Friday, December 7, 2012

1920s Evening Wear - Downton Abbey Gala

Mid 1920s Butterick pattern- Source
Those of you following me on Facebook will know that I'm working on a very special sewing project. In January, Cori and I will be attending the preview of Downton Abbey Season 3 at the Essex Spa and Resort. The Downton Abbey Experience is a fundraiser for VPT. Finally, an excuse to make a 1920s evening gown!! :) Ok, yes, my Halloween costume was a 1920s evening gown of sorts but it was made out of really cheap fabric and literally thrown together in about 2 days. I want to take my time with this project and do it right. Part of the Downton Abbey Experience will be a costume contest judged by Karen Augusta of Augusta Auctions.

I've been looking at TONS of period images and original gowns from the 1920s trying to decide on a design for mine. The problem is, with so many different options I'm having a really hard time figuring out what I want to make. The styles from the early 20s are different in many ways from those of the mid to late 20s. I spent far too much time drooling over amazing beaded gowns at the MET and other museums and reluctantly had to admit it was never going to be possible to create one - at least for this project. So, I began looking at gowns where the beauty was more about the cut/drape and type of fabric rather than trim and bead work.

Here is a look at some of the gowns I'm using as inspiration for my Downton Abbey gala gown. Up first is a green metallic brocaded gown, c.1925, currently listed for sale at Vintage Textiles. If only I had that kind of money! Fairly simple design but what amazing fabric! Lamé fabric, a type of fabric woven or knit with metallic yarns, was popular in the 20s and is extremely hard to find today. If you're lucky enough to find any for sale expect to pay a hefty sum per yard. Metallic fibers tend to darken with age and lots of handling giving them a slightly tarnished appearance. This gown doesn't seem to have that problem.
Vintage Textiles

Vintage Textiles

I love this gown from the MET (right). I'm toying with the idea of adding swags/drapes to the shoulders of my dress. We'll see how much fabric I have left after I finish the body of my gown.

MET CI46.46.8ab_B
This wedding gown from the Chicago History Museum caught my eye because of its simple design. Notice the loose fitting bodice and gathered skirt. It's made from silk velvet and I think this would be an easy gown to reproduce.

Chicago History Museum
I went fabric shopping last weekend and I've more or less settled on a design. Hopefully I can finalize it over the weekend. I need to start sewing if I want to have it finished for January 5th!

More to come, stay tuned!


  1. These dresses are all so stunning. I can't wait to see what you end up making.


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