1920s Speakeasy DIY dress

DIY Roaring 20s Dress

Getting ready for our school’s speakeasy-themed auction presented a fun challenge – create a 1920s-style dress from items I found at our local thrift stores – with leeway for a few craft-store purchases. I was ready for some up-cycled pizazz!

To begin, I did a lot of internet research on 20s fashion. We all know and love the iconic flapper dress that accentuates every shimmy and shake in the Charleston. But there is also the option of the more demure 20s socialite – a la Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby. 1920s fashionistas were all about sophisticated bling combined with loose, flowing draping and a low-waisted silhouette. I found these websites particularly informative: glamourdaze.com, pinterest.com, 1920-30.com.

When working with recycled or thrift-store materials, design depends on what’s available. My first shopping trip yielded a red satin nightie and a black stretch-lace negligee, for $6 each. The nightie had side slits that I thought I could fancy-up with the black lace. I thought it was the cat’s pajamas! Another trip to the thrift store yielded a gold wrap sweater and two black scarves – one with sequins down the center. Add a few baubles I have on hand and about $6.00 worth of bling from the craft store, I was hittin’ on all sixes!


Step-by-step Directions

1. To add some flair to the straight silhouette of the nightie, add black lace to the slits on either side. First, cut the negligée in half at the side seams.

2. Size the bottom half of each piece to fit into the side slits of the nightie. Make a horizontal cut across the skirt to achieve the appropriate length.

Cutting Lace

3. Gather the lace into a fan and stitch it together at the top (I did all my stitching by hand for this project, but feel free to use a machine.) If the top of the gather seems too bulky, trim the top.

4. Pin the resulting lace fan to the inside of each side slit, right sides facing.

Pinning Lace to Slits

5. Try your garment on, adjust as necessary, and sew in place. Voila – now you have a 1920s sheath! Time to accessorize!

I wanted to create a flowing appearance with a low sash and a three-layered shoulder scarf. Enter the wrap sweater and the two scarves.

6. To make the shoulder scarf, first cut the sleeves from body of the sweater.

7. Pin the sleeves together at the cuff to create a scarf with flowing, tapered ends (where the sleeve used to be attached to the sweater.) In my case, I left those ends open so they could flutter with my movement.

8. I layered the wider, sheer black scarf on the bottom, then the gold “sleeve” scarf, and finally, the sequined black scarf and pinned and hand-stitched them together at their mid-points. This created a wonderful layered look since both the lengths and the widths of the scarves graduated down in size. You will come up with your own strategy with the items you find.

9. Try your garment on and pin your layered scarf to one shoulder strap, allowing it to drape down front and back. Stich on.

10. I found that after I stitched the scarf on, I wanted a little more bling, so I attached a feathered “fascinator” I had on-hand near the top of the scarf and tacked the scarves down around it.

11. To make a sash for the waist, cut the two front pieces from the back of the sweater at the side seams. Pin the long, tapered ends of the wrap ends together so they overlap and their edges align, then sew in place.

12. Try your garment on once more and pin the sash across your hips or waist, depending on your body type and the desired silhouette. Allow the side body pieces of the sweater to drape down from your hips, brushing the sides of the dress.


SAMSUNG CSCAdd a feathered or jeweled headband, a few long necklaces or strands of pearls, a pair of t-strap pumps and you are ready to get a wiggle on!