Golden Age of Travel — Unbiased Bias

We all think the clothing of the 1930s is beautiful. But there’s one big reasons we don’t have closets full of 1930s clothing — the bias. Sewing on the bias is a serious pain in the butt. It takes patience and care and it can still go terribly wrong and your machine will eat up you fabric.

Today, I’m going to show you how to make a bias cut 1930s dress without sewing anything on the bias. Seriously. Not a single seam is on the bias!

This is a dress designed by Madeleine Vionnet in 1929. This dress is documented in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s Dresses and Their Construction c1860-1940. It is housed in the Centre du Documentation due Costume in Paris.  It is made from two layers of silk gauze, ivory and black, and embroidered with pink flowers.  The dress appears to have a very complicated construction, but it is in face made from rectangular skirt panels sewn to a square bodice that is turned 45 degrees to the bias.

Remember the 20-minute Vionnet? Well, this is more like the 10-minute version.

Take three 35″ square silk scarves (I recommend the pre-hemmed silk scarves from Dharma Trading). That’s it. Just three.

  1. Find the exact center of each of the four sides of the three scarves. You can do this by bringing the points together and marking where they fold.
  2. Fold one scarf in half diagonally.
  3. Line up the center point of the folded scarf with the center mark of another scarf. Sew the second scarf to the right side of the folded scarf.
  4. Line up the center point of the folded scarf with the center mark of the last scarf. Sew the third scarf to the left side of the folded scarf.
  5. Line up the center point on the back of the folded scarf with the center mark on the left scarf just like you did for the front. Repear for the right scarf. Sew all this together. The dress should be identical front and back.
  6. Sew the left and right (second and third) scarves to each other from where they meet at the point of the folded scarf to their ends
  7. Find the center of the folded scarf and cut a hole just barely large enough for your head.
  8. Try it on!

The unsewn parts of the folded scarf make lovely sleeves. And the other two carves make a gorgeous handkerchief hem. You can cut the neckline into any shape you want.

Even unpressed and right out of the dryer, you can see the slinky bias cut working its charm on the dress form. And you didn’t have to sew on the bias once. You didn’t even have to cut on the bias! Told ya.


© 2012 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material.

5 Comments

  1. Margaret

    Wow. I just took a look at Sarah’s, and it’s gorgeous. Off to ebay to do some scarf shopping. Thank you for the instructions!

  2. Sarah

    I just tried making this — picture here. For a change, here’s a late-20s Vionnet-inspired dress. Picture desaturated to spare you the eyeburn of the peach-coloured fabric of my test version.

  3. Wow! This looks easy!

    I see that there is now a silk/wool blend scarf, which I’d like for more weight, but would that ruin the fluid bias look for this dress and your 20 minute dress?

    • As long as the scarf has a nice drape, it won’t ruin the look of the dress. It will look different, but I think it would still look very nice.

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