Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

A 1920's, Great Gatsby-inspired modern party dress

I posted a while back about Great Gatsby party decor and dress inspiration for my company's winter party this year. All the shimmer, sparkle, rich dark colors, and art deco details are so fun to think about, when designing the dress I wanted to make for the event and when working on the committee to design table decor!

I never followed up with what I ended up making, but for good reason. The party was originally scheduled for February 8, which was the weekend of the crazy snow storm in Portland (right after we got back from our trip to Florida, and came home to 20 degrees, wind, and 6"+ of snow). The office was closed Friday and the party (Saturday) was canceled, which was good, because we were stuck in our house for 4 days.

So, the party was rescheduled, this time to March 8. That's this coming weekend. So, after procrastinating making the dress for more than a month... I finally made it this weekend!

Flapper/Great Gatsby-inspired modern party dress

So I was originally thinking about making an actually somewhat historic replica dress, although I can't do the beading or find similar fabric in my budget.

Part of the reason for my procrastination was that I really settled for this sequin-ey fabric at JoAnn (you may have seen on IG!)... it was not that impressive, and sold among the cheap costume stuff, but I liked the matte gold of the sequins and the pale, warm gold color. I thought about 5 or 6 different patterns, but none seemed right! I'm usually very good at picturing what patterns will look like in different fabrics, but with this one I was a little stumped. It's semi-sheer (I bought matching lining--#5 of my sewing resolutions this year!) and a little stiff, and I wasn't sure how well it would drape and how much would show through.

But I decided, after seeing some beautiful modern party dresses and bridal/evening dresses in the same color scheme, that I wanted to use this party as an occasion to dress up in something flattering and feminine, rather than to show off my historic clothing background (growing up around my mom's business) and be super historically accurate.

I wished I had super cool, beaded fabric to work with, or even glitter that looks like beads... wished I could find or afford some perfect sequin-ey, sparkly fabric to make something like one of these...
Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

But, I couldn't. I sat with my cheap sequin-ey fabric and puzzled over the design of my party dress for a long while.

Real-life Gatsby parties!

But the snow storm gave me an extra month to think about it.

Over the course of the time I was procrastinating, I happened on and was inspired by these absolutely gorgeous contemporary images...
Including these of my lovely friend Sam and her sister!

And I thought, yes, I think I want something prettier. Something more my style, almost like something I would wear to any party. (Because how gorgeous are those Adrianna Papell beaded bridesmaid dresses?!?)

So I went back to the drawing board and finally made the plunge and cut something out this weekend.

DIY! Modified pattern, retro-inspired

I made over a pattern I've had for a long time, Simplicity 2584 (now out of print). I knew from experience that the slit in the front is too low-cut, so I used view D but without the slit, and without sleeves. I also wanted a more dramatic arm opening, so I cut away some of the width of the shoulders. It's almost a halter shape now!

This thing went together fast. Like, 3 hours on Sunday morning. I realized, as I sewed, even though I don't love the fabric and it feels kind of cheap and not as showy as I'd like, I'm not sure I could have found anything better in a store for a reasonable price, and it probably would have taken me at least 3 hours of driving and shopping--and would have been more frustrating. So, another DIY win!

I used a lining instead of neck and armhole facings, so I was able to create the casing with the two layers of fabric rather than by adding a separate piece (I assume that's what the pattern calls for--I don't know, I didn't read it). I do know that almost any dress that doesn't require zipper feels so fast compared to my usual.

You can see the inside, hot off the presses--you can even see the purple fabric pen if you look real close! (You don't have to. ;) )
(Oops, I didn't buy enough yardage of the lining! Shhh...)

I'm actually thinking about moving the elastic casing up an inch or two... it's lower than I was expecting and I'm not sure it's the most flattering. I added a belt of self-fabric (actually a couple inches of the selvage edge of each piece, since the sequins don’t reach all the way to the selvage so I had a little bit of unusable/unmatching fabric—it works great for a simple, short belt!).

Of course I'll be adding plenty of glam 20's-ey accessories (long pearls! headband! fur shrug! fake bob!) and that should add to the effect. It's going to be quite an event, really!, 200 people, historic ballroom, casino night fake gambling, speakeasy/Prohibition theme, Charleston lessons, photo booth, fancy food... party!!

Hoping to dress husband up in a black bowtie and something else vintage-ey. And still accumulating accessories for me. Anyone have any great 20's-themed party costume/accessory ideas?!

Update: Here it is in the full costume!


  1. Love it! A nice headband(maybe even with a feather) some pearls and you are all set! :)

    I actually like that the lining is a bit shorter. It gives a nice cheeky look to it, more playful and fun. If you don't tell anyone that it was an accident, no one will be able to tell that it wasn't intentional :)

  2. I agree I like that the lining is a bit shorter and it does seem intentional ahem :) I hope you'll also post pics after this weekend to show the full styling, including with the man!

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  4. I think the dropped waist is just fine for that period and not unflattering at all. I wouldn't have picked that fabric, but it actually looks pretty nice in pictures.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your whole outfit put together with all the accessories and styling :)

  5. Super cute! I hope to see party pics! I have never been a fan of sewing that particular material... my machine would often get gummed up. Glad this went together quickly for you!

  6. I LOVE the waist where it's at on you! Very cute dress. :)

  7. Turned out GREAT! I like the waist where it is! I hope you do a fake bob and some pearls! Sounds like such a fun party.

  8. Please post a picture of this too when your hair's all done - I can just see it with a 20s headband and this dress. Love it!

  9. It is pretty icky stuff! I'm doing table runners out of it too (the black.gold version) but luckily just have to cut those, no sewing!

  10. I think that the lining being shorter gives the impression that the skirt has trim around the bottom! I see it as a feature, not a flaw.

  11. Wow,it's so pretty! And i think this dress must be for you http://www.shesprom.com/mermaid-prom-dresses/ .

  12. Totes! Just did, here! http://www.adventuresindressmaking.com/2014/03/how-to-wear-diy-gold-flapper-inspired.html#.UyNXyvldXp0

  13. Here's the post! http://www.adventuresindressmaking.com/2014/03/how-to-wear-diy-gold-flapper-inspired.html#.UyNXyvldXp0

  14. Just did! http://www.adventuresindressmaking.com/2014/03/how-to-wear-diy-gold-flapper-inspired.html#.UyNXyvldXp0



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