Category Archives: 1920s

1920s Island Escapade In Black And White

Here are a few more photos from my 1920s island weekend last August. These first few were taken with the same modern camera as all the photos in my previous post about the weekend.

This last photo shows other photographs taken with a friends’ vintage film camera. I don’t think the camera is as old as the 1920s, but I think it’s a least from the mid-20th century. Though I do remember the days of film cameras, I’m so used to digital cameras these days that a film camera is quite the novelty.

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A 1920s Island Escapade

This gallery contains 14 photos.

I’m terribly delayed in writing about a lovely event I attended last summer… Gatsby On The Isles was a 1920s weekend getaway to a coastal island, including a ferry ride, picnic, clambering on the rocks and in the water, lawn games, … Continue reading

1927 Blush Sparkle Dress

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I was at the fabric store looking for other things… (the beginning of a lot of my fabric buying adventures) when two super sparkly fabrics caught my eye. They were screaming “1920s!” But the colors were somewhat costume-y 1920s and not often seen in my research of actual historical dresses from this period–red on nude net and black on nude net. A bit disappointed, I looked at the sparkly lace section some more and found the same fabric in blush on nude net! It was so sparkly and the pattern on it was so perfectly deco that I had to take some home with me. Luckily it wasn’t expensive and only cost $14 for 1.25 yards. Not bad!

The timing was perfect, because I had a 1920s event in January and just enough time to make the dress.  I didn’t have a slip to go under it that was the right shape or color, so I also squeezed in making a bias cut slip.

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For the pictures, I wore my American Duchess black Seaburys. They provided just the right 1920s shoe shape, encasing the front of my foot in a uniquely historical way that modern style shoes do not. You can see the shape more clearly in this post when I wore the shoes with my 1920s bathing suit in a beauty pageant look.

I was also incredibly lucky that the event was held in a historical hotel that provided fun backdrops for pictures! Those elevator doors are lovely! And look at this awesome phone–it had to be included in pictures!

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Another neat place we took pictures was this stairwell. I love how different these two pictures are, despite being so similar. One is much more about the dress while the other shows off the chandelier and is a bit more artsy and mysterious.

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img_3151-1I was so pleased with how my hair turned out! I tried a style similar to one I did last summer for a different 1920s event that I have yet to post about… oops! But here’s a teaser of just my hair. Soon I’ll post the details and it will bring some warm summer memories to my New England winter.

For the summer event I did my hair when it was wet, resulting in a similar style, but much smaller and closer to my head. For that version, I did all the back curls while my hair was still distinctly damp, making the curls much tighter and closer to my head.

For this event, I braided my hair in the morning while it was still damp (to help create waves on the top but curls on the bottom) and left it all day, meaning it was mostly dry when I took out the braid. Then, when doing my hair for the evening, I added small rats under the puffed bottom portion to add a bit more volume than just my own curls. I covered the rats with the length of my hair then carefully placed and pinned the curly ends to imitate having a sort of 1930s smooth-on-top-curly at the bottom style, like this. This style is a few years later than my new dress, but I think it works as a 20s style for someone with longer hair, like me. I have a lot of hair to hide in a 1920s style!

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Both the dress and slip are entirely hand sewn, due to working on it away from home (I would have hand sewed the dress anyway because of all the sequins, but probably not the slip). The dress started out as a tube, but was more unflattering than I was willing to allow. It was fine from the hips down, but needed to be taken in above the hips. What I ended up with is a curved seam (or a long dart, depending on how you look at it–one side didn’t have a seam to begin with) allowing slight shaping from the torso to the skirt portion of the dress. 1920s dresses can be such bags, but after the extra shaping I am very happy with the still somewhat bag-like, skimming shape of the dress without feeling like it’s an absolute sack.

The slip was cut from a pattern I made a few years ago–perfect, since I didn’t have time to pattern something from scratch! I intentionally picked a 1930s pattern in order to have the addition of a perfectly fitting 1930s silk slip to my wardrobe, but also because the shape of the neckline was perfectly suited to the v-neckline I decided on for the sparkly overdress.

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The slip has french seams on the sides. The under-bust seam allowance was trimmed away on the gathered piece and then the body piece seam allowance was turned over it and hand sewn to hide the raw edges. The top edge is mostly bound of with vintage cotton bias (which I removed from the top of the net petticoat I show in this post before shortening it. The piece wasn’t quite long enough to go all around the top edge of the slip, so the center back section is just turned twice and slip stitched, in the same way as the hem.

