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The Dreamstress has written 1678 articles so far, you can find them below.

Monogrammed sportswear in the 1920s

Carrying on with showing you the bits from my Bestway Initial Transfer catalogue, here are the pages featuring monogrammed sportswear – so not only could you have monogrammed unders, but you can wear monogrammed tennis dresses over them!

The first page features monogrammed blouses and blazers for women, a ‘smart’ day ensemble, a monogrammed mens shirt, and (best of all!) a swimsuit!

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com


Oh wait, I stand corrected.  The day ensemble is not just ‘smart’, but ‘exceedingly smart’!  Don’t you love the tricorn-esque hat?

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com
And here is the write-up for the ensemble and the swimsuit:

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com
I think I might need to add a swimsuit in navy stockinette with red trim to my swimsuit collection – and add a rosette covered hat!  Check out her lace-up beach boots too!

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com
I also need the pointed-bottom blouse.  I could see that on the catwalk today – and in my own wardrobe!  I also adore the cloche worn with the classic cardigan blazer.  It’s such a perfect illustration of the late teens and early ’20s cloche – still with a distinct brim.

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com
The blazer is ‘just right for tennis’, and the ‘jumper blouse’ is embroidered in tangerine silk.  Be still my heart!

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com
I’m trying to figure out what fabric ‘taffetas’ was that it made a suitable tennis shirt for a man.  Perhaps a rayon taffeta, which would be a lot softer and less crisp?  More research must be done!

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com

The next page features more blouses, a tennis dress, an overall for housework, and a men’s blazer:

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com

Here is a close up of the overall:

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com
I find the ‘overall’ dress one of the more fascinating garments featured in the catalogue.  It’s clearly the precursor/older sister to the 1930s hooverette frocks.  This version is made of grass-green ‘government silk’, which is another term I’m going to have to add to my terminology research list.  I strongly suspect it is either a rayon, or a silk blend, and the name is because it was officially promoted during the silk shortages of WWI.  I actually love how the overall dress looks, and want one for myself.  Probably without the monogram, and DEFINITELY without that cap!

There is also a very chic tennis dress:

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com

On the other page, a suave man in a blazer and a striped silk scarf, and (since this is the ’20s), a cigarette.

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com

But the best piece of all is a simple silk blouse.

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com
Why is it the best?  Not the fabulous hat or the fabulous parasol, but the embroidery, which is topped with ‘a lucky black cat’.


Sadly, I’ve heard anecdotaly that the globalisation of media is eroding the the British tradition of lucky black cats, and replacing it with the more American & European ‘unlucky’ black cat superstition – which isn’t great for black cats.  In my opinion, all cats are lucky, and I’d be delighted to have a blouse with one embroidered on it!

Early 1920s Bestways Initial Transfer book thedreamstress.com

Rate the Dress: Flower Fantasy

Some of you may have wondered why there was no Rate the Dress when you got up this morning.  I’m just really tired, and overworked.  There is a lot going on this time of year: Windy Lindy, student marking, and me trying to do everything all at once!  So RTD just wasn’t a priority.

Which is why there is now a rate the dress, but no tally-up of last week’s selection (hehe, THAT is going to be fun).  I’m going to go hang out the laundry and do a bit of gardening to relax, and then I’ll get back to it.

At least picking the rating choice was easy.  This has been in my file as the selection for the week before Halloween for almost a year now.  How could it not be?  It’s a fancy dress that has enormous beetles and insects all over it!

Fancy dress, circa 1900

Fancy dress, circa 1907

So what do you think?  If you saw someone dressed as this at a costume party circa 1907, would you think ‘That is SO AWESOME!” (or whatever the ca. 1900 equivalent of “SO AWESOME” is – I welcome your suggestions on that point).  Or would you think “Creepy and horrible”?  Or “Random and messy?”

What’s the verdict on the buggy flower frock?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

*And if anyone has a link to the original source for this image, that would be much appreciated!  I’ve seen it pop up on pinterest, but never with a link back to an original page.

The Historical Sew-Fortnightly Challenge #23: Modern History

We’re almost there!

The second-to-last Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge of the year, due 15 December, is an easy, fun one, and I hope that everyone participates, even if they have missed a few challenges across the rest of the year!

The theme is Modern History: make something historical that is wearable in a modern context.

I love this theme because it’s so practical and useful!  And it’s also something I’m particularly good at.  Since my life doesn’t provide as many opportunities as I would like for wearing over-the-top historical pieces, I have to find a way to fit period into my everyday wardrobe.

Here are some of the historical things I’ve made that I actually do wear as real clothes:

I’ve worn my 18th century ‘brown’ linen shift as a summer dress, with a belt and sandals, and no one has commented on it, or noticed that it is entirely hand-sewn!

Late 18th century 'brown' linen shift

I’ve also worn my 14th century nettle shift as ‘normal’ clothes:

14th century nettle shift thedreamstress.com

And I’ve only worn it that way once, by my 1780s pet-en-l’aire actually makes a spectacular jacket over jeans or (as I did it) a pencil skirt.

1780s pet-en-l'aire and pleated petticoat

Accessories are a great way to use historical items in a modern wardrobe.  I particularly like my muffs with an ordinary winter coat, but there are also bags, and hats, and shoes, and gloves, and shawls…

Late 18th century inspired muff thedreamstress.com

I’m not usually the biggest fan of this look, but wearing corsets as bodices for evening wear is a classic way to add a fabulous historical twist to modern looks.  Perhaps I should try it with my 1890s ‘midnight in the garden’ corset turned inside out!

1890s 'Midnight in the Garden' corset thedreamstress.com

My 1910s paisley skirt & plaid blouse have actually been worn as ‘normal’ clothes far more than they have as historical items.  I get asked where I got the skirt, or the pattern for it, every time I wear it!

The 1913 paisley skirt thedreamstress.com
And, of course, the easiest way to incorporate period pieces into modern wear is to go for ’20s-’40s fashions.  In fact, it’s so easy I’d almost feel I was cheating doing it, because so much of my wardrobe is based on pieces from those decades!  I probably still will though, because I love them so much and I’ve got so many ’30s looks I want to make up for this summer!

Last summer I did 1929 Bambi:

1929 'Bambi and Bows' dress

1940’s trousers:

1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com

1930s housewife:

1930s inspired 'Hooverette' wrap dress thedreamstress.com

And the unexpectedly fabulous 1930s button dress:

1930s Bad Plaid dress thedreamstress.com

All of which were worn constantly through the warm season!

Plus late ’20s style cloches, which are the perfect sunhats in Wellington, as they shade the eyes but still STAY ON!

Little bit of red dress & cloche


And, of course, the Vionnet chiton dress, in whatever version I make it!

My version of Vionnet's 'Chiton' dress

My version of Vionnet’s ‘Chiton’ dress



A dress for Mansfield's 'When I was a bird' thedreamstress.com

That’s how I make historical work for me in a modern way.  Can’t wait to see how you do it!

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Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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