Terminology: What is Roshanara?

Roshanara is the trade name for a silk or silk-worsted wool blend fabric with a rough crepe texture. Roshanara was popular in the 20s and 30s, but was notorious for shrinking when wet.  It is nearly impossible to find Roshanara, or a Roshanara equivalent, today.

Roshanara was first introduced into New Zealand in 1920, but appears in ads in the US from 1918.  The name probably comes from the famous Roshanara Club in Delhi, which was in turn named after the Mughal princess Roshanara Begum.

El Paso Herald, June 26, 1920, skirts in ‘expensive high-grade silks’, including roshanara & kumsi-kumsa, both launched in NZ in 1920

While Roshanara was primarily made of silk (possibly with a small amount of wool), it was meant to replace wool fabrics, which were in short supply due to the use of wool in soldiers uniforms during WWI.  This ad from an April 1918 El Paso Herald extolls the economic virtues of silk, and encourages women to buy it instead of wool.  Note the inclusion of the very patriotic and military inspired ‘Khaki Kool’ fabric.

El Paso Herald, Sat 13 April, 1918 via Texas History

El Paso Herald, April 13, 1918 via Texas History

The exotic rough texture of Roshanara, and how closely its introduction co-oincided with the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, let to its popularity in Egyptianist fashions, like the two below.  Isn’t the snake-basket hat on the first fabulously ridiculous?

Suit-Dress and Jacket Made of White Roshanara Crepe, 1923

Forsythe Apparel Clothing advertisement featuring Egyptianism & Roshanara Crepe, 1923

Roshanara was never more than a novelty fabric, and the small niche it had filled as a wool-replacement in WWI was invalidated by the demand for silk parachutes due to the importance of air forces in WWII.

An ad for a sale including Roshanara crepe, Evening Post, 8 July 1926 via Papers Past

The ‘Penciling it in’ skirt

I’ve been having fun finding music to match my ‘me’ sewing lately.  This week’s me sewing is a ’30s skirt, so it needs one of my favourite swing songs, Lavender Coffin.  Great to dance to, and a good conversation starter – we have an ongoing discussion of ways to make a lavender eco-coffin.  I’m advocating dye made from blueberries or java plums.  It’s not like the colour needs to last! (yes, I have macabre interests).

On a much more random note, I’ve also been doing a lot of sewing to Julietta Venegas lately.  It gives me a chance to practice my rapidly fading Spanish.  If only I’d known I’d be spending my adult life in New Zealand I could have spared myself years of torture in language classes, or at least taken something I was good at, like Hawaiian. But whether I understand it or not, I enjoy Julietta Venegas.  I particularly like Limon y Sal and its cute silent movie aesthetic.

Right!  The sewing!  The skirt!

This week’s theme on the Sew Weekly is ‘Reality Check': make something your wardrobe really needs.  I’ve tried throughout the year to keep my Sew Weekly sewing purposeful and useful – with each garment crossing something off my sewing list and filling a need in my closet.  I don’t believe in sewing things I don’t need and won’t wear just to fill a challenge or a theme – that’s a waste of my time and resources.  Six months in there was just one big gap that I hadn’t managed to find an excuse to sew: I desperately needed a black pencil skirt.  I have them in almost every other basic colour!

I knew just what style of skirt I wanted: very high waisted, well below the knee, and with pleat details.  Enter my beloved ’30s nautical pattern, Butterick 5654.  Just the thing!

Butterick 5654, 1930s Nautical pattern

Butterick 5654 is actually a dress, and has no waist shaping, so I had to figure out my own darts, and draft a waistband.  I also had to reduce the pattern to compensate for the stretch fabric.  I’m particularly pleased with the waistband.  Thanks to my blouse it isn’t showing up in the photos, but the waistband has a lovely shaped curved, and it makes me very happy.

My photoshoot, and thus this post, were delayed all week because my camera is in the shop :-(.

To get it done I asked Shell if she would to take pictures on her camera.   We took the afternoon off and went to the Embassy Theatre, a restored ’30s theatre with a lovely bohemian Art Deco look, and a bit of international fame as it hosted the Return of the King premier.  It fits perfectly with my ‘’30s skirt meets modern top’ outfit.

It’s quite a dramatic setting, so Shell pretended to be a fashion photographer and I did my best to do my most pouty, vacant, fashion model look.

I don’t think I’m cut out to be a fashion model!  I’d do my best to look expressionless, but a little smile would slip out:

And then a full on giggle:

Yep!  I’d rather sew than pose!

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: 1.5 metres of thrifted stretch cotton blend $3

Pattern: Butterick 5654

Year: 1934

Notions: 1 metre lace trim, hooks and loops, thread (inherited from Nana), invisible zip (thrifted, 30 cents)

Hours: 3

Make again?  Yes, or at least close variants.  Its a lovely, versatile pattern

First worn: Thursday for classes, lunch with a friend, and a photoshoot

Wear again? Yes!  This is a perfect fit for my wardrobe

Total cost: $3.30

And the inside?:  It’s unlined (that’s what I have a drawer full of slips for), and I finished all the selvedges with my overlocker (gasp!).  But I used a mix of black, purple and lavender thread, because even overlocking needn’t be boring.

My 1930s patterns – the non-Excella patterns

My apologies dear readers.  I know the blog has been very quiet.  I’ve been very overwhelmed.  Busy seamstress = absent blogess.  But it also = exciting sewing things done (whenever I have time to blog about them!).

I’ve got so much to show you on the 1780s chintz pet en l’aire, and a glorious 1900s project, and a 17th century inspired project.  So lots to look forward to!

For now, here are the last of my 1930s patterns.  I’ve showed you the Excella patterns, parts I & II.  Today’s patterns are by a variety of makers, and I’ve arranged them in rough chronological order.

First, the classic, mid 1930s evening dress:

Butterick 4175 – formal frocks

For a more casual look, how about these natty nautical options.  I used the top to for S’s nautical playsuit:

Butterick 5654 nautical outfit

For a more mature look, these day frocks are pretty spectacular.  I love the asymmetrical collars.

Chatelaine Patterns 1535

And another, more glorious, variant on the classic ’30s evening dress.  The back options are totally swoon-worthy.

Butterick 7026 – 1930s evening dress

And last, options for a number of little tops.  Even if I liked nothing else about this pattern, the fact that one of the models is wearing dress clips would instantly win me over!

Hollywood Pattern 1336

Right.  Back to sewing!

UPDATE: Found one more I’d forgotten about!  Isn’t this nightgown pattern just swoon-worthy?  I also love that it is a McCalls #23!  So early as a separate non-magazine pattern!  And that chorus-girl line of models – so droll!

McCalls 23 – 1930s bias nightgowns

McCalls 23 – 1930s bias nightgowns

You can really see how similar it is to some of the evening dress patterns above (no wonder people get confused about whether something is a nightgown or a evening dress!  Wearing History & the Vintage Baroness both did fantastic posts about telling the difference – unfortunately I’ve never been able to find the link on Wearing History again, so if anyone knows it please share).

It’s interesting, looking at these patterns, to notice the price differences – from 15 cents to 50 cents, quite a lot in 1930s money!  It’s partly based on the pattern type, but mostly about the pattern company.  A lot like today!

Page 8 of 26« First...«678910»20...Last »

Meet the Dreamstress

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

Come sew with us!