1920s Summer Outfit

I’m going to the New Deal Prohibition Picnic in Seattle next month, so I’ve been working on my first 1920s outfit. I had already ordered the Royal Vintage Lillian Retro Spectators in Sage, so I wanted to plan my outfit around them.

This was a tough one for me.  Since I didn’t have the shoes yet, I matched the color to a spool of thread and held it up to practically everything in my stash, seeing what would click. At first, nothing seemed to work.

While I love green as an accent and particularly love pink and green together, I really didn’t like pink with this particular green, no matter how hard I tried. It all felt too soft and girly to me, and it just didn’t fit.

Surprisingly, I kept bring drawn back to a few ribbon flowers in red, yellow, and orange that I had made years ago and were just decorating a shelf. There was something about the way they caught the light and just glowed that really felt like summer to me. I don’t even like orange, yet I loved the bright flowers against the sage green. Go figure.

So it was decided – a cream dress with a green silk taffeta sash and a bouquet of bright ribbon poppies at the waist. Maybe another accent at the shoulder. Maybe some green embroidery at the hem, if it needs balance. The Royal Vintage shoes, and a hat.

I like the sash and flower treatments on these dresses, plus the black and orange hat paired with the blue dress. The length is a little longer than what I’m aiming for, but my colors obviously fit well with this era.

This trio of sheer dresses with short sleeves also caught my eye, as did the sleeveless version of this pattern from Eva Dress. The basic shapes are very simple and similar to the famous 1 Hour Dress. Since this era is entirely new to me and I’m shorter and heavier than the illustrations, I’m going to let my mockup decide the final proportions and design.


As tempting as it was to make a cream-colored hat to match the dress, it just felt too matchy for me. Looking at fashion plates, I noticed that a number of light-colored dresses worn with black or navy hats. I love the drama of big, black hats, but always worry that my dark hair gets lost against the black. I decided to try an open weave straw or lace hat in hopes that it would lighten up the overall effect.

The blue hat at the lower left is my primary inspiration. It looks like a horsehair type braid, with a wider brim, and a bold cluster of flowers on one side. And as the ad says, it’s summery!

Sadly, there is not nearly as much pretty millinery braid available today as there was once upon a time. The best I could manage was some diamond patterned horsehair braid. I picked a width just under 1″ wide, to match the scale of my inspiration hats.

I took a straw hat making class at Costume College last year, so knew the overall concept of how to make a hat out of braid. Still, there’s a big leap between theoretical and practical knowledge, and I learned a lot making this hat! I can’t count how many times I unpicked and restitched the braid while working. Luckily, it doesn’t show at all on the final hat.

I ran a gathering thread along one side of the braid, and then started shaping the crown over a wool cloche that I own. I made a 23″ oval of wire to start the brim, then added two partial rows of braid to make it wider at the sides. The remaining rows went around that shape. Originally I shaped the crown into a curve that was higher in the front and back, but that made the brim do wonky things when I attached it. I ended up removing the shaped rows and piecing in more braid to create a straight edge at the bottom of the crown.

I always find it tricky to match the crown size to the headsize oval on the brim. This hat was no exception. It’s a bit smaller than I intended, but fits well enough. The crown isn’t perfectly shaped, but nothing you notice when worn. If I pull it down too far, however, the brim buckles a bit at the front, which I suspect is a function of the shape and size of the headsize opening.

The brim is edged with heavy millinery wire and covered with vintage rayon bias tape. I shaped it gently upwards at the front and back. The brim was still a bit floppy, even with the wire. I decided to try some millinery sizing on a scrap to see if it would help at all. It only firmed up the braid a small amount, but it also dulled the shine of the horsehair, which I thought was a good thing. Shiny plastic reflecting in the sun just doesn’t say vintage to me. The entire hat received a couple coats of sizing, which helped the brim hold the curve a bit better.

The grosgrain ribbon and velvet flowers are vintage items I purchased on Etsy. The velvet leaves were already in my stash. The inside is finished with some black millinery grosgrain from my stash. I played around with the placement until it felt like a pleasing arrangement that had the same feel of the large spray of flowers on the side of my inspiration hat and other hats from the era.

I really enjoyed making such a lightweight hat. My previous attempts at millinery involved a buckram base, which is heavy and quite tedious to cover. In comparison, this was a breeze! I have more braid in cream, navy, and fuchsia, so I look forward to more experimentation.

The finished hat is exactly what I wanted: bright and summery, sheer, and it should blend with the outfit without being too matchy. I’m still working on the dress and ribbon flowers, as well as some underthings. I need to get cracking, since the event is July 8th!

4 Responses to “1920s Summer Outfit

  • I have never ever thought of making such a cute sheet hat! It’s gorgeous! How long did it take you? Did you machine or hand stitch it? Absolutely beautiful – I can’t wait to see the whole outfit.

    And welcome to 1920s summer wear! I love wearing 1920s in the heat because there’s no waistbands to touch your body. Make it in linen and it feels like cheating it’s so easy to wear and be comfy 😉

    • Thank you!

      I meant to say that the entire hat is machine sewn, aside from the trim and hat band. I didn’t track time very well, but I’d guess about 5-6 hours of fiddling and figuring it out, Icydig taking it apart a few times. Not using buckram and being able to use the sewing machine sped things up considerably.

  • Where did you source the horsehair braid you used? I would like to find a source it is available from.

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