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 ….