The Creative Corner · Vintage Fashion · Vintage Sewing

1920s Wardrobe Accessories

Large purple hat from 1924. It is decorated with big purple embroidered flowers and large green leaves.
Make a statement with a large decorated hat.

Once you create a Twenties wardrobe, capsule or not, what are the 1920s wardrobe accessories that pull it together? Last time I talked about creating a Twenties capsule wardrobe. In this post I’ll suggest some add-ons that will make a Twenties outfit stand out. Incorporate a few of these ideas, or use them all to really expand your wardrobe and its capabilities.

Keep in mind that the traditional Twenties wardrobe contained few pieces. Most people didn’t have a closet filled with clothing. Clothes were expensive. The Twenties saw a time of inflation before the Great Depression that had everyone complaining about prices of everything from meat to the clothing budget. Generally, your typical Twenties woman had two to three dresses she wore at home, a visiting dress, perhaps a travel outfit, an evening gown if she moved in those circles, and a few other pieces. Separates such as those found in a capsule wardrobe would be a godsend to someone like this.

So if you begin with six pieces consisting of a travel or business suit, one extra skirt, and three blouses or tops, what will finish your wardrobe? Add one piece at a time, with thought, and you will soon have a beautiful selection of period reproduction garments from which to choose. One of the great benefits is that you can choose what you like from the decade, without the pressure to update your dresses each time the calendar turns.

Hats, Hats, Hats

The most obvious 1920s wardrobe accessories are the small items that finish an outfit. The hat at the top of this post, for instance, would make anyone look twice. Or choose a hat like this one, that gives you more flexibility. This one could top a suit just as easily as an afternoon outfit.

Twenties millinery can be as challenging as learning to work with blocks and wires, or it can be as simple as using a Twenties crochet hat pattern and decorating it to match various outfits. Some fabric hats, such as turbans, used no infrastructure at all.

Charming Twenties spring hat from printed or embroidered fabric.

Bags and Bling

Once you have something to top off the outfit, so to speak, you need a portable container for your things. Here are some options.

Crocheted pouch handbag made in two colors of lavender. The main body is in a dark lavender mesh, while the bottom of the bag has a light lavender  triangle lace with solid diamonds between.
A visiting handbag or small workbag for on the go

One of my favorites, I have this bag almost completed. When made with the size thread suggested, it comes out quite small, about eight inches in length. It would be enough to hold necessities for a day out, but little more. This is a general everyday bag or small workbag if you tat. Nothing much larger than a tatting shuttle, ball of thread, and current project will fit.

Twenties handbag made from knitted beads and deep beaded fringe.
Carry all the bling in your handbag!

This type of handbag was knitted with seed beads. It sparkled every time its owner moved, and these were very popular. Interesting to note, these were not touted as evening bags. This was another type of everyday handbag.

Twenties handbag with intricate beaded embroidery and a beaded fringe hanging from the bottom.
Bag with bead embroidery and netted fringe.

Here’s another example of a beaded handbag. This time, the beads are embroidered onto a satin foundation, and then beads are attached in a netted fringe pattern along the bottom.

…And the bling

Twenties woman with short curly hair wears a beaded or ribbon band across her forehead that looks somewhat like a falling star.
Hair band adds bling to this woman’s hairstyle

Hairstyle accents like this one added pizzazz to an outfit without requiring much storage space. 1920s wardrobe accessories like this dress up the outfits you have.

A dress belt made from ribbon circles and ovals.
Dressy belt made from ribbons.

Belts, sashes, and corsages made from ribbon helped to heighten the dressiness and flash of an ensemble without replacing the dress underneath it. The belt above is made completely from pieces of ribbon, and hand sewn. The dress ornament below is also made from pieces of ribbon.

Ribbon corsage from the Twenties. A large fluffy flower made from ribbon heads six long streamers.
This ribbon corsage leads the eye below the waist.

Ribbon corsages of all shapes and sizes attached to dresses, coats, capes, and hats to change the appearance to suit the wearer and the occasion. Often they were attached to long streamers or strips of lace and suspended from the low waistline of the dress, like this one. These additions pinned to the dress so they could be removed after the event, and they drew the eye away from a plain neckline.

