Zero waste 1930s style dress

In 2017 I bought a roll of Japanese shibori dyed silk from one of the traders at Fibres West. Then it sat in my stash as I decided that the colour didn’t suit me and anyway, what was I going to do with this amazing fabric that was just 17″ or 43 centimetres wide, that would pay proper respect to its beauty.

Moving on to 2020, the worst year in living memory, but Perth, being in a bubble, pretty much escaped the Covid crisis due to militant guarding of our borders and the fortune of being one of the most isolated cities in the world, and therefore we were allowed gatherings of 100 people, which meant that we could have a Frocktails event!

The first thing that everyone asks is “what are you wearing?” and I was determined to wear something old rather than something new, and dug out a 20+ year old spangly knit dress in a tank style and thought I’d wear that.

Unfortunately the last twenty years have taken their toll and the dress is looking a little tired, so I didn’t think it would pass muster.

I happened to be visiting Sarah from Pattern Union and whenever I visit her I take a trolley full of fabric that I don’t know what to do with in the hope that she will inspire me. This day I loaded up several rolls of Japanese fabric, including the shibori dyed recycled kimono fabric, which I thought might suit me better now that I’m no longer a brunette. Happy days because Sarah suggested a zero waste dress that she had been playing with. She had a sample for me to try on and the rest, as they say, is history!

For those of you who are interested, here is the “pattern”. So deceptively simple!

This design is meant for 150cm wide fabric, I refer you to my earlier statement about mine being 43cm wide, which meant we had to fiddle around to make the design work.

Obviously no option for a centre back fold, and the belt had to be pieced.

If you look at the picture above it’s hard to imagine the amount of work that went into producing this fabric. It was originally white and each little dot has been wrapped in cotton before being dyed. I had many metres of this fabric and the scale of it blew me away. You can also see a slightly out of focus tiny design in the middle distance. These were sprinkled about on the fabric.

There were also two sections that hadn’t been tied. I’m not sure why, but they formed a long open sided oblong. We made this weirdness a feature of the front of the dress.

The dress is basically two slightly shaped rectangles with a channel along the top. Rouleau loops are fed through to form the shoulders of the dress. Here they are being pinned into place.

and we played with the back until we got a design we were happy with. It’s obvious from the ties that the original white silk was beautifully figured, which got lost in the shibori dyeing, so I was glad to be able to show it.

At the end of the roll was quite a wide section which hadn’t been shibori tied. It’s from this that we got the rouleau ties and also we were able to utilise the rest of it in the back panel to add more interest.

I love the effect of the drape at the back, but the problem with this is that the weight causes the whole dress to droop most unattractively. Sarah’s solution was to put a tab between the top of the cowl and the hip and thread the belt tie through it. The unseen part of the belt is now holding the whole of the top of the dress up!

You can see some of the little patterns that are sprinkled around this fabric.

I did have a small amount of useable fabric left from which I’ll make a top or something, but apart from that, this is the collection of silk scraps that I had left.

A quick video of me trying to be a catwalk model, taken at Sarah’s house.

I decided that the ends of the ties needed some beads or something to help define them. I found these pearl drop beads which I sewed on, which give both weight and a 1930s vibe to the ties.

All that was needed was for me to wear the dress to Frocktails!

Sarah was the chauffeur for the night and so here are four frocktailers hanging out in my garden, booted and spurred as my lovely Dad would have said, waiting to leave.

I knitted my little dilly bag years ago. A very simple design with short row shaping and a picot edge. The lining is a really beautiful silk satin that I found somewhere and I love putting my hand in it. I have a matching cape as well.

A few photos from the night. Thanks to Katherine for this photo of my back view.

And one of Sarah and me, Sarah is wearing her own design Felix Jacket, Cora blouse and Hannah Culottes, all currently on sale at Pattern Union.

So many beautiful outfits!

Love this one with Eleanor and her Mum Carol.

Love these two Megan Nielsen dresses on Deepti and Alice.

I could actually go on and on, but I won’t. This dress will have pride of place in my wardrobe, but I need to find some events to wear it to. Perhaps Frocktails next year?

I have to say a big thank you to the Australian Sewing Guild and the organisers of this year’s event. It was brilliant!

This dress is also my entry in the Magamsewalong (make a garment a month) Nightime November challenge on Instagram.


14 thoughts on “Zero waste 1930s style dress

  1. A beautiful dress and wonderful that you were able to use all of the fabric too.
    I haven’t been to a frocktails but I know from ASG dinners that there’s something special about being in a room full of people wearing well-fitting and beautifully made clothes – not something that happens often!

    1. Thanks Liz, Frocktails is a real experience, there is a lot of fabric fondling and much talk about sewing/patterns/fabrics, etc. I actually had someone with their hand down my back trying to see how the tie worked!

  2. Lovely dress, and great use of that fabulous fabric. Glad you were able to have the event – we’re still on second lockdown 🙄

    1. Thank you and yes, we are lucky, but our whole state has been in isolation since the beginning of March and we have not had community transmission. the benefits of being in the most isolated city in the world.

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