Wrap-look Dresses from June, 1931

Butterick dress 3989, a pattern from July 1931.

Considering how popular and enduring a fashion Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dresses have been, this looks-like-a-wrap dress from 1931 got my attention. 1931 was the year when hems kept falling, so its proportions look odd, but the general impression is very much the same.

Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, Vogue pattern 1548, from 1976. Courtesy of the Commercial Pattern Archive.

Marie Claire ran a tribute to the DVF wrap dress (click here to read it) which includes a photo of the designer modeling her own dress. 1970s: DVF in this exact wrap dress . 2010: Michelle Obama in a classic wrap dress.  2014: The Duchess of Cambridge in her wrap dress . I think the wrap dress counts as a “classic,” especially since this look has been around since 1931!

The simple V neckline, the long sleeves, the slightly flared skirt — all those style elements were worn in 1931:

This 1931 dress was described as having a “surplice” closing at the side, often recommended in the 1920s as flattering to the figure.

It’s hard to tell without seeing the actual pattern, but this may be a long, asymmetrical wrapped bodice over a skirt.

Back view of Butterick 3989.

Fifty Dresses recently made Vogue 1610 (a DVF design circa 1977); the Fifty Dresses blogger uses vintage patterns to make 21st century clothing, and you can see that the classic DVF wrap dress still works. Click here.

Vogue 1610 (circa 1977) and 1548 (1977) by DVF are for stretchable knits only, while the 1931 wrap dresses probably depend on bias stretch for their fluid fit. In 1931 McCall offered No. 6681, which looks like a wrap but does not seem to open all the way down the side seam:

McCall wrap dress 6681 is in the collection of the Commercial Pattern Archive. It also dates to 1931.

Note the classic V neckline. Its skirt is suspended from a diagonal seam — in this case, straight rather than curved. Without being able to see the pattern pieces, it’s hard to tell how far the surplice opening continued into the skirt, but Butteick 3989, which was illustrated on the same page as 3960, below, does close with a tie at the side.

Also from 1931:

Butterick 3960 from July of 1931. The bodice doesn’t resemble a wrap but there’s definitely a tie at the side seam.

Note: wrap skirts were around in the 1920s:

Butterick wrap skirt 1480, from Delineator, June 1927. This suit was copied from Vionnet.

Click here for more 1920’s wrap skirts. Wrap dresses were also worn during World War I:

Back to 1931:

The plaid scarf doesn’t have much to do with the structure of this Butterick wrap dress from Delineator, February 1931.

It appears that the bodice wraps and ties at the side; the pleated section seems to be attached to the bodice and tied over a simple inner skirt. Is it a true wrap dress? The one below is.

Wrap/surplice dresses were often recommended for older figures:

Butterick “slenderizing” dress 4049, from Delineator, September 1931. Here, the front wrap clearly ties over an under layer, as in a classic DVF wrap dress.

For glamour — 1931 or now — it’s hard to improve on the long, wrap negligee:

Butterick’s wrap negligee No. 4224,from Delineator, December 1931.

Wow. And available for bust sizes 32 to 52! Gleaming, “icy pastel” satin for the shapely; deep burgundy velvet for more mature figures? Perfect for the Jean Harlow in every woman.

Jean Harlow in a wrap negligee, 1935. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.



Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1960s-1970s, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

10 responses to “Wrap-look Dresses from June, 1931

  1. Such beautiful dresses from the thirties! But don’t you think that the whole idea of wrap dresses originate with “wrappers,” the bathrobe like house dress? I was amazed when DVF said she had invented the wrap dress–it’s a really old style.

    • I wasn’t aware that she said that — but I expect that there were plenty of “wrap” styles from other cultures, too! (I personally dislike wrap dresses and skirts because of their ability to “unwrap” themselves in high winds or even when the wearer sits down. Not for me!)

  2. Thank you for the link to my blog! I am convinced there is nothing new under the sun – just reinterpretation and timing, especially with fashion. I found this post to be very interesting! That 1931 negligee is exquisite.

  3. Hadn’t realized wrap dresses were around in the Thirties—thank you! I made the DVF wrap when it came out, then gave the pattern away when I moved to CA a few years later. Boy do I regret that giveaway now!

    • It is really timeless fashion — but as I just wrote to Lynn, that dress style was not flattering to me, and I hate clothes that fall open when I sit! (Not to mention a wrap skirt I made in the 60’s — I was walking down the El Camino Real — lots of traffic –with the wind behind me, and I didn’t realize why so many people were honking at me: I hope I was wearing a nice slip that day, because hundreds of people saw my exposed rear view. In fact, I hope I was wearing a slip, and not just pantyhose!

      • Ah, yes, those were my problems, too. Thanks for the reminder! Current indie pattern makers are all about wraps that really keep everything covered. Wonder if they really do… 🥴

  4. Duy Khang Nguyen

    Hello again
    Ok so this may not belong to the year 1931 but I made a version from WW1 1916. Here is my design

    is this wrap dress in my design

    • I’m glad you are working so hard on this project. The back is beautiful. I think this looks more like a coat, because the front of the skirt is hanging open diagonally — on both sides (under and top layer.) Usually the opening on a wrap skirt hangs in a straight line to the hem, at a 90 degree angle to the floor. Otherwise, it won’t stay closed when she walks. But that doesn’t matter so much with a coat!

  5. Pingback: Slenderizing Fashions from 1931 | witness2fashion

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