A Flapper Dream

*Top now available in Pretty Bones Jefferson Boutique here!

These were taken a couple of weeks ago for the listing of this flapper top in my boutique, and I’ve held them for a while because not many shots did the piece justice. The light was a little difficult on the day, as it was late in the afternoon and a cloudy day. The greying dome was was sending down drizzles intermittently as it often does in Dublin around the year, so there was a good bit of nervous watching of the sky.

Top: vintage 80s Chello (London)

Skirt: altered from an A|Wear empire waist top

I do have a not-so-slight fascination with the 1920s flapper dress style, as I’m sure many of us do. To me it was the beginning of modern fashion, when corsets were set aside, big skirts diminished, hems went up, and everything became less structured and less strait-jacketed. I can totally understand the explanations for the origin of the word “flapper” that associates it with the birds’ flapping wings, as the light fabric and fringes of this fashion, cut generously, do hang and flap around one’s body as one moves, and one feels either like a bird or being covered in birds.

And because it’s the start of modern silhouettes, flapper makes me feel slightly unconfident or perhaps more accurately, unready, as due to my fashion education from my Victorian-child-novel-loving mother and my own involvement with Victorian-themed projects, I really seem to have been invested mostly in the Victorian silhouette, with defined waists and big, generous skirts. My collection vintage and modern clothes are often based on the idea of the Victorian revival, though I’ve also recently started taking more inspiration from the Edwardian era which has been giving me a lot outfit ideas but which, is another story.

I often doubt if I am the right body type for flapper dresses – because for some reason I feel as if I ought to have a flatter physique for them, or I would not look boyish enough? Or maybe I’m just not getting used to my look in drop waist yet – it’s difficult!

But I actually felt quite at ease with this flapper outfit, maybe because I had a little more control around the waist region where I had the skirt underneath sitting on my waist. But the overall layered look is that of a drop waist with a lot of “flap”. I liked how this top can be combined with other skirts of different lengths and cuts to create an almost infinite range of different “dress looks”. It was a a great find from one of my recent sourcing trips, and I just picked it up because I liked the material and tailoring, but it was JEG who saw in an instant that it was decidedly in 20s style.

I’m quite fond and proud of the black chiffon skirt used in this outfit, as I had altered it from a A|Wear top and it was something that I really needed. It was an empire waist and somehow didn’t fit me very well, but I liked the flow of the chiffon and decide to just get rid of the part above the high waist to turn it into a skirt (some sewing was involved). It’s a great basic piece and I’ve also sometimes worn it as a short petticoat.

If you’d like to see more photos of the top and outfit (somewhat more matter-of-fact shots) and the measurements, it’s listed in the Pretty Bones Jefferson shop here. It really is a darling and, I think, a great piece to add some flapping flair to any wardrobe and a quick step into the 1920s world.

(Photos by JEG)


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The 1920s drop-waist flapper dress (brought on by the Yahoo list of high street versions)

It came up in my Yahoo news yesterday a list of 10 current high street flapper dresses that Yahoo had put together. It was a useful update,  as I haven’t been to high street shops for a while (it’s difficult to make oneself go to high street shops when one can spend so much time looking at the real classic fashion on Etsy and blogs…).  I had been curious to see what high street would be putting out for modern interpretations of the 1920s flapper dress, since interest in the 1920s fashion era seems to have been steadily ascending recently in our quest into past eras for inspirations, and I thought they were sure to do it. The recent great success of the film The Artist has certainly helped, and Yahoo says that the new film for The Great Gatsby is coming up (I thought, what, another one? and I haven’t even seen the older one or read the book yet! My isn’t it tough catching up with the past?). And even before all that, my local retro film club Film Fatale in Dublin did back in December a screening of Singing in the Rain which was 1950s recreating 1920s (and flapper dresses). Then there have been the many TV period series which I unfortunately don’t watch.

