Finished: 1930s Ruffles Almost-Vintage Dress

1930s ruffles dress

Outfit Details

1930s Ruffles Dress – Made by Me
1930s Black Hat – The Washerwoman
Vintage White Leather Gloves  – Dig for Victory Show
1940s Black Cordé Clutch – Shepton Mallet Flea Market
1930s Reproduction Shoes – Aris Allen
Silver Celtic Earrings – Had for years

1930s ruffles dress

This gorgeous 1930s dress was one of my last sewing projects of last year. I just didn’t get chance to photograph it and get it up on the blog before, so I’m really excited to show it to you today. The reason I call it my 1930s Ruffles Almost-Vintage Dress is because about 85-90% of the dress is actually vintage.

The beautiful pale Airforce blue fabric is an original 1940s rayon crepe that I picked up at the Dig for Victory Show in June. It’s a very summery lightweight fabric with a stylised flowers and round vase print o it in white and charcoal. I hand washed it as soon as I got home and it held up really well. It’s got a good strength to it, so I’m not as afraid to wear it as my polka dot vintage silk blouse.

As soon as I saw this fabric I knew I wanted to make something floaty with lots of ruffles. It’s one of the areas of 1930s fashion I hadn’t explored before but after seeing Margo’s green ruffle dress on The Durrells I totally fell in love with it. So, off I went on Etsy to find the perfect pattern. Eventually I spotted this original 1930s Anne Adams pattern from Klassicline and knew it would be perfect.

Blue & white 1930s dress

After I made up the initial toile I decided I wanted the yoke section in a contrasting colour. I did a little sketch for both options and it definitely looked better without the pattern all the way over the dress. It’s something you see often in 1930s fashion, it was done when home dressmakers used scraps of fabric they already had to save money.

The white fabric isn’t vintage, but the likelihood of me finding a piece of vintage crisp white crepe was pretty slim so I opted for modern. It’s a slightly heavier crepe from White Lodge Fabrics, however, it has the same moss texture as the blue and I thought it would look better than a smooth crepe.

The yoke was the most annoying part to do on the entire dress. I initially followed the instructions on the pattern and finished the neckline with vintage rayon tape turned inside and tacked down. This is a very common technique of the 30s and I’ve used it often but, as the whole dress is ever so slightly sheer, the rayon tape showed through very obviously. It looked awful, so it was back to the drawing board.

In the end I used the same technique I used for my vintage silk polka dot blouse and added a cotton lawn lining to the whole of the yoke section. Again, it’s a common 1930s technique and is explored in detail in my 1930s sewing book.

1930s dress button detail

Next was the button dilemma! With a total of 18 needed it was going to be hard to find exactly what I wanted if I opted for vintage. Also, what colour should I have gone for? I thought about black, as charcoal grey was going to be impossible to find. However, I wanted the dress to look really light and summery and I feared that black would just dull it down too much. White just wouldn’t stand out and the chance of finding 18 matching blue buttons would’ve been like finding the holy grail!

After exhausting all possibilities I went back to my favourite button maker, The London Button Company, and got them to make 18 matching buttons from the end scraps of the blue fabric. So, in a way, they are vintage 🙂 I do wish I’d gone for the slightly smaller size, however, just to create a little more spacing between them, but never mind.1930s dress back detail

Both the ruffles and long ties were all edged with a rolled hem. On the pattern is says to do this by hand (!!) but as I have a rolled hem foot I did them on the machine and that took long enough. If I’d done them by hand it probably would’ve taken me ten times longer. It’s well worth investing in a rolled hem foot if you don’t have one, it gives such a lovely finish to lightweight and sheer fabrics.

The pattern had two options for the arms, either to be left as they are, so without the ruffles it would be sleeveless, or to add short puff sleeves. For the toile I did one arm with the sleeve and one without. When I tried it on I much preferred the sleeveless version, so went without them on the actual dress. This meant that the armholes had to be finished off neatly and I finally got to use my little gadgets to make my own bias binding from the blue fabric. It was so easy and a technique I’m going to use over and over again.

