Sunday, May 15, 2022

Sewing a 1930s Suit and Hat - Katharine Hepburn Style!


While researching available patterns for a 1930s wardrobe for an upcoming event, I found some amazing patterns re-released from earlier patterns by the same company, reproductions by a different company, and current patterns in retro style by independent pattern designers.  The options are heavenly! 

Between May 1933 and August 1933, the Butterick Pattern Company issued patterns featuring garments worn by famous actresses such as Bette Davis,

Helen Chandler,

and Katharine Hepburn.

Details for all patterns from this project including the films where the garments were worn are available at this link:

Katharine Hepburn wore a stylish open-sleeved suit and pleated hat in the 1933 movie 'Christopher Strong'.  The movie is available through Warner Archive, link below.

It was also available on Amazon and that is where I purchased the DVD because I absolutely had to see this suit in action!

The movie was amazing and it was wonderful to see the suit even though it was only for a single scene in the restaurant.


There are the most incredible day ensembles and evening dresses worn in this movie!  It is also the movie where Katharine Hepburn wears the luna moth costume.  A stunner!!

Why am I so eager to research this specific suit and hat?  Because EvaDress Patterns has made the pattern available in multi-sized offerings!

I'm so excited to make this suit and hat not only for the upcoming event, but first as a wearable mock-up for the release of the new Downton Abbey film in May 2022.  And what is even more of an amazing happening is that I've received a yardage of silk taffeta from Noelle of Costuming Drama in our recent #stashswap2022.  Silk taffeta is one of the recommended fabrics for the jacket.

The stripe silk taffeta pairs beautifully with a charcoal all-season wool remnant with a very fine pattern.

And already thinking of accessories, those perfect touches, the fabrics are beautiful with this vintage 1930s handbag.

The wool yardage is going to be tight.  The skirt is attached to a bodice.  After measuring out all pattern pieces I decide to make both the bodice and jacket from the silk taffeta and the skirt portion and hat from the wool.

The Skirt and Bodice

The pattern is prepared by gently removing the fold lines with a warm iron.  The skirt front and back are cut from the pattern.

Darts are sewn into the back skirt panel and the sides are sewn leaving an opening on one side as indicated on the pattern.

You can see how tight I was on fabric but this selvedge will be enclosed in the hem.

The bodice front and back are cut from the silk taffeta.

The bodice dart markings are transferred and the darts sewn.

The shoulder seams are sewn and both sides sewn leaving a side opening as marked on the pattern.

Instead of making fabric facings for the bodice I decided to make a small hem along the neck and arm openings and machine embroidered the edge.

The bodice is then sewn to the skirt and topstitched at the skirt top edge.

Then the skirt is hemmed.

The opening in both the lower bodice side seam and upper skirt side seam are finished with a placket and snaps and a hook and eye added.  My little cheat is to sew the knob portion of the snap, brush it with chalk, and mark the opposite side to sew the other half of the snap.  

And the skirt with bodice is complete!

The Jacket

The pattern pieces and silk taffeta are pressed and ready for cutting.


While there is only the main jacket piece, scarf, facings and gussets, the cutting has to be done with the fabric in a single layer and so it's either the floor or the kitchen island.  Ha!

The center back seam is sewn and because of the way the pattern was aligned on this fabric the sewing creates a really beautiful chevron at the center back.

Darts are marked and sewn at the sleeve outer edge and then trimmed and pressed open.

This is the jacket at this point in the construction both front and back.

Next the sleeves and jacket side seams are sewn.  Openings are left at the sleeve lower edge.  There is also an opening left for the underarm gusset.

The shoulder is sewn only to the point where the sleeves will remain open.

Small hems are pressed into the jacket at the openings for the underarm gussets.  The gusset is fit behind the opening and the jacket is sewn to the gusset with a topstitch.

Plackets are made and sewn into the openings at the lower edge of the sleeve and snaps sewn so that the sleeve fits tight at the wrist when worn.

The facings and seam edges are finished.  Some are stitched and then pinked.  Some are zigzag stitched and then pinked.  The facings are sewn to the jacket.

I've sewn a small hem in the sleeve opening facing since that might be visible when worn.

I've chalk marked where the buttons will be on the jacket as well as the center fronts.  I had thought the dips at the lower front edge of the jacket were to match the dip in the skirt but after marking the center fronts I learned that the dip is created by the overlap of the jacket fronts.

I cover buttons from a Dritz button kit using scraps of the charcoal wool.

The charcoal on the silk taffeta is a nice contrast.  I was concerned that my buttons were too large as they are larger than the pattern specifies but I think they give the same impression as the buttons on the jacket in the movie.

The pattern gives great instructions for bound buttonholes which are fabulous but time consuming for me, so I make buttonholes by machine.

The last part of the jacket is the scarf.  I chose to line the scarf with the same silk.  The center back seams are sewn, the lining sewn to the front with an opening left to turn the scarf right side out.  The edges are trimmed, clipped and notched, the scarf turned, and the opening sewn closed.

The buttonholes are marked on both ends of the scarf and then sewn by machine.

The jacket is buttoned closed on one side and then the scarf is buttoned to the jacket on both ends.

A finished jacket!!

The Pleated Hat

You have already guessed that the hat was made first in thus project.  If you have followed me you know I usually make the hat first.  And I just love this hat!

The components are a crown, a brim, and a length of petersham or grosgrain.  I cut the hat from the charcoal wool and make the marks for the pleats for both the crown and the brim.

The center back seams are sewn for both the crown and brim.

Then the pleats are pinned by matching the dots and sewn for both crown and brim.

The brim is sewn to the crown edge along the stitching line of the topmost pleat.

Last, the grosgrain ribbon is sewn to the lower edge of the brim and turned to the inside of the hat.

The hat is finished!

Time to Wear This Suit and Hat!

While grocery shopping I discovered a trail mix developed in Detroit in 1933.  Seemed perfect for a photoshoot with a 1933 suit and hat.  Katharine Hepburn would approve, I think!

Time for the underthings and perfect touches for this 1933 suit and hat.

Body Briefer in Mocha/Black by Rago Shapewear Vintage Collection.  Link below:

Seamed stockings.

Black slip.

Clip-on earrings.

Black gloves.

A vintage 1930s handbag.

And black heels.


Companion YouTube Video:


  1. What a fabulous ensemble. Thank you for the snap tip. Can't wait to watch the video!

    1. Thank you! I'm so bad aligning snaps I had to do something!! :)