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The slip fabric is left over from a project that I did about 7 years ago. It’s lovely silk crepe back satin with the perfect weight for making bias cut 1930s clothing. I thought I would have just enough to eke out the slip, but I came up a little short on the back piece and decided to piece it to make it work, as the fabric is so nice to wear and it was the perfect color. As a result, there are two random diagonal seams on the top of the back piece of the slip. Oh well! They add character!

c. 1920 Bathing Boots

I had already decided this spring that a 1920s bathing suit was on the sewing list for this summer when Gina, of Beauty From Ashes, contacted me and asked if I’d like to test an Edwardian bathing boot pattern for her. I’m pretty sure I squeaked! “Of course!” But then I realized that there was no way I was going to have time to work on the boots before summer when I returned from my trip to Versailles. Luckily, that timing was just fine.

217ca1fa-bbe6-4199-8273-16e146a188bfGina had taken the boot pattern from a pair of extant boots that she owns, sized the pattern for her own feet,  and then made a pair herself (of course with a lot of work on the pattern  along the way). To the right are Gina’s boots, which you can read more about in her post, here.

The idea coincided so closely with my plan for the 1925 bathing suit that I really wanted to push the boot date towards the 1920s and wear them together. I did some digging into bathing boot history in Women’s Shoes in America, 1795-1930 and found some great info supporting my plan, including information about the wearing of stockings with swimsuits and how that practice changed from the end of the 19th century through the 1920s. The following are excerpts from pages 137-139. There’s lots more detail about stockings and bathing shoes in the late 19th century that I haven’t included here, so if that interests you I highly suggest you get your hands on the book.

Bathing shoes were always optional, depending on how rough the terrain was and how tender the feet…

The most common bathing shoe at all times is a low slipper fitted with tapes that cross over the instep in varying arrangements and tie round the ankle. These are shown as early as 1867…

As long as bathing garments covered most of the legs, that is until the late 1870s, stockings were not considered absolutely necessary…

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, black stockings were very often worn for bathing without any shoe at all… When bathing shoes are shown, they are usually lighter than the stocking…and the commonest style is still the low slipper, presumably cork-soled, with tapes to cross once or twice and tie round the ankle…

About 1915, a new style of bathing footgear appeared, a mid-calf high boot, solid on the sides and back of the leg, but open down the front and laced across the opening… [and] the acceptance of real swimming (as opposed to splashing in the waves) brought about changes in bathing costume… Closer-fitted knitted suits appeared in the 1920s, and gradually the long black stockings were discarded (the last fashion picture I find including them is from 1922). In the late 1910s and early 1920s, short stockings were worn gartered someplace below the knee, but soon even these disappeared and bare legs began to appear in the early 1920s. Bathing shoes were still worn over bare feet when rough ground made them desirable, but they were a matter of utility, not modesty.

Such useful information when deciding what accessories I wanted to wear with my swimsuit and boots! I thought of taking pictures with stockings and without but decided that was too much of a hassle and settled instead for pictures with boots and without. You’ve already seen the pictures without boots. Now for a few with! (Yes, a friend also joined the pattern testing and wore her bathing boots to the beach, too!)

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After wearing the boots in the water I took them off for pictures of the suit, but then decided to put them back on. As you might expect, they are less exciting to put on when feet and boots are already wet and covered with sand… though I think all the sand in the boots did give my feet a good exfoliation!

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As for construction, here’s a quick run-down. I chose to make my boots out of navy cotton twill and white cotton canvas. Despite the fact that green boots exist, I didn’t want to try and match my greens. Plus, both the navy and white fabrics were in the stash and are neutral enough to wear with any future bathing suit I might decide to build.

Each outsole has two layers of cork bound in bias. Nice and sturdy for walking, but too thick for a sewing machine, which meant a lot of unexpected hand sewing for this project.

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The insoles are a single layer of cork with the fabric glued in place. I just slipped in insoles into the boots for wearing, which meant I could take them out to let them dry after wearing. Given that they were soaked through this was great.

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The uppers were fully finished before attaching them to the soles. This part is all machine sewn.

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Finally, I hand sewed the uppers to the soles.

(I’ve made this all sound very easy and speedy, but I’ll admit that I took a shortcut and purchased cheap eyelets and a cheap eyelet setter to get the right look with high hopes for the quality. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The eyelets were such a pain! The setter squashed them unevenly and then I needed pliers to make them look somewhat reasonable and trim off sharp bits. There are 44 eyelets. It took a long time. And it made my hands hurt. It would have been faster for me to hand sew the eyelets. Plus, they rusted after just the one wearing the water! And they got rust on my shoelaces, which was also a pain because the standard round shoelaces barely fit through the eyelets and getting them laced was hours all by itself. Ugh! For next time, I found narrower laces that will be so much easier to use, so I can at least take them out after wearing the boots without it taking forever. Or maybe I just won’t wear them in the water. Anyway, I don’t suggest you follow my example on the cheap eyelet front.)

