The Grapes Of Wrath Dress, A Thirties Inspired Bias Cut Linen Dress

I was inspired by the Vintage Modern Design Challenge on Burdastyle to make a dress that was modern but with a vintage feel.
I love the rural valley in California where I live and wanted to make something that was an ode to the farmers and migrants who made this place what it is.
If there was ever a writer who evokes the history and feeling of California it is John Steinbeck.
He wrote about just the kind of people who populated this valley back in the 1920’s and thirties.
We are surrounded here by orange ranches that were planted by many of the migrant families that came here in the great depression looking for a new life after their farms in the midwest had been destroyed by the dust bowl crisis.
They planted oranges and this valley came to be known as “The Citrus Capitol of The World.”
I had some purple linen lying around.
Voila, The Grapes of Wrath Dress.
I imagined a pretty girl who may have lived in this very house back in the 1930’s. What could I make for her that someone would also like to wear today?
The godets, bias cut skirt, and raglan sleeves can be found on many thirties styles. This design was draped to my dress form first, then adjusted for fit.
I added the buttons and crochet for a crafty touch and shortened the hem to make the dress more modern. Thirties dresses usually fall to mid calf.
I think these photos captures the light and feeling of California’s ranches . They were taken with my new Canon T2i DLSR and I added the frames on Pixlr.
The picture on this All Year fruit label is of the same valley pictured behind Isabelle in the photo above.
Fruit labels from the area where I live. It’s one of the few areas left in California that still actually looks like these Old California images. It’s one of the reasons I love it here so much.

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  1. Mary says

    Beautiful dress, and thank you so much for the CA pics. I got homesick though I am from the northern part of the state (Los Gatos, and then Santa Cruz).

  2. says

    LOVE! I’m a fan of 30s, linen and purple. The crochet edging is pretty great too. How was the linen to work with on the bias?

  3. says

    That bias cut linen really makes the skirt. It gives it a really soft, almost creamy texture. It kind of reminds me of whipped butter, actually!

  4. says

    LOVE your blog. I check it about every other day to see what you are up to. This dress is perfect and your daughter looks so retro adorabole in it. I grew up in East Los Angeles but live in Oklahoma now. I love farming communities and hope to homestead someday. I never miss L.A., but your photos make me miss the high desert, mountains and vallies. My other grandmother had a house in Monterey Park and it must have been in an old river valley because when the floods came, all the smooth black river rocks bubbled up to the surface. I still dream of those hills. It makes me homesick for a place that is no longer the same. Thank you for the photos. I guess my heart is not as dead to So.Cal as I believed it to be.

  5. says

    OH, I just LOVE that dress. I would wear that dress, too!!! This would be perfect for the ocean/rural areas here on the central coast of California,too. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂

  6. Carolyn says

    What a beautiful dress! I love the crocheted trim, and those little clusters of buttons do indeed look like grapes. Just lovely!

  7. lulu says

    simply perfect! the buttons make me think of little bouquets of wildflowers. really lovely and unique dress.

  8. Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom says

    This turned out so pretty! I love dresses and skirts cut on the bias, they are so flattering…

  9. cynthia says

    Discovered your amazing sewing blog today and am loving all your posts! I have my own sewing blog too with a few similar tutorials. My grandfather was a citrus rancher in southern California and had several of those citrus prints hanging in his home. I can attest to the beauty of the disappearing valleys. His 500 acre ranch has now been sold, all the trees bulldozed and it sadly waiting for the economy to turn before some horrible developer turns it into something depressing like a gated community.

  10. says

    Wow, these photos make me homesick for California! Your dress is amazing. You made what looks like a stinker of a pattern top absolutely sing. Simply gorgeous!