Now that we have delved into the fabulous world of 1920s dress history it is time we let the real fun begin and buy (or make) our very own 1920s dress. There are tons of special events, themed parties, dances, history tours, art deco societies, theatrical performances or “just because” events to dress up for. NO EXCUSES! You will find a reason and if you can’t find one make one up and get some friends involved.
Buying Vintage 1920s Dresses
Vintage 1920’s clothing is the best and the worst to wear. Nothing compares to the delicate fabric against your skin, quality of craftsmanship, or the embellishment that went into real 1920s dresses. They are a delight to wear IF you treat them well. They are prone to tears and snags, stains, and disintegration. Wear them to low key events, make no sudden moves, and stay away from food and wine to make them last longer. Don’t refuse to wear them just because you want to preserve it. To quote a friend, “It will either die on a hanger or die on me. I rather it die on me.”
There are far to many vintage online shops to recommend. These are just a few of my favorites:
etsy.com or ebay.com – The two largest websites for selling vintage clothing. The trick to bargains is your keywords. Search for “flapper” “gatsby” “twenties” “downton abbey” “boardwalk empire” to find more results. You can also source through just “vintage dress” or “antique dress” and maybe find a hidden gem. Be careful of anything with the words “style” or “inspired” in the title because it may not be genuine vintage.
Vintage Vixen Clothing – Antique clothing under $100. Diverse assortment of dresses and underpinnings.
1860-1960 – More beautiful vintage pieces sold on her website and ebay stores.
Buying vintage online can be tricky. Buying for the 1920s can be even trickier when it comes to sizing. Be sure to measure yourself (bust, mid waist, low waist, hips, thighs, center neck to tail bone) and then add a few inches. 1920’s clothing was loose and straight. If you buy for your exact measurements the garment wont fit like a 20’s dress should (too form fitting). Whatever your largest measurement is be sure your dress will fit that and then some. The rest can be altered if need be.
Reproduction 1920s Dresses
A slightly more affordable option over vintage is to buy a vintage reproduction dress. These designs are patterned and reproduced from original garments. The fabrics may also be of the same materials used in the 20’s but usually not. Reasonable replacement fabrics would be used instead with good results.
1920s Day Dresses
RevampVintage makes limited editions from original 20s patterns. These are great for day and afternoon wear.
Wardrobe Shop – Carries Nataya brand dresses that are loosely based on vintage originals that are sheer and romantic. They are excellent for 1910 to early 20s dresses especially for weddings and afternoon teas.
House of Recollections (Esty.com) – These simple dresses are ideal for day wear. No beading, no fringe, no embellishment just pretty classy and made to order.
I enjoy making my own 1920s costume from thrift store finds. It’s usually the best way to create a 1920s day look.
1920s Evening Dresses
Most reproduction dresses are not day dresses but formal evening wear. Heavily beaded and fringed there are only two countries that still have the equipment to manufactured beaded gowns.
Unique-Vintage dresses have a flapper feel with fringe, beads, and embroidery. My good friend, Lauren, loves her dress and I have several I am nuts about too. You can’t go wrong with either of these brands. Just save your dollars, these gowns are around $200-300. I link to many of these vintage reproduction dresses here. Evening wear sections of department stores, such as Nordstrom, are also excellent sources of beaded or chiffon gowns.
Sewing a 1920s Dress
If you have sewing skills, then by all means make yourself a dress. Most vintage sewers are surprised by how easy 20s dresses are to make. The only difficulty is in your pattern. If you choose a vintage original pattern you probably will not get any directions with it. You will have an assortment of pieces to stick together and you will have to hope they turn out right. It is a challenge but well worth it in the end. You can also get 1920s reproduction dress patterns that have complete instructions (thank you!)
Personally, I am a lazy sewer (lacking time is more like it since the little dancers were born) so I prefer to either mock up my own dresses or find a modern pattern at the fabric store and modify it. Look for the shape of your inspiration dress. The line drawings on the back of the envelope will tell you more about a dress pattern than the photo. Straight or shift dresses can work great. See the dress I made using a modern pattern.
Vintage Inspired 1920s Style Dresses
When I first started out in costuming I couldn’t afford vintage or reproduction dresses, nor did I have the time to dedicate to sewing dresses for myself. So I went shopping locally for vintage style dresses that looked 20s as is or just needed a little modifying. Thrift stores and my local mall were my best friend (see eight dresses I made from new and thrift stores.) Years later I still shop local but I love the online selection even better. I have several shop pages dedicated to 20’s dresses. I handpick each item for their resemblance to the fashion, materials and appeal to our more modern sensibilities. Some are reproduction dresses while others are more “costume” like. If you look and don’t find what you like feel free to contact me anytime and I will do a custom search for you.
1920s Dresses- For day or night. A mix of 20’s inspired dresses.
1920s Day dresses – No beads, just beautiful light fabrics for tea and garden parties.
1920s Flapper or Gatsby Dresses – Beading, fringe, feathers, and shorter length dresses.
1920s Plus Size Dresses – Beautiful dresses in a full range of sizes.
1920s Formal Dresses – History of 1920s formal gowns and more elegant dresses to choose from.
1920s Downton Abbey Dresses– Long and short gowns in the early 20s styles loved by fans of Downton Abbey.