Wednesday, January 25, 2017

HSM #1: 1920's Undies

The Challenge: Firsts and Lasts

Material: Silk crepe de chine, silk satin, silk charmeuse, cotton sateen, elastic and lace.

Pattern: Mrs. Depew #2030 for the Bandeau, Truly Victorian 1913 Corset (heavily modified) for the girdle, and self drafted patterns for the envelope chemise and slip.

Year: 1925-29

Notions: Silk and cotton threads, corset busk, hooks and eyes, buttons

How historically accurate is it? Spot on, to the best of my knowledge.

Hours to complete: A couple weeks.

First worn: Dardanella's Gatsby Ball

Total cost: I'm not sure. Most of the fabric was from my stash. Things I bought specifically for the project were some suspender grips and very small buttons for the envelope chemise's tab.


I suppose I should start from the inside out. 

The Historical Sew Monthly 2017 kicks off with the First and Lasts challenge. I thought my undies fit well with the challenge, as foundation garments are usually the first step in sewing for a new era.

I'm going to apologize in advance for the less than stellar pictures. I had so little time to get all these pieces done, I didn't get any pictures in process. Also, apologizing for the hotel room carpet! I finally had a moment to take pictures while I was getting dressed.

The very first things I made for my new 20's wardrobe were a bandeau and step-ins from Mrs. Depew pattern #2030, which is a reproduction of a period pattern. The step-ins got replaced by the envelope chemise when I decided on making a girdle to keep my stockings up. But the bandeau remained when I decided I needed a little extra support under the chemise. The Mrs. Depew pattern went together well. It was a print-at-home pattern, which was very handy. The only change I made was some tucks at the center front, which helped with the fit. The bandeau was made of ivory silk charmeuse, elastic and lace that I had on hand. 

The corset (or girdle - I've seen both terms batted around period catalogs. I'm not 100% sure which is which, but I'm guessing some of it depends on waist height, and also maybe when busk fronts gave way to hooks and eyes and other closures) is of ivory silk satin, lined with cotton sateen. It closes with a busk, and is lightly boned with German plastic. I boned the side seams, leaving the front and back free.

This is my first time using German plastic boning and so far, I love it! Easy to use, comfy to wear. I adapted Truly Victorian's 1913 corset pattern, which I used for the Edwardian corset I made last year. I added elastic panels, which I assembled from strips of elastic by butting them together and zig-zag stitching the strips together. I used similar elastic for the suspenders. Miracle of miracles, Hobby Lobby had suspender clips in stock! I have never seen them there before!

Below is a detail of the tab that make an envelope chemise more than just a chemise. This envelope chemise was extremely easy to draft. I referenced a period pattern I own, but opted on drafting a pattern since it was easier and less time consuming than tracing the original! It's just a trapezoid, with my bust measurement plus ease at the top, and my hip measurement plus ease at the hip, with the side seam extending from the bust, past the hip, creating more hem circumference further down the thigh for ease of movement. 

The crotch tab is just a rectangle hemmed all around, attached at the center back and buttoned to the front. I reinforced the button placket with a second layer of silk crepe de chine, which is what the slip is made of. I opted for lace at the top and bottom instead of a hem, which I inserted with a plain stitch instead of zig-zag, but in the same manner. It was just as easy, but much lighter than the zig-zag, which I like. The straps are self fabric. 

Below is the original pattern I mentioned. From the illustration of the pattern pieces, one can see the pieces are very basic.

The costume slip is a similar set of trapezoids and rectangles. The top half followed the same pattern as the envelope chemise and the bottom, from the hip down, was a rectangle of fabric, about 55" in circumference, joined to the hip with the excess fabric box pleated to the top portion. I chose box pleats, instead of the more common pleats/gathers at the side hip, because the silhouette was getting wider and wider at the hips since the dress's slip planned for side pleats, too. 

If anyone is interested, below is the basic pattern. These were very easy and went together very successfully. I used mostly french seams. I tried to get them as small as possible; reading the instructions on my period envelope chemise pattern, it suggests no seams larger than 1/8th inch!

The stockings were a win. They are 100% nylon Gio Stockings, made in Derbyshire, England, which are manufactured on vintage knitting machines. The stockings are made the same as they were in the 60's, which means pretty much no stretch, unlike modern tights. I'm still hunting for really authentic silk stockings, but these are closer than I have gotten in the past! And they have a beautiful sheen!

Very helpful in figuring out all this vintage lingerie sewing, was two e-books made available by Mrs. Depew Vintage on etsy: a 1930's lingerie sewing book and a garter/girdle sewing booklet. I used to hate having to sew foundation layers before getting to start the fun clothes everyone can actually see, but now I love it! And the girdle is so fun and comfy! I never thought I would say that, haha. Totally different from a corset. Especially with the addition of elastic. It was like wearing a hug!

Next up: the dress and coat!


  1. These are fantastic! And very inspiring. Makes me want to put together a set of 1920s undergarments. Your girdle is very clever and a great way to get what you want.

  2. Your stitching is so tidy! I love it!!! And what a great idea to make elastic panels! I was just thinking I needed to ask how you'd created them when I read the next paragraph... When I made an 1890s corset with elastic panels 8ish years ago I searched high and low to find elastic wide enough. I did find 6" wide elastic, which suited the pattern (they were only across the hips, not up to the bust area), but this is a great idea to keep in mind for future elastic panel needs. Somewhere on my to do list is a 1920s girdle that would benefit from this type of ingenuity!


    1. Thank you! And it is so nice to hear that something I have shared is helpful! Yes, the elastic idea came out of necessity (no time to ship - didn't even look, honestly), but it worked wonderfully. It was especially handy because I was able to finish the top and bottom of the panel cleanly, because the top and bottom edges of the pattern piece were at an angle.

  3. These are really beautiful! I love what you did with the elastic in the girdle. I have the corset pattern, I'll have to try this out one day.

    1. Thank you! The pattern worked really well as a base. It absolutely needed a mock up, though!

  4. These are all great! I only made a pair of step-ins for this challenge but it is wonderful to see you made yourself a full set of 1920s underwear for it. The corset modification is especially genius. I have recently looked at girdle patterns and did not come up with anything I liked. The way you went about it is just brilliant. Amazing job altogether!:)

    1. Thanks! Ya, I found like nothing in the way of girdle patterns. Especially from the years I was looking at. That particular pattern made a really nice teens corset, too.

    2. Oh it does. A friend of mine used it and made the most amazing corset from it. Sometimes I wished we still had my gran's late 20s girdle at home and I could make a pattern from it. :)