I’m super excited to share this dress! It was a dream of mine to create and I finally got around to putting it on and taking photos of it. I was sewing a red velvet 1920’s coat at the same time as I was sewing this dress and loved how the two paired together. However, I lost my enthusiasm to finish that coat when the weather began to turn warmer, and my beautiful dress stayed on a hanger waiting to be worn. I decided to wear this dress one day to the museum that I volunteer at, and that prompted me to FINALLY take photos of this. Wearing it for a day also helped me confront the feelings I had about wearing it, as once I finished it, I felt that it was too special to be worn as an “everyday” dress. Meaning that it seemed too “antique” and I didn’t want to ruin it…
I had envisioned for some time making a long sleeved Decades of Style Zig Zag dress in wool and wearing it in the winter. I also wanted to embroider it as the drawings on the front of the Decades of Style patterns really inspire me and this one made me want to have embroidered flowers on the sleeves. I really wanted to make this dress in wool crepe, but I don’t want to spend a fortune either, and finding wool crepe for a fair price lately hasn’t been easy. When I ran across a bolt of “vintage 1920’s wool” on eBay, I bid on it, envisioning how great it would be for this dress, but unsure of what type of wool fabric this was as the description was vague. The wool came on it’s original bolt, which was a small handmade wood bolt. The wool had some holes on the fold and some discoloration on the top yardage, but as I had a lot of fabric, I could work around it. The wool is lightweight, but not sheer like voile and was unlike anything I’ve felt or sewn with before. I read about a lot of types of vintage wools and decided that I’d found some sheer wool.
I used the embroidery designs from the Folkwear 1927 Tea Frock (OOP) which worked beautifully for this dress. I thread traced the pattern pieces on to my wool and embroidered the sleeves and the front bodice before cutting them out. I traced the embroidery designs on to water soluble stabilizer, which was my first time working with that. I had been thinking about how I was going to transfer a pattern to black fabric and came across the use of stabilizer, which worked pretty well. It’s clear, so you can easily trace the design. I then basted it on to the fabric and embroidered over it. After I was finished, I ripped off the large pieces and soaked off the rest, leaving the fabric to dry flat on a towel. And then I sewed my dress up! (You can actually see my process of embroidering this dress in the “20’s Embroidery” highlight stories on my Instagram profile)
I chose DMC rayon floss for this project. I usually use cotton floss, so this was my first time embroidering with rayon, which was quite frankly a pain in the ass at first until I learned how to handle it. The rayon floss is slippery and the strands don’t stay together well. I learned that keeping the strands damp as I was embroidering helps a lot to keep the thread together and not to end up with a big jumbled mess. I wasn’t able to do embroidery as clean and neat as I usually do with cotton floss, but I’m pleased with the outcome.
As careful as I was to try to cut around the flaws in the antique fabric, there are still some holes present where the fold of the fabric was. With the two large bodice pieces, it was impossible to miss some of them, so I added more embroidery to both cover the holes and to make certain that the fabric wouldn’t rip. I may just go back and add more if it needs it, but this 90 year old wool is still pretty strong.
My favorite part is the sleeves. I just love sleeve embroidery.
As I mentioned before, I am very influenced by the drawings on Decades of Style patterns. I made flat piping with red cotton lawn and added that to the zig zag gores. I planned on contrast flat piping from the beginning, but thought for a while while I embroidered this dress that it might be a bit “too much” and almost didn’t add it. I certainly am happy that I went with my first instinct and added it.
I sewed French seams into every seam I could and did an overcast stitch on the ones I couldn’t.
As this was initially meant to be an “everyday” type dress, my plan was to curve it in at the waist for less of a dropped waist columnar 1920’s look as dresses with waist definition look better on me. I did grade between sizes from my waist to hip measurements, but didn’t add back darts as I had planned. If I had, I would have had to add a side button placket and opening to be able to get into this dress instead of it being a pullover.
One of my favorite features of this pattern is the tie, and I definitely had to add that. The last time I made this pattern I made a contrast tie, but this time, I used the same black sheer wool. The tie is sewn towards the back of the neckband, near the shoulders.
The flaws on the fabric from the 90 year old crease down the middle that led to fading and holes doesn’t bother me. I think it looks more antique and that I’m wearing an extant 1920’s dress. That’s the reason why that when I finished it, that I didn’t feel that it was a dress I could wear very often as I was afraid of ruining it. However, as I did recently wear this, my feelings have changed and I do feel like I can wear this more often than just for a special outing, but I’m going to take care whilst wearing it. It would be a shame to leave this in my closet.
I am so very happy how this dress turned out It certainly put a smile on my face throughout the making process. I enjoyed (for the most part!) embroidering it and sewing it together and then to see the finished product made me gasp a little. I mean…. I MADE THIS. <3
- Dress: Decades of Style 1920’s Zig Zag dress in antique 1920’s sheer wool, made by me
- Shoes: Aerosoles
- Earrings: vintage 1920’s