It’s actually not a bad list, especially the very last one from Wallis, which is a beige light short dress with gold threading, embroidered embellishment at neck and hem, and sewn-on drop-waist belt. It’s surprisingly authentic-looking (Wallis says that it was taken from their dress pattern archive in the 1927 Swing range), although I’m not sure about the colour pairing in the model photo on Wallis’s product page – ink-blue fur stole and Christmas-red stockings on beige dress? The three colours together just don’t work for me and look rather like a patch-work quilt (the blue and the red would be tricky in the best of situations) and I really hope it’s not Wallis’s idea of how to update a flapper dress – definitely neither glamorous nor rebellious. The dress itself is attractive.

Wallis beaded flapper dress

Wallis beaded flapper dress

That being said for the design, I have to say that the construction and decoration can’t match the real thing, i.e., vintage flapper dresses or the truly meticulously designed and crafted modern recreations, and would run the risk of looking dowdy soon after a few wears. The details (oh the sequins and beads!) on real vintage (now approaching antique) flapper evening dresses are absolutely so (almost terrifyingly) exquisite, like this vintage art deco 20s dress from ForgottenMuse and this other from PomPomClothing on Etsy. And also I would not like so much to run into people wearing the same dress as I, which is always likely to happen with one-piece high street fashion…

Authentic vintage 20s dress from ForgotteMuse

Authentic vintage 20s dress from PomPomClothing

I personally think the flapper style, especially the Art Deco drop-waist beaded evening dress is absolutely fascinating and flamboyant. I’m less fond of the swing fringe dress although they are somewhat easier to wear and I have a vintage one myself. But the drop-waist beaded sheer dress is just…so like a glamourous boy’s vest that it’s absolutely incomparably cool?

And it does take a figure to carry it off.

Louise Brooks

Louise Brooks

Which I thought Bérénice Bejo did an awfully good job at in The Artist this (last) year:

Bérénice Bejo as Poppy Miller in The Artist (2011)

Bérénice Bejo as Poppy Miller in The Artist (2011), dress by Leluxe Clothing

All very admirable. However I myself am somehow perpetually stuck with the Victorian silhouette, as I was telling  Miss Nicole Dotto on Etsy recently. I’d still like a good waist any time of the day or any day of the year…Maybe I just don’t have very flapper-ish manners, or hair, for that matter. I’d be interested to see if I can find a flapper style of my own, maybe a transition between an Edwardian girl and a flapper (which was constantly happening in the real 20s). I guess I’ll need to find that flapper dress – there was this drop-waist vintage 50s but 20s-style dress that I bought from Nicole’s shop on sale last month, which is pearly pink with white three tiers of lace from the hips and mid-calf length – It’s really sweet but I think I may try to beautify it more, , maybe by laying skirt(s) underneath to make it longer and adding more details to the top part. It’ll be an experiment! (in which no part of the dress shall be harmed).

One of the real causes for my now thinking that the flapper style is lovely is Madame Chic de France‘s recent couture creations of flapper dresses. She puts so much research, detail, and craft into the dresses; and they turn out absolutely unbelievably classy and authentic looking. I must say that dresses such as this flapper wedding gown by her have helped restore my faith in the 20s. Soon after having seen her flapper wedding dresses, I started looking at pages such as this Squidoo flappers page and the fashion-era.com’s 1927 weddings page, and it felt like, aha! Victorian creeping into Edwardian creeping into flapper! – at that point I realised that flapper could be just as classy my beloved Victorian and Edwardian.

flapper wedding dress by Madame Chic de France 2012

flapper wedding dress by Madame Chic de France 2012

In closing, I must mention that I found, while writing this post, a limited-edition Topshop 20s dress which is detailed and quite lovely.

Topshop 20 beaded flapper dress

Topshop beaded flapper dress

The beading does look impressively exquisite, and the price knows it, which is 510 USD on the website. Although the Topshop description says it’s pink, the photos look more like a salmon colour and I wish they had explained it better, as it looks like a potentially difficult colour. It certainly is pretty, in any case, although for 510 USD…I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to buy a flapper dress for that much money I would definitely get something vintage whether straight from the 20s or later eras on Etsy rather than Topshop. It’s such a pity that there are not many original 1920s dresses left because the material was often so delicate, but with a bit of money and research, one can still find a good number of stunning real 20s gowns!


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