Not that long ago at a resale store, I happened across a small stash of 100% silk, over sized, and slightly outdated “Victoria’s Secret” lingerie. At the cheap prices they were sold at per piece I bought all of what I found, with the specific intention of refashioning, or at least reusing, the high quality silk and lace.
One item in particular has been refashioned first. I transformed a black silk camisole into a pair of 1920’s style tap pants. Even before I checked out I already knew, foresaw practically, what a certain item was going to become. That foresight was one of those amazing “Eureka!” moments…I love it when they come because I know something great is in the making.
HISTORICAL FORTNIGHTLY CHALLENGE: Make Do and Mend
NOTIONS: I only needed to buy a few inches of black snap tape; nothing else but black thread and bias tape was needed, and I always have plenty of those on hand
PATTERN: I didn’t use one! I did have plenty of 20’s inspiration, though, which I’ll talk about below.
TIME TO COMPLETE: the total time to refashion was not long at all – only 2 hours. I finished them in one evening, September 23, 2013. The final touch – my hand stitched Art Deco monogram – was done in an hour or two on January 15, 2014
THE INSIDES: The camisole had very nice seams, with French seams at the sides, so I made sure to keep all that by only adding on seam of my own – the waistband. My new waist band seam is neatly covered in bias tape that also serves a channel for the draw cord.
FIRST WORN: I don’t remember; but I do remember wearing my tap pants very soon after they were done. I have been wearing them quite often!
TOTAL COST: the camisole was only $3.00, and the snap tape was under $1, which makes my total for fine silk, vintage style tap pants less than $4.00! What a deal.
HISTORICAL ACCURACY: I cannot claim anything directly to definitively give a pinpoint answer. However, I believe my refashioned tap pants are quite accurate for the 20’s, based on my research of period patterns, movies, and sewing techniques. This 90 year old pattern envelope picture (at left), which I found during an online image search, was a big verification of the accuracy of how I wanted my tap pants to be refashioned.
My main idea came from watching the movie “Broadway Melody of 1929”. There is one scene where the two sisters, placed by Bessie Love and Anita Page, quickly (and shockingly) undress in public hall down to tap pants and tank top so they can try out for a part in a dance scene. I find it amazing – how skimpy for early talkies, but so modern for us!
I tried to emulate the “Broadway Melody of 1929” movie look in my pictures. Believe me, I am not so keen on the idea of posing in something that gets worn under clothes. In the spirit of being historical and thinking of this as a sort of “dance” outfit, my new silk tap pants do feel quite fun.
Unlike the 30’s style tap pants I made Spring of last year (click here for link), these refashioned tap pants have the gathered waist and tighter fit like the black ones worn in the movie picture above right. Getting this snug is all that my bum could manage…if the camisole was any smaller my re-invention would not have worked. Talk about a close call!
To get a waistline, I cut across the top of the camisole, above the bust line, leaving the sides under the armpit intact. I basically only took off 4 small triangles under the spots where the shoulder straps join at the front and at the back. Then I also cut off the two straps hanging from the center bust closure and sewed up the entire front of the lace where the front was open. Now there was one solid front and back.
My biggest problem was how to get rid of (decrease) the excess bust gathers from the camisole front. Darts? Small tucks? The right idea came to me when thinking, “what vintage sewing ways were used to gather in excess fabric above/below where it poufs out?” I looked at my old early 30’s patterns in my file cabinets, and thought of shirring. See my back picture below right. Doing the shirring was very fun, different, and not as hard as I expected, just a bit challenging. Besides, doing this shirring gives me practice before I intend to do it on some really good fabric or on a bigger project. I didn’t even have any glitches doing the shirring, but I did realize the importance of doing the rows of stitching and gathering straight and even. I didn’t bother to pre-mark or measure my shirring rows, as I considered these tap pants an experiment to be worn under clothes.
The waistline edge had been folded under inside and covered by sewing down a skinny strip of bias tape. Since the area below the rows of shirring gave the perfect spot of generous room for my behind, I chose that for the back of my tap pants and made an opening in the side front of the waist casing for the tie. The tie running through the waist casing also re-used, made from the two ties that had been hanging at the front of the camisole, tacked together, and made into one long waist cincher.
Just to make bathroom trips not as much of a hassle, I opted to install a few inches of snap tape horizontally along the center hem to form the crouch of my tap pants. Yes, kind of like an infant onesie (I guess as a parent of a little one, the idea for this closure is second nature). I can’t find out how authentic to the 20’s this crouch closure may be, but, hey, they had snaps then, so let’s say I’m an innovative woman. The snap closure gives me a tad bit more room than if I were to have sewn together the two bottom seams.
With such a snug fit and the shirring and snaps and everything you might think these aren’t that comfy and why wear them? Well, actually you would not believe how comfy a well washed silk can be on a bottom, and they do make the perfect solution to any of my dark, shorter skirts and dresses.
Wearing tap pants does give a girl a sort of freedom. A gal can still wear her feminine skirts and swishy dresses, but with tap pants underneath you can still be active and have all the fun possible while feeling incredibly fancy. When it comes down to it, though, I find it hard to wear something meant to do dance routines in and not feel like kicking up my feet and dancing.
One last word…only recently did I get around to completely making these tap pants my very own with some hand stitched monogramming. I drew out three different letter styles that suited the era and my taste, too. As you can see, I picked the Art Deco letters ‘K’ and ‘B’, sewing to the left front side. I think I’ll save the Art Nouveau and Moderne letters for another monogram, perhaps.