How’s tricks, dames?
I’m extremely excited to fully share this year’s 1920’s dress for the Gatsby Summer Afternoon. I’ve been sharing my progress in making this dress on Instagram and it was a labor of love. The Gatsby Summer Afternoon is an Art Deco picnic held at the Dunsmuir-Hellman Mansion in Oakland, CA every September. I usually combine my outfit post with my picnic and the rest of my photos from the event, but as this year would be a bit too much, I’m splitting the posts up. I will also share a post on how I made my hat, which is an upcycled straw hat with vintage millinery flowers.
This project started with this pattern. I hadn’t decided on a pattern for my dress yet until my mother-in-law offered to lend me this vintage 1930 pattern in her collection. I was considering buying a vintage 20’s pattern already, and I loved the details of this one, so I decided to make it.
This pattern features the 1930’s column silhouette with a slim-fitting hip. I could see from the line drawings that with a little tweaking, that I could make it into more of a late-20’s chemise dress.
I started the process by sketching my dress out in my Cashmerette Curvy Sketchbook. The design is a little different from the finished project as the artwork on the pattern is not the same as the front yoke/sleeve pattern pieces. Sketching it out helped to figure out the placement of the silk flowers that I planned to make, which I actually worked on before I started on my dress.
I traced the pattern out first and then graded it up using the slash and spread method. This pattern is a bust 32″, which I re-sized to a bust 48″. The pattern did come in my size, but unfortunately I didn’t have that size — I was lucky to have this one! I widened the hip of the pattern after I re-sized it and then cut out and sewed a muslin. I don’t often make a muslin of a pattern, but when it’s a vintage pattern that I have to re-size quite a bit, I definitely need to make one. I had to slash and spread starting at the waist again, as I was having some fabric pooling on the back and I needed the dress to skim my body more. I also had to fix the neckline as it was a little distorted from the grading. I did a lot of comparisons between the line drawings, the artwork, the original pattern pieces and my traced/muslined pieces to ensure that I didn’t alter the design. It was a little perplexing — especially after finding a photo from the original 1930 pattern catalog — as the artwork on the yoke and sleeve looks different than the actual pattern piece and I wondered what I did wrong. The McCall’s artist apparently took a little artistic license.
I worked on the ribbon flowers first, using the book The Artful Ribbon by Candace Kling. I read five ribbon embroidery books and found that one to be best. I chose my favorite flower — pansies — and used both the tutorial for those and the one for making the 1920’s leaf. I used hanah silk ribbons in varying widths from Britex Fabrics. The ribbons actually cost more than my dress fabric….. The flowers are sewn on to crinoline, which is then cut and sewn on to my dress. I used DMC embroidery floss for the “vines” (I took artistic license as pansies do not have vines…) or long stems instead of ribbon as I didn’t have enough ribbon for it.
My dress is made of silk crepe de chine in a muted 1920’s green that I purchased from Fabric Mart. I’m not exactly certain what this color would have been called in the 20’s, but it perfectly matches many vintage dresses I’ve seen in the same shade. Sage perhaps? I picked the colors of my flowers to contrast with the green of my dress as in the 20’s they liked to use colors across the color wheel together.
This is the oldest vintage pattern that I’ve sewn, but it was printed, so that made things a little easier. However, there were no instructions, so I had to figure out how to sew it myself. Thankfully I was familiar with most of the construction techniques used in this dress. This pattern did have instructions on how to alter it to fit, so that was interesting to see.
If you noticed, there is also added feature of my dress with gathers on the shoulders. I didn’t stabilize the v-neckline soon enough and it stretched on the bias, distorting it and it didn’t lie flat. I had sewn the shoulders together with French seams and finished the neckline with self fabric bias binding, so I fixed it by adding a “design detail.” I need to remember in the future to stabilize such things ASAP!
I had never sewn M-Pleats before, and as I previously stated, there were no instructions, just stitching and folding line guides on the pattern pieces. I had to figure them out myself, and sewing them was a longer process than sewing this dress together. I moved the pleat insertion position to suit the width that I added the hip and also changed their position to ensure that they hit me in the right spot, lining up with the points on the yoke.
The one thing that I don’t like about my dress is the length. I intended it to be longer, but I had to cut off some of the length as the insertion piece for the M-pleats ended up being shorter when I sewed it in. I measured this dress to ensure that the hem was even and straight, but sometimes it seems to come up on the sides of the skirt. I think that’s due to the armscyes pulling a bit as I should have enlarged them a little more, which is something I can still do to it. Anyway, due to the length I couldn’t wear my stockings as they showed and as I didn’t try them on with my dress during my “rehearsal”, I didn’t know until I got to the event (I changed there) that didn’t work. And as I’m not a flapper, I didn’t want my knees showing above my stockings.
As I mentioned before, this dress has French seams and I made bias tape for the neckline and armhole binding. I used Hug Snug rayon seam binding as hem tape for the skirt.
I made a slip to wear under this dress using Vintage Vogue 2535, a 1928 re-issue. This is the third time I’ve used this slip pattern. This time I sewed it out of cotton voile and altered the neckline to work with my dress. I used vintage lace inserted on the neckline to add more vintage details to this otherwise plain slip.
I made a matching purse for my outfit. I had made these ribbon pansies (they are on the front and back) originally to go above the M-pleats on my dress, but when I pinned them on with the other flowers, I decided that they were a bit too much, so I used them to adorn my purse. I think the single pansy above each pleat with leaves and embroidery look better and complete the dress.
My purse is self-drafted using the same method that I outlined in a previous tutorial. It’s lined with the same voile from my slip and has Czechoslovakian glass seed beads beaded around the frame.
These are the last minute garters that I made and didn’t wear.
I also made a boutonniere for my husband. He’s wearing a vintage 1920’s silk foulard tie.
We took these photos with the columns at the dilapidated ruins of the pool and pool house at the Dunsmuir mansion. I wish I had pool ruins on our ranch to take photos at. 🙂
I guess I could have tried drafting a dress similar to this myself using my sloper, but as much as I enjoy collecting vintage patterns, I enjoy sewing them much more. Using a vintage pattern for a project is a wonderful thing as it’s like creating something from history.
- Dress: Vintage McCall 6078 (circa 1930) in silk crepe de chine, made by me
- Slip: Vogue 2535 (1928 re-issue) in cotton voile, made by me
- Shoes: Aerosoles “Marine Corps”
- Necklace: Vintage 1920’s/30’s
- Earrings: Vintage 1920’s
- Purse: Self-drafted in silk crepe de chine, made by me
- Parasol: Vintage 1920’s