20th Century, What I wear

The Little Bit of Red/Lips Kiss My Blues Away remake

Last week’s challenge on the Sew Weekly was music.  I had dreams of something elaborate involving metres & metres of  blue crepe, but the plans went awry (not sewing mistakes) and made me very blue indeed.  So I needed something to chase those blues away, and what better than one of my favourite songs, a fix up of my  Little Bit of Red  dress (remember how I was never thrilled with it?), and some Besame Red lipstick?

The song is    Red Lips Kiss My Blues Away, and the cover artwork is adorable:

Red Lips Kiss My Blues Away sheet music cover art. 1927. Via the Illinois University Library Collection

My Little Bit of Red dress is not a perfect match to the Red Lips Kiss My Blues Away cover art, but I thought with a bit of tweaking the Little Bit of Red dress could effectively capture the mood of the poster, and rescue my sewing week (plus get something off my UFO pile).

So I completely pulled apart my Little Bit of Red Dress, re-shaped the bodice, re-set the bodice ruffles, took in the skirt, cut hip ruffles, hemmed said hip ruffles, put the whole thing back together and tacked everything down on the inside with little-tiny hand stitches..  It took just as long as just making a whole new dress, but I don’t mind, because at least this means that I actually love this dress now.

And I  do.  It’s mad.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s preposterous.  It has  hip ruffles.  It’s completely frumpy and dowdy and yet inexplicably charming, in the way only a late ’20s/early ’30s frock with hip ruffles can be.


For the photoshoot Mr D and I celebrated the return of my camera (Yay Canon!) and took advantage of an exceptionally warm day in winter to risk photographing me in a little silk dress.  For the background we drove round the bays to a particularly picturesque portion of the waterfront for photos.

I paired the dress with a red ribbon and my newest addition to my vintage shoe collection: blue suede heels with bows.  Swoon.  They may be slightly OOP, but they go perfectly with the dress.  Risking the suede at the edge of the water and in wet gravel was probably a bit naughty of me, but they survived just fine.

What you  can’t  see in the photos is that I am also wearing a silk slip, a silk camisole, silk tap pants, thick stockings (with seams up the back) and am still turning blue.

What you  can  see behind me is Miramar Peninsula, home to my favourite restaurant, the movie theatre from the  Little Bit of Magic  photoshoot, and Weta Workshops.  Also lots of boats, the occasional kayaker or seagull, and just off to the left in the widest angle shots, Wellington International Airport, which you will be flying in to when you come to visit me.  Right?

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric:  3 metre of 1930s inspired silk chiffon. $30

Pattern:  Excella E3137

Year:  1932

Notions:  thread

And the insides?    Erm.  Not my best effort.  A combination of french seams, pinked seams, and plain-old-mess where the skirt meets the bodice.  That’s OK, it will only ever be hand-washed.

Hours:  Another 4.5 hours (for a total of 9 on this dress)

First worn?:  Saturday 10 August, just for the photoshoot (cold.  winter.  cold.  brr.)

Wear again?:  Yes, when summer comes

Make again?:  Nope.  At least not until I’ve tried  all my other ’30s patterns.

Total cost:  $30


  1. Daniel says

    Just have to say, I don’t see frumpy or dowdy – I see floaty and fluttery, just as a late 20s/early 30s chiffon dress ought to be. Mind you, that is because of how it’s worn. I love the Vionnet quote “when a woman smiles her dress should smile with her” and I think that fits here. 🙂

  2. That’s so very 20s/30s! Definitely an improvement – not that the previous version was bad, but it shows that you like wearing this one. 🙂 And the shoes are fabulous, too.

  3. It’s lovely! I like this version of the dress even better than the first one – and I think you have the sort of figure to pull off hip ruffles just fine. (I, on the other hand, do NOT…) The photos are gorgeous and I would never guess that it was so cold!

  4. Love that the first photo you used is from my alma mater! Just FYI, its proper name is “The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign” (so as not to be confused with “Illinois State University” or any of the other proliferation of UofIs the are in other starting-with-i states). 🙂

  5. Fantastic!! Hurrah for the hip ruffles! They really add a lot of movement to the dress 🙂

  6. Hello:

    Me encantan todos tus trabajos y ver el proceso me ha ayudado mucho en mis trabajos de miniatura.
    Viendo estas fotos me apetece hacer algo de 1930 y 1940.

    Soy una fan convencida.

    Un abrazo.

  7. I love that cover artwork. I also think I quite like the dress, even though it’s a catalogue of things I usually avoid in a garment. It looks great on you.

  8. Natalie says

    I am so happy you redid this dress. I have to admit I was a little disappointed the first time around when you left off the hip ruffles! They are part of the charm of the dress and kinda what makes it!!!!!

    I love it so much better now and you look fabulous <3

    • Thank you! I’m glad I added the hip ruffles. I didn’t use them the first time, because I didn’t want anything to distract from the fabric, but I think the fabric and pattern are working better now.

  9. Oh, I love it! I’m so glad you added the hip ruffles–on paper they look slightly silly, but in reality they are awesome! It makes the dress look SO 20s/30s. Great job!

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