A 1920s Robe de Style

From my 1920s Pinterest board
I adore the 20s Robe de Style gowns, they hark back to the 18th century pannier gowns and they have a waist and hips.

I decided to make one for this year's Blue Mountains Roaring Twenties and All That Jazz festival this February.

My friend Sam gave me a copy of Draping a Magic Dance Gown from 1928. Now who wouldn't want to make a 'magic' dance gown!

I decided to use it as my guide to make my own dance gown as it has all of the elements of a Robe de Style. I intended wearing the gown to the Tango Evening at The Parragon Cafe in Katoomba.

I didn't chart my progress I'm afraid, but I followed the guide faithfully and here is my result.

My fabric was a silk chiffon saree for the over gown and the under gown was a 'gold' lame for the bodice and a beautiful blue silk for the skirt, all from the fabric stash.

Good photo of gown, shame my eyes are shut though!
I used pink netting, also from the stash, to make my panniers, that was the only deviation I made from the instructions.
 I loved the way it turned out, finally a 20s gown that I enjoy wearing!
Tangoing badly, lol!
Eyes open this time.

I love the gown, its fun to wear and I love the huge hips the pannier's provide. I know, I'm weird!


1929 day dress for the Charleston Challenge 2013 in the Blue Mountains

I need a new dress for the 2013 Charleston Challenge in the Blue Mountains, on the 3rd February. Now 20s fashion isn't my style, I'm a woman with hips and bust and the tube style does tend to make me look rather solid! However, I found this dress on Vintage Textiles through a Google search ...

... and then Koshka the Cat's interpretation further down the same search. I was inspired by the design and decided to give it a try with some changes. The thing I like about this gown is that it does have a fitted waist and I love the gathering for the bust darts on the bodice. Its heading into the 30s and the elements that will change the style completely to bias cut fitted gowns.

I have an original 1920s pattern that would give me the base for  gown, its a New Deltor Butterick pattern 2347.

I cut out the base dress, I used a blue and white pin stripe cotton for the bodice and a navy blue cotton  for the skirt, both soft to the hand so they would drape well. I was trying to give a 'separates' feel, yes, as you see, I am already diverging from the style. It also means that I have completed my Challenge #6 Stripes for the HSF!

  I draped a shawl sleeve/collar in the dark blue.
Then I took a further turn to the left ... I decided to leave the ruffles off! When I put the bias onto the shawl sleeves/collar I felt the whole outfit was 'busy enough' and ruffles weren't required.

 I like the look of this dress, no its not a copy of an extant gown, but it does have the 20's feel that I wanted. It will be worn next Saturday for the Charleston Challenge in Leura. More photos of that event after we played!
Historical Sew Fortnightly
The Challenge: #6: Stripes - due March 25. The stripe is one of the oldest patterns, appearing in the earliest textile fragments and visual records of garments, and its never gone out of style since. Celebrate stripes with a striped garment. Will you go for grand baroque stripes, pastel rococo stripes, severe neoclassical stripes, elaborately pleated and bustled Victorian stripes, or something else entirely?

  • Fabric: Cotton seer sucker blue and white stripes  for the bodice and binding, dark blue cotton, both
    from my stash
  • Pattern: New Deltor Butterick pattern 2347 and pattern draping.
  • Year: 1920s no date on pattern and can't locate it on the interwebs so far.
  • Notions: Thread, sewing machine.
  • How historically accurate is it: Not too bad, the base dress is based exactly on the original pattern, the shawl sleeves/collar on the original 1929 dress from Vintage Textiles
  • Hours to complete: 8 solid hours, done over a few days.
  • First worn: 3rd February for the Roaring Twenties Charleston Challenge in Leura Mall in the blue Mountains, 2013
  • Total cost: None except my time, everything came from my stash.

I'm The Tailor's Apprentice and I have created The Miss Page Vintage Pattern Collection. 1940s WWII dress making patterns for the 21st century woman. Patterns created by me from my extant 1940s gowns. All my patterns are available on Etsy and my website where you'll find out more about me as well. This year I am publishing an 1820s gown wardrobe pattern.


1920s Afternoon Tea Dance at The Paragon Cafe in Katoomba

Anka, Michael and myself
Yesterday the Parragon Cafe, Katoomba, The Tailor's Apprentice and the Roaring 20s and All That Jazz Festival held an Afternoon Tea Dance in the glorious art deco surounds of the Parragon Cafe.

What an event it was! Our performers, Anka and Michael delighted us with the 20s jazz age music of Europe.

Robyn Parker, owner of The Parragon Cafe, Katoomba and her excellent staff, provided a sumptuous afternoon tea, with champagne cocktails.

We danced the Charleston, the Black Bottom, the Tango and so much more!

My gown is a copy of one from Madeline Vionnet's 1929 Atelier collection taken from Janet Arnold's Pattern of Fashion. I've never posted about making this gown, I should do so, one day I hope!

