Tag Archives: embroidery

1920s Embroidered and Smocked Frock

Any vintage seller who has been in the business more than a few years will tell you that vintage clothing is subject to fads.  One year vintage wearers want 1950s full-skirted dresses, and the next they might move on to 1970s disco attire.  If the comments on Instagram can be believed, one of the hottest items right now is the “ethnic-inspired” smocked and embroidered dress from the 1920s.

This type dress fits in well with the 1920s fascination with the exotic, something I’ve written about in the past. While there were sewing patterns for the dresses, they were also made abroad. I’ve seen them with labels from Czechoslovakia and the Philippines.

To be honest, I’ve never been able to determine exactly when these dresses were made, but the general consensus seems to be from the mid 1920s and into the early 1930s.  If you look at the placement of the waistline on my dress above, you can see that it’s not exactly the stereotypical 1920s silhouette, as the bodice is shorter than expected.

I spent a pleasurable morning looking through 1920s magazines, and the closest I found was this illustration for a 1926 Vogue sewing pattern.  Witness2Fashion posted several examples, also from 1926.  Fashion illustrations did tend to exaggerate the silhouette somewhat, but even so, my example has a longer skirt as well as the short bodice.  By the late 1920s the waistline was inching upward, and the hemline downward.

Another hint that my dress is later 20s or even 1930 is the little bit of shaping in the waist. There is even an opening in the side to allow for easier dressing.

Quite unbelievably, I found this dress at my local Goodwill bins.  It’s not in perfect condition, but the design of the dress lessens the impact of the problems.  Here you can see that some of the red threads have come loose at the neck. That was a very easy fix.

Not so easy to deal with was a small rip on the upper back. To stabilize the tear, I encased it in organdy and then basted the three layers together. While the tear makes the dress unwearable, it would not detract from the garment if it were to be displayed.

You can see some staining in this photo, which a few gentle handwashings removed.  I also had to do a bit of smock repair.

One of favorite things about this dress is how the dots vary in size, and how the pattern of them on the skirt is the reverse or that of the bodice.  And all the dots are hand embroidered.

Today we think of smocked dresses as being just for little girls.  What a shame!

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1930s Embroidered “Bohemian” Blouse

Sometimes we tend to think of 1920s and 30s design as being all about Art Deco and its geometric lines, but there were other forces at work as well.  Starting in 1909 with the wildly popular Ballets Russes,  the traditional peasant dress of Eastern Europe began showing up in fashionable clothing.

This look was just one of many ethnic influences in the 1920s, perhaps brought about by a world becoming “smaller” due to improvements in transportation and mass communication.  Middle and upper class people were traveling abroad and were bringing home embroidered folk blouses and dresses as souvenirs.

These became so popular that they were imported for sale into the United States.   Needlecraft companies published how-to books so women could make their own “authentic” European needlework.

Most of the examples I’ve seen are from the 1920s, and have dropped waistlines in the dresses and the bodices on the blouses are longer as was the fashion.  My blouse seems to be later, from the 1930s when the waist went back to a more natural position.  There was probably a cord tie at the neck, as there are thread loops through which to fasten them.

Mine has no label, but I’ve seen them labeled “Made in Czechoslovakia”.  Though it is very well executed, there is no way of knowing if mine was a home sewing project or an item made in Europe.  Enjoy the close-ups of the beautiful embroidery.

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Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing