Sunday 2 November 2014

Tutorial: 1920's style Flapper Dress

You can tell it's getting close to the end of the year when you start receiving notes from school telling you to put dates in your diaries for end-of-year activities, and asking you to provide specific items for costumes for end-of-year performances ... and boy-o-boy has this years costume request caused some widespread hysteria among the Grade 1 and 2 Mums.  We received a very detailed note informing us that girls need a 1920's style "flapper dress" with sparkly fabric and/or fringing for a dance item they're preparing.

Now to be fair, we have been given over a month of notice.  Still, the Mums have been in an absolute "flap" about this.  Where would one find a Flapper Dress for a 6 year old anyway?  My first thought was "Yay, I get to make a dress!", then I panicked slightly because I really had no idea what I was s'posed to be making.  But after a little googling, I went back to "Yay, I get to make a dress!"

And here's what Bethany will be wearing ... she's a little excited and would really like to wear this dress EVERYWHERE (you know, to ride her bike, to play on the swings, to feed the chickens!), but I'm forcing her to keep it hanging up to stay clean before her performance!  Mean Mummy!!  And I can't wait to see this performance which is all very top secret apparently.  She's got that 1920s dance style going on for sure!

So, the fabric for this dress is a white lycra with shiny gold spots printed on it.  I bought this in the "dance costume" section of my local fabric store eons ago when I had another project in mind (which I never got around to ... you totally do that too, don't you?)  But it was perfect for this little dress.  I also added 2 rows of gold fringing for added "wow" and a little fabric flower made out of the same fabric as the dress.
The best part about this fabric was that it doesn't fray, so I didn't bother to finish any seams with the overlocker, or do any hemming at the bottom.  It made this project so much quicker.  Also, because of the good stretch in the fabric, I was able to get away with a simple tube-like dress ... yay for no shaping required.  All I did was a quick measure of my little dancer before she went to bed, then whipped this up in about an hour while she slept.  Too easy! 

And here's how to do it ... 

You'll need:
- 1 yard/metre Lycra
- 1 1/2 yards/metres fringing (my fringing is approximately 3 inches wide, but any width would work just great.  Go for the flowy ones, rather than the stiff ones so that the fringing moves well.
- Sewing machine and coordinating thread.

Step 1: Measure your dancer's chest circumference - right at the armpits.  Bethany's was about 24 inches I think.  Then add 1 inch to this to allow for seam allowance.  Also measure the length on your dancer from the armpit to the top of the knee, then add 1 inch to allow for hemming at the top.  Cut  your fabric at these dimensions, then cut your rectangle in half length-ways to create a front and a back.

Step 2. Place your rectangles right-side-together and sew the side seams, allowing a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  BUT, stop 3 inches from the bottom to make some little side splits for extra style.  Open the side seams out at the splits and sew the seam allowance down to finish the edges of the splits. Then sew a little row of stitching (and backstitching) at the top of the split across the seam to reinforce it and stop it from "splitting" any more ... like so .... (note: you won't have your fringing on yet, so just ignore that horizontal row of stitching in the pic below!!)

Step 3: Fold the top edge down 1/2 inch, then another half inch, pin and sew to make a nice finished edge for the top of the dress ... like so ... 

Step 4:  For the straps, I cut fabric strips 2 1/2 inches by 10 inches (you could make the straps longer or shorter based on the size of your munchkin), sewed them along the long edge (right sides together) and used a safety pin to turn them through.  I then folded the ends over to hide the raw edges and stitched evenly at the front and back to the inside of the top edge.  For extra strength, I sewed these by stitching a square with a diagonal line.  You can just see it in the pic below.

Step 5: Sew your fringing around the bottom of the dress, about 1/4 inch from the edge, then sew a second row of fringing above this, with just enough space to avoid overlapping.  At the beginning and ends of the fringing rows, I simply tucked about 1/4 inch of the fringing under and made sure I backstitched a few times to hold it firmly.

Step 6:  For the flower, I found this tutorial, and simply hand-stitched the flower to cover the strap join on one side.

And there you have it ... No hysteria required, only minimal "flapping" of arms, and one very happy little flapper-dress wearing munchkin.


  1. So original!!
    She will dance so happily with this dress!! :-D

  2. Looks like she's having a lot of fun in her new flapper dress. You've done a great job with the style.