The 1921 dress that is probably magic

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

When I plan for big costuming events like talks and Costume College I always have ambitious ideas of new things I’m going to make, and realistic back-up plans of things that are already in my costuming wardrobe that I can pull out in a pinch if I can’t sew as fast as I had hoped to.

I had grand plans of a new 1920s dress for Costume College 2017, but things just kept going wrong in the months leading up to CoCo, and eventually I had to concede that it just wasn’t going to happen.

My backup dress was the 1921 ‘Daisies and the Devil’s Handiwork’ frock  (go read that post!  It’s a very good post!).  I was feeling pretty meh about it when I packed it, but it turned out to be pretty much my favourite thing that I wore the whole weekend!  Super comfortable, I felt gorgeous, and I got SO many complements, and tons of people (including lots I thought couldn’t possibly be fooled!) thought it was true vintage.  (yes, I even liked it more than my gala gown, because I wasn’t conflicted about the finish, or stressed about getting it done!).

I only got a couple of photos of me in the 1921 dress at CoCo, and while I look adorable in them (I’m sorry, claiming anything less would be false modesty!), they aren’t great photos.

So when I got home I resolved to take photos in it as soon as the weather warmed up.  The weather has WARMED (we’re having an almost unprecedentedly warm and dry spring), but all attempts to schedule a shoot fell apart, until last weekend.  Mr D and I went for a walk in Otari-Wiltons bush, which has both untouched native forests, and beautiful native botanical gardens.  It was so pretty that after dinner I suggested we go back and take some photos.

30 minutes later (yay 1920s!  so fast for getting dressed!) we were at the gardens.  I wasn’t particularly optimistic about what we’d get.  We didn’t have a lot of time before the light went, I’d never done photos in the part of the garden we were in, so didn’t know how to coach Mr D on the light without a lot of trial and error.  I just told him to do whatever he felt like, and if we didn’t get anything, c’est la vie.

No matter what, we’d have a wonderful time: all the native birds were incredibly active, with tuis singing their hearts out and having little territorial flights, and kereru sitting on branches almost within arms reach, and blundering from tree to tree.  I felt like I’d stepped into my own movie.  ‘Enchanted December-is-basically-April in New Zealand’.

I was sure I’d look daft in every photograph: slack jawed with delight. I couldn’t stop looking up at the tree tops in wonderment, and basically bouncing up and down as birds flew around me.

And then, 30 photos in, my camera battery dies.  No worries, I brought the backup!

Which I hadn’t charged…

So it died 5 photos later.

That’s OK, I had my other camera!

Which ALSO had a low battery that died after about 7 photos.


So we switched to my iPhone.  Not as good at taking photos, but at least it had plenty of battery life!

When I got home and looked at the photos I couldn’t believe it.  Hardly a dud in them.  Usually we take 200 photos and 20 of them are ones I’d be willing to have the public see in any way, manner, shape and form.  This time it was 150!  Mr D outdid himself, and slack jawed with delight suits me!

I have culled, and culled, and here are a few of my favourites.  They aren’t technically perfect photos, but Mr D is not a photographer, and he was doing exceptionally well under trying circumstances.

I’m wearing the dress with Rosalie stockings, American Duchess Moliere shoes (review coming soon!), vintage faux-pearl earrings, and a light half-corset.  The Scroop Rilla corset would be perfect to wear with a 1921 dress, but it was very hot, and I was too lazy to go digging in the corset storage for one when the other one was already out.

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

(that is definitely a ‘I just saw an amazing bird’ face!)

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress thedreamstress.com

I think this dress is magical.  I’m always worried about it, and it always delivers, and then some!


  1. Gorgeous! and well done Mr D.
    “Blundering” is such an apt verb for kereru – I must remember that one. We have a massive pohutukawa outside our house which attracts a tui or two every year, but unfortunately this year we’ve drawn a tui who likes doing rusty gate impressions – so unlike the usual melodious flow!

  2. PepperReed says

    Considering how much an early 20’s fan and a Bird Nerd I am, I’d be squeeing right along side you. You look divine, the ‘light’ is wonderful in these photos, and considering its 4* F here in Michigan, the lush green of NZ looks amazing! Off to look up the birds you mentioned and the plant Deborah mentioned in her comment (I’m a botanist by learning, and am always interested in new plants).

    • Thank you! And I’m so glad you’re enjoying the bird comments, and the plants. I would have written more about them, but the post was already getting quite long.

      They do have pohutakawa in the US – they were brought in, and are all over California. Not sure about Michigan though!

      Otari Wiltons Bush has, as far as I know, the only public botanical gardens with exclusively NZ natives in the world, so every plant you see (except maybe the lawn) is a native. Here are some of the other native NZ plants I know, and can point out in the photos.

      The white flowers around me are renga renga – the native ground lily. They are what I always imagined Anne of Green Gables ‘rice lilies’ looked like. I don’t care for narcissus, so was delighted to discover that there was a flower that fit my imagination! <3

      The spindly-ish trees around me in the first two photos are kowhai. They have the most spectacular bloom of sulpher yellow flowers in early spring. Kowhai means yellow in te reo maori.

      The daisy-like flowers around me in the photo where I'm sitting on the rock is the NZ mountain daisy ( Celmisia)

      The bright yellow flowers behind me in the photo where you can see the house are a bush daisy (brachyflottis)

      You can also see toi toi, which looks like a pampas grass, with big feathery seed fronds, in a couple of the photos 🙂

  3. Elise says

    “I smile is the best makeup you can wear.” (Ironic quote–from Marilyn Monroe–but said unironically) Slack-jawed in wonder is a close second.

  4. nanny norfolk says

    You look so lovely & so 1920ish. Lovely shoes too.
    How nice to see springtime when it’s rain/ sleet /wet snow & hail here!

  5. Incredible light, incredible flora, incredible dress and wearer! So lovely. And yes, very pleasing to the eye surrounded by grey winterland.

  6. It’s quite ethereal! It’s so nice to be surprised by your closet, too!


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