Reworked 1925 Day Dress

Three years ago I got hooked on Art Deco Weekend Napier, it sounds silly but it cemented my transition from gothy type to ‘bright young thing’ – I bobbed my hair, learnt to Charleston and started sewing 1920s dresses with gay abandon. Yards of fabric from the stash which before I had considered too girly, or proper, or light coloured were suddenly perfect!

1925 pictorial review
Pictorial Review for 1925, the dress second from left caught my eye.

The freedom of movement in dance and in fashion of the ’20s is inspiring! In my experience the right dress should be able to make you stand differently and behave differently. Maybe that’s why I was never completely happy with this dress… I started off with a fashion plate from 1925 (pictured above) as inspiration after finding a delightful  silk/viscose velvet burnout which I simply could not resist!

The result was pretty, but to me it was better described as ‘pretty boring’. The under-dress was too narrow to dance in and not the right colour match for the outer layer. Really I hadn’t purchased enough of the velvet burnout and to me the result was passable from a distance, but imperfect up close.

Here’s a photo of me down in Napier in Feb 2014 – doing my best to love it – because I really did want to! Note how disconnected the side gores look, and how the success of the dress is carried by the fabric – not by the design.

Art Deco Napier 2014

So this year, with Art Deco Festival coming up again in Feb, I decided to rework the dress. I completely removed the under-dress and all the bindings, then unpicked the side seams and the gore inserts in the side of the skirt. A replacement fabric was needed for use as a separate slip which would complement the soft blush colour of the chiffon. Luckily I found the perfect thing, a lovely lightweight silk crepe de chine… of course it was expensive, seriously wondering if I was throwing good money after bad I dithered and eventually bought a couple of metres… The slip might need to be a separate post, but here’s how the outer went!

I wanted to add volume, length and oomph. The dress needed to swing when I moved and make me feel wild and free (Deco Weekend to me means no shoes, no bra, no worries)… To achieve this I decided to leave the sides of the outer layer open to the hip, creating a more pinafore style top, further floofed out by the waistband sewn in position to sit on the hip. I added borders around the hem and right around the gores. While I have no evidence that this is an accurate 1920s design, it seemed appropriate and it made the best use of my small amounts of the velvet burnout.

gore detail
Progress shot showing silk borders being added to side panels

After all this I deemed the dress complete. To celebrate its new incarnation, the re-finished dress was then worn for a photo-shoot with the dapper and generous Stuart Atwood, photographer for Glory Days Magazine. We visited Calendula Cottage Café where I proceeded to prance around playing model in hydrangea bushes, willow trees and an orchard. Stuart has done a wonderful job editing and capturing some beautiful moments – he has so much patience!

hydrangea yellow
Loving the colour combination in this image!
My favourite photo from the series


Proving it’s now dance-worthy, the weighted ends with tassels are great fun!

willow 2
Stuart’s favourite (I think!)
The feel of this dress has definitely changed – the freedom is captured perfectly in this image 🙂

All in all I’m much happier with this dress now, and no longer contemplating getting rid of it – seeing it through the lens of Stuarts camera has definitely helped! Ive never really bothered reworking a garment before, but I sure will do so in future!

Until next time x

2 thoughts on “Reworked 1925 Day Dress

  1. Well done, both for the writing/layout, and especially for the skill of design/sewing! Thank you for sharing and inspiring. I still think about the outfit you wore to the Napier Club lunch in June.


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