The Almost-Never-Was 1930s Coral Outfit

1930s coral skirt & blouse

Outfit Details

1930s Bow Blouse – Made by Me
1930s Pleated Skirt – Made by Me
White Vintage Handbag – Lewes Flea Market
White 1940s Style Shoes – Miss L Fire
Turquoise Drop Earrings – Made by Me
1930s Style Sunglasses – eBay

1930s coral outfit

After completing my burgundy collection, which was very autumnal inspired, I wanted to put together a much brighter, summery collection for the warmer months. I was unsure of the colours to choose but when I spotted a beautiful coral linen mix fabric on ClothSpot I knew coral had to be one of them. The next task was find something that went with it.

As coral is a colour I’ve never worn before (remember my pledge to explore more colours!) I was totally open to anything. I went on the hunt for any patterned fabric that even had the tiniest hint of coral in it and very quickly came across a stunning cotton lawn with stylised leaves and flowers on it from Guthrie & Ghani. I immediately fell in love with the combination of turquoise, coral, mustard and fawn on a white background and it was nothing like anything I’ve ever bought before. My head went straight into design mode!

1930s bow blouse

I knew the patterned fabric would make a gorgeous 1930s big sleeve blouse and thankfully I already had an original 1930s pattern that would fit the bill, which you can see here. I’d already used the skirt part for my brown wool crepe skirt, so I knew it was a good fit for me and would be simple enough to alter.

I didn’t want to create the same neckline as on the pattern, mainly because I have a lot of tops with high necklines and I thought a slightly lower one would be cooler for the summer. After a quick look on Pinterest I found this blouse (on the left) which had exactly the same sleeves but a lower neckline and I knew I’d found the look I wanted.

Chatsworth gardens

1930s bow blouse

It was actually fairly easy to make up, however, what isn’t obvious in the photos is the gorgeous double darts at the bust. I really wish I’d remembered to photograph them. The bow was done using guess work. I had a strip of fabric in my stash which was off the bottom of a skirt I shortened, so I used this to figure out how long and how wide the finish bow should be, before cutting it in the proper fabric.

The sleeves were pretty simple too, although I’d never made sleeves like them. The pattern piece is really, really wide and all you do is sew the two ends together, set the sleeve head into the armhole and then finish off the edge by encasing elastic. This needs to be tight enough to push up towards the armpit and stay there, so the bulk of the sleeve then hangs over it to create what I can only describe as puff-ball sleeves. They remind me so much of the puff-ball skirts of 80s! Who remembers them?

1930s coral ensemble

Next up was the task of figuring out what skirt pattern to use. I wanted something different from anything else I had, but also wanted to keep to the streamline shape of the 1930s. Then I remembered the Mrs Depew skirt pattern that went with the pattern for my 1930s Resort Wear Top. Like the resort wear top it was a draft at home pattern, which slightly put me off as I’d had problems the last time, but I decided to give it a go.

After purchasing it, and having a good look at the miniature image that you base it from, I began to worry. It made absolutely no sense to me. You can take a look at it here, on the left is the design and on the right is the front pattern piece. Do tell me if it makes sense to you!

Mrs Depew skirt pleat

Anyway, after several frustrating attempts I walked away from it, resigning to myself that I was never going to understand it. It almost became the never was skirt. Then suddenly, during a lunch break at work, I had an epiphany. I grabbed a piece of paper and cut it into what I thought the pattern pieces should look like. Within minutes I’d put it together to create a little paper skirt. Hallelujah!

As you can see in the photo above it has a double pleat each side of the centre panel, however, the outside one just seems to sit by itself, there’s no seam to sew it into. This was the trickiest part with sewing it together as it needed to be placed in a very specific way and the stitch lines had to be in a very specific place. Just one mistake would mean it going wrong and I had to do two of them mirrored image of each other!

1930s skirt detail

However, that wasn’t the only issue. This fabric was an absolute pain to work with. I have no idea if it was me or if it was just the nature of the fabric, but it constantly stretched and moved every single time I touched it. Despite the mock up fitting me absolutely perfectly, this one seemed to get bigger and bigger at the waist every time I tried it on, despite adding a stabilising stitch to it. As soon as I realised what was happening I added stay tape all the way around it from stretching any further.

