gtag('config', 'AW-857850290');
top of page

The quest for an authentic flapper dress

I have been happy as a cat's pajamas since I bought my ticket to the Historical Romance Retreat. My heart does the jitterbug every time I see the author list: Victoria Alexander, Elizabeth Hoyt, Jade Lee, Sabrina Jeffries and more!

To make everything better, period dress is encouraged. There's a fancy tea party, a masquerade ball and a swinging twenties speakeasy.

Wait, 1920s? (Frantically digs through closet, costume bin, other costume bin.) But I have NOTHING to wear. And for good reason.

The Gibson girl was the ideal of the 1920. Young, athletic, skinny as a rail. She didn't bother with cumbersome petticoats or constricting corsets. She was GOING places: voting, studying for college, working outside the home. And she was also the first woman in a thousand years to show off her legs above the ankle.

Today we look at the colorful sacks on museum mannequins and wonder how that was considered attractive. But to the grandchildren of the Victorians these were miniskirts. Remember, Victorians were so uptight that they would dress "naked" piano legs.

Since my personal figure is more Marilyn Monroe than Daisy Buchanan I look great in clothing from periods that glorified the waist or bust. Darn, I guess I have to go shopping.

First I did some research. Below are some examples from the collection of the Museum at FIT, a fashion museum in New York City with an excellent online collection. Over and over we see loose fabrics, dropped waist, and hem at the calf.

Chanel 1927 Silk and lace evening dress

Here is a classic Chanel piece, created in France in 1927. This silk evening gown is snug in only one place, to emphasis those boyish hips. Skirt exposes the whole calf but not the knee (unless you were dancing the Charleston!) Since the lady would not be wearing stays there would be a little jiggle going on.

I adore this pink chiffon dream created by Bonwit Teller in 1920. Doesn't it look like it belongs on the set of Singing in the Rain? Thin clingy fabrics emphasized the body by their drape instead of the formfitting cut of the 19th century.

By 1926 the Art Deco movement has brought back embellishment in a big way, but in a completely new style. Strong geometric patterns, metallic colors and perfect symmetry were common.

The original Charleston dress is attributed to Worth. I couldn't find it, but I did find one lovely fringed example.

Now if I could only find something just as lovely, historically accurate and in my size. There is an amazing selection of truly terrible flapper costumes out there. Let's pick one apart.

Even Betty Boop the cartoon nightclub singer wore more fabric than this. The first thing we notice is the chest, thanks to the sparkly lines drawn down to the breasts. The skirt is crazy short for the era, when knee-length was provocative. The piping on the fitted bodice suggests a boned corset, which is exactly what flappers were trying to get away from! All the fiddly white-on-white details of ruffles and bows is very Victorian. This was created by a sloppy costume designer with no sense of history. It looks like they took a Wild West Saloon Girl costume and added a headband.

I'd better keep looking...

Where do you find your historically accurate costumes?

32 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page