Monday, March 25, 2013

1920's Easter Dresses - Finished!

I finished our Easter Dresses in time to post them in the Facebook group for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #6. There are still a few things I think I will modify before Easter but the dresses are, in essence, done.

It is an odd sensation to dress up a daughter for Easter. It is quite different from dressing up little boys, though I am not quite sure why. While Anne has several lovely (and as of yet unworn) modern dresses that would have worked quite well for Easter I felt that I really wanted to make her a historical dress for her first Easter. 

I haven't made an Easter dress for myself for quite a while. It was fun to put some thought into making my own dress "special". I do not often wear white as it is not a practical color to mother 4 children in but for Easter one can bypass some practicalities and enjoy the frivolity of an impractical dress!  

I made Anne's baby cap to be non-matching, as, in the end, I felt a matching cap would be too costumey. A white cap is much more appropriate for "real" costuming, I think.

I used a white cotton handkerchief that was trimmed with narrow cotton lace for the cap. I cut a full width of it for the brim and put in a few teeny tucks.

The rest of the handkerchief was sufficient to cut a U shaped crown (the lace at the bottom edge). I put two pleats at the back neck for some shaping and added some ties and a little ribbon flower for decoration. Ta da! Very easy since all the edges were already finished for me!

She tried on her dress with a little white ruffled slip, tights, shoes and a modern onesie. I think I'd like to make her some drawers/pantaloons before next Sunday; something to keep her legs a bit warmer and for a bit of prettiness if her dress skirt gets pushed up (as it often does when she is carried around) and so one does not see just tight-clad fat baby legs. 

I am pretty happy with how my dress came out but still want to work on the sash a bit. It is not a tied sash, but rather a belt with separate hanging end "ties". I need to tighten up the belt just a tad and probably sew the ties to the belt somehow so they stay where they are supposed to instead of slipping around. 

I really like the early 20's silhouette. It is easy and comfortable to wear. The skirts are still quite long during this time and the waistline just slightly dropped - the waistline for these years varies quite a bit to almost-normal to the top of the hip. Mine is just about to the top of the hip, but not on the hip. I used my basic 1920's bodice for the bodice, modified for a center front panel and shawl collar, and the skirt is a rectangle pleated at the side fronts and side backs. The sleeves are close fitted short sleeves with a pleated flounce, open at the front arm.

I stayed away from the 20's for so long because I thought I did not have the right figure to wear these styles. I am very hour-glassy in shape which is completely different from the slim, boyish figure so popular during this era. But women of all shapes and sizes existed in the 20's. From looking at family pictures, even, one sees that the motherly, rounded figure was the *norm* among, well, mothers and they still looked graceful and fashionable in attire from the 20's, even though they did not have the flat, bust-and-hip-less figure in vogue at the time. I'm so glad I did end up trying out the 20's. It's fabulous! I think every woman can find a way to make any style work for her, because there is no "one right way". There is lots of variety in every era and I think anyone can find *some* version of their era that will look right and look pretty.

I ought to wear a corset (one similar to my 1910's corset) but I didn't fit the dress to be worn over that, just modern undergarments. I made the bodice to be slightly blousy as was popular then but it is not as flattering to me as a smooth line. So, perhaps someday I will take in the bodice an inch or so on each side so I don't have excess width to blouse up when the belt is worn. For now though, I am not too worried about it.

So below are the summaries for my dress and Anne's dress for the challenge:


The Challenge: Stripes

Fabric: 100% cotton voile with a woven-in stripe

Pattern: I used the Sense and Sensibility Girl's Regency Dress pattern as a base for the bodice. I modified it by redrawing the seams (eliminated curved back seam and eliminated the drop shoulder seam and positioned the seam right on top of the shoulder instead). The skirt was a rectangle and the sleeve ruffles and all other ruffles rectangles. Easy. 

Year: 1922-1924 (early 20's) 

Notions: Thread, snaps.

How historically accurate is it? 