Coats and Wraps

1920s winter coat with a high collar buttoned around the neck and the sleeves making part of a cape that falls down behind. The coat has a belt at the waist and is of a plaid material.
A coat makes your period outfit complete

If you plan to go outdoors at all, and you live in an area that produces cold air and snow, you are going to need a cover. This might be something like the spectacular cape coat illustrated above. Or you may prefer an article like a full cape. Long capes were often utilized for evening wear. They gave warmth without crushing delicate lace or ruffles.

You can’t get much more classic than this 1925 spring raincoat.

If classic is your goal, you might like this 1925 raincoat. With few alterations, these coats still appear in shops and online every year.

Sweaters and Overblouses

Knit dress from 1922. Image from Antique Pattern Library; link to free download below.

An easy way to add mileage to your wardrobe is to add sweaters and other knitted or crocheted items. Sweaters, tops, knitted dresses, shawls, and so on add versatility with just a few items. This knit dress with its matching hat is an example. You can find the entire book, with many sweater and knitted blouse options, from the Antique Pattern Library. View the images and download it here.

1920s photo of a woman in a knitted Twenties cardigan. It buttons down the front with large patch pockets on each side below the waist.
A longline sweater for cool days

A simple cardigan can alter your look at the same time that it provides warmth. You only need one, if you want any at all. A sweater like this makes a great 1920s wardrobe accessory.

A woman from the 1920s wears a
Simple Twenties top in filet crochet

Another option is a filet crochet blouse that can go over a Twenties chemise or underskirt you already have. Relatively simple to make and memorable, these little overblouses were quite fashionable in the Twenties.

Shawls and Wraps

Woman wearing an embroidered cashmere shawl. 1924.
Twenties embroidered shawl made from cashmere.

Add a shawl to your 1920s wardrobe accessories kit. A nice shawl dresses up an outfit and provides an extra layer if necessary. A shawl can be made from wool and fringed, like the one above, or it can be crocheted, like the one below.

Crocheted shawl for dressy occasions.

This shawl can be used for dressy or not-so-dressy occasions. In fact, a large square shawl like this could see a lot of use in a Twenties wardrobe.

Making It Your Own

The best way to accessorize a wardrobe is to have a plan. My everyday modern wardrobe looks like it was assembled by a gerbil with ADHD. Don’t do that. Don’t be like me. Spend some time and determine what you want for the basics, and then build from there once you have it.

Looking at the cape coat above, for instance, makes me want to grab my pattern drafting paper and create one as the basis of my wardrobe. Perhaps that’s because I live in the Frozen North, and am looking out at a 12-degree Fahrenheit (-11 Celsius) morning as I write.

Weather aside, perhaps you have a dream and desire of holding historical tea parties. Then build your wardrobe around nice separates. Throw in a one piece dress if you like. Make sure you spend some time researching and making the most darling little tea apron you ever saw. It can be made from sheer organdy, or handkerchief linen, or a fabric you fall in love with. If that apron makes your heart sing every time you see it, you will enjoy every tea party you throw.

More suggestions

To see some options of other accessories for the Twenties wardrobe, take a look at A Gift of Handkerchiefs and Crochet a Twenties Wrist Bag.

Vintage Needlework

Crochet a Twenties Wrist Bag

Everyone needs a wrist bag. These little objects hold little but make a nice vintage fashion statement. I made this one in a few hours, following a Twenties pattern that I reproduced for you below. Now you can crochet a Twenties wrist bag, too.

As you can see, this bag nicely holds a small ball of thread. This one is designed specifically for that purpose. This crochet Twenties wrist bag is a thread holder for crochet, tatting, or knitting (if any of us are bold enough to knit with crochet thread.) It keeps the ball secure and close so that you don’t spend half your time chasing it as it bounds across the floor.

Make your own

Crocheted wrist bag with a rose emblem. Next to it sits a ball of peach thread and a size 11 crochet hook.
This little wrist bag holds a spool of thread or other small items.

The original instructions direct you to make this with a thread and hook size that will give you about 5 squares to the inch. I used size 40 thread and a size 11 crochet hook.

You will need:

  • Size 40 crochet thread, which you can get from the Tatting Corner.
  • Crochet hook size 11


Here is how to make your own crochet Twenties wrist bag:

Make a chain of 74 stitches, turn.

