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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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), satisfying to wear, plus it goes well with my Astoria shoes. Win!
Part of my super busy April included a few historical adventures and for one of them I made a new skirt! I was lucky to be able to squeeze it in between working on things for Versailles and for my other event in May–a fancy dress ball!
The morning was rainy and cold and so I threw on a sweater to keep warm. I rather fancied that I looked like an 1890s adventurer, sort of 1890s-lady-does-Indiana-Jones-in-the-rain-without-the-hat. (I really want to make an adventuring/archeologist outfit and find a great place for pictures…! Someday…)
By the afternoon the rain and ceased and the sun came out, which was a perfect opportunity to take some pictures of my ensemble without the sweater. I find I don’t have many outfit pictures taken in the springtime and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to counteract that problem.
The skirt is an umbrella shape, meaning that it is all one piece with only a center back seam, just like my 1895 skating skirt. It is hand sewn simply because it was easier to sew it by hand than get out the machine to do it. It’s made from a rayon blend herringbone weave fabric which has a lovely drape, but wrinkles very easily. I like that it is neutral without being white and that it has a subtle pattern.
There was also a covered well that seemed cute for taking pictures until I stopped to think about how to pose. Most of my pictures are extra silly looking, but these two are reasonable and my favorite.
Thank goodness spring is finally here! The flowers and green on the trees is lovely and such a change from the dull brown and grey of winter.
I already had inspiration pinned to a board, I had fabric in the stash (the fabric is more of the same elusive blue I used to make my 1811 evening gown in 2014–it time travels!), and I had an opportunity to wear an 1890s gown this past month! With a vague plan in mind, I started the skirts* sometime in the fall with the sincere hope of getting a fair bit done on them, but only got as far as cutting them out, after which they languished in the closet while I worked on other projects. Languishing is a variation on procrastination, which is the HSF challenge for this January. And so, with the languishing having finished its course, here is the finished new gown.
Just the facts:
Fabric: 5 yards or so of(likely polyester) elusive blue chiffon, 3 yards or so of elusive blue polyester for skirt lining, 3/4 yard or so robin’s egg blue cotton, 1 yard or so of pink glazed cotton, 1/8 yard or so of taupe silk shantung, some small bits of ivory polyester tulle and ivory silk gauze.
Pattern: Created by me, with reference to Janet Arnold dresses from the 1890s.
Notions: Wide grosgrain ribbon, bone casing, 1/4″ plastic wire tires, narrow grosgrain ribbon, black velvet and organza millinery flowers, hooks and eyes, and thread.
How historically accurate is it?: Definitely recognizable in its own time. The silhouette is spot on. The colors are inspired by extant clothing. The construction is mostly accurate. The materials are a mix of accurate and inaccurate. I’ll give it 80%.
Hours to complete: Many. I worked on this over a few months.
First worn: January 9, 2016.
Total cost: About $15-$20.
(The low cost is due to the fact that the chiffon and lining fabrics were purchased for the amazing price of $1/yard and that many of the notions and small bits were in my fabric stash.)
For the bodice, I started with the pattern for my 1893 gown (which was adapted from Janet Arnold originally). The back needed very slight alteration, but the front had quite a few changes, due to being worn over my new 1880s corset and because I wanted different dart placements, neckline, a front/side hidden closure, etc. I did multiple mock-up fittings (no pictures, sorry) before feeling ready to cut real fabric.
Here is the bodice in the middle stages on construction. You’d never guess from the exterior, but the bodice is flat lined with pink! This is not a standard lining color, but I had it on hand, it is the right weight (with a glazed finish, which is standard), and it amused me. By this point, I’d finished my edges, adding boning, nicely finished my interior seam allowances, and covered the back with elusive blue lining and chiffon cut on the bias.
Next was creating the front bodice main piece, which is also on the bias. I draped it and then bagged the lining/chiffon with the robin’s egg cotton to create nice finished edges. The flapping bit on the left of the picture was turned under and hand sewn later in the process.
Draping the silk was next. There are actually a number of small pieces carefully pleated before being hand sewn in place.
My original main inspiration was this gown at the Met (and the alternate skirt follows this idea quite closely), but when I looked at my material options, I really loved this variation, also from the Met. Other dresses with a similar cut were also influential, including this, this, and this. Here’s a similar example that clearly shows the shadow of a side closure.
