1930s Velvet Christmas Dress

I’m back! Happy New Year to you all, I hope Father Christmas brought you everything you wanted and that you had lots of merriment over the holidays. I had a lovely relaxing time, getting up late and not having much planned each day, so just went with the flow. I did manage to get some sewing done and I did a lot of thinking and researching for my plans for 2016 but I’ll go into all that in my next post.

For now I’d like to show you the velvet dress I made for Christmas, just please excuse the quality of the photos, it was pouring with rain on Christmas Day and it was really hard to get some decent light in my parents’ house. On that note, if anyone has any tips on doing photographs for outfit posts during these dank and rainy days I’d be very grateful as I have loads of sewing projects to show you!

Late 1930s dress pattern

As I mentioned here, every year I have a new dress for the Christmas period for wearing to events like work do’s and of course the big day itself and this year I wanted to make one myself rather than buying it. The pattern I decided to use (above left) was one I used before for my Make Do and Mend Dress (above right). It’s an original late 30s / early 40s pattern that was part of a big stash gifted to me many years ago and it’s a perfect style for adapting to both eras. It’s also such a simple pattern of 4 just pieces that it also lends itself really well to lots of different fabrics.

1930s velvet dress made by me

There were three things I wanted to alter on the pattern to create a more 1930s look than the first dress I made which is definitely 1940s style. Firstly I moved the gathers from down the centre front of the bodice and positioned them underneath the bust, this allowed me to cut the bodice on a fold rather than having a seam down the front. I then changed the zig-zag waist line (you can see a close-up of this here) to a more exaggerated curved one that flowed from the natural waist line at the side right up under the bust in the centre.

I knew I wanted to change the shape of the sleeves, as 1930s dresses featured all different types of shapes, and initially thought of doing a much bigger puff at the top to create a look very reminiscent of the later years of the decade. However, I then read Lauren’s post on American Duchess about the velvet dress she was making for Christmas and I absolutely fell in love with the sleeves she was doing.

I changed the shape of the sleeves on my pattern by reducing the amount of puff where it joined the shoulders, widened them at the bottom to create a more bell-shape and added a narrow cuff. I made several mock-ups as I did this because I was so nervous about how wide to actually take them. As it turns out I wish I’d been less conservative with the end version and I think a much bigger version like the one on the right here would’ve been even better.

1930s velvet dress made by me


The original piece of good quality burgundy velvet I had planned to use for this turned out to be too short when I laid the pattern pieces out on it, so in a blind panic I headed to the fabric shop I used religiously when I was at fashion college. I hadn’t been to it for years as it only tends to sell cheaper mass produced fabric but as I stepped through the door it was suddenly like I was 19 again!

The fabric I ended up using was a cheap lightweight velvet in the same colour, however, it was really easy to sew with and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It hangs well and the gathers were a breeze to do for some reason. It’s also really comfy to wear, and as it’s lightweight it gives just enough warmth for the winter evenings without being too thick to wear indoors.

I made a simple belt in matching velvet with a vintage diamanté buckle that I picked up from Vintage to Victorian who sells loads of lovely haberdashery bits and pieces. I also added the beautiful late 1930s diamanté dress clips I picked up at The Royal International Air Tattoo in the summer. These were the entire reason I wanted to use the original pattern as I knew they’d look lovely tucked into the corners of the neckline shape.

I’m annoyed that I didn’t get any photos of the back because I spent quite some time covering a total of 16 buttons with the velvet and had 14 of them running down the centre back with matching rouleau loops in sets of two for its closure. The last two were added to the sleeve cuffs, also with rouleau loops, to make it easier to get in and out of. It looks lovely and adds a more luxurious feel to the dress rather than a simple zip.

I’m definitely going to use this version of the pattern again to make a day dress and I know it’ll look gorgeous in a drapey crepe either in a plain colour with a complementary coloured detailing or a sweet 1930s ditzy floral for the summer. Hmm, ideas, ideas, ideas!


Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. A lover of all things old, especially the 1930s, seamstress, crocheter, maker of hats and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.


  1. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and so very elegant! Making a velvet Christmas dress is still on my list of things to make one day.

