Greetings, friends! I am happy to report that my flu-like illness (which was probably flu) is finally behind me and I am slowly returning to normal: my normal, which is not very normal at all.
Yesterday I stitched up a muslin for my 1939 McCall (or McCall's, as it's currently known) dress, 3338. This is the pattern I was inspired (some might even say challenged) to purchase by Debi Fry and her devilish 1940 Dress Project -- you know the story.
While McCall's 3338 is undoubtedly a very well-drafted pattern, there's really only one thing that stands out about it: the bodice, which is comprised of what I would call a plastron -- the instructions refer to it as a vest -- around which gathers are formed (instead of bodice darts, tucks, or other shaping).
Here is a traditional plastron.
There was a lot of gathering and shirring of bodices in this period -- arguably too much. (Check out my Fashion 1939 board on Pinterest and you'll see what I mean.) In any case, here's how this is constructed:
Three rows of gathers or shirring.
The plastron (or vest) is then attached to the bodice with a lap seam, i.e., the seam allowances of the plastron are turned under, and the whole piece is laid on top of the gathered seam allowance of the bodice and topstitched on (edgestitched, actually -- the terms are often used interchangeably).
Next, the collar is added, along with buttons and buttonholes. Rather than a neck facing, the instructions have you simply add bias tape to the collar edge (I skipped that step).
Here's how mine came out. It's not perfect but for a muslin it's fine: I understand what needs to happen.
And here's the dress, with the bodice attached to the relatively slim six-gore skirt (which is not hemmed in the photo) and the sleeves added. There's a lapped side zipper on the left. The belt is supposed to match; I used a commercial one here. The only alternation I made was to add 1/2" to the bodice length and approximately the same amount to the skirt.
The fabric I used is a very coarse cotton print I bought at the flea market last year. It had a lovely glaze on it which disappeared in the wash, alas. It was probably intended for kitchen curtains or something like that. It drapes OK, but not enough for that gathered bodice to look its best.
A few interesting facts about McCall patterns of this period:
Unlike most other patterns at this time, they were printed -- a real plus!
Seam allowances are all 1/2".
A double notch on a sleeve designates the front of the sleeve, just the opposite of today.
This dress is quite plain. It's going to require fabric that has excellent drape -- perhaps a rayon crepe or even velvet. The sleeves (I'll probably use long sleeves on the final dress) might benefit from organza to keep them crisp -- perhaps just in the cap. The plastron needs interfacing for the same reason. Otherwise, this is a very straightforward pattern. To make the gathers around that plastron pop, a solid or near-solid fabric would work best. As far as the white plastron/ dark dress option, it's too girl Friday for my taste.
Actually, this dress reminds me a lot of Cathy's 1937 Hollywood dress, though the McCall's skirt is fuller and the bodice is somewhat different.
Really, it's going to be all about the fabric and the styling.
Here are the type of shoes I want. You already know about the fur -- a contentious issue if ever there was one.
That's the story, folks. Any ideas, tips, comments? Styling ideas?
I'm a native New Yorker and self-taught sewing fanatic! I've been sewing obsessively since 2009 and today make all my own clothes using mostly vintage patterns and vintage sewing machines. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!