Category Archives: 1920s

Super Productivity! Kinda.

So first off, an apology. I’ve been searching WordPress and my own brain for ways to do this, but I can’t figure out how to put a .pdf on a blog post. You know, for patterns. I’m stuck. So for now, I must apologize. I want to share some of the patterns I’ve taken but until I can figure out a way to get them here, un-warped and un-wonky, I can’t. ūüė¶

Other than that disappointment, I’ve been sewing like mad. Mad, I tell you! I just haven’t had the time to blog about it. Or take any nice photos.

Since early January, I’ve made:

1 1910s-1920s velvet hat (HSF Challenge #2: Blue)

1 1918 wool skirt

1 1900s cotton & lace corset cover (HSF Challenge #1: Foundations)

1 1910s linen blouse

1 1910s cotton & lace slip

1 1915-1918 wool jacket

1 silk and (oops) polyester ‚ÄúVotes for Women‚ÄĚ yellow rose brooch

1 early/mid 1920s velvet evening gown (HSF Challenge #3: Stashbusting)

1 pair 1930s wool & leather spats

1 late 1920s tennis (style) dress

… and I’ve begun an 1880s-ish corset.

And as always:

1 huge mess

3 small trash bags of scraps

1 medium sized dent in my vintage button & cloth hoard

1 $15 dent in my wallet (you read that right, BOOYAH)

All the 1917-1920 clothes I meant to make for the April HSF challenge, War & Peace, but I was so excited about them I started and finished them way too early. That¬†worked out all right in the end, though, because I wore them for a women’s suffrage play I was in, with the last-minute addition of the Votes for Women brooch.

I made all these with my 1902 Singer, which felt nice, because I was using antique/accurate tools. Yep, I know, nerdy.

And because I’ve been awful at taking photos of my work, here are just the ones I’ve photographed.¬†I’ll get pictures of everything later.

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I am in LOVE with this hat. I usually can’t find something big enough to fit my hair under, so I made it extra big. It’s got that big/loose hat thing that was going on in the teens and twenties, and I can actually put my hair up under it! Yay!

I made the blouse in the photo above from one of my dad’s worn-out 18th century shirts. It was old and threadbare, so I don’t expect the¬†blouse to hold up well. I’ve already popped a few seams¬†– the fibers just fell apart. That being said, I’m surprised at how nicely the shape came out – the pattern was roughly based on one of my modern Gap button shirts. I’m excited to make another, hopefully in a nice batiste, or something that holds up better to drawn-thread work.

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The corset cover (left) was taken right from my original (right), which is just a tad too small for me – not that I’d wear it. I made it from a thrifted tablecloth, mimicking¬†the design of triangular lace¬†appliqu√©s at the neckline. I love it – it’s comfy and even though the materials and my workmanship are awfully crude compared to the original, it’s the best I’ve ever done with a sewing machine, and I’m happy.

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This is my ’20s evening gown. I wanted it to be kind of generic so I could wear it to events. The idea was to make a semi-fitted slip and to drape the velvet on that, but halfway through planning I realized I didn’t have any cloth for the slip. Being on a frenetic sewing high I made it anyway, substituting ribbon for lining. Now it looks like the dress has interior suspenders. It works nicely considering the velvet’s heavy and hot (it was a curtain! Thanks, Laura Ashley), and a lining would just make it more uncomfortable to wear. It drapes fairly well, too, so I don’t consider it a failure. And it’s super comfy!

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The beading came out okay; it looks better hanging than flat, as above. I made the mistake of putting the beads on too tightly, which messed with the straight Deco lines of the pattern I chose. Live and learn.

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This is my late twenties tennis dress. I made it, again, from a thrifted curtain and a few pieces of red bias tape. I like it; it’s very comfy. When I wore it to work with my re-worked¬†cloche and a blazer it became very early-1930s-sportswear-ish. The dress itself is very basic; sleeveless with a V-neck and the skirt has two huge box pleats at the sides.

Now I’m working on a new era: the mid-late Victorian. I’m starting with a basic corset based on an 1880s example, and I’m hoping that, for now, I can get away with the 1860s with it, too. After that comes all the rest of the underpinnings and gowns and hats and shoes and stuff, which will be … challenging. I have one long-term project, a 1900-1920s beaded purse which will take me a year, conservatively, to bead fully. It’s about 40% done right now, and I’m slowly working away at it. Good stuff!


