Historical Sew Fortnightly, What I wear

A 1930s ‘dazzling’ wrap halter

WH Chic Ahoy culottes thedreamstress

I’m writing posts in the wrong order, because I’ve already blogged my tutorial for a 1930s handkerchief halter, and really, the handkerchief halter came second, and this top was conceived, cut, and finished first – and helped inspire the later handkerchief halter.

The idea was to make 1930s beach pyjamas, with non-matching trousers (which done, and are my new favourite garment) and a halter top:

Beach pyjamas on the Cote D'Azure, colourized postcard, 1930s

Beach pyjamas on the Cote D’Azure, colourized postcard, 1930s

Beach pyjamas on the Cote D'Azure, colourized postcard, 1930s

Beach pyjamas on the Cote D’Azure, colourized postcard, 1930s

For fabric I had this amazing cotton muslin I bought at Global-That-Was (when it actually was Global Fabrics) thinking I would make something for Art Deco Weekend 2013.  It didn’t happen then, or for 2014, so it was well overdue by this year:

Art Deco Sewing thedreamstress.com2

Isn’t it fabulous?  I particularly love the eye-bending ‘dazzle’ design (read my article in Issue 7 of Glory Days for more info on Dazzle))

For the pattern I used Wearing History’s Chic Ahoy halter as a base, altering it to remove the collar, and to add long wrap ties to fasten around the waist:

The 'Dazzle' 1930s halter thedreamstress.com4

I have two regrets about the top.  There is a seam running down the centre front, and when laying out the fabric for the top I purposely decided NOT to match the pattern across the seam, because I thought it would look weird if I did, and I had this idea that not matching the pattern would play up the broken ‘dazzle’ effect of the fabric.

The 'Dazzle' 1930s halter thedreamstress.com4

In retrospect, I was wrong.  Unmatched it just looks sloppy.  Sigh.

The other regret?  That one was a staying-up-too-late-sewing mistake.  Because I’d gotten rid of the collar, I’d altered the halter top neck bit to sit snug around the back of my neck.  Then, at the last minute, I taped the altered pieces at the top of the neck on the wrong way round when cutting, so the bits around the back of the neck curve slightly away from the body.


If I didn’t have scoliosis and sloping shoulders, I don’t think it would be a problem, but sometimes the neck gapes away from my body when I stand with the wrong posture.

It's a wrap halter 1930s  thedreamstress.com8

I’m trying to figure out a way to fix it.  This may simply  involve unpicking the entire blouse, and re-cutting one front half to match the pattern if I have enough fabric, and doing some dazzling piecing around the top neck…

OK, those are my regrets.  With them aside, I’m pretty thrilled with the top.  It’s fun to wear!

It's a wrap 1930s halter thedreamstress.com1

For Art Deco Weekend I tied it with a rope cord, but somehow that’s gone missing, so I’ve tied the back with a ribbon for now.

The 'Dazzle' 1930s halter thedreamstress.com

And for those of you who are wondering about the practical mechanics of a practically backless halter top….

Yes, I am wearing a bra.  Going bra-less would be period for a beach halter in the 1930s (there is lots photographic evidence of this), but I prefer a little more layerage (as opposed to coverage or support).

So I made a 1930s style dipped back bra by cutting apart a bra with reasonable ’30s cup shapes, and adding a new halter strap and very low, angled back straps, inspired by images of backless Kestos bras.

Kestos Bra

Here I am explaining to Kirsten how it works.

It's a wrap halter 1930s  thedreamstress.com9


As you do.

The Challenge: #3  Stashbusting

Fabric:  1.2m of red, white & blue ‘Dazzle’ cotton muslin gauze, $15pm.

Stashed for: 2 years. Bought for Art Deco ’13, finally used for Art Deco ’15.  (and the pattern was in stash for a year before I used it!)

Pattern:  Adapted from  on  Wearing History’s Chic Ahoy halter  pattern

Year:  ca. 1933

Notions:  thread

How historically accurate is it?:  Period fabrics and techniques, but  I haven’t found a period halter that quite matches the look of this one. It  would probably pass the not-weird-in-period test.  So, 60%?

Hours to complete:  2.5, even including the toile.  So satisfying!

First worn:  Sat  21 Feb, at Napier’s Art Deco Weekend

Total cost:  $22

The 'Dazzle' 1930s halter thedreamstress.com4


  1. Haha! Love the photo where you are explaning the bra-trick. I love anything backless. (But very rarely wear it; I do need the support…) The not-matching front is only visible on close up photos, but I understand your annoyance with it. That said – the outfit is looking so good on you!

    • I was pretty chuffed that I got that photo too! Such a random moment.

      I love backless too, even if my back isn’t perfect and you can really see my scoliosis in it. Better to embrace the imperfections and have fun than worry about them!

      And thank you!

  2. The dazzle print effect IS rather similar to that black-and-white, probably chequered top in one of those pictures, though.
    This is something I really can’t use (meaning the other tutorial), committed as I am to always wearing sleeves (personal preference), but I can always admire on someone else, and you wear these beautifully. 🙂

  3. If you hadn’t pointed out the non-matching-ness of the seam, I wouldn’t have seen it. Actually, I still don’t see it (well, in a couple of places, but it probably wouldn’t have parsed as a mis-matched pattern-on-seam placement had I not been looking for it). LOVE the print and cut and man oh man it looks soooo comfy and cool. I too love backless things and would love to hear more about this bra modification!

  4. Seriously, this top is SO. CUTE.
    I actually didn’t notice that the fabric wasn’t matched at the front seam until you pointed it out, but once I looked at it I actually liked it! Also, you should sooo do a tutorial on that bra! I can’t go braless in anything, ever, and I think something like that would come in really handy.


  5. I like this halter much better on you than I liked the handkerchief halter–the shape and color both suit you better, I think. It’s a pity about the neckline issue., but maybe you can fix it. Don’t worry about the center seam; that’s hardly noticeable even if one is looking for it.

  6. I think the fabric is great too. I don’t usually care for prints but this one I really like. It has movement and visual interest and vivid color without being tacky, and it goes perfectly with your trousers.

  7. I love the print and color, and it looks fabulous with your trousers! I agree with everyone above, you should totally do a tutorial on the “backless” bra, if you don’t mind doing that sort of thing. 🙂

  8. This is fantastic! Thank you VERY much for including the bra logistics info! That low-backed one in the advertisement is fabulous inspiration! I didn’t know how to make one work, so maybe I can use this to make my own version soon!

  9. It’s so elegant, and the fabric is gorgeous.

    Those Kestos type bras fascinate me. Do you think it works well? Is it supportive?

  10. Super cute! And I appreciate that you shared your bra tips. I’ve made a low back 30s bra before, but it wasn’t quite that low. That’s impressive! 🙂


  11. This top is amazing! I am now determined to make at least a couple of historical garments to wear myself this summer!!

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