Sunday, January 19, 2014

Downton-esque 1-hour dress


Last weekend, the Dallas / Ft. Worth Costumers Guild held a Tiaras and Top Hats Tea Party, and since I am a complete Downton Abbey addict, I decided to make an early 20's dress and indulge my inner Countess for the day.  

I had a little less than 2 yards of voided silk velvet that I bought from Fabrique's remnant bin earlier in the year, and this was just enough fabric to make a simple sheath dress.  I played around with some more complicated pattern options at first, but the fabric was so pretty on its own that I decided to keep it really simple and experiment with the infamous 1-hour dress concept that was so popular during this decade.  There are a couple of fun books from 1924-1925 that talk about making these dresses and give lots of variations on how they can be put together, so if you are interested in learning more, I've included links to those books at the bottom of my blog post.  But since the shapes are really simple, I thought I'd also give you my own freebie pattern so you can see exactly how my dress was made.  (here is the full-sized version if you need it)


The cool thing about the 1-hour dress is that it is made out of mostly rectangular pieces and just pinned on the body to fit, so it is incredibly easy to draft and make.  The front and back pieces are exactly the same, and I went one step further by using a boat neck on my gown which also eliminated any need for a curved neckline.  These dresses don't look like much when they are laid out flat, but it's amazing how they come to life once they are on the body.  On the right you can see my dress before I cut the angle at the hips, which I did last because I wanted to check the draping before I cut.  
The only real shaping in the dress comes at the hip, which is gathered a little on the torso seam to make some soft folds at the waistline, and then it is gathered at the side extensions to give some fullness over the hips.  I made the hip extensions on my dress slant down, which draws up the sides and gives it a slightly curved hemline and some diagonal draping across the skirt.  I also made two looped sashes out of silk georgette and tacked these onto the hips to jazz it up a little more.   


I'm not going to do a full step-by-step tutorial because I think the books cover that well enough if you need more instructions.  But here are a few more of my own impression after making one of these dresses myself:

- I think one of the main reasons why my dress was successful was because of my fabric choice.  You definitely want a fabric that is very fluid and not stiff for this style - something like silk velvet, crepe, soft lawn, etc.  Drapey is definitely good!
- I made my dress quite narrow through the body, which keeps it from looking like a big shapeless sack.  It only has 2" of ease across the bust, and it is just big enough to fit over my shoulders, but just barely.  This narrow width also means that the waistline naturally falls at my high hip (around where I wear my jeans) since it can't go down any farther than that.  This is perfect for an early 20's look, and to my eyes, it is a lot more attractive than the later 20's dresses.  Many of those have a waistline that hits lower on the hips, which results in the whole body needing to be cut wider for us curvy gals.  
- The one part about this dress that I wasn't crazy about is that the neckline likes to shift around a lot because the fabric is so slippery.  I tried to combat that by sewing snaps into the shoulders and snapping it to my chemise, but it still moved more than I wanted, so I'll probably try snapping it to a firmly fitted 1920's brassiere next time.  
- So did the dress really only take one hour to make?  Uhhh... no.  But that's mainly because the silk velvet forced me to baste everything before sewing, and I took the time to hand-finish all the hems and bind the internal seams.  I probably spent about 4-5 hours on it total.  But if I was making this sort of dress in cotton and machine sewed all the finishing work, I think I could get pretty close to that 1-hour timeframe. 
- And just because I am totally in love with my new tiara, I thought I'd let you know that I bought it from Venus Jewelry on ebay.  I think it is a pretty great match for the type of tiara that Cora wears in the latest season of Downton Abbey.  One of the best parts about 20's fashions is all the fabulous jewelry from that era, and I had a ton of fun picking out sparkly things to finish off my outfit!  I wish I had a better non-blurry picture, but maybe you can get the basic idea here.  

So that's pretty much it!  We had a wonderful time at the tea party, and I am even more in love with 20's fashions than I was before. If you ever need a quick and easy frock for your own Downton Abby adventures, I definitely recommend that you give the 1-hour dress a try!   




27 comments:

Annabelle said...

So cute! You look fantastic! I always really appreciate it when people share sketches and tips, those are invaluable for those of us coming behind you :)

I've kind of been dithering about whether or not to get a Venus tiara, after hours of drooling over all of them, but I think you have convinced me.

Cactusneedle said...

