Elise’s gift: the white cape-stole

Last week I showed you the most exciting of the garments that Elise gave me.  This week I’m being mean and showing you the simplest, least-exciting garment.

Little white cape-stole

Well, it may be simple, but sometimes the simplest things are the best.  I think this little cape-stole is adorable.


The cape is very cleverly made.  It’s made from two pieces of fabric, with part of the back extending further, and the other part curving up around the neck.  The extension is gathered to the neck-part to add back fullness:

The gathered back of the cape-stole

The lining is cut in exactly the same shape as the outside, and also gathered at the upper back seam.

Cunning back gathers in the lining

I think it is late ’30s, but I’m not entirely sure.  It’s such a classic style it could really be from any timeperiod.

Lovely draping and fullness

While it is charming and dressy, I suspect this would have been a very cheap garment when it was made.  It’s made from a very short pile fabric which is somewhere between a faux fur and a synthetic velvet, and lined in an inexpensive synthetic taffeta lining.  Synthetic fabrics were considerably cheaper than their natural fibre alternatives throughout the 30s and 40s.  The pile of the faux fur is quite sparse and thin – indicating that the fabric was a particularly cheap, low quality synthetic.

The short pile synthetic faux fur. You can see how sparse it is.

Both the outside and lining fabric have foxing: an acid reaction that creates yellow spots.

Foxing stains on the lining

Based on this, you might be thinking that I find this garment a bit disappointing, especially after something like the assuit tunic.  And you’d be very wrong.  While I love and appreciate the luxury of expensive, exotic, high society textiles like last week’s tunic gown, it’s simple, inexpensive garments like this that really have my heart.

The cape stole pinned with a brooch inherited from Nana

This garment must have been so special to the person who owned and wore it.  Perhaps it was a young girl’s first proper dress up wrap – worn to her first dances.  Or the garment of a farm wife, who had few occasions to wear evening clothes, and could little afford to buy a pricey wrap she didn’t need.

Their story isn’t as glamorous as that of the Houston socialite, but it is, in it’s own way, much sweeter.

Nana's mistletoe brooch - another sweet and simple piece


Rate the Dress: Extremely green in 1919

Despite the difficult rust colour  of last weeks 1840s dress you quite liked it, and thought it one of the best examples of its era.  It rated a quite fabulous 9.2 out of 10.

This week I thought I should pick something a bit brighter:

Evening dress, Callot Soeurs, 1919, silk & metallic lace, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Evening dress, Callot Soeurs, 1919, silk & metallic lace, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This end of the ‘teens dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is all chartreuse velvet and gold lace.  Do you like the bold colours and the transition from Directorie revival to the 20′s silhouette?   Or is it too garish, and neither one period nor the other?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

Finished project: The Summertime Southerly 1931 dress

I’ve finished another dress this week: a wool crepe dress from a 1931 pattern.

I killed two birds with one stone with this dress: this week’s theme on the Sew Weekly was ‘Down Under’ (sew something from the opposite season to the one you are experiencing), and next week’s theme is ‘UFO’.  This dress does both.

Well, sort of.  It’s definitely a UFO: I started it at the beginning of spring, with the idea that if I sewed a wool dress Murphy’s law would the weather would definitely be too warm to wear it!  The weather may have cooperated, but the dress got set aside when other stuff became more pressing.

The ‘Down Under’ challenge was a bit murkier.  The whole idea of ‘seasonal’ weather in Wellington is just ridiculous though.  We are the land of four seasons in one day (yes, I know you have that stuck in your head now.  You’re welcome).  On various days this week I’ve been in jeans, wool tops and wool socks, and shorts and a singlet.  What on earth is seasonal appropriate weather in Wellington!?!

I went for a dress to wear all year round, and never: too warm for summer, not warm enough for winter, no good in a stiff breeze, but charming nonetheless.  I’m calling it the Summertime Southerly.  One of those things that shouldn’t exist, but does.*

Southerlies in Wellington are stiff winds that blow straight off Antarctica, up the Cook Straight, and into Wellington, where they chill you to the bone no matter the time of year.  Sometimes in the summer they come as light breezes, rather than stiff gales, and those days are perfect for dresses like this. So are still days in winter.

I’m reasonably happy with the dress.  I still want to find the perfect buckle to go with the belt, and am going to re-finish the cuffs with black satin bias tape.  And wear it with a better slip.  And I wish I had given the side seams Hong-Kong finishes AFTER I fit the dress, because I ended up taking in a LOT of fabric with the fitting, and it’s all still there.

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: 2ish metres of thrifted vintage 100% wool crepe (the fabric had pieces cut out of it already, and I forgot to measure it before I cut, so I can’t tell you exactly how much there was.  Trim of vintage black silk satin from an obi.

Pattern: Excella E3169 ca. 1931 without the cape, with long sleeves.  This is the same pattern I made the Frumpy Dress from.

Pattern alterations: The collar is a not-very successful self-draft.  And I didn’t have enough fabric to do the sleeves properly, so I pieced them along the line where the hem would be for a short sleeve.  If I get tired of the long sleeves I can just unpick the bottom half!  I also dropped the back hem just a bit to add flair to the skirt.  (See Steph, I don’t dislike mullet skirts!)

Year: ca. 1931

Notions: lots and lots of thrifted cream bias tape to finish the inside.

Hours: Ergh.  Lets not go there shall we?

Techniques used: French seams, Honk Kong seams, pintucks, rolled hems, and a tiny bit of pattern drafting..

Will you make this again? The pattern?  Yes!  But not in wool crepe.  It’s much better as a proper summer dress in floaty chiffon.  And I’d rather save the wool crepe to make stuff like the Dress Clip Dress.

Total cost: Don’t remember exactly, but under $3 for the fabric.

And the inside?: bias-bound Hong Kong seams at sides and waist, french seamed sleeves, hand stitched collar.  All rather decent.

*I was going to call this the Edna dress, because it reminds me of a 1920s photo of Edna St Vincent Millay.   Then a friend pointed out that the juxtaposition of ‘Down Under’ and Edna really wasn’t a smart move.  It took me a minute, but I had to agree that I didn’t want people thinking Dame Edna!

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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