Wednesday, March 13, 2013

30s Beach Pajamas

For this week's Sew Historical Fortnightly challenge, we were supposed to make something that fit the theme "peasants and pioneers".  I decided to take a slightly less literal approach with this one and use it for a project that I've been dying to make for a few years now - a set of 1930's beach pajamas.

The "peasant" part of this challenge comes from the blouse, which I made out of a printed feedsack that I picked up in an antiques shop years ago.  The feedsack was only 46" long, so it took some very careful planning and piecing to make it work from just one bag.  Printed feedsacks like this one were a popular money-saving choice for home seamstresses during the Great Depression and WWII, so it seemed like a great choice for this challenge.  I'm no expert on dating feedsacks, but I'm guessing that this print with its happy little cherries is actually from the 40's instead of the 30's, but shhhh... let's keep that secret between ourselves!  ;)

I used a New York pattern with the blue eagle NRA stamp on it, which means that it was sold between 1933 and 1935 under the umbrella of Roosevelt's New Deal recovery programs.  I love finding little clues like this to help date patterns, and I thought that using an authentic depression-era pattern would also fit the peasant challenge perfectly.  The only change that I made to the pattern was to make the collar open instead of closed with a bow, which seemed a little prissy for beach-wear.

For the "pioneer" part of this project, I decided to honor the fashion pioneers of the 30's who finally began breaking the gender barriers that had always been associated with women's pants.  A few brave women had been experimenting with various forms of trousers since the bloomer era, but it was really the 1930's that marked a turning point for this article of clothing.  Although I like playing dress-up in pretty frocks for my costuming work, my real-life wardrobe is made up of slacks, capris, and jeans about 99.9% of the time, so this is my little tribute to those amazing fashion-forward women of the 30s who paved the way for a trouser-loving girl like me.

I have always adored the super-wide legged look of the 30's.  I think they are so glamorous and fun, and I've been dying to make a pair for myself.  I used an Anne Adams pajamas pattern from the mid-1930s for my pants, and luckily, they fit me perfectly with no alterations needed except for the length.  Some modern costumers seem to be a bit freaked out by the fit of 30's pants, but I really love the way these look on me.  I admit that the crotch is crazy low and the waist is crazy high, but somehow it all works.  I made these out of linen canvas from my stash, and I used vintage mother-of-peal buttons for the sides.

The only problem is that it is hard for me to decide whether to wear the blouse tucked in or out.  I think it looks a little more leisure pajama-ish with the shirt out, and more beach pajama-ish with it tucked in.   I have to admit that I'm more comfortable and less self-conscious with the shirt out (did I mention how crazy high those pants are?), but I miss seeing the buttons on the pants when I wear it that way.  But I'm sure I'll wear it both ways from time to time just depending on my mood.  It's good to have variety.

For more beach pajama inspiration, check out two of my favorite photo blogs - Giant Pants of the 30s and La Mode Pyjama.  I also have a few additional photos of this outfit on my flickr.