Style Inspiration: 1930s Long Sleeve Dresses

1930s long sleeve dresses

It feels strange writing this post on one of the hottest days we’ve ever experienced in September but last week felt very autumnal and I was getting in the mood for my winter wardrobe. The weather’s predicted to change by the end of the week and go back to normal, so I’m going to plough on!

I seem to have a severe lack of long sleeve garments in my wardrobe and, as many vintage gals do, I tend to suffer the ‘oh my god, I have no vintage to wear in the winter’ syndrome. I’ve got better each year but I do end up wearing the same thing over and over again.

This year it has to change. I’ve already vowed to crochet at least one 1930s long sleeve jumper and I’m about to start on making my first 1930s long sleeve blouse, however, I do really need a couple of 1930s long sleeve dresses for daywear. I’ve been trawling my usual research places for inspiration and I’ve already found a few that could be contenders for my winter wardrobe.

Early 1930s winter dresses

First up is a group of plain sleeve dresses from autumn/winter 1930-1931. I love this early 1930s look where it still draws the eye down the front of the silhouette. This was a technique used often in the 1920s to make the shapeless dress look more flattering. Although the width of the dress has reduced by the turn of the decade the silhouette was still very much of a straight up and down, no curves.

Dress sewing pattern, 1930

I already have this sewing pattern from 1930 that I bought from Vtg Fashion Library on Etsy over the Christmas period but am still yet to use it. I think the main reason is I just can’t visualise what colours or fabrics to do it in. I do like the idea of the flounce sections being in a stripe fabric like the second from the right above, however, any suggestions will be gladly received!

1934 long sleeve dresses

I particularly like these ‘Such Neat Dresses’ from 1934. Again they have the straight up and down silhouette and plain sleeves but the detailing has become less fussy. I think they’d be ideal for everyday workwear, especially in a check or tweed. They’re very much my style and I have a few original 1930s patterns I could adapt as the basic shape is the same.

1935 batwing dress

I spotted this gorgeous batwing dress from 1935 on Pinterest yesterday and it instantly reminded me of one of the patterns I picked up at the Summer of Vintage Festival. It has a similar two colour drape on the shoulder but I also love the idea of adding contrasting buttons as well.

1930s Maudella dress pattern

This is the pattern, it’s by a company I’d never heard of before called Maudella. The only info I’ve managed to find out about them is that they were started by a lady called Maude Dunsford in her attic in West Yorkshire in 1937. This would definitely be one of the first to be produced as dress styles started moving towards the classic 1940s look in 1938.

The two swatches next to it are triple crepes from Clothspot. I’m not 100% convinced on them yet as the purple isn’t that vibrant and the grey is possibly a little too light. However, this is definitely the sort of thing I want to make it in, with purple as the main colour and the grey as the underside of the drape and the belt.

1930s long sleeve dresses

And look, there’s a purple dress with grey accents! I love the cuffs on the two on the left, perhaps they could be a little addition to the Maudella dress. Don’t you just love the dress with the buttons all the way up the back? I would hope there was a side zip on that one, rather than having to undo all of the buttons!

1930s dress simplicity 1476

And talking of cuffs, aren’t these two gorgeous? The details on these are exactly what attracts me to the 1930s. You’d never see those cuffs and collars in any other period than the 30s and you certainly wouldn’t see them today. I particularly like the ones on the left dress, there’s all sorts going on there, ruffles, overlapping, curved edges. Just stunning!

1930s ruffle cuff dress

I’m also intrigued by the length of ruffles on the cuffs on this navy and white dress. Again, I’ve never seen this before but it compliments the cute ruffles on the neckline. My only worry with this is that the ruffles would get in the way. They’d have to made of something quite soft so they didn’t start annoying me and getting caught on evrything.

1934 pleated sleeves

These sleeves really are quite spectacular! Okay, so they’re not long sleeves but the idea could be translated to longer ones. Vivien Leigh wore something fairly similar in this photo from 1935.

The teeny tiny pleats create a fabulous volume of fabric on the cuffs and collar. I could imagine them in a contrasting colour, with the tie section in a third colour. My favourite of red, white and blue would work perfectly!

1930s graduated sleeves

These sleeves are an absolute wonder! I cannot even begin to imagine what the pattern pieces were like. The wide shoulder/top arm area is great for creating an illusion of slimmer hips, the ultimate 1930s goal. However, I’d be worried I’d end up looking more like an American football player!

1937 big sleeve dresses

The long sleeves on the left are probably a little bit easier to wear as they don’t look as structured. However, they’d still create the illusion of slimmer hips. The style on the right is rapidly becoming my most favourite sleeve style of the 1930s. There was many adaptations of the classic bishop sleeve throughout the decade but these ones are particularly big.

