Wednesday, August 3, 2016

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How To Make a 1920s Miss Fisher Wardrobe

For Costume College 2016, one of the classes I taught was about making a "Miss Fisher" wardrobe, developing your style based on the popular Australian murder-mystery show set at the end of the 1920s.

I've talked about Miss Fisher here before, and I had all the good intentions of having an epic class at Costume College, but by the end of Sunday I was wall-eyed with fatigue, and I'm not sure I got across everything I meant to. So I'm going to share it here.

"Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" is set in 1929 and follows the adventures of amateur detective The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, who with pizzaz, chic, and little permission solves various interesting crimes and killings in Melbourne.

Watching the glamorous Miss Fisher for two seasons, you'll notice she wears a variation of the same outfit just about every episode, particularly in season 2. Phryne's "look" is made up of the same basic pieces:
  • Trousers (most often, but sometimes a skirt)
  • Blouse
  • Long Coat
  • Cloche Hat
Rinse, Repeat.

She wears the same three pieces over and over again, in a character-specific color palette, mixing it up with hats, scarves, and fanciful textiles. When you break it down in this way, the Miss Fisher "look" becomes incredibly accessible, easy to put together, and easy to wear on a daily basis.

Yes, we can all be as chic as Phryne and we can all do it every day and it will be comfortable AND beautiful.

With just a few pieces, your wardrobe begins:
Click for larger view
You may wish to make each item or buy them. When deciding on fabrics and pieces, first think of color palette. Do you have a warm skin tone or a cool one? To determine this, look at the veins on your wrists. If your veins are greenish, you have a warm skin tone; if they are blueish you have a cool skin tone. This will help you decide the most flattering colors for you in clothing as well as makeup, BUT these are guidelines rather than rules. Just because you have a cool skin tone does NOT mean you can't wear a warm hue!

Additionally, most colors have a warm and cool side to them - for instance, turquoise can be quite green or lean more towards blue; burgundy may have more orange to it or be closer to purple. If in doubt or terrified about using a stronger hue as your base color, go with black or white instead, which flatter both and are excellent neutrals.

Miss Fisher, with her pale skin and black hair, wears a palette of cool colors - navy, burgundy, white, black, and turquoise. I also have blue veins, so I'm following Phryne's color scheme in my own wardrobe too.

Next we look at fabrics. Fabric choice is important to the overall Miss Fisher look because we're trying to blend a very casual, loose and flowing silhouette with a more formal, nicer-than-sweatpants look. While it may feel like you're wearing pajamas, the looks is one that's appropriate for a business meeting.

Luckily there's plenty of crepe palazzo trousers and chiffon pussy-bow blouses to buy right now. The robe-coat is a little more challenging to find, but keep your eyes peeled, particularly on Asian fashion sites, for long jackets and lightweight coats.

As concerns the robe-coat, you can stick with your trouser/skirt fabric to get the matching suit look, or you can get wild with your outerwear. Miss Fisher does both!

Now on to prints and motifs. 1929 is the year, so here's what to look for in prints on blouses and scarves:

Lastly, to top is all off, let me convince you of the transformative powers of the cloche hat. The trousers, the blouse, the long robe-coat - this all looks like nice work wear until you put on that cloche hat and then the whole thing comes together. This is what, in our modern world, will really define your look, and it's an opportunity to be creative, flamboyant, and avoid a bad hair day.

Cloches can be easily made or altered. You can buy them online or even at Target, or buy a round head block instead and spend your weekends joyously reverting and reblocking thrift store straw and wool hoods. Hats can be draped or structured, brimmed or slim. Find the shape that works best for your face and go for it.

It takes "hattitude" to put on a killer cloche and strut your stuff in public, but while you may feel self-conscious at first, you get used to it over time. I've always only had positive reactions from muggles when I wear my cloche hats, and many a good conversation resulting.

So how to start? With vintage style more available today than ever, these brands are a good place to shop:

Want to make? Here's a big ole list of patterns I recommend for each piece of the wardrobe:

Now that you're armed with inspiration, info on the basic pieces and good colors for your skin tone, materials and prints/pattern choices, where to shop and sewing patterns to check out, and the knowledge of The Cloche Hat, you have all the tools necessary to make your very own Miss Fisher Wardrobe. The last step is to go out and rock it!



  1. Fabulous post! But then I wouldn't expect any less from you on this subject :)

    On a side note, the Costume College looked amazing and I loved looking at everyone's photos on Instagram. I really wish we had something like this here. I'd definitely be up for meeting lots of like-minded vintage seamstresses from around the country.

  2. OH this post is just what I needed! Thank you so much for creating it!

    I am starting to save up penny by penny for Costume College 2017! It's a bit difficult for me, as it's almost always the week after SDCC, but I'll start working on things now, haha! It'll be fun to be with like minded people!

  3. Vera Venus has a cute 30s beach pyjama pattern on her website for free. Although this is probably a bit before the time, it seems like something Phryne would wear. The top has printable pieces and the pants have instructions on how to draft your own pattern to fit the wearer.

  4. Fabulous! I love Miss Fisher's look, and I love how you have broken this down into such manageable sections. Sometimes I look at her costumes and get so distracted and wide eyed at it all, that I don't see the individual pieces. Great post, I'm sure everyone who was there for the class enjoyed it :)

  5. This is amazing!! And exactly what I need to give my post-baby wardrobe an overhaul. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to put this all together <3 <3 <3

  6. Great post! I was sad to have missed this class at CoCo. Thanks for adding it. :)

  7. Best pos I read for ages in the sewing bloggosphere

  8. Earlier today my mother, the non reenactor, was raving about her clothes.
    Now I understand!

  9. Thank you so much for creating the PDF, I have a difficult time finding professional palazzo/lounge-type pants for work that are modest, fun, loose and business appropriate (and also long enough).

  10. Very kind of you to mention my patterns in the pdf. and nice post overall, Lauren!

  11. I love all of this but the "muggles" comment made me laugh out loud. Thank you.

  12. I love all of this but the "muggles" comment made me laugh out loud. Thank you.

  13. Great post! I'm in Melbourne where they film Miss Fisher at the moment! I'm curious, would her style only work with people with the same proportions? i.e. tall high waisted people

    1. Thanks! I think this style could work for anyone. The show's costumes go more for the natural waist rather than the dropped waist of original 1920s garments, which many feel can be unflattering. Defining the waist is very important for any body type, but those who are shorter or taller may also want to pay attention to the length of the skirt and length of the duster robe-coat, finding the length that best flatters them.

  14. This was forwarded to me by a friend and while a bit on the short side I have new confidence in doing up my own Miss Fisher wardrobe!!!! Thanks for the blog and your amazing words, I will be checking it out again!!! It does make me wonder if Essie Davis ( The Honourable Miss Fisher) realizes how much she has influenced through her character the revival of the 20's look and art of being feminine (with out us having to battle major prejudices of back then).

  15. The show had set a new trend, The character who portrayed Miss Fisher really did a great job of course the wardrobe also played an important role giving that 20's look.

  16. I have been trying to find a good reference for the red robe coat and white one with the floral she wears. We see the bright red one with her white blouse and skirt, and match red hat, and the other one I love is with the white pants and shirt, white jacket with floral, (last set of three pictures in the middle). I can not find any historical references to these and I need to have them. Do you suggest a good sewing pattern for a base? I NEEEEEED IT!