Article written by dance company member Yael Perez
We’re in summer 2022. As most people’s social lives have almost gone back to normal, and it being “the twenties”, it’s fair to expect invites to quite a few “Gatsby”-themed parties in the near future. And it’s always fun to dress for the theme. I’ve heard a lot about the “one-hour dress”, and how easy it is to make for newer sewists like myself. Sure – it’s easy enough to find flapper dresses online, but there’s nothing like the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes with making your own dress, to your measurement, especially if you only have to spend an hour making it. Also, I wanted a light-colored dress in case someone decides to invite me to one of those swanky lawn parties I used to see on Facebook, where you walk around with a straw hat, sipping on a Tom Collins, busting a Charleston move.
Planning My One Hour Dress
I followed this video by Morgan Donner, and also checked out some of the reference material that she shared. She claims it took her 3 hours to finish. I rightfully assumed it’ll take me no less. To be completely honest, it took a lot longer. Especially since just the video itself takes 15 minutes to watch.
Since the dress is a straight cut, its narrowest part should be the width of either bust or hips, whichever is wider. It took about 10 mins to try and measure myself and one of my dresses, and look at the french-language pattern to guesstimate how much fabric I need. This dress is made of two panels, so the width of the panel is HALF my hip size. And I need at least twice the length of fabric, because I’m making TWO panels.
Time to get some fabric! I wandered around the fabric store, looking for the fabric that would shout out to me “garden party”, until finally I found a cream-colored cotton with pink polka dots. Fun!
Happy with my find, I went home to start drafting the pattern. To make that dress, you cut two ‘I’-shaped pieces of fabric and connect them at the sides. Should be simple, right? To be on the safe side, I wanted to cut the shapes out of paper, but I don’t have any pattern drafting paper. I didn’t feel like going all the way back to the store, so I decided to tape together eight A4 printer paper pages and then cut my pattern out of that. Assembling the paper pieces took two hours.
Where do my armpits go?
After cutting the fabric, I realized that I forgot to flip the pattern, so the two panels that I had to remind myself that I needed were identical instead of symmetrical. Okay, let’s cut another piece.
The fabric has a lightly fringed salvage, so I opted to use it as the bottom part of my dress.
I marked roughly where I want the opening for the head and my arms, and connected the two pieces. My ‘I’ shape was more of a ‘T’ turned on its head, because I wanted to pleat the hips and have very short sleeves. My attempt at pleating was surprisingly successful, but the opening I made for the head was too small and it scrunched weirdly on my neck. So I fixed the head situation by undoing the top opening, splitting the front in the middle and adding another layer of fabric to create some sort of peter pan collar. To mediocre success. Three more hours pass.
This one goes up to Eleven
Very happy with my creation I set out to try it on. Turns out the idea of having no sleeves proved to be a bad idea. Instead of draping nicely on my shoulders, the dress stood out at a sharp angle. Combined with the cotton fabric with the polka dot pattern, the whole thing came out looking like a hospital gown.
Also, while planning and making the dress, it never occurred to me once that I need to wear it with a slip underneath, so the dress is also slightly narrow on the hips. Luckily the pleats might help disguise that.
It’s too late to turn back now, I have to get creative! I undid the shoulder seam, leaving a 1-inch connection point on each side of my neck and folded the remaining fabric slightly inwards so as to create a v-shaped slit. One hour.
Done! It’s time to accessorize and go find someone to invite me to a garden party!
- The dress is not hard to make. Practice makes perfect, and I am definitely not an experienced sewess. Also, I made it hard for myself with the printer paper pattern, making pleats, and not planning correctly for sizing.
- It did NOT take an hour. Or three. It took me almost 7 hours to make the dress, not including the time it took to drive to the fabric store and back, and finding the fabric. Was it worth it? Yes! Because I needed a dress and had a free weekend. People more experienced and less cheap than me can definitely make it in less time. Maybe an afternoon?
- If I ever make this dress again, I’m going to use a heavier fabric that might also drape better than thin cotton.