The 20s are Back!


Yes I know, it's not 1920, it is 2020! And from the looks of things, fashion this time around won't be nearly as beautiful, luxurious or as interesting as they were the first time around, a century ago. The 1920s was a break from all the uptight, corseted, heavy looks of 19th century. Gone were the bustles; the body jiggled and locks were cut short. Legs were revealed and accentuating all of this... "flapper" dresses that shimmied above bare legs kicking up a storm as they danced the Charleston. SCANDALOUS!!!



Back in the day (100 years ago), the flappers, a generation of young American women known for their energy, freedom and lifestyle--considered by traditionalists as outrageous, immoral and even dangerous--were looked upon in disdain. These were "bad" women who listened to jazz, smoked cigarettes, drank liquor, wore makeup (bright red lipstick in particular). But looking back, you could say they were the first generation of independent women who pushed the boundaries in economics, political and sexual freedom! Nonetheless, the legacy for which they are remembered first and foremost is the fashion they left behind. The flapper dress! Those dresses were like precious jewelry in themselves. They were cut in basic, loose, straight silhouettes with dropped waists and hemlines grazing the knees. The hemlines were usually adorned with trim that moved or swirled about the legs--fringe, small flaps of embroidered fabric, feathers, or asymmetric squares or even handkerchief points. Colors were generally soft in peach or grayed pastel tones when they weren't cut from black translucent fabric. Polishing it all off-- a plethora of headbands, tiaras, opera length gloves, long ropes of beads or faux pearls, a fur wrap or cocoon coat tossed over the shoulders!

Like the research suggests, for this project I have based all looks on a single (easy) pattern. The shift dress. This garment is essentially the sheath dress without the darts. The fabrics are all woven (with the exception of the silver dress) because stretch fabrics like jersey had not yet been invented! Of course when we think 20s, we tend to think "fringe." And while this was an essential part of many styles, I thought it was equally important to incorporate beaded embroidery. (You can always use beaded stickers!)
I draped the sheath dress directly on the doll. Go HERE to see how the basic pattern was created. For Eva's dress, I chose a dévore rayon satin.
1. I made a few changes to my original pattern. First of all I ignore the darts. Secondly, I straightened the line from the hip to the hemline. (The original pattern tapers the dress in for a sleek fit to the doll's body. I leave the curves in at the waistline so that the dress has a wee bit of shape. If not, the dress will tend to look baggy around the waist.
2. Many of the vintage dresses from that era had geometric detailing, particularly around the hemline. This is a simple thing of determining how high you want the wedges to fall on the dress, then placing them mid point on each quarter.

Note: for this dress, I have added fringe. After cutting away the wedges and turning the edges under, I added fringe. If you use commercial trim, the fringe will hang at an angle. So I made my own fringe, cutting each strand from viscose cord. If you cannot find this, you can always buy a long length of fringe and cut them down into 1-1/4" pieces. I made the fringe by first, cutting a 1/2" (1cm) strip of tulle, which I pinned to the underside of the hemline. I lay each piece as a slight angle downwards. In other words, I cheat by adjusting my fringe so that it will hang downwards from the V-shape of the hem. I use a simple glue to hold the strands in place on the tulle. Then I sew the strips of fringed tulle to the hemline of the dress and sew everything together very close to the edge. From the right side of the garment, you can see the desired result. For this dress, I decided to glue on the self adhesive pearls to the dress.



Commercial paillettes work very well with this project as well!
I wanted to do something fairly ornate but very vintage looking for Anna's dress.
Again I started with the shift dress pattern and two layers of black chiffon. Inasmuch as I planned to attach a 2.5 inch piece of trim with long paillettes to the hemline, I shortened the original pattern so that the finished dress would fall to the bottom of the knees. Before sewing the dress together, be sure to embroider it first. For ideas on simply bead embroidery, click HERE. For the face of Anna's dress, I have drawn a simple series of three diamonds down the front. I used a combination of small round beads, baguettes and flat sequins to fill in my design. When it's finished, sew the dress together. (You can add the lining at this point). Afterwards, add the strip of paillettes.

