The One Hour(ish) Dress


Em of RetroGlam sent me the book for fun and I thought I’d have a go. I like a challenge.


Let no one say that I only show the successes….it’s ok but not really wearable. So what happenned?

The dress on the cover looks as if it’s made of lovely soft fabric but the advice is to  use “medium firm” fabric – which this is. I would say that you could not get the drape with it but if you used soft, drapey fabric most sewers couldn’t make it in an hour or even two.

I am probably not the shape (or age) of woman envisaged in the book – I don’t really think straight up  and down clothes are the thing for me. Of course, I knew that before I started but the idea that I might be able to make a dress that quickly spurred me on.

And the sash? I do have a photo taken wearing the sash but I couldn’t face showing it to everyone.

What makes it so fast?

The fabric is torn rather than cut and it’s all rectangles so that saves a lot of time. There’s no real shaping to worry about.

I think the seams were left unfinished or the selvedges were used in places.

The fabric for the bodice is one piece back & front with a hole cut for the neck.

How long did it take? Two hours! Why?

The pattern on the back of the bodice would have been upside down if I’d followed the book’s plan, so I had to make shoulder seams. In fairness, the author did point out that it wouldn’t work with a one way design but I didn’t have anything else suitable.

I don’t like raw edges so I zigzagged them.

I pintucked the fabric for the skirt to narrow the waist. The book suggests side plaits (pleats) but I thought they would look awful on me.

I had to feed the hens and walk the dogs part way through so I lost track of where I was.

The bobbin thread ran out & I hadn’t thought of preparing a spare beforehand.

I am not a fast sewer.

So, what to do?


A skirt and top. An improvement???

I split the dress at the waist, took a bit of the skirt’s fullness out and added buttons along one seam so I can still get into it.

There’s also a knee high split so I can walk.  I’m thinking of making a black cotton petticoat to flash a bit of lace as I walk along.

The red skirt is my latest version of the 1934 skirt – for everyday wear.

The black teeshirt is me made – I traced a favourite shop bought teeshirt to get the pattern. Tracing existing clothes is one of the ways I get patterns I like.

What did I learn?

That a sewing challenge can be fun even if you’re pretty sure you won’t want to wear the result.

That with a few modifications I could get a dress I would like out of this. I would add darts to create shaping, add fastenings because it would be hard to get in and out without the loose shape and use a soft fabric. I would also make my own bias binding to match the dress because I think it would look classier.

I’d like to say a big “Thank you” to Em for sending me the book. I enjoyed the challenge and I’ve learned from it.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x





Filed under 1920s, blogging friends, Clothes, dresses

26 responses to “The One Hour(ish) Dress

  1. I quite like the top as a blouse! But the dress, it didn’t work very well. Sort of a sad sack. Great experiment, though, and I’m glad you were able to make it into parts that you can use.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I made a couple of dresses like yours from newer patterns in the late 80s. I gladly wore them to work when I taught preschool and put up with the other teacher’s not so kind comments and with the little ones asking me, “Teacher Lynda are you gonna have a baby?” In retrospect, I should probably have burned them, but at 210 lbs (then) I was comfortable.

    I love how you altered your work and made a usable top and skirt out of your experiment. They really work now!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Like it better when you cut it in half and used some accents to give it shape. Didn’t they make patterns for women who weren’t straight up and down in hte 1930’s? Tearing actually sounds fun in a way. Like the new red skirt–it is very vibrant. I like vibrant.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. really interesting. And great end result. As a straight up and down ish type person, I’m very interested to try this… one day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Norma, The skirt and blouse were the way to go. I would not look good in a 1920s. Dress made from a period pattern. either and I am a size 4/6. Thank you for sharing the honest results and evaluation. You have confirmed my thoughts that the modern chemise pattern is a much better starting point for recreating a 1920s look even though it is not authentic i.e. using a period pattern.

    Our modern day chemise achieves width based o bust and hips plus ease. In this. way the width will be more in keeping with the body.

    My 1930s dress had to go this route. When I make a 1920s style I will use the 1 hour dress for ideas but start with a chemise .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember the problems you had getting a good shape and I had that in mind when i was sewing. I thought it was worth doing whatever the outcome – glad you agree.
      My usual take on rectangles is to pintuck to create shape and I will go on that way to showcase lovely fabrics.
      I have a modern pattern for a chemise / sheath dress

      Liked by 1 person

      • The chemise can become the basis for a shift, too. A shift is a more comfortable version of the sheath dress. At some point I will show how to transform it. You’re on track with using pintucks on your basic block shapes. Something similar is done to turn the chemise into a shift except the intake is greater and has to be shaped. I think the draping book I sent has a chapter on that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I will read the book thoroughly because there’s a lot I could learn from it


    • I keep sending by mistake on this phone!
      I’m planning to try the pattern for a tunic

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m surprised it said to use a medium firm fabric as the majority of 1920s dresses I’ve seen in the flesh are really lightweight and diaphanous. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that’s not.
    Anyway, I do like how you chopped and changed it into something more wearable and I’m loving the red 1930s skirt! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I think the only way you could make a dress in an hour is to use firmish fabric. I would guess it was a publicity stunt but poorer women in some old photos do seem to have this sort of cotton dress. I have a family photo with something similar in it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yeah, 20’s fashion was made for people like Clara Bow. The foundation garments for the 20s (and 30s) were industrial strength. I don’t think women were expected to breath much. I love what you did to adapt the dress, and think you look beautiful in it.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I look forward to your posts, so I nominated you for a Liebster Award.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your restyled dress is really lovely but it’s such a shame that the original didn’t work out because it’s rather gorgeous. You’re right though, modern shapes don’t suit this style, but the prospect of making a dress in an hour is rather appealing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I am capable of making a dress in an hour but I do like a quick make.
      The dress on the cover doesn’t seem to feature inside. It was a fun challenge but I think I’ll avoid this shape in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Zero Waste Sewing? | She Sews You Know

  11. That’s better! I’m the same. I bought a lovely pattern – similar to this but the waist line wasn’t dropped as much. Wearing something with a dropped waist and no shape to it made me look huge! I reused the fabric and made one of my favourite shirts out of it. I learned to stay away from that style!


  12. dezertsuz

    I actually like the dress quite a bit. I might add a belt and blouse the top over the skirt. I also liked the skirt and blouse you made of it later. You’re quite an accomplished and extemporaneous seamstress!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I think the dress might have suited a thinner woman – or maybe one wearing 1920s underthings.
      I am thinking of lengthening the top with a front & back panel & side slits. Not sure yet.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s