Embroidered Peasant Styles from the Nineteen Twenties

White linen vintage dress with blue embroidery and cutwork, mid-nineteen twenties.

White linen vintage dress with blue embroidery and cutwork, mid-nineteen twenties.

Dresses from the 1910s and 1920s were often ornamented with embroidery and beading, even for daytime wear. Just as there was a strong interest in ethnic clothing and crafts in the nineteen sixties and seventies, some women appreciated folk embroidery and embellishment ninety years ago. The style was not limited to “artistic” or eccentric dressers; “peasant” blouse and dress patterns were offered by mainstream companies. I was lucky enough to photograph the 1920s peasant dresses that follow while making an inventory of a friend’s collection. [I wish now that I had had time to take better pictures!]

Peasant Blouse and Dress Patterns, 1925

Here are some Butterick “peasant” patterns from 1925:

May 1925: blouse trimmed with smocking and embroidery, from Butterick’s Delineator magazine.

May 1925: blouse trimmed with smocking and embroidery, from Butterick’s Delineator magazine.

Embroidery transfer #10341 for the blouse shown above.

Embroidery transfer #10341 for the blouse shown above.

Butterick sold sewing patterns and also sold embroidery and beading transfers.

“#10341: You get several trimming combinations in this embroidery, for after you have finished trimming your peasant blouse with the cross-stitched bandings and motifs, you can use the one-stitch banding in bright wools down the front of your wool jersey sports frock…. The one-stitch banding may combine different bright colors in wools…. It can be adapted to 1 5/8 yard each of bandings 4 ½ inches wide, 2 ½ inches wide, 1 5/8 inch wide and 1 3/4 inch wide and 32 assorted motifs.”

Butterick blouse pattern #5903. Here it is shown embroidered in red and worn under a black "suspender skirt." May, 1925.

Butterick blouse pattern #5903. On the right, it is shown embroidered in red — or red and black — and worn under a black “suspender skirt.” May, 1925.

These smocked peasant dresses from the same issue (May, 1925) have a strong relationship to the embroidered vintage dress pictured below. Smocking is a peasant embellishment technique originally used on shepherd’s smocks.

Peasant dress patterns # 6006, for ladies 32"- 40" bust, and #6012, for Misses 16 to 20 years. 1925.

Peasant dress patterns # 6006, for ladies 32″- 40″ bust, and #6012, for Misses 16 to 20 years. 1925.

“#6006: One-piece dresses in peasant style are very cool and dainty for Summer and one of the smartest new fashions…. Many attractive color combinations are possible, for instance, on a white frock the smocking may be done in red, lavender, yellow and black.”

Embroidery on Two Vintage Twenties Dresses

The subtler color palette of this vintage peasant dress, in sheer cotton, is very attractive:

1920s smocked dress in sheer cotton, with embroidered front.

1920s smocked dress in sheer cotton, with embroidered front.

Detail of front and back

Detail of front and back

V098 smocking detail

This white linen dress with marine blue embroidery and cutwork is more clearly inspired by ethnic embroidery. [I imagine it being worn by a 1920s tourist visiting the Greek islands with parasol in one hand and sketchbook in the other. I dimly remember a similar dress being used in the movie Carrington (1995), based on the life of painter Dora Carrington.]

Front and side views of a vintage white linen embroidered dress, 1920s.

Front and side views of a vintage white linen embroidered dress, 1920s.

PHOTO  This dress, which was in the collection of a friend, had blue crocheted loops and blue crocheted buttons along the collar and neck opening. I photographed it first over a pale peach slip, to show the beautiful openwork patterns:V093 front embroidery detail 500

And again over a navy blue slip, which gives it more dimension. V093 embroiderd cutwork on navy slip 500

Considering the amazing things that can be done with computerized sewing machines and soluble stabilizers, I suppose it would be possible to duplicate these dresses today without the many, many hours of handwork that made the originals so wonderful. But it would still be quite a project!

 

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11 Comments

Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Dresses, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns

11 responses to “Embroidered Peasant Styles from the Nineteen Twenties

  1. This is probably my favorite 1920s trend. I have a dress similar to the blue on white one, but mine is white embroidery on blue linen.

  2. I love these. I wonder what particular folk tradition inspired them…or maybe it was a kind of mash up of different styles?

  3. Christina

    The folk embroidery found on 1920’s dresses has a direct bearing on Russian influences on fashion at that time. Russian emigres were working in Paris as dressmakers and embroiderers for many of the fashion houses including Chanel. Kitmir is probably the most famous workshop.

  4. Beth

    This is Norwegian Hardanger Embroidery

    • Thank you! I love this blue and white dress, but I have only seen
      examples of Hardanger (in books) that were “white on white” (or,
      natural linen color). I really appreciate the identification.

  5. Pingback: Four Blouses and a Hat from January 1924 | witness2fashion

  6. Pingback: Suspender Skirts, 1925 | witness2fashion

  7. Pingback: Some (Surprising) Smocked Vintage Garments | witness2fashion

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