Historical Sew Monthly #2 – 1920’s Navy Silk Dress

Going through my collection of vintage patterns earlier this month (it seems to grow on its own…), I found this cute mid-1920’s pattern that would be perfect for the HSM #2 – Blue Challenge. I knew I wanted to make a casual day dress, and this silhouette evoked the style of some of the Chanel dresses that I have had my eye on for awhile.

blue mccalls

The pattern itself is an early McCall’s printed pattern, so it was really fun to work with. Most of my other patterns from pre-1930s are pre-cut pieces, which can be a little more challenging to work with due to cutting irregularities. The directions weren’t much more detailed than the others, but they did give a really cute guide to seams and seam finishing. From the illustration on the cover of the pattern, I would date it from the early 1920’s, maybe 1924-25?

Initially I wanted to make this out of wool crepe, but couldn’t really find any examples from the time period to support this fabrication. So when I went to the local wool shop (which sadly went out of business before this project was even finished) I bought a navy silk shantung instead. I was only able to find one example of a silk shantung dress from the 1920s, but I was happy to see that it was in a cut very similar to the dress I am working on. If I end up remaking this pattern, I will definitely use this example for embellishment inspiration, it’s so wonderful and reminds me of Sonia Delaunay designs. From looking at examples like these as well as advertisements from the time, I would guess that this style was popular from 1925 to at least 1928, as I can find the most examples of this style from 1927 – 1928.

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(From left: page from Bernard Hewitt catalogue, 1928; Chanel dress, 1927Silk Shantung dress, Metz & Co, 1927-1928)

Some styling inspiration from 1927-1928:

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(Clockwise from Left: Stocking advertisement, 1928Thomas leather oxfords, 1927; La Vie Parisienne, 1927)

And finally, the finished dress! It is constantly snowing here now (I wish I was in Florida with Sophia!), so we had to make do and some of the photos are out of focus.

Blue 2fulll 1

Blue 3

What the item is: Day Dress

The Challenge: #2, Blue

Fabric: Navy Silk Shantung

Pattern: McCall’s 4752

Year: circa 1925-1927

Notions: Only thread! This is a simple pullover dress

How historically accurate is it? I would say 90%, I followed the pattern instructions exactly, but I’m not sure that silk shantung would have been a popular material to use for this kind of dress. Also, I used a junior’s size pattern thinking it fit perfectly considering how short I am, but the sleeves and hem ended up shorter than they should be.

Hours to complete: 4-ish.

First worn: For photos, today!

Total cost: $21 (2 1/2 yds of material at $7/yd)

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #2 Blue 1930s Beach Ensemble

Hi Sophia here,  For the 2nd HSM challenge I decided to make a crazy printed art deco beach ensemble. This was such a fun look to make an wear I got some stares and many complements.

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IMG_0711I started with one of Erin’s vintage patterns for pajamas. I did some minor alterations to make the pants more flattering in the crotch and added cuffs to the bottoms of the pants because they were far to short. I pulled a lot inspiration photos for the styling and bathing suit design. I noticed that many of the women on the beach would wear slightly mismatch prints patterns and colors. I started with the body of the beach PJs and matched a vintage printed scarf with that and then used those colors to shop for my bathing suit and trim fabric for the PJs.


The navy blue bathing suit was really fun to pattern and make at least the 2nd time around the first go around it was so short and wide I accounted for stretch totally wrong. I loved how suits at the time had thin criss crossing straps, although I made the straps out of knit and I wish they were a woven they were stretching throughout the day. If anyone is interested I can post a pattern drafting tutorial it is only 5 pattern pieces and is relatively easy to make.  IMGP0054IMGP0028IMGP0045

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What the item is: 1930s beach ensemble
The Challenge: #2 Blue
Fabric: Beach PJs: white and mint light weight cotton in a decoesque print and a cerulean blue medium weight cotton for trimming. Bathing suit: navy cotton/poly blend ponte knit and white cotton rib knit for binding.
Pattern: Beach PJs vintage french pattern borrowed from Erin. Bathing suit drafted by me.
Year: Early 30s
Notions: Hook and eyes for the pant closure, two vintage celluloid buttons for bathing suit.
How historically accurate is it? The beach pjs are 100% to me they have a hook and eye closure and are 100% cotton. The bathing suit is more like 50% I would say the look and pattern are 100% the sewing and fabric are not. I wanted to use wool knit but I couldn’t find the right kind at our local fabric store and didn’t want to order online without feeling it and making sure it was suitable.
Hours to complete: 2 days for the PJs one day for the bathing suit.
First worn: Yesterday to the beach although it was to cold to go into the water properly.
Total cost: Beach PJs $45 Bathing Suit $20

Challenge 1: Foundations Regency Underpinnings

Sophia here! So for the first HSM challenge of the year I decided to tackle Regency underpinnings. So I have always been very inspired by post revolutionary France and the dramatic impact that it had on fashion. I needed these foundations to build on for the War and Peace challenge later this year. I shot the photos on my lovely friend Victoria.

