Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flapper Dress Tutorial

My husband and I have been invited to participate in a Murder Mystery party. Brent is ecstatic since he's been begging me to host one of these things for years. I, on the other hand, couldn't be more nervous. I consider myself a friendly person, but having to pretend to be someone different or else ruin the night... that isn't sitting so well with me. Wish me luck!

The theme is 1920s gangster/flapper as the night will take place in a speakeasy. With only a week to prepare and 10,000 other things on my plate, I scoured the Halloween stores in our area and every Goodwill I could think of to try to find something that would work for this night's costume. Unfortunately for me, I had no luck. With time running out, I decided to make something on my own and this is what I came up with:

Thank goodness this is only meant as a costume! I needed something a little longer than the store bought options because, well, I wanted it longer. And I needed something with wider shoulder straps so I could wear my nursing bra. Here's how I did it:

What you will need:

2 yards purple costume satin
1 yard navy bolted lace
rotary cutter
cutting mat

All seam allowances are 1/2" unless otherwise stated.

Measure your widest point (mine happened to be my hips) and add one inch to that width for seam allowances. Measure the length you want your bodice to be. I wanted mine to sit low on my hips since that was the style in the 1920s. My length was 27 1/2, which I added one inch SA to. Once I had my measurements, I cut out my fabric piece. I chose to divide my width by two so I would have a front and back bodice. Because this is just a costume, you could cut one large piece and fold it in half, meaning you would only have one side seam. I liked two because I sewed the lace onto the bodice.

I marked each piece on the wrong wide with chalk. BF = Bodice Front

Next, I found a tank top that had arm holes I liked. I laid it out on one piece of my bodice, bodice fabric right side down.

Use chalk to trace the arm hole onto the bodice fabric.

Fold your fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together. Cut along the chalk line through both sides of the fabric leaving you with two arm holes. Lie the bodice fabric you just cut onto the other bodice piece, right sides together. Use the piece you just cut as a template to cut the arm holes out of the other piece.

Here, I already cut the right side for both pieces of fabric.

If you choose to use a lace overlay like I did, cut a double layer of lace to the same dimensions as your bodice.

Use your cut pieces of purple satin as a template to cut the lace.

Lay out your pieces in THIS ORDER: Bodice front right side up, two layers of lace, bodice back right side down. Pin the side seams and shoulders/neck.

If you are working with satin for this dress, set your machine to a zig zag stitch. Note that a zigzag stitch will take up more space than the 1/2" seam allowance you've given yourself. You may want to cut your material a little wider if you intend to use a zig zag stitch. Sew up both side seams from the crook of the arm hole to the bottom of the bodice.

Try on your bodice to make sure it fits. Place a pin where you would like the neckline to stop.

Fold the bodice in half and draw a line from the pin to the neckline. Make sure wherever you end on the neckline is where you want the neckline to start (in other words, if you want to wear a certain bra/cami with this, make sure you leave fabric where those straps will be).

Cut down the line you drew. ONLY CUT THE PIECE OF SATIN YOU DREW ON AND THE ONE LAYER OF LACE DIRECTLY BELOW. You should have cut half the neck line. Fold over the satin to use as a template to cut the other half of the neck line.

Repeat for the back. I didn't make my back neckline as low as the front neckline.

Put on the bodice. Measure from about 1/2" above the bottom to where you would like your skirt to sit. Mine was 16". Take the original width you used for your bodice, add 10". This will give you a little "flare" to your skirt. I chose to cut the material with the selvage on the bottom. Again, this is a costume and I hate hemming, especially something as difficult as satin so I used the selvage as the "hemline".

I chose to only use the purple satin for the skirt.

I chose not to cut two pieces for the skirt, so I cut one large one and folded in half, right sides together. If you want something more polished, cut two pieces and create two side seams. I didn't want to put too much time into this since it was just something I was throwing together last minute for a party. Pin your side seam, right sides together, and sew with a zig zag seam.

I could have stopped there, but I decided I wanted to add a second layer to the skirt, so I chose my length, cut a piece on the selvage and sewed it to the top of the dress, since I had already sewn the skirt on. To hide the seam from the top tier, I made a sash by cutting a piece of satin the width of the dress. I folded it with right sides together and sewed up the side with a 1/4" SA. Turn the tube right side out and press with the seam down. I added lace that I cut to match the sash and sewed it onto the front of the dress right down the middle. I added a flower pin where the two edges of the sash came together. Last step: hem up all those messy lines. If you want, shear the seams to make the satin less fringy.

And there you have it. My flapper dress which, come to find out, I can't even wear to the Murder Mystery!! My character wears an evening gown... so I had to start from scratch yesterday with a new dress. I guess it wasn't a complete waste. I learned a lot from making this costume.

I am adding this to Melissa's blog today. She has started a great new tradition of sharing new things on Thursdays and I am so happy to be able to take part this week! Go check out her site to see what everyone came up with this week.


  1. Love the dress, love the color!

  2. Thanks! I had a hard time picking out the color. My friends were telling me purple wasn't "20s-ish", but I couldn't resist!!

  3. Love the color as well and what a great tutorial!!!

  4. Thanks so much for a fantastic tutorial!


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