1930s dress pattern

I already have the pattern on the above right which I purchased from Kallie Designs on Etsy way back in October last year. The fabric on the left is a vintage rayon in deep pink which I have always planned to use for it, so maybe this year I will finally get it done. I’m probably going to add white piping around the yoke, cuffs and belt to define them, but we’ll see how that pans out!

(On a side note for anyone who might be interested, Kallie Designs has a wide range of quite simple crochet cloche patterns that she’s designed herself. I’ve got a couple of them on my wishlist which I may have a go at over the winter.)

Mode de Lis 1930s dress

This is my absolute favourite bishop sleeve dress. It’s by the incredibly talented Lily from the Mode de Lis blog. She has an amazing eye for detail and creates some truly spectacular pieces from the 16th Century all the way up to the 1950s.

This particular dress was created using an original 1930s blouse pattern from Mrs Depew (which I’ve had my eye on for ages!) for the top part and McCalls 6993 1930s skirt from their Archive Collection. It’s ended up as such an incredible dress. I’m so inspired!

1937 bell sleeves

Lastly for the bishop sleeve dresses is this simple, yet oh-so stunning one from 1937. Okay, so again it’s not long sleeves, but what fascinates me about these is the cuff part doesn’t actually look like a separate piece to the main sleeve. I would love to see what the pattern piece looked like for those as I cannot even fathom how that would work!

Mexicali 1930s crochet dress

And last, but certainly not least, I found this long sleeve crochet dress pattern! Oh my word, I sooooo want to make this. It’s made in two separate parts, the jumper part and the skirt part and then joined together with the contrasting waistband. This is great because I could make them as separate garments if I wasn’t quite ready to tackle an entire dress in one go. Could you imagine it in a deep mustard yellow with contrasting deep magenta? Oh my days!!

I’ve managed to end up with loads of inspiration for 1930s long sleeve dresses, now I’ve just got to get on and make them. So, what about you, have you started to think about your autumn/winter wardrobe? What are your plans?


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. Gorgeous collection of 1930s frocks – I’ve spent ages looking at them. If it were for me, I think I’d choose the 1934 Linda dress and the one with bishop sleeves from your Kallie Designs pattern. Both are perfect.
    I think my mother was using Maudella patterns in the 1960s. Sadly,the patterns are long gone so I can’t check.

    • Yes, I really like the Linda dress, it would look stunning in a tweed suiting wool. I think it would end up being a really practical dress, something that’s often lacking in vintage fashion!
      I believe Maudella hit their peak in the 1960s. When I was trying to find out about them, most of what I found was patterns from the 60s. They all had really funky illustrations on them. The very few from the 30s that I saw had slightly more masculine looking women in the pictures, much like the lady on my one. I wonder if that was their target market, perhaps the ladies that aspired to be like Katharine Hepburn. xx

  2. The dress designs on the sewing patterns are fantastic, OMG I love all of them. I can’t sew, knit, crochet or anything like that but I would just collect those patterns!

    • Some people do just collect vintage sewing patterns and pay an absolute fortune for them! Mrs Depew does a series on her blog where she showcases patterns that sold online recently for eye-watering prices. You can see it here – Needless to say, I don’t spend anywhere near that for mine and set myself a limit of £35 inclusive of the P&P, however, some of my best ones were for less than £15! xx

  3. Such amazing inspiration here, I’m drooling!! I’m excited to see your creations x

    • Yes, me too. I really, really want to get on with them now! xx

  4. Those are gorgeous patterns – I don’t know how you’d be able to pick just one. (Probably like me and knitting patterns; you say, “Right, I’ll make THAT one” and then if you feel sad at not making one of the others, you’ll know you should be making that one instead.) They’re all so lovely, and have such pretty details. That sort of detail is the very opposite of modern low-quality fast fashion. It takes time and extra fabric to make. Bit different to the modern ‘use cheap cloth and get the glitter fairy to barf on it’ approach.

    The crepes you’ve got for the Maudella pattern are very similar to the tones in a grey/blue 1930s dress I own.

    • Hahaha! I love ‘use cheap cloth and get the glitter fairy to barf on it’!! That basically sums up how I feel about modern clothing and why I now prefer to make my own. I actually couldn’t tell you the last time I went high street shopping. It fills me with dread if anyone suggests going with me!
      That’s great to know about your grey/blue 1930s dress. Is it on your blog? I’d love to see it. xx

      • Well, therein lies a story. I bought it from Etsy from a seller with a good reputation, and when it arrived the fabric was in decent structural nick but it was horribly faded – the grey has turned a nasty ‘nicotine grey’. So that really ticked me off as there was no way I was prepared to wear it in public, and it cost £70. (I know, fatgirl size 1930s dress, £70 – I should have asked more questions with a price so relatively low.) And then one of the teeth came off the zip! So I’ve never worn it. I need to get off my butt and dye it – I’m thinking burgundy would cover the faded grey without killing off the contrast with the blue (which would turn purplish), and then I can get a matching zip and pop that in. Pete’s been talking about going back to Burgh Island at some point, and it’d be great for that.

