Years ago, dressmaking was the kind of common skill that women would start to learn from a very young age. It was easy to do, and something that people just took for granted. Today, dressmaking has a completely different social cache. The ability to sew your own clothes is now seen as a refined skill. Most people dream about making their fashion ideas a reality. Just look at the popularity of a show like Project Runway.
Probably the most amazing thing about that show is how fast the designers are able to put their dresses together. But putting together a fabulous look wasn’t always so easy. Making a dress used to take forever. Things stayed that way until 1924, when a little a book came out that revolutionized the way that dresses were made. The title of that book said it all: The One Hour Dress.
It blew the minds of even the most experienced dressmakers. One Hour Dress was so controversial, that no one could actually believe in the technique until they saw it demonstrated live. The fashion paradigm had shifted. There was a new rules about how women could dress and what was appropriate. The dresses of the 20s unleashed all that in fashion form.
This was the kind of fashion innovation that could not have happened before the 1920s. Also known as the Roaring Twenties, they were the heart of the Jazz Age—when speakeasies and dance music and loud parties and driving around dark cities in fast cars at breakneck speeds became the model for how to party. If you saw The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan you saw how big the parties were and how amazing all the clothes looked.
To really understand the non-stop fashion of the 20s, consider what Mary Brooks Picken, the author of The One Hour Dress said about the dress: She said you could get a call at “one o’clock inviting you to a small impromptu gathering of friends at three, and you can go, if you wish, wearing a dainty new frock made in the time you would ordinarily spend wondering what to wear.” If you think she meant one o’clock in the afternoon, think again.
The quickness of making the one-hour dress wasn’t the only thing that made the book a success. One Hour Dress taught a method of dressmaking, not a dress. This one way of patterning could turn out an unlimited number of different dresses. Combined with how quickly you could make new dresses, it was the first time women could appear as if they always had something new on.
If you want to find out more, The One Hour Dress is available online right here. It’s a great resource whether you’re learning how to make dresses, designing a flapper costume, studying the basics of fashion design, or into Jazz Age fashion like modern cabaret and burlesque. The One Hour Dress can help you look the part. Get your copy here.