Tag Archives: 20th Century

1950s Super-Petticoat

This is a follow-up to my previous post, in which I shared more about this dress and the masquerade event I wore it to last year. While that post was about the dress itself, this one is about the petticoat that I wore under the dress.

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In order to help my dress achieve such a perfect 1950s silhouette, I put together a super-petticoat. It started with an organza petticoat from eBay, which I had worn before but been disappointed in. It just wasn’t big enough! Also, the elastic waistband was a bit tight for comfort.

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Layers of the super-petti: tulle, organza, and lining.

To upgrade the petticoat, I took off the waistband, replacing it with a yoke of cotton (inspired by Lily, who has done similar things to her petticoats) finished at the top with bias tape. I cut off the tulle ruffles from a full length bridal-type petticoat that I’d purchased for $5 due to its sad condition (a few rips in the tulle, a broken zipper–easily cut off and discarded) and attached those to the yoke over the organza.

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The top of the yoke with tulle attached.

And ta da! Super-petticoat!

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The finished super-petti!

This is the same petticoat I wore to the Tiki Party I posted about last year as well. It’s funny how the shape and weight of the skirt over the petticoat produces different silhouettes: a cupcake shape with the bubble dot skirt on top at the Tiki Party and a more angled silhouette with this heavier 1950s dress. But of course the super fluffy-ness of the petticoat is what allows the 1950s dress to maintain a nice shape even with the heavier black dress on top of it. I’m very pleased!

Masquerade! Paper Faces On Parade…

Masquerade!
Hide your face so the world will never find you!
Masquerade!
Every face a different shade…
Masquerade!
Look around there’s another mask behind you!

I’ve always wanted to attend a masquerade. This wasn’t quite the masquerade of The Phantom Of The Opera, not having sweeping orchestral music and head-to-toe colorful costumes, but it was nonetheless fun and a bit surreal in the masks-plus-fabulous-location-ness (I think a bit of a surreal experience is what makes a masquerade a unique experience, so this is entirely a positive description here).

Digressions about masquerades aside, back in November of last year I had the good fortune to attend such an event myself. The theme was 1960s, but I had recently acquired a 1950s dress that fit me so perfectly that it just HAD to be worn, so I opted to be a bit old fashioned for the theme of the party.

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The event was held in a very nice downtown hotel. We had a series of rooms including the ballroom, its foyer, and a parlor-type space far enough away from the music to easily chat and lounge. It was quite elegant feeling!

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Usually I don’t wear vintage or historical garments. I’d prefer to use them for study and don’t want to damage them. But I made an exception in this case and did my best to be gentle with the dress. I carefully mended it before wearing and then again after, as the delicate lace was pulling apart at the seams under the arms when I received the dress as well as after wearing it. My second version of the mend was to put gussets under the arms, using a tiny bit of leftover fabric I had from shortening the sleeves (I wanted to do this during the pre-wearing mend, but ran out of time). I think the sleeves were full length on the original owner, but they came down to an awkward mid-forearm length on me, so I shortened them to be a nice 3/4 length. I know! It was a hard decision to make, changing the dress, but I think it is in keeping with the period the dress is from and it allowed me to better fix the underarm problem, so I’ve come to terms with the choice.

Here’s a slightly clearer view of the bodice. The lace is backed by nude net and there is a silk faille band around the waist. The entire skirt is faille with an overlay of the same lace and horsehair around the hem for stiffening.

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For my hair, I decided it was go big or go home, so I used my largest bun form (part of the base of my Versailles hairstyle) to create a giant poof-bun-thing on top of my head that’s a nod to the 1960s beehive. I think it was balanced out well by the feathers on my mask. Plus, in general I’m pretty good at making big hair work.

I put the mask on a stick so that it wouldn’t irritate my face and so that something like an elastic wouldn’t squash my huge hair. A bonus is that I could peek out from behind it, as in this picture.

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With this ensemble, I wore the same sparkly earrings I wore to Versailles and my silver American Duchess Seaburys with silver rhinestone shoe clips to make the ensemble even more bling-y!

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The event included food and dancing and chatting. I had a great time that was even better than I was expecting, though I think that was due to being tired after a long week of work and not really sure if the event would be a hit or not.

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My friends and I did lots of silly 1960s dances–the monkey, the swim, etc. (Are these really 1960s? I don’t know for sure, but in my mind they are…) These pictures of my dancing in the lobby are some of my favorite, partly because swishing around in my 1950s dress was so much fun!

