In this post I'll walk you through how I made my Roaring Twenties costume. It was not very difficult because I started with this amazing beaded dress that had a very Twenties feel to it, except that the silhouette of the dress was all wrong. Also, it did not fit me at all (as in I couldn't get it over my rear end without ripping it).
The dress was a floor-length, fitted gown that was meant to cling to the body, with a low back & straps that criss-crossed across the back. The front had a deep v-neck & built-in, padded bra cups.
I neglected to get good pictures of the dress before I altered it, but it looked something like this (on someone who could fit into it):
Obviously it was all wrong for a decade known for a less feminine, decidedly not clingy, silhouette with short hemlines. The style of the day is epitomized in this picture from 1926 of the beautiful actress, Alice Joyce:
From my extensive research on the subject of 1920s fashion, I have learned that the evening gowns of the day usually consisted of a plain slip dress with a sheer overlay (which was often beaded). The original dress that I bought was made of a sheer material onto which all of the beadwork was applied, and the dress was fully lined with peacock blue satin (or something similar). The beaded overlay could easily be detached. That's why I knew that I could make something out of that floor-length evening dress when I saw it hanging on the rack at the vintage store, even though it didn't fit & it was kinda Dynasty-like.
I found this gorgeous vintage slip (circa 1965, I think) at Big Bertha's, another great vintage store in town. This slip did fit me, very well in fact. The slip was meant to be my undergarment for the sheer beaded overlay, but I love it so much that I didn't want to ruin it in the process. I had to design the overlay to be worn as a dress that hung independently from my shoulders, rather than sewn to the slip in any way.
So I had some major reworking to do. The first thing I did was separate the beaded overlay from the lining of the dress. I removed it from the entire column of the dress, but left the extra lining in the bust area intact so that it would not be sheer. I removed the padded bra cups because the 20s were all about minimizing the bust, not enhancing it.
Instead of ripping the seams, I opted to cut the lining away, leaving the seams intact. This left some of the lining material attached to the edges of the sheer overlay material. I did this because I knew the sheer material would be difficult to sew by itself, because it is so delicate & flimsy and frays easily.
Then I ripped open the seams on each side of the beaded overlay. I was left with a front piece and a back piece that were totally separated.
I cut off about 20 inches of the overlay at this point, taking the hemline from floor-length to about knee-length. The beads were tied on with a knot after every second bead, so although tons fell off during the making of this dress, they didn't all just go cascading to the floor when I cut the fabric.
I then used the lining material to make 2 side panels for my new flapper-style dress. Patrick helped me pin the panels in place while I was wearing both the slip and the overlay. I brought the overlay up in the front & back so that it just covered the top edges of the slip (the original dress had a much lower back). We figured out that I could just make the panels the same width all the way down, except for the very top of the dress. The beaded overlay wrapped around me more right under my armpits. We also figured out how much I would need to shorten the original straps of the beaded dress to make the new flapper dress hang the way I wanted it to. I glued the panels in place with Fabri-tac first, because I knew it would be a nightmare trying to sew them in. The glue holding everything in its place made it a lot easier to sew.
Instead of cutting off the straps, I decided to just sew them in place at the correct length, but leave them hanging down the back of the dress. I knotted them for a decorative touch. I liked the way this little detail looked (plus, it saved me a lot of time & work!). Too bad I didn't get a picture of the back of the dress while I was wearing it; would've been easier to see the straps.
That's about it. I shaped up the hem a bit after trying the dress on again over the slip. I cut it a little on the choppy side & made it short enough for that fantastic knife-pleated hemline of the black slip to show through. I left the cut edge raw & just let it fray. The look of the imperfect hem meshed quite nicely with the messy-ish side seams with their visible bits of the original lining. There were lots of beads missing here & there which the perfectionist in me wanted to sew back on, but luckily Patrick saved me from myself & reminded me that it was just a Halloween costume! All in all, I was very happy with how it turned out.
Stay tuned for a post about my hair, makeup & accessories later this week.