I left my camera behind so only have photos from others, here's some of the afternoon in pictures ...

All the gentlemen c. Over the Moon Photography

All the gentlemen c. Over the Moon Photography

Dancing feet c. Over the Moon Photography


What Australian women wore in the early 20th century

20s afternoon tea dance Miss Page gown display 2011
I am extremely lucky to have a collection of dresses made by a local Blue Mountains dress maker, Violet Florence Page, I wrote about her last year in Heart's Broken After War. In that post you can read how I came into this small costume treasure from a local jobbing dressmaker spanning the 1920 - 1950s.

What fascinates me about these dresses and gowns made by Miss Page, is that they represent what women wore during the years of the 1920s through to the 1950s in Australia. When I do costuming, particularly in anything prior to the 1950s, the dress style and fashion is very American, British and Europe centric. While I love the gowns made by the couturiers and ateliers from overseas, I'm Australian and l would prefer to reflect style as it was here, in Oz, during these times.

20s afternoon tea dance Miss Page gown display 2011
Of course our Australian fashion was (and is) very much influenced by overseas trends. In the 19th century women eagerly sort the fashion magazines that arrived under sail from England and Europe. By the time they arrived, already 6 months or more out-of-date, the local dressmaker would take those styles and adapt them to our climate and to the trims, fabric, and resources available, and so with Miss Page.

The Australian Home Journal (1902 - 1982,  available online at the National Library of Australia), the Australian Women's Weekly (started 1933 and also available online at the NLA),  the New Idea (started 1902 and still going strong) amongst other local fashion magazines, provided women with an Australian flare to the overseas trends, especially through WW1 and WW2 when we were cut off from overseas influences.

20s afternoon tea dance Miss Page gown display 2011
I really appreciate Miss Page's dresses, they reflect my local area, a working dress makers life and they provide me with inspiration to create in the studio.

Her gowns and patterns are my inspiration for my move into pattern making for a commercial audience. Yes, for you, my readers, patterns made for the 21st century women but using the style, structure, design, and sewing techniques from the original time period.

I am starting in the 1940s with my Miss Page pattern collection, its a period that I love, that can show the difference of the Australian woman's style during WWII.

It is a huge learning curve for me, but I am loving it.

I am launching the first of these 1940s patterns in May this year. If you would like to be notified by email of the launch, please send me an email to enquiries at thetailorsapprentice.com and I'll pop you on the notification list. You won't be annoyed by other emails, I hate spam as much as you do!


2011 project review

I really wish I had kept my dress journal because it would have really helped me with this post! I bought the journal, very pretty as you can see, but apart from putting in my current measurements at the beginning of the year, the rest of the pages are empty. My sewing life certainly wasn't empty nor the building up of My Tailor's Apprentice business, but memory is a fickle thing, so I shall try and reflect on the things I remember accomplishing in 2011.

Dressmaking and quilting classes commenced for the new year on Saturdays and Sundays in my studio and on throughout the year. I love teaching vintage and historic sewing techniques and we have great fun during our classes as well.

A very exciting month as the inaugural Roaring Twenties and all that Jazz festival was held in the Blue Mountains for the first time and I put on an Afternoon Tea Dance and 20s fashion display from my Miss Page collection. I was even written up in the Sydney Daily Telegraph prior to the event Hearts broken after war, which meant that my Afternoon Tea Dance was totally booked out and I was able to meet clients of Violet and members of her family of as well. 

I am running the event again this year on Sunday 26th February from 2 - 5 pm at the revamped Paragon Cafe Katoomba which is beautifully art deco, a 1920s period piece, a perfect venue for an Afternoon Tea Dance, with wonderful crooning singers, scrumptious food, dancing and dress-up, of course! Go and book now before all the tickets disappear.

Jazz Age Afternoon Tea Dance 2 - 5 pm at the historic Paragon Cafe in Katoomba.  Dress up for the Jazz Age and join us for an afternoon of 12920s rhythms, song, music, fashion, fun, frolic and a deliciously wicked afternoon tea.  Blue Mountains business woman Lorna McKenzie will again display the Miss Page collection of original vintage outfits from the 1920s to 70s made by Katoomba dress-maker Violet Florence Page. Last year's tea dance was a huge success and fully booked, so make sure you reserve your place early and don't miss out.
Bookings essential phone The Paragon Cafe 02 4782 2928 Cost $50 pp 65 Katoomba Street, Katoomba NSW 2780
My Monday after school sewing classes commenced and my students learnt how to sew by making a skirt and blouse from a pattern of their choosing. I loved these classes, the children loved them as well, much laughing ang lots of successful sewing.

