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.
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:
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.