So last year I whipped up a quick 1920s evening dress using a vintage silk dupatta and a basic One-Hour Dress pattern. It was fast, easy, and the fabric made it interesting despite its shapelessness. I learned that I really enjoy sewing with vintage saris and dupattas, simply because of all the fantastic details that are already present in the fabric– no extra embellishment needed!
That being said, you knew I couldn’t stop there, right? Having made a bunch of 1920s-style day dresses, I decided to revisit the evening dress and my love of vintage dupattas to make a glamorous emerald green flapper-style dress. While I don’t ordinarily wear a lot of green, I admit to having been inspired by Cyd Charisse’s sultry green costume from Singin’ In the Rain– I may not be quite as fabulous as she was, but I can aspire!
Obviously, Charisse’s costume isn’t anywhere near historically accurate, but it’s the feel I’m going for more than the actual look.
I found a gorgeous peacock-blue/green chiffon dupatta on eBay with some nice gold embroidery around all of the edges. I also picked out a slinky satin in dark blue-green (it really matches the dupatta almost perfectly) to make the under-slip. I wanted a basic charmeuse, but my exhaustive search of the LA Fashion District yielded nothing that was the right color– everything was either too light or too dull, not the deep, dark, saturated shade I was looking for; so when I found a rayon crepe-back satin in the absolutely perfect color, I snatched it up.
Anyway, with all of the other frantic sewing I was doing on my 1910s Afternoon Dress, I wasn’t sure if I’d have time to get this dress done for my upcoming event. But as luck would have it I found myself with a few hours available late one night, and decided to give it a shot.
I looked around for my basic 1920s bodice pattern, but for some reason it had disappeared, so I ended up just taking my Green 1920s Day Dress and tracing around it. I figured that these chiffon evening dresses are always so loose-fitting that it wouldn’t matter anyway, and I was right.
I ended up cutting my pieces like this:
See how the side front pieces are cut on an angle so the decorated edges will angle in at the center? That worked out very well. Happily, there was just enough fabric to cut out all of my pieces, with very little to spare.
I tacked the front pieces together at the center front waist-point, and then stitched the skirt panels to the front and back pieces across the hips, using french seams. Then, just as I did with my original 1920s Dupatta Dress, I stitched the shoulders and side seams, running the side seams out along the extra skirt width to create an L-shaped seam with dangling points at the sides. Just a note, I did NOT continue the seam down the vertical length of the skirt– I tried it at first, but it looked terrible, and I figured that with the slip underneath it wouldn’t matter if the sides were open from the thigh down.
I added a strip of extra trim along the back of the neck (lucky I had a few inches left!) and did a small rolled hem along the armholes.
I made a basic slip out of my green satin, cut in a trapezoid with self-fabric straps, and then made a sash out of the same satin, gathered at the ends and tacked down with hand-stitching here and there to keep the uneven pleats in shape along the length of the sash. I closed it with snaps.
I tacked the center of the sash to the point of the dress where the two bodice pieces met the center front of the skirt– I figured that it was the most reinforced part of the whole dress, so the weight of the sash wouldn’t pull too much on the delicate chiffon. The snaps went in the back where they wouldn’t be as obvious, but I could also have arranged the sash so the snapped end was in front and covered with a jeweled pin or buckle.
Aside from the sash (which I finished hand-sewing the day of the event), the whole thing (slip and overdress) took me about 2.5 hours from start to finish– most of the time was taken up in pinning together my seams!
I really do enjoy making 1920s dresses out of dupattas– they’re just so easy to make, and look so fabulous when finished. And a single dupatta has just the right amount of fabric for a loose-fitting dress, which is just so convenient! I highly recommend this technique if you want a show-stopping dress with minimal effort!
I will also note that dupattas are not only cheaper than saris, but they are actually *better* for making 1920s dresses because they have two embellished ends that you can use for your dress. Saris usually have a ton of embellishment on one end (the pallu) and less embellishment everywhere else. So dupattas are more symmetrically decorated. So go ahead and try one!