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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!

Gibson Girl Vignette

In September, my friends and I had a last picnic of the season to take advantage of the summer weather before it faded into fall. Along with other picnics we’ve had in the past, we again met up in the Boston Public Garden with our picnic blankets, food, drink, and croquet set.

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We’d decided on a turn of the 20th century theme for our clothing and I took the opportunity to dig a 1903 outfit out of the closet that I don’t think I’ve worn since 2012, at Dress U and Newport Vintage Dance Week. It’s an orchid lawn skirt (and a bolero I didn’t wear this time) and a white silk and cotton lace blouse.

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This wearing, my hat had been re-trimmed in a more pleasing fashion than when I wore it in 2012 (in fact, all the lovely millinery flowers are only pinned on so it’s easy to change, not that I’ve bothered since I put the flowers on about two years ago) and I had practiced my Gibson Girl hair in January and now know how to achieve the look with minimal effort.

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I was very pleased with the result! Next time I plan to wear a hat with a Gibson Girl style I’ll put the opening of my hair pad at the top of my head rather than the bottom, and likely leave a little space to make the front a bit more flat so my hat doesn’t tilt up. Where’s the fun if I don’t learn something new every time I wear historical clothing?

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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1919 Ivory Eyelet Dress (HSF #7)

I have a three evening gowns from the 1920s, but only two daytime ensembles. For summer events from the Ragtime dance period and the 1920s in general, I wanted a new addition in the daywear lineup, so I kept my eyes open while out shopping for other projects. I came across the fabric for this dress a few months ago before I had time to sew, but with a general plan in mind.

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Fast forward to about a month ago and I started actually planning the dress. I had thought to make a dress from about 1916 with a distinct a-line shape (a silhouette like this), but reconsidered that plan when considering the very linear effect of the tucks in the fabric. The linear fabric was much more suited to the period from 1919 to 1922 and so down that road I went.

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Just the facts:

Fabric: 4.5 yards pre-tucked ivory cotton.

Pattern: Adapted from Past Patterns #9127, Ladies’ Dress 1918-1920.

Year: 1919, explained in detail further along in the post.

Notions: Thread, snaps, and a hook and bar.

How historically accurate is it?: 95%. Accurate pattern from the period, reasonable fabric, and accurate finishing methods. Woo!

Hours to complete: 30? I took my time to enjoy the process, hand sewed more than was absolutely necessary in order to watch Netflix and not dig out the sewing machine, and fiddled with the bodice for awhile to get a style I was satisfied with.

First worn: July 17 for a Ragtime tea dance.

Total cost: $30 for the fabric.

(Edit: I forgot to mention what HSF challenge this was for when I originally published the post. It’s for challenge #7: Monochrome.)

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Why did I decide on 1919 for the year of my dress? The pattern dates to 1918-1920, putting my dress squarely in the middle, but I also looked at the details that changed with each year from 1918-1922 to confirm the plan.

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1918. Skirts have just ceased being the A-line shape of the prior three years, but they still have fullness and waists remain high.

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1919. Still some full skirts, but the silhouette is narrowing.

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1920. Slimmer skirts with high waists.

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1921. Slimmer skirts with a dropping waistline.

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1922. The waistline has dropped to hip level and drape effects are fashionable.

1919 is the year when the features I most wanted all come together: full skirt, high waist, playing with the linear nature of my fabric going both vertically and horizontally, and skirt tucks. These features can be seen in the following most inspirational images.

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c. 1915

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c. 1920

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Plus, these two fashion plates, from 1920 and 1921.

And construction? I kept it simple, with a few unfinished edges in the skirt (gasp!), pinking on the seams and exposed edges in the bodice, and as few closures as possible. No fuss. The bodice closes off center in front but the skirt closes in back because I was originally planning to make a separate blouse and skirt. When I decided I didn’t feel like dealing with a peplum, and that even with a peplum a blouse was likely to come untucked (as happens with my 1917 blouse when I wear it), I just hand sewed the now-bodice to the inside of the waistband  and sewed snaps around the other side to keep it together, as you can see. This way, it’s easy to separate the two pieces in the future.

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All in all, a pretty quick project as my projects go. Comfortable, flattering, easy to alter (a component of sewing projects I am trying to incorporate more often as I move forward with projects), and satisfying to wear. Win!