I had not immediately related the look of this dress to the little I know of 1930's styles... so out of curiosity I did some Googling (yay interwebz) and it does indeed bear some resemblance to several wedding dresses I found images of, from the early 30's. The colour combination is what threw me off though; I wonder if it's someone's later creation of a 30's inspired piece?

    I'm sure we're all dying to know if you find out anything more! :)

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    1. Yes, I did that too, there are some 1930's patterns that are VERY similar, especially the sleeves, shaped skirt and dicky. I've had some fabulous feedback so will certainly do a follow-up post with all the information. x

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  10. The godets (inserts), bishop sleeves, neck flounce and the seam over the hip all say 1934 to me. It is hard to tell just how fitted the dress would have been on its original owner, who may have been quite stout. Will you model it for us Jane? So much easier to tell when a real person is wearing :)
    It is very charming and I can imagine the wearer sobbing into Hercule Poirot's shoulder over her missing pearls, while he tries to put her at arm's length for fear of mussing his perfect toilette!

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    1. Yes! I immediately thought of a Poirot-style heroine too (wearing a hat though!) I may model it at a later date when I'm not so deathly pale. The colours of the dress would be perfect on a darker skinned brunette, not so flattering on a pale-faced blonde! x

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  11. Penny Dreadful Vintage is a good source for authenticating vintage garments. She's been great in helping me out in the past. Maybe she can help you out. http://www.pennydreadfulvintage.com/blog/

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    1. Fab, thanks, I may give her a try. x

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  12. Well, I haven't a clue, but have really enjoyed the guided tour Jane. It's beautiful ....

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    1. Thanks Winnie. I've been blown away by all the information that's been offered up, SO fascinating. My MIL will be thrilled. x

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  13. I'm certainly no expert either though my untrained eye would have said very early 30s, as I feel like you can still see some elements of the 20s in it. But what a breathtaking dress, no matter what!

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  14. I'm with Tasha that it might be from the 1920s. I was a huge fan of House of Elliot and this dress reminds me of the styles from that series.

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  15. Hi Jane, mum emailed me about this, it's great you've had so much interesting info about the dress. Mum was delighted that you liked it so much xxxxxx to you. Beck x

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    1. Oh that's good! Have e-mailed me, lots of love xxxx

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