Chronicling my journey making Folkwear 508: 1915 Traveling Suit for my wedding!
This past month I have been really focusing on getting some good headway on the jumper of my wedding outfit. It’s been a labor of love and I’m really enjoying taking extra time for all the little details.
Step one was to prep my wools! I did it properly, steaming all the yards of it (I don’t even remember how many), letting it cool, and then hot pressing it all again. In theory this is a good prep step for wools, in my experience with this project it didn’t shrink it, but it freshened the material up nicely.
Next was pattern layout and cutting. It looks like it will be enough for both the jumper and jacket, hooray as that was unknown previously. I managed to get everything (meaning… 4 huge pieces) cut out and marked before I left for Vermont for the month.
When I got home it was time for construction. First, I basted my interlining to the wool with some large pad-stitches. Then, I zigzag-hemmed the long side seams individually to prevent fraying. Finally I was ready to start up the old machine.
Pressing as I go, of course! I pleated out the waistband which was a pain and pressed it all to the back. It somehow didn’t line up in the center back, so I’ll have to do some tweaking. Next were the armhole facings (below), and then the neckline facings.
Everything, everything everything basted. “Well basted, no time wasted” indeed.
In retrospect, I probably could’ve just faced with the lining fabric, not the wool, as it just adds to the bulk. But it’s done now and it will be fine.
Below is a shot of the front, including the cotton stay tape I sewed through on the diagonal seams to prevent stretching. I will be using that a lot more on the jacket!
I’ve just finished hand sewing down all the facings. Next, I’m going to add a placket to the front opening, and the waist tape. After that, hem facing and closures! Onwards!
I’ve begun the process of fitting the 1916 suit. Folkwear has sized these very strangely. However I am very lucky/privileged to fit into most patterns, and otherwise successfully compensated where needed.
For the jumper I got the fit on my first try, huzzah! I used a simple cotton bedsheet with a sateen weave and as it’s the right size, I’ll pick it apart and use it as my interlining for the final garment. I’m altering the construction of the jumper to make it historically accurate– removing the zipper down the back, and turning it into a front opening, “surplice front” garment.
So with fitting, this jumper has a lot of pleats around the waist, all very clearly marked out on the pattern pieces, so I just dutifully followed the instructions and after far too long I was done. Now, trying it on (with accurate undergarments) I found that the back fitted, with the side seams coming to my sides, but that left a ton of fabric in the front bagging out. However, I wanted to make it a cross-over front anyways, so I simply opened up the front seam a bit more, and the front pieces crossed over quite nicely. Not all the way to the side seams, but to a reinforced spot for the hooks & eyes.
The jacket behaved pretty well construction wise. I used some heavy cotton toile-printed fabric I was given and it gave me a good idea of a more structured garment. However, when I made the same size as the jumper (12), it was very fitted, perhaps too small for a wool, with a lining, and interfacing, over a jumper, blouse, and undergarments? I’m not sure yet. Modern vs. historical, perhaps.
Here’s Size “12”:
When I made it up 2 sizes bigger in 16, it was maybe too big? It didn’t look as good to me. I’m not sure what I’ll do yet…
As for the petticoat, I was pretty disappointed with “Bella Mae’s 19-teens petticoat”. I have yet to see any historical petticoats anywhere like that in construction. It used up way, way too much fabric (I think it calls for 6 yards!) and took forever to sew. It’s super heavy (I just used a cotton sheet) as well. I know the pattern maker really loves super full skirts, so I think this is why it turned out this way, but I have to say I don’t think it’s historically accurate at all.
Conveniently while working on this project, Wearing History came out with an informative Youtube video, “What Underwear Did They Wear in the 1910’s?” which I really enjoyed watching and enjoyed seeing her extant examples. Her petticoat seemed pretty similar to a modern cotton voile, gored “peasant” skirt I have, so I may end up starching and wearing that.
Next steps of the project are prepping my fabric, cutting out my pattern pieces, and prepping them with pad stitching and reinforcements. I’m also excited to get to work on the blouse, which I’ll post about separately.
I wrote about the beginning steps of this project in my post “A Wool Skirt for Summer,” the title of which is not entirely true. I did not actually finish this garment until cooler weather had come about, quite appropriately for the double layer of medium weight wool.