Patterns, anybody?

I have handfuls of patterns¬†that I’ve taken from originals, or adapted from originals. I’m thinking of posting a handful of them.
Very soonish, I’m posting an adapted mid-18th century small cap pattern, a ca. 1900 corset cover pattern (about a dress size 4), and 1930/40s high¬†or low spats pattern.
Here’s why I’m writing¬†this particular post. I also have a ca. 19-teens¬†silk jacket¬†in¬†a loose-fitting dress size 0-2, and my own 1920s feed sack dress pattern from this original¬†dress, which is about a dress size 6-8.¬†I also have a size 2-4 way-too-many-gores skirt pattern from the¬†1900s. These patterns will take a little more work to get online, especially the skirt. Would anybody like to try them? They’ll be formatted as images to download – measured drawings on graph paper, with instructions and a link to a page of detailed images of the originals (except for the cap) Let me know as a comment!


Jazz Age Costuming: Starching Bedsheets

For the Jazz Age Lawn Party earlier this month, I needed to sew a handful of 1920s dresses. I wound up sewing four 1920s dresses from scratch, and one made from a modern shirt and dress. They worked, with varying degrees of success, and I wore one to the Jazz Age Lawn Party.

I had a few constraints in making¬†the dresses. I couldn’t spend a lot of time on them, I have no luck with¬†chiffon so I had to use cotton,¬†and I needed to sew them all on a sewing machine, to save time (‘m better sewing by hand). I needed dresses that didn’t require historical undergarments (I had no time to sew those) and that were easy to wear.

I used my 1920s feed sack dress as an inspiration. It’s made with a very simple pattern, made from a thin cotton print. The maker used bias tape and two types of salvaged lace as decoration. I laid the dress out and carefully took measurements from it, and drafted a pattern from that.

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The feed sack dress was made with one flat piece of fabric in the back, from the shoulders to the hemline. But more than that, this piece was folded over the shoulders, so there was no shoulder seam. At the front (dropped) waistline, the flat fabric was trimmed away and replaced with a wider piece of fabric, gathered to make a fuller skirt Рbut only in the front. That design characteristic made the dress fuller in the front, full enough to be worn comfortably; but the back is flat, disguising curves and creating a fashionable 1920s aesthetic.

I went to the garment district and picked up some nice 1920s-looking cotton prints and some solid cottons. I also sacrificed one of my bed sheets to use for scrap. I covered my trusty rusty 1902 Singer in tinfoil so the oil and rust wouldn’t stain the cloth, and I got to work.

The first dress I made was made from the bed sheet, a little white linen I had from other projects, and a handful of vintage buttons. Halfway through the dress I decided I liked it and would make it wearable. I wound up liking this one the most.

1920s dress

So here’s my basic battle plan, boiled down to a downloadable format!

Step 1: Start with¬†a large rectangle. Fold it in half, as it would be over your shoulders, then fold it in half lengthwise, so you’re looking at 1/4 of the dress’ width. Cut it a bit longer than the length from your shoulders to your knees. Then fold the side over so it makes a truncated triangle, with the diagonal line spaced to mark 1/4 of your bust and hip measurements, from the lengthwise fold to the diagonal fold.¬†

Step 2: Cut at the diagonal fold line. I cut the armholes by eyeballing them, then trying the dress on after I had cut the neck hole and trimming them down.

Step 3: Cut the neck hole. Make sure you know how you will finish the collar, so you know how much selvage to leave.

Step 4: I went for a V-neckline, so I folded the extra cloth over in this picture, to see what it would look like. I eventually trimmed them off.

Step 5: After trying the cloth on, mark where the front falls, and where you would like the front waistline to sit. Then cut it off, as I marked. But only cut it off in the front. 

Step 6: Cut a wider rectangle, as long as the piece you just trimmed off but up to 2x as wide.

Step 7: Sew it to the front. The original used four large inverted pleats, so that’s what I’m using here. Gathers might work better for gauzy fabrics. Sew up the sides, and you have the basic shell of a late 1920s dress, ready to decorate!

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I made two dresses with this pattern, and a third that was a great idea but the execution could have used some tweaking.

IMG_1639¬†IMG_1643¬†This dress was made with a¬†great cotton print I found. I went with a bold appliqu√© at the neckline, and an even bolder tied collar in the back which I may just cut off because I’m really not that sartorially bold. My hat is all crushed.

