Get our early 1920s Day Dress pattern and be dancing the Charleston this weekend!
Based on an original pattern from 1921, this one-piece, mid-calf-length ladies' day dress comes with the typical 1920s dropped waistline and either long or short sleeves. Round neckline and yoked detail make it very attractive. Handkerchief skirt panels can be made in the same fabric or mix and match to suit your fancy.
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We don't just photocopy old patterns and sell them to you. We use the original patterns as a basis. Then we grade the pattern in modern sizes, up to 48" bust and 40" waist, so they'll fit far more sizes than the original patterns ever did. And we don't just stick you with the old vague instructions either. Kass personally goes through each pattern, improving the instructions, modernizing the vocabulary and adding in all those things that the old pattern companies assumed their customers knew. Yet we don't remove the flavour of the original pattern, so you can truly experience using a vintage pattern without all the trouble of resizing and "translating" it.
All sizes (busts 28" to 48") come in the same envelope. Also included are assembly instructions, embellishment suggestions, and the extensive historical notes you've come to expect from Reconstructing History.
Let us help you! At Reconstructing History, we want to see you wearing the best garments you are capable of making. Call us Monday through Friday from 9am until 4pm Eastern Time (or email us at email@example.com) and we will answer any questions you might have.
Fabric Suggestions: printed silk, silk, rayon, faille, novelty cotton, linen, gingham, cotton voile, other dress weights
Notions: buttons for neck closure and sleeve cuffs
Yardage: 4 yards 54" wide
Below is an excerpt from our 1920s historical notes:
Day Dresses in the late 1910s and early 1920s
From the middle of the 19th century, the emphasis of fashion was on the waist. Corsets were employed to make the waistline smaller and crinolines were used to fluff out skirts and increase the visual effect of a tiny waist. Eventually crinolines shifted to the back in the form of bustles and then reduced to mere petticoats under the smooth skirts of the Edwardian period. By the end of the 19th century and the very early years of the 20th, the skirts were no longer large, but the shoulders took their place and were further adorned by shirtwaists with decoration on top of decoration. Marry this to the S-curve corsets that forced the female figure forward and we have a very top-heavy effect occurring in fashion.
By the time of the Great War (World War I), the female silhouette had changed again. Fashions from the Teens were noted for their columnar shape. The columnar shape of the 1910s was profoundly natural compared to the heavilystructured figures of the previous decades. The hourglass-figured women of the previous decade changed their corsets from the Victorian type that made for a small waist to the 1910s version that, like the girdle decades later, slimmed the hips.
After the devastation of the War and the Flu epidemic that followed, social mores changed radically and fashion came to be the outward representation of the far-reachingness of that change. Almost an entire generation of men had been lost and the world was reacting. Servants left their situations and took jobs in factories. Women got the vote and entered the workforce. The restrictive “lady-like” clothing of the Victorian and Edwardian periods were no more.
The tyranny of the corset and wired petticoats had been fading from the fashion scene even before the War. But after it, fashions show a decidedly more natural look. Although corsets were still worn for support, as you can see in the illustration from 1918 above, waistlines were not compressed and skirts fell naturally to the ankles. In the new decade, waistlines were dropped to the level of the hipbones, as seen in the illustration at left from 1921, and the silhouette of women’s fashionable clothing became curveless.
Plain as it may seem in black and white line art, the 1920s were in fact a time of colour and decoration. The surfaces of squarely-cut dresses were encrusted with beading and embroidery. Bright shades were used on different parts of dresses to present a cacophony of colour to the viewer. Fine, flowy fabrics such as georgette and chiffon were employed to make every movement of the wearer attract interest. And wildly printed fabrics didn’t let down the eye.
Fashions of the early 1920s, like those shown in the illustration at left, may seem almost juvenile to modern eyes. But we must remember that fashion was rebelling against the serious, possibly “adult” world that got us into World War I. People had had enough death and destruction. It was a time to throw off one’s cares and live life to the fullest. This devil-may-care feeling is transmitted by the dropped-waist, schoolgirl garments worn at this time. Hats were worn low over the brow and hair was cut short. Skirts rose to mid-calf level, but were minus the pantaloons of children’s outfits in the previous period.
It was not until the middle of the decade that the knee-length “flapper dress” came into fashion. After centuries of women’s dresses covering the shoes, or at least the ankles, the idea that a woman’s knees might show was a shock to all. Even famed risk-taker and fashion designer Coco Chanel thought that a woman’s knees shouldn’t show. (She thought them a particularly unattractive part of the female anatomy.) These short dresses still employed the dropped waist of the earlier part of the decade. But instead of taking elements from children’s clothing, menswear was the inspiration here (also thanks to Coco Chanel). Dress bodices that resembled men’s shirts were worn and skirts often took on fabrics from the haberdashery. Even women’s shoes were modeled vaguely along the lines of men’s footwear.
- Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s Dresses and Their Construction c 1850-1940. 1977: McMillan, London and Basingstoke.
- Blum, Stella. Everyday Fashions of the Twenties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs. 1981: Dover, NY.
- Laubner, Ellie. Fashions of the Roaring ‘20s. 1996: Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, Pennsylvania.
- Payne, Blanche. History of Costume. 1965: Harper Collins, New York.
- Skinner, Tina and Lindy McCord. Flapper Era Fashions from the Roaring ‘20s. 2004: Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, Pennsylvania.
- Waugh, Norah. Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930. 1968: Routledge, New York.
For more, purchase this pattern.
This information © 2012 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History