Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mad or Crafty?

You tell me.

As those of you who sew probably know, from time to time people who have been sewists in their past may occasionally bless you with a some of their old stash. I recently got two boxes of fabric and patterns from the mother of a friend.

I ended up keeping about half of the fabric she gave me. It pains me to get rid of anything sewing related, but I only have so much room for stash, so sacrifices had to be made. A large pile of flannel (Hello Kitty print!) and fleecy knits went to the thrift store. In the remainder are some cute cotton prints and some (more) leopard and some pretty plaid lining that will certainly come in handy.

The patterns she gave me mostly weren’t my style. Lots of yoga pants, sweat pants and elastic waist skirts - really good beginner projects, but nothing I would actually wear. I only ended up keeping two of them.

I know they are not vintage or vintage-repro even vintage-looking patterns. I also know that they are not unusual or interesting in any particular way, but it was their absolute simplicity that caught my eye. I think they could be transformed into cute art deco era day dresses.

I'm usually a 50s/60s kind of girl, style-wise, but sometimes the old costume closet needs a little variety. Besides, you never know when you might need a deco-period dress. I needed one this past September when we attended the Gatsby Summer Afternoon for the first time.

Not being sure exactly what to wear, I did a ton of research in advance of the event. I looked at a zillion old patterns from the 20s and 30s. I searched the web for old photographs, vintage magazine ads, and golden age movie stills. In the end, I cobbled together a passable outfit thanks to local thrift stores and ebay.

Here's my group. We look pretty good except that for some reason my skirt is pulled up above my knees. Whoops!

The conclusion I came to after all of that research and after seeing what people wore to the event was that the dress silhouettes of the mid-late 1920s and early 30s were quite simple. It was really all the little details that made them stylish for that era. If I had a basic dress pattern to use as a sloper (if that’s the right term), couldn’t I use it to create more-or-less appropriate 20s/30s dresses?

I think either one of these patterns would work as a template. (Although, McCalls 8107 might need to be slimmed down a bit at the hip and thigh.) For a 1930s look, I would keep the hem length nearer the ankle and add a belt at the natural waist. With little little voile puff sleeves and a fly-away collar it would look about right. For 1920s I could raise the hem, leave off the sleeves and add a belt below the natural waist.

Here are some drawings to give you an idea of what I'm imagining. I'm no artist so I just traced the pattern images and then scrawled on the little bits of detail. My "sketches" are pretty awful, but at least they give you the basic idea.

So what do you think? It seems like it would be relatively easy to do. One could borrow pieces from other patterns for sleeves and collars, right? Jabots and lace fronts can't be that hard, can they?

With these basic patterns plus the right fabric and the right alterations, I might be able to make it work. It's mad AND crafty. Right? It would be cool to create a dress for this year's Gatsby, and it would be fun to show my friend's mother that I made something with her generous gifts.


  1. Oh - I remember that Gatsby thing! Never went to it, but it looks like so much fun. I wonder if they do anything like that on Long Island... Candice had a 20s/30s style wedding. I have a great pattern for a cloth cloche hat I used... I'll send you a picture.
    Dress patterns from the 20s are the easiest things - they're like boxes with added details. 30s get a little more difficult and look so much better if you lay the fabric out on the bias. But you can totally use those basic dress patterns.

  2. Congratulations to Candice! Thanks for sending those pictures. You guys are so darned cute. Your hat is amazing. I want to try hats...someday.