Tuesday, March 22, 2016

1930s Lounge Pajamas

I was able to whip up a quick indulgence project for myself in between the hustle and bustle of February.  This was one of those projects that killed two birds with one stone.  It stated like this.  I'm going through the fabric in my grandmother's stash when we sorted out her house after her passing.  In among the truly lurid 1970s polyester atrocities happened to be some flour sack rags that I took home to use as pressing cloths.  They started me down the path of researching the feed sack dresses and clothing from the 1930s.  I got all gun ho about making one for myself, and even found a lot of 11 feed sacks in matching print on eBay.  But I ran into a conundrum when it came to finally buckling down and making a feed sack dress of my own.  The whole point of making clothing from feed sacks was that the sewer was being economical.  That made full length dresses a luxury that ran counter to the use of feed sacks.  And I HATE the way I look in knee length dresses.  So the fabric sat around being useless.

I had been holding onto the 1930s Kitchenette Pajamas pattern from Decades of Style for a couple of years now.  I'd originally bought the pattern for a Single Pattern contest at Costume Con, but then never got around to making them.  So it languished in the pile.  

Fast forward a couple of years and I'm reading an article in Behind the Seams that looked at the details in a couple of feed sack dresses.  The lighter one in the background was hypothesized to be a night gown, and the waistline was fitted using a series of narrow tucks.  I had one of those light bulb moments where nightgown = pajamas and tucks fit in with the Historical Sew Monthly's February challenge of pleats and tucks.  Viola!  A solutions was found!
From an article in Behind the Seams.

I had thought about staging a lovely photo shoot with me doing some 1930s-worthy kitchen chores,
but I honestly just drank coffee and ordered pizza for dinner that night, so this is what you get. 
It's a one piece garment that closes with overlapping center back panels and attached waist ties.  If I were a bit smarter about this, I'd have read a few more pattern reviews before I started cutting.  I could have saved myself the exact same problem had by so many others in that the back with tend to creep open with wear.  If I were to do this up again (and I might, they are wicked comfortable), I would move the attachment point of the ties up an inch or two.  As is, a well-placed safety pin does the trick.  Or I could invest the time in putting in a couple of lingerie straps into the shoulder seams.  We'll see how annoying it gets.

The front part of the bodice is cut in one piece.  The shaping comes from a tuck going into each shoulder seam, in addition to the waist ties.  In order to lessen the shoulder drooping problem, I added a pair of box pleats into the center front neckline.  This pulled the shoulders in a bit, in addition to adding a bit of shaping around the bust.

No flash to show my snazzy pleats and tucks.
The tiny cap sleeves were an addition to the pattern as well.  I had come across this image on Pinterest, linked only to the image and not the source, so I'm without context.  I was digging on the way that the end of the sleeves on the brown dress were set up with the bias tape and the overlapping top.  Since I was planning to finish the neckline and cuffs with a contrasting bias tape anyhow, this seemed like an awesome way to continue that theme.

The incredibly technical pattern for the sleeves, which amounted to me going,
"Eh, let's make 'em about that long and overlap by about yey much."

Now, 11 feed sacks go a heck of a long way.  Each piece opened out to about 36" x 48".  However, many of the pieces showed damage from long years in storage.  A few had a discolored background, others had stains in spots and there were holes and tears scattered throughout.  Also, feed sack cotton equals THIN.  See through when back lit, even.  So what I did to make the most of every piece was to fully flat line all pieces in the sketchier pieces of fabric.  I had to piece one of the pant legs, and overlook a few of the pinprick holes, but overall this worked well.  The print is the same inside and out, the double layer of cloth is thick enough to ensure adequate warmth and modesty.  Plus, you could never find another fabric as soft as feed sack.  The finest combed cotton ain't got nothing on this.

Details for the challenge:
1930s Lounge PJs
Challenge #2: Tucks and Pleating

Fabric: self lined with vintage cotton feed sacks and burgundy cotton for the bias tape

Pattern: 1930s Kitchenette Pajamas from Decades of Style.

8/10 for Accuracy. The feed sacks are vintage, but probaby date a little after the lounge sets were all the rage in the late 20s and early 30s.

Hours to complete: maybe ten. Cutting was an adventure as there were 11 individual feed sacks in the auction lot of varying quality. It took a bit of finagaling to work around the stains and holes and there is some piecing on the inner layers. The lining with self fabric gave me a bit more modesty, plus it meant I was able to use up almost every scrap of fabric, regardless of how stained or discolored it may be. Also, SOOOOOOO incredibly soft.

First worn: not gonna lie. After I put them on for pictures, I wore them around the house for the rest of the day. they were incredibly comfortable.

Total cost: $60 US ($58 of which was the feed sacks)


  1. Very nice! They do look quite comfy. :)

  2. Love it! These are on my list to make!

  3. These are great! What a fun style.

  4. LOL. I got the pattern for CostumeCon, too! I cut the pattern out, and then it ended up in my UFO pile until now. I hope to get these done by the New Year.

    1. They were a little weird to piece together, but oh so comfortable once they're done. They have become my go to Monday costume for conventions. I still have a little trouble with the back sliding open, though. So maybe move your ties up a smidge, or insert a button or snap to keep the back closed.

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