In the 1920s, black (artificial) silk dresses were suitable for afternoon wear. But they were also worn as work dresses for the office like on this antique 1920s photograph. For my 1920s black dress I used black cellulose acetate fabric which was called celanese in the 1920s. And for the lace collar, I used antique Mechlin lace and cotton bobbinet tulle. The main inspiration for my 1920s black dress was this beautiful 1926 fashion plate.
Antique 1920s Dress Inspirations
Like I’ve already mentioned, my 1920s black dress is mainly inspired by this 1926 fashion plate of a black dress with lace collar. And here’s a 1927 fashion plate of a similar black dress with a flounced white V-neck collar.
But my 1920s dress is also inspired by these antique 1920s dresses: antique 1920s black silk satin dress with long sleeves, another antique 1920s black silk dress, antique 1920s photograph (the woman on the left wears a very similar dress), and an antique 1920s photograph of a dress with a circular skirt. And here are interesting 1920s office photos of working women and their office dresses.
1920s Dress Pattern & Sewing Details
My 1920s black dress slips on over the head without a closure because most 1920s dresses were made without closures. The back of my 1920s black dress is just a large rectangle which is typical for 1920s dresses. And the front of the dress is a short rectangle with a circular skirt.
Related: How To Make A 1920s Slip
The cuffs of my 1920s black dress are closed with one snap. The cuffs are based on the 1928 movie ‘Champagne‘ – a silent film directed by Alfred Hitchcock – you can see the cuffs of a plain black dress at about 32:20.
I always wanted my 1920s black dress to look like it’s now. But when I made the dress a couple of years ago it didn’t turn out as I wanted. I made the dress convertible: a plain 1920s black dress with a hook & eye closure at the neck which can be worn with two different lace collars and different 1920s brooches and belt buckles. But I found it too complicated to change lace collars, belts, brooches etc. every time before washing or wearing the dress. So I almost never wore it. And I finally decided to refashion the dress.
Related: 1920s Hand Painted Polka Dot Dress
I refashioned my 1920s black dress so that it’s closer to the original inspiration for the dress: with a lace collar and a V-shaped insertion at the front. I also removed the self-fabric belt and beaded belt buckle. And because the circular skirt hem sagged after all these year, I re-cut the circular hem and finished it again. By the way, this sagged (uneven) hem is typical for 1920s dress – you can often see it on antique 1920s dresses – but I didn’t like it. And therefore I decided to change it.
Antique Mechlin & Valenciennes Lace Collar
For the lace collar and insertion, I used cotton bobbinet tulle, vintage cotton Valenciennes lace and antique cotton Mechlin lace. All these were often used in the 1920s. Here’s a 1920s ad for white and cream-colored tulle and Val (Valenciennes) lace collars. I used different cream-colored cotton Valenciennes lace trims from my stash for the V-shaped insertion.
And I used antique cotton Mechlin lace for the 1920s lace collar. I won this antique Mechlin lace at an instagram sewing challenge. And I didn’t know for a long time what to with the lace because it was beige and too dark to use with my other lace trims.
So, I finally decided to bleach the lace with oxygen bleach even though I don’t like to use bleach. Oxygen bleach is gentler on the fibers than other types of bleach. And historically, fabric and lace had always been bleached with oxygen by putting it on wet grass. This is the same chemical reaction, only slower. At first, I’d also tried historical ways to bleach the lace with lemon juice and boiling water and lemon juice and salt. But even with oxygen bleach it was a very lengthy process to turn the beige lace into cream-colored lace!
But finally, after a few months, the different lace trims and cotton bobbinet tulle were more or less the same cream color.
1920s Lace Collar – Sewing Details
Unlike Edwardian lace inserts, 1920s lace inserts are much quicker and easier to make. Because, in the 1920s, lace trims and lace inserts are usually just zigzagged!
So to make my 1920s lace collar, I just zigzagged the Mechin lace trims and cotton bobbinet tulle together in the shape of a circular flounce. And for the V-shape sheer insert at the front of the dress, I sewed two different vintage Valenciennes lace trims to a V-shaped piece of cotton bobbinet tulle with straight stitches on my treadle sewing machine. Then I cut out a V-shaped piece at the front of the dress and zigzagged the lace collar and lace insert to the dress.
1920s Accessories & 1920s Faux Bob Hairstyle
If a black dress was not as office work dress but as afternoon dress, then the dress was usually accessorized with necklaces, brooches, belt buckles, collars, cuffs, shoe clips etc. For my 1920s black dress I made a DIY 1920s-style knotted pearl necklace.
And I also made DIY 1920s beaded shoe clips. Here’s an antique 1920s photograph of a woman wearing shoe clips. I wear my beaded shoe clips with black leather pumps which are similar to these antique 1920s black leather pumps.
And because the V-shaped lace insert is see-through, I wear my 1920s dress over a 1920s silk slip which I trimmed with the same antique Mechlin lace.
Related: My 1920s Slips
My 1920s hairstyle is inspired by a fashion plate in the Fashion Sourcebook – 1920s. I made 1920s finger waves with 1920s finger wave clips. Then I pinned my long hair into a 1920s faux bob.