Learn about Life in the 1920s

1920 One-Piece Coat Dress Description

Modern corsets have produced youthful figures and made possible beautiful one-piece dresses—dresses that hang from the shoulders and are held in slightly at the waist with a belt modest in its narrowness.

Dress Style

One-piece dresses agree with the three constructive points of harmonious dress: they are artistic; economical as regards material and time to make and to put on; and, in the majority of cases, becoming, especially to the American woman. Such dresses make possible that which is most sought by well-dressed women—simplicity in dress.

Material and Pattern.


Cloth, because of its weight and softness, seems most adaptable as a one-piece dress material. The heavy satins, such as chinchilla satin, are also especially good. Tricotine, fine serge, light-weight broadcloth, and duvetyn are almost invariably beautiful as well as practical for one-piece coat dresses such as those here illustrated. The dress shown in the feature picture, for instance, is developed in soft, midnight-blue, fine-twilled tricotine.

Bands of blue grosgrain ribbon trim the collar, sash, and sleeves, as well as the sides below the waist. Bands of bias self-material embroidered with heavy rope silk of American Beauty color in a short darning-stitch could also be used. Tiny silver buttons placed as shown further emphasize smartness in color selection.

Unless you are definitely skilful in embroidery work, it would be better for you to use the ribbon or brown or black embroidery silk rather than American Beauty as trimming, because these colors will not show irregularities in stitches as will the brighter color. Bias bands of the material lined with a bright color and held in place with buttons are also effective as trimming, especially when very nicely made.

Taffeta with pin tucks 3/8 inch apart is also attractive for bands and offers a trimming variation that is thoroughly satisfactory.

Pictorial Review design No. 9087 provides a good one-piece dress pattern to use for a straight-line dress like that illustrated. This particular pattern opens at the under arm and shoulder, but is easy to arrange so that the opening can come at the center front. An allowance of 3 inches should be made on each side of the center-front line for the double-breasted effect.


In the cutting of this dress, no interlining will have to be provided except a true bias piece of light-weight lawn or cambric for the shawl collar. This inner support will help to keep the collar in shape and balance it with the front. How- ever, if satin or light-weight cloth is used, the interlining should be omitted.

If it is known that a long revers line is becoming, it will be necessary to use a small V vest. This should be put on a foundation lining so that it cannot interfere with the ease in appearance necessary in the front of this type of dress. The vest can be of the same material as the dress and trimmed in the same way, or it can be of appropriate lace or Georgette.

The narrow belts used on tricotine, serge, and Poiret twill dresses are almost always cut on a true bias and measure 3/8 to 3/4 inch wide when finished. The twill in this way comes crosswise of the belt and adds to its attractiveness.

Construction and Fitting.—In a one-piece coat dress where the bust is prominent, the side seams may drop down and give a diagonal wrinkle from the center front and center back of the skirt to the side seams. To overcome this, lay a crosswise dart at the waist line, beginning at the side seam and carrying the dart out to nothing toward the center front and center back.

In placing the dart, take up enough material so that the skirt portion will hang smoothly—that is, with a straight grain of material—around the lower edge and through the hips. If the material of the dress is heavy, baste the dart on the wrong side and make a plain seam; then trim away any unnecessary material and press the seam open.

In some dresses, especially satin, a smart line is often obtained by making this dart alteration 2 to 4 inches below the waist line and finishing it with a tiny tuck or tiny corded piping. In many of the commercial patterns, the dart line is provided in the pattern and made to serve as a trimming feature.

Short, narrow shoulders, where set-in sleeves are used, are the rule at present. Fit your shoulders easily and smoothly, and remember, in basting, to hold the front shoulder seam close and the back easy, so that a good effect will result. Baste and stitch carefully, keeping in mind that any alteration made at the shoulder seam will affect the sleeve unless a corresponding alteration is made there.

If you are inclined to stoutness, hold to set-in sleeves in preference to kimono sleeves, but fit your shoulders narrow and the upper part of your sleeves slightly snug and with the greatest care, for heavy appearing shoulders are rarely necessary and can almost always be overcome by right fitting.

It has frequently been emphasized that the shoulder line, waist line, collar line, and hem finish are the chief style features of a dress and the most important ones to observe. A French designer would put the skirt length before these, asserting that the skirt length tells instantly of the newness of the garment.

While we may not altogether agree with him, the skirt length is of great importance. Although every woman's skirt length is a law unto herself, no woman wants to wear extremely long skirts when the tendency is for definitely short ones, and though we decry skirts very short, we have to admit that they are smart, and especially so when good hose of exactly the right shade for the dress and smart well-kept shoes are worn.


Very plain clothes are the smartest clothes, but to have them beautiful they must be right in line and skilfully made. An apprentice in patterns could make the dress illustrated without any difficulty, but the stitching, pressing, and finishing are telltales in such a plain dress, the hem especially. This should be carefully gathered at the top, its fulness shrunken out, and then bound with a bias binding of silk or with seam binding.

The binding must be put on easily so that the top of the hem cannot draw. After binding, press the hem carefully again and catch it in place with long, medium-loose silk stitches. Remove the basting threads before the hem is firmly pressed, so that the marks from the basting-stitches will not show on the right side. A good point to remember is to fasten the hem turn just enough to hold it to the skirt, rather than try to fasten the skirt to the hem.

To make the narrow belt, pin the right sides of the material together and baste and stitch, using a loose stitch. Trim the seam, press it open, and turn the strip right side out. Then press carefully, making sure to have the seam come in the center of one side of the belt.

Press the armhole seam in toward the waist, so as to emphasize that the sleeve is always set into the waist and not the waist into the sleeve. Remember that fine gathering-stitches in the top of the sleeve help greatly in adjusting the fulness so that not a wrinkle is evident. If you use care in basting, fitting, pressing, and stitching the plain, open seams of the shoulder and under arm and in applying the shawl collar and facing, following generally the instructions in the lesson entitled Tailored Suits, Coats, and Capes, great satisfaction will result in developing this coat dress.

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