Sunday, 20 January 2013

1920s dresses

I’m busy sewing at present, but what I’m working on may or may not come off, so I don’t want to post about it until I’m sure. So instead I’m posting about my next project, which is a 1920s style dress. This is currently at the ‘research’ stage, which gives me the perfect excuse to drool over lots of gorgeous dresses, and share the images here!

When I say ‘1920s style’ I don’t mean full-skirted dresses like this.

1925 Callot Soeurs dress

I mean the archetypal, straight-up-and-down, beaded ‘flapper’ dress.

Front, side and back views of 1928 silver beaded dress, Alexandre Vassiliev collection

This is beautiful, but it would be impossible for me to replicate all the sequins and beading. Also, I want something which has movement when I dance in it.

1920s fringed and beaded dresses, Alexandre Vassiliev collection

The pink dress has the most amazing long beaded fringe down the front, with three different shades of pink beads, going from pale to dark.

Long, shaded fringing

It was my birthday recently, and I was lucky enough to get the book “Fashion” from my mum and dad. Covering 3,000 years of fashion history, this is definitely a ‘tome’; it is massive, and heavy, and absolutely stuffed with illustrations. Happily for this particular project, it has a whole section on 1920s dresses, including the 1925 Edward Molyneux “Reptile” dress, and a detailed double-page spread of a 1925-28 Reville and Rossiter fringed and tasselled dance dress.

"Reptile" dress

Unfortunately, however beautiful long stands of beading look on a dance dress, they can easily get tangled: I once spent the better part of an entire dance show backstage, trying to untangle another dancer’s long-fringed beaded hip belt! So instead of fringing, I’m looking for something which moves, but won’t get tangled, like this.

Voisin dress, c1925, V&A

The two dresses below have a similar outline to them, with rows of beaded motifs hanging separately from the main dress, and this is the look I’ve decided to go for.

1925 beaded dress, Philadelphia Museum

1920s Paul Poiret dress, Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’ll base the pattern on the 1925 dress in Janet Arnold’s “Patterns of Fashion: Volume 2”, not that there is a lot of complicated pattern drafting involved.

Finally, I also want an Egyptian theme for the dress, partly to go with my Assuit shawl. There was a craze for Egyptian-inspired designs after discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, so this is in keeping with the period.

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