Gingham, seriously, who doesn’t love gingham? I’ve become quite obsessed with it every since ordering samples of organic cotton gingham fabric and now I want everything made in it!
I currently only have just one dress in gingham, which has big one inch black and white checks. It’s a 1950s dress I made many years ago using a combination of two original 1950s patterns. I liked the top of one but the skirt of the other and it actually worked out pretty well. However, although it’s a beautiful dress, it’s fairly dressy and not really my style anymore. I now want to make one for everyday summer wear that’s much more me. This means 1930s / 1490s style, which gives me a good excuse to have a look at gingham dresses from this era!
The one on the left is from the early 1930s and I believe it is a diagonal print check rather than having been cut on the bias, although it’s hard to tell without seeing the bottom of the skirt. What I love about this one though is that there’s no pattern matching at all. This was common in the early 1930s to make sure they used as little fabric as possible.
The pretty 1940s one on the right has wonderful bias cut strips going across the straight cut dress to add really interesting detail. I wonder if these are just placed on the top of the dress or are actually painstakingly inserted individually. I sure hope it’s the first option because that would take forever!
Another detail I like is when gingham is used with a solid plain fabric, often picking out one of the colours of the check, to draw the eye to certain sections. The two examples above from these Hollywood starlets show exactly what I mean.
Jean Harlow is wearing what looks like a dress with the sleeves cut as part of the main front and back pieces. This reminds me of the T-shape 1920s One Hour dresses. The eye is instantly drawn to the white collar that matches the white background of the check.
Myrna Loy on the other hand is wearing the most incredible plain dress with gingham used for the detailing. Your eyes can’t help but focus on that huge bow and puff sleeve extensions. (I seriously need this entire outfit in my life!)
The colour options in this era are outstanding, just look at all those different hues! Just on this page alone you’ve got cinnamon, black, sunshine yellow, bright red, navy, chocolate brown, bright pink, violet, emerald green, pale blue and candy pink. I bet you can’t get all of those shades now and the choice for organic cotton gingham is even more limited.
Now that we’ve gone into technicolour, what do you think of the 1940s pinafore dress at the bottom right? Doesn’t it make you think of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz? Okay, so that’s not really the look I’m after but I do love the white ruffles around the top edge and the skirt. I also like the fact that it’s sleeveless. I’m severely lacking in cool sleeveless summer dresses and, having just completed my first one in green, I now know this is a hole I need to plug in my wardrobe.
And here we have gingham ruffles! Isn’t this dress stunning? It was sold on Etsy by Sea of Vintage and I so wish I’d got to it first but you win some, you lose some. I’d love to do gingham ruffles on my dress but as the organic cotton is woven, rather than printed, it’s a bit heavy to do this with.
This mid-brown large check gingham dress was sold on Etsy by Dronning and was from the mid to late 1930s. I love the added cute black bow that, along with the white collar, really draws your eye to the neckline. All of the different sections of the dress are cut differently, with the skirt being cut entirely on the bias. That would’ve taken a fair amount of fabric to do as it’s quite a full skirt.
This 1930s one from Autumn of Grace is just so cute. I love the bias cut pocket that’s edged with white bias-binding to match the edge of the collar. And, as with the previous dress, I also really like the way the white buttons stand out on the small gingham print.
Now this 1930s dress from the brilliant Fab Gabs is really quite special. I literally adore all of the detailing on this, especially the red appliqué on the pockets and matching red belt. They really make this dress pop. Whoever made this dress all those years ago really had an eye for detail.
However, this beautiful 1930s blue gingham dress from Viva Vintage Clothing has pretty much all of the elements I want to include in my dress. It’s got white detailing, ruffles, white buttons, mis-matching of the print and has sections cut in different directions.
By the way, this dress is still available to buy. It’s an unusual larger size, it’s deadstock, so it’s never been worn and it’s only $95 (US). Sadly it’s too big for me but please someone snap this up and give it a good home!
So, this is the pattern I chose to make my dress with. It appealed to me because it looked like a more grown up version of the 1940s Dorothy inspired one earlier. This pattern is actually from 1945, which is quite late for me, I don’t normally stray that far into the 1940s. However, it does have quite a 1930s feel about it and, teamed with my 1930s accessories and hair, I think it will end up looking more of my era.
The organic cotton I’m going to buy from Organic Textile Company comes in two sizes, normal and tiny, and three colours, red, navy and black. So, having decided on red, because again it’s severely lacking in my wardrobe, I’m going to get one metre of the tiny check and two of the normal sized check. The tiny one will be cut on the bias and used for the yoke, straps and pocket inserts. I may also make the belt in bias cut, but I’ll decide that once the dress is made up.
I’m also going to add a strip of broderie anglaise along the bottom of the yoke to add my white detail. I actually found this in my scrap box and I believe my mum bought it in the 1970s when she did a lot of sewing. I’m going to try and ruffle this, although not too much as I don’t want it to end up bulky. I’m also going to add white buttons down the back and on the pockets as in the pattern but I also want to add one to the bottom of each strap at the back, so it buttons on rather than being sewn into the top of the dress. I have a Bettie Page dress that has this detail and it’s a lovely touch.
So, what do think? I can’t wait to get started on it, especially as it looks like our summer is nearly over already!