Vintage Sewing

Need some advice for a flapper dress

July 29, 2009

Hello all! It’s been about a million years since I posted about anything I’ve sewn, retro or otherwise. I have been sewing, though. And I need some help.

I’ve been invited to one of those murder-mystery dinner parties. The theme is 1920s Chicago gangster and my character is a flapper. What would you all recommend as a quick, easy, flapper-esque style dress? I have limited resources as far as going out to the store to buy something and not enough time to order something online. I think I have plenty of fabric and notions but I don’t know where to start with a pattern. I’m thinking a shift or tube dress, but unfortunately there is absolutely no fringe available to me to flapper it up a bit. Does anyone have any suggestions or can point my toward some inspiration? Thank you!

  1. A basic flapper dress is the easiest thing on Earth–it's basically a T-shirt with a skirt attached. Not kidding. I even bought one of those 1924 One Hour dress booklets on eBay, which tell you how to make a dress based on your body measurements, and the results are literally front half, back half, skirt. (There are lots of variants of this idea available for purchase online.)

    Somebody's blog entry.

    Ageless Patterns and Past Patterns also have reproduced 1920's dress patterns.

    And you don't need fringe. Fringe is sort of a flapper stereotype. yes, dresses did have it, but many, many, dresses did not. Beading was very popular, as were geometric patterns.

    A dress like this could be approximated using printed fabric.

    Callot Soeurs, 1924.

    Sylvian 1924-5.

    Chanel jersey dress, ca. 1925. Very modern for the time.

    Lanvin, ca. 1925.

    Orientalist day dress, ca. 1925. I think this might be one of the most beautiful dresses I've ever seen.

    Various Paul Poiret, who created the waistless look.

    Natalia Goncharova, ca. 1925.

  2. I wore an great-aunt's dress to a party once and basically it was a slip with a loose, sheer(chiffon) beaded dress over it. No waist, but an illusion with design of a drop-waist. The sleeves were loose and scarf-like. You probably could do something quick with puff paint and beads or glue and beads. Color on color would hide that it was a costume. My dress was black.

  3. Thanks everyone! T-shirt plus skirt gave me some ideas from materials I have here. If it doesn't look too terrible, I'll post photos after the party.

  4. I think anything shift like with a drop waist should work. Some sort of headband perhaps with a feather and some beads would complete the look. I think I've seen some flappers with a garter around one leg (I think the cliche suggests that is where they keep their pistol).

  5. The first comment is spot on…just make yourself a t-dress and attach a gathered or circle skirt to it at about four inches below your natural waistline.

    One way to "20's it up" would be to add a long string of pearls.

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