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I am so grateful to Gina for sharing her pattern with me! It takes a lot of work to perfect a pattern and I probably would not have attempted bathing boots without having one already made and in hand.

Making Waves In 1925

On my to-do list for this summer was a 1920s bathing suit. At first I thought I might knit one, but I wanted a smaller project than that, and also, a friend who hand knit a swimsuit last year reported a fair bit of sagging happening when she wore hers in the water. So I decided to try a different approach and make my suit from wool jersey fabric, a historically accurate option in terms of weave and fiber for a 1920s suit, as far as I can tell from my research.

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After spending lots of time looking at inspirational images on Pinterest and compiling this board of the most inspirational images, I decided on the year 1925, when suits were getting shorter and often sported built in shorts. My main inspiration was this extant suit from 1925 at Abiti Antichi. It’s where my decorative inspiration came from and also justified the visible seam where the shorts attach to the dress. I also referenced this 1920s extant suit at All The Pretty Dresses, which shows interior finishing (serging!) and has narrower straps.

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I knew there was no chance of finding wool jersey at a local fabric store, so I searched around the internet for sources. I believe I found only three–a company in New Zealand, New Zealand Merino and Fabrics, that makes gorgeous colors and sells through their own website and through Etsy; Denver Fabrics, which had wool double knit fabric; and Nature’s Fabrics, which I had never ordered from before, but which had lovely colors. I decided on bottle green from Nature’s Fabrics and vowed to get the whole project out of just one yard.

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For a pattern, I used a tank top from Old Navy as a starting point since I liked the straps, adding length (and width since my wool jersey was less stretchy than the tank). I cut the dress pieces first, then used the extra bits to cut the shorts.

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I wanted to use the pattern from my dotty tap pants for the shorts, but I didn’t have it handy, so I pulled out a finished pair of the shorts and used that instead. Unfortunately, I was a few inches shy of being able to cut all four shorts pieces out of my leftover fabric. My solution was to cut the two fronts out and then piece the back pieces with a seam about 4″ below the waist, hoping that it wouldn’t be noticeable in the finished suit. There’s a slight line, but it’s not something I’m worried about, especially since I basically used up all the fabric I had–no adding to the stash on this project!

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The white trim came from the stash. It’s a lightweight knit terrycloth I bought at JoAnn’s when I first started sewing. I made a robe, but didn’t love it. I did, however, keep it and am happy to have repurposed the fabric.

This would have been a really speedy project if it wasn’t for the trim. I used a serger with four threads to sew/finish the seams all at once, making the construction super speedy (I think I cut and assembled the whole thing in an evening). However, the white lines took a long time to carefully machine sew on and then I still had to bind the arm and neck holes, turning the project into a multi-evening size. The time spent was worth it though, because I love the finished product!

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I love the images of the bathing suit contests here from the 1920s, in particular this one from 1926. All the bathing beauties are wearing their nice pumps with their bathing suits!

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I didn’t have time to get a sash together, but the bathing beauty look is what I was aiming for in this picture, wearing my American Duchess Seaburys with my swimsuit.

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My main goal was to have the suit for an event at the end of August, but it was done in time for a vintage beach outing in July! It was an unusually cold day and therefore the beach was pretty empty, but it meant we had the beach basically to ourselves and got some great pictures!  In August, I’m planning for the whole suit to get wet, so we’ll see how that goes! In the meantime, here are a few more fun pictures from the July beach day.

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A Post About Seaburys

I mentioned in my last post that I am the happy owner of a pair of black American Duchess Seaburys. What I didn’t mention in that post is that I am also the happy owner of a pair of dove gray Seaburys!

I bought the black ones first, around Christmas-time, and picked that color because of the versatility of black shoes. Once I received them and was able to fully appreciate the gorgeous materials, elegant design, and sturdy construction I started raving about them to friends. During one conversation in particular, I managed to inadvertently talk myself into buying the dove grey Seaburys as well… They’re being discontinued and are such lovely shoes with such a distinctive shape that they’re worth having in two different colors.

I’ve only worn the gray ones once so far, when I decided to wear them with modern clothes to the ballet. I found them to be just as elegant for modern dress as for historical dress, which was great! It’s hard to find gorgeous modern heels that meet all my various criteria.

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I decided to try this pair without the shoe clip bows. The gray silk gleamed and the custom designed brocade was much more obvious in this color than in the black, as I expected.