Well, I don't know. It is copied as directly as possible from an original dress that I had only one photo of and could not see details on. So the construction of the dress was guesswork - dresses like this are pretty straightforward, but I do not know if my construction is accurate to the early 20's. The fabric is certainly accurate, the overall shape is accurate and the finished dress looks much like what I envisioned when I started out. The original dress was made for a little girl of a few years old. This dress was made for an 8 month old baby so obviously, that is a difference right there. 

Hours to complete: This took most of 2 days to sew. It was mostly machine sewn so that sped up the construction. Perhaps 8 hours or so?

First worn: Today, to try on. Meant for Easter!

Total cost: The fabric was about $10 for a little over a yard (55" wide). I did not use all the fabric for this dress. I also bought a box of dye since the fabric I bought was bright yellow. The dye was about $1.50. The snaps came from the stash. I did have to buy some thread - another $2. So about $13.50 altogether? The cap was made from a lace trimmed cotton handkerchief that someone gave us ages ago.

The Challenge: Stripes

Fabric: Linen blend with a woven stripe. Off-white in color. Sash, collar and hem are of cream organza. The lace is a heavy cream color (unknown fiber; the lace and organza came from a curtain.) 

Pattern: My own, based on 1920's pattern shapes. The bodice was draped, the skirt is a rectangle pleated to fit and the sleeves are based on similar styles seen in early 20's dress advertisements.

Year: Early 1920's 

Notions: Thread. No fasteners. This is a slip-on style.

How historically accurate is it? 

The materials are dubious, fiber-wise. I pattern shapes are in line with patterns shown in Women's Wear of the 1920's which depict patterns taken from original dresses. Machine stitching. Construction was a guess.

Hours to Complete: Maybe 6. 

First Worn: For pictures. Meant for Easter.

Total Cost: All stash materials! I'm glad to have found a use for the striped linen blend. I've had it for several years and got it second hand; 5 yards of it cost me $1.30. The curtain was free.


  1. Wow--both dresses are beautiful and the photo styling is fabulous!!

    Inspiring work!


  2. Dear Sarah,

    Goodness gracious, didn't every part of what you two are wearing work out beautifully! Your dress looks a dream to wear and her dress is ADORABLE. Of course, she'd be ADORABLE in an old onesie with milk spills down the front, but no matter :}

    What a week is the week before Easter: such anticipation, so many emotions! May it be a good one for you all.



  3. Congrats, m’dear, I’ve awarded you the « Very Inspiring Blogger » award!

  4. Both are very pretty and the baby girl is adorable. The hat is beautiful and certainly the choice of color and material for your suit are a success. Perfect all! Congrats.

  5. Sweet baby girl looks absolutely adorable! Her dress is perfect and the bonnet you made is wonderful. You are so ingenious. Your dress is fabulous as well. Happy Easter to you and your family.

  6. Oh my - you've officially outdone yourself this time, Sarah. The both of you are a gorgeous sight!

  7. How lovely!! I think these two dresses are my favorites so far that I've seen you post on your blog (at least since I've been following the last few months.) The first photograph is so timeless - a great one to blow up and frame. I agree that the 1920s are a bit intimidating if you don't feel you have the right frame, but I agree, too, that women of all shapes existed in the '20s and made the fashions work for them. I think you did a wonderful job and your little girl is just so precious.

    Great work!

  8. Drat! I'm late to the game! I wanted to present you with the Very Inspiring Blogger Award as well!

    The sepia-tone photograph of you and Anne is absolutely breath-taking.

  9. Stunning! Amazing, I love everything about it.

  10. Beautiful, love everything about her dress and white hat.

  11. This is beautiful. I have just come across your blog and am completely new to historical sewing and dressing. How does one find info on where they have balls and re enactments in their area etc? I am in the Tulsa OK area and have searched online and havnt found anything.

  12. Congrats, I've awarded you the "Very Inspiring Blogger" award! greetings marijke

  13. The dresses turned out great. I miss having a baby girl to dress up.

    In the black and white pic (or is it sepia) you look like Margaret from Boardwalk Empire.

  14. Gorgeous! I've just nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger award which I received from American Duchess. You can read more about the award here:

    Happy sewing,


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!