August 29, 2014

DIY 1920s Evening Bag

When I designed my senior fashion design collection for school last year I found this AMAZING black swirl velvet. I mean seriously, swirl  velvet  in black! Sadly I cannot buy more of this fabric, last year I bought all there was left on the bolt, which was about 4 1/2 yards. I made a dress for my collection, which is very pretty (and not my size). So I have been holding onto the scraps of this wondrous fabric for a long time trying to think of a way to incorporate it into my wardrobe. I finally decided that one of the more strangely shaped scraps would make a great little purse!

I came across some delicate metal purse frames at Joanns recently and knew it was time to DIY myself a little 20's style evening bag to pair with my 20's dresses. I sort of winged the design based on some examples of vintage bags on pinterest. I also had some spare gold tassels hanging around from all of the gold trimmings I bought for my Cleopatra costume last year that I figured I could use.

To make a little evening bag for yourself, you will need:

- A metal purse frame (available at Joanns, and prettier ones available on etsy)
- Fabric for the outside of the bag
- Fabric for lining the bag
- Paper to make a pattern
- A ruler
- Preferably a sewing machine (but hand sewing works just fine too)
- Needle and thread
- Chain or ribbon for the handle
- Embellishments, sequins, tassels etc.

First take your purse frame and trace it onto your paper. Add a line a half inch above this first line for seam allowance.

To create my pattern I drew lines down from the edges of the frame at a 90 degree angle and then a point at the bottom. However, conceivably you can make these bags in any shape you want. Round, square, trapezoid, whatever you'd like!

I learned from an unsuccessful prototype that you then want to cut your pattern down the middle and stretch/add a half inch of width to the middle. I had to expand my pattern a half inch to get it to fit my frame. A lot of ease apparently gets eaten up in the sewing process (especially if you are using velvet). You may want to make a little muslin first to see how much ease you will need for a good fit.

Next cut out your lovely pattern from your "fashion fabric" (the fabric you see on the outside) and your lining fabric. For each, pin around the edges leaving the top (frame) edge open.

Once the edges are sewn you will have two little pockets. Pull your lining inside out and slip it into your fashion fabric, so that the right sides of the fabrics are together. Pin the "pockets" together along the top edge but leave a small section free so you can turn the whole thing right side out when its sewn.

Once you sew the top together, turn the whole bag right side out and slip-stitch the opening you left closed.

Then sew the top edge of the bag to your frame. This seems a lot more challenging than it actually is, just stitch up through the edge of the bag through the holes in the frame and repeat.

Finish by adding a handle to your frame, attaching it at the highest point not the hinge so that gravity doesn't work against you. I used chain but you could also use ribbon or a beaded strand, its up to you! I also added a gold tassel at the bottom point as embellishment but you could add whatever you like! Beads, fringe, sequins, appliques or whatever else you can imagine!

This style of bag can work for earlier in the century as well, though well to do women didn't really carry purses in the early Edwardian period as much. Mostly bags and purses became a fashionable thing to have when women started wearing make-up and needed a place to store their compact and lipstick when going out. Makes sense I suppose!

I still have a bit of this amazing fabric left and I can't decide yet what to do with it. I don't have enough for a skirt or dress on its own so i have to find a way of combining it into something pretty. If only I could get more! Back to the sketch book to dream something up I go!


  1. SWOON what a stunning fabric! Looks like the fabric gods were in your favor that day!

    1. They seriously were, it has to be my favorite fabric I have ever worked with <3

  2. You make it look so easy! And I have so many scraps of fabric in my stash...

    1. It really is easy I promise! The hardest part is making sure you don't make the bag too small, then it is a sad frustration when the bag doesn't line up with the clasp anymore (trust me, I was sad) but then I cut a new one and it all went together smoothly!

  3. How terrifically beautiful! I love (!) the elegant, sophisticated black fabric you opted for here. This purse really does look the vintage part and is so incredibly lovely. Fabulous work, dear gal!

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thanks Jessica! I am trying to choose more accurate looking fabrics as much as I can these days. It is quite easy to make a costume but so much harder to make "clothes" in the sense that the resulting garment/accessory looks like it is vintage extant not a new repro. I have never been particularly accurate in my sewing adventures so it is a bit of a new thing for me!

  4. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking. leather tote


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