Green 1920s Dupatta Dress

green sari 1920s dress

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!

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Obviously, Charisse’s costume isn’t anywhere near historically accurate, but it’s the feel I’m going for more than the actual look.

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Red Bustle Ballgown

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I’ve already mentioned my propensity towards urging my friends to attend historical costume events with me, so it should be no surprise that for an upcoming Victorian ball I managed to convince a friend to let me outfit her in something appropriate– in this case, an altered modern ballgown (of course).

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1910 Afternoon Dress, Part VIII: Bretelles and Sash

bretelles-sash

In my original concept sketches I’d envisioned the bretelles and sash to be made of a different fabric than the main dress, still in the same tone of dusty rose but with more texture– maybe a velvet or a jacquard. I wasn’t able to find any during my NYC trip, probably because I was being so specific already– I needed something that would be slightly contrasting, but not too much or it would look costume-y– so I gave up and figured I’d just go with all the same satin. Luckily, I was out buying thread at a local fabric store when I glanced over and saw a textured silky fabric– almost like a hammered finish– in what looked to be almost exactly the right color! I brought over my swatch and sure enough, it was an almost perfect match. I bought two yards of it and promptly brought it home to get to work.

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1910 Afternoon Dress, Part VI: Bodice

bodice

So after all of my mockups, you’d think I’d be pretty confident in my finished bodice pattern, right? Not so much. I was still a bit worried about finally cutting out the bodice, but eventually I convinced myself that any errors would be hidden by the sash and bretelles (and if not I had extra satin yardage to re-cut), so I just gritted my teeth and did it.

First I cut my pattern pieces out of the pink voile, and then laid those voile pieces onto my satin to cut it out exactly the same– much easier than cutting from a paper pattern, since the voile didn’t slide around on the satin. Then I flatlined all of my pieces.

I decided to apply the trim on the center front piece first– I had been going to use the full width of my widest trim across the bustline, but decided to cut off the outer borders to keep it from being too overwhelming. I pinned and hand-sewed the new, narrower trim to the front of my center bodice piece– it’s different enough from the sleeve trim to be distinct, but still matching. I was going to stitch more trim on the sleeve pieces at this point, but had such a hard time deciding where to place it that I decided to wait until I could try on the basic bodice and mark the correct height for sleeve trim.

bodice-trim

Anyway, I stitched the bodice together, and then tried it on. Yeah, not so good– not only was the bodice trim not quite properly centered, but I realized that the flatlining was making the bodice look too stiff. I ended up removing the lining from all the pieces except for the center front panel– I figured I’d want the extra body to help it lie smoothly over the torso (though I probably could’ve removed it if I’d wanted to). Talk about a waste of time for the original flatlining…

I drafted a 3″ wide facing to go around the front edges, which I cut from fusible interfacing and then ironed on to plain fabric. I had some issues with getting the correct shape, and the spot where the neckline and shoulders meet is kind of wonky, but it went mostly as planned. I understitched the facing to the seam allowances to get the neckline edge to roll ever-so-slightly inwards, which I think made for a really nice finish (particularly given that my satin didn’t crease well under the iron).

I decided to use snaps rather than hooks and eyes to keep the bodice closed– they won’t be under much stress since it’s not a tight-fitting bodice, so no real danger of coming unsnapped.

bodice-fastening

I stitched my sleeves together using a medium-length stitch, then set them into the bodice so I could try it on and figure out where to place my next pieces of trim. Once I’d figured out the correct height, I unpicked the stitches to about halfway up the sleeve, stitched on my trim, and then re-closed the seam over the raw edges before hemming it. I was able to hand-stitch the hem to the area of satin right behind the trim, so the hem didn’t show.

bodice-sleeve

I will note that this whole post leaves out or glosses over the numerous unforced errors I made in construction of this piece– I mis-cut the facing, so had to piece in extra scraps in two different places to make it fit the neckline; I cut the back neckline square without realizing what it would do to the shape of the shoulder strap (hint: makes it all wonky and weird-looking) and I can’t fix it without replacing the entire back piece, which I may do anyway; I was over-cautious when adapting the shape of the center panel, making it too flat at the bust seam, so I had to let it out a bit and then take it back in an even tinier bit because I’d miscalculated again… so many issues that had to get fixed, so in the end I felt like I’d basically wasted days’ worth of work. So frustrating. I guess it’s all part of the learning experience, right?

I think part of the problem is that I keep wanting the bodice to be good enough to wear without the shoulder bretelles to cover up my mistakes, but I’m forgetting that I designed the bodice with the express intent of covering up the design issues with the bretelles. So I’m trying to overcome issues that are part and parcel of the original design concept– not an easy thing to do. Nothing to do but soldier on, though…

1910 Afternoon Dress, Part IV: Underskirt

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Since I was making this outfit as separates, I decided to really maximize the sizing and mix-and-match potential by making the lace underskirt a separate piece as well– two skirts total. This way I can use the underskirt for another outfit somewhere down the road.

I started with a base skirt made of thin ivory cotton, which I based on the original pattern’s underskirt– I just cut it a bit larger in the back and added some small knife pleats to take up the extra fabric at the waist (for ease of size adjustment). I also evened out the waist height to hit at the natural waist in back rather than the artificially raised level of the original, and added a flat waistband. I omitted the hem facings from the pattern because this is an underskirt that’s going to be covered in lace– no one will see a machine-stitched small hem. I hemmed it to fall right at the ankle, figuring that I’d want the lace to fall slightly below that level.

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1920s Flamingo Dress

flamingo-stand

So, obviously I enjoy attending costumed events, but dragging friends along with me is half the fun! And that generally involves my volunteering to make something for them so they have something appropriate to wear. And that brings me to this dress, which I made so that a friend of mine could accompany me to the annual historical costumers’ picnic I host every summer (or at least, this is the second annual, so I’m hoping to make it a tradition!).

Because 1920s-style dresses are the fastest and easiest historical outfits I know how to make, we decided to go with a basic day dress, very similar to the ones I’ve been making recently. She wanted something in navy blue, but I just couldn’t seem to find anything cute in that colorway or to think of any interesting design ideas until I came across this fantastic flamingo-print rayon voile, and it all came together!

Telio Rayon Voile Flamingos on Navy

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Regency Brocade Gown, Part IV: Final Construction

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To attach the skirts to the bodice (the last major construction step) I worked with each skirt separately– the underskirt was narrower than the overskirt, and I wanted to pleat them separately so they’d flow more gracefully when I moved. I only achieved limited success with that due to the stiffness of the hem trims (as noted earlier), but I did the best I could.

I pinned and basted each skirt to the bodice before machine-stitching the final waist seam (praying I wouldn’t screw anything up), and whipstitched the bodice lining over the seam allowance so the inside would be neat.

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