This skirt is the Wearing History 1910’s suit pattern which I highly recommend for accuracy and quality instructions! I didn’t quite achieve the “waist sitting above the natural waistline” look, but I’m sure that’s no fault of the pattern’s.
I left that last post with the need for a placket, buttons, and hem facing. I successfully finished all of those, and am really happy with the end result! Buttons are vintage, and both they and the ribbon were bought on Etsy.
Petersham ribbon continued to be my friend in the project, and I attached four tiny hooks and bars for closure. I may add another one or two to help hold tension.
I then added a petersham ribbon hem facing to both the overlay and the skirt, but did not continue it up the overlay opening edges (as I had originally contemplated). Then the task of hand felling it was done, and I had a skirt!
Thus far I have only managed to wear the skirt on very windy days, which makes the overlay seem quite lightweight. Maybe they were weighted? Or maybe just dealt with.
I’m getting married in March! Hooray! So, of course the quest for a dress has begun. And not easily able to find one that I adore, plus the addition of a temptingly complicated and fun sewing project has led me to the brainstorming and mock-up stage of what I’m hoping will work as my outfit for the day.
Now first, it’s going to be a small civil ceremony due to the pandemic, and it will be at the end of March, as that’s when the first flowers are coming out for the season. So, I was thinking along the lines of warm (it may be outside), and perhaps something suit-like but not too modern (heaven forbid).
I remembered Folkwear’s 1915 Traveling Suit which I had admired long ago, and revisiting it, found it to be quite intriguing. As usual, they have styled their model in the pattern in a very modern way, but then I went and found the original they had copied, which is housed in the Met Museum in New York.
And here’s the original:
So, only knowing a little about the fashions of 1915, I did some hunting for this unique “jumper” style dress. I found a few fashion drawings which included something like it, but nothing exactly alike.
And in the end what I’ve come up with is this: the jumper dress will have a mid-calf length, semi-full skirt, and will be worn over a blouse like the one on the right in the photo above (under the pink jumper). I’m going to make a mock-up of the jumper pattern from Folkwear and see if I want to alter anything, such as carry the wrap-across front all the way across to my side and omit the buckle.
I’ve been slowly amassing materials over the past month, and have received almost everything I need for the “must-haves”. I would like to re-create my Rilla corset for a better fit (and in a white twill) if there’s time, but it will work for under mock-ups for now.
For the petticoat, I need something that I can properly starch and that will give me the fullness I’m looking for. I’ve made the petticoat put out by Bella Mae’s Designs, which is marketed as a 1910s petticoat. I am a bit skeptical of the historical accuracy of this pattern. However, I am going to try it under my gown and see if it gives me the look I’m going for.
This petticoat uses so, so much fabric that I find it hard to believe it would be accurate for war-time. Also, I’ve learned from fashion historians that because historical fabric widths were smaller than they are today, skirts were usually pieced together and simply didn’t use as much fabric to create the “fullness” that we are used to today. But, I’ll wait and see how it looks under my mock-up of the jumper.
The 1950’s Aspect:
I am modernizing this look in a few different ways. First, the hem length will hit me mid-calf, instead of low-calf as was the style in 1915. Also, I think the skirt fullness could be a bit more than was typical for the war years. In addition, I am contemplating more modern accessories: a pillbox hat with a cage veil? Small gloves? Etc.
In going with our theme of springtime, I like this hat worn by the Duchess of Cambridge:
Fabrics: wool for jacket and jumper, silk for jacket lining, cotton for jumper lining
Blouse: cotton voile, starched
Accessories: shoes, jewelry, hat, gloves, bag, etc. TBD!
And with that, I’m back to the cutting table and ironing board!
I finally got an outfit together for my project! It’s not perfect, nor completely historically accurate, but I did have a lot of fun with it. It’s my long-awaited wool skirt, my Folkwear Middy Blouse, plus various vaguely appropriate accessories!
We took these photos on a chilly November evening on a path following the edge of the ocean. It was chilly! But despite wearing a skirt I was perfectly warm, thanks to that double-layer wool, cut out so many months ago.
