Mini-project: 1922 Silk Frock

The portrait! I am so happy with it.

The bulk of this was a one-night project; I found inspiration around 10pm and finished most of the work by 5am. It’s not quite complete yet, but I had to get a portrait ASAP and didn’t know how fast I’d be able to finish the rest of the work.

I’ve been handling and patterning (and hopefully, eventually reproducing) several antique ’20s gowns as part of my graduate work lately, so even though 1920s hasn’t been on my to-do list I had it on the brain.

(Accordingly, I didn’t really look at any inspirations before the project; I had enough rolling around in my head already!)

I combined aspects from a few different patterns I found online, including Festive Attyre’s One Hour Dress layout, to achieve a smooth front and a slight robe-en-style effect at the hips.

The fabric I used was silk taffeta in two colors (olive and champagne) and I had a yard of each – there’s some of both left over. I gave myself about 50″ of room at the hips (mine are 45″) and calculated for about a 70″ hem, which was held up by the extants over on my hem circumference resource. I wondered midway through if I should have subtracted a little at the hips, but when I pinned it off, the back started to break very awkwardly at over my butt. (Truly, ’20s styles are not meant for the unevenly curvy.) So I left the space in….

(I also tried to make a belt, but abandoned it when it did similarly horrible things, and no, I am not wearing any sort of accurate undergarments. This was quite spur-of-the-moment.)

I chose a blocky geometric pattern for detail, and incorporated it in two ways: a gold bugle-beaded pattern around the neckline (which I’d like to continue on the back – it’s only on the front at the moment) and square appliqués of the ivory color at the ends of the sleeves. (I’d also like to continue with those and put them vertically down the edges of the central green panel on the skirt.)

The torso pieces are the same back to front save the neckline depth. The sleeves are a slight dolman and then there are two stripes that I pieced in (there is also an actual bit of piecing that you can see on that rightmost picture on the proper left sleeve…). I had guessed at the measurement based on a shift that I have and underestimated what I needed to be comfortable, so I ended up adding gussets to the underarms. It’s very comfortable now!

I could also get it over my head as-is when I tested, but felt that another inch or two of room would be nice so that I wouldn’t need to worry about smearing makeup. So there’s a slight opening on the proper left shoulder by the neckline, and I installed a single snap to close it.

On top of the extra appliqué work, I still need to hem it. Oops.

Actual 1922-23 styles:

This is completely the opposite of what I would do normally, or indeed what I encourage doing, but I went and looked for inspiration images after I made the thing, just to justify to myself that what I had come up with was reasonable. (Oops.)

Taffeta is not that common as a dress fabric in the ’20s, but it does appear! Geometric figuring and trims was also quite popular given the whole Art Deco movement. My skirt length and sleeve length pan out, as well as collar opening.

For makeup and hair I went for a Clara Bow look, and I’m decently happy with it! I really like my neckline and sleeve details in these portraits.

I’ll try to update this post with the final product once it’s done. Hopefully this spurt of motivation will continue to bless me!

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