Like I said, I’m not a huge fan of the 1920s silhouette, but I was browsing eBay for beaded chiffon dupattas– the perfect source for inexpensive pre-embroidered/beaded fabric– to make an evening dress out of, when I came across this lovely item:
It wasn’t really right for the dress I had in mind, but for some reason I kept coming back to it. Something about the floral pattern, the burgundy/cream/gold color scheme, and the tiny sequins just made me think it would make a gorgeous flapper dress. Finally, I just bit the bullet and ordered it, and now that it’s here I’m so glad I did!
For my first 1920s-style dress I used the “One Hour Dress” pattern to make a tailored day dress. This time, I decided to modify it for a drapier, more elegant, evening look. Since the silk chiffon was so drastically different in drape than the white cotton I couldn’t really rely on the dimensions of my first dress, so I had to play it by ear. I basically laid my original dress down onto the dupatta and cut around it, leaving a good 2″ all around to leave space for alteration. As luck would have it, it fit just fine without any adjustments– probably because the chiffon was so fine that it tried to cling a little to the body in any case.
I knew I wanted to add some extra interest to the skirt, so rather than just cutting it off straight or even just adding some gathering or pleating at the sides, I decided to make a handkerchief hem. Because my dupatta was 40″ wide I had a decent amount of extra width, which I used as part of the skirt. See the diagram below (of the dupatta folded in half) for the cutting and stitching lines.
Rather than cut an actual neck-hole I decided to go with a bateau neckline, so I just cut the top straight across. I french-seamed the sides of the dress to keep the seams looking neat through the sheer fabric. In order to make the sleeves the correct length but still keep the burgundy band of trim along the cuffs, I had to cut off the trim and re-attach it higher up on the sleeve. I also used extra bits of trim from scraps to add a line to the top of the neckline for visual interest (also because the tan color of the chiffon just kind of blended into my skin– not a good look).
Then for the shoulders and neckline, I only stitched the shoulders together for a 1.5″ span, leaving the tops of the sleeves open. I was going to attach the tops at a few points with beads for a peekaboo detail, but it turns out that I cut the sleeves too small and they wouldn’t close properly over my arm. Good thing they look fine open!
The right angle in the skirt seams made for a really simple and effective handkerchief hem effect.
The best part? The dress really did only take me about 90 minutes to sew! I set a timer just to be sure– to be fair, I did shut off the timer during the many breaks I took (to read books to my preschooler, to grab a snack, to watch Ghostbusters). But still, not bad! It was probably helped by the fact that I didn’t need to hem anything due to the finished edges of the dupatta, but I think that the need to piece on the trim at the neckline and sleeves probably made up for that. Anyway, I think it turned out great!
(Looks a lot better being worn than it does hanging on a dress form, doesn’t it?)
- Oddly enough, the dupatta was printed unevenly– the burgundy section on one end was about 3-4″ longer than on the other end. In order to ensure that the color change happened at the same height on the front and back of the dress, I just let the hem hang longer in the back. It wasn’t all that noticeable because of the handkerchief hem.
- I would absolutely use another dupatta to make a 1920s evening gown again– in fact, I have two emerald green ones with gold embroidery just waiting in my fabric stash to be made into a gown for another event. They’re available on eBay, usually for under $25, so it’s a great way to get some gorgeous fabric at a low price.