How better to celebrate paschal rebirth than by honoring the 20th century’s first fashion revolution? I’ve been meaning to make a ’20s dress for approximately ever. With Easter Sunday’s forecast in the 80s and humid, I definitely needed something breezier than last year. I started this dress on Holy Saturday (…I know) and finished it at the eleventh hour. I’m not ashamed to admit I attended church with an unfaced neckline.
Which seems totally counterintuitive – you’d think a shift-style dress would take all of, like, forty-five minutes, right? Well, I thought so too. I used one of the “one-hour patterns” popular in the ’20s and repopularized by historical bloggers. Six hours later, I was…almost done. Granted, a lot of that was pinning and laying out the sash edging, which was my own choice. But it turns out that a cut like this, on my particular figure, is actually much harder to perfect than a slimmer ‘40s or ’50s style. To properly skim the hips and thighs, the fabric ends up way too boxy on top. ’20s patterns do not respect the booty.
Part of it, I think, is that the ’40s and ’50s are so unabashed about being heavily stylized. It’s okay to look “too done”, because meticulous attention to detail was in vogue at the time. But the ’20s were largely about countersignaling that kind of effort. Your ideal flapper looks tousled and flowing, like she just threw on any old thing and somehow made it magical. So my ’20s dresses aren’t allowed to show the work I put into them. I have to make the pleats look like they just happened to fall that way, which is a much bigger pain in the ass than just calling a pleat a pleat.
I haven’t found a great solution yet, but – frump and all – I actually really like this dress. It doesn’t match what I’ve been taught to consider flattering, but that’s beside the point: it’s period, and looking period is a much bigger ego boost than looking proportional. A big part of historical costume is learning to be comfortable with weird standards of beauty. You can’t embody, say, an ancient Roman courtesan if you’re hyperfocused on how silly a painted unibrow feels. You can’t pull off Elizabethan if you’re embarrassed to show off your forehead.
My coat and shoes were both delightful thrifted finds. The shoes ($6!) aren’t T-straps, but they matched the dress too perfectly to resist. The coat is actually ’60s, which has never been my favorite era, but the silhouettes have quite a bit in common with the ’20s. At this point, with 1920 almost 100 years ago, it’s easier to style ’60s pieces in a ’20s way than to find authentic antique clothing.
Dress: made by me, inspired by Festive Attyre’s version
Coat: ’60s, thrifted
Hat: ’30s, Barge Canal Market
Everything else: gifted or thrifted