20th Century, Sewing, What I wear

The ‘Who cares about Bulls & Bears when you can have Bunnies’ Dress

And we’re off!  My first HSF ’14 challenge of the year is done!

This is the 1929 “Bulls, Bears & Bunnies’ dress, and the ‘Economic Sunrise’ hat.  (The belt doesn’t get a name.  It’s just a belt.)

The 1929 Bulls, Bears & Bunnies dress thedreamstress.com

I actually finished the dress on Boxing Day, but I only managed to finish the hat and belt this week.

The dress is named for the exceedingly un-bullish economic crisis of 1929-32, which perfectly covers the dates of the dress, and for the fabric:  bunny patterned rayon!

Bunny patterned rayon thedreamstress.com


I found the fabric at Arthur Toye’s in Wellington during the CBD Craft Crawl.  Well, I say ‘I’ found the fabric, but really I was looking at all the rayons for something to make another version of the Garden Party dress out of, and Juliet noticed this and said “Oooh, bunnies!” and I pounced on it and said “That’s perfect!”.


So we had the polite argument about who saw it first/wanted it more, because of course there was only 3m left in the shop, but Juliet very nicely let me buy the whole length so I could use what I needed, and then I’ll be sending her the rest.

I say very nicely, because my dress took 1.9 metres (and I had to scrimp and finangle and play fabric tetris like mad to get it down to that from the 2.7 it usually takes) , so she’s only got just over a metre left to make a blouse!  Such a sweetheart!



The 1929 Bulls, Bears & Bunnies dress thedreamstress.com


There is a lovely symmetry to starting 2014 with this frock: I started 2013 with the Gran’s Garden dress, made from the same pattern.  It’s such a useful, versatile pattern for the summer (OK, slightly less versatile with bunnies on it, but still, BUNNIES!).

The 1929 Bulls, Bears & Bunnies dress thedreamstress.com


Unfortunately this rayon is a bit shinier and clingier than the Gran’s Garden rayon so rather emphasises bits I would rather NOT, as I discovered looking through the photoshoot photos.  So in the future I’ll be a good little ’30s girl whenever I wear it and put on a girdle and longline bra!

The 1929 Bulls, Bears & Bunnies dress thedreamstress.com

I wear the Gran’s Garden dress without a belt, but felt this one need a bit more, so made a belt of ivory rayon with strips of velvet ribbon and a vintage buckle in darkest blue.  Then I got ambitious and made over a fedora into a cloche, and trimmed it with a bit of  cotton left over from the neck-hole of one of my early 18th century chemises, and extra blue velvet ribbon.  Using the fabric from the centre of a chemise felt particularly make-do-y, and re-working a hat also fit.

The 1929 Economic Sunrise hat thedreamstress.com


The dress itself is only a nod to an era when sewing was about making do, and when every bit of fabric counted.  Getting it out of 1.9m was quite an accomplishment in frugality, and it was helped by the fabric itself.  Bunny patterned fabric is unlikely to have been used for adult wear, though novelty animal fabrics were very popular for children, but the small pattern, restrained use of colours, and non-directional print are all spot-on for the early ’30s.

The 1929 Bulls, Bears & Bunnies dress thedreamstress.com

I’d hoped to do a photoshoot in the dress on my wilderness road trip, but the weather conspired against me.  Every time I was somewhere where there was an iron and I could press it it rained, and if it didn’t rain, it hailed.

So once I was home Mr D and I went for a drive round the bays and stopped at the boat sheds at Hataitai beach to catch these.

The 1929 Bulls, Bears & Bunnies dress thedreamstress.comThe 1929 Bulls, Bears & Bunnies dress thedreamstress.com

Just the facts, Ma’am:

The Challenge:  #1 —  Make Do & Mend

Fabric:    1.9  m of rayon at $12pm, bought in the Arthur Toye 50% off sale

Pattern:  1930s Garden Party Frock pattern, with curved waistline

Year:  1929-32

Notions:  rayon bias binding from stash, ivory rayon for belt, belting, vintage buckle, straw fedora ($4), velvet ribbon, scrap of ivory cotton.  Thread.

How historically accurate is it?  Very, except for the inappropriate levity of the fabric, and I overlocked the interior seams because I want to be able to just throw this in the wash.

Hours to complete:  9: 4 for the dress, and another 5 for the belt and hat

First worn: 6 January just around the house, and then on the 7th to teach a class.

Total cost:  $26  Totally worth it! (did I mention the BUNNIES!)

The 1929 Bulls, Bears & Bunnies dress thedreamstress.com


  1. Love it! The bunnies are SO fun! From far away it just looks like a blue dress printed in little white dashes, but when you get up close, it’s like, Surprise! Bunnies!
    I love dresses made from fabrics like that. I wish I had more courage to use materials like that.

  2. That is so cute on you…the last picture is especially fantastic, I could so see that in an advertisement of the time!

  3. It’s an adorable dress.

    I still need to take photos of myself wearing my himation before I can “make do” and mend it for HSF#1. However, we finally have the Christmas stuff all done and the guests sent home happy, so I should have time to do that today or tomorrow. (The actual sewing planned probably won’t take much more than 2 hours, max.)

    In other news, I have the materials I need (except maybe some thread) for HSF Challenges #2, 4, and 5. #3 will be cheap (I have my eye on a special pink yarn from Etsy), and #6, the volva outfit, will be problematic no matter how I decide to do it, but having sketched out my game plan for that outfit I’m not thinking much about it… yet.

  4. Love the hat and the bunnies! The swingy-ness of the skirt is lovely. 🙂


  5. It’s such a lovely pattern, no wonder you anted to make it again! And the fabric is lovely.
    The hat? Fabulous. Velvet ribbons!

  6. Bunnies! I have been reading your blog for quite a while now, and the bunny dress finally got me to comment. 🙂 This is a lovely dress & very nice hat. I especially like the last picture.

  7. OK, those bunnies are just too cute! ’30s fashions are hard for me, but I love the dress. Thanks for providing the link!

  8. You might have sold me on 1930s looks. You really look lovely and it is a wonderful dress.

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