20th Century, Sewing

Finished project: an utterly adorable 1930s playsuit

A client contacted me to make a playsuit from a late 1930s pattern she owns.

New York Patterns 1040

After we looked at lots of modern fabrics without finding anything inspiring I suggested an early-mid 20th century style print, and she picked an adorable bows & flowers print in grey and yellow from Reproduction Fabrics.

I’m a huge fan of the yellow (so exciting to have a client who loves it too), and the print and colours are the perfect mix of pre-war innocence while still being fresh and modern.

The playsuit

To relieve the rather busy print, I used custom made white piping with a very subtle woven-in stripe, and graphite-grey buttons.  I think this was particularly important on the front of the skirt, where I did a piping-bordered placket.

Buttons and piping on the skirt placket

Isn’t the halter back of the playsuit clever?  How it combines with the side-fastening of the connected shorts so that you can get in and out easily?

The rather revealing, and very clever, playsuit back

And the halter is so unexpected: we don’t usually think of them featuring in fashion that early.

The fastening at the back of the halter neck

To keep the halter modest, and for ‘less active play’ as the magazines of the time called it, there is a skirt to go over the shorts.

The overskirt

Inside both garments, I finished all the seams with French seaming, and completely lined the halter bodice in the same white voile with woven in stripe as the piping. The hems are done with a machine blind-hem stitch.

French seams and blind hem on the skirt

I just love it when the insides of garments are almost as beautiful as the outside.  It’s like a personal present that only you know about.

Two little bundles of happiness

I’m pleased to say that S. loves it, and it fit her perfectly (another feather to add to my ‘I did this without ever meeting the client’ cap), and hopefully we will see photos of her in it.

UPDATE:  Now with photos!


  1. So THAT’s what that fabric was for!
    What exactly were playsuits worn for? Playing tennis, or some such?
    Oh, and I love me a nice inside, too! 🙂

    • Yep 🙂 Most of the advertisements I can find for playsuits show them for children and young women, so I think they literally were worn for play. They make sense for mothers with young children too – just think how helpful short under your skirt would be when chasing little ones around all day!

  2. frifris says

    Oh, I looove this, it is so pretty. Thanks for posting the link to the fabric source as well. Very envious of the client, now.

  3. You are right, that is extremely adorable! I love all the piping work you did. /love!

  4. Oh, it is soooo cute (:
    I really wish i had this pattern and the fabric.
    * starting to search for it *

  5. Oh wow!
    I love, love love the playsuit. And the modesty skirt? Too cute!
    The piping and the button definitely help to pull it all together 😀

  6. Lynne says

    Just beautiful! I love properly finished garments. Gives you confidence that they will last and hold their shape – as well as being things of beauty in themselves. I do like the way you line things!

  7. What a fun commission. I so adore the piping; it’s one of those techniques that I always find myself too impatient to use on anything I sew. I will have to bookmark this one to remind me how worthwhile it can be!

    • Piping is totally worth it!

      I sometimes feel frustrated because I sew so slowly, but it’s because I always do stuff like piping.

  8. Lovely! And it fits her perfectly 🙂 I have long wanted a playsuit, but I’m never quite sure if it would be appropriate… I’m really tall, and I always imagine playsuits on tiny people, lol!

  9. This reminds me of an outfit my mom made me and my sisters in 1971 or 2. It wasn’t a halter, and the removable skirt was maxi, but it was the same idea.
    I love the entire outfit- the fabric was a perfect choice!

    • It’s amazing how styles come round and round again!

      Isn’t the fabric fabulous? I love yellow, but so few people can wear it, so it was wonderful that S. looks so amazing in the shade!

  10. chris says

    was wondering what the 3 buttons on the shorts were for? was it to attach the skirt ? or to help keep the shorts closed? looks like a fun pattern to sew!

    • The three buttons shown on the pattern with the button front shirt version? The shirt is attached to the shorts in back, and the three buttons in front keep it tidy and attached in front. It’s very clever, but not at all how we think of modern clothes!

      • chris says

        my thought was leaning in that direction = ) your answer is, in a nutshell, why i love vintage patterns- the evolution of clothes is so interesting!

  11. Sonny Rock says

    Any chance of a copy of this pattern? Thank you. It looks super

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