1930s Zanzibar Dress

Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress

This is my new favorite dress.
Like... I really love it.  Well, most things about it.  This was a learning piece!


Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress

Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress

I created this dress from scratch without using a pattern.  I draped some test fabric onto my dress form to get the skirt portion sized correctly, then I just went for it and used the real fabric to do the bodice and sleeve details.  I took my skirt muslin, cut it out of fashion fabric a bit shorter, then added the flounce.


Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress

Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress


All the sleeve/strap things are is bias tape with a ruffle on it.  I was inspired by a real 1930s gown sewing pattern that had bigger ruffles, but wanted to make it possible to tuck the ruffles into a sweater sleeve for office wear.

Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress
Everything is cut on the bias in typical 30s style.  I've been loving the 30s garden party dresses, and the large floral print of this fabric seemed to coordinate nicely with that idea. 
Speaking of the fabric, it's from Zanzibar in Tanzania!  I got two panels of kanga cloth, and the proverb on this one (that I managed to place on the front of the skirt flounce) is, according to Google translate, something along the lines of, "If you disrespect your mother you'll be cursed."  (Anyone with better Swahili skills can correct me if need be!)


Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress

Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress

My mother, being the buyer of the fabric for me, was obviously in agreement with the proverb.
I used about a panel and a half of the kanga to make this dress.  Next, I lined it in some thrifted fabric.  Admittedly, the lining is strange since it needed to mimic the shape of the dress but still remain unseen with the unusual neckline and sleeve arrangement.  I'm not totally happy with how it turned out... but it's on the inside, and honey badger don't care.

Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress

Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress
I also wore it again to a recent church event, but this time with a giant bow headwrap that works for both African AND vintage styles!
Flashback Summer: 1930s Zanzibar Dress, head wrap Africa earrings

Outfit Details:
shoes: Kmart, several years ago
hat: hand-me-down from my sister
bracelet and earrings: Kenya

24 comments

  1. Absolutely gorgeous! I love (underline that a million times) this fresh, vibrant colour palette on. Tres chic and tres stunning! :)

    ♥ Jessica

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  2. So AMAZING!!! I love everything about this dress, but the sleeves and the back of the dress are simply stunning. Such a wonderful style:)
    -Madison
    www.1minniemise.blogspot.com

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  3. What a fantastic, vibrant print! The ruffles are soon much fun!

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  4. This dress is everything!! That fabric is so beautiful! And I love the addition of the head wrap in the last picture. :)

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    1. Aw, thank you! I love the headwrap too, but I'm so confused at why it looks so good in certain pictures and so terrible in others. It seems to flatter my face one moment and make my head look weird at another moment. So strange. But either way... It covers up bad hair beautifully, so I'll keep wearing it! :)

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  5. Absolutely beautiful dress - you're so talented! I love both the big sunhat and the cardigan looks, I'm not even sure which my favourite is. Such a pretty and unique dress. CC x

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  6. Very pretty dress, I can't believe you just made it without a pattern, so clever! You look lovely x

    Www.pearlsandpurlsvintage.blogspot.com

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  7. This dress is simply gorgeous! The style and fit are beautiful, as are the wonderful bright colors!

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  8. This is definitely an amazing dress. The colours are great, and looks wonderful with all your different hats in this post

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  9. It's very easy to see why this is a new favorite - that cut and that fabric!!!!! Beautiful photos, I really love the big dramatic hat with this dress, looks wonderful :)

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  10. Love it Emileigh! The print is so lovely and vibrant. And I love your giant bow. :)

    Brigid
    the Middle Sister and Singer

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  11. Love it! The shoulder detail is really cool, and the whole silhouette is bang-on.

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  12. Love the dress! And that hat looks great on you. Nice job.

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  13. Love this dress! Great job! Are you familiar with the book "Dress Cutting -- Instructions and Illustrations for Sewing 26 Vintage 1930s Fashions" by Margaret Ralston? It's a great resource for making dresses like this. It shows you how to create a block pattern that can then be altered to make lots of different styles.
    -Emily

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    1. I haven't heard of that book til now! It sounds great, and would probably save me a heck of a lot of time and effort trying to figure it out on my own! I'm going to look it up!

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  14. This dress suits you so well Emileigh! And I love how you totally rock the big hat. :)

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    1. Thank you Hannah! I've had to work up to big-hat-boldness, but now I love them! They make my round face not look as round, and I like that. :)

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  15. Gorgeous dress, I really like the shape and the print. I am so impressed that you made it without a pattern!

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  16. Beautiful,beautiful dress!

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  17. Amazing! To me, draping seems like the "next level" of dress making. I'm so impressed! It is a great fabric too!

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  18. Amazing! To me, draping seems like the "next level" of dress making. I'm so impressed! It is a great fabric too!

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