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For the third¬†dress that I didn’t use my pattern for, I tried an early 1920s look, but I didn’t have enough white cotton to pull it off well. It probably would have worked better with thin white linen or silk, anyway. I had to re-sew and re-re-sew the sides, and that’s why there are ugly white lines there. My hat’s still crushed. The appliqu√© was based on this¬†Paul Poirot dress of unbelievable awesomeness.

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Step 1: Cut a rectangle out of a non-stretchy, non-gauzy cloth. Cut a slit in the narrow end, about as deep as 1/2 of the width of the narrow end.

Step 2: STARCH Рlots of it. 

Step 3: Iron one of the long edges over. It’s better to do these one at a time, so just do one for now.

Step 4: Fold diagonally from the point of the slit to the edge of the lengthwise fold, and tuck the edge under the lengthwise fold. 

Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the other side.

Step 6: Iron until the starch is dry, then let it cool down. Clip the two points, where the selvages from the lengthwise fold are still showing. 

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The lawn party itself was very nice. It’s pretty much a daylong picnic/concert with a little dancing, a few performances, some food for sale and a little shopping on the side. We went kind of expecting to stroll around for the duration, and were a little lost; there’s not a lot of room to stroll, and by the time we got there, at midday, there wasn’t a lot of space to park a picnic. So we strolled around until our feet hurt, and then we took off.

As for next year, I now have yards and yards of cotton lace to create something super awesome from. I’m doing early 1920s – real Gatsby styles, not the mid/late 1920s like this year. And I’m¬†doing a real picnic. Get excited.


Jazz Age Costuming!

For the Jazz Age Lawn Party in August! Yay!!

It’s a huge 1920s-themed lawn party on Governor’s Island, NYC! It’s going to be awesome! Before it happens, though,¬†I have costuming to do: possibly up to five dresses and¬†maybe some hats.

I have two 1920s dresses I’ll be drawing construction details & patterns from, and one early 1930s ensemble that I may use as well.

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My 1920s feed sack dress, with two types of lace trim – it’s made from¬†a fairly simple pattern and has a very 1920s look.

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My early 1920s cotton dress. It’s difficult to see the form and drape without a mannequin, but it’s got some great pleating details.

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My early 1930s sailor dress set Рa little more form-fitting, and so summery. Again, pretty icky without a mannequin. 

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This hat is from the 1970s and doesn’t bear much resemblance to many 1920s hats – but it does look a lot like the hats worn in the 1970s version of The Great Gatsby.¬†

So I have some pale green cloth I may use for either a whole dress or just some trim, and I have a handful of assorted old lace I might use too. I’m going to get some cloth for more dresses soon. There are a lot of straw hats out there right now that look very 1920s, so I think I’m covered for hats. I also have a great old paper parasol with a hand-painted, vaguely Asian pattern that may suit well. I’ll see how far I get before mid-August!


Charles James, Revisited

I’ve just found a few interviews with some of the talented folks who worked on the Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibit currently at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Enjoy!

Charles James: Beyond Fashion‚ÄĒInterview with Conservators Sarah Scaturro and Glenn Petersen

Interview with Charles James: Beyond Fashion Co-author Jan Glier Reeder

Charles James: Beyond Fashion‚ÄĒInterview with Photographer Karin L. Willis

 


Kinda Excited …

I’ve been working a lot on my clothing collection lately. Not the collection of stuff I’m making; my collection of vintage/antique clothes. I’ve been cataloging every piece on my other WordPress blog, which I’m kinda sorta proud of … it’s got over 80 posts now! With a few notable exceptions, most of the women’s clothing I have in that collection isn’t really reproduce-able, like jeans and constructed purses.

But that’s going to change in a week or so. Coming up, I have two women’s dresses and a girl’s dress, all dating from between about 1900-late twenties. Yeah, excitement. I’ll be adding them to my blog with tons of pictures, patterns, and construction tips. Eventually I want to reproduce the two women’s dresses, which will be a lot of fun.

That, and I’ve decided to finally get to work on my new 18th century dress. I’m going to make it from some linen I bought a while back that I had to re-dye over it’s original rabid watermelon color. I have a deadline; early April – my next event, but I also want to see how quickly I can sew a dress by hand. I want to break my old record of two days.

