I am so excited to share the third installment of making my 1920s costume; this week, I’m making a purse! I have plenty of lovely inspiration to share, along with a really neat tutorial. Let’s get started!
As with my dress and my headpiece, I began by researching twenties purse styles with a focus on evening bags. One of the best parts of 1920s garments and accessories for evening wear is the detailing: beading! tassels! fringe! rhinestones! And the list goes on and on!
One of my favorite styles to come across was the compact purse: a small substitute for an evening bag, created to carry only the necessities of make-up, lipstick, and maybe a little money.
The outside of a compact purse featuring enamel work. source
The inside shows spaces for a small lipstick, blush, and face powder, with a mirror on the reverse. source
I love that this is only big enough for a lipstick! source
The more standard styles of evening bag, whether a clutch or reticule, with a drawstring or a kisslock closure, had a bit more room for personal articles.
There was also an interesting hybrid that includes a compact as part of the bag frame.
After finding so many amazing examples, I decided to do a search for actual vintage purse patterns. In a perfect universe, I would have made a hand-beaded purse, complete with beaded tassels or fringe. However, in reality, I knew I wouldn’t have the time to bead anything. I checked ebay and Etsy for patterns, without finding much. One of the Folkwear patterns I had considered for my dress included a pattern for a simple drawstring-style bag, but it wasn’t exactly my preferred shape.
But then I found the best possible inspiration: a vintage instructional video from the 1920s in how to make a ‘dainty handbag’!
I find this video particularly charming because they skip so many of the steps in the actual creation of the purse! It was clearly made during a time when most people were practiced enough in sewing that they could easily fill in the gaps.
To a modern viewer, the use of crepe paper may seem absurd, but I was totally inspired by the concept of weaving fabric out of something colorful and flat. What if I were to update this idea by using something that is longer lasting, like ribbon? I decided to try it out!
I collected double-face polyester satin ribbons in a color palette to coordinate with my dress, pulling three shades each of blue, coral, and yellow.
Inspired by the silhouettes and details of a few of my favorite vintage purses, I decided to make a reticule with a drawstring, with a tassel hanging off the bottom.
Following the vintage tutorial, I wove my ribbons together and then sewed them into a purse! I am so happy with the results.
Are you interested in making a 1920s style purse of your very own? Follow the tutorial below!
1920s Reticule Purse Tutorial
When I go out, I like to have enough space in my handbag for my keys, lipstick, cell phone, and a small wallet for ID and money, but I didn’t want this purse to be too cumbersome. My finished purse measures approximately 8” wide by 9” tall, not including handles or tassel.
- Ribbon: enough to weave two 12” x 12” squares, plus additional length to create loops for the handles. This requires a bit of math. I used 2yds each of 9 ribbons in different colors and widths (I wanted an uneven, dynamic effect to the fabric I wove). Use only one width of ribbon in one or two colors for a subtler look, or use different widths to create a graphic motif (this dress is made of woven ribbons!). If you use only 1” wide ribbon, you will need at least 16yds of ribbon. NOTE: I used double-face ribbon for this project, which increases the ease of weaving, but is not requisite. If you select a single face ribbon, you will just need to be more diligent during step 3.
- 1/3yd fabric for underlining your woven ribbons, cut into two 12”x 12” pieces (I used black polyester organza, leftover from the neck scarf on my dress, which is nice because it is both rigid and lightweight)
- 1/3yd fabric for lining the purse (I used black rayon/acetate satin faille, leftover from the slip I made to wear under my dress)
- 2yds cording for handles
- Embroidery floss or cording for tassel (if making your own) or a store-bought tassel
- Sewing machine
- Paper to make purse pattern (I used 8 ½” x 11” white printer paper)
- Spray baste (used for quilts, appliqué, etc.)
- Marking tools (I used a Chaco-liner and 1” x 6” ruler)
- Hand sewing needles
1. Cut ribbons into 12” lengths.
2. Make paper pattern. Using the full width of my paper, I drew an approximate shape for the purse bottom and cut it out.
3. Weave ribbons into two 12” x 12” squares. I started on a gridded mat by lining up my ribbons along a gridline so they are parallel to one another, then taping down along one edge. Once my ‘warp’ ribbons are in place, I began weaving in my ‘weft’ ribbons, keeping the weave as tight as possible. IMPORTANT: If you do not use double-face ribbon, you will need to weave your ribbons face down.
4. Once a 12” x 12” square is completed, follow the instructions on your spray baste to prepare one side of an underlining fabric square. Place the sticky side of the underlining square on your woven ribbons; press in place.
Repeat steps 3 & 4 to make a second woven ribbon square with underlining.
5. Cut out your purse bodies. I added a ½” seam allowance around my paper pattern piece using a Chaco-liner and small ruler.
Repeat this step with lining fabric.
NOTE: for this particular design, I made my lining exactly the same shape as my purse. If I were to make this purse shape again, I would actually change the lining shape so it does not come to the same point at the bottom. I believe this would allow the lining to better sit down inside the purse.
6. To help keep the woven ribbons intact, machine baste around edges within seam allowance, ensuring the ribbons don’t shift out of place.
7. Determine where you would like your ribbon loops to go at purse top. I chose to make it look like the ribbons are extending up as part of the woven effect; because my ribbon colors and widths were all different, my loops reflected this. Use 3” cuts of ribbon to make loops: fold ribbon in half, pin in place matching raw edges of ribbon to purse top.
8. Lay one purse lining piece over purse front, right sides together, aligning top edges.
Sew purse lining to purse front along top edge.
9. Press open, with seam allowance toward lining.
Repeat steps 7 through 9 for second purse front and lining piece.
10. With right sides together, pin the purse front/lining pieces together.
Sew together leaving an opening in lining for turning.
Notice the marked opening at the bottom left for turning.
11. Turn right side out and sew opening closed, either by machine or hand. I edge-stitch on my machine because it’s faster, but hand-sewing would allow for a hidden finish.
I apologize for the terrible color of this photo; I had to blow it out in order to see the stitching, which is still very hard to see!
Stuff the lining inside the purse body. You may wish to iron the purse top to help keep it in place.
12. If you want to make your own tassel, do so now. I followed this tutorial to create mine.
Sew to the bottom of your purse. Catch the lining, if applicable.
13. For handles, cut cording into two 1yd pieces. Beginning on one side of the purse, thread one end of the cording through the ribbon loops, meeting the second end at the start. Knot the two cording ends together.
With the second piece of cording, start on the opposite side of the purse and thread through the loops. Knot ends.
You may need to adjust one of the knots so the handles hang evenly.
14. That’s it! You have a fabulous new purse! Take it out for a night on the town!
Join me next time for the final installment! I will be sharing a fun way to update modern shoes to look like they are from the 1920s AND revealing my full costume! Until next time!