HSF #6 – Early 1930’s Cinderella Nightgown

So, I once again bit off more than I could chew, at least in regards to what I’m able to accomplish during a two week time period. My original plan was to do a Rose Red outfit, for the story “Snow White and Rose Red”. I’ve been thinking about this outfit for a while, but I’ve had a lot of difficulty finding the perfect (or even an acceptable) fabric. I found the perfect shade of green, so I sacrificed historical accuracy in the interest of color. Life once again got in my way, which put sewing on the back burner both time-wise and financially. By no means do I intend to abandon this project, it will just join The Great Crochet Project in my stack of work-on-while-watching-TV. So…to give you a sneak peak, here’s the illustration that I’m taking my inspiration from.

Snow White and Rose Red Cover

You can see how I’m having some trouble finding just the right fabrics, partly because I really don’t want to embroider all those roses. But I’ll stop boring you with things that aren’t finished yet.


When it became clear that I wasn’t finishing the originally intended project, I starting looking through my stash for a fabric that I didn’t have plans for/spoke fairy tale to me. Then I realized I had about 3.5 yards of blue cotton leftover from another project. And it just so happened that the blue is very evocative of Disney’s 1952 Cinderella.

cinderella nightgown 2



Now before you get upset that Disney’s version came out after our time stopping point for HSF, you should know that Disney was by far not the first to put Cinderella in blue.

Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother by William Henry Margetson

This is “Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother” by William Henry Margetson, who lived from 1861 to 1940. If you’re looking for some inspiration for an upcoming project I highly recommend you check out some of his other work. Artists and Art have collected a lovely selection of goodies to peruse that were painted by William Henry.

Cinderella by Jennie Harbour


Also for further Cinderella blue, “Cinderella” by Jennie Harbour. I had a hard time finding a lot of information of Jennie, as did Tales of Faerie, which made me feel better. She was born in 1893 and died in 1959, but the tone of most of her work is Art Deco. For additional amazingness go check out a book of fairy tales that she illustrated for on Project Gutenberg.

Next came the problem of what to make with the fabric. I have absolutely no events planned for the near future, so I wanted to make something that would be reasonably easy to integrate into my life.

Then I remembered how much I love my bathrobe, which I made using First Steps in Dressmaking published by the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences. The Woman’s Institute was based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania and was founded by Mary Brooks Picken, who was a leader in the fashion industry from the Teens well into the 1980’s. You may know her as the creator of the famous 1920’s one hour dress, she also helped found the Met’s Costume Institute, was the first woman to publish a dictionary (The Fashion Dictionary), and helped start New York’s Fashion Week. You can read more about this amazing lady on Madalynne’s blog.

About a year ago I was lucky enough to score a set of the Woman’s Institute’s sewing instruction books. They were from the correspondence school, which could teach you anything from sewing to cooking, really anything that the accomplished girl of the new century would need to know.


First Steps in Dressmaking is actually a combination of three earlier pamphlets, “Essential Stitches and Seams”, “Easy Garment Making”, and “Individualizing Tissue-Paper Patterns”. I couldn’t tell you exactly when my editions were printed because it seems the actual combination these pamphlets into a book was never copyrighted, just the pamphlets. The last date listed was 1934, which fits the style of hair and clothing that are illustrated in the book.

I decided a cotton nightgown would fit my needs nicely, especially with the Florida summer looming. And really, who doesn’t wish to look this charming when going to bed. DSCN0195


Now, I’ve already mentioned my inability to use my rudimentary math skills to create a garment from printed instructions. My lack of success with the Drawers That Weren’t certainly didn’t boost my confidence in this area, but I was determined. So, I followed the instructions to the letter, measured and remeasured. Carefully made sure that my fabric looked as close to the illustration as possible before I started cutting.


I cut out my fabric after checking one more time that it looked right. Everything was working out perfectly (notice I said was). Then I slipped it on over my head to check and make sure things still looked fine. Nope. They didn’t.

See, earlier this year I made the Kimono Bathrobe, that is actually the next garment in the book. The bathrobe front turned out to be about eight inches short in its ability to cover my boobs. Which is kind of the point of a bathrobe. In my brain I figured, “Sure, that makes sense, my boobs are bigger than what the average lady had to deal with in the 1930s.” So I added half an inch to the neck and the waist, which upon reflection doesn’t make much sense.

I really shouldn’t have been too surprised when the neckline was waaay too wide. As in, it was so wide it was practically a tube top dress. To fix this problem, I created a seam up the shoulder, cut about 1 5/8′, and sewed it back up. The book calls for French seams, my absolute favorite kind. The instructions also tell you to use bias trim for decoration, around the neckline, and around the sleeves. Which I did. However I was not really a fan of the flower applique, so I improvised, and created a bow out of my bias trim.




You can see that the neckline still looks unusually wide, but at least it stays on my body. I didn’t turn out as svelte looking as the lady in the illustration, but really what garment does? There were no instructions for the belt our charming lady is wearing in the picture, I assume because it looks like a simple fold and stitch sash.



As you can see the belt doesn’t do much for me. Really though, who wears a belt to bed?

Part of the problem is because I didn’t use a fabric that was recommended. “Nainsook, long-cloth, and batiste are very desirable cotton materials” as are “crepe de Chine, pongee, radium, or other light-weight lingerie silk”. I was hoping that my blue cotton would be close enough, but I think a fabric with more drape would turn out better.

The Challenge: Fairytale

Fabric: blue 100% cotton

Pattern: Based on instructions from the Woman Institute’s First Steps in Dressmaking.

Year: early 1930s

Notions: blue and white thread, white bias tape

How historically accurate is it? I’d say spot on, construction and materials are all appropriate (for once). The only thing that detracts is my fabric choice, it wasn’t supposed to be made out of a plain cotton, but I must imagine that our ancestors also broke fabric rules on occasion, especially for garments that no one but family was going to see.

Hours to complete: I’m terrible about keeping track, but I’m going to say between six and eight hours.

First worn: Right now! It’s amazingly comfy.

Total cost: Everything I used was left over from another project, so free!

One thought on “HSF #6 – Early 1930’s Cinderella Nightgown

  1. pennymarvel April 1, 2014 at 10:03 am Reply

    Oh, my, this is absolutly lovely!

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