A 1920s Dress Made Anew!

It seems that almost the entire month of July has passed with barely any new blog posts appearing here.. oops. Anyway, today I am going to remedy that with this new post, hurrah! A few weeks ago, Kieren and I met up with the lovely Cate & her wonderful Mom as they were staying in the area for the weekend. (You can read more about it on Cate’s blog here, as I didn’t get around to producing a blog post about it). On the Saturday, we met up in Lewes, which is a really excellent town for browsing antiques, vintage and general knick-knacks.

In one of the shops we went into, I spied a beautiful original 1920s dress, and I got a bit over excited.. the price point was so unbelievably low, that I decided to try it on. Now, I usually have minimal shopping habits  – in that I generally dislike shopping. I will normally formulate a plan, decide which shop(s) will fulfil my requirements, go to said shop, and get out of said shop as fast as possible. For me to actually try something on, is pretty much unheard of. Anyway, spurred on by my general high spirits from having such a lovely day with amazing company, I hurriedly shuffled into the changing room with the beautiful 1920s dress.

It fitted! Hurray! And it looked so pretty, I knew I couldn’t leave her behind. But then, when it came to trying to take the dress off.. well I got a bit stuck. And I started to panic. Which then caused me to sweat, in turn causing the fabric to cling to me, which then led to.. a massive rip. Nooo. So, feeling like a complete idiot, I felt that I had to buy her now, regardless of whether I thought I could repair/alter the damage I had caused. Yes, I know some people may have just shiftily put the dress back on the shop floor without saying anything, but honestly I just couldn’t do that.

So, once I got her home and gave her two good soakings and airings, I then decided to assess the damage. I removed the sleeves and bound the sleeve edges, making the dress sleeveless. Trying the dress on again, it looked & fitted fine. But, I hate the skin on my shoulders, and I also hate my underarms.. rendering a sleeveless dress kind of useless to me. Sigh. I kept the sleeves thinking I could recut them and attach them at a later date, but then another idea came to me.

Why don’t I take a pattern from the dress so I recreate it in fresh, new (more robust!) fabrics?

YES. This was a much better plan. After all, I love true vintage, but often I want to be able to actually wear clothes that I am not terrified will rip/split etc etc when I am going about my daily life. If I want to suddenly burst into a Charleston dance, or do lunges whilst waiting for the kettle to boil (a weird but usual occurrence for me, I drink LOTS of tea on a daily basis, and doing lunges is a good way to squeeze in a bit of thigh-toning whilst waiting for the kettle, haa ha!) then it’s good to know I can do so without damaging my clothes.

My ‘modern day’ version of the original 1920s dress I purchased.

To actually create the pattern, I layed the dress flat (I did not take it apart, as I wanted to keep the dress intact just in case I decide I want to wear it). I made some changes – adding sleeves, increasing the across back measurement, increasing the hips slightly, and adding a tad more fullness into the front skirt.

I initially intended to sew the flowers directly onto the dress, but as the flowers contained wire I was worried that the wire parts may catch and snag on the dress. Instead, I sewed them to my original 1920s hat.

The original dress is made from a peach single layer silk georgette, and I happened to have lots of peach double silk georgette in my fabric stock (which is actually for my lingerie line andEdna, but I have so much of it, I thought I probably wouldn’t miss just over 2 metres). Double silk georgette is actually a better choice for the dress, as it still maintains a level of sheerness, but not so much as single layer silk georgette. It also has slightly more weight to it, therefore enabling it to drape beautifully.

Every year at the Chap Olympiad, we try and get a picture of us together. The lovely Bella (@rougeyourknees on Instagram) was kind enough to take this picture.

I love this photo Bella took of Kieren and I!

The pattern consists of, a front bodice with bias – bound neckline, front skirt section which is gathered, the back which is cut in one long piece, and thin tie-belt strips. I really like how the back is cut in one piece, whilst the front sections are separate. I actually much prefer this design to the one-hour dress pattern, and found the separate front skirt much more flattering.

And here is the lovely Bella! Isn’t her outfit amazing!?

The front jabots were inspired by this pattern I found on Pinterest. I wanted some detail at the front, and as the jabots were derived from an original pattern, I thought they were appropriate.

Close up of the flowers on my hat; and the itinerary for the Chap Olympiad. Yes, the events are rather silly..

Close up of the flowers on my hat; and the itinerary for the Chap Olympiad. Yes, the events are rather silly..

