Tutorial

Tutorial: How to make a 1930s style handkerchief halter top

Make a 30s Handkerchief Halter thedreamstress.com

There was a fad in the 1930s for turning scarves of all sorts, but particularly souvenir scarves, into simple resort-wear halter tops

Beach pyjamas on the Cote D'Azure, colourized postcard, 1930s

Beach pyjamas on the Cote D’Azure, colourized postcard, 1930s

Inspired by this fashion, I made myself a quick and easy scarf halter to wear at Napier’s Art Deco Weekend.

How to make a 30s handkerchief halter thedreamstress.com2

Photographs of 1930s scarf tops show a whole range of scarf shirt styles, but I made mine with a gathered top and a fair amount of back overlap, for maximum skin coverage, and so it can be worn over a bra.

How to make a 30s handkerchief halter thedreamstress.com4

It was super easy, and very satisfying.  Here’s how to make one for yourself.

You will need:

– A scarf where the length of a side is at least as long as your waist measurement (or, in a pinch, a square of hemmed fabric with this measurement, with edges finished).

– Thread

– A meter of ribbon or cord for your neck tie.

Start with your scarf:

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Fold it in half diagonally, right sides together:

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Draw a line across the corner, 20cm/8″ down each edge from the corner.

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Pin:

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And sew:

How to make a 30s handkerchief halter thedreamstress.com11Turn right side out and press, and sew another line 2.5cm down from the edge, to form a channel.

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Using a safety pin, thread your ribbon or cord through the channel:

How to make a 30s handkerchief halter thedreamstress.com9How to make a 30s handkerchief halter thedreamstress.com1And you’re done!  Gather up the top edge, tie the cord around your neck, the bias edge around your back, and you’re good to go:

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And here’s the finished product:

Make a 30s Handkerchief Halter3

You can either tie it in back:

Make a 30s Handkerchief Halter5

Or fasten it with a brooch, if you’d like to be able to wear it over a bra:

Make a 30s Handkerchief Halter6

I pinned the brooch through my bra strap as well, for extra security:

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There are lots of other variants shown in old photos, and described in period magazine tutorials, so you can get creative and customise the look to your own taste and needs.

If you have lots of patience you can sew rings to the top:

McCall's Magazine, c. 1934

McCall’s Magazine, c. 1934

If your scarf has distinct borders, a halter that really showed them off, like the one on the lady in white trousers in the second Cote D’Azure postcard, is a good option – especially if you have a smaller scarf.

Beach pyjamas on the Cote D'Azure, colourized postcard, 1930s

Beach pyjamas on the Cote D’Azure, colourized postcard, 1930s via Adeline’s Attic

Jill at Adeline’s Attic made a cute version of this look.

With a large scarf you can achieve this double-tied version:

Silk Scarf halter via Ritournelle

Woman in a silk scarf halter, 1930s, Deauville, via Ritournelle

Happy sewing!

How to make a 30s handkerchief halter thedreamstress.com5

9 Comments

  1. I have been dreaming of making one of these 30s style halters – Thank you!!

  2. Oh this looks fun! And I’ve got a little bit of time to find the perfect scarf before summer here in the US!

  3. Thanks for the tutorial! I loved your top and am inspired to make one, though I have no idea what I would use it for… 🙂 Now I have to plot more events!

    Best,
    Quinn

  4. Aww! My grandma talks about wearing these (she would’ve been a teenager in the late 30s)—her descriptions sound like the one in the last vintage photo you posted, with the two ends just tied behind her neck. 🙂

    • How cool! Great to have a family history of them! Any chance she has photographs? From what I can tell from research, the style with two ends was more of a later ’30s style, and the ties from the point, or a small turnover, like I did, were more common in the early ’30s.

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