Leaves can be the curse or the joy of the season of fall. So also, plaid prints can be the bane or the delight of those who sew and work with fabric. Either way, if you want to move on to other things, both have to dealt with at some point. So why not enjoy leaves and plaid at the same time?
I chose a simple shaped year 1928 Past Patterns reprint to make an earth-toned plaid dress perfect for fall’s transitional weather. The straight lines and simple shaping of a late 20’s dress was also perfect to take the stress out of plaid matching. A giant sycamore tree supplied the leaves to enjoy and an old Art Deco vitrolite decorated building provided the time-rewind backdrop.
FABRIC: My plaid dress fabric is an incredibly lightweight, semi-sheer 100% cotton. The plaid pattern is woven as part of the fabric, which I suppose, combined with the natural cotton content, technically makes it a textile and therefore quite historical. Then, I go and ruin the historical bragging rights of my dress by lining my plaid fabric in a modern 100% cotton broadcloth (although broadcloth isn’t too UN-historical). As you can see, the brown cotton broadcloth also went towards making the side godet/gusset inserts and the necktie. Both fabrics were bought from Hancock Fabrics store.
NOTIONS: I only needed thread, but later on, when I also needed a zipper, that was in my stash too.
PATTERN: A Past Patterns reprint #2792, “Ladies’ and Misses Dress with Kimono Sleeves: Circa 1928-1929″. Simplicity 4365, year 2005, was used for the godets added into the side seams.
TIME TO COMPLETE: My dress was completed on October 13, 2014. I spent maybe 15 hours to finish this project, not too fast but not over long of a time either.
TOTAL COST: The plaid cotton was super cheap on their ‘spot the bolt’ discount – I got everything on the bolt (only 1 yard and 28 inches) at only $2.00 a yard. The brown broadcloth was on sale for $1.99 a yard. Altogether, my total for everything comes to about $10 or less.
The sizing for this pattern showed measurement which were way too large for my size. Naturally, I thought, “o.k, it needs to be graded down”. I was technically right, but boy was I wrong. However, this dress is another happy case of a mistake turning into a ‘design opportunity’, making my project even better than originally imagined.
It seems that 20’s patterns have their own funny way of fitting…like, not at all! No, really, they are based on straight rectangles, with no accounting for the reality of womanly bust/waist curves. This fitting coincides with the ideal shape for the 20’s: a flattened bust and an elongated waist-less silhouette which focuses only on the hips. Fitting was tailored in a unusual, unique, and subtle way that I myself have a hard time attaining in my 20’s projects, especially for my tango knickers. From my experience, a 20’s pattern technically needs to be a size or two too large for you to fit…I am not joking. I have a few late 20’s original McCall patterns, and they fit the same way – if you make sure the bust fits, then the rest of the dress (outfit) won’t fit, and it’s not just because of my hips. Women are naturally hip dominant. That being said, 1920’s patterns run tight in the hips, large in the bust, so you naturally have to go up in the era’s sizing. Then, it might just lay on the body the way it should for the era, as long as you provide the proper 20’s shape underneath. For example, the bust of my finished dress originally did not fit (it was too tight) when worn with a modern brassiere. You have to wear something that flattens or at least offers low support to get the proper 20’s look and fit when you’re lacking period authentic foundation garments.
Even though it was not completely the right move, I am proud at how well I figured the down grading of this 20’s pattern. I divided the amount to take out in two (actually four) increments vertically between the aches of the dropped waist. My picture shows grading for one of the bodice pieces. Look how perfectly rectangular the piece is shaped, like I mentioned above. Actually, grading down gave me just enough room to squeeze in all four pattern pieces into my small cut of plaid fabric. Remember…I was only working with 1 yard and 28 inches of a 45 inch width fabric – yikes! I folded the selvedge edges into the center and was thus able to place all four pieces (a front and back bodice, a front and back skirt) on a fold edge. I would never have thought something like my finished dress could be made from so little fabric.
Here is a pattern which practically had no thorough assembly clarification as do modern instruction sheets. There is merely a short paragraph and a picture or two to guide you, even less than the little that was given for my last Past Pattern, my 1931 dress. As long as you know sewing and construction methods comfortably well, Past Patterns’ 1928 dress pattern should be rather self-explanatory coming together. My method was to prepare both the skirt front and skirt back, as well as the bodice front and bodice back. Next the bodice front was lapped seamed on the skirt front, and the same for the back sections. Next the full front and full back were joined at the shoulder seams so I could do the neckline facing slash and necktie. Finally the side seams were completed last…this was when I tried the dress on myself and realized (oh no) it was way too snug of a fit to be a proper 20’s silhouette.
Ah ha! No sweat – I had the ideal happy solution for the snug fit in my head! Many skirts and dresses between the years 1910 to 1930 used godet inserts, a triangular piece of fabric usually set vertically into the hem of a garment to add fullness. Their use faded somewhat in the 40’s and 50’s, and were mostly forgotten thereafter. See the 1910 ladies walking skirt, this “Stylish Woman of 1928 in Day Dress”, or Eva Dress’ 1930 Dinner Gown, and also my own “The Artist” movie look-alike dress to see uses of godets through the 1910’s to 1930’s. Thus, a godet was the perfect solution in more ways than one to fix the fitting issues of this 1928 dress of mine. The use of the side godets being in the contrast on my dress also lends my dress a sort of “tabard” appearance, another fashion style used intermittently all the way from the Middle Ages into the 50’s and 60’s. (See this 20’s style tabard dress and this 1963 dress for two examples) Beyond all my historical proof, I love the way the brown godets were the model fix for a perfect fit, giving me a graded amount of extra room. I personally think my dress looks better with the contrast godets than if it was without. Between you and I, however, I did opt to add a zipper in the left side for ease of dressing. The zipper is pretty invisible (I think) sandwiched in between the dress and the godet fabric under my arm.
I want to make a point that I found the dress length to be very, very long. I had to make a 5 inch hem to bring it up to a decent 20’s style length. The arched hip/skirt seam seems to fall in the right spot on my body so I really don’t think the dress needs to be shortened from out of the bodice area, just from out of the skirt section itself. There is a blind hem done at the bottom of the skirt to make the large 5 inch turn up invisible.
Using plaid for this Past Pattern makes sewing the dress extremely fun and easy. Folding in the box pleats was merely a matter of matching up lines of the plaid. This minimized the necessity of full chalk markings, which, in the end, saved some time. Now you can see how the dress was quite easy and not too challenging to make, but a tad time consuming at the same time.
My plaid 1928 dress is ridiculously fun and extremely comfy to wear – totally an easy play, shop, work, and general do-it-all in vintage style type of garment. The only thing that stumps me is the decision to tie or not to tie the long neckband. It looks so cute both ways! According to this vintage 1926 magazine ad for a pattern, it looks like ladies wore it both ways. Which way do you like?
There are plenty more pictures, especially some extra detail shots, on my Flickr Seam Racer page. Also, if you’re interested (like me) in some amazing history tidbits, pop on over to ‘History Orb.com’ (link here) to get some ‘wow’ moments as you run through the info.