Pattern Review: Decades of Style #2005 1920s “Baltimore” Dress

My Decades of Style “Baltimore” dress in green and ivory striped cotton.

This past weekend was one of my favorite events of the year, the Oakland Gatsby. This annual end-of-Summer picnic is a 1920s, 30s, and 40s feast for the eyes with hundreds of well-dressed ladies and gents enjoying an afternoon garden party.

The Gatsby – a huge 1920s lawn party.

There is a costuming standard for The Gatsby – they won’t let you in unless you are appropriately dressed! This may seem rough, but the atmosphere this creates is one where, with a little imagination and relaxation, you may slip into a suspension of disbelief and connect with our days of yore in a more palpable way. This trick of the mind reminds me of the movie “Somewhere in Time,” and happens all too rarely, making it quite an experience when it is achieved.


Decades of Style #2005 1920s Baltimore Dress pattern.

This year I made a 1920s dress from the new Decades of Style “Baltimore” dress pattern. I liked this pattern because of the geometric lapped seams. My original plan was to transition the frock between ’20s and ’30s with a belt, but that worked out less splendidly than I’d hoped.

Fun with stripes. The pieces front of the Baltimore dress gave opportunities to be creative with the striped cotton.

I made this dress from a special textile I bought in the gift shop at Quarry Bank Mill on my vacation in England this past June. This cotton was made on the antique machines that run in the mill – the cotton processed, the yarn spun, and the fabric woven. Learning about the mill and observing the machines running was an experience I will never forget. This video shows the loom in action but does not accurately convey the noise of it. Just one machine was so intense that it shook the floor – it was impossible to imagine all of the machines in the multi-story mill running at once. No wonder the mill workers went deaf within months of starting work there.

I did not have a plan for my Quarry Bank cotton when I bought it, but the geometric possibilities with the Baltimore dress presented the perfect opportunity.

The dress was quite easy to construct. There are several lapped seams on the front, and the back is just one piece darted at the neckline. I turned and basted the seam allowances on each piece and top stitched, a very vintage technique. Once the front was all pieces together it was easy going to finish construction. The one place I had trouble was the V neckline, which I attempted to bind in self fabric bias tape. I didn’t do so well at the point of the V, but with time running short it was a “good enough for now” attempt to be revisited later.

Lapped seams – one of my favorite vintage techniques.

All in all I found the Baltimore dress very easy. I did curve the side seams in a bit to be more flattering and will probably take more in or possibly dart the back, only because I’d like to wear this dress as an everyday frock rather than just as a costume. My textile choice, in the end, probably wasn’t the best. The cotton is perhaps a bit stiff. I felt a bit like a striped potato. This dress made up in chiffon, gabardine, or crepe, however, would be completely different, so if you’re planning to give this pattern a try I recommend a textile with some drape to it.

The cotton dress was cool and comfortable in the unseasonable heat this year.

If you’d like to give this easy and accurate pattern a try, check out Decades of Style.

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