Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The One Hour Dress from 1924

The One Hour Dress (center) and 2 vintage pieces

I needed a dress for a 1920's lawn party but didn't have a whole lot of time to put into it.  I found the perfect solution in the One Hour Dress.  That is a set of instructions created by famed home economics instructor Mary Brooks Picken in 1924 for making a dress in an unbelievable amount of time.  There is a set of videos on YouTube where a seamstress demonstrates this, and yes, you really can make a dress in an hour.  However, it requires techniques like not using pins or finishing the seams that I was not comfortable with.  So, between using the usual sewing techniques and making some modifications to the pattern, it took me more like 4 hours to make.  I met a lady at the lawn party wearing a fancier variation of the dress.  She said it took her an entire week to make.  You can easily spend much more time on it the more detailed you decide to make it.

I have to admit, I really liked being able to make a dress without using a pattern.  Or maybe I just like being able to work on something without the cats dive bombing the pattern and chewing on it while I'm trying to pin it down and cut it out.  The modifications I made were to change the skirt so that it overlaps in front and adding a wide bias cut strip at hip level for interest.  Depending on the fabric choice and trimming, the pattern can end up looking like a hospital gown.  The hip detailing was a good decision in terms of making it look more dresslike.

The end result turned out really well.  It does have a very period look, as of course it should.  Sadly, I only came in second place in the costume contest with it.  The costume that won was a cheesy all over fringe dress worn with a feather boa and a pair of flip flops!  At least I don't have to worry that I didn't win because my dress didn't look authentic enough.