Green Striped 1920s Dress, Part II: Pattern and Cutting

Unlike my last two 1920s dresses, I decided that I wanted to make this one with just a tiny bit more shaping than the standard “cut two rectangles and sew up the sides” that I’d been using before. I’d never really drafted my own pattern before for something like this, so I did a little reading and got started!

I started by digging out the mockup I’d made for my white embroidered dress— it was actually in reasonably good shape, so I laid it out on a roll of paper and drew out the basic rectangle pattern to begin. I cut it out of an old sheet, stitched together the shoulder and side seams, and tried it on. Not particularly flattering.

I decided that if I was going to omit the kimono sleeves from the original, I would need to narrow the torso around the bust and shoulders for a better fit– my hips are just too big to cut a straight rectangle and expect it to fit all the way up and down. After some experiments with pintucks (more on that in the next post), I ended up cutting a slightly trapezoidal shift dress, which fit a bit better but still pulled oddly at the sides and gaped at the armholes.

Based on a very useful tutorial I proceeded to pinch out a dart in the armhole, then rotate it around to the side seam. Cutting a final mockup, I was at last happy with the fit– somehow the added shaping at the bust helped the whole thing hang properly, so it was straight up and down both front and back, with no weird pulling at my backside or hips.

I transferred the new pattern to fresh paper so I would have it for future dresses.


Once that was set, I cut out my green striped fabric. And it was there that I made my first mistake. Or rather, my second, but I didn’t realize that until later.

Anyway, what I thought was my first mistake was not being careful enough about eking out every inch of fabric width when I cut the torso of the dress– rather than meticulously placing my center fold just far enough away from the edge to minimize my fabric use, I let it go about 4″ or so from the edge and cut out my front torso piece, which I also cut a bit wider than the pattern because I was paranoid about it being too small. I then realized that my paranoia and lack of careful placement meant that I no longer had enough width to cut out the back torso piece from the same length of fabric. *sigh*

What that meant was that I had to split the back piece down the center so I could fit half on the top section and the other half on the remaining section of fabric. I figured I’d seam them together and try to pass it off as a design detail. And then I realized that I didn’t have enough fabric left to cut the skirt I had planned. I thought at first that it was because I’d had that first issue, but the more I measured the more I realized that I would never have had quite enough length to work with, even if I’d done things right the first time. I’ll explain:


I’d decided to make quarter-arcs for the 24″ long side skirt panels, and based on the geometry (below) I needed to be able to draw a semi-circle with a 32″ radius. That’s a 64″ diameter. I’d only purchased 3 yards of fabric and the stripes ran parallel to the selvedges, so my vertically-striped torso pieces had to be cut along the length of the fabric piece. Each torso piece was cut to be about 50″ long (a little longer than I thought I needed, just in case I’d mis-measured), so that left only 58″ (in theory, that is, not accounting for shrinkage of the fabric) to cut out my skirt panels. Just a few inches short in that dimension, and the addition of having to cut out half of the back torso piece (with seam allowance to join it to the other half) reduced the width of the remaining fabric from 45″ to just under 30″, which was again just a tiny bit too short for my skirt.


And even if I’d cut my torso pieces properly so they lined up side by side, and if I’d subtracted out the extra length to account for the waistband and skimped on the hem so the remaining length of the fabric was over 64″, I still wouldn’t have had quite enough left over to cut out my waistband, my flutter sleeves, and my cascading sash bits for the shoulder and waist. Not to mention having enough to make bias tape to bind the neckline and armholes. (okay, maybe if everything had worked out exactly right and there were no shrinkage and everything lined up perfectly, *maybe* I could’ve gotten it done… but I wouldn’t count on it)


What to do? At this point I had my torso pieces cut out, but I couldn’t do anything else until I had substantially more fabric. I will admit that I considered giving up– I already had a perfectly serviceable dress that I was liking more and more every time I tried it on (more on that in the next post), and I’d have to order more fabric if I wanted to finish this one. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to bother finishing it if it was going to be this much of a pain to make!

Well, in the end I decided to follow through with my original plan, and just ordered an extra two yards of fabric. The seller had it listed as buy one yard/get a second yard free, so at least it didn’t break the bank. Should arrive later this week. All I can say is, this dress had better turn out well…




One thought on “Green Striped 1920s Dress, Part II: Pattern and Cutting

  1. Pingback: 1920s Blue Pintucked Dress | It's All Frosting...

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