Wow! You've come up with so many great comments about my attempt at making myself a 1930's dress. Both here and on We Sew Retro-Sew and Tell.
Among many other things, I've learned that: Yes very soft and limp fabrics are very important for the 1930's look, the original dresses my have been very unshaped and fashion illustrations are very fanciful whatever the era...
In the mean time, I've finished the dress and I will take proper pictures and talk a bit more about it and the experience of making it in the weekend. Oh, and for those of you who wondered about the (short) length: I followed the pattern exactly. The only reason it's longer in the first muslin is that I didn't fold up the 3 5/8" hem there. I had also expected the dress to be longer but the waist length is right and the hem hits my leg at the same point as it does in the illustration.
Today, I thought it would be nice to look at some fashion photographs from the 1930's. I figured that would be the best way to learn about what was considered to be the proper fit of a dress, what an ideal body shape looked like and how the fashionable silhouette changed over the decade.
These first pictures are from the Dutch Mode- en Handwerkalbum from spring 1933.
Shapes are not that loose (not really close-fitted either but certainly not as baggy as that first toile of mine) but belts are definitely not used to cinch waists, like in the 1950's. And the ideal figure seems to have very little difference between waist and hip. Nor between bust and waist, for that matter.
This one image comes from the French sewing magazine La Femme Elegante which, unfortunately, only published photographs of its knitting patterns. The shape seems pretty much unchanged.
The following pictures are probably the most interesting in relation to my dress. They are from the same year, 1937 but the dress I made came from the USA, these pictures were published in the German magazine Beyer's Mode.
This first suit actually looks quite 1940's to me. And isn't it great they've printed the illustration of the same outfit next to it?
The dresses, on the other hand, look as you would expect for 1930's. Pretty sleek fitting though. And is it my imagination or has the waist-to-hip ratio increased a bit?
There are more design elements which add width at the hips: The occasional A-line skirt, tunics, peplums. All of that makes me feel like these styles would be friendlier to a girl with hips...
Oh, and there are pyjama's in this magazine, meant to be worn in the morning, at home. Those trousers are very wide but rather alluring in those thin drape-y fabrics.
And finally, a couple of pictures from Libelle. These are from there report about the Paris shows for autumn/winter 1939/40 so it shouldn't be surprising that everything here looks 1940's.
And can I draw any conclusions based on this? Well... Some, I think. Of course, all the pictures above are carefully styled, photographed and retouched images of (very likely) professional models. Normal women probably didn't look quite so sleek and poised. It does tell us something about the beauty ideals at the time though. According to these pictures, on the perfect figure, fashionable dresses should fit smoothly. That perfect figure is not super-skinny but has very few curves at the beginning of the decade and slowly gains shape towards 1940. Quite to my surprise, there were no huge shoulders in any of these images (I have seen those in pictures from the 1940's). Gathered, pleated or darted sleeve caps and extra room at the upper arm, yes, but no high padded constructs.
So, it seems I wasn't wrong in wanting my 1937 dress to fit more closely but I probably can't get a 'real' 1930's look because my body shape isn't right for that.