Here I’m wearing all my accurate undergarments, my skirt and middy blouse, and a modern cardigan over the top. I would love to knit a cardigan to go with the style someday. I found the wool hat at Target and removed the trimmings so it would fit, and intend to re-decorate it accurately. My leather boots are ones I’ve had forever and look perfectly “historical” for a wide range of decades.
I’ll be posting next about the skirt finishings! In addition, I’m super excited about making more clothing like this- historical, but modern-passable. I’m not completely happy with all of these garments, but as I keep making them to wear, I’ll tweak them and work out what I do like. As one of my sewing mentors says, “every garment is a mock-up for the next!” and I do my best to employ that philosophy.
At last– some handmade garments to show for my Summer of 1920. But here you’ll have to give me some leeway, as this dress in particular is really more suited to the start of the middle of the decade, 1923. Maybe the project is more 1920s than the specific year.
All I have to say is, I love this dress! And I will be blogging more about the process next, but just wanted to share the photos to start.
I am new to the 20’s, so I did my best with undergarments and accessories. Next time I think I can do better– I have on my envelope chemise, and a petticoat, but that’s it! I’ll add something else next time.
As for the dress itself, I added pockets at the last minute on the front, and am still contemplating adding a dropped, slightly gathered waistband to give it a little shape. I’ll go into greater detail about the construction in the next post.
We went to a local garden/mansion/arboretum to photograph it in true style. While the mansion is currently closed to visitors due to the pandemic, the grounds are open and on a Tuesday we had the place to ourselves! The rain held off for the morning, and we traipsed around the ground despite the steaming humidity. I had a lot of fun there as always and plan on returning for other photo shoots!
I wore the dress with the aforementioned undergarments, stockings, and a hat I had whipped together (dyed it black, added petersham ribbon and called it a day). My shoes are from American Duchess.
One of the best parts of this project is getting to look at collections, archives, and old photographs. Even within the small amount of research I have done, I am already appreciating photography more and thinking about breaking out my old film camera… hmm. It is compelling to find the liveliness of folks 100 years ago.
I’d like to find more “everyday” photos of famous women of the time, but here are some shots of a few well-known women who were dressing smartly around the year 1920.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an American political figure, diplomat, and activist. She served as First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945 during her husband’s four terms in office, making her the longest serving First Lady. She is well known for her dedication to human rights causes and her leadership during a challenging time for our country. I would like to read her autobiography and visit her home, which is a National Historic Site in upstate New York.
Georgia O’Keeffe has become well known for her style and for making her own clothes. I am intrigued by them as well, but the fashions she is most known for happened in the later part of her life, while I am more interested in what she wore in her younger years. Here, we see her in her traditional black and white, which she apparently wore exclusively for some time.
Hilma af Klint
Hilma af Klint, the Swedish abstract painter, is a little early to include in this time frame but she is an inspiration to the project nevertheless! Here she is in 1895 in her studio.
Throughout her life, Hilma af Klint maintained an intense engagement with mystical andesoteric teachings. Reading widely and eclectically, she was particularly interested in texts wherein Christianity, Buddhism, and other traditions were confronted with elements from esoteric religious and cultural movements such as Rosicrucianism. In 1920, an exceptionally creative year for the artist, she explored world religions in a series of small oil paintings, which she titled Series II.(guggenheim.org).
I will be posting more regularly as our Summer of 2020 slips away from us (August already?!) with some completed outfits and 1920’s reflections.
Skirts were a wardrobe staple for women in the post-war years. It was much more economical to have a few “serviceable” (my new favorite word) skirts, and be able to mix and match them with likewise serviceable blouses. It’s familiar to us today, having a bunch of shirts we can mix and match with pants. This also made laundry a lot easier with fewer garments and less particular fabrics, which was partnered with the downward trend of hired help in households following the war.
When I started looking at fashion illustrations for this project, I saw a lot of really interesting skirts. This post is great in that it talks about skirts in the 1920s specifically. I started to realize a defining feature of the late 19-teens was the emphasis on pockets and skirt details. This, as I mentioned in the middy blouse post, was due to the military influence on fashions during and after the war. Wearing History has a great post on WWI Fashion- Skirts and Blouses in 1918-1919 which was really helpful for my research.