    • Oh thank you Renée! I’d been wanting to make one for ages too and I’m so glad I finally got around to it.

  2. What an absolutely magnificent dress!! I saw your little pic on Instagram, so it’s nice to see a few more here. You really did such a terrific job, and I have learnt something, that a “rouleau loop” is the loop that goes around a covered button. I just call them “loopy things” usually! Do upload some pics of the back at some point, even just to Instagram, as we might as well have a good look at them since you went to all of that effort.

    I spent a lot of mornings getting up later too – it seems that in winter, without anything to get up for, I naturally sleep until half eight to nine, which means that I’m clocking up at least 10 hours if I’m going to bed at half ten! It’s a bit of a shock having half six starts this week.

    As for photo tips on these dank rainy and oft windy days? I’m struggling! I have a particularly amusing set of photos to share next weekend, but they might tell you more what not to do…

    Glad you’re back!

    • I’m glad it’s not just me with the photos then! Something I’ve definitely learned from trying to photograph this is that velvet always needs good natural light. Rubbish light and no flash means the velvet looks flat and using a flash makes it look extremely shiny and highlights things that aren’t even there.

      Yes, I was the same, naturally getting up between 8 and 9. When the alarm clock went off at 6.45am on Monday morning it was a massive shock to the system. I can’t wait for a lie in on Saturday now! x

  3. Even the mere mention of covering buttons with velvet sounds terrifying, what an awesome detail! I really want to improve my zipper technique for a nicer finish, or use alternative closures and the button back on this dress sounds gorgeous. The dress is beautiful, the color is so pretty and perfect for the holidays 🙂 I love those dress clips too, I’ve been meaning to invest in a pair myself but have realized I don’t have anything with the proper neckline to wear them with yet!

    • The buttons were very fiddly with the velvet fraying on the edges as I was trying to entice it in. I don’t have a machine either, so I do it entirely by hand but I was determined to do it as I knew it would look lovely.

      I definitely would recommend investing in some dress clips as they can be used for all sorts of things like adding to a hat, putting them on your shoes, holding a scarf in place and so much more. I recently picked up a second pair by Coro and they’re called Duette clips as they cleverly link together to create a brooch. They’d be worth looking out for if you want to wear them more often. x

      • My dream is to have Coro Duettes! I have been been favorite-ing loads on Etsy for ages but never quite make it to actually investing in them as they tend to be a bit pricey. My resolve is weakening 😉

  4. That dress is simply stunning. The way you’ve adapted the pattern is so clever. Perfect deployment of dress clips, too.

  5. Wow!! That is sooooo pretty and once again I bow down to your sewing talent. The red velvet is just stunning and you and that cut is really great. Fantastic job!

    Liz 🙂

  6. Cate, this dress is SO STUNNING. I am hoping you are extremely proud of yourself, it is absolutely beautiful! I am itching to see the back, I bet those rouleau button loops look amazing! And the dress clips & buckle finish off the look perfectly, this is literally a 1930s dream! xxx

    • Aw, thank you Jenny! I will try and get a photograph done when we get a break in the weather and will put it up on Instagram for you to see. x

  7. Ravishingly gorgeous! There will never be, to my mind, a more Christmas perfect fabric than red velvet.

    Happiest New Year’s wishes, lovely lady!
    ♥ Jessica

    • Thank you Jessica! Red velvet is so scrummy isn’t it? It’s so luxurious, glamorous and just perfect for the festive period. Happy New Year to you too xx

  8. Happy new year cate
    your dress is so beautiful and I love the colour, velvet is one of my favourite fabrics you are so talented

  9. What a glorious dress! It looks fabulous. All the buttons sound like very hard work! Happy New Year!

  10. Red velvet is my favorite holiday fabric, and you really did a fantastic job with your craftsmanship here! Absolutely lovely.

    • Thank you Jessie! Yes, you just can’t help but fall in love with red velvet, can you? It’s just such a wonderful tactile fabric.

  11. SO BEAUTIFUL!!!! I am in love the bodice changes you made! And the colour! And the dress clips! And the fabric!!! 1930s glamorous!

    • Thank you Debi and coming from such a talented seamstress like yourself I’m humbled.

  12. Wow your dress is stunning. You look amazing x

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