That, and I’m thinking really hard about picking up a dress form so I can actually see some of this clothing worn, and (gasp!) maybe be able to drape dresses, finally!

So I’m going to go get my costume movies in line (I’ve gotta watch something while I sew!) and get to work!


The Fashion Institute of Technology Museum: A Queer History of Fashion & RetroSpective – a review

I just got back from a visit to Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, where I was able to walk through the galleries and see the two exhibits now on display, A Queer History of Fashion and RetroSpective. Both are free to the public and open until January 4, 2014 and November 16, 2013, respectively.

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Here’s the link to FIT’s museum website, below. Again, it’s ugly because I haven’t learned how to make it pretty yet.

http://www.fitnyc.edu/13666.asp

A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk

A look at clothing both created and worn by members of the LGBTQ communities over the past 300+ years, this is an interesting and discussion-sparking exhibit.

Focusing mostly on designer clothing from 1960 to the present, this exhibit offers a lot of information. It’s also well-planned and well-lit, so that almost every piece can be easily seen. Many outfits are semi-hidden behind others, but that speaks to the sheer volume of how many things there are to see. There are clothes from a scattering of the top names of the past century – fashion designers, movie stars, artists and more.

The one thing that disappointed me was the 18th century portion of the exhibit. It includes a 1790s suit, a banyan, and a truly horrible ‘Mollie’ outfit made from a reproduction chemise, a Renaissance Fair corset made from black sparkly brocade, and original shoes, quilted petticoat and red wool cloak.

From my research on gender-bending clothing of the 18th century, I’ve found that an outfit like this was simply not worn in public by anybody other than, possibly, a prostitute. In general, 18th c. LBGTQ people had to hide their true selves almost constantly, because simply being LBGTQ was a crime in a lot of places. Wearing something like this would be to wave a red flag in the face of a bull – not that it would make people immediately think “homosexual”, but the outfit would immediately bring to mind the 18th century debate on the desired tightness and completeness of women’s clothing and how it reflected their morals. Anybody, male or female, who wore an outfit like this would be immediately marked as “morally loose”,¬† and in 18th century thinking, that wasn’t a far cry from homosexual.

The label did not describe any of this, and didn’t offer information such as where such an outfit would be worn (England, America, France) which could have been crucial in interpreting it. And of course, there is the added problem of the cringe-worthy reproduction clothing.

Finally, the exhibit does not mention two of the most iconic gender-bending outfits there were in the 18th century: the riding habit and the redingote. These garments were a big part of gay and lesbian issues in the late 18th century. While I can understand that the museum possibly did not have originals to put on display, perhaps a picture or discussion could have been included.

I give this exhibit a 9/10. This exhibit presents an awesome topic and illustrates it with outstanding examples of clothing (expect for the 18th century portion). I highly recommend it.

RetroSpective

This exhibit focuses on revivals of fashion elements such as the bustle, hoop skirts and ’empire’ style gowns.

This exhibit is stunningly comprehensive. There are so many garments, accessories and textiles on display that each topic is supported by multiple examples. The exhibit is well laid out and each topic (say, ‘bustles’ or ‘panniers’) is given its own little nook, which makes comprehension of the ideas presented easy. Movies on clothing from the times adds another dimension to the exhibit, and guided tours are available as well.

Most of the clothing is presented somewhat poorly. The exhibit is quite dark where the older clothing is; too dark to see basic details like buttons, embroidery or seams. In addition to the darkness, putting the clothing in ‘nooks’ means that they can only be viewed from one angle. When I tried to lean in a little to see the garments, I set off alarms and was told off by a security guard.

Oops.

I didn’t think that this exhibit was very inspired. The topic of fashion revivals is old, and the exhibit brings nothing new to the discussion except a presentation of the usual topics. There is not a lot of information offered on the labels simply because the exhibit does not stir the waters of this topic: it only skims the surface. I would have loved the exhibit to go into the deeper questions of why fashion goes into revivals, and the way these revivals reflect what’s going on in the culture at the time.

I give it a 7/10. This exhibit is great for visitors with a casual interest in fashion, and since it’s free, it’s a great way to kill half an hour. If you go, don’t expect to learn a lot from it, and don’t expect to be able to see the older garments very clearly.

I’d love to hear others’ reactions to these exhibits. Have you seen them? What did you think?