A 1920s Aesthetic for Today

It has been a while since I have posted anything 1920s here!  Unfortunately, part of the reason is not only the fact that the decade’s silhouettes can be hard to love on myself, but also the fact that I want something from that decade to wear today without looking like I am doing historical re-enacting.  It seems to me that something pre-early 1930s can easily be obviously vintage.  I generally love to bring my vintage style into my everyday life and wardrobe in a way that keeps it modernly appealing yet still true to the history of the decade’s fashion.  This is a hard balance to find all the time, which is why you don’t see as much 1920s things in my list of makes…and also why I am posting (with great excitement) about my newest Burda Style dress!

I somehow feel like life is so much more fun, free, and easy in this dress.  There are no closures (zippers, or the like) needed with the bias crossover bodice.  It is a popover dress that is flowing, comfy, unconfining, and freshly different.  I absolutely LOVE the garment make of mine.  It embodies the late 1920s crazed hype that lived life to its fullest – and foresaw many of the modern conveniences (television, computers, etc.).  The late 20’s overdrive (1927 to the crash of 1929) produced both short above-the-knee skirts and many avant-garde inventions that would not been seen for many decades later.

This era of the 20’s had an amazing modernity that I feel has been captured by this dress.  There is a zig-zag print on the skirt to pay homage to the hardened, mathematical form of Art Deco that flourished in the time.  The bodice is a mock-wrap to pay homage to the popular fashions of the few years before (1926 and 1927).  It’s also made from a soft textured gauze which reminds me of the lace, sheer, and interesting fabric bodices of many fashions in the 20’s.  The high-low hem with a fishtail skirt ‘train’ is later, very 1927 to 1929, though (see this post for more info).  All of these years are my favorites to this decade.  So – yes – this dress is a rather accurate combo of everything I love best in the 20’s from an unexpectedly modern source!


FABRIC:  a cotton gauze for the bodice, with a poly blend gabardine for the waist ‘belt’, a poly print lined in cotton muslin for the skirt

PATTERN:  Burda Style #118 “Wrap Dress” from April 2015

NOTIONS:  nothing complicated was needed to finish this – just thread and scraps of interfacing

TIME TO COMPLETE:  maybe 30 plus hours…it was finally finished on May 28, 2018

THE INSIDES:  a combination of French, bias bound, and raw seams

TOTAL COST:  This is a project that spanned 3 years, so I do not remember anymore but I know it didn’t cost much with 1 yard for the bodice, and about 2 yards for the skirt, with only scraps left over from these two projects (here and here) for the contrast belt.

My 20’s style dress project counts for my monthly “Burda Challenge 2018”, my ongoing “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog series, plus the “Sew Together for the Summer of the Wrap Dress” challenge.  Now, you might say this is only a mock wrap and not a proper wrap dress.  Well, yes and no!

The name for the pattern is “Wrap Dress”, for the first thing.  More than that, though, the full ‘lap’, cross-body, tie-on dress that we tend to think as a proper wrap didn’t quite look the same 90 years back.  In the 1920’s, a wrap dress was a garment that was often faking it, with a cross-over bodice, a one-piece skirt, and a sash or tie of some sort on one side to continue the deception.  A mock wrap to us of today was a full wrap dress in the 1920’s.  Not only this, but mock wraps were immensely popular in the decade anyway, even in the blouse or jacket form.

By the next decade of the 1930s, wrap-on dresses were normally a one piece, full tie on garment, closer to what we are used to today, with a caveat.  They were often reversible and considered more of an apron or pinafore like garment meant for housework or grocery errand duty…the hum-drum efforts which only result in sweat and grime appearing on one’s clothes.  Many of these full wrap-on dresses were called “Hooverettes”, after the American president at the time of the Great Depression.  These were like a gloried robe for women to iron easily and look sensibly cute yet incredibly comfy to do all the things that the hard times required of them.  With the rationing of the 1940’s, an easy-to-make full wrap-on dress was glamorized even further to being included as possible for evening looks (with the right fabric).  The 1950s and 60’s widely used wrap dresses with great ingenuity in many of their designs, but Diane Von Furstenberg and the trending Boho Hippy look in the 70’s democratized the wrap dress as we know it today for all shapes, occasions, and materials.  Yet, according to this article, even for Ms. Furstenberg, her early “wrap dresses” started off as a cross-over top paired with a skirt!

