Vintage Twenties’ dress in champagne-colored silk velvet chiffon (burn-out velvet.) Private collection.
Some people call this “cut velvet“; it’s also called “burn-out,” “voided,”or “devoure” (with an accent aigue on the final e: dev’-00r-ay.) The places where there is no velvet pile can be sheer, like chiffon; or satin-y, as in this bustle-era cape or mantle (the leaves are plush velvet, and the spaces between feel like heavy satin:)
Victorian dolman cape made to fit over a bustle dress. Cut (voided) velvet/satin brocade with silk chenille fringe. Private collection.
Back view, vintage twenties’ cut velvet and chiffon evening or afternoon dress. The top looks lighter because the skirt lining has been lost.
A close-up shows damage to the vintage chiffon back drapery and the burn-out silk, but you can see how sheer and chiffon-like the burnt-out areas are. A silk or rayon lining in the sale color as the velvet makes the subtle effect seen at left.
I don’t have a really good photo of this twenties’ fabric, but, if I were trying to reproduce this dress, I would visit Thai Silks. Currently, you can find convincing period fabrics like this one for $25 to $28 per yard. Multi-colored, printed burn-out velvets will make a glamorous Twenties’ dress, and work best with a very simple dress pattern: easy elegance. Thai Silk is also a good source for silk charmeuse, silk satin, crepe de chine, etc.
On this store-bought twenties’ vintage dress, designs in velvet form a border on sheer black chiffon.
Butterick 2125; suggested fabrics were satin, metal cloth, or lace, but rayon silk velvet would also look like this. Delineator, September 1928.
I don’t usually recommend businesses on this blog, but as a theatrical costumer — twenty years ago — I used to love the company called Thai Silks. I was close enough to shop there in person, but you can order (one yard minimum!) online. The online catalog is downloadable, and they will mail you a swatch or two before you commit to a purchase. Burn-out velvet (very 1920’s) is currently about $25 per yard. If you like Britex, you might love Thai Silks.
Butterick patterns for velvet dresses, Delineator, November 1928, p. 118. The printed velvet second from left is Butterick 1785, for sizes 34 to 48. Second from right is Butterick 2232. The print velvet on No. 2232 looks much like this one. These velvet dresses are for afternoon wear.
Note: the “hand” of real silk or rayon/silk velvet is nothing like the stiff “decorator” velvet sold in many fabric chain stores. Thai Silks sells many rayon/silk blends, so asking for a swatch allows you to “feel” if it will behave properly for your pattern. Rayon and silk are both authentic 1920’s fabrics.
About rayon/silk velvet: one of the first synthetic fabrics, rayon is cellulose based, like cotton and linen. Silk, like wool, is protein based. Chemicals that make it possible to dissolve the protein (silk) and leave the cellulose (rayon) intact make it possible to create burn-out effects. (I’m working from memory here, so if you need more information, please look for a more knowledgeable source on devoure silk!)
These print dresses from Delineator, November 1928, could be made from printed velvet if you use silk velvet or a soft rayon/silk blend. Butterick 2335 and 2299. (Maybe this one?)
Printed silks in patterns suitable for the 1920’s (including “necktie silk”) are still being made, if you shop carefully.
It’s important to remember that the labor (or time) spent making a dress is almost always more “expensive” than the fabric. Three or four yards of quality silk or silk velvet fabric (under $100 total) will result in a dress worth hundreds of dollars, and putting all that work into a polyester dress will never give the same result. Luckily, the more interesting your fabric, the less complex your dress style should be, so that the fabric, not the trim, is the real star. [Be aware that stitching velvet requires careful pinning and basting, and practice.]
Two views of Butterick 1118, from Delineator, November 1926.
Delineator suggested transparent “night blue” velvet for this evening gown. White or plum or another color of velvet would be just as lovely. So would many other silks.
The Exotic Silks company offers basically the same products as Thai Silks, and offers a large sample set of velvet swatches for $12 (2017 price.) However, Exotic Silks is a wholesaler; (minimum order for silk is 15 yards and for velvet is 28 yards.) Thai Silks has a one yard minimum and will send you swatches of the fabrics you really are interested in; you can phone them. Thai Silks also offers several sets of swatches, $12 and up. (I believe Exotic Silks and Thai Silks are two branches of the same store, wholesale and retail.)
P.S. Here is the store label from this 1880’s cape; today, fabric similar to this is often sold as upholstery velvet:
1880’s dolman cape, front view. The “sleeves” are held in place with internal ties; this is a cape, not a jacket with fitted sleeves.
Label from bustle-era cape: “L.F.W. Arend & Co., Importers & Mfturers, Chicago.”
Click here for a Pinterest page full of late Victorian mantles like this.