Finished: Early 1920s Cardigan

Early 1920s outfit

Outfit Details

1920s Burgundy Cardigan – Made by me
Vintage Beret – Had for years
White Cotton Shirt – Next
Black Chiffon Tie – Had for years
1930s Brown Wool Skirt – Made by Me
Edwardian Style Boots – Next

1920s cardigan in burgundy

I call this my Ode to Valentine outfit and those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will probably know what I mean by this after previously reading this post. If you’ve ever seen the wonderful adaptation of Parade’s End then you’ll know about the wonderful Valentine Wannop and her love of menswear as womens wear during the mid to late 1910s.

One thing from this period I’ve wanted to make for a long time is an early 1920s cardigan with big buttons, large patch pockets and a double button belt, very much the sort of thing Miss Wannop would’ve loved. These cardigans are absolutely iconic of this age and you will often see them pop up in period dramas like Downton Abbey and House of Elliot. They weren’t necessarily something that ladies would go out in but instead would wear them around the house for added warmth before central heating became the norm.

I thought this would be a great challenge for my Vintage Pledge as it’s something I’ve never done before and a lot of it would just be guess work because I could not find an original sewing pattern anywhere. It would mean taking a pattern from another era and adapting it to how I want it to look.

1920s Cardigan

My inspiration came from the photo above of a rose wool cardigan made in 1922, which is currently housed within the Walsall Museum collections in Walsall, UK. I like this one because it isn’t knitted (something I cannot do) but rather made in a what looks like wool jersey. I had a couple of metres left of the burgundy fabric I bought from ClothSpot that I used for the burgundy dress in my 1930s photoshoot with Betty Noir Photography and knew it would be perfect for this. It looks and behave very much like a heavy wool crepe but it’s actually a modern polyester mix and has a small amount of stretch to it.

1930s sewing pattern

The pattern I used as a base for my design was the accompanying cardigan on this 1930s Mabs Fashion pattern, the same pattern I used for the aforementioned dress. Being a 1930s cardigan it was a slimmer silhouette than I wanted so I just added about a centimetre around all pattern pieces, making it looser all over. My toile was pretty much spot on once I’d sewn it together. The only adjustment I had to make was where the raglan sleeve met the front body section at the neckline because it gaped a little too much on the V.

It’s actually a really simple and straightforward design, with just two front pieces, a back piece and two raglan sleeves. The only darts on the entire garment are at the back of the cuffs which I think were meant for the buttons on the sleeves on the original design. However, I read and re-read this bit on the instructions and it made no sense to me, so I just sewed them together to create the dart!

1920s cardigan with patch pockets

Both the belt and the patch pockets were a complete guess. The patch pockets I did once the main body of the cardigan had been sewn up and I just cut two rectangle pieces of fabric out in calico and pinned them on. I then kept cutting a bit off each side until I was happy with the look and used these as my template for the real fabric.

The construction of the belt was really simple. I cut two pieces of fabric vaguely the length and width I wanted and then sewed one end into a point. After putting the cardigan on and pinning the belt in place I could tell where the buttons and buttonholes needed to go and I finished off the point at the other end.

The width of the belt was very much based on the size of the buttons that I purchased on Etsy. Their not bakelite, they seem too modern for this, but they pretty much look like it. I’ve got about 15 left over so I can use for them for something else and I’ve always got spares if I loose or break any.

These belts are actually really ingenious. The two buttons are at one end and the buttonholes are at the other, so you hold the end with the buttons in place around your waist and then wrap the end with the buttonholes around to go on top. This construction allows the buttons to be moved slightly more toward the centre of the belt if needed, should the wearer lose weight, to make it tighter.

Side view 1920s cardigan

Raglan sleeve detail

I did so much top-stitching on this that it wore me out, but it saved on the hand stitching of things like hems which I was thankful for. I really think the top-stitching, along with the more casual raglan sleeves, gives it that real sportswear look which was creeping into fashion at this point. It makes it look less formal and much more like something you would slob about in at home. (Not that anyone slobbed in those days!)

Each buttonhole was sewn by hand though, which took forever, but I really wanted it to have a more authentic look than machine stitched ones would give it, so it was worth the hassle. And I think my early 1920s cardigan came together rather well. It’s warm, bright and looks the part, and, of course I can pretend I’m Miss Wannop, which is the most important thing!

