1920s Dress in Gold

1920s dress 47 posed
1920s dress, modelled by #47


1915 Dress and Skirt patterns
1915 Dress and Skirt patterns

For this dress I used the Sweetheart Plaid drop-waist blouse from Fashioned by Rebecca, which was based on a 1915 design. I thought it included the skirt but it doesn’t — it recommended the Pleated Skirt by Liberty Jane Clothing so I bought that as well but ended up not using it. In adding the skirt and making the dress very columnar (no over-the-hips poofiness) I think I’ve shifted the year closer to 1924-25 so I’m calling this a 1920s dress.

Technically this is a mock-up but it’s turned out quite well. I used some rather unattractive (to me) fabric that I have previously used for laundry bag linings because the geometric design resembled those used in the 1920s. I was able to use the reverse of the fabric for the collar and trims.

The pattern was quite well-written and illustrated, though I believe that the original design it was taken from was a front-opening blouse rather than a back-opening and there are some residual elements that should have been removed or altered further in the adaptation. As I’ve said previously, I am constitutionally incapable of following a pattern as it’s written anyway, so it didn’t fuss me to make the appropriate changes.

All stitching was by hand.


1920s dress - neckline detail
1920s dress – neckline detail

The top went together reasonably well. I changed the front neckline slightly because the front overlay was a couple of millimetres lower than the full front which was just awkward since the whole overlay was going to be stitched down. Instead I trimmed the full front neckline down to match the right front neckline. I also used only one layer for the right front instead of two as it was going to be stitched down over the full front.

If I were to remake this as a front-opening blouse then I would use two thicknesses on the right (or at least a wide facing) and extend the piping up to the shoulder seam. As it is, the buttons on the front of this dress are purely decorative.

The collar pieces as given in the pattern are slightly too wide/long. I left a 2 mm gap at the front but even if I had left no gap there would be insufficient space at the back for the closure without overlapping the collar ends. Removing 3-5mm from the collar should eliminate this problem.

1920s dress - sleeve cap
1920s dress – sleeve cap

The sleeves were fiddly (as they always are) and I wasn’t happy with the set right at the top of the sleeve cap. If making it again I would trim 1-2 mm off the top arch. I also made a much narrower binding (cut 1″ rather than 1 ½”) to avoid the rather unsightly translucent portion below the seam. I’d like to try this with a piped edging next time, though it might require that the sleeves be lined which they aren’t in this pattern.

The biggest change I made was to the skirt.

Instead of making a separate skirt with a gathered bias-cut waistband I decided to attach the pleated portion of the skirt directly to the blouse. In order to attach the skirt neatly I had to ensure that the pleats would fit exactly onto the bottom of the blouse, and so I was not able to use the pattern provided by LJC. Instead I measured the bottom of the blouse (35.5 cm), adjusted the overlap (1 cm) to give me a whole number of pleats (23 @ 1.5 cm = 34.5 cm ) and then cut a strip that was three times 34.5 cm plus seam allowances (2 @ 0.5 cm). [I normally sew in Imperial units because I’m a quilter, but I wasn’t able to make the pleats fit using inches, so I tried it with centimetres and it was much easier.] I marked out intervals of 1.5 cm along the strip and folded the pleats. They were pressed while pinned, then basted and pressed again.

1920s dress - inside join with bias glue-basted
1920s dress – inside join with bias glue-basted
1920s dress - outside join before trim
1920s dress – outside join before trim
1920s dress - outside join with trim glue-basted
1920s dress – outside join with trim glue-basted

Because of the large number of thicknesses at the front of the garment I decided that a normal seam would be too bulky. Instead I adapted the binding around the bottom of the blouse to be a trim that covered the join. I simply butted the two sections together and glued a bias strip on the wrong side to hold them in place until stitched, and then glue-basted the trim on the front. Once I had most of the top and skirt stitched down I stitched the side seam of the skirt and finished the edges, overlapped the back openings and resumed stitching the bindings down. Stitching through all the layers was manageable – I only had to resort to stab-stitching over the seams, the overlap and that front trim.

1920s dress - back closure
1920s dress – back closure

The back closure had to be fudged a bit because of the collar. I made a small extension to the left back which will allow me to attach low-profile Velcro … when I can find the box it’s in. *sigh* The blouse was a little bit looser around the shoulders than planned, but it didn’t look too bad.

1920s dress - 47 front
1920s dress – 47 front
1920s dress - 47 side
1920s dress – 47 side
1920s dress - 47 back
1920s dress – 47 back

I chose #47 as the model for this dress as she has warm golden undertone to her skin that complements the colour of the fabric. She’s from 2017 and fairly slim, so unfortunately the dress is a little large for her and sags in places.

1920s dress - Addy front
1920s dress – Addy front
1920s dress - Addy side
1920s dress – Addy side

I also tried the dress on Addy (my chubbiest doll) to check the sizing: it fits much better but the colour is absolutely wrong for Addy’s skin tone, which has a cool, almost blue undertone.

Pretty good pattern; easy to follow the instructions; minimal alteration or fudging required if making it as the pattern dictates.

Lessons learned:
Check collar placement against centre back line before stitching.

Notes for the future:
If remaking as a front-opening blouse, do a simple paper/interfacing mock-up of the collar section so you can work out where and how to attach various pieces.

For any future version of a pleated skirt I would advise finishing the bottom edge after pin-pressing and before basting. Also start the fold at the second mark rather than the first, as that will allow the seam to be the inside fold of a pleat rather than the junction of two straight sections (though this might affect the hem).

[Note: I’ve almost finished the blackwork sampler but I needed to do something a little more practical for a few days.]