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Everywoman's Swiss Dot 1920s Dress

Welcome to the first *real* post of 2019! This year took a somewhat unexpected turn and I chose not to participate in university classes this Spring in the interest of becoming fully self-sufficient. While I will not be discussing the full reasons behind this decision, and do not know if I will be able to afford further studies towards medical school, the amount of stress that I have divested was absolutely worth it. Unfortunately, being fully self-sufficient means that I am my only source of income and that obviously will limit how much costuming I will get done in the foreseeable future. I WILL be returning to Anime Boston as a cosplay contest judge from April 19-21 and have a project or two underway for that, on a shoestring of course.

Not having a project on the cutting table (um, floor) left me to dive into my ever-growing pile of mending work that comes with collecting antique garments. My January research trip to Cornell University gave me another opportunity to raid the Ithaca antique shops and they certainly came through as they always do so of course I came home with several desperate and not-so-desperate antique garments to add to the stash.

Among these was a white Swiss dot 1920s dress, and I must be honest that I almost passed it over as a modern knock-off. These wimpy modern textiles have gotten so good and wimpy that I almost can't tell the difference between them and old, actually worn, textiles. Anyway, the true Swiss dot fabric was a dead giveaway that this was not a knock-off because a modern manufacturer would not bother with a detail like that.

A true Swiss Dot has little tufts of fiber pulled through the weave to form the "dots". Modern fakey-fakes may use some kind of print or even glued on flocking. If you pulled on one of the tufts of fiber (don't! Just look and imagine!) it should come clean out, and that's how you know yours is a true Swiss dot.

I knew it was a keeper when I saw that it had pockets.


This is probably a middle-to-low income woman's dress. It has the fashionable dropped waist, the but pockets in particular indicate that this dress was intended for someone who needed her hands free rather than someone who could afford to carry nice handbags to go with her nice clothes. It is machine sewn and the seam allowances were finished with the 1920s equivalent of a serger. The one indication of handiwork are the lines of drawn work on the sleeve cuffs.

Drawn work on one of the sleeve cuffs

The problem--and I knew this before I bought it--was that this dress had some stylistic issues that must have affected its wearability. They may even have been responsible for the fact it has survived this long in such good condition. In a word, this dress just is not very wearable. The textile is sheer, so you would need an underdress (not a tall order). It also snaps down the front and the space between them gape. The skirt is open from the waist down. Overall, it would take a lot of work to make this dress look good and it may betray your modesty if you are not careful. Due to the sheer textile, it was also rather impossible to hide the presence of the snaps without fake buttons (which is lacked and probably never had, based on lack of scarring).

With such a sheer fabric, it's nearly impossible to hide your stitches. This is on the visible side of the front closure, and clearly needed something to conceal it.

The fixes were pretty straightforward: stitch closed the skirt below the waist, replace a missing hook at the waist, reinforce the stitching on the corresponding bars, tack the sleeve cuffs so they stay "rolled up" and add decorative buttons to cover the stitching for the snaps. It also needed an appointment with the iron.

I pinned the skirt closed below the Waist and carefully stitched it closed with a herringbone stitch, which will move with the garment. The trick was to catch the bottom three layers of fabric without catching the top (visible layer).

Much nicer with mother of pearl buttons covering the snaps.

Even though there aren't any snaps below the waist (being that I stitched it up), I continued the false buttons there for a little visual interest.
The one problem I could not fix right now was the gaping caused by the large spacing between snaps. I will need to buy properly-sized snaps before I can address this issue.

Although this was a fairly routine mending/modifying job, I hope you found the process entertaining or even helpful. I am very interested in everyday dresses like this, and even more so when I find them in such good condition. Under the latter circumstances, I can almost always point to some stylistic "problem" with the garment that may have caused its owner to relegate it to the bottom of the drawer rather where it was preserved for the future. I have a late 1890s bodice with an extreme pigeon breast that falls open because its hooks and eyes are spaced to far apart. Practicality foibles and screw-ups are certainly not a new phenomenon.

This post first appeared on Albinoshadow Cosplay, please read the originial post: here

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Everywoman's Swiss Dot 1920s Dress


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