2009-03-08 19.31.10 copy

The research:


While I was researching I found such a wide variety from this era. It was a major transition from the hard boned stays of the 1700s to the soft corded stays of the early 1800s. I tried to keep these short stays historically plausible but I also wanted them to fit my body type and have decorative corded elements. I would like to change the stays to fan lacing when I can figure it out. (tips anyone?)

The Process:


To start with I made an inner layer out of a light weight cotton it hold the plastic bones in place to be corded around. Then I stitched it to the upper layer starting from the center and working my way outwards. To cord I used 3 strands of light weight cotton yarn used for crocheting.


The gussets in the lining are machine stitched a big no no considering I hand stitched the rest.


I made the busk out of a paint stir stick.


The eyelets were stitched over metal washers to insure security.

The Results:

2009-03-08 19.31.10 copy

2009-03-08 19.32.16 copy

2009-03-08 19.36.12 copy

2009-03-08 19.38.36 copy


The Details
Fabric: Stays: 100% cotton jean outside, 100% cotton broadcloth lining, 100% cotton interlining Chamise: 100% cotton bleached muslin
Pattern: Both pieces were self drafted.
Year: 1800-1815
Notions: Both pieces were sewn with cotton thread and have cotton draw strings. The stays are corded with cotton cording and have a small amount of plastic boning. The busk was made from a wooden paint stirrer stick. I did use metal washers to reenforce the eyelets.
How historically accurate is it? Stays: 90% all visible stitching is hand done. The design is a combination of several examples from the Met. The metal washers and plastic boning take it down a few points. Chamise: 60% they are machine sewn and too short I want to lengthen them with another panel. The pattern is correct.
Hours to complete: Stays: So many that it makes my head spin. Chamise: One afternoon.
First worn: To shoot photos on my model. I’ll probably wear them for the war and peace challenge.
Total cost:Under 50$ some notions were stash and the yardage was under 10$ yrd.

1920-30’s Lingerie Set

Erin here! I was really excited for the first HSM challenge “Foundations”, as I have been making 1920s and 30s dresses for the past year but never had the correct undergarments to wear with them. I bought the book Vintage Lingerie by Jill Salen on a whim a while back, and wanted to recreate a 1920’s bra that was featured in the book.

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The description in the book says that this particular set was made by nuns in Ceylon, and the detail is extraordinary. It’s made in a similar way to the Kestos bra, straps crossing in the back and wrapping around the front, hooking to front buttons for closure.

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This was my first time sewing lingerie, so I drafted this pattern without all the fussy details of the original (though I would love to recreate this set in full one day!) Using the pattern from Vintage Lingerie as a basis was fine for a trial run, but I wish they had given more specifics. I made mine without elastic in the straps, as the author didn’t mention elastic at all in the description, so it’s slippery and impractical when I move around. I’ll definitely be trying this again – with a few little alterations to the shape and changing the back straps to covered elastic. (I apologize for the grainy photos! I was using a phone camera for this post!)

full bra

bra detail 3

This bra was popular into the 1930’s, so I decided to pair it with the whimsical Circular French Knickers that Jeanne of VeraVenus created a wonderful tutorial for. They were super easy to make with this tutorial, and so pretty.

tap pantspanty detail
And finally, though I am a bit camera shy (especially wearing lingerie, on the internet!) I would like to present the final ensemble, worn here with a vintage chenille bathrobe from the same era!
 lingerie set

The Challenge: #1 Foundations

Fabric: Silk Habotai

Pattern: Bra adapted from Vintage Lingerie by Jill Salen, Circular French Knickers from VeraVenus

Year: late 1920s – early 1930s

Notions: hook and eye, two buttons, thread

How historically accurate is it? About 80%, I’m not sure that the fabric is entirely accurate, and unfortunately I made the bra straps to cross in front when I don’t think they are supposed to!

Hours to complete: 4, including drafting the patterns

First worn: For this photo, this morning

Total cost: $1, I got the fabric for free and only paid for the buttons at a local sewing shop

Historical Sew Monthly January Progress

Sophia here! So I have been making slow but fruitful progress on my regency stays. I also plan on making a chamise and stockings based on The Dreamstress’ wonderful pattern. So here are few pictures of my progress. Look forward to my complete post later this month.


The pattern which has been ever changing since I started sewing.


The bust gussets turned out to be really fun to make.


The start of the body, unfortunately my had sewing precision is lacking but this is my first hand sewn period garment.