I wanted to pay homage to the early iterations of the wrap dress. One of the earliest popular designs was the Hooverette dress of the 1930’s. After searching for ages for a readily available pattern, I finally found the 1930’s Hooverette by Mrs. Depew. It had all the elements of a 1930’s housedress that I was looking for – the slim, boxy shape, collar options and big patch pockets that were perfect for keeping a whisk or oven mitt close.
I have to say that I love the way my dress turned out and I can’t wait to wear it all summer, but it definitely wasn’t the 1930’s experience that I was aiming for. A lot went wrong, mostly due to my fabric choice. I had to make design and functional compromises. Originally I was going for a beach pajama inspired look by using a white contrast fabric for the sailor collar and for the trim on the sleeves and pockets. I don’t feel like my dress encapsulates either the essence of the 1930’s or the functionality of a housedress. But again, not a complete disaster since I ended up with a garment that is really comfortable and fun to wear.
This vintage reproduction pattern features a simply shaped wrap dress with shoulder darts, patch pockets, and options for the collar and sleeves. The dress has no waist seam, so there’s just two very large, straight pattern pieces for the body of the dress. The shoulder darts and a tie belt provide the shaping for the dress. The tie belt sits below the natural waist and is pulled through via a button hole on the right front dress piece.
Mrs. Depew has several types of vintage reproduction patterns in her collection, some of which I had never seen before (like miniatures that you scale at home to your size!). I opted for this pattern because it was the ready-to-cut, multisized format. While the design was everything I was looking for an early wrap dress, I had a lot of frustration with this pattern.
The instructions were extremely bare and very unhelpful. They were also really hard to read and use. I’m pretty sure the instructions were simply scanned from the original printed pattern. Not only are they tiny and difficult to read, there’s not even modern punctuation. It’s made worse by the fact that these terrible instructions are only printed on the pattern pieces themselves, which are huge. There’s no separate digital file, and you have to trim and tape the printed pages together to read them because the seam is in the vertical middle of the paragraph.
Okay, rant over.
Since this pattern has very little shaping, I knew I wanted a drapey fabric to glide over my curves and not make me look too rectangular. I used this gorgeous viscose voile from Stoffen Hemmers. It’s beautiful and it feels so nice on the skin. It was also a big pain to work with. I had major problems with stretching and it snagged like crazy, even though I used a microtex needle and starched the fabric beforehand.
The fabric was so light that I couldn’t carry out the design I had imagined, nor use the construction methods briefly suggested by the pattern. Firstly, I knew my fabric wouldn’t be able to handle a buttonhole through just one thin layer of fabric even if I’d interfaced it. It would have stretched, warped and made even more runs in the print. I was okay with letting go of the collar and the sleeves, but I was really sad when I realized I’d have to give up the patch pockets. The quintessential element of a housedress! They would have sagged and pulled at the rest of the dress front, and they definitely wouldn’t have been able to hold anything.
Despite my struggles with the pattern and the fabric, I mostly enjoyed sewing this dress. Since the directions were basically nonexistent, I relied on my recent experiences sewing wrap dresses. The first thing I did once my pieces were cut was stabilize the front neckline. I stitched in a piece of satin ribbon and didn’t have to worry about any stretching there. I also learned from my Simplicity dress to leave a gap in the french seam for the tie belt.
I’m really happy with the finishing. Everything is either bound with bias tape or french seamed. This dress is the most bias binding I’ve ever done, and I can confidently say that I’m improving! I do have a little pulling across at the shoulder seam where it looks like it wants to flip out. Does anyone have suggestions on how to avoid that? It won’t stop me from wearing it, but I’d like to do better next time.
Pattern: Mrs. Depew Hooverette
Fabric & Notions: 3.4 Meters lightweight fabric
Design Modifications: I moved the tie belt opening to the side seam. I had to skip the pockets.
Fit Alterations: I added a back shoulder dart because my fabric had stretched there.
Difficulty: Experienced. Because of the lack of instructions, I would only recommend this pattern to someone who had made a few wrap dresses already.
Future Plans: Someday when I’m better at collars, I want to try it in a cotton lawn.
It’s not what I was going for, but I love this dress. I think it’s so perfect for summer. It’s light, breezy and will keep me cool but also covered. I’m so excited to wear it. Because I left off the sleeves and collar, the dress feels really modern. No one would even know it’s a vintage design! I love this dress, but I’m a bit disappointed that it doesn’t represent the 1930’s like I’d hoped. Hopefully I’ll have more luck next month when I take on the 1940’s!