Lastly the hem was finished with vintage rayon tape and hand sewn on so it doesn’t show through on the outside. This is my favourite hemming technique because it always looks so neat on the inside. With this dress I used a white rayon tape to match the yoke to give it a little extra detailing that only I get to see.

1930s vintage dress

The day we took these photos it was about 3°C outside! My mum was wrapped up in many, many layers and was complaining about not being able to wear gloves whilst using the camera. I, on the hand, was absolutely bloody freezing!! Despite the fact that the dress is ever so slightly sheer it’s not lined (most 1930s dresses weren’t) and it doesn’t necessarily need a slip either as this would add bulk. So, there I was in 3°C weather in my underwear and a thin layer of rayon crepe covering my body! You can’t say I don’t suffer for my blog 🙂


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. That dress is worth suffering for, it’s really gorgeous. Prints are one thing that’s so hard to get right with modern fabrics – your vintage fabric makes that dress look spot-on. It’s something I always admire in the stuff Kitty-Lou makes, too, as she uses vintage fabrics. I’m always tempted to start stashing fabric myself just in case I start sewing.

    • Kitty’s garments are wonderful, I love her work, especially the ones with original vintage fabrics. I’d love to work with more vintage fabric but it’s not always in the best condition or is only available in small pieces. I was so chuffed when I found this though, over 4 metres of it! xx

  2. Stunning! The dress is absolutely amazing!

    • I agree. The vintage rayon print is to die for. You’ve but it together perfectly. I love the original pattern you used. Sometimes those old ones just fall apart when you try to work with them. Congratulations on a gorgeous frock. I would go Balboa-swing it in immediately!

      • Thanks Tam! I honestly couldn’t believe how amazing the quality of this fabric was. The whole time I was handling it I was expecting it to fall apart but it’s really strong. Whoever had before must’ve looked after it really well. xx

  3. Lovely, lovely job! And how nice to have it already made for the spring and summer months!

    • Thank you Lily! Yes, I cannot wait to wear this during the warmer months. I did wear it to my work’s Christmas do, so it’s had one outing so far. xx

  4. Absolutely stunning! That blue color is divine, and the floaty quality of the fabric is displayed so well with this design.

    And you are DEDICATED to take these pictures in cold weather! I was recently in 0 degree weather and I about died. 3C is warmer but frankly, any weather just feels COLD once it’s below a certain degree. (Spoiled California girl here 😛 ) Thankfully I learned to layer (like your mum!) in Ireland. I hoped you warmed up quickly as soon as the photoshoot ended! The end result is beautiful.

    xx Lauren

    • Being a British girl I’m used to the cold, but I did keep thinking of sunnier climates when we were taking the photos to try and convince myself I was actually much warmer. 🙂 Fashion models do it all the time, they often have to shoot swimwear in the winter so now I know they’re pain! xx

  5. Beautiful dress; love the shoulder ruffles and the fabric!

    • Thank you Celia! The ruffles are just gorgeous aren’t they? I don’t know why I’ve never done them before. xx

  6. You do suffer for your art! I hope you had a coat nearby. Cate, I am so impressed once more with your talent at sewing! It’s utterly feminine and summer perfect. Beautiful. I do like the covered buttons very much, they finish it off wonderfully. Sounds like your gadgets paid off too. Xx

    • Hehehe, yes, there was a very warm coat just off camera which I literally jumped into as soon as we’d finished! I then sat in the car with the heating on full blast. xx

  7. That dress is so pretty. You are a talented sewer. I admire your talent.

    • Thank you Marilyn, that’s so kind of you. I think this is the prettiest dress I own now. xx

  8. I can hardly believe that this is a handmade dress – it’s so lovely! You did a wonderfully job getting the 30s look. The ruffled sleeve detail is really striking, and I love the slight cape effect that it gives. You look beautiful!

