Fifty years ago, I saw this 1930’s photo of actress Gertrude Lawrence in a striped suit. The creative use of striped fabric struck me and stayed in my memory. The joy of these nineteen thirties’ dresses is the way that a striped fabric is turned in different directions — horizontally, vertically, on the bias — to create the interest of the design.
Simple Striped Dresses
Striped dresses in many variations appeared throughout the 1930’s. I’m not talking about dresses that simply use striped material, charming as these are:
I’m trying to imagine jumping over the net in one of those tennis dresses. Actually, #5599 isn’t so simple; getting stripes to match and form chevrons on the bias takes patience.
Striped dresses were usually summer wear. This one is punningly named after Lucky Strike Cigarettes.
The dress below is a three piece set: blouse (with or without sleeves) plus skirt and shorts.
The stripes are all cut simply on straight of grain here, but pattern matching would make cutting and assembly more difficult! Matching stripes is a challenge for the dressmaker.
Stripes in Different Directions
The dresses that delight me turn the stripes in different directions.
A simple dress with bias skirt and playful pocket:
Sometimes the interest comes just from the flattering contrast between a horizontally striped yoke and a vertically striped dress.
Here, the yoke is on the bias, and echoes the diagonal lines of the pockets:
When the yoke continues into sleeves, there is added interest:
This yoked dress and jacket combination (at right) has an interesting dress, too.
The ensemble below is pretty straight forward, but the lapels, bow, and belt turn the stripes in a different direction:
The play of stripes also appeared in thirties’ evening wear:
Advanced Play with Stripes
But the play of stripes gets really interesting when used as the focus of the design.
“The zigzag dress to the left is made of muffler woolen, soft to touch, and in wonderful two-tone colorings. Leather belt and buttons, and a scarf barely peeking out above the collar.” — Ladies’ Home Journal, September, 1936.
This one has contrasting shapes inserted in the sleeves, a tucked bib, and buttons in graduated sizes.
Stripes were often used on “bib” dresses:
Ribbed wool or corduroy was also used for a more subtle play of stripes:
Corduroy was also suggested for this lightweight coat:
Bold stripes give lots of “Bang for the buck.”
Floral stripes were popular in 1938.
Does anyone feel inspired to rework a basic pattern — by playing with contrasting stripes? Maybe a sewing group would like to have a “stripe challenge.”