After a two year hiatus, it has been an absolute joy this week to be back in the whirl of drama productions. The pinball whirl that is final rehearsals, keeping costumes clean, pressed & all together, running home and racing through hair styling, using half a can of hair spray to transform a grungy 2020s covid-era teen into a slick, suave 1920s mob-era theatre agent – or getting his little brother’s fuzzy mop tamed and smooth in a vague approximation of a greasy mob knee-capper. And this year, to celebrate all being together once again, the guests were asked to join the fun as well and come along in our best 1920s outfits.
Normal people, at this point, would hit the cheap shops, or jump on the CostumeBox website. Me? Nah. I went to Pinterest, and then Etsy, and paid through the nose for a reproduction vintage pattern that looked fabulous but was a nightmare to actually make up. Vintage patterns, I’ve found, have limited instructions, and rely very heavily on assumed knowledge. When we are talking a 1950s duster housecoat, I can work around that assumed knowledge. When we are talking a 1920s evening gown with drapes and inserted girdle…well. Let’s just say my unpicked and I are on very familiar terms at the minute.
Not helping matters was my fabric choice – I went with Spotlight’s finest bargain basement $5.50/m satin. It wasn’t the most pleasant fabric I’ve even sewn with, but equally, I didn’t want to spend a fortune on proper satin for a costume. In the end, it worked out ok, even if it did require a slip for underpinnings because oh my gosh. The static cling in this stuff is bonkers. I managed to get it draping enough for the night, so we’ll call it a win.
I really like the skirt. All those layers and points are super fun, and move really nicely. I found it tricky working on the fit, trying to let go of my 2020s preferences and keeping try to the lines and fashions of the 1920s. I think one of the hardest parts, for me personally, is that when I am both sewing and styling, I try to disguise and work around the straightness of my figure. I wanted to keep tweaking at the dress to try and create the illusion of a waist, but the pattern is designed to drop straight down from armhole to waist, and only be fitted around the hips. Straight was the fashion of the day – for once I have the appropriate figure for what I’m trying to make, and I’m still not happy!! I also couldn’t quite work out where the girdle was supposed to sit, and ended up raising it at the back, as I felt rather uncomfortable with it sitting directly on my bottom. With the girdle being the only neatly fitted part, plus the addition of a flare across the girdle, it felt rather “look at moi, look at moi”, so I lifted the top of the girdle closer to my natural waistline, so it sat across the top of my hips rather than direct across my seat.
Draping the front of the girdle was also tricky, as the instructions didn’t give any explicit direction as to how it was supposed to attach to the front. I ended up safety pinning the mock brooch in place to make it sit where I liked it, slightly higher than where it should naturally sit according to the pattern. the draping on the neckline was a nice touch, even in a stiff fabric that didn’t particularly want to drape nicely. I actually ended up using a fishing weight to keep it in place. The pattern did call for a weight, true, but I’m presuming there is some kind of fancy proper garment weight they were thinking of, not $5 for a pack of four from the recreation section at BigW and chuck the rest in the mister’s fishing box. Did the trick beautifully though.
Overall, despite the frustrations, it turned out ok. It was super fun to dress up, and it was also a good exercise in pushing my skills & working on my spatial awareness, trying to think through how the bits had to go together. And really, aside from the $25 pattern, it was a very economical make, so it didn’t need to be perfect, it just needed to be presentable and fun to wear, which it was. The performance went off brilliantly, both boys did a great job, as did their friends, and we all had a lovely evening admiring each others flapper dresses, and just generally revelling in being back together for the first time since 2019.