You can see in the photo above that the hip seam stretched out of shape as I was sewing it on! The zip was a nightmare to get in place and I actually ended up doing it by hand, which I really hate doing. I actually find them really simple to do on a machine but it takes me forever by hand. This one took 3 hours! Anyway, it’s there now, and it’s totally invisible. Yay!

Mrs Depew 1068b skirt

The waist is still a tiny bit big but I guess it allows me to eat a good hearty meal whenever I want without worrying. Always a bonus! The beautiful buttons were made by the wonderful London Button Company using a scrap of ivory fabric I had lying around. Despite the cost, I decided to go for their couture wire back option, which makes them extra special. Honestly, when they turned up I was so excited at how gorgeous they were. I cannot recommend these guys enough if you like covered buttons or buckles.

Now both pieces are all done I’m really happy with how they turned out, despite the issues. I’ve already made a turquoise skirt that goes perfectly with the top and after a long hunt I’ve purchased some gorgeous mustard yellow linen for a third skirt. It also looks lovely with my white one and my fawny coloured one from The House of Foxy. Seriously, this is such a versatile blouse. I love it!

This collection will definitely continue to grow, so watch this space for more pieces to come!

Cate

Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. Lover of all things old, lingerie obsessive, crafter and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.

42 Comments

    • Thank you Colette! Yes, the coral is so gorgeous, it’s got a real brightness to it, so summery. I love it despite the issues! xx

  1. Goodmorning Cate,Buongiorno!,
    Thanks for sharing this great post:very beautiful photos and Your coral outfit is very Chic,super Elegant & Stylish…it’s Fabolous on You and make shinning Your Beauty…what a Charisma!

  2. You look fabulous, I think the blouse is stunning and matches beautifully with the skirt. Loving your hair by the way!

    • Thank you Dawn and a huge thank you for sharing my post on Facebook. I really appreciate it! xx

  3. Coral looks great on you, Cate, and I just love, love, love that blouse, both the pattern and the shape. It’s definitely something I would have picked up if I would have come across it in a shop. The “made-by-you” earring are gorgeous too and perfectly match the turquoise in the blouse. Oh, and I definitely remember the 1980s puff-ball skirts. Much better on a sleeve, though! xxx

    • Hehehe! I’m glad someone remembers them. As a 13 year old I wasn’t allowed such a fashion forward trend so used to tuck my ankle length skirts up and under the waistband to create the same effect. It really caught on at school and loads of girls did it! xx

  4. That pattern looks utterly unfathomable to me!! What do all those radiating lines and numbers mean?! No wonder you had such a tricky time. Your hard work paid off though, what a super result. You’re setting the bar for sewing very hard, but giving me lots of inspiration at the same time, so keep it coming!! x

  5. I’m glad you stuck this outfit out, because it is just wonderful on you. I love the colours as well on you, suits you perfectly.

    • Thank you Liz. Yes, I’m glad I did too, I wear it a lot, although the blouse comes out of the wardrobe much more than the skirt! xx

  6. I’m not much of a coral person either, but after seeing this lovely ensemble, I just might venture beyond my comfort zone!

    • Yes, it’s not a colour I’ve ever warmed to in the past but this is such a lovely shade of it with a slightly pinkier tone than usual. xx

  7. Another fabulous outfit, you have such a good eye for putting fabrics together. I’m not really a separates girl, but you almost tempt me to give it a go!

