Monday, June 22, 2020

A 1920's Inspired Silk Dress

For someone who’s not a “pink girl” I sure have fallen into a habit of making fancy pink dresses. First, there’s my pink 1860’s ballgown, made a year and a half ago. Last fall there was my bridesmaid’s dress I made for my brother’s wedding (and still haven’t blogged). Most recently is the 1901 pink evening gown I’m still working on. And then, to top it all off, there’s this 1920’s inspired silk dress I made late last summer.

This particular dress is the result of a pattern test. It was one of the more stressful tests I've been a part of, as the designer was rather particular about certain things. This isn't a bad thing, and I had no conflicts with the designer, she just has a different personality than I prefer to work with when I'm preforming a voluntary service for someone. So, I don't believe I'll test for this designer again in a hurry. However, the pattern is great, and I love my finished dress, so it was a test worth doing.

This is the Jazz Era Dress, designed by Designer Stitch for the December 2019 issue of the Australian vintage magazine Vintage Made

Last July, Ann of Designer Stitch put out a tester call for this dress, sharing pictures of a 1920's dress which the design was based on, along with line drawings of her version of the dress. I jumped on it and applied for the test as soon as I saw the pictures. '20's fashion has been growing on me over the past couple years thanks to Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and Downton Abbey. Thus, even though I knew this pattern wouldn't be exactly accurate to the era (it has an invisible zipper. . .), I was excited to make it and dip my toes into this decade of dress.

This pattern is drafted with multiple different cup sizes, which, of course, made me happy to see! I had to adjust the darts a bit to get the right fit, but this isn't a big deal or an unusual pattern alteration for me. Per the designer's request, I made a couple different mock-ups to make sure the fit and dart placement was just right before cutting into my final fabric. This pattern features both bust darts and waist darts. 1920's bodices weren't usually darted, as they were pretty loose fitting, so I can't say this pattern is historically accurate in that regard. It's a 1920's inspired design which appeals to the modern aesthetic, which is ok and lots of fun! That said, I preferred the look of the bodice without the front waist darts, so when I finally cut into my dress fabric, I eliminated those.

The bodice took some trial and error, but the skirt. Oh, I love this skirt! Three layers of floaty, ethereal, silk chiffon with an asymmetric hem. Just perfect.

As soon as I saw this design, I knew I wanted to make it out of silk. I had multiple different silk remnants in my stash which would work for the bodice, but no silk chiffon for the skirt. So some fabric shopping was required!

After quite a bit of looking online, I found the perfect silk chiffon at Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics. It was tan with textured circles woven into the fabric. It was a great price, interesting, pretty, and I thought it would go perfectly with a pink silk dupioni from my stash. I excitedly ordered enough for all three layers of the skirt! Then I got an email. They didn't have enough of that particular fabric to fill my order. I was disappointed, but decided to take the two yards they did have left of this silk chiffon and ordered plain white crinkle silk chiffon from Fashion Fabric Club to add to it. I figured the white could be tea-dyed to match the tan and used for two layers of the skirt.

After all my fabrics arrived, I cut a few different swatches from the white chiffon to test out my tea dying idea. It worked wonderfully!

After establishing how strong I needed to make the tea and how long I needed to leave the fabric in the tea from my swatches, I made a milk bucket full of black tea on the stove.

I then cut about 4 yards of silk chiffon off the very long piece of fabric I'd acquired from the "Discount" section of Fashion Fabrics Club, and put it in the bucket of tea for a while.

I then let the fabric dry overnight on a rod in the bathroom and the next day I was ready to cut out my dress!

I cut the middle layer of my skirt from the the circled chiffon and the upper and lower layers from  the tea-dyed chiffon as I thought that would give the most visual interest. My crappy roll-hemming also adds some "visual interest", and we'll just pretend that's intentional. . . :)

On it's own silk chiffon is a rather sheer material, but 3 layers is opaque enough I didn't need to add a lining to the skirt.

The bodice is made from a dusty-rose pink silk dupioni. I do love this shade of pink! (Definitely this not-a-pink-girl's favorite pink!) There were multiple remnants and scraps of this fabric in the boxes of material I acquired from my aunt's friend's mom's fabric stash last spring. While there would not have been enough of this fabric for a full dress, there was plenty for a bodice, and I have some left over for a future project as well!

The back of the bodice fastens with a historically inaccurate invisible zipper. (Also from the aunt's friend's mom's stash). As this dress has a slightly dropped waist the zipper does not need to extend into the skirt, making it super easy to install!

I really like the aesthetic of drop-waisted dresses, but I don't generally like how they look on me. Thanks to the fit of this one however, fitted but not tight, I actually really like this dress and have no complaints about how I look in it.

Proper fitting is everything! Even if taking the time to do it is annoying. . .

I wore this dress to see the Downton Abbey movie with some friends when that came out last fall.

I made a slip and a headband to accessorize the dress for the occasion. 

I was most certainly overdressed for the movie theater, and I was good with that.

A couple of weeks ago, I found an excuse to wear the dress again when my family had an Elegant Evening at home.

Elegant Evening is the local homeschool co-op's version of prom. And like everything else, it was canceled this year due to the corona virus. This of course disappointed my sister (The last high school kid left in my family. How did that happen???), who already had her dress bought and everything for the occasion. Thus, my family decided to do Elegant Evening at home. My brother and his wife came, my boyfriend joined us, everyone dressed up, the house got decorated, the dining table got moved out of the way, and we danced and had fun!

I didn't bother with the slip this time, as I didn't find it necessary, but I did wear the headband again, and I added a feather for a little extra embellishment. 

This was the first time I've ever worn a shorter dress to a dance, and it was great! No treading on floor-length hems! I can definitely see myself wearing this dress again in the future if I wind up attending a formal or semi-formal dance!

Meanwhile, perhaps I ought to try my hand at 1920's day wear. And, maybe next time I make a fancy dress, I'll pick a color other than pink!


  1. It’s so pretty! I love your diplomacy in commenting. Sometimes voluntary service can be difficult. All in all though, you look wonderful!

  2. Such an elegant creation from a very intriguing design. I adore the floaty tiers in all their asymmetric glory!
    You also had your birthday dress that was a hot pink! I am a pin k girl who tries to reform, but can't. Perhaps there is just something in a girls heart... However I now enjoy what I call the "adult" pinks more which are the muted and dusty shades. They are so elegant.

  3. Beautiful design and work! thank you for the story about it!