Hot! Gatsby Madness Upset!

And now, the next part of my Gatsby Summer Afternoon dress saga…

Gatsby-dress-pick It seems as if there has been an upset to the dress tournament. If you remember, it was down to two dresses. I was ready to request one of them from the VPLL when I decided to check out the 1930s evening gowns. Even though I really love those two dresses, I felt that they would look a bit too casual for something like a fancy afternoon picnic. So after all that indecision, I ended up going with this 1930 Evening Gown with Cascades.

Now you can imagine if picking a pattern was so difficult, choosing fabric would certainly become a Herculean task. The pattern calls for 3 yards of 39" fabric — I figured that couldn't be right. I emailed with Jaynce at the VPLL and she agreed that the 3 yards number was certainly off. So how much fabric do I actually need? 

Muslin  Well, I did something I've never done before — made a muslin! I had five yards of fabric and only had enough to finish the under dress. I figured that I would need another yard and a half for the cape sleeves, flowers and facings. So that's at least 6 1/2 yards of fabric! My original plan was to use vintage fabric, but that yardage, it would be pretty impossible to find the perfect fabric. And because we're doing the whole nautical theme, I've limited myself to reds, navys and whites and made the whole process more difficult.

Cotton-lawn I found some vintage cotton lawn on eBay that I thought would be perfect, but it was only 4 yards. I bought it anyway since it ended up being $10 including shipping. I toyed with the idea of using it, plus another fabric and sewing the second — contrasty — view of the dress. However, I worry that too many different pieces will shorten my already short body. Still, it's a fabric still in consideration.

I looked at countless 1930s reproduction fabrics but knew that they just wouldn't hang the way that a sheerer fabric would. At one point I even considered using a service like Spoonflower to reprint an actual 30s print on cotton lawn. But at about $21* a yard, that was pretty much out of the question.*

Navy-voile  Giving up on my vintage fabric or reproduction aspirations, I also bought some voile fabric from The wonderful thing about buying new fabric versus vintage is the wonderful text field to enter any number of yardage that I'd like. In this case, I bought 6 1/2 yards at 52" selvedge. At $4.98 a yard, I was quite happy with the purchase. 

* Or is it? Paying $140 for an off-the-rack dress for a fancy occasion like the Gatsby Summer Afternoon (especially a vintage dress) wouldn't seem so crazy. Do all my dresses need to be under $20? If I found the absolutely perfect print and could have it printed on cotton lawn in just the right yardage, wouldn't that justify the cost? And if I did go that route, does anyone have the pefect 1930s print for my dress?


Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.


Comments are closed.

  1. Wow, that’s a pretty amazing pattern! Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  2. If you would happily pay the equivalent sum for a RTW dress and have already put a great deal of time and effort into choosing a pattern, I say splash out on perfect, if pricey, fabric.
    Can’t help on the print (my vintage love only really goes back as far as the late 1940s) but the pattern is gorgeous and will make a beautiful floaty wafty sundress. Looking forward to it!

  3. first of all, I wish I lived near you so I could go to this event with you! The Great Gatsby is my most favourite book and I’ve read it every single summer since I was 19…sometimes twice a summer because I worked in a seniors home and would do a program reading to them as well…never thought of doing a themed tea afterward…got the wheels rolling…
    anyways, back to that gown! It looks sooooo much like my wedding dress! I love it and can not wait to see the finished version! I agree with Emmyjones Seamstress, splurge on the fabric as this isn’t your everyday garb…you’ll love it no matter what you use in the end, but will you end up questioning how it would look with another fabric?! Love your little blog and I’m actually going to link to it today from mine! Hope that’s ok!
    Good luck!

  4. Have you checked out those Anna Maria Horner voiles? They aren’t 1930s, but they would make an incredible dress. They’re a little bit cheaper at $14-15 a yard. I think this one would look fabulous or this pomegranate one Good luck, the muslin looks amazing!!

  5. Sorry, my comment wasn’t supposed to post under my full Sunday title. My google accounts have gone all kablooey lately and I should have just been Emmy.
    The rest of the comment stands, though!

  6. I made a dress to wear to my best friend’s wedding, and I used 5 meters of $25/meter cotton/silk. (The pricing is a little off though because I live in Europe and it would have been much cheaper to buy in the US.) I feel like it’s ok to pull out the stops when dressing for an Occasion. And part of the joy of sewing is working with beautiful fabrics.

  7. Buy the fabric. Don’t be cheap.

  8. Hi there,
    I absolutely LOVE your blog and it has inspired me to take up dress making – I’ve been making curtains and things for the house for years but this is a revelation to me. I have two little boys (3 – today! and 1) so fitting it in is hard but I am managing and am close to finishing my first 1940s dress.
    Anyway, re: fabric – I do think you should buy the fabric you want for this dress as it’s a special occasion and with all the work you’ve put in so far, you deserve a treat!
    I’ve looked up various bits and pieces and have found the following:
    This link takes you to the the V & A museum collection – it shows you the fabrics they have from the 30s which may prove interesting. I note that the Great Gatsby was published in 1925 so you could perhaps broaden the search to the 20s too. Some historical sites say that this was a great time for fabrics as after WW1, Germany lost the rights to printing fabrics and consequently a broader pallet of colours became available – including pastels. I love the Tana Lawn range produced by Liberty – it’s the lightest, most beautiful fabric although very expensive. There are a couple of designs from the 30s in their current range. You can often get pieces on ebay for far less.
    The pictures you’ve shown are great and I think pretty appropriate. See the following link for catalogues of material available at the time.
    Best of luck with it all, it’s a very exciting project and I’m sure you’ll make a beautiful dress.
    Wish me luck with my dress – I eased in my first sleeve yesterday – it looks a little wobbly but I’m so proud to have done it. It took ages but I am absolutely determined to finish it for the Vintage at Goodwood festival.
    Love Fay x

  9. Liberty tana lawn is so, so nice to sew with. I’ve had all of mine from ebay; trips to Liberty mostly involve drooling, stroking and wishing I had more money.

  10. I think the navy print is beautiful and looks very retro to me! I say go for it.

  11. you are amazing! i just started sewing too and my first dress with a vintage shift dress with vintage fabric….
    i then moved on to a simple skirt with a vintage gingham fabric. i have just been sewing for the past 2 months and so far i am having the time of my life. i can’t wait to see more of your dresses that you create!