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1930s Lace Evening Gown

There's something about lace that makes dresses, whatever the cut, look feminine and romantic. It has been a delicate feature of many ensembles throughout the centuries, but it wasn't necessarily a defining fashion icon for the 1930s.

What most people remember of the 1930s are the bias cut silk, backless evening dresses, flaunted by most of the actresses of the day.

Coco Chanel even designed several evening dresses incorporating lace during the 1930s. In fact, Chanel is quoted as saying "I consider lace to be one of the prettiest imitations ever made of the fantasy of nature." Three dresses below are all her designs incorporating floral lace from the 1930s, all in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts permanent collection.

This week's object certainly imitates nature in several ways - from the smooth lines of the waist to the flow of the elegantly flared skirt, as well as the floral lace in mint green, each aspect emanates femininity.

1930s lace dress
1930s floral lace dress

1930s lace dress
1930s Lace Dress with Talon zipper at waist

I love the modest V-neck in the front paired with the deep V at the back. I'm guessing the woman who wore the dress wanted to remain classy and feminine, but had a daring side - daring enough to emanate all of the actresses of the time and to create something of her own.

The dress itself is hand made, and the lace is woven together with turquoise thread. The fact that the dress is handmade is not surprising since the Depression created excellent seamstresses out of necessity. Butterick, McCall, and Simplicity all offered patterns for evening gowns, and depending on the fabric or the event, the dress itself could have been quite affordable.

Despite the fragility of the lace, this is a fairly robust gown, with silk taffeta accents at the back. There is also a white Talon metal zipper; the design of the zipper itself placing the dress in the mid-1930s.

When researching this dress, I had a hard time locating anything similar. I had hoped that since it was handmade, I would find a pattern that matched - but no such luck. I did, however, find one other gown with a similar style back, currently in the collection of the Goldstein Museum of Design, in St. Paul Minnesota.

The Goldstein's dress, designed by Rose Amado in 1935, is a typical evening dress of bias cut silk, but is striking, not only for the style of the back, but for the ombre hand-dyed silk fabric. Perhaps the maker of my mint green dress saw the Amado dress in the New York boutique Patullo Modes, and ventured to create one herself?

Either way, I love the contrast between the taffeta and the lace at the back, with the straps continuing into the skirt.

1930s lace dress
Detail of the back of the dress

It's hard to imagine this sort of dress on someone, mainly because its not complete. Dresses with sheer fabric such as this, along with many of the 1920s sheer dresses, would have been worn with a silk slip underneath, probably similar to the French one below from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection, 1930s. The lace dress does have snap attachments at the shoulders to keep the slip from sliding down the wearer's arm.

While this floral lace isn't as glamorous as a silk bias cut, it was still fashionable, and unique enough to stand out. The tall, slender woman that wore this beautiful dress exuded femininity, but toed the line of daring, yet remained classy.

Questions? Comments? Let me know!

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