The dress took a couple of days to make, mostly due to the fact that I was working in silk. I wore this dress to the Chap Olympiad, and teamed it with:

Outfit Details

  • Dress: made by me
  • Stockings: Marks & Spencer (that are in fact bridal stockings, but I liked the cream shade)
  • Shoes: Juliette c/o Hotter, similar here
  • Dress Clip: from the Mid Century Market
  • Earrings: Sofia’s Garden
  • Hat: Original 1920s cloche hat, embellished with silk ribbon flowers which I made.

I really like this style of dress, it is very different to the structured and fitted styles I am used to, but I love it! I have already made a cream cotton version, which I will be blogging about soon too.

I’m rather pleased that I have actually got around to making some 1920s summer dresses, whilst it is still actually summer and warm enough to wear them!

Until next time dears!


16 thoughts on “A 1920s Dress Made Anew!

  1. Jessica Cangiano says:

    Please don’t feel bad, sweet dear, I’m sure that if the dress ripped that easily on you, it would have done so on almost anyone who tried it on next. The fabric’s time had simply come and it was ready to give up the ghost. Luckily it did so in your capable hands and you were able to take it home and breath glorious new life into it.

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

  2. Karen says:

    This dress is really fabulous, and I love the way you have styled it. It’s a really great job.

  3. theartyologist says:

    That is so sad that the fabric ripped- that is the biggest problem with vintage. Which is also why I don’t own much, or wear vintage daily. I agree- you never know when you might need to do some lunges! The dress you made is just lovely though! I have been super inspired by the 1920’s lately, and I don’t have much in the way of 1920’s clothing, so I think that is my next sewing project- and your dress here is definitely inspiration! It looks like it was the perfect thing to wear to the Chap Olympiad.
    The Artyologist

  4. Jenny Frances says:

    Hi Cate, ooh those flutter sleeves are nice! I checked the Pinterest link, it seems to be working for me across all my devices, even when I am signed out. Not sure what is going on there? Hugs! xx

  5. Jenny Frances says:

    Hi Mim, I know! The worse thing was the noise the fabric made when the rip occurred, noooo. I am really pleased I did get the dress though, as I can now make lots of 1920s style dresses from the pattern, hurray! 🙂

  6. Jenny Frances says:

    Hi Jessica, I hadn’t thought of that, but yes that is most likely true about the fabric, and how delicate it was. And, it would also explain why the dress was priced at such at low price point in the first place! I’m glad I have been able to use it for something else, and I have definitely put it to good use! 🙂 xxx

  7. Jenny Frances says:

    Hi Karen, thank you so much! I’m looking forward to blogging about the other version that I made from the same pattern, but this time in a light cream cotton. 🙂 xx

  8. Jenny Frances says:

    Hi Nicole, I think as I am falling deeper down the vintage rabbit hole, I too have been disappointed by the fragility of true vintage. It’s tricky, because I do love true vintage items, their history, where they have been worn, etc. But it’s so saddening when an item rips, or when you give a good soak and the fibres disintegrate or the colours run. I don’t know if its due to me becoming more experienced with vintage, or just that I am getting older, but I get really bothered now-a-days about the cleanliness of items. Part of me would generally much prefer to recreate vintage items in fresh new fabrics, although I know the craftsmanship and techniques in, say, Edwardian clothing would definitely prove nigh-on impossible to replicate! Ah, the delicate love/hate relationship with vintage.. (and don’t even get me started on the lingering smell of moth balls that some items have! Yuck yuck yuck!) 🙂 xxx

  9. Christina says:

    I’m so glad you took the copy of the pattern! I have done it a few times myself, it is always a hassle but soo worth it in the end. Actually I have a gorgeous wool overcoat with a torn beyond repair lining and a lot of moth holes. I am torn between relining the original and making a new one. Perhaps both would be the way to go. Anyway your dress is gorgeous, the peach fabric drapes gorgeously and fits you to perfection!

  10. Jenny Frances says:

    Thank you Christina! It’s always tricky deciding whether to put the work into trying to salvage something, or to try and recreate it instead. I still have the original dress hanging up in my work studio, it’s literally just hanging there for decoration at the moment! 🙂

  11. Jenny Frances says:

    Thank you Tanith! When the horrible rip occurred, I suddenly remembered why I never try any clothing on in shops.. haa ha! 🙂 I shall try not to let that experience put me off even more in future though! 🙂

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