Now, for as easy as this dress is to wear and put on, it was one of my most difficult makes, especially among Burda patterns.  As you see the dress now, it is in its re-fashioned form.  Yes, I do re-fashion my own makes…I’ll do whatever it takes to save a project and turn it into something I love!  So, this dress is not the original design – very close but still slightly adapted.  I did make the dress according to the pattern back in 2016 (at left), and it did turn out well after some difficulty with the curved, drop waistband.

However, as nice it looks on the hanger, the final fit on me was less than complimentary.  The gauze had more of a give/stretch than I expected, the dress’ fishtail train hung past the ground on me, and the drop waist back was way below my booty.  I really didn’t like that much of the contrast waistband, after all, too.  I did like the general shape, the colors I chose, and the print/texture combo.  So, the dress had been saved to sit in my “projects half finished” pile (which is quite small, I can brag) for these last two years until I felt I had the right idea of how to re-work it.  No wonder it feels so good to finally wear this!  This dress makes shaking my booty so good looking with such a swishy skirt!

A good drop waist dress should fall (in some small portion) somewhere through the hip area, slightly above the true hip line yet at least 5 inches below the true high waistline.  It technically should not be much below the bend of your body when you sit, from my understanding.  Thus, to ‘fix’ my dress, I figured on leaving the hem alone and making a new straight line (taking out the curved “belt”) across and around the mid-section, parallel to just below the bottom of the front contrast waistband.  I did want to keep a small portion of the contrast “belt” to transition the two fabrics with a solid color and give the appearance of a mock half-belt panel.  It was sure tricky to straighten out the skirt in turn around the back with that amazing bias to the skirt!  In the 1920s, the waistline traveled all over from very low to almost non-existent, but this dress’ waistline is a slightly higher, later in the decade style to match with the skirt.  Otherwise than this re-fashion step, I kept the bodice as it was except for pulling up the shoulder seam slightly.  To keep the full skirt weighted down nicely (so it wouldn’t turn wrong way up like Marilyn Monroe over an air vent) and keep it opaque, I fully lined it.

This dress’ skirt does need a tiny 1/8 inch hem so that it doesn’t get stiffened at all.  At the same time, such a tiny hem on a skirt like this was a major pain.  It might not be immediately obvious, but the length of hemline just seemed to keep going, and going…but all that turns out well in the end is worth it in my opinion.  Do tiny hems wear you out and seem overly tedious like they do for me?

It was entirely my idea to make a long tie piece and stitch it to the left side of the bodice, thereby continuing the mock wrap dress deception!  I especially like how much this little touch adds to the dress.  This is again another true 1920s feature, as most of the era’s mock wraps had ties on the corresponding side to continue the illusory appearance.  To me, the tie also adds a touch of asymmetric that was also so popular in the 1920s.

Somehow it seems so much easier for me to interpret a modern take on the 20’s when I am starting with a pattern from today, versus starting with an old original pattern.  I almost always recommend others to use vintage patterns because I think that they offer so much to learn from and have better details.  However, there are so many modern patterns that have veritable 1920s features if you know what to look for.  This presents two interesting points.

Firstly, here I am saying it’s hard to make an old 20’s pattern look modern, yet I’m also saying that many modern fashions (patterns and ready-to-wear) have very 1920s features.  Perhaps the era between WWI “The Great War” and the Depression of the 1930s has more in common with us of today than we think.  Looking at old fashion plates or extant garments might not make this as obvious as it could be…it just takes the styles of today to give us a new perspective!

Secondly, this proves how important it is to pepper one’s awareness of current styles with a knowledge of fashion history.  A good overall view of the big picture might just be something specific to me as others have told me, but looking around and seeing the beginning of a trend is always a good idea. Actually, style is something that seems to only be recycled over and over again the more one sees.  Besides, often finding the source, or at least seeing the ways a detail is re-interpreted, is fun, interesting, and always worthwhile…not to mention the benefit of giving me more ideas for my projects!  Don’t be afraid to dive into some fashion research next time you start wearing the “newest” thing and find out the reference of where it came from!

