20th Century, Historical Sew Fortnightly, What I wear

A late ‘teens sweater

Just in time for the end of winter, I’ve finished a late ‘teens, early ’20s inspired boiled wool cardigan jacket:

The 1919 robe sweater thedreamstress.com

I had intended this to be another ‘Outerwear’ entry, but as I was sewing it I realised how much it was like a robe – the cut is nearly identical to my favourite robe pattern, just shrunken.  And since my poor robe a la francaise is still pottering along, very slowly, I’m VERY excited to finally have finished a Robes and Robings entry of any sort.

The 1919 robe sweater thedreamstress.com

For something that is essentially robe shaped, this cardigan was stupidly hard to make.  It’s not a hard pattern: I just got caught up in my own brain as I sewed, and turned something that should have been a doddle into a complicated mess.

I started out wanting to make this:

Early 1920s Bay Blanket Coat

Early 1920s Bay Blanket Coat

I’m still madly in love with it as inspiration, but as I tried to sew it, I realised that the look really did need to be made out of blanket weight woven wool, not lighter boiled wool knit.

So, failing that, I went back to actual late ‘teens and early ’20s knitwear, like this (which includes a pattern, so you could knit it, if, unlike me, you knew how to knit):

I adapted the look to have a shawl collar, very fashionable in the late teens and early ’20s.

The School Girls Annual thedreamstress.com

Apparently these sorts of cardigans were meant to be worn to play tennis and golf, but since I haven’t been near a tennis racket since high school and have never played golf, I think the school-marm look is more my speed.

The 1919 robe sweater thedreamstress.com


Because of my brain-tangle and stupidity, the cardigan has some flaws, like side gussets, because I originally cut the cardigan too loose, and then I cut it too tight and had to add back in width.

The 1919 robe sweater thedreamstress.com

I think I added in a teeny bit too much width, but at this point I’m just telling myself done is beautiful and leaving it at that.

The 1919 robe sweater thedreamstress.com


Despite the flaws, and the sewing-every-seam-at-least-twice and having to re-cut the sleeves and piece the front overlap, I actually really like the cardigan.  It’s warm, and comfortable, and since ‘end of winter’ is a bit of a joke in Wellington (it can randomly get down to single digits in summer) I’m sure I’ll get lots of use out of it, both as a historical garment, and for modern wear.

The 1919 robe sweater thedreamstress.com


The Challenge:  #17: Robes & Robings

Fabric:  1.5m boiled wool knit – I traded it with a student in exchange for a class.

Pattern:  My own, mushed together from various vintage patterns and with a bit of drafting.

Year:  ca. 1919

Notions:  Thread, 4 wooden buttons ($6)

How historically accurate is it?  Since this is another example of my sewing something that would have been knitted, not.  I don’t think it would really pass the most basic ‘could I have worn it on the street in period without getting really strange looks’ test.

Hours to complete:  Way, way, way too many!

First worn: Last night, for reading and posing and staying lovely and warm and snuggly on a chilly evening.

Total cost:  $6 + a $60 class fee.

The 1919 robe sweater thedreamstress.com


  1. It’s lovely, and I’m totally saving the knitting pattern for the next time I have some spare time and money 🙂

  2. Marilyn J. Hollman says

    It looks terrific. Not just for teachers/librarians. With other skirt, etc. would work for many women.

    • Thanks Marilyn! Of course it’s not just for teachers and librarians, it’s just sort of a joke for me with my new glasses 😉 I wore it all yesterday with jeans.

    • Synchronisity! I just read your post. So cool – I found the pattern through pinterest a few months back and saved it for the shape, since I knew I couldn’t actually make it. I can’t wait to see your ‘real’ version.

      Felicity is in love with the buttons. There must be something in the varnish, because they are basically catnip for her.

  3. It suits you very well.

    Long cardigans a bit like yours were fashionable when I was an adolescent in the late 1970s, and I wore them even though, in retrospect, they weren’t terribly flattering on my short, pear-shaped figure. But this one looks great on you! And the “schoolmarm” pictures are impressive–they have a great period feel. Thanks for sharing this project with us.

    • These cardigans just keep coming back in don’t they? I did base the collar on a 1970s pattern though 😉 And thank you!

  4. Daniel says

    I adore these late 1910s cardigan jackets. I think they’re one of the few truly classic designs from any time – they could almost be worn whenever at any time in the last 100 years without looking out of place.

    • I agree that they are a truly timeless design, and I have a theory that it is because they are so practical, and because they are based on such a universal shape.

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