The One-Hour Dress, c. 1924

This was a project I worked on earlier this summer, just in time to go to the Gatsby on the Isles event with the Swell Society in August. It was a gorgeous day – wonderful people – amazing music – delicious food – fun games! Can’t wait to attend next year as well… although admittedly summer seems a long ways off!

1HourDress1924smIn any case, I had purchased one of the various reprints of Mary Brooks Pickens’ The OneHour Dress books and it happened to be the 1924 version. The basic dress is a very shapeless sack… or at least it would have been with me wearing it. Instead, I opted for the fuller skirt and choose the alternative version that was featured on the cover. I was using some lovely lavender silk satin organza – amazing drape and so soft! The book suggested organdy or eyelet for the skirt and it’s pretty obvious that it would have helped the skirt stand out a bit further, but I was using what I had on hand.

The instructions are incredibly simple – and totally doable in an hour. Basically you take a few key measurements – bust, hip, skirt length, and torso length and cut four pieces of fabric based on calculations provided in the book. Unfortunately, I erred a bit on the short side for my finished torso length so the dropped waist isn’t as low as I would have liked. Solution? Add a wide sash! (It helped that one was pictured with the dress I was making!)

gatsbyisles2013You have to forgive the slight is-she-pregnant-or-not look as this photo was taken at the end of the day and I’m pretty sure all my slips and such kept shifting up each time I stood up! The new 1920’s corset I made will hopefully eliminate that effect next time around.

There is a second dress below the sheer layer, made from a god-awful crepe-back poly satin. Ugh. But it was on hand and matched the silk so the cost was right. I made the underdress in the same way as the organza layer except that I cut off the sleeve extensions to form a sleeveless version. The underdress ended up being too long in the torso… apparently I overcompensated for shorting the organza layer. Go figure! The satin underdress was finished with narrow hems along the neckline, armsyces, and hem. The organza dress hems, as recommended in the book, were bound with bias strips of fabric – in this case, I used some of the poly satin. The original instructions state to use two bias strips, one for the front neckline and one for the back neckline. Personally I thought this turned out rather messy and would definitely just use a single piece all the way around for future versions. The sleeve hems were treated the same way.

IMG_9815The cover dress was described as having 3 1/3 yards of 7″ ribbon used as a sash but as that’s pretty hard to come by these days, I made my own from more of the crepe-back satin. It was two lengths of 15″ wide by 60″ long fabric joined to make one long piece. The sash was then sewn right sides together along the long edge and flipped right side out. I cut the ends at an angle and whip-stitched them closed by hand.

The sash didn’t stay in place very well while I was wearing it, but that may have had more to do with not wearing a corset and having bumpy slips underneath everything. The sash was also pretty heavy and the poly-satin didn’t stay tied very tightly.

The gloves I was wearing are vintage, something from my great  Aunt’s collection and the pearls are your typical ‘flapper costume beads’ available at any ol’ party store. The shoes (which I adore!) are the Gibsons from American Duchess. I don’t get to wear them often these days as they being used as part of the Behind the Seams exhibit at work. They return to my closet next April!

The hat? I love the hat! I used the crepe side of the crepe-back poly satin so it would coordinate but not be too matchy-matchy. The pattern is one I found on etsy at Elsewhen Millinery and was very quick to put together. It’s lined in white cotton and has two cut steel vintage buttons trimming the right side.

The whole ensemble took less than 6 hours to cut, sew, and be ready for wearing… so I have to say, Mary Brooks Picken was really onto something with her 1-hour dress instructions! The hat and the sash were a bit fussier, but the two dresses were definitely done in under three hours – and that was with some hand-sewn finishing. Look forward to trying this again with all the proper underpinnings next time. Last but not least, here I am with my beautiful sister-in-law! Fun sewing but even more fun spending the day with her!



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