  1. Double crochet (dc) in 5th stitch from hook; then chain 2, skip 2, dc in next chain all the way across, 22 times. You will have 23 open squares. Turn.
  2. Chain 5, skip 2 ch on row below, dc in dc; then chain 2, skip 2 ch in previous row, dc over dc all the way across. 23 open squares. Turn.
  3. Ten open squares, 4 dc over next 4 stitches, 7 open squares, 4 dc over next 4 stitches, 4 open squares, turn. [The last dc of an open square becomes the first dc of a solid block of crochet. In the same way, the last dc in a solid block of crochet becomes the first dc of your next open square.]
  4. 3 open squares, 7 dc, 3 open squares, 4 dc, 2 open squares, 7 dc, 10 open squares, turn.
  5. 2 open squares, 10 dc, 4 open squares, 10 dc, 2 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 13 dc, 2 open squares, turn.
  6. 2 open squares, 13 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 1 open square, 13 dc, 2 open squares, (7 dc, 1 open square) twice, turn.
  7. 2 open squares, (7 dc, 1 open square) 3 times, 4 dc, (1 open square, 10 dc) twice, 3 open squares, turn.
  8. 6 open squares, 4 dc, (1 open square, 7 dc) twice, (1 open square, 4 dc) 3 times, 4 open squares, turn.
  9. 4 open squares, 10 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 3 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 7 dc, 4 open squares, turn.
  10. 2 open squares, 19 dc, 7 open squares, 4 dc, 7 open squares, turn.
  11. 4 open squares, 10 dc, 1 open square, 4 dc, (1 open square, 7 dc) twice, 1 open square, 13 dc, 3 open squares, turn.
  12. 7 open squares, 10 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 2 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, 7 dc, 3 open squares, turn.
  13. 2 open squares, 7 dc, 2 open squares, 4 dc, 2 open squares, 25 dc, 6 open squares, turn.
  14. 6 open squares, 10 dc, 5 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 13 dc, 2 open squares, turn.
  15. 2 open squares, 7 dc, 2 open squares, 13 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 1 open square, 4 dc, 7 open squares, turn.
  16. 5 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 16 dc, 1 open square, 13 dc, 5 open squares, turn.
  17. 5 open squares, 13 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 1 open square, 4 dc, 1 open square, 7 dc, 5 open squares, turn.
  18. 4 open squares, 4 dc, (1 open square, 4 dc) twice, 2 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 6 open squares, turn.
  19. 6 open squares, 13 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, (1 open square, 4 dc) twice, 5 open squares, turn.
  20. 7 open squares, 7 dc, 3 open squares, 13 dc, 7 open squares, turn.
  21. 8 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 13 dc, 8 open squares, turn.
  22. Repeat row 2.
  23. Chain 3, dc in next dc in previous row (to narrow), 21 open squares, dc in next dc to narrow, turn.
  24. Narrow like the previous row, 19 open squares, narrow like previous row, turn.
  25. Same as 24th row, decreasing 2 squares.
  26. Same as 24th row, decreasing 2 squares.
  27. Same as 24th row, decreasing 2 squares.
  28. Narrow, 5 open squares, 4 dc, 5 open squares, narrow, turn.
  29. Narrow, 3 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, 4 dc, 3 open squares, narrow, turn.
  30. Narrow, 1 open square, 4 dc, 3 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, narrow, turn. This row gives the width for the handle.
  31. 2 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, 4 dc, 2 open squares, turn.
  32. 3 open squares, 4 dc, 3 open squares, turn.
  33. Repeat Row 31.
  34. 1 open square, 4 dc, 3 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, turn.
  35. Repeat Row 31.
  36. Repeat Row 32.
  37. Seven open squares, turn.
  38. Seven open squares, turn.
  39. Repeat Row 32.
  40. Repeat Row 33.
  41. Repeat Row 34.

Now repeat from Row 31 until you have 5 complete patterns of the handle decoration, and have worked 6 rows on the 6th pattern. This brings you to Row 89.

89. Chain 5, dc in dc to widen, 1 open square, 4 dc, 3 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, chain 2, dc in the same stitch to widen, turn.

Now work from Row 29 back to Row 1, widening at each end of every row as you narrowed, until you reach the width of 23 open squares once again. Then work without any increases to Row 1.