Early 1920s outfit

Edwardian boots

I know I haven’t mentioned the rest of the outfit much in this post, but I’m saving the skirt for another one later on because I made that too! However, I will add a little note about the shoes, because I have a habit of forgetting these:

These Edwardian style boots have been in my wardrobe for about 20 years now and I originally bought them from Next, you know, when Next was worth wandering into. At the time they cost me a fortune (I was a student) but I didn’t care, I wore them every day along with floor length skirts and embroidered blouses, pretending I was in an E. M. Forster novel. Now I’m on the hunt for the perfect Edwardian white embroidered dress to wear with them in the summer, so I can relive those days!

Cate

Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. Lover of all things old, lingerie obsessive, crafter and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.

24 Comments

    • Thank you Anthea and coming from such a talented seamstress as yourself that means a lot! xx

  1. You’re looking lovely in that outfit. The cardigan is such a nice colour. And those boots … Oh, and I loved Parade’s End too, and I’m rather proud of the fact that it’s got a Belgian connection. xxx

    • Thank you Ann! Yes, a lot of the filming was done in Belgium, wasn’t it? I believe they actually filmed the scenes of the Western Front in Flanders. xx

  2. Your cardigan is very ’20s looking and very stylish.
    I hadn’t heard of Parade’s End but I read your post and plan to order it – sounds very interesting.

    • Oh do! Although I would recommend reading the book first and then watching the series to really understand the characters to their fullest. x

  3. It looks great , love the belt detail, and is the perfect length on you , intrigued by the baffling cuff darts ! Congrats on a great make , look forward to hearing about your fab skirt

    • Thank you Emma! Yes, the length was more dictated by the amount of fabric I had left but I think I prefer the slightly shorter version to the original 1920s one. x

  4. How lovely this looks! And truly authentic. I always like to see less common creations in the vintage sewing world.

    • Thanks Lauren! I do like to explore things that aren’t the norm and that are a challenge to me. I could easily churn out straight forward vintage dresses but I’d rather push myself, even if it does take longer. xx

  5. This is just amazing. Beautiful and totally era appropriate I love the early 20s and it’s so hard to find anything from that era.

    • Aw, thank you Kate! Yes, I’m so glad that I can make things like this as anything you do find from this era is soooo expensive. It doesn’t stop me looking at them and dreaming! xx

  6. Absolutely beautiful! You beyond, beyond nailed this classic cardigan sweater. What a stylish, sophisticated piece. I’m in love with your whole look here – oversized buttons (a perma-favourite of mine, too) completely included.

    ♥ Jessica

    • Aw, thank you Jessica! I really am so pleased with how it turned out looking exactly as I had imagined. Yes, you can’t beat oversized buttons! xx

  7. You have done a superb job with this Cate, it’s absolutely fantastic! I really love the whole look actually, it’s very flattering but also comfy, practical, cosy – what’s not to love?! I actually looked at sewing patterns in a shop the other day. I am very slowly thinking about getting behind the machine once more… xx

    • Thank you Sarah! Ooo, yes, do it, do it!! And if you have any questions, you know where I am. xx

  8. Hello, just wanted to say how much I love your blog! My friend Bonita of Lavender & Twill recommended it to me and I have just spent the last two hours going back and reading all of your posts. I am a new comer to the 1920s & 30s and I adore all of your outfits and hair posts! I myself wear a lot of vintage reproduction and am disappointed that there is a real shortage of 1920s outer wear on the market, I love that you are able to make your own, this cardigan looks fantastic and warm too!

    • Oh hello! Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I do follow your blog via Bloglovin’ and have been admiring your 1920s and 1930s outfits of late. I particularly loved your 1920s white sailor dress, that’s indeed very swoon-worthy! I totally agree, it is so hard to get hold of original 1920s pieces that are good quality and don’t cost an absolute fortune. Reproduction pieces also seem few and far between which is a shame, but I do know that The House of Foxy is planning to increase their very small 1920s range with some more every day pieces which I cannot wait to see. xx

  9. I really like the fact that your inspiration partly came from a fictional character and then you also made up your pattern to achieve the look that you wanted. That is very talented! The cardigan looks great, it is smart yet looks comfortable. I love the belt and the big buttons.

    • Thank you Kate! It took quite a bit of fiddling about and guess work but I’m so glad it finally turned out how I had it in my head. xx

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