I am pretty dedicated to using fabric that I already have, which reflects well to the project’s thrifty spirit of post-war. I have not had too much trouble so far, and have only had to make a few small purchases for buttons and things, as garments were a lot more decorated than fast fashion is today. I had the perfect fabric in my stash for a 1920 skirt: a big piece of Pendleton wool in a dark blue, tan and cream plaid, given to me by a generous friend. I believe wool could have been appropriate for a cool summers day on the coast, so I’m going with it. I hope to make another skirt in linen as well.
Plaids seem to have been a popular fabric for skirts of the time. I vaguely based my design on the skirt on the far right side of the above drawing. Below is another example of plaids for sale in the era:
I started researching patterns, and found the Wearing History 1910’s suit pattern for the skirt. It was not really the silhouette I was looking for, but I didn’t feel confident enough to just start cutting without some guide in construction. I’m really glad I bought it, because I learned all about interior waistbands, which were really common in the 1910s-20s. I did end up changing the skirt shape to be much narrower, as was the style of the period, and for the seams to be in a different place (sides not front), and added the overlayer. I also then had to change the closure fastening to hide under the waistband, at the side.
After making a toile, I started by figuring out which way I wanted the plaids to interact.
And then I took to cutting!
Once I had everything cut out, I realized that the plaids on the overlayer were not symmetrical… which would just not do. I decided to pin it symmetrically, then steamed and pressed the heck out of it, which got the job done well!
Next, I worked on the waistbands. This skirt has two waistbands– an interior and an exterior. The exterior is decorative and is there to help close the skirt with large buttons. The interior waistband is made of a sturdy fabric, “belting” is called for, but petersham ribbon would suffice. I happened to have some, so I kind of improvised and stitched some together and it works pretty well! I also used some petersham to make the closure placket, on which I stitched some hooks and eyes.
The next step will be to hem and edge the opening of the overlay, for which I will also be using petersham ribbon. I don’t know how historically accurate that is, but I hope it works to give a little weight to the hem and edges. Then buttons on and I’ll be ready to go! I don’t know how much I’ll wear it this summer, but I know I’ll be wearing this come cooler weather.
Thanks for visiting the 1920 Summer Project! Check back for more progress coming soon!
Summer 19(20)20 is now officially upon us. Due to some bugs in my time-travelling machine, I have been stuck in the 1790’s for the past month! Whew! I’m working on a costume from that time period now, so I haven’t been doing as much 20’s stuff in the day to day. However, I am still very excited about the project and want to get some things ready soon!
I also have come to realize that I don’t need to have a finished garment to present, but can just talk about where I am right now with each piece. So, I’m currently in the middle of making a blouse, a skirt, and dress… and I have hopes for another blouse and skirt down the road!
I have also stumbled across some valuable, fun resources which I thought I would uplift here. Firstly, I have really been enjoying Constance Mackenzie’s youtube channel. She is a very talented person, and her personal style includes lots from early 1920s styles. I find her videos very soothing to listen to and watch, which make me feel I’m visiting a friend in their British kitchen.
The other video I stumbled across the other day is, Bella Mae’s “Making a 1918 Outfit – During the Pandemic“. I enjoyed seeing what she did, as it is kind of similar to my project (though styles were a bit different from 1918-1920). We did use the same corset pattern, which is cool!
So now, onto my sewing! In this post I will be talking about my process with making a blouse. This kind of blouse can be called a middy blouse, or a sailor shirt.
Middy blouses were shirts cut fairly loose, with a collar that was cut deep and square at the back and tapered to the front, sometimes worn with neck handkerchiefs. They resemble that worn by sailors during the time. Nautical inspired fashion was very popular beginning in the Victorian period, when Queen Victoria dressed her son Edward VII in a sailor suit. Since then, nautical-inspired fashion has been very popular, first for children, and then for women and women’s athletic wear in the Edwardian period and beyond. Here is a basketball team bedecked in 1917:
Also, military style heavily influenced civilian dress after WWI, not only in limited fabrics available and skirt widths coming in due to rationing of fabric, but with elements of military trims, buttons, and cuts of garments.