Your dress turned out beautifully. And, I must thank you for enabling me. I went directly to Amazon and browsed all they have from the Women's Institute and downloaded some free ones and put quite a few more on my wish list. I then went to Ebay and browsed what they have. Sigh. I really can't buy any books right now. We are remodeling and I don't need any more "stuff" to back up as we empty each room. Kindle books are another matter, though.

Stephanie Lynn said...

You look so great! The dress looks fabulous too. :)

Time Traveling in Costume said...

Wonderful job on it! It looks beautiful on you. Great tips in making it too.
Val

Loren Dearborn said...

I love it, it's such a great color on you too! You're so right, that flowy fabric makes all the difference in how flattering (or not) those dresses are.

fixitfaerie said...

Oh my, you look 'tres chic'. Love the whole outfit/jewelry/shoes. Thank you for sharing your pattern. Paula

Laura Morrigan said...

You look fabulous! Great work managing to get that out of a small remnant, the material looks perfect!

Gina said...

Yeah!!!!! I am in love with your 20s frock!!! And I am happy that you posted about it as I am curious about the 1 hour dress. I think I will go ahead and get one of the books on ebay...yours turned out so perfectly!! The fabric is so fabulous...and your tiara is awesome! I love Venus Jewelry and Seperwar....Too fun!!! You look AWESOME!

Blessings!
Gina

Kleidung um 1800 said...

Beautiful!
The last picture is stunning, your smile is infectious.

Sabine

Somnifer said...

You look like you could be Cora's younger sister! Beautiful dress, and thanks for posting the pattern and wip picture.

Linda Sjöstrand said...

Thank you! I desperately need a 20ies dress for 8th Februari and I don't have much time to spend on it. I'll make one like this, it's perfect!

vintagevisions27 said...

Looks great! Love your tiara too!
-Emily

Emily's Vintage Visions

Eleonora Amalia said...

Wonderful! Thanks for your tips, this dress might be handy for an unexpected 20's event :) And you really ARE Cora's look-a-like!

Steph said...

OKay, I own those One-hour Dress books, love to look at them, but have been so hesitant about even considering making one of the dresses. But seeing your little beauty here really makes me want to take scissors to cloth now! It's just stunning in its simplicity.

Caroline said...

You look fantastic!! That's such a good looking dress. I love it! And ooo I do love Downton, too...

Gabriela Salvador said...

Eeeep! The fabrics, the shape, the elegance; it's an overload of total beauty! Brava!

Kendra said...

So pretty and I love how simple it is! I may have to try this.

And, I have that tiara too, and totally squeed when I saw it on screen!

Ladybud said...

Amazing! I love the material too.

Wendy said...

I'm so in love with both the dress and the fabric! I'd really like to read more about variations on the basic pattern -- can you please post the links to those books? Thanks so much!

Jen Thompson said...

Hi Wendy - the links to those 3 books are in the bottom of my post... unless you have some sort of blocking software on your computer and can't see them. But you can do a search on Amazon for One-Hour Dress and find them that way too.

Wendy said...

Oops, you're absolutely right -- my adblock kept the links from showing. Sorry for the silly question!

Jen Thompson said...

I'm actually glad you mentioned this because I didn't realize that some computers would block the Amazon Affiliate links. I don't use them often, but now I'm better informed about possible drawbacks to using them. :)

Milin said...

I want to move to Dallas....just to join the Dallas / Ft. Worth Costumers Guild.

Deborah Charlow said...

This lastest frock comes at just the right time. I belong to a group that is working to preserve a manor house and the BOD decided on 1920's as its target period. I will be needing a 1920's dress by July. I'm so excited and also happy that you have this pretty dress posted. I already had a One Hour Dress booklet. I see the gathering at each hip which suggests to me that you didn't fold the material into 4 layers (to have one side seam) as the booklet says but what do you think about that method in general? I would hesitate. Also, is it at all possible to retrieve the Renaissance projects from a while back? Deb in Fla

Jeanne said...

That is really stunning! A perfect combination of fabric and pattern, and you look lovely, too.

Rita Johnson Philpot said...

Love it. I went to a Gabsy garden party a few years ago and had a wonderful time. Where did you get your shoes? My cousin is getting married next July and the wedding theme is Great Gabsy.

Jen Thompson said...

Hi Rita - they are Aerosoles, but they don't carry them anymore. It was just a lucky find!

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