Making a 1920s One Hour Dress

I meant to make myself a 1920s dress last year (2020) since it was the centennial of that glorious decade, but that didn’t happen for various reasons. But you know what, 2021 is the centennial of 1921, and I still wanted a dress from this era. So I made one.

I had bought 2 1/2 yards of this beautiful rust-coloured rayon in my bulk fabric purchase early this year. I took my measurements and followed the Closet Historian’s extensive tutorial to create my pattern and dress (patterning, cutting and sewing, sewing and finishing, hip fullness, variations). I planned to use French Seams throughout. Since my fabric was 60″ wide I was able to fold it in half selvedge to selvedge and use 1 1/4 yards of fabric, leaving over 1 yard to use in another garment down the road (I originally bought this rayon to make a blouse).

With my pattern ready I drew cutting and seam lines on my fabric and made the few cuts necessary. This was stressful, since rayon is shifty and I hadn’t made a muslin. I was surprised at how little fabric waste there was after cutting.

With my fabric cut I sewed the side seams and lower sleeve seams. Next I pleated the extra material at the sides and finished these pleats off internally with a bit of lace from my stash. Then I sewed the shoulder seams.

At this point my garment was almost done, but I wanted to try it on before finalizing the dress. I’m glad I did this, because I needed to remove an inch from the shoulder seam to prevent wrinkling around my hips. I also took this opportunity to draw in my neckline. With the fitting done, I re-worked the shoulder seams, cut out the neckline, and started on the finishing.

The skirt hem, sleeve hems, and neck opening are all finished with a simple double-turn hem (although this was a bit tricky at the neck because of the French Seams at the shoulder. I considered finishing these edges by hand, but I don’t mind the machine stitches showing since this is not meant to be a couture garment.

The final touch was to sew up a coordinating belt. I had a tiny bit of fabric left over from the clutch I made for my wedding, so I cut that into a belt-y shape, sewed around the the edges, turned it out, ironed, and top-stitched the opening closed. It turned out quite a bit shorter than I wanted, but it makes a very cute bow when tied at the hip.

I love the colour and the movement of this fabric and I love how the dress turned out! The idea of 1920s fashion has been tantalizing me for a while, but I was always afraid it would be unflattering on me because of my pear-shaped body. The Closet Historian helped me have confidence that I could look lovely in these styles, too. The secret is to pattern the dress for the body you have. I have made a ’20s slip which I will go into in another post, and I may make some other period undergarments to go with this dress eventually as well.

One other thing I like about this dress: If I wear it with a belt at the waist it has a 1930s vibe. So I basically get two decades with one dress!

What styles or decades have you been wanting to try, but have been too intimidated to make the plunge?