Costume Stories – 1920s Fashionable Femme Part 1

 

I have the fantastic opportunity to attend the Episode Zero game for a new LARP developed by Entropic EndeavoursVelvet Noir. I got word of my sponsored ticket 9 days before the one-day event, and I had a packed 9 days until then, so I needed to make my costume happen on the quick, and on the cheap.

The game is set in late 1920s rural New York, and the characters may come from virtually any walk of life, and is “an American freeform, campaign game about oppression,” notably regarding sexuality, gender, and ethnicity. Ultimately, the game will be played at campgrounds, but this Game Zero event had the unique luxury of being hosted at a historical hotel in center city Philadelphia.

1920scorset-3
A 1920s Gossard Corset

When planning any costume, silhouette and texture tend to be the things I focus on the most. The 1920s silhouette is iconic, yet easy to do wrong with so many “flapper” dresses on the market that build on a modern hourglass silhouette, hugging the chest and waist, made of stretchy material, and hemlines anywhere from mid shin to high thigh. So a flapper dress off the rack was not the right choice. With my lack of budget, I knew I would not be able to come up with any period-accurate foundationwear, so no girdles or corselets to even out my curves. However, many women in that time did not reduce their curves, so as long as I stayed true to the lines of the day I felt all right; and besides, I’d chosen to portray a fashion-forward, progressive, professional writer and designer, so I leaned on the designers Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet for visual inspiration, and hotshot Elizabeth Hawes for personality and passions.

Pinterest is often my best friend when planning new pieces, and I had already assembled a fairly decent board for my hypothetical Velvet Noir character. A few images became my guiding inspiration– a photo of Coco Chanel herself, and another photo of a woman in a Chanel suit. Vionnet’s work, though absolutely stunning, would require a lot of detail, time, and the Just Right Materials to do right, so I put that thought aside for a passion project. I assembled a rough plan of straight lines, low hip, and unaccentuated/natural bust, and headed to the thrift store. 

I snapped photos of components I thought could be useful as I shopped. I had a very vague color palette in mind based on a few accessories I already owned (shoes and a dark green felt cloche hat), including pinks and greens, but ultimately the luck of the store would guide the final look. If I found a stunning piece in blue, blue it would be. The fates were with me that day, as I found a pink dress with a neat belt-like panel on the front and elastic smocking in the back, with the skirt knife pleated in; easy to take the top off. Next was an ivory blouse with a deep drapey collar, and finally a green linen-look lightweight suit jacket that hung long on me and echoed the businesslike femininity of the Chanel look beautifully.  I managed to walk out with three garments for nine dollars.

I already own a few pieces that will work well with the outfit; a green felt cloche hat, an array of vintage jewelry, and two pairs of shoes that I’m still fussing between (a pair of handsome brown men’s Cole Haan oxfords (another thrift find!), and a pair of Oak Tree Farms Janets, which seem to transcend space and time to look good on my feet for any occasion.) The only other piece to my costume that I had to order was a wig. I went with a pretty iconic look, a finger waved bob in a champagne color.

In the next installment, I’ll be sharing with you how I altered my $9 thrift store finds to match my vision. Stay tuned!

– Juniper

Resources:
Entropic Endeavours
– Underpinning the Twenties: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
Fascination Street: Jackets and Coats [of the 1920s]
– Dressed Podcast: Elizabeth Hawes, Fashion Rebel , Dissecting the Flapper
Pouilard, Veronique: Design Piracy in the Fashion Industries of Paris and New York in the Interwar Years. 

 

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