20th Century, Historical Sew Fortnightly

The ‘Smooth Sewing’ trousers and twilight glory

Monday night I taught a class that finished at 8.30.  As I drove home in the summer twilight, there was not a breath of wind.  The harbour was deep teal, glassy and still, and mirrored back the changing sky, shot with lavender and pink, glowing gold at the Western horizon, and tinting to indigo over the Eastern hills.

Wellington, New Zealand, thedreamstress.com

When I arrived home Mr D met me at the door.  “Isn’t it amazing!”  It was, indeed, amazing.  “It’s a pity it’s so late, or we could go for a walk.”

“Why not?”  I said.

So we hopped in the car and drove round the bays to Hataitai Beach, where we walked around the waterfront, marvelling at the sea and the sky.  Every view yielded a new delight; every moment a subtle change in the glory.  We walked to the end of the little pier, surrounded by sea and sky, the lights and boats shimmering against the water.

Wellington, New Zealand, thedreamstress.com

I captured image after image of the view, and then asked Mr D to try to get one of my newly finished Wearing History Smooth Sailing trousers.

“It will be too dark” he said.

But it wasn’t.

1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com

1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com

1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com

1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com

1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com
So I sat on the pier, in the deepening dusk, and he snapped image after image, and I became part of the scene.  I’d meant to do a photoshoot with the trousers on Tuesday, in the city, all ’30s businesswoman, but this impromptu shoot was far better.

I am, for the record, madly in love with the trousers, and I’ve already gotten tons of compliments on them.  They only have one problem: the rayon is a little too light coloured, and a little too fine, and I can’t tuck ANYTHING into them without things showing.  So I see some nude tap pants and a few more shirts that I can tie in front coming up…

1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com

1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com

We took photos until the light faded from the sky, taking the final traces of cerise and lilac with it and the sea changed from teal to midnight.  When the last of the light was gone, and the moon rose, we headed home.

Wellington, New Zealand, thedreamstress.com

The Challenge:  #2 —  Innovation

Fabric:    2.5m of slubbed rayon in palest golden yellow, found at an op-shop for $4 – I still have enough to make shorts or a blouse left over.

Pattern:  Wearing History’s ‘Smooth Sailing’ Trousers.  

Year:  1935-39

Notions:  Vintage thread, fusible interfacing (I know, an out of period cheat), a vintage zip, hooks and loops to fasten.

How historically accurate is it?  Reasonable.  The fusible interfacing in the waistband isn’t helping it, but other than that everything was period accurate.  90%.

Hours to complete:  5.  Super fast and easy!

First worn: Mon 13  January to teach a class.

Total cost:  $3

So what is the innovation in these?  They are a double-whammy: rayon, and women in trousers.  To read about women in trousers, pop over to Glory Days issue 2, page 36-37 and read my article on the Bifurcated Woman.  As for rayon, I’ll be covering that in a terminology post tomorrow!


  1. What a coincidence! I plan on making the Smooth Sailing trousers for the innovation challenge too. Yours look great! Beautiful pictures too.

    • They are a good pattern, and trousers are probably the innovation that has had the most effect on our modern wardrobe after synthetic fibres and sewing machines!

      And thank you! I’m quite pleased with both the trousers and the pictures 😉

  2. These photos are gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous! Thank you for sharing them, and adding to their enjoyment with your lovely prose. I almost never sew pants, but these look so great, I really thinking about a copy cat Innovation challenge entry =D

    • Thank you <3

      Mr D will also be pleased - photography was not a natural skill of his, so he's always thrilled when he does a more than reasonable job.

  3. I love the way you styled the pants – and what beautiful scenery! It all looks too perfect to be an accident!

    • Thank you! Total accident though – I went through 5 shirts before realising that I wouldn’t be able to tuck anything in, so I picked the only shirt where I didn’t have to!

      Wellington is gorgeous, but this was a particularly amazing day!

  4. I like these trousers. They’re chic and modern looking. I think you’re brave to make them that colour, but it is a very attractive colour to make them in.

    • Thank you! I love light coloured trousers – so impractical, and these require seamless nude knickers AND nude tap pants to be truly modest, but I couldn’t resist (and the fabric was so cheap!)

      • Life is too short for everything to be practical, and that colour looks really good on you.

  5. Claire Payne says

    Beautiful. So good to see the trousers as I have the same pattern. They are a very flattering style for you.

    • Thank you! I think they would be quite good on you as well – the inward facing pleats really disguise a tummy (mine has not responded well to a year of limited exercise thanks to my knee), and you’ve got such a lovely waist.

  6. Beautiful pictures and beautiful write up! =) I love light colored pants like this, but mine are always too light and flimsy, showing too much underneath. A sadness.

    • Thank you! There are problems with showing, but they are correctable with the right undergarments, and I didn’t photoshop or correct any of the photos, nor throw any out for showing, so I know it’s not a major problem with these 😉

    • Isn’t it stunning? Wellington is east-ish facing, so we don’t really get sunsets, but the colouring in the sky can still be quite spectacular.

      Mr D is Mr D because I’m the Dreamstress, so he’s Mr Dreamy 😀

  7. Lynne says

    You couldn’t wish for more perfect light and setting for photographing cream trousers! And very fine ones, too. A good pattern – maybe another pair in a nice fine wool… 🙂

    • It was amazingly fortuitous! The sewing/blogging gods smiled on me! I definitely have plans for this pattern – I’ve got lots of lovely black wool 😉 😉 and a piece of beautiful heavy ribbed white cotton, to make a crisp summer pair out of.

  8. Those turned out really nice! I have plans for that pattern in a chocolate plaid, but may have to make another pair in a light color.

  9. Beautiful photographs. The colours are amazing. It makes a great background for your lovely trousers.

  10. Success!! The trousers look beautious, and the sunsets you captured are gorgeous. Double-win, lady!

  11. These look fantastic! The colour and the little pleats make them vaguely reminiscent of 1830’s trousers.
    The scenery is gorgeous. I love the fact that someone wrote “jump” on the pier.

    I still haven’t settled on a project for challenge #2. It hadn’t occurred to me that women in trousers counted as innovation! I must make some dress pants!

  12. Marty says

    Gorgeous pants and beautiful setting!

    I’ve been meaning to leave a comment about how much I love your blog. I also grew up in Hawaii but no longer live there, and I was introduced to your blog by a New Zealand internet acquaintance. I’ve been hooked ever since. I hope I will eventually have time to participate in some of your sewing challenges, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy keeping up with all your sewing and life adventures.

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