I have been making 1920’s reproduction dresses for the best part of 5 years now, but this is my first foray into headwear, starting simple; the bandeau or headband is a cliche of 1920s fashion. A modern ‘flapper costume’ would not be complete without a sequinned, feathered headband. But original pieces actually came in a diverse range of shapes; some sit more like crowns or tiaras.
Here are some which caught my eye and demonstrate a diverse range of shapes:
With my background in corsetry and tailoring rather than millinery my approach is probably slightly unusual in the construction, but the results are still rather fabulous!
Like a corset I began with a stiff core of canvas with boning chanels applied where there was height in the crown shape, this is perhaps over engineered, but no way will it crumple! The top edge was hemmed and I inserted wire into it which can be curved and formed into shape.
I then wrapped the fashion fabric around the internal structure, in this case a layer of silk dupion followed by a layer of silk chiffon. On top of this was tacked a beautiful embroidered motif.
The inside was then lined and elastic attached to the back, it was a simple little project but incredibly rewarding.
And it looks even better worn!
This little creation was then sent off to its new home in New York (very exciting!)
Keep an eye on my Etsy Shop as there are several more bandeau currently under construction!
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.
It’s not every day that you are offered a gorgeous 1930’s silk chiffon Dressing gown to borrow, and even rarer to be allowed to take a pattern. But in February I took the opportunity very gratefully, knowing a reproduction of it would be a striking addition to my newly launched Etsy Store!
This is the glorious original garment I was loaned:
Made from a soft peach, crinkly silk chiffon the original wearer would have been a little pixie lady; even my small frame at 5’4″ left the hem comically short, and the snaps at the waist were unable to close around my 25″ waist. The challenge was therefore not just in copying a pattern, but in scaling it to fit a modern body.
The wonderful thing about taking a pattern off an original garment is that you learn so much. This robe features many 1930s details:
Hand-sewn lace applique
Bias cut skirt
Nipped in waist
Asymmetric neckline and sash.
But it was only when tracing the pattern that I discovered the skirt was cut in a very clever way: it is self lined, but the lining and outer layer are cut differently. The outer back panel is cut on the bias, so although the pattern piece has the hem at one continuous length, the bias stretch in the centre back creates a small train which hangs 12cm longer than the rest of the hemline. By contrast, the lining for the centre back skirt is less flared and cut on the straight grain, this controls the fullness of the outer skirt and saves on fabric!
Like many long bias cut garments of its time, the pattern pieces were obviously wider than the narrow fabrics available, and so the skirt is cunningly pieced. Additional seams in the corners of long panels extend the pieces beyond the width of the fabric and are sewn with selvages together so that there was no risk of fraying and no added bulk of finishing any raw edges.
Of course, the most obvious detail is the lace! This too has been very carefully worked, and has become a part of the garments structure. Rather than being sewn flat to the chiffon, the chiffon has been tucked and gathered onto the lace, adding a blousy fullness into the bodice.
The sleeves are of an eye-catching shape peculiar to the 1930’s; being gathered along the underarm seam and from the shoulder seam along the length of the arm.
The bodice is also lined, and again the lining is less full than the outer layer, this holds the fullness in position and guides the gathers on where to sit.
All these details were carefully traced onto pattern paper. The pattern cutting process is quite simple in theory; lay newsprint down on the carpeted floor, lay the garment on top and stretch and pin each panel piece one at a time. The pins stick into the carpet and provide as much or as little tension as needed. On a delicate garment like this it is important to stretch only very gently to prevent the pins pulling holes. Silk chiffon is always a trick to work with, it stretches where it should not and skews into deformed shapes.
But with patience, the pattern I ended up with was accurate. So I scaled it up to approx an NZ size 8 or 10, and adjusted some details to suit my fabrics and purpose.
While I admired the self lined skirt and the inserted lace of the original, I was using a lustrous viscose satin which is not sheer like a chiffon and so I chose not to line the skirt at all. I retained the bias cut skirt back and straight-grain skirt front, french seaming them together to maintain a high standard of finish on the inside.
The Neckline and cuffs I trimmed with lace, but rather than inserting it (cutting the fabric away so the lace is un-backed) I appliqued the lace on top of the satin. This was done mainly for ease of sewing, but also for structural strength – this is a wearable, (hand) washable garment, able to be lived in!
The silver viscose satin was rather beautifully partnered with a purple-grey lace from my stash. This was hand trimmed to remove the mesh, pinned in position and painstakingly hand-sewn to keep each twirly pinnacle in its proper position. Due to the smaller lace motif than the original, the lace sat with two points down the back as opposed to one.
After over twenty hours of work, from pattern-making to the final scraps of lace being stitched down, the gown was completed!
We chose to do a photoshoot in central Napier, as Napier is the ‘Art Deco Capital of the World’ and allows a wonderful variety of appropriate back drops, from the detailed entrance-way of the Gallery, to the modern pier. Though I had not intended to model the robe myself, I am very happy with the photos!
The gown was delightful to model, catching the wind in its billowing skirt, shining in the sun and attracting attention from passers by.
The crowning glory, however, is the lace detailing – hand cut lace applique, painstakingly sewn around the cuffs and neckline – which provides the quality finish that sets this garment apart as a unique hand crafted item.
The viscose has a lovely weight to it, allowing the skirt to flow gracefully as you move and giving the ruched sleeves genuine fullness. The silky satin fabric looks and feels luxurious, especially in this enchanting silver colour.
This is the most recent listing on my brand new Etsy Shop and is available for purchase HERE.
This item was made by Tammy Twinkletoes in Napier, the Art Deco Capital of the World
Inspired by evenings spent with friends at the Hawkes Bay Club and The County Hotel
Photographed outside the iconic Art Deco entrance to the Napier Art Gallery.