The Gatsby Summer Afternoon

The long awaited Gatsby Summer Afternoon at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland finally arrived!


This event was put on by the Art Deco Society of California and is one that I have been dreaming about going to for years now!  The attire is vintage daywear from 1920-1940 (the Art Deco era of course!) and is definitely like stepping back in time!  This year I decided that I was going to make time to make my outfit and the accouterments as well as my husbands’.  As a history scholar, I don’t do anything half-assed when it comes to creating a historical outfit and as Art Deco and the 1920s is my favorite fashion era (second only to Art Nouveau and the Edwardian era), I wasn’t going to miss this event again.  And honestly, why does one have so many 1920s patterns in their collection and one does not use them?????!!!!

Mr and Mrs Hughes in 1920s afternoon attire at the Gatsby Summer Afternoon 2013

Mr and Mrs Hughes in 1920s afternoon attire at the Gatsby Summer Afternoon 2013If

If you live in Northern California and you love history and dressing up in historical attire, this is definitely the place to be!  This event is held the second Sunday in September every year and is a living history event as there are no spectators — everyone is a part of it.  There were so many gorgeous outfits to be seen, lavish picnics and exquisite vintage cars.  With the exception of the few attendees dressed in Halloween costume flapper dresses and evening attire (this was a day event obviously……), everyone fit the part.  Some people really go all out with their picnic spreads and bring in dining room tables, china and crystal, and drape their tents in finery.

Dunsmuir Hellman Estate

Dunsmuir Hellman Estate

dunsmuir hellman mansion and cars

gatsby picnics (2)

gatsby picnics 2

Alice in Wonderland picnic

Alice in Wonderland picnic

As this was our first Gatsby and we do not live in the Bay Area, we set up our picnic on the grass.

picnic 1

picnic 2

I did bring many vintage pieces for our picnic.  The table linens are from Spain and were embroidered by nuns.  The quilt our picnic is on is handmade by my great-great aunts in Nova Scotia.  I brought china tea plates and silver goblets (all my grandma’s) and a silver chip and dip plate I bought for $2 at a yard sale (it was previously black!!!!).  I did research on 1920’s picnic foods, and our menu was thus:

  • Tea sandwiches (cucumber, tomato and crab/shrimp)
  • Waldorf Salad
  • Gouda, swiss, crackers and grapes
  • Citron lemon pound cake
  • Lemonade and root beer

We did bring a cooler with ice and a milk crate to lug things in, and they are all hidden underneath our “table.”

Mrs Hughes

Mrs Hughes

my husband Brian and his mom, Alana and our picnic

My husband Brian and his mom, Alana and our picnic

My mother-in-law, Alana (who also sews vintage clothing), came with us.  It was her first time at the Gatsby picnic as well.



Alana made her dress from a 20’s pattern in my stash.  it is Rocking Horse Farm #