Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Tail of Two Wedding Dresses - VPLL Pattern Review

Finally, a post I know many of you have been waiting for. As I'm sure you all know I got married last October and was crazy enough to make not only my wedding dress, but a separate dress for the reception. I don't have as many construction pictures of my wedding dress as I would like. But that's par for the course I guess. The pattern I used for my wedding dress was the 1934 Evening Gown With Drop Sleeves from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.

1934 Evening Gown With Drop Sleeves from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.
The VPLL ships fast and does a very nice job in packing your order. Look how nice my little bundle of patterns were! I ordered three patterns in all. Each time you purchase a pattern, or leave a review, you earn points towards future purchasing. They patterns are printed on a nice quality paper. The instructions are pretty clear and easy to follow with some additional information provided as well.

My first task after receiving my pattern from the VPLL was to resize it. While the VPLL does offer some patterns in multiple sizes, this was not one of them. It was reproduced in its original size - a 38" bust which I am not. I made a quick mock up to help with resizing the pattern. All was going well until I cut into my lining material. In my hurry to complete the dress I forgot to add my seam allowance! Even with tiny 1/4" seams the dress was going to be too snug. Uuugh! I had enough material to cut a new lining for the basic dress but not enough for the train. Feeling frustrated and very annoyed with myself I tossed the project in the corner of the sewing room and didn't touch it for about two weeks. In the mean time I had to hunt for more lining material. I thought finding more of the same off white cotton muslin would be an easy task. Wrong!! I never realized how many shades of "off white" cotton there would be.

McCall August 1934 Pattern Catalog - Source
This pattern actually goes together rather well, despite my fitting issues. For the bodice I treated the lace and lining as one. The lace pieces were first basted to the lining and then the bodice was sewn together. Next the bias tape binding was added to the neck edges and arm holes. I didn't have any white or off white on hand so I used peach which I think made a nice contrast to the lace.

The skirt is constructed to two sections - upper and lower with additional fabric added for the train. Again, lots of basting with the lace mounted first on the cotton lining. The two photos below show the lower back sections of the skirt. Because Cori and I had not moved into the new house yet, and thus I had no sewing space of my own, I worked on my dress at my parents' house. It's a good thing they have a giant dinning room table!

Here you can see the lower front section of the skirt.

Here is where it got a little tricky sewing wise. The zig zag edges of the upper and lower skirt sections are lapped which meant, yep you guessed it. LOTS of pinning and basting. I used colored thread so the basting stitches would be easy to see when it came time to take them out. The lapped seam makes for a nice neat finish but was fiddly due to the lace and excess fabric of the train. Ahhhh huge wedding train!! :)

I like using these extra long quilting pins. Plus the butterflies are kind of cute.

The hem of the cotton lining was finished off with bias tape. I made a small rolled hem for the lace section. The dress closes at the left side with a placket and snaps. The belt was made with a layer cotton fabric and fusible interfacing with the lace mounted on top right sides together. Then the belt was turned right side out and pressed. The rhinestone buckle is from a 1930s dress in my collection which sadly is in very poor condition.

The most obvious changes I made to the pattern, other then the size, were to omit the extra large fluffy sleeves and to add a RIDICULOUSLY long train. I made a slight change to the neckline and added darts to the bodice as well. The original neckline hit right across my collar bone which would have been OK except that I would not have been able to wear a necklace of any kind. This realization, of course, came after I had assembled the bodice and added all the bias tape around the edges. Grrr. My quick solution was to make an inch and a half slash down the very center front and turn the edges under. Not very neat but at that point I didn't care and just wanted the dress done!

Here you can see the changes I made to the neckline. If I were to make this dress again I would keep the original rounded neckline.

And the finished dress.

I have very few construction pictures of my reception dress and most of those are just a pile of lace fabric with my cat happily holding it down. Black cat, white happens. My reception dress was made from the same lace fabric as my wedding dress and Advance 8269 which I purchased on Ebay. It was sewn very quickly the week of the wedding. Crazy I know, but I really wanted a shorter dress for the reception. It has some fitting issues that should be reworked at some point but I'll worry about that if I ever have the opportunity to wear the dress again.

Summary of the Pattern
Fabric: Cotton-ish lace with plastic sequins and 100% cotton lining all from JoAnn's Fabric.
Pattern: 1934 Evening Gown With Drop Sleeves from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.
Year: 1930s
Notions: Bias tape, snaps, thread, rhinestone buckle all from the stash.
How historically accurate is it? Very, but it's really more 1930s evening then wedding. Although you do see lots of 30s evening gowns with trains, this one is really much too long for true evening wear. Wedding gowns of the 30s and 40s were mostly long sleeved too.
Any tricky parts to the pattern? Attaching the skirt bottom to the skirt top using a lapped seam. Part of the difficulty was due to the excess amount of fabric in the train.
Did you change anything? Left off the sleeves, slashed the neckline, and added the train. And of course resized the pattern.
Time to complete: ummm, hard to say. There was a lot start and stop with this. I worked on it over the course of 2 months. I started working on resizing the pattern sometime in July and finished the dress a couple weeks before the wedding.
First worn: October 10, 2014
Total cost: $16.50 for the pattern

You can read more about my wedding day here and here.


  1. Wow, those dresses look divine!

  2. How fantastic to wear at your wedding an amazing dress you made yourself, that must be the best feeling ever!

  3. ^^ What she said. You did an absolutely amazing job. No one would ever know they weren't professionally made.

  4. This is beautiful and I do like the original pattern. Ordinarily the 30s are not my favorite decade for clothing, but this pattern is really pretty. You did an amazing job. Thanks for posting.

  5. Your wedding dress turned out absolutely beautiful! The train is amazing!

  6. Beautiful work!! I think you did a fabulous job!!

  7. It's so lovely! I LOVE the pattern you used, and the zig zag seams intimidate me a little, I will not lie. You did an AMAZING job, especially considering all the alterations you made to the pattern!

    1. I was a bit intimidated by the zig zag seam as well. It wasn't too difficult, just really fiddly. Lots of pins and basting made a big difference. I'd actually really like to use this pattern again but not many occasions call for 30s evening wear. :p

  8. Wow, both of your dresses look lovely, and your wedding dress is AMAZING!

    the Middle Sister and Singer

  9. Oh my giddy aunt! You look like a movie star!! LOVE love love that LOOOOOOONG train! That stair picture is perfection and showcases the train wonderfully! Very well done!!! Your reception dress is awesome sauce!!! What fun!

    1. Thank you Gina! That's so sweet of you to say. Yes, the stair picture was one of my favorites too. The Park McCullough House was such a beautiful location.

  10. Just amazing! What a fabulous wedding dress. You are very talented.

  11. Oh my goodness! Emily the dresses and the photos are amazing! I agree with Gina - you look like a movie star! Your wedding gown looks better than if you had bought it in a store! Wow! Way to go! You are extremely talented! Best wishes for a Happy Married Life! Kathy G. from Arizona

  12. I thought that your wedding venue looked familiar and then I read that it took place at the Park-McCullough House. I used to live in Bennington, VT. At Xmas I toured this house which was all decorated in the Victorian tradition. Your dresses were very beautiful. I loved the way that you and your now-husband created your vision with the people and things that were important to you both.

    1. Thank you Kathleen! The staff at the Park-McCullough House was wonderful to work with and I would highly recommend the site to others.


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