Monday, July 22, 2019

Making a "Hooverette" Dress From the "Dottie Angel" Pattern

There was a recently acquired piece of fabric in my fabric stash which I had prewashed, and was ironing flat before folding it neatly to be put away. As I was ironing this length of plaid fabric, it hit me that this material just had to be turned into a 1930’s style wrap dress, or “hooverette”. This thought became a minor fixation on 30’s wrap dresses and soon I was scouring the internet, looking at pictures of vintage 30’s dresses and reading blog posts about making dresses similar to what I had in mind.

A day or two later, I had a wrap dress for myself cut out and ready to sew together. By this time I’d changed my mind about the fabric I wanted to use for the project. I’d put away the plaid for a different project (my 4th of July dress to be exact) and instead pulled out a floral quilting cotton from my grandma for this 1930’s inspired wrap dress.

As I read about "Hooverette" house dresses and looked at 1930's ads and patterns for these garments, I learned a few things. Many of them had cut-on sleeves, though set-in sleeves did appear on occasion. The skirt and bodice were typically cut as one, from shoulder to hem, with no waist seam. They could close with either with ties or buttons, but ties appear to have been most common. The front skirt generally boasted a patch pocket because all good dresses, especially house dresses, have pockets. And finally, the front could be wrapped both left over right, and right over left. If you were to stain whichever side was on top, you could just flip flop the wrap so the stain would be hidden under the opposite side and nobody would know

With these features in mind, I set about finding a pattern to use. After a quick look through my pattern stash I decided to use Simplicity 1080, which is apparently known as the "Dottie Angel" frock pattern. This pattern featured cut-on sleeves and no waist seam. Plus, it already featured cute patch pockets. Thus I decided it would work well for my "Hooverette" base pattern. I just needed to make a few, minor, changes.

I lengthened the sleeves a bit and didn't cut the front on the fold. Instead I added about 6" of width to the center front skirt, and cut the front bodice at an angle from shoulder to the newly widened waistline. This would give me the wrap front I wanted. I drafted a front facing to match.

I added some width to the hem of the back panel, for a little extra skirt fullness. As originally drafted, the skirt was straighter than I preferred. After cutting out the back panel, I discovered the back neckline was lower than I would have liked, so I added an extra little panel to raise it to a "normal" back neckline level. Low back necklines can be a fun design element, but I didn't think it suited this style of dress.

I traced the shape of the original back neckline onto a piece of paper, then drew in where I wanted the new back neckline to be. 

I then used this piece of paper as my pattern piece to cut out the fabric to fill in that low back neckline.

This extra panel of fabric is definitely noticeable on the back of the finished dress, so we'll just call it a design feature. There are worse things in life than pieced together dress backs. If I ever use this pattern again though, I'll remember the back neckline is low and fix that prior to cutting if I want it otherwise.

Now, as far as the "intentional" design features go. . .

The dress fastens with fabric ties and can be closed either right over left or left over right - fully reversible in that regard.

I left a 2" opening in either side seam at waist level for the ties to be threaded through.

The ties wrap around the waist and get tied securely in the front

The skirt and the bodice both have enough of an overlap that I'm not concerned about wardrobe malfunctions.

I added patch pockets to both sides of the front, so there's always one visible, and one hidden, no matter how I have the dress wrapped

I trimmed the pockets with green rick-rack to make them a little extra visible.

The neckline too is trimmed in green rick-rack to draw attention to the wrap feature of this dress and keep the style lines from being hidden in a sea of print.

Speaking of the print, I really do love this fabric. Yellow isn't generally a color I gravitate toward, but this fabric caught my eye because it reminds me of sunsets, and fall leaves, and all sorts of pretty things. I think this dress might be the only yellow garment I own, and it is a welcome addition to my wardrobe. Perhaps everyone needs a yellow dress.

All in all, I'd say my attempt at a 1930's inspired wrap dress was successful. I would up with a garment I like and wear regularly. 

Are there things I wish I'd done differently? Of course! The skirt, for one thing, is too short for the 1930's. I wish I'd cut it a few inches longer.

The sleeves are almost, but not quite, tight. So, I wish I'd cut those fuller.

These, however, are just little things. Little things to keep in mind for next time I suddenly decide I need to make a 1930's house dress right away.

Because, knowing me, there may very well be a "next time".


  1. Such a fun and practical design! And I love your fabric!!! Yellow is one of my favorite colors, but I do agree in a wardrobe it needs to be the right shade. And a yellow dress is a must in my opinion, to help brighten a dreary day.

  2. That’s really cute. I love the cut-on sleeves.

  3. I adore this dress and love 1930’s house dresses. I can see a few of these in my future