A Frustrating 40’s Retro Blouse Pattern

Every so often I happen to pick a pattern to make, only to find it makes me want to throw it in a corner out of exasperation.  As long as this occurs “every so often” I can see it as a challenge and make the best of things.  This subject brings me to admit how a new (as of this spring/summer) Simplicity “Vintage 40’s” blouses pattern was trouble hidden by a very enticing envelope drawing.   1692-Simplicity

Don’t get me wrong – I really like my blouse and have worn it plenty of times already.  It’s just every time I wear it, I am a bit self-conscious that it really looks stupid.  For some strange reason, though, I like it enough to want to wear it and even make the pattern again, in the long sleeve version, with my fore-known adjustments in mind.

It’s actually the perfect easy wear, easy care top to take me through the summer…easy to accessorize and pink to make it girly!

100_1757THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a cotton blend crinkled gauze fabric, which has intermingled stripes of light pink, tan, and coral against a white background.  Not only is this fabric lightweight and cool, but it can never wrinkle (it already is!) and needs no ironing.  I’m considering my fabric free as it has been in my stash as long as I can remember

NOTIONS:  I had the thread, buttons, trim for button loops, and hem tape on hand already; I merely bought a pink zipper  (from Wal-Mart) for the side closure

PATTERN:  Simplicity 1692, originally a year 1944 pattern, re-released 2013, view D (it’s for their 85th Anniversary)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  this blouse took only 3 hours or less, and it was finished on May 18, 2013

100_1662THE INSIDES:  there only the two side seams, well 1 1/2 not counting the zipper, and these were done in French seams.  The French seams seemed like the perfect idea because the gauze fabric seemed fragile and frayed a lot.  However, using that kind of seam made it harder for me to get the right curve for the sleeves, which tend to gather together a bit under my armpit.  Tan colored hem tape covers all other seams: the bottom hem, the sleeve bands, and around the zipper.  See picture above.

When cutting out this pattern, I went down a size for the bust and cut my (apparent) correct size for the waist and hips.  I also simplified the pattern by eliminating those crazy shaped facings and doubling up the blouse instead.  Two of each piece, sewn at the shoulder seams, then stitched right sides together all along the neckline and around the button plackets. I did this exact same thing for my 1940 Bed Sheet Swing Dress.  I had just enough fabric to cut all 4 pieces on the fold, with the selvedges meeting at the center of the width.  Here again, I love the smooth, uncomplicated finishing of doing some patterns this way, especially when it comes to the guarantee of not having to have my project ending up see through;)

My main complaints about this blouse are threesome and are easily fixed with some adjustments to the pattern.

100_1672a1.)  The finished blouse turned out…so…BLOUSY.  Next time I will re-draw the pattern.  I know that ‘poufy’ look is more authentic, but I can only tolerate so much with out feeling like I’m making myself seem bigger than I really am.  A few inches were taken in inside along the bust area and down to where the darts end.  Doing this helped with the fit but I can’t take it in any more, otherwise I pull my blouse out when it’s tucked in a skirt.  This problem has do with number…

2.)  I should have lengthened the blouse so I DON’T have to constantly tuck my blouse in when I’m active.

3.)  The waist and the hips turned out quite snug.  Any tighter and I would have had to grudgingly unpick my stitches.  Luckily, I didn’t have to do this step, but the hips are tight enough to make my side zipper open up as I’m wearing this blouse.  Next time I will either add some inches to the side seams or sew the darts smaller width-wise.

I am proud of the button placket of this blouse.  It’s one of the saving features along with the cute and unusual U-shaped neckline.  I used some buttons from my inherited stash – but only had 4 of the color I liked so I only put in two on each side instead of the three on each side as the pattern directs.

100_1661      It’s funny how I think of button shoulder fashions being primarily a 50’s thing.  Maybe it’s merely because of the button-shouldered “Betty’s Style” 1957 Border Print Dress which I made last year.  This Simplicity 1692 has made me rethink my ideas – I guess I have some past decades mixed up in my head. Nevertheless, in my pictures wearing the white linen skirt, I played with a 50’s style (headband and French twist hair)and I think it turned out.  Maybe with the right hat or a scarf/Victory roll I can make it look more authentic for the 40’s, as it properly should.

Oh well! At least I’m enjoying my blouse.  Playing with fashion while learning from it is quite fun.

100_6298a-compAs you can see, I’ve worn my button-shouldered blouse with a tan skirt and a white skirt.  It also matches with a coral colored linen skirt (as above) and a even dark brown skirt.  Even though this might not be my favorite top, it wins me over with its versatility!