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What Story Does YOUR Flapper Dress Tell?

Original 1926 Antique Teal Green Beaded Flapper Dress

Original 1926 Antique Teal Green Beaded Flapper Dress

I’ve gotta say … I’ve loved this fantastic beaded flapper dress ever since I first saw it.  The unusual, bright teal underdress is striking enough, but add the black crepe and steely beads and this dress is just breathtaking!

The dress practically has its own fan club.  It gets “oohs” and “aahs” whenever it’s displayed in the shop or at a show.  But I could never get a decent photograph of it because it just refused to hang right and it languished in the shop.  I was certain there had been some alterations made – it looked shortened because of the tuck at the dropped waistline that held the under and over dresses together – and I assumed there was some hidden damage although I really couldn’t see where.  There are some catches near the hem of the teal underdress, but … it just didn’t add up.  At one point, I had almost decided it had been altered for a pregnant flapper because of the odd darts at the waistline!

1920s Antique Beaded Flapper Dress Altered for Mid 20s Shorterr Hems

1920s Antique Beaded Flapper Dress Altered for Mid 20s Shorterr Hems

Not long ago, I found space to set up a specific location for photography and thought maybe that would help.   So I tried it again.  It didn’t.

Finally, I decided that the only thing left to do was to remove everything that looked like an alteration and see what was going on.  After all, there were large basting stitches showing on the underside and in order to write an accurate description to offer it for sale on my website, I really needed to know what the problem was.  After some encouragement from my friends in the VFG (Vintage Fashion Guild), the decision was made —

Very timidly … I do NOT want to screw this up – this is taking all my courage … and very cautiously, all the stitches were removed.  Certainly there was something awful under that tuck.

Nothing was wrong.  Absolutely nothing!  No damage whatsoever … just the most minute bit of evidence of the stitches I removed.  Now that the under and over dresses could be separated, I could see that the straps had been shortened, tucks had been taken under the arms, near the waist, and a strip of silver metallic lace had been added across the bust.  These remaining alterations were removed.

Why had this dress undergone such neatly done alterations that were so obviously reversible?  Occasionally, we find antique and vintage dresses that have been altered (usually not very nicely) for use as costumes in plays … or worse – Halloween.  But this alteration showed all the signs of being contemporary to the dress.

Showing the results to the VFG gave me the answer I was looking for.  The dress was made about 1923, when the hemlines were fairly long.  Fashion being what it is, hemlines became shorter in 1924 and 1925.  Our foremothers had always updated their clothing by remaking their dresses and it was only prudent not to permanently shorten the dress.  Many dresses with this very treatment have been found and some are even in clothing collections and museums.

Wouldn’t you love to know who wore the dress when it was longer and what the occasion was?  Maybe it would be more interesting to know what the occasion was when it was shortened!  If dresses could only talk ….

Miss Weaver’s Beaded Flapper Purse

Once in awhile, I run across an interesting vintage item that really causes me to believe that it just longs to tell its secrets.

Miss Weaver's Mysterious Beaded Flapper Purse

Miss Weaver’s Mysterious Beaded Flapper Purse

I don’t even remember where I found this sensational beaded  flapper purse, but it absolutely HAS to have secrets to share.  It’s possible that it belonged to a woman named Ruth, for inside, there is an envelope addressed to a “Miss Ruth Weaver” with a return address stamped on the back from a chiropractor and a postmark of 1926 Indianapolis where she lived just south of historic Woodruff Place.  Did Miss Weaver have a bad back from dancing the night away?  Or was the chiropractor a beau?

Admiring the multitude of midnight blue carnival glass seed beads, patiently sewn onto the silk purse in loops, I wonder —  Did they once shimmer enticingly in the dim lights of the speakeasy Miss Weaver and her beau spent the evening dancing and (gasp!) imbibing in the forbidden “waters”?

It was inside the purse that I found the folded envelope.  And inside the envelope are lots of loose beads and two straight pins.  Was Miss Ruth in the process of completing the decoration of her purse, or are they wayward beads that tried to escape as she kicked up her heels in her new, flirtatious flapper dress?  We’ll never know but there’s more …

Miss Weaver's Lost Beads

Miss Weaver’s Lost Beads

The purse handle, made of black grosgrain ribbon and hand sewn to the frame, is broken in two!  You don’t suppose she was in a speakeasy when a quick exit was required?!  As she picked up her purse to make her escape, maybe it caught on the corner of a chair back, breaking the handle and a few of the threads which held the sparkling beads.  She would have quickly picked her purse up off the floor and vainly tried to scoop up as many of the, now wild and carefree, beads as she could to erase any evidence that she’d been there.  In her distress, a young man stops to help corral the beads and slips a few wayward ones into an envelope he happens to have in the breast pocket of his jazz suit.  Handing Ruth the envelope, he helps her to her feet and guides her to the safety of the lighted sidewalks of Indianapolis where they pretend to have known one another for some time and have just stepped out of the neighboring theater only to find chaos on the street in front of them.

Once the danger has passed, Ruth notices the last trolley car of the evening arriving.  She quickly thanks her new friend for his help and smiles sweetly before turning and going up the steps and taking a seat.  Looking out the window, she sees him wave to her.  She smiles and returns the gesture.  As the trolley starts forward, she realizes … they did not introduce themselves!  She doesn’t know his name!

The chiropractor's envelope

The chiropractor’s envelope

But once Ruth reaches her home, she opens her purse and finds the envelope … with the name and address …

As you can see, this purse needs a new owner.  I’m having entirely too much fun making up Miss Weaver’s escapades!  (Or maybe … Miss Weaver was the crotchety old maid aunt who snatched the purse from her gallivanting niece, tearing the handle and breaking the loops of thread holding the beads.  Angry, because the beads have scattered on her floor, Aunty grabs an old envelope from her chiropractor’s office and places the beads inside…..)

Help meeeee!

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