The Creative Corner · Vintage Fashion · Vintage Sewing

Creating a 1920s Capsule Wardrobe

1920s woman in a skirt and matching suit jacket. The jacket has flared sleeves and hangs below her hipline. It is open in front. She wears a large hat with a large feather in the front.
Use a nice simple suit as the basis for your Twenties wardrobe.

If the fit and flare of the Twenties makes your heart flutter, look here for suggestions on creating a 1920s capsule wardrobe. As I’ve stated in an earlier article, the concept of the capsule wardrobe didn’t really appear until the late Thirties. Even though we’re still more than ten years ahead of the times, we can still use Twenties clothing to create a great versatile wardrobe.

You might think, after looking at various photos of 1920s clothing, that women wore nothing other than one-piece dresses. This is simply not true, which is a good thing for those who want to incorporate a 1920s capsule wardrobe into their costuming. Suits appeared at the business office, for various sporting events, and at the train station. They came into use quite often during travel because they made it possible to pack few clothes for many different days and occasion. Surprise! The 1920s capsule wardrobe at work during vacation and travel.

First, choose a suit as a foundation. It can be classic or faddish in styling, whichever you prefer. Either the suit above or the one below would prove a great starting point for a beginning 1920s wardrobe. All these photos date from 1922-1924, so they fit well together without trying to emulate the teenager “flapper” look. These are the clothes that real women wore in the Twenties before 1925.

Woman in a double breasted business suit with long skirt. 1922-23. She wears a close fitting hat on her head that matches the suit color.
This suit gives you a completely different look.

For a 1920s capsule wardrobe you only need one suit jacket to start with. The top example is more flirty and fun, while the bottom suit is more businesslike. Its jacket would work with a variety of skirts. Choose one that fits its intended wear. The best reconstruction in the world won’t work if you choose an after-five dress and all you attend are afternoon tea parties! You will look just a bit out of place wherever you go.

So, assuming that you plan to live during the daylight hours, a simple suit gives you a matching jacket and skirt. You could choose any color, from peach to dark brown, or from dark green to blue. Make it a color you like, and that you can build a wardrobe around. Remember, it’s hard to match pinks and reds with like colors unless the fabrics were designed to go together. It can be done, but it takes time, patience, and fabric swatches.

1920s striped skirt, almost ankle length, with a side front button and a small pocket placket at the right hip.
This skirt would look well made in either stripes as shown, or in a solid fabric.

This skirt blends well with the double breasted jacket. Or, if you prefer, here’s another, more dressy option.

1920s skirt illustration. The skirt hangs about six inches above the ankle, with drapes at both side seams that hang almost to the floor.
A slightly more dressy option to round out your wardrobe.

The skirt with side draperies on the bottom is actually much easier to construct than the tailored skirt above it. Either one would look nice as part of a small 1920s capsule wardrobe.

Of course, once you have your skirts all determined, you need blouses to finish the outfit. A 1920s capsule wardrobe shines here. Blouses and tops were popular, with distinctive designs and folksy embroidery. Here are some examples:

1920s illustration of long sleeve blouse with embroidered yoke. The sleeves tie at the wrist.
Blouse with embroidered yoke
1920s white long sleeve blouse with a long ruffly jabot that reaches almost to the waistline. The shirt has a soft turnover collar.
Make the jabot detachable and you have a blouse for a suit and one for an afternoon party.
Two 1920s blouses. One is a scoop
The scoop neck blouse works well with the flirty suit at the top, with or without the extra embroidery. Wear the blouse under the skirt.

With one suit, one extra skirt, and three blouses you have a total of six outfits, worn with or without the jacket. Because the jacket likely won’t work with all the tops you select, you can count on six ensembles instead of nine. Add a simple white silky top without too much decoration and the draped skirt above, and you have a nice dressy combination as well.

Once you have six workable pieces, enough to take up a few inches in your closet but no more, you can evaluate your new wardrobe and decide what additional pieces you need. In the next article I’ll give examples of add-ons that will take your small 1920s capsule wardrobe to the next level. Plus, it will become even more versatile.

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.