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The black pair I wore most recently with my 1924 robe de style at the GBVS White Lightning Ball. Here I am showing them off!

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In fact, there were three of us at that event wearing black Seaburys. The nice thing is that they looked elegant and unique on each of us. Emily, in the center, got creative with hers and changed out the removable bows for vintage shoe clips… and it blew my mind!

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The idea of shoe clips with different decorations for Regency shoes is standard to me at this point, but I had never considered the idea for 20th century shoes. I loved the look of Emily’s and immediately came home and started searching for some that I liked so I could vary my shoes more. Since then, I have acquired two different pairs of shoe clips. Now I need places to wear them!

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The gold buckle ones are my favorite of the two styles. I love the color and the curved edges! The rhinestone ones are a nice bit of bling, but aren’t quite as exciting as the gold. I haven’t tried them on my grey Seaburys, but I’m curious if they might match better. I also like them flipped over so the rhinestones spread over the toes, but wearing them that way would require some finagling, since the clips on the back would be upside down.

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The verdict is that after wearing Seaburys multiple times in different situations, I can say with certainty that they are stunning shoes. They’re quite comfortable for standing around and light walking, with a well balanced, elegantly shaped heel. I have a narrow foot and I am pleased that these pumps stay on the back of my heels without a problem and without extra assistance. I wouldn’t plan to walk too far in mine especially outdoors, partly because the uppers are silk and I wouldn’t want to ruin them with scrapes and scratches.

For dancing, however, these are not the most comfortable shoes. They work, but I own shoes intended for dancing that are more comfortable for that purpose. My toes started to feel a bit pinched and tight after a few Charlestons and my feet were much more relieved to take off the shoes after wearing them while dancing vs. wearing them while just standing. Also, with nylons, I was more afraid that while dancing my heels might slip out of the back of the pumps.

Dancing aside, as I said at the beginning these shoes are worth raving about. Both the solid silk and the silk brocade are gorgeous, Lauren created an incredibly elegant design with an attractive toe box and beautiful French heel, and they are sturdy and carefully crafted.

Wicked, Monstrous, Silly, And A Good Time

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Some friends and I, taken by the official photographer of the night.

In the words of journalist Heywood Broun, “The Jazz Age was wicked and monstrous and silly. Unfortunately, I had a good time.” I don’t know about wicked or monstrous, but I certainly had a silly and good time recently at the Greater Boston Vintage Society’s White Lightning Ball.

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Silly faces!

I wore my 1924 robe de style from last summer, updated with new dramatic trimmings that suit the dress much better than the last iteration. It’s such a fun, unusual, and distinctive style to wear. I fielded quite a few questions about the style and happily encouraged people who knew things about it such as that it looked like Lanvin. For my hair, I didn’t have time to attempt waves, so I aimed for a romantic style that was less time consuming, inspired by these: no waves worn with a robe de style, a romantic bun (on the right), and long hair pinned up. Also, this set of drawings shows a large hair comb worn with a robe de style which reminded me that I haven’t worn mine in a long time.

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My accessories include: my vintage celluloid hair comb; silver drop earrings with peachy faux stones, which don’t often match things, so it was nice to wear them since they don’t get worn often; and a recent purchase from American Duchess, black Seaburys! (Never fear, there’s a whole post coming about the Seaburys, but for now we’re focusing on the event and the clothes.)

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This event is held at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in what was the Anderson family’s carriage house in the early 20th century. It is a large building with multiple levels used for stabling horses as well as storing carriages and cars. The upper floor of the carriage house housed an exhibit of motorcycles during the event, if you’re wondering about the background. Downstairs was the collection of Anderson family cars from the 1900s and 1910s. They were very fun to look at and so tempting to sit in… I know it wouldn’t be good for the cars… And there were security cameras… so I had to content myself with looking at them and dreaming of reproductions that we could ride in.

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My other silly accessory was a candy cigarette. It does rather add to the 20s look, but of course I don’t smoke, so there was rather a lot of me flipping it around in my hand trying to figure out how to hold it and not look ridiculous. I didn’t ever try eating it, so I can’t report how it tasted, but I was pleased that it lasted almost until the end of the night when I dropped it for the second time and it broke in half. Until then it was going strong and gave me something to do with my hands in pictures, which is always a good thing.

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Mostly I stood around and talked to friends, hatched dreamy plans for how to sit in the cars, and took pictures, but we did go out on the dance floor a few times for some Charleston. Too bad nobody got pictures of that!

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This was the third year of the event, I believe, but only the first year I had been free to attend. It was fun, and nice to attend an event that I wasn’t helping to run.