After putting my passion for making clothes aside for a number of years, I launched back into it last year determined to make myself all those early 20th Century pieces that I love but can’t afford. Thankfully, my skills came back in a flash but recently, after joining A Stitching Odyssey’s Vintage Pledge, I decided it was high time to push myself and this outfit, my very first for the pledge, certainly did that.
1920s Style Green Felt Cloche – Darling Daisy Millinery
Black Wool Coat – P’Kai London
1920s Style Onyx and Marcasite Brooch (on coat) – Past Times
Black Faux Fur Collar – Made by Me
Black Leather Gloves – Debenhams
1940s Cordé Handbag – Shepton Mallet Flea Market
1920s Style Mary Jane Shoes – Hotter
1920s Style Silk Blouse – Made by Me
1920s Style Pleated Skirt – Made by Me
Jet Flapper Necklace – Shepton Mallet Flea Market
Earrings – Made by Me
I wanted to create a complete 1920s outfit, although not all made by my fair hands, because often I find I’ll make or buy one piece from a certain era but don’t have anything suitable to go with it, particularly a coat. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve dressed head to toe in 1930s style but then don’t have a 1930s style coat to wear over it, so end up wearing my 1950s Collectif one which ruins the whole look.
So, let’s start with the coat. This is an old favourite of mine that I bought from a St Martin’s Fashion College student who had started his own label P’Kai London. About 10 years ago he was selling his designs at Spitalfields Market and I bought two coats from him, this one and a shorter version in red, and I wear both of them constantly. They both came with a long piece of matching fabric that wraps around the waist very much like a Japanese Obi which cinches you in to create a lovely silhouette. However, I had an epiphany with my long back one that I could remove the belt loops on the sides and wear the coat like a 1920s coat by just adding a brooch where a button would normally be and I think it works rather well.
The brooch I chose it actually a reproduction one in onyx and jet and was created using the original mould from the 1920s. Past Times (who no longer exist) bought the rights to these moulds from the original manufacturer and produced a number of pieces that were almost identical copies of their predecessors. I own a few of these pieces as they really are stunning.
Being rather cold in England at the moment I knew I need a faux fur scarf to wear around my neck but my two lighter colour ones just didn’t go with this outfit. I knew I needed a black one. That was when I spotted Bianca’s DIY Faux Fur Collar tutorial. I remembered I had some black faux fur that I’d never been brave enough to use left over from college and I set about making my own.
The whole collar is made from fabric and notions I already had so it cost me nothing. I used a collar I bought from Oliver Bonas a few years ago which now looks like a dead rat (I don’t wear it anymore!) as a template and cut out the fur and black lining. After sewing it together I added a hook and eye towards the bottom to bring it together. However, once I put it on I knew I needed to make it more of a tippet style, where the ends cross over, so I added a large loop of lining fabric to the underneath of one end so the other end could slip through.
The emerald green cloche hat was made for me by Clare at Daisy Darling Millinery. I’ve admired her work for a few years now but she generally produces her hats in very neutral colours like brown, black and grey. I asked her if she ever did bright colours because I was after a lovely vibrant green cloche and she said she would check with her fabric suppliers. Bingo, they had a bright green! It actually looks a lot lighter in these photos because the light was quite strong the day we took them but I absolutely love it.
Now on to the rest of the outfit. I made both the blouse and skirt and both were a challenge to me for various reasons but I’ll start with the skirt. I’d been wanting to make a black 1920s style skirt for a while but really wasn’t sure what to do. It’s an era I’ve never really explored with my sewing before and the way clothes were cut and made during this time is very different to modern clothing. In a panic I decided to buy the McCall’s M7022 pleated skirt pattern and increase it to a more suitable length for the 20s.
Honestly, now it’s made up I hate everything about it! The fabric was from my huge stash and I believe it’s a cotton twill. It’s way too stiff for this skirt and it ends up sticking out too much. If I was going to attempt it again (which I’m probably not) I’d make it in a much softer wool suiting. The pleats were a nightmare to do because I’d lengthened it and they never really sat in the right place. They would work better if the shape of the skirt was much straighter, whereas this is very A line. I also hate it because it reminds me of gym skirts we used to wear at school!
Next up is my most favourite part of the outfit, the blouse. I bought this beautiful Pre-Raphaelite inspired silk from my favourite fabric shop, ClothSpot (keep an eye out for the next giveaway!) about 5 months ago but I put off doing anything with it because I was terrified to cut it. So, after signing up to the Vintage Pledge I knew that this needed to be one of my first challenges.
The pattern was taken from a very simple boatneck style top I bought in Phase Eight a few years ago, which coincidentally is also in silk, and I just folded it in half and traced around it. I then set about designing the neckline. I knew I wanted a collar but I wanted something that looked very 1920s so decided to make the opening quite wide after seeing this beautiful dress. I also wanted it to have a band around the bottom to create a slightly blouson feel to it and so it would sit perfectly on my hips.
Of course, I made a mock up first before taking the scissors to the fabric but despite my fears this silk was actually a dream to cut out and was relatively easy to sew too. There are a few things that niggle me about it, mainly to do with the band at the bottom, such as the rouleau loops being sewn in the wrong way round so the seam shows, but I was really tired when I did this part. In hindsight I should’ve left it and finished it off when I was feeling a bit more with it but I desperately wanted to wear it to a vintage fair this last weekend.
I bought the buttons whilst at the Shepton Mallet Flea Market for £2.50 and they’re really heavy, probably too heavy for this blouse, but they are also rather old. They’re either glass or jet and have a brass shank on them, so very much the sort of buttons that would’ve been available during the 1920s. I added the three just underneath the neckline for interest as it looked a bit boring without them and then used two more to close the band. I still have three left in case I break any of them.
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with this outfit but I am considering making a different black skirt to go with it, either in wool jersey (now that would be a challenge for me!) or in a wool suiting. However, I won’t be using this pattern again and I’d definitely go for something straighter and more grown up. I loved that I pushed myself to do this outfit despite feeling like I was out of my comfort zone with just about every aspect, but that’s what challenging yourself is all about.