In the next picture, both the left and right sides have been covered in silk. Each side of the bust layers and attaches separately. I also started playing with flower placement at this point. I was inspired to add black accents to the otherwise subdued colors by this dress. I really like how the black pops!
Here’s the back around the same stage.
At this stage, I’ve added gauze and tulle to the front and am playing with the chiffon edging. The flowers are tucked into place to see the effect. I’ve also sewn down the proper right (left in the picture) side. The proper left (right in the picture) side is pinned and tucked, waiting for a final fitting before finishing and adding closures.
The back also received a treatment of gauze and tulle in addition to a chiffon edging. You can see that the flowers came in stems of three (these are another part of one of two huge hauls of millinery flowers for super cheap that I’ve had in the last few years, yay!).
Sewing down all the pleats just so, in order to look natural and not constrained, took rather a long time, as did nicely tucking all the silk around the armhole. But it was worth it!
Here is the inside of the bodice, finished. I decided to bind the seam allowances in the same robin’s egg blue cotton that I used for bias binding for the edges and armholes. A hong kong finish is not accurate, but I didn’t feel like hand whip stitching all the seam allowances (although, in the end, it probably would have taken just as much time, or less), plus, I enjoy the effect. There are also closures (yay!) and a waist tape.
And here’s what the bodice looks like with center fronts together. The bit with the tulle actually hooks over the other side (but pictured this way, you can see the closures). After that, the front panel hooks across the front and is securely hooked at the side seam, effectively covering my pink lining.
The untrained skirt is flat in front and gathered at the back. It is cut in an umbrella shape (like my 1895 skating ensemble skirt), so that the only seams needed are center back, and a diagonal seam across the back to add width to the panel. The waistband and placket are standard 19th century style, with the exception of the fact that the ribbon I used to stabilize the thin fabrics is leftover gift wrapping ribbon from wedding gifts we received from Crate and Barrel. Yay! It’s hidden on the inside and folded in half, but it amuses me, because recycling is great and it’s nice to have a bit of Mr. Q-related-something in a dress.
The most annoying thing about fitting this gown was marking the hem on the skirt. (Fitting the bodice on myself with all the layered closures was also a feat, but more uncomfortable twisting than annoying.) Chiffon is annoying to hem most of the time and it only gets more complicated when you’re marking the hem on yourself. It meant looking in the mirror, bending over to place a marking pin while everything shifted, standing up to check things, and then repeating that over and over again to shift pins by tiny amounts until they all looked good (while wearing a corset and fluffy petticoat of course, so the whole thing would hang properly on my body). Once that was all over, I hemmed each layer with self fabric bias that is turned to the inside and invisibly hand stitched in place.
I was quite successful, but it took a whole afternoon to mark and cut and sew the hem of the chiffon and of the lining (because of course the lining couldn’t stick out or be too short!). The whole thing would have been much speedier if I’d had someone else to mark the hem for me. (I thought of using my hem puffer, but the floor is too close for the puffer to reach and I didn’t have anything to stand on.)
Anyway, the end effect was fabulous. The chiffon and lining swooshed so beautifully that it was necessary to get “swooshy skirt” pictures at the ball just to highlight their movement.
The ball also gave me an opportunity to have fabulous hair and a new hair ornament instead of a tiara as well as an opportunity to photograph my new 1880s corset completely finished and the fabulous petticoat I have for 1890s/1900s styles. It gets worn often, but hardly ever seen (which I suppose is rather the point of a petticoat, but when you have one as lovely as this, it really should be seen!). There will be future posts for the hair and undergarments, as this post is getting pretty long.
Overall, 1890s ball was lovely, with beautiful dresses and beautiful dancers. There were fun new people as well as quiet moments to sit and have engaging exchanges with friends.
And the new gown was very comfortable and fun to wear. I’m looking forward to completing the trained skirt (hopefully without too much procrastination) and wearing it this summer!
*My plan is to have two skirts for this gown, one without a train, for dancing, and one with a train, because trains are fun! I only finished the non-trained skirt for the ball, though the trained skirt is assembled and mostly finished with the exception of a closure and hems.
While the side seams, hem, and waistband were totally finished for the first wearing, the skirt never had closures. It just sat in my closet taunting me with it’s almost-finished status. When I went to finish it I realized that a side closure would make it much easier to get dresses and be less gap-y than the center back closure I had originally intended. Moving the closure meant re-do-ing the waistband, so I also used the opportunity to change out the pockets.
