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. A diverse assortment of dresses and underpinnings.
Facebook’s 20s marketplace– A new source to find 1920s and 1930s vintage clothing. Buy direct from the seller or their Etsy store. The 1920s-1930s Costume support group is a great place at ask questions and get help with your look, especially if you sew.
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 tailbone) and then add a few inches. 1920s clothing was loose and straight. If you buy for your exact measurements the garment won’t fit like a 20s dress should (too form-fitting). Whatever your largest measurement is, be sure your dress will fit that and then some. The rest
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.
LaVieDelight Etsy.com– These simple dresses are ideal for day wear. No beading, no fringe, no embellishment just pretty classy and made to order.
Deco Haus – Lovely cotton embroidered day dresses. I lOVE mine.
I enjoy making my own 1920s costume from thrift store finds. It is 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 manufacture 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.
Deco Haus – Formerly called Leluxe clothing they have exquisitely beaded dresses.
Wear Dreams are Made is a new designer who makes their own line of beaded dresses.
20s Inspired Dresses
These brands are not true reproductions but are loosely based on 1920s fashions. With the right accessories, they can look perfectly 20s.
Adrianna Papell- Stunning beaded and sequin gowns. In Canada try Hudson Bay for Papell, Alex Evenings and J Kara brands. In Australia, Bloomingdales has many designer brands that often have a 20s style.
Pisarro Nights (Nordstrom)– An affordable bead/sequin gown collection in a full range of sizes and lengths including plus and petite. Many have long sleeves and modest necklines. You can probably find this brand in your local department stores such as Dillards, Macys and even online at Amazon.
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. And all these One Hour dresses made by fans.
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. And 12 more Downton Abbey inspired outfits.) 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 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.
1920s Costumes – Cheaper Halloween costumes in the 20s theme. Many fringe flapper dresses here.