Is the month for the Jane Austen Festival Australia and so I was frantically finalising gowns and mens wear for my partner, who likes to cross dress at historic reenactments. Sadly we only got to spend one evening at the festival as our dog minder LOST our dog and we had to head home to find him. Astro was found, but only after a frustratingly sad four days of letter boxing and searching the local neighbouhood. We are attending the Festival again this year, so we will get the chance to wear these outfits again.

Sam and J-L at the first night of JAFA 2011
My friend at Jasper Hat Designs made me the most beautiful bonnet to wear, she hand stitched the whole thing and as you can see it is a darling bonnet.

Then it was Ironfest in Lithgow and out gallant 95th 'Grasshopper' Regiment put on a great Napoleonic show for the public. Lithgow is freezing so I made myself a Redingcote and Jennie of Sense and Sensibility patterns liked it so much that she links to it from her Tips and Tricks section, which makes me feel quite chuffed :)

I had a wedding ceremony that required an 1880s bustle skirt so I ran one up to wear as the Marriage Celebrant.

Saw my decision to create my own pattern range, starting in the 1940s as this is my favorite clothing era in the 20th century. I selected Australian WWII styles that I loved and started drafting and creating toiles for the 21st century woman. I then found a fabulous flat pattern maker who is working with me to turn them into commercial dress making patterns, and we have formed a great bond. We are teaching each other much, me from the home sewing requirements and him from the fashion industry requirements, which are so totally different!

I knew nothing about commercial pattern making for the home sewer beyond having sewn for many years myself and pattern drafting for myself. Sandro has been brilliantly helpful, as has this fabulous book that I can't recommend highly enough, Kathleen Fasanella's The Entrepreneur's Guide To Sewn Product Manufacturing. Kathleen's bog, Fashion-Incubator, is well worth following if you want to understand the ins and outs of the rag trade. Also, Jennie from Sense and Sensibility patterns has been so helpful and kind in all the 'how-tos' of creating patterns in the 21st century.

Also, my 1940s photo model, Lillian Star, is both a friend and a fellow costume maker who has been incredibly encouraging as my doubts arose throughout the year. My collection will launch mid 2012, so watch this space!

Is Winter Magic, our winter solstice festival in the Blue Mountains. I organised the second Queer Beanie event with my other 'hat' Offbeat Ceremonies ~ Giving you the Alternative, as you can see in the following video we had wonderful entries and we will hold it again in 2012.

Winterfest Medieval Fair in Parramatta put on by the Society for Creative Anachronists to encourage membership and enjoy wearing garb when its cool. Mind you the day was pretty warm! We had a glorious day in our 12th century finery.

The Napoleonic group that I belong to participated in the inaugural Australian Sharpe's March to raise funds for orphan children in the 3rd world. We walked 70kms over three days in full Regency garb and raise nearly $A1000.

I also started to work on my costume for the Australian Costumers Guild ball in August. This is held in Adelaide, half the country away from me, so a big undertaking. I decided to create the Madame Vionnet gown from Janet Arnold's Pattern of Fashion.

The Australian Costumers Guild ball in Adelaide and here's the result of my attempt at the Madame Vionnet gown. I was pleased how it turned out, even more pleased that the pattern actually fitted me with very few adjustments. The gown was totally hand sewn and I enjoyed that challenge as well, I'm not one to not use a sewing machine for the unseen seams! I wore it in the Parade competition, I didn't win, but the competition was extremely good!

In October saw the first Blue Mountains Festival of Walking and I ran two history walks. I also showed participants how to create an 1880 to Edwardian look from their wardrobes. We walked the mountain paths that the Victorian/Edwardian ladies had, in the clothes they wore and had a picnic and a high tea and enjoyed ourselves very much. I made an outrageous bloomers outfit for walking and riding my bicycle as I am a modern woman.

Classes still progress, students successfully completing their projects, wonderful gowns from the Edwardian, Regency, Steampunk and Tudor periods. I also had a costume photoshoot with Deep Hill Media Fine Art at the old Lithgow blast furnace.

Our final costuming event for the year was the SCA's Yule Feast and I worked on an Italian renaissance outfit for J-L, my first attempt at men's Renaissance garb and it worked very well. I used How to Make a Farsetto blog post and it is brilliant, I highly recommend it. Sadly I have no decent pictures, I need to take some more and properly blog the process.

So a huge year really and that's only the bits I remember, I know I made a couple of 1920s outfits, worked hard on creating gowns and patterns for my Tailor's Apprentice range, heaps of dress-up parties and so many other things that have disappeared from my mind.

2012 is looking to be huge, we are traveling to England for the Jane Austen Festival in bath and The Asylum (steampunk) in September. I'm heading to Vietnam to source silks and an ethical dress making workshop. I will launch my website with online classes, patterns and much more. I hope you enjoy coming on the journey with me.

Astro the escape dog

Bendigo for the 200 Years of Wedding gowns

Halloween Regency vampires