As a side note, pockets on day wear are genius! They’re so useful when you’re the public eye and you need to keep things like your car key, phone, and ID on you but you don’t want to leave them lying around. They free your hands from any sort of bag and ensure that your sensitive modern items are not lost or stolen. GENIUS!
The pockets I’d originally put in were rectangles set in vertically that extended both in front of and behind the pocket slit. They are just fine in skirts with more fullness, but for this period they were hard to get my hand in and out of. So when I was changing around the waistband, I cut out a new pocket shaped like what you would find in a modern garment. The new pocket has a facing piece of the skirt wool sewn over the muslin where it might show when I put my hand in (that’s the square set of stitching on the upper right). Because I added a side closure I only have one pocket on the other side, but it is easier to use than the old pocket style was. Both the pocket and the waistband facing are made from scrap muslin (not itchy, not slippery, and who doesn’t love using up scraps?!?).
Both sides of the skirt have four covered buttons on them. Buttons were often used in the 1910s to decorate skirts and blouses (take a look at my 1915-18 Pinterest board, for instance, and you’ll see lots of examples). These buttons are just for show, though, because the skirt closes with hidden skirt hooks and bars.
I referenced Jennifer Rosbrugh’s great placket tutorial (I could remember all the directions exactly, but it’s so much easier to just take a quick look to remember which pieces to cut to different sizes and where to put them!) and this tutorial showing how to add hidden side pockets (Again, nice to to have to think very hard: easy directions and good illustrative photos!). And I’m super pleased that the skirt is complete! Yay!
This year, I paired my new parasol and hat with a pleated skirt from ebay (it was one of those things you gamble on when you order, and while I don’t like it for modern wear I think it worked perfectly for an early 20s look!), a new silk blouse c. 1922, my 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina (because I’m sure people didn’t wear their clothing only during one year!), and my American Duchess Astorias. It’s wonderful to have accessories and pieces like sweaters in the closet that can fill out an outfit without having to always create an entirely new ensemble.
My goal was an early 1920s look, when the skirts were still long and the clothes weren’t quite such bags. In terms of overall clothing style, I was aiming for the yellow lady in the image below. In terms of accessories, I was aiming for some of the looks which you can see in this past post about making my parasol.
The blouse I made from white silk crepe the afternoon before the event. It’s all one piece, with the gathered sections on the sides. I used short sleeves, as in view A, but omitted the bow, as in view C. This was partially due to fabric restrictions, as I used fabric left over from another project and I only had an odd shaped piece to work with. I’m not entirely pleased with it, because, being 20s, it is rather a bag, but it was very comfortable, which I did like. I think I would like it better if it was an off white rather than a bright white, because it would have complimented my outfit better. But my hand knitted sweater is ivory and I was really pleased to wear it over the blouse, because I liked the color and the length better. It has such nice proportions with the skirt!
In no particular order, here are a variety of pictures taken around the estate of the entire ensemble. There were quite a few that I liked, for the movement of the fabrics, or the pose, or the background. The wide hat brim was great for hiding my face. Useful, since I am really good at making weird faces and not always the best at making good picture faces.
Of course, sometimes I was the person behind the camera as well (it’s only fair that if I want lots of pictures of my outfits that I also reciprocate!). Here are a few other pictures just for fun. I took all of these except the last one.
And, lastly, a bit of humor to end the parade of pictures.
And there we are! All of my recent 1920s accessories have been worn/used and documented in my complex photography files. That’s it for 1920s for awhile.
If you saw my last post, you were left guessing as to what event I was furiously sewing for. I think most you guessed that it had to do with women’s suffrage… Yay you! The entire event wasn’t really about suffrage, but suffrage was a part of it. We went down to Plymouth, MA to be a part of a historic village event that was linked to the main Thanksgiving parade in town.
The historic village contained various groups from the early 17th century, groups from the 18th century, Marines from 1812, a unit from the Civil War, my usual dancing friends and I representing women’s suffrage c. 1914, and paratroopers from the 1940s. The parade was…a parade. There were historic groups in it (including some of the military groups I just mentioned), there were marching bands, there were floats, there were unicycles, and there were horses doing various things.