Consider feathers for the hemline!
I admit, I cheated for Veronique's dress. I used a stretch fabric and the basic stretch dress pattern as the base. But do yourself a favor and make it easy on yourself by doing this dress in two parts. The "bodice" is really a short stretch top. I sewed the feathers onto a separate skirt, then tied a scarf around her hips! For tips on sewing feathers onto a base, click HERE.
And of course, Veronique grabbed that beautiful fringed shawl we made last summer! For this and more ideas for working with fringe, click HERE.

This sort of sweet, soft look was also very popular.
Here again, it starts with the basic shift with a series of "handkerchiefs" tacked onto the hemline. I use two layers of peach chiffon.
 1, Here too you should draw a line (in chalk) to indicate where plan to line up the handkerchief points.
2. Cut about 10 squares 1-1/4 inch each of chiffon.
3. Fold each one on the diagonal into a cone. Let the points in the back of the cone cross and tack together. The idea is to force the handkerchiefs to hang the way they would normally on a full scale garment! Sew the dress together at the shoulders and at the side seams, leaving the back seam open.
4-5 Beginning at the front center,  pin each handkerchief to the dress.
6. Adjust everything so that they are equally spaced. Leave one square off (at the back).

7. Cover the top points of the trim with a satin ribbon. Add a bow to the front. (To tie a perfect bow, go HERE.) Now carefully sew the back seam together, being careful not to catch any of the handkerchiefs in the seam.
Helena's accessories are simple. A long scarf (made from the same chiffon as the dress), linen pumps and a crown of salt water pearls on wire for her hair.

 Latoya's dress is made from a pair of lace panties with geometric motifs.

Her dress is in two pieces. The top is a tunic, using the same shift dress pattern. It is open at the back (held together with a single hook and eye at the neck) and worn over a  narrow skirt. What I've done here is to cut the hem away following the lines of the geometric motifs. I added a few sequins on the tunic and highlighted the points with teardrop crystals.
Latoya had a difficult time choosing between the fur stole and the fur trimmed cocoon coat.
I think she's going with this look. If you are so tempted, you can always follow the "Patrick Kelly" Cocoon coat pattern we featured awhile ago and toss a tiny strip of fur around the neck! For the cloche hat, please refer to our felt hat tutorial HERE.

There are other ideas from this blog you can use. Here is a simple "Gatsby" dress. It's really more of a 1960's rendition of a 20's dress. And pretty simple, too! A strapless sheath dress with five rows of silk fringe.

Her headband is a row of blue sequins with a larger paillette over the brow!

Speaking of accessories.... We've said it before... Fashion is the sum of its parts. Aside from long strands of pearls and beads which you can make yourselves, you'll also need to think of opera length gloves and..... headbands!!!
This is simply a tiny strip of ribbon or trim embellished with rhinestones and a tiny piece of marabou feather tucked into the back. I tend to pin it in the back, but for longevity sake, feel free to glue on a bit of velcro where the ends overlap. Unlike the girls in the middle and right hand side, Veronique (left) wears a Barbie tiara to which I have added a couple of rhinestones. Though this one came from an old SIS Barbie, you can find them on EBay for a few dollars.
What's that she's holding?!!! On top, a cigarette holder I made from a toothpick! Snip off one end and glue a tiny piece of aluminum foil to the other. Paint the better part black but leave space to paint the end in white. Take a red marker and add a few dots on the blunt end for the ash! I am amazed how it is just the right size to fit between my dolls minuscule figures!  On the bottom....one of the marabou plumes I took from my bag of feathers is just the right fit for tiny hands.

Oh, but it's not 1920. It's 2020! As such, we have access to materials that allow us to really have fun making a 21st century flapper girl. For Nadja, we started out with a silvery Lurex fabric cut into a halter neck mini dress suspended from a silver wire necklace. Add a couple of rows of metallic fringe, a rhinestone studded (Barbie) tiara) and a long cigarette holder and voila... the 20s are very much alive....again!

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