I did some research online to have a look at what I might make. The only thing I always kept at the back of my mind was to make something real to the time, not something hyped up and costume-y. So many fancy dress stores make a typical flapper dresses with fringing and stretch sequin fabric which doesn’t entirely reflect the clothing of the day. You only need to watch Downton Abbey or Boardwalk Empire to see that. I know my dress would have to have a drop waist. Outfits of the 1920’s were rarely showy and tight. I had read about Decades of Style patterns on blogs before and decided to see what they might have for 1920’s dresses. Most of the reproduction patterns from the main pattern companies don’t go much earlier than 1940’s and I didn’t want to draft the outfit as well as make it, I just didn’t have the time. As luck would have it I went onto Decades of Style website and they not only had a pattern I liked but it was 20% off – result! I opted for 1925 Zig Zag dress as I just loved the zig-zag skirt bottom.
I bought a black silk satin for the skirt bottom of the dress and a black silk for the bodice. Both were lightweight slippery fabrics so I was pretty apprehensive going into the construction of the dress. I bought a gold trim and gold and black beads for the bodice embellishment from the Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair that came into town early June. I opted for black and gold colours only to be used throughout. The pattern itself is printed onto a thicker white paper (like Burda patterns) so you could choose to trace it onto tracing paper or cut it directly. I opted for the easy quicker option and just cut it out from the packet. The eight gore skirt eats up a lot of fabric and was tricky to cut out so I made an effort not to rush like I normally tend to. It was hard to slow down! I ended up needing 2 metres of the silk satin for the skirt and about 1m for the bodice. I made the long tie in the silk satin so it stood out more from the bodice.
I would say that the construction of this dress was probably one of the hardest I have done lately. I did struggle a bit with the instructions as they are light on. Thankfully being a dress without too many elements you can use your intuition when you get stuck with the instructions. One thing to note is that there isn’t pattern pieces for the bias binding you sew onto the shoulder and neck seams on the sleeveless version, so you need to cut that out yourself. I just used a chalk marker and ruler and created lines on the bias of my fabric and then cut out strips long enough for each sleeve and neckline. I did have a WTF? moment when I was looking at how to attach the skirt bottom to the bodice. I think it was mainly because the reality dawned on me that I would have to baste (and baste) to attach the skirt as it needs be sewed on top of the bodice. Due to the nature of my fabric, after I had sewed all the eight gores together I then ironed and hand basted down the 1cm seams of the zig-zags to ensure they looked right and didn’t lose their shape. I then basted again to attach the skirt bottom to the bodice. So be prepared for lots of basting but worth it to ensure you get the zig-zags sitting flush onto the bodice and fitting just right. There was further challenge when hemming the skirt to make sure it’s right and I think I got about 95% there. Not a bad effort given it is only me, myself and I who can check the hem.
Close up of the shoulder rouching
To finish off the dress I opted to do some embellishment much like what I saw on a dress worn by Mary in Downton Abbey. I had filed it away in the back of my mind after watching Season 3 and opted to give it a go. I hand beaded (yes, I got through a lot of TV doing this) rows of black and gold beading to sit under the arm holes and along the neckline. I was conscious of not having too much beading but just enough to give the dress a lift. I think it did the trick and I love wearing it with the beads moving and sparkling as you walk.
Last week I went to the wrap up party for the competition at the store. I didn’t walk away with the prize but I am still glad I entered. I learnt some sewing techniques I had never done before & got to chat to like-minded sewing enthusiasts. Not something I often get the chance to do!