In February I was asked to sew two 1920’s slips for the Napier Art Deco Festival and launched into a frantic couple of days of research on fabrics, length, cut and finish details.
Slips were generally made of silk or ‘art silk’ (rayon/viscose) and tended to be soft pastel colours with peachy tones being particularly popular. Lace detailing and picot hems were standard, as were straight necklines. Generally there was some form of fullness in the side of the skirt, starting from the dropped waist. This was generally in the form of pleating, though could also be gathered.
But it was not until viewing two original slips that I could be accurate with construction techniques and pattern cutting. (And it seems rude not to share the little gems of information gleaned from the two slips I was loaned!)
So here are studies of two original 1920’s slips!
The Pink Scalloped Slip:
This original 1920’s slip demonstrates a most likely home-made garment. The internal seams have raw edges, and are sewn by hand. The hem has been professionally picot edged in a scallop design. During the ’20’s picot edging was something which was available as a professional service for the home sewer, in a similar way that pleating and buttonholes still are.
The most interesting details about this slip are:
- It is cut as one piece (plus the straps) and so only has one side seam in the skirt.
- Has a draw cord around the neckline allowing for adjustment
- The size is not tiny and sylphlike! The bust measures 98cm (38.5″) which equates to approximately a NZ size 12.
The fabric is crisp and doesn’t hang how I expected, but with the flat box pleats the maker has worked the fabric to its best advantage. So this was clearly made by someone skilled if not professional.
The ‘G. Fox and Co’ Slip
By contrast, this slip is made by machine, and is professionally finished with French seams. It is labelled G. Fox & Co. Inc. Hartford, Conn. and so was therefore sold from the eleven story, family run, department store of the same name.
This slip has clearly been well worn, altered and repaired. The largest alteration is to the length; the hem has been taken up several inches and the alteration is cleverly hidden by the lace trim. I do wonder if it was altered to fit a new owner, or to fit a new fashion? Hem lengths rose significantly in 1925-6 compared to those of the early twenties, could this slip have been adjusted to fit below newer, shorter dresses?
The fullness added at the side is done in an interesting way – where the other slip was box pleated, this one has a long fold hanging from the side seam and a dart pointing towards the centre front. The soft drape of the fabric means that this potentially bulky arrangement hangs very well.
The straps have clearly been replaced as the fabric they are made from is different from the rest of the slip, but matches a patch under the arm!
These may seem like insignificant details but these are what make the slips so interesting to study and to recreate – things were done differently a century ago! I suspect there are more 1920’s style slips going to pass through my workroom – and I am pleased to have some first-hand knowledge on the construction, paneling and finish details to ensure the reproduction pieces are as close to originals as possible.
Purchase your own slip made to measure from my Etsy shop HERE.