My Sew Sew Life-Vitali Babani Spring 1920: Making and Styling

Hello all, I’m going back in time for this one; Spring 1920. My dress was designed by Vitali Babini for his collection that season. We are very lucky that Folk Wear patterns adapted this dress back in 1993 for their vintage collection. Slightly redesigned and under a different name, it is still in their catalogue!

When I bought this pattern, about the time it came out, it had a different name. It was called, Afternoon Dress/Paris 1920. On the front, mentioned that it was an adaptation of a dress in Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art . On the back of the pattern it mentions Babani as the designer.

Front View-Although this dress was designed in 1920, I feel it vibes are in the late teens. These later teens happen to be on of my favorite eras of fashion. My dress is about twelve inches longer than the pattern because that’s what I wanted.

However, the more recent metamorphosis of this design is called, 261 Paris Promenade Dress. As mentioned, it does have some design changes, which are in the overdress. However, the design esthetic of the dress is still there.

One re-design is that the overdress now angles up into a triangle rather that a flat straight line. Secondly, it is now in two pieces with a border cut at the bottom. This border does give you more design options but to my eyes, it also makes the overdress look like an apron (if you make the border from the same fabric as the dress).

The two designs side by side. The one on the left is the newer and the one on the right is my older pattern.

Why would I make this you ask? The answer is that I just loved the dress and especially the view that was on the earlier pattern. The fact that I could make a designer original that was almost a century old (at the time I bought it) was an heavy incentive. I just like fashion history and like adapting historical ideas into a modern context, if possible. I have worn this dress to the symphony.

I made this a while ago. During Downton Abby’s last season, we attended a special event that was hosted by our Kansas City PBS station and I decided the dress fit into that time era. However, when hub’s vintage tux got delivered (eBay), the dress just didn’t match (much too casual) and I ended getting a beaded affair, also from eBay. That was in the early days of my fashion blogging and you can go back to see our entire “going to dinner at Downton” HERE. I even did story boards of what we wore.

However, on September 6th, The Kansas City Museum had Derby Days; an event to celebrate the total renovation of their historical building.The theme was “Great Gatsby or Bohemian”. I took it as, wear what you want, as long as you had a hat.

Back to Sewing...

I tried to be true to the original Babani design that is in the Costume Institute. Both versions of this dress are out of silk and I found my silk at Mood Fabrics that. I stayed with the grey/silver theme look (this could be a black and white photo?), but picked a modern print for the accent. The solid black silk, of course, is a staple in Mood’s fabric collection, but the silk print is now unavailable.

Except for making it longer, I didn’t make any changes to the pattern.

I did find the pattern instructions not super clear on putting the dress and over-dress together. I must not be the only one because I found a video that Folk Wear produced explaining the steps HERE.


My pattern gives the option of “authentic detailing”, which is running cording down the shoulder lines and around the neck, I did it a little differently and ran small silk cording around the neckline with looped details at each end.

The Original Pattern

This original pattern is not to be found anywhere, but as I mentioned it is now the 261 Paris Promenade Dress with small changes. I think I just fell in love with this back.

This finishes this vintage dress review. Now for some extras.

Accessorizing for the Early 19th Century

I can’t say that any of my accessories are authentic. My shoes are actually dance shoes from Amazon. I liked their French heel and thought they were style appropriate. I actually bought these back in ’16 for the Downton Abby event.

I have no idea where I got my grey cotton vintage gloves from.; I have just always had them. This makes me think somehow I got them from my Mom. That’s usually the case when I’ve had something that long.

My bag is a vintage Rodo that I found on eBay this Summer. I swore a while ago, that I wasn’t going to add any more bags to that collection, but then saw that one. OK, I just didn’t have a black leather one so maybe now I’m finished!

This dress needed a long necklace. My long grey/silver pearls (also eBay/China) worked as my black double strand pearl bracelet. And for a rare time, you can see earrings!

The Hat

The hat shape is not authentic at all. I just found a black summer hat on Poshmark. When I got it, it looked like I was going to a funeral! I took off all the hot glued stuff. I hate hot glue!!! Some pieces of glue will be stuck on the hat forever. I just couldn’t get them off.

I already had the large silk flower (in the very center front) that I had left over from another hat making project. Everything else, I orderd from A Pink Swan, a shop on ETSY. There are a lot of flower shops on ETSY, but I seem to gravitate towards A Pink Swan time and time again.

As always, I got carried away. I ended up getting a vintage bird ornament (nod to the times), two different vintage yellow flower sprays, two grey roses and feathers. I think I spent more money on my decorations than I spent on the original hat! I wanted a different view on every side of the hat and I think I got it.

I’ve never had a hat like this and it was so much fun to wear!

I decided to add some deep yellow to the arrangement and spent some good time hand sewing my flowers, feathers and bird on. And I piled it on! This hat was fun to wear but my aim is to hand make a true to era hat someday. The pattern will soon be here.

Some Final Pics

We had so much fun that day. I also made Michael a linen vest from Folk Wear and will make a post about that at a later date. But until then, here’s us with a Cord-that was a gorgeous auto! And you can see what my parasol looks like opened up. It came in handy!

One last view…

I did wear my Babani dress in a modern setting a few times. Here”s a photo at the symphony.

That wraps this sewing session up and I hope you enjoyed my playing around with fashion history. It was a long one!
I’m always fascinated with this subject and know more historical clothing is in my future. I just bought a walking skirt pattern from eBay-could not resist the price!

Take care and have fun being creative.

13 thoughts on “My Sew Sew Life-Vitali Babani Spring 1920: Making and Styling

  1. Great job on the sewing and post. I think I have the new version of the pattern. However, I haven’t yet come along to make it. It looks like you and your husband are fans of cars and dresses from that time. When you ever come to Fairbanks, Alaska, you have to visit the Foutainhead Antique Car Museum. It has cars from that time as well as dresses. You will love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I had a feeling you sewed. I think this is one of my favorite eras along with the 40’s. I have a few more Folkwear patterns I need to make too. My next is going to be the French Cheesemaker’s shirt. If we ever get to Fairbanks, we will make sure to check out the museum.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I spent the better part of a day, hand sewing everything on with invisible thread. I can’t say it was much fun, but I wasn’t going to use hot glue on those vintage flowers and bird. I just used a simple whip stitch but,it was time consuming. It gives me the option of changing things and reusing things on other hats if I want to.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello and thank you. I’ve always loved this dress and it was satisfying to get to wear it in the era it was meant to be, or at least look like the era :-). I think I like historical dressing as long as I like the design and this one was a good one. Thank you for dropping by!


  2. Oh my goodness – I’m in love with your outfit. From the hat down to the shoes. And, the length of the dress is perfect (in my opinion). You surely are an excellent seamstress.

    That’s an era that had such gorgeous clothes (I think). Thanks for sharing this sewing trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m very impressed by your sewing skills, Terri!!!. The dress is awesome and so are your accessories. I love the photo with your hubby and the car. It’s also amazing how the gown can be dressed down to give it a modern appeal.
    Have a lovely Sunday.
    XOXO Reni

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, one of the things I liked about this vintage pattern is that I thought it could be worn in the modern age. However, I will have to admit that I like it the best when it is worn as it should have been back in 1920. The late teens is one of my favorite historical fashion eras-just when women were dumping the corset and being a freer with their clothes. Oh,and that car was cool!


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