June 10, 2016

Make Your Own 1920's 1 Hour Dress: Controlling the Hip Fullness

I received a few questions about how exactly to control the side extensions/hip fullness when sewing the 1920's 1 hour dress, so today I decided to break out the muslin and put together three samples to talk about how to sew this section in more detail! It's a good thing I did too, as I discovered just how annoying I find doing the side gathers, but I'll talk about that when we get to it...

Here are the three styles of controlling the hip fullness I will cover today. On the left of the stack below is the simple single pleat (which is how I have always finished each of my own 1 hour dresses), in the middle the fullness is made into a box pleat, and on top/on the right is the gathered side fullness.

So first, the easiest way to deal with the side hip extensions, by simply pleating the excess towards the center back of the dress. For this method you can sew all along the side seam as you see below.

Above you see the view of the side seam with the hip fullness hanging loose, lets do something with that shall we?

First clip your corner though so you can iron the side seam flat.

Fold the fullness back over the back of the dress towards the center back keeping everything straight and perpendicular.

Pin into place.

The other side (the "right" side) will look like this.

Move your pins over to the right side.

Sew along the pins to hold the pleat in place and you're done with this side! Do the same to the other side of the dress with both pleats facing towards the center back. I have finished nearly all of my 1 hour's this way as it is both easy and gives a sleek column deco silhouette I favor.

Next? Let's make the hip fullness into a box pleat.

Here we are again with a new practice section of dress, for the box pleat don't sew along the top of the side extension/hip fullness.

But do still clip your corner.

Now iron your way into a box pleat by lining the seams up and pressing everything untill it does your bidding.

Like so ^. Add a few pins to keep everything in line and sew that pleat into place.

Like this!

On the right side you now have a lovely box pleat. Also for either of these two pleats you could hand stitch them into place for a finer finish.

Now onto the gathers, which is the method most people had questions about. Frankly I thought it all made sense, just gather the sides, duh, I can see how to do it in my minds eye can't you? Umm except when I tried to do it the way I thought of--it didn't work...so fail on my part all around! Full disclosure ha ha Also I should note I don't think I have ever chosen to do gathers on any of my dresses as I prefer the sleek look of the single pleat. So today I tackled the gathers and I have one amendment to the pattern to facilitate the gathering of the sides. You need to cut 3 inches inward towards the center front and back on each side from the point of the side extension/hip fullness.

Slice like so. This will give you the space to gather the hip fullness to. Sew the side seams but leave the top of the side extension/hip fullness open again like you did for the box pleat.

Out in two close lines of large stitches with long tails to put in your gathers.

Gather the fullness to fit the sliced opening in the side seam. 

Now fold the gathers and top of the dress together along the slit right sides together and pin the gathered section to the top. you are basically making a seam without seam allowance which yes, is fiddly and annoying. Above you see the smooth top side...

And here is the gathers all pinned into place.

Sew from the smooth side and taper the ends of the seam to nothing like above.

When you turn this all out you will see the hip fullness is all gathered into the side seam area but there is a tiny pucker at each point that is inevitable without there having been any actual seam allowance (as far as I know, any experts please do share how you'd tackle this differently!). In plain muslin with contrasting thread the result isn't so great looking I'll level with you, and I've seen many people online cover this seam with a flower, applique, bow or other such trimmings to hid the sins.

What the gathering looks like from the inside.

 So would I use this method to gather the sides if I was making a dress myself? Probably only if I indeed did intend to add some flowers or lace to help ease the effect. How would I really go about the skirt if I wanted gathers? I would separate the skirt pattern from the bodice at the drop waist/hip in order to have the seam allowance and a smooth finish. To do this simply draw a line across your pattern at the hip extensions and cut the pattern in two, then add seam allowance to the cut edge of both. With the pieces separated you can go wild and do anything you'd like for the skirt: gather it lightly all around, do lots of box pleats, do just one pleat in the center, cut the skirt in a different shape (like a circle skirt) and change the look!

I have made a few dresses where the skirt portion is a different shape but the bodice is the same 1 hour pattern, you can see one in this post here. I hope this post helped clarify how to control the hip fullness for the basic 1 hour dress! I am so glad I received questions as that means some of you are going to go for it and make one! I shan't pretend I am an expert on the 1 hour, even if I have made a bunch they are all the same, please let me know if you have an easier way to do the gathers on the side!

Happy sewing everyone, thanks for sticking with me through this rather long post!


  1. Thank you Bianca!! I am glad I read this before making a start. I've not chosen my fabric yet either, though I now have pattern paper, woo!

    1. Of course! Glad to help when I can :) Hooray for a pattern! That's half the battle won already :)

  2. Oh I'm so glad you did this demo! I was sort of taking it on faith that it would be obvious when I was making it, but now the pleats make sense to me. I think I would skip the gathers too!

    1. Happy to help! The gathers really are kind of cheating-sewing, with the lack of seam allowance they just don't lay nicely. If I were to ever do gathered sides I'd separate the skirt and the bodice pieces for a nice finish for sure!

  3. Thank you so much for these clear instructions. I've been following Mary Brooks Picken but she lost me at the 'side plait'. I'm going with the box pleat and maybe trying her slight side darts.

  4. Hi Bianca,
    can you tell me how much material you bought to start the pattern and also where you blog about the different sleeve shape is I saw it a moment again but now can't find it.

    1. Hello! I usually only buy 1.5-2 yards of fabric for a 1920s 1 hour dress, and even if the fabric is a narrower 45" width I find it is enough for my size. The post about the different sleeve shapes I have used is here: http://theclosethistorian.blogspot.com/2016/03/my-1920s-one-hour-dresses-and-pattern.html Happy sewing!

  5. This was very good along with the video, it was very informative. I could envision the necessary adjustments needed f, for my wider hip version, from listening to your instructions.

  6. Excellent instructions. Thank you.

  7. thank you for the whole set of instructions and tips for making this dress. They are very clear and easy to follow


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