        • Oh that would make me so angry! I cannot believe they didn’t mention it in the listing, very bad form. Yes, burgundy would probably be the perfect colour to dye it with, I do hope you do it. At the end of the day, if you’re not wearing it now, what can you lose if it doesn’t work out? It would be perfect for Burgh Island if it did though. I really, really want to go there but feel I need to find a hot man to take with me so we could have a romantic weekend. Not much hope of that though! xx

  5. I always have th same problem! When will I learn? Set for summer. Spoiled for summer even. Then starving for vintage fashion the rest of the year. Silly because summer is so short in the uk. I just love pretty summer dresses and have clearly made too many!! I will have to follow your lead and compile an inspiration/plan of action board. I love your collection of images. Very well thought out, stylish and seasonally appropriate!

    • Oh, I looks forward to seeing your inspiration! This year it’s game on with autumn/winter clothing. No more messing about with making out of season stuff. xx

  6. Bishop sleeves are just so fabulous! Ive been feeling very 30s again lately and I adore this post. I love all eras from the 20s-60s but the best sleeves are on the 30s dresses for sure as you demonstrate in this post!

    retro rover

    • I’d noticed the slight divergence into the 1930s again on your Instagram account. I love how you go through phases of different eras every now and again. xx

  7. ANYTHING from these images would look divine on you and would be perfect for the cooler months. Can’t wait to see what you whip up 🙂

    • Aw, thank you Liz! I’m going to make a start on my first one this evening. I’m absolutely determined not to freeze this winter! xx

  8. Those 1930s dresses are all utterly gorgeous! I do have quite a few long sleeved dresses, which I’m actually already looking forward to wearing, but nothing at all like those 1930s marvels. Not even close. I’m looking forward to seeing which ones you will be making. xxx

    • Oh you lucky thing being all ready for the colder weather. I envy you! I had a big sort out of my clothes this weekend, so I now know exactly what is lacking. I’m on a mission now to make sure I have enough to wear over the winter. xx

  9. All of these are super inspiring! I love that black bishop sleeved dress, I pinned that for future reference! I am very excited to see your upcoming projects 🙂

    • That black bishop sleeve one is so elegant, isn’t it? I absolutely love the volume in the sleeves, as well as all of those amazing darts across the front bodice part. xx

  10. So very many yeses to these awesomely chic, becoming long sleeved styles. As someone who almost never wears sleeves that don’t hit at least at my elbow when out in public (no matter the season), classic garments like these appeal to me all the more.

    Many hugs & happy tail end of summer wishes,
    ♥ Jessica

    • It actually amazes me how many short sleeve blouses and dresses I have in my wardrobe and how little I have with long sleeves, particularly living in a country that is cold most of the time! It’s time to change all that so I don’t freeze yet again through the colder months. xx

  11. There is so much to choose from. Your research helps me feel inspired, too! I love the navy & white dress with the ruffles. Shawl collars are very flattering.

    • Oh, I’m so glad it’s inspired you too. I look forward to seeing anything you may whip up. xx

      • Yes, I was actually really surprised at how it’s given me confidence elsewhere too. There’s actually a book out called Crochet Saved My Life, so it’s definitely something that changes people! xx

  12. So many great dresses! Can’t wait to see yours!
    I also started planning and making some long(er) sleeved dresses because I can really use them in my wardrobe.

    That crocheted dress is amazing!! It will be tons of work, be worth every stitch! Someday I want to knit my own dress. But I see that for 5 years now I guess 😛

    • Oh yes, I can see that crochet dress taking about a year to complete! I certainly won’t be attempting it any time soon but it’s definitely one for the future. xx

  13. Best collection of vintage clothing.I like red one bishop sleeve dress.Such a helpful blog ,i am excited to see your collection.

  14. After seeing all of these fabulous dresses I am kind of hankering for a long sleeved 1930’s dress now! I really like all of the little details, the drapes, the decorative buttons, the sleeves, the cuffs. Just so beautiful. The crochet dress would be marvellous too. I have some lovely knitting patterns for dresses, I just need to find the time and the patience!! Looking forward to seeing what you make. I’m looking forward to getting my knitwear out and I really want to see a couple of simple tweed/wool skirts to go with them. I’m trying to plan a more coordinated wardrobe this Autumn.

    • I know, I’m dying to start wearing my green 1930s jumper that one of my mum’s friend made me a couple of years ago. It’s got to be my most favourite winter jumper, although I’m determined to crochet myself at least one over the colder months. I love that I can do that now! xx

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