Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Behind the Seams - 1920s Black Silk Robe de Style

As promised here the second, of what I hope to become many, Behind the Seams blog posts. This series of posts will examine in detail some of the vintage and antique items I have collected, or in some cases been gifted, over the years. My goal with these posts is to show you the nitty gritty details not often shown on other blogs or even museum website. How many times have you looked at an image of a vintage or antique garment and wondered "How did they make that?" "What does the back of the garment look like?" "What does the inside look like?" "How are the seams/hems etc. finished?"  I could go on!

One of the reasons I love "old stuff" is the attention to detail and the quality of the materials used. As a vintage sewing and historical costumer I know how difficult it can be to find just the right material for a project. Cost of course is a big road block. Many fabrics and trims, for example, that were common place 50, 100, or even 200 years ago are virtual unheard of now. Try finding calimanco at your local fabric store! Even the most simple garments were beautifully made because they were made to last too! Not something that can be said about most clothing sold today.

So here we go. Today's post is all about this black silk taffeta dress from the 1920s. The style is known as a "robe de style." I talked briefly about the robe de style in this post way back. Beautiful examples can be found in museums all over the world. (Ex. here, here and here.)

If you have not seen Katherine's stunning robe de style please do so! She also has a blog post here about making the small hoop to wear under the dress.

I've made two robe de style dresses using this pattern from the page Dress Making Research. The first is certainly nothing to brag about. It was an awfully poly thing made as a Halloween costume. It looks fine in pictures but I never really liked the look or feel of it. The second I helped make for a friend. We used cotton but did not include any kind of hoops or pockets. Those are something that can always be added.


Black Silk Taffete Robe de Style with Scallop Hem
The Details
Length shoulder to hem -
Across shoulders - and width between shoulder straps -
Under arm to under arm -
Under arm to drop waist -
Shoulder to drop waist -
Drop waist to hem -
Width at hem -
 10 Scallops at hem
7 rows of shirring at each hip
15 rows of cording, each cord is 1/8"
9 of snaps at side, and 2 at left shoulder

Simple design with nice details. It's made of silk taffeta and void of trim except cording and shirring. The cording appears to be cotton but it's very difficult to tell. No evidence of hoops or pockets but the dress most likely would have been worn with some kind of hoop underneath to give the skirt shape. The neck, arm holes, and scallop hem are all bound with strips of bias fabric. There is a single piece of piping at waist. The dress closes at the left side and shoulder with small metal snaps. Thread appears reddish brown in areas.

This dress does need a little repair work but nothing too major. 


  1. Wow! How gorgeous!! I love seeing close-up details of dresses like this - thank you so much for sharing the pictures!! :)


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