Note: In case you need more English and fewer numeral notations to complete the increase rows: When creating the second side of the bag, you can chain 5 at the beginning of the row and dc into the base of that ch 5. Complete the solid blocks and spaces according to that row. At the end of the row, complete the last open block by skipping two chains as you always do, and dc into the 3rd chain of the previous row’s ch-5, as you always do. Then ch 2, and make another dc into the same ch you just used. This makes the enlarging triangle at the other end. In this way you will be making two extra open squares for each row.

Attaching the two sides together

When you finish Row 1, do not break the thread. Put the two pieces together, right sides out, and place 3 sc along the bottom of each open space, crocheting front and back together. At the corners, add an extra 2 sc or so to make a nice turn.

Turn, and going up the side, sc 3 into each open square until you reach the first reduction row. At this point, separate the two halves and continue, with 3 sc in each small triangle that forms the side of the bag. Work up one side of the handle.

As you progress up the handle, create a ch-3 picot between every six squares or so. To do this, make 3 sc into the first square, ch 3, and then make 3 sc into the next square. The 3-ch becomes a floating picot along the side of the handle. Quite nifty and period-appropriate.

When you reach the beginning of the divide again, join to one of the sc where you first divided for the top and handle, and finish off, leaving a tail to be worked in later.

Work the other side of the bag in the same way. If you want all the stitches to face the same way, You will want to begin the second side at the back side of the bag, where the narrowing begins. Work up through the narrowing triangles, across the handle (don’t forget your picots to match the other side) and down the front. When you get to the side of the bag, take both front and back together like you did on the other side, working down to the corner where the edging began. Join to the first sc and finish off. Work in your ends using your favorite method. With size 40 thread, it’s just as easy to use a needle as it is a hook, maybe easier.

Closeup image of a small crocheted bag that hangs from the wrist. A rose pattern decorates the bag. In peach on a dark wood background.
An up-close look at the completed wrist bag.

Change the size

Perhaps you want your crochet Twenties wrist bag to be a bit larger. Make it three squares bigger on the sides and bottom, and you have a bag that’s a little more than 1 inch bigger all around. This is large enough to hold keys, a credit card, and a business card holder with a few folded dollars. If you want to use it for anything other than thread, though, you will want to line the bag. Here’s how to do that:

  • Find a piece of scrap fabric that when folded is a little larger than your bag — including the strap. A fat quarter works nicely for this.
  • Place your completed bag on the folded fabric and trace around it 1/2 inch from the outside edges of the bag. This gives you a 1/2-inch seam allowance for sewing. You can place the top edge of the handle on the fold of the fabric if you want to reduce some of your sewing time.
  • Cut along your traced edges.
  • With the wrong sides of the fabric together, and right sides out (if there’s any difference), sew 1/4-inch seam along the bottom and sides of the bag. Also sew a 1/4 inch seam across the very top if you cut the lining in two pieces instead of one, on the fold.
  • Turn your bag inside out and sew another 1/4 inch seam next to the seam you just finished. If you make it a hair larger than 1/4 inch, it will catch your raw edge inside the new seam.
  • Congratulations. You just made a French seam. This will keep your bag lining from unraveling.
  • Turn your bag right side out so the seam runs along the bottom and side of the bag. Slip it inside the crocheted shell and, folding a 1/4 inch hem (1/4 inch and then another 1/4 inch) tack the lining to the top and handle of the bag.

I hope you enjoyed these instructions for Crochet a Twenties Wrist Bag.

Household Sewing · Vintage Ways

Bags for Every Use

Simple drawstring bag with a small cross stitch design on the front and a fringed bottom.
This bag could be used for a day out, sewing, or lace.

How many bags can one person use? Well, in a vintage world without pockets –– unless you happen to be wearing an apron –– quite a few bags, actually. You need a knitting bag, a travel workbag, a sewing bag, an evening purse (for those nights you go out), and a day purse. Most of these need to be updated every year or two as the fashions change. Oh! Don’t forget the storage bags, the travel bags, the organization bags…

For someone who enjoys making bags, the 1910s through the 1950s is a world of creativity waiting to happen. Every needlework magazine offered the latest in bags for this use or that one. Individual crochet booklets offered bags. Once in a while, a company published a booklet containing instructions for bags for nearly every use imaginable.

Vintage bags organized life

In a vintage household, a bag was a sign of organization. Items that needed their own places found themselves nestled into bags or containers specifically made for them. The most obvious example of this in the vintage home was the string holder which hung in the kitchen or pantry.

