1930s Waitress Dress – Oxfordshire Drama Wardrobe
Red Vintage Style Clogs– Swedish Hasbeens
1930s Style Sunglasses – eBay
1950s Red Crocodile Skin Effect Handbag – Poot Emporium
1930s Red & Silver Hair Clip – Gift
If you read Porcelina Precious’s latest blog post you’ll know that it was all about the location and not the outfit. Well, mine is the opposite, it’s all about the outfit and definitely not the location. I was so excited to show you this incredible piece of history that I just got my mum to take a few quick snaps in my back garden before we headed off to a local vintage fair.
So, imagine if you will, that I am not stood on grass that has way too much moss growing in it and the backdrop is not a fence, some random plants that currently refuse to flower, and my next door neighbour’s open window! Instead, I’m stood in a 1930s diner (think Joan Crawford or Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce) and that I’m the rebellious waitress who chose to replace her standard issue buttons with bright red ones!
A couple of months ago I went to a sale being held by Oxfordshire Drama Wardrobe. They were about to move premises and had decided to have a clear out of stock they no longer needed. The advert in the local paper said there would be lots of bargains to be had and that they would be offering a small amount of genuine vintage alongside their costumes. How could I not go?
Once I got there the sale was heaving. So many local drama clubs had come to pick up lots of pieces for their own productions, so it really was chaos. They were only letting a certain number of people in at a time and I had to stand in a massive queue outside for about an hour before being let in! When I was finally through the door I made a scramble for the vintage. There wasn’t an awful lot to be had but what I did get my grubby hands on was definitely worthwhile going for.
You’ve already seen my £10 genuine, and almost immaculate, 1930s winter coat that I bought, but I’m yet to show you my £1 mid-1930s blouse. This post, however, is all about my beautiful late 1930s waitress dress, which again cost me just £1! Yep, that’s right, £1! It was actually buried amongst a huge pile of men’s vintage pieces on a wooden trestle table but as soon as I pulled it out I knew it was something special.
So, you’re probably wondering how I know it’s a late 1930s waitress uniform dress and not something more modern. Well, there are some quite obvious clues if you know where to look for them. Firstly, the style of this dress is very much of this period with the puff sleeves, Peter Pan collar, a blouson style bodice that’s gathered into the yoke and an A-line skirt. Secondly, it has a deep hand sewn hem and it has built-in dress protectors under the arms. You won’t find either of those in modern clothing. Thirdly, the fabric is cotton, without any polyester in sight, and is incredibly hard wearing, typical of workwear from the pre-1960s. And lastly, the buttons and buttonholes, which I will come to in a minute.
The only thing that threw me off was the closed overlocked seams. This is very reminiscent of modern day clothing, rather than the wide open seams of the 1930s that were left raw or finished by whipstitching or sewing back the edge. However, after having a chat with Carla from Tiny Angry Crafts (and her mum!) and Natalie from Frolicking Frocks, I found out that this sort of finish was common in workwear of this time. Yes, so it is a genuine 1930s piece!
The original buttons are the absolute giveaway, you very rarely see these on anything but early 20th Century workwear. These unusual buttons are aptly named ‘change buttons’ because they are not sewn on and therefore can be changed within a minute or two.
The way they work is by having tiny buttonholes on the side where you would normally find the buttons. The shank of the change button is then pushed through the tiny buttonhole and kept in place with a small clip. I’ve actually never seen straight clips like the ones on these buttons before, normally they’re rings like the ones you get on keyrings. However, the majority of them were rusty, so they needed to be replaced as it was bleeding on to the white of the dress.
And these are what I chose to replace them with! This stunning card of red original 1930s buttons was from KolonialRD on Etsy and they still have loads of these sets left in two different sizes. I absolutely adore the font, it’s so reminiscent of Art Deco from the Eastern European region of the time. I was a little heartbroken to cut the buttons off this as it was just so gorgeous but I’m going to attach the change buttons to it with a photo of the dress on the back for prosperity.
And besides, I have wanted a white 1930s dress with big red buttons for so long! One of the very first vintage blogs I started reading was Johanna Öst’s and way back in 2013 she posted her own white dress with red buttons and I totally fell in love.
I love the way Johanna styled hers with a red belt and white turban, so I will definitely be making a red belt to go with mine. I’m thinking maybe a crochet one would look good. However, initially I chose to make a matching white belt using a scrap of cotton fabric I had that was very similar to the cotton of the dress. I added a genuine 1930s red buckle to it for another pop of colour.
The dress itself is in such amazing condition. I did have to give it a really good wash once I got it home to make it bright white again and remove a horrible grubby stain that went right across most of the collar. Thankfully this came out but I could not get the five tiny spots of rust to disappear despite trying every trick known to man! In the end I dabbed a very small amount of white fabric paint on each spot which has made them virtually invisible. Yay!!
And before I go, I must show this beautiful genuine 1930s hair clip that I wore with the outfit (despite not being able to see it in any of the photos above!). My best friend Sam, who’s not into vintage at all, bought it for me. She often buys me genuine 1930s accessories for birthdays or Christmas and always manages to find such incredible pieces. Okay, so this has little bits of the paint coming off the red flowers but it’s so unusual to find a 1930s hair clip that’s much more for daywear rather than the sparkly evening ones. And I totally love it, especially as it came from Sam!