And I’ve got pictures! To start, here are some images of the parade:
Next, here are some images of our representation of Suffragists and our setup in the historic village:
The best part is that in addition to sharing a little bit about history with the public and getting to watch the Thanksgiving parade in all its glory, I was able to use this opportunity to build and wear an outfit showing off my recently completed 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina. I had to plan for cold weather, but I didn’t want to cover up my sweater! So I planned a faux fur hat to match an existing muff, a wool skirt, a polyester crepe blouse (in this case, the polyester was a great choice, because the fact that it wouldn’t breathe would help me stay warm and use up a random bit of fabric in my stash that had no other project in its future!), and did a mostly unnoticeable revamp on my 1860s/can-look-like-other-decades fur muff (which was essential, it turned out, for keeping my hands warm!). And to look stylish, I made gaiters to turn my 1920s American Duchess Gibsons into 19-teens looking spat-boots. And all of the fabrics were from my stash! The gaiters might just be my favorite part of the outfit, and both they and my fur hat will qualify for the next two HSF challenges, so you’ll see more detailed information on those soon! All in all, I managed to stay warm, except for my feet! I wore thick tights, but I didn’t think to wear extra socks, and my toes and feet were SO cold! Note to self: wear thick socks next time an all day outside event in the cold is on the horizon…
And here is my brand new 1917 outfit:
Despite last minute sewing for all of us, we all looked good and had fun wearing clothes from the 1910s while sharing a bit of important history with the public:
The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in the US, was ratified in 1920, after over 70 years of struggle. I think it’s fitting that Thanksgiving and women’s suffrage were related events for us ladies this year. In addition to many other things, we’re thankful for those who fought to get women the right to vote!
Product links in this post contain an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of this product.
“Georgina” is the name I’ve chosen for my new 1858 cotton print day dress. Being a day dress from a new decade (the 1850s), makes her a fabulous new expansion in my wardrobe of historic clothes!
The dress is constructed from about 5yds of a Marcus Brothers reproduction historic cotton print I purchased earlier this summer. I used Past Patterns #701 and #702 bodice patterns as a starting point, though I had to make significant alterations to achieve a comfortable and pleasing fit, especially in the shoulder/armsceye area. I used the darted pattern for the fitted lining and the gathered pattern for the gathered exterior. The sleeves are the bishop sleeves from one of the patterns, though I totally changed the cuff design.
The cuff design and a lot of other fiddly details were taken from this c. 1852 dress at the Met (pictured below). If you zoom in on the cuffs on the Met website you can see that they look just like mine (pictured later in this post)! I also used the following design elements from the Met dress: piping at the neck and waist, gathers that are tacked down beyond the seam line, button closure on the cuffs, and cartridge pleating all around the skirt. I have a whole pinterest board of inspiring images for this dress and hat ensemble, but this dress is the one from which I took the most information and detail.
Here are a few pictures of the fiddly details I integrated from the Met dress:
Georgina’s bodice is lined with white cotton. There are hand sewn boning channels sewn into the bodice in the front darts on each side and on the sides. The bones are then slipped in between the layers of fabric. I didn’t have the right length metal bones, so I used heavy duty plastic wire ties–but–I cut them in half the long way so they are much skinnier than normal (they just don’t look at all historically plausible in their normal width, in my opinion). Once they’re in the bodice, you’d never know they are plastic instead of metal.
The bodice is finished at the neck and bottom edge with piping that is nicely whip stitched to the inside. There is also piping in the armsceye seam. The sleeve seams are french seamed by machine with the opening seam allowance at the cuff turned twice and stitched by hand. The other bodice seams are all machine sewn and the bodice is hand finished. The bodice closes at center front with hidden hooks and bars. It also hooks to the waistband of the skirt to keep the two pieces from gaping while worn.
The skirt has a wide hem that is hand stitched. The long skirt seams are machine sewn. The waistband is the same cotton print with an interfacing layer of canvas to create stability. The skirt is cartridge pleated and hand sewn to the waistband. There is a single layer of lightweight flannel folded into the cartridge pleats to give them a little more bulk than the thin cotton had on its own.
I also took the time to add pockets to this skirt! This turned out to be really useful for storing gloves, sunglasses, chapstick, a fan… with two pockets a lady can store so many things! Here’s how I made them and sewed them into the skirt:
Georgina cost about $18: $15 for the fabric and about $3 for hooks and eyes. The various other fabrics (cotton lining, canvas interlining, etc.) were all in my stash from previous projects (yay!). I first wore Georgina last weekend to a vintage dance performance on George’s Island in the Boston Harbor. I’ve got pictures of the performance and pictures of island exploration coming up soon!