Art Deco Dress/Outfit Inspiration/Obsession

Sometimes you see something that inspires you so much that your mind just starts racing with ideas.

You see something like this:

Or this:

Or any of the other amazing fabric prints by Forty Venus, for that matter…

And your mind starts flooding with images of 1920’s and 30’s Art Deco dresses, which makes you think of Biba/Barbara Hulanicki, which makes you think of that one pattern in your stash that is Biba-esque:


But by then, it’s already too late to stop the flood of ideas, so you start jotting down thoughts, sketches, or create a Pinterest board that has over 130 pinned images* in under 20 minutes, or all three.

(And by you, I obviously mean me – as in, don’t mind me, this virus I’ve had for a week has started affecting my brain a bit, fingers crossed I won’t start talking about myself in the third person next! O_o)

Basically this is just a post to say I’ve been gripped with an obsession, brought on by the Forty Venus fabric above, to make some kind of Art Deco/Agatha Christie/Biba inspired outfit, and my mind won’t rest. I haven’t been this inspired by a fabric since I first saw the Exploding Tardis fabric that ended up becoming my Sewcialite Studio Valerie dress. That dream dress had a long journey before being made, from my first inspiration, to learning to sew, getting the fabric and finally pairing it with the perfect pattern. Now that that dream dress has been made I think my mind has been subconsciously hunting for the next dream project and boy did it ever find it when I discovered this fabric! Yet once again, the perfect pattern pairing eludes me…

I’ve had Mccall’s 4215 for about a year now and still haven’t used it due to not having the perfect fabric, and I bought it because it reminded me of the Biba 70’s does 30’s style outfits – could this be the fabric I’ve been waiting for? Or does this fabric belong to a much more fabulous 1930’s dress that I just don’t have the pattern for yet? Would a 1920’s dress be better? Hmmm…any ideas? I’d been wanting to make myself some kind of fabulous 1930’s Art Deco/Agatha Christie inspired outfit or dress for my 36th birthday in August, and now this fabric has my brain all a whirl, but I definitely need to find the right pattern so I’d welcome any and all suggestions!

What do you think of this fabric? Isn’t gorgeous? Do you have a favourite 1930’s dress or sewing pattern? What pattern would you recommend? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

*Note: Now, roughly an hour after after posting this, it’s now more like 300+ pins. I’m getting out of control, time to close Pinterest!


18 thoughts on “Art Deco Dress/Outfit Inspiration/Obsession

    • Ooh! I’m very excited for you! Dressmaking is wonderful and I really enjoy it. Sewing has given me the most amazing sense of freedom – being able to make my own clothes instead of buying them from stores and dealing with the hassle of nothing ever fitting correctly is WONDERFUL. Your Gran’s vintage hand powered Singer is a great machine to start on, in my opinion! My advice would be to make sure it’s in good working condition – you can probably take it in to a sewing machine repair shop to have it looked over just to make sure everything is set up right (that it will stitch correctly and so on) and investing in some sewing machine oil will be a good thing as well because vintage machines need to be oiled regularly (which you can do yourself! πŸ™‚ ) I also recommend finding a copy of your machine’s manual. You can find PDF copies for free online for a lot of vintage machines. Do you know what model it is? I might be able to help. πŸ™‚ You can find clues as to what model it is from the serial number that you should be able to find on your machine – it should be right on the “bed” of the machine on the right hand side. (I’d LOVE to see a photo of your Singer by the way!) You can search your machine’s serial number online and it should help you determine what model you have and which manual you’ll need. The manual will tell you how to care for your machine and how to use it. Did your gran’s machine come with any bits and bobs like presser feet or sewing machine needles? You’ll definitely need some needles, which should be available for purchase at any sewing machine or fabric shop. The manual will also tell you which needles you need. πŸ™‚ I prefer vintage sewing machines to modern ones, because they’re so beautiful and if you treat them right, they will run pretty much forever. πŸ™‚

      By the way, a good site to help determine what model of Singer you have is ISMACS, you can find their Singer database here:

      As for starting to sew, I recommend practicing on your machine a bit with some pieces of scrap fabric (once you know the machine is in good working condition), practice straight stitching, stitching curves, different angles (like stitching a square, for example) and stuff like that – play around with it, have fun, get used to using the machine and see how it feels, it will help you become more confident with it.

      I have a lot of vintage sewing books available for download here:
      You can check them out and do a little reading and learn about different techniques and all of that wonderful stuff. For sewing vintage clothing, I recommend trying out true vintage patterns, especially from Simplicity, but be aware that they made not go into much detail by way of instructions depending on how far back in time you go (patterns from the 1920’s and 1930’s for example aren’t often very detail heavy when it comes to instructions). All of the big sewing pattern companies (Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick and Vogue) have started reproducing some of their vintage patterns, which is wonderful, but they can be a bit tricky because they come with modern “ease” so a pattern that matches your measurements according to the envelope might end up being several sizes too large. Make sure to read the measurements on the actual pattern tissue of any modern pattern, because they will tell you what the finished garment measurements will be. Depending on your personal measurements, you may be able to go down a size or two to get a better fitting finished garment with a modern pattern. There are also patterns that you can download online as PDFs and print for free – a number are available on Craftsy, there is a whole thread dedicated to free sewing patterns on the Pattern Review message board as well, and if you even just do a search for free sewing patterns, you can typically find a bunch. There are also a number of amazing indie sewing pattern companies, a number of which I interviewed over the last year (you can check out all of my interviews here: ) they all make wonderful patterns, or reproduce vintage sewing patterns, which is really awesome and the women behind these companies are all fantastic and typically will help out if you have any questions or run into any difficulties while sewing. πŸ™‚

      I’ve got to rush off for a tiny bit, but if you need any more advice or tips or anything, please feel free to let me know! I’m happy to help out in any way I can! ❀


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