What I see in photographs from 1920s Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts (where I’m locating this project) is that these styles of blouses were popular for women to wear as a casual garment for a summer’s day spent sailing, working in the laboratory, or doing errands and visiting with friends. The style could be dressed up or down, as seen in the following advertisements:
So for the garment, I looked around for an adequate pattern and found the Middy Blouse pattern from Folkwear Patterns. It’s labeled as a 1910’s blouse, but I saw similar styles in the catalogs and photographs I saw from the late teens and 1920. Folkwear is kind of known for a loose estimate of historical accuracy, and terrible grading, but I enjoy their patterns nonetheless.
Their style is, from my vague notion, a fairly accurate rendition of a middy blouse. I did make quite a few alterations, including:
The sleeves bell out considerably, and also had gathers along the shoulder. I took in 1 or 2 inches from the center of the sleeve to reduce “puff” and I am thinking about putting cuffs on them as well, if I can be bothered.
I am going to make the collar a bit less wide and big, as it is a little more over the top than I expected.
Here’s the illustration for the pattern:
Here’s my version:
The pattern called for a lot of fusible interfacing, which I recently learned I don’t need to use, and can instead substitute a thin, strong cotton, which I did here in the collar placket. Hopefully it isn’t too bulky.
And for the back— a red line shows to where I’m going to trim the collar. I’ll take a bit off the sides as well. There is a seam running center back, adding to the “swing” of the cut, but I don’t know how historically accurate that is.
So, I’ll report back once I hem the collar and put in some cuffs!
After finishing the corset it was time to create the other garments that go under and over it. Underneath the corset, worn next to the skin, could have been worn a few things. In my intro post I had this image as the idea for my next to skin layer:
While I enjoy the looks of this athletic-style garment, and am sure that many people were wearing this style of underwear in 1920, I was really looking for garments which I could find patterns for, and couldn’t find a pattern for this style of garment. It always comes down to how much time and resources I want to spend on each garment. I didn’t want to buy jersey, or spend time drafting a shortie union suit; I wanted to buy a cheap secondhand bedsheet and use a pattern! So that’s what I did.
However, Our Girl History did draft a wonderful 1920 union suit and wrote about her experience doing research here!
This is an envelope chemise, a shift-dress type garment that was simple and worn for the comfort of having a loose garment protecting the skin from the corset. An envelope chemise was called thus because of the connector buttoned through the legs, which is particular to the 1910s and 20s.
I was happy to see another envelope chemise pattern available online, from the “Vintage Pattern Lending Library” on Etsy:
At first, as evidenced in my earlier pictures with my corset, I wanted to do a tied ribbon strap because I liked the style. However, I couldn’t find many extant garments that exemplified the tied straps, and I also wondered if it would be bulky under two other layers of clothes. I did see on the Sears Catalog, some undergarments with ribbon tied straps. Here’s an undergarment I found in a museum catalog with tied straps:
These illustrated ladies from 1918, modelling underskirts, show tops with ribbon-straps tied in medium sized bows:
This is another Sears catalog illustration showing a style of envelope chemise:
The envelope chemise carries elements from the earlier undergarment styles into the 1920s. The garment below, while different because of it’s seams, shaping, and hem, is nevertheless similar to later garments.
Overall, this garment was easy to sew in theory but took longer because of the little details like french seams, a box pleat in the back, curved hem, trims and the buttons and buttonholes. I went for peach silk ribbon straps and trim to match my corset cover.
Here’s the back, with a box pleat.
The closure is fairly simple, two buttons reinforced with some twill tape.
Fabric: Cotton sheet
Straps: Silk ribbon
Trim: Cotton lace from JoAnn fabric, 1″ twill tape
Buttons: Vintage from Delectable Mountain Fabrics
With that, all of my undergarments are complete! I’ve been working on a blouse, skirt, and soon will be starting a dress. I’m waiting for buttons to arrive by post, and have broken out the drafting tools to work on the “Virginia Woolf” dress (and plan to read some books of hers at the same time).
When I started this project back in January I had no idea of the shut down and stay at home orders that would soon come along, but I am very lucky to have had a lot of extra time to put my energy towards this project over the past weeks. It is proving to be a rich diversion and meaningful to research while quarantined. I hope that others are finding solace in their own ways, perhaps finding themselves available to make hobbies more full time as I am doing.