1919-20 Madeleine Vionnet Handkerchief Dress (Japanese Bunka Book pattern #3)

By on September 18, 2014

vionnet3-19I’m back with another Vionnet dress! This time it is pattern #3 from the Japanese Bunka Book, but actually has quite the presence already online as I found an existing tutorial here. The dress is from around 1919-1920 and is made of four squarish pieces of fabric which give you four “flaps” (or jabots I think is the official term) on each side of your body, a deep V neck on the front and back, twisted shoulder straps, and a sash to tie it all together.

vionnet3-30These post it notes should give you a clearer idea about this dress’ construction as it is a bit difficult to explain. The creases represent the side seams and the mini diamond in the front represents the “ripple” that forms from each flap on each side.

vionnet3-11A photo of the real dress opened up – does the paper model make more sense now?

vionnet3-15The beautiful thing about this dess is that although it is 1 pattern, 1 dress, it has a ton of different ways of wearing it. You can do a drop waist, an empire waist, a full front, a full back, a voluminous version, a halter neck version, etc…  In this particular version I made all the flaps point toward the back to create a ton of ripples and more volume in the back. It’s a really simple dress to sew as there are 6 seams total (4 sides, 2 shoulder) BUT it is not so fun to hem as you have 4 giant squares. This was a muslin so I did a shoddy job of hemming, but for a real version I would need to be a master of the narrow hem since both the wrong sides and right sides of the fabric are featured in this dress.

vionnet3-23 I’ve written more about the different variations and construction technique for the dress on my blog here, as well as more photographs if you interested: http://cathywu.com/journal/kalali/2014/09/18/vionnet-dress-pattern-3-1919-1920-handkerchief-dress/


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20-minute 1920s dress

By on May 19, 2012

Hi everyone.  I’m Kass.  I’m new to We Sew Retro.  This is my first time posting.  I hope I can add something to the wonderful mix you have here.

I am the patternmaker at Reconstructing History patterns.  But this post isn’t about one of our patterns.  It’s about making a retro dress without a pattern.

I know!  Crazy, right?  A patternmaker who’s not pimping her patterns.  Unheard of!

Well, everybody’s gotta take a day off sometime.  =)

I hope you like it:

The 20-minute 1920s Dress

You’ve all heard about the 1-hour dress, right?

Well, today I’m going to show you how to make the 20-minute dress.

Impossible? Not hardly!

At the risk of sounding like a commercial for Ronco:  You too can make a gorgeous 1910s evening or party dress in 20 minutes, start to finish.  And by “finish”, I mean done, in the can, ready to wear.  No finishing work required!

This is a design by Madeleine Vionnet from 1919. Vionnet was a master of drape, and this dress (also known as The Jabot Dress or Handkerchief Dress because of its distinctive handkerchief decoration) was one of her favourite designs. It was part of her collection for years to come and it was copied by many other designers and pattern makers.

You need:

Lay one of your square scarves directly on top of another, wrong sides to wrong sides. The right side of the top scarf should be facing up.
Pin the top scarf to the bottom scarf along a diagonal line running from approximately 11″ from top corner to 8″ from the bottom corner (the path of the pins is shown by the position of the rulers)
Open up the scarves on their non-pinned corner and add another scarf, wrong sides to wrong sides, to the pile. Pin the second and third scarf together as pictured above.
Repeat the pinning process with the fourth scarf.
Repeat once more, pinning the last (fourth) scarf to the first scarf. Your scarves should look like the photo at right: two rows of pins traveling diagonally across the scarves.  (The fabric has been plumped up around the pins to better show their position.)

Pin each of the two adjacent corners to each other, wrong sides to wrong sides, to make the shoulder seams.

Put the dress on your dress form or try it on.  Adjust the pins as necessary at the neckline and armscye.  You can adjust the size of the dress by widening or narrowing the spacing of the pins.  As you can see from the sketch of Vionnet’s original dress above, the dress is meant to hang rather freely from the shoulders.  But you can make it as fitted as you like by playing with the placement of the pins.

I used 35″x 35″ scarves because I measure 42″ from my shoulder ridge to my knees and the diagonal of a 35″x35″ scarf is 49.5″ (hello, Pythagoras!) and that gives me some length to pin at the shoulders and still get a goodly amount below-the-knee for that hankie hem.  You can use any size scarves you want.  The only real requirement is that your scarves be perfectly square.

Sew along the pinline with your needle and thread or sewing machine.

Tip:  These seams are on the bias.  So remember to pull the fabric taut both in front and behind your needle as you sew.  Also, take the time to get your tension dialed in before you sew.  You won’t be sorry!

Add a sash around the hips and you’re done.  (See, it’s already hemmed!)

The 20-minute Vionnet

I dyed mine turquoise blue.

You can completely change the look of the dress by where you tie the scarf. I like it around the waist. Around the hips looks more mid-1920s.

You can read more about this dress and other period fashion ramblings in the RH blog.

Editor’s note: Lots of visitors struggling with these instructions, but thankfully Rebecca has recommended the following more comprehensive tutorial. Thanks Rebecca! 🙂

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