    • Oh thank you Jessica, that means a lot! I do try and create items that could actually be mistaken for real vintage. It’s always worth spending that little bit extra time on it to achieve an authentic look. xx

  9. Such a lovely dress in a beautiful colour. You are so talented. And perfect with your gorgeous shoes too! Kx

    • Thank you Karen! Yes, the shoes are a bit fab aren’t they? I do tend to wear them a lot. xx

  10. This dress is superb!! It looks so authentic!! You did a wonderful job!

    • Thank you Anthea, that means a lot coming from such a talented seamstress as yourself. xx

  11. Ooh, that is sooo pretty, and I speak as someone who is normally allergic to frills in any form! It looks perfect on you.
    Well done for disguising the cold as well – no-one would ever know.

    • Thanks Elaine! I was never a frills sort of a girl but this has totally changed my mind. Now I want them on everything!! xx

  12. That 1940s rayon crepe is gorgeous, and I love what you have done with it. The buttons, both at the front and the back of the yoke, are genious. I bet you were cold, though, I can almost see the goosebumps on your arms! xxx

    • Thank you Ann! You can probably see my goosebumps on my arms in the last photo. I was sooooo cold. It was worth it though! 🙂 xx

    • Thanks Kate! The buttons just finish it off perfectly, don’t they? xx

  13. Lovely dress! You were very lucky to get vintage fabric in such beautiful condition. I think the white contrast makes the main fabric stand out so much better than if it had been used for the whole dress.

    • Thank you Norma! Yes, I was so nervous after I’d washed it that it would be too weak to use. I’m so glad that it’s in such amazing condition. The lady I bought it from sells a lot of vintage fabrics so I’m going have a good look through her offerings next I see her. xx

  14. Really beautiful dress, so authentic looking! The matching buttons are so lovely and punctuate the white yoke perfectly. I’ll have to pick up one of those rolled hem presser feet, I’d never heard of them before!

    • Oh you really do Bianca, they’re a lifesaver! There’s a bit of a technique to using them but once you’ve mastered it you’ll be roll hemming everything. xx

  15. Such a stunning dress! It is calling out for a picnic or garden party!!! Effortlessly feminine and Ooh! Those ruffles!!!

    • Thank you Christina! Yes, I’m really looking forward to wearing this in the summer months for those sorts of events xx

  16. So happy to have found your blog! I love the 1930’s and have enjoyed perusing your articles. This dress is so pretty and you are so gorgeous in it!

    • Hi Michele, welcome, it’s good to have you here! Thank you for your sweet comment.

  17. Thank you for braving get the icy cold to share this dress , love the way the ruffles sit over your shoulders, so pretty, that fabric is beckoning springtime , let’s hope it’s not too long away

    • Hehehe, you’re welcome! 🙂 Yes, I really can’t wait for the warmer weather so it can be worn much more often. I think it’ll be a favourite for the summer. xx

  18. I’m impressed at your dedication to outfit photos! You must have been freezing! It is a beautiful dress and all the more special as it is made of vintage fabric. I wonder why the person who had in their stash for years didn’t use it? It is very pretty.

    • Thank you Kate-Em! Yes, I wondered that too, although I have fabrics in my stash that I’ve had for well over 20 years!! It could, of course, have been dead stock left over from a closed down fabric shop or manufacturers. I guess we’ll never know, but at least it got to fulfil it’s destiny at long last. xx

  19. That is just beautiful! You can see the quality of it in every line. Bonus points for having such a lovely smile on your face even whilst freezing to death!

    • Thank you Katie! I think it was more smiling through gritted teeth in the end. I was soooo cold when I finally went back inside.

  20. Gorgeous work, such a lovely homage to that wonderful fabric. It was truly waiting for you. And if you hadn’t said anything I would never have noticed, but the hairs on your arms are standing out straight in that last pic – you poor frozen thing!

    • Thank you Melanie! Hehehe, I did giggle when I first saw the last photo. Unfortunately the body never lies! xx

  21. As others have said, it was worth the suffering to show off such a beautiful dress. As always your work is full of such fabulous care, precision and beautiful details. It’s all wonderful!

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