    • Thank you! I never used to be into separates either but then I set myself on a mission to create slightly more wearable, casual (history’s version of casual!) pieces. They are so versatile and it allows you to create different looks with the same pieces. Now I tend to feel really dressed up in a dress! xx

  8. Beautiful ensemble! I hate it when a project seems to be fighting with you but the skirt came out so nice in the end! I love a bow blouse too, and this one is such a lovely print and sounds like it is wonderfully versatile for you in your wardrobe 🙂

    • Thank you Bianca! It’s been quite a while since I’ve had this sort of issue that it came as a bit of a shock. I’d forgotten just how frustrating it can be when nothing seems to go right. xx

    • Thank you Karen! Yes, I definitely feel very summery wearing it. In fact I really wish I was wearing it today to cheer up the horrible grey sky outside. xx

  9. That is a really nice outfit – the fabric for the blouse is super.
    I remember puffball skirts; they had a very unattractive ‘full nappy’ quality. Puffball sleeves are a much better idea!

    • Yes, despite desperately wanting a puffball skirt during the 80s (I wanted to be Shirley from Pepsi & Shirley!) I’m very glad they were only a fad. Not one of the better looks of the decade! xx

  10. What an awesome idea! I love that you created a lighter hued version of your burgundy cold weather pieces to sport during the summer month. I adore both colours and think that each shines on you.

    The custom made buttons are such a sweet, fantastic touch on this beautiful skirt.

    Marvelous makes and ensemble, my stylish friend. Your outfits always knock my socks clean off. 🙂

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

    • Oh, thank you Melanie. I have to admit, the hair colour is out of a bottle! It was my mum’s natural colour before she went grey and I always believed it should’ve been my natural colour too. xx

    • Totally agree! I love a pussy bow, or just generally any bow, the bigger the better! xx

  11. The skirt pattern just looks mind boggling to me and it sounds incredibly tricky. However, the finished article is really pretty with great details. Your blouse fabric is just lovely, what gorgeous colours. You should definitely keep wearing coral.

    • Thank you Kate-Em! I actually bought a coral hat the day before this at SOVFest but it needed a hat elastic attached to it to keep it on, otherwise I would’ve worn it with this outfit. It’s funny how you completely dismiss a colour but then find out that it actually does really suit you. xx

      • Looking forward to seeing the hat, sounds like a good find. It is always good when you find a new colour that you can wear. When I discovered that mustard yellow and I could be friends after all I was overjoyed!

        • Ah, yes, mustard yellow! I’m still not convinced it suits me but I’ve just ploughed ahead and made myself a lovely linen mustard skirt. I need to wear hosiery that gives me a bit of tan on my legs with it, mind you, as the pasty English white legs don’t really go! 🙂 xx

  12. Absolutely gorgeous!!! I definitely do tend to gravitate to the same colors in my sewing, those being red, brown and blue. I try to broaden the color scheme when I go to the fabric shop, but those co,ours usually get me every time. 😉
    Lovely outfit that suits you perfectly!! Thanks for sharing!!

    • It’s funny how we do that, isn’t it? I’m always attracted to blue, and after that red or burgundy. But no more, my wardrobe will be an array of colours! xx

  13. Just a lovely ensemble, great job! You look so comfy and happy in this. Whatever the instructions said, your skirt turned out just awesome! I like what you did to the neckline better than the original.

    When I wear a dress I made with puff-ball sleeves, I’m a bit self conscious I look dated, though I always love the sleeve style on everyone. Do the sleeve elastic gathers leave a mark on your skin like it does for me?

    Good for you for trying new colors. I have a rut of going for turquoise and purples, and the worst part is I have a hard time even recognizing I am buying the same colors! But it is always so refreshing to wear a new color, and you do look great in coral. That last picture has such a pop of color, too, from the flowers behind you.

    • No, the elastic doesn’t leave any marks but I really played with how tight I wanted it before stitching it in. It’s just about right, although one is slightly looser than the other and occasionally slips down a little, but nothing that’s noticeable. xx

  14. Love the blouse and skirt! Even with the problems in making the skirt, you pulled it off amazingly well! And the blouse is just dreamy. 🙂 Well done, Cate!!

    (I know this post is an older one, but I’ve been going back through your blog in the mornings while waking up and drinking my morning coffee. 🙂 It’s the perfect way to wake up!)

    • Oh wow, thank you, what a compliment! I must wear this outfit more next summer as it barely came out this year, but when I look back at these photos I’m reminded of how much I love both pieces! xx

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