Have you ever tried to keep a ball of string from unraveling until you used the last of it? Regardless whether it’s thin or thick, slick or rough, string tends to unwind. And it often unwinds in large bunches, a layer at a time. Let’s say you’re in a hurry, you need some string, you open that kitchen drawer and… it’s everywhere. Somehow the string got caught in the ice pick and several layers lie strewn about the top of the drawer. You can’t even see the cut end to pull it. And you are in a hurry. You were on your way out the door to a meeting, and planned to take this package with you….

Keep the string handy

You can see the problem. Thus, one of the most oft-used bags in a kitchen was the string bag. Sometimes it looked like a tomato hanging from a hook. Other times it looked like a puffy round ball of fabric. At all times, though, a thin string of some kind hung from an opening in the bottom of the bag. You pulled the string, it unwound inside the bag, and you cut off whatever you needed to use. The rest of it waited in the bag until next time.

And why did everyone need a ball of string or twine in the kitchen? Because before 1930, Scotch/cellophane tape did not exist. There was no tape. The only tape that existed was for medical use. Everyone else used string. Need to truss a chicken? Cut some string. Tying a roast for dinner? Use the string. Need to get that package ready for the mail? Grab the string. (This, by the way, is why the U.S. Postal Service still states that they cannot accept packages tied with string for mailing. Because for many years, they did! You can find that in this list of packaging suggestions from the USPS.)

Keeping a ball of general purpose string handy is still a good idea. Several times a year I find myself poking through my yarn stash, in search of some inexpensive cotton string or yarn that I can use to tie or measure something. And to keep it neat, I can make a string holder for the pantry.

Organize that linen closet!

If you really had your act together in 1925-1945, your linen closet held a selection of specially made bags. Some held sheets and pillow cases. Others held your best tablecloths. Opening your linen closet door, you could take immediate stock of what was available and what you needed. Your linen closet might even hold a closed bag for soiled laundry of some kind.

Keep your crafting separate

Do you tat lace? Then you need a small bag that hangs from your wrist so that your lacemaking thread remains untangled –– and stays with you instead of rolling across the floor. You also need a small bag to keep your tatting shuttles and other implements safe. In that bag goes your current project.

If you knit, you need a knitting bag. Or two. Or more. Some knitters are One Project At A Time knitters, but most knitters I know have two to three projects going on a time. Often they are a quickly made project, an intermediate length project and something large like an afghan or a detailed cardigan that takes many hours of work. Mixing these together in one knitting bag is not wise. All those knitting needles start talking together while you aren’t looking, and before you know it you have a knitting mutiny on your hands.

Seriously, though, keeping projects separate means that they remain clean. They also survive with fewer poked holes in them. I don’t know what those knitting needles do in there, but I inevitably find a stray needle poking through my current project if I have more than one per knitting bag.

Crocheters need bags too. Even though it uses yarn just like knitting, a crochet project works best by itself in its own organization bag. For one thing, crochet can get bulky as the project grows.

Today many crafters grab a large ziplock bag to create a “project bag” with yarn or thread, needles or shuttle. Then they are ready to go. These individual crafting bags predated the plastic ziplock bag and fulfill the same function. Truly, they were bags for every use.

Sewing on the go

Although makers use their sewing machines a lot, keeping a sewing bag close at hand can be quite useful. A few vintage lovers find themselves making garments and items completely by hand. Others (myself included) prefer handworked buttonholes to machine buttonholes. (The fact that I can’t seem to get a buttonholer attachment to work with any of my vintage machines doesn’t help either, but I digress…)

Mending used to be never-ending in the vintage household. Someone always needed a replaced button, lengthened dresses or pants, darned socks. The clever worker kept a mending bag just for these items, with a darning egg, matching threads, strong threads for attaching buttons, and other such necessities. That way, when ten spare minutes presented themselves, they could grab the bag, open it up, and complete a quick project.

Other people kept a sewing bag specifically for pickup work. This included small handmade gifts, embroidery projects for spare moments, and that placemat project you wanted to start last year. Items you can pick up, spend half an hour on, and put back down until next time.

So when you see those lists of bag projects from vintage years, keep in mind that the vintage worker kept bags for every use under the sun. If you’re looking for an easy project to carry in a bag, these Outline Stitch squares go together to make up a small quilt.