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French Maid-ish

Greetings from sunny (and HOT) Orlando, Florida! This was a very special project for me, as it was my first time working with Minerva, and I couldn’t be more pleased!

After perusing the fabrics, this gorgeous Lady McElroy Cotton and Silk Blend (sheer natural fibers?! Yay!) caught my eye and I immediately knew which pattern I would pair it with. I’ve had the 1939 Vogue 9294 Reproduction Pattern in my stash for about a year now, and I’d been dying to make a sheer over-dress, so this seemed like the perfect fabric to use! I went with view A.

Not too sheer, but decidedly so, this fabric is truly lovely. In some lights it looks black, but I would describe it as a very dark gray leaning green with black shiny stripes. It’s floaty but has a nice drape and texture. It’s very smooth to the touch, but not slippery. It’s also a bit delicate but not flimsy, as the silk adds strength to the weave. It’s so easy to work with! I very much enjoy the slight wrinkling that occurs after washing, like a more chill seersucker. If you’re not into that look, it irons out very easily.

I made very few changes to the pattern, and none to the fit, shockingly! I made a wearable toile first, which was perfect, so I was comfortable cutting a size 14, which tends to be my normal size in the Big 4 patterns (give or take a little depending on the pattern!).

I did exchange the neckline facing for a self bias binding, because I felt a black solid rectangle would be odd right at the neckline. This was really easy to do, I just stitched it right along the stitching line, then folded and turned it to the inside and hand sewed it in place.

As you can see, the dress IS sheer, which doesn’t bother me. I wore a nude bra and nude half slip, but I’ve been working on a vintage repro wrap slip and I think it’ll be fun to try out different colors under the dark overdress! The other change I made to the pattern was also due to the sheer nature of the fabric. The pattern calls for pocket facings on the upper edge of the pockets, but I felt it would be weird to have the sheer darker color over the bright white lace trim, introducing gray into the color palette, so I nixed them. The pockets are definitely more for show, though they are functional (omitting the facings hasn’t hampered them in any way).

There was a lot of hand sewing involved in this dress, which I love, but if you’re not a fan you might want to skip this one. The front neckline, sleeve facings, the tie collar, the pockets, and the hem all employ hand sewing. One of the unique features of this pattern is that the trim isn’t backed with fabric, meaning you can see tiny glimpses of skin under the lace, very bold for the ‘30s/’40s! The pattern instructs you to sew the lace to the bodice, then trim away the bodice fabric beneath the lace. I complicated things by folding and hand sewing the clipped seam allowance under the trim, rather than just trimming to the stitching. I had visions of tearing the bodice in an Incredible Hulk-like moment and decided that a little extra time hand sewing was alright with me, plus I really enjoy couture(ish) finishings! Oh and speaking of the trim, I actually created it myself by combining two lengths of lace and one velvet ribbon. I couldn’t find anything I liked in the store as-is, or the correct size, so I zig zag stitched them together and then used that as one piece. It was a little tricky to keep the ribbon from sliding as I stitched them together, but I really love the finished look. It reminds me of the "French maid" look, or maybe Wednesday Addams if she was alive in the late ‘30s!  

Ah! One more decision I made was to not create the shoulder pads. I have pretty square shoulders already and I was afraid I’d look like an American football player with them! Haha! If I were to create the shoulder pads, I would probably make them removable with snaps, and I would probably make them match my skin tone, so as not to be obvious under the sheer fabric. I also opted for a zipper rather than side snaps (instructions for both were included). When I make this pattern again, I might give the snaps a try!

Thank you, Minerva! I LOVE my new dress! 10/10, would recommend this fabric and pattern to anyone looking to make a beautiful vintage reproduction dress. If you’re interested in a more in-depth step-by-step look at this project, please visit my Youtube channel!


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