This Halloween I decided to try out a few of my 1920s McCall’s designer patterns. I pulled four patterns to make for me and Naomi: one dress and simple piece of outerwear each. We thought going with a hybrid flapper/vampire theme would make things more interesting. We were also inspired by the Twenties incarnations of Lorena and Bill in True Blood. All four patterns are from 1926—coincidentally the year of Bill and Lorena’s Prohibition-era partying in the HBO series.
Because I was working to a deadline I made minimal alterations to the four patterns—none at all to the outerwear. For the most part, I also had to forgo period-appropriate touches like bias bindings in favour of drafted facings. In the end the outerwear wasn’t ready in time for Halloween (note to self: start in August) but I did have it finished for our photo shoots…
Naomi’s dress is made from McCall 4457, a Jean Patou design for a lace-embellished slip-on dress.
Here is the pattern illustration for McCall 4457 in the McCall Quarterly for Summer 1926. All four patterns are in the summer Quarterly, so I suppose that makes our ensembles extra-authentic…
The dress features geometric seaming detail at the hip and small of the back, where small pleats radiate from a pointed inset. The skirt is very full in the back, and the pattern layout calls for piecing, but I just got a little more fabric.
I made the dress up in grey satin-backed crepe with black lace trim. The pattern calls for 3.5″ lace, but we used 2.5″ lace instead. Luckily Naomi is basically a 1920s size 14, so the only adjustment I made was to slash for the next hip size up. Normally I would shorten the waist for her, and I started to make this adjustment to the pattern pieces before I realized they were the correct length. Maybe vintage Misses’ and Juniors’ sizes are good for petites?
The dress went together beautifully. I needed to even out the pleat markings, but that may have been due to my tracing job, not the pattern. Even the points weren’t too difficult once I created my own markings as a guide. Here’s the dress on the hanger:
Here are a couple midnight photos of Naomi in the dress:
The lace was a last-minute addition. I forgot to transfer the appropriate markings, so I reconstructed the shape of the V-shaped front lace section after the fact. And I now understand why you can buy collar-shaped lace pieces—it was a challenge working the lace around the back neckline. The faced hem the pattern called for was also new to me, but I liked how it was a pretty straightforward solution to the problem of hemming circular skirt sections. (Right now the hem is still just tacked up.)
I’m particularly happy with the Deco back detail:
Sewing this 1920s dress was a really different experience. Naomi said she felt like she was wearing a time capsule when she tried on the muslin, and while we were out someone asked whether her dress was vintage! What we both like best about the design is the contrast between the dress’ simple, geometric lines and the lace detail. That tension between old and new (tradition and modernity?) seems to situate the dress right in the mid-1920s.
(Cross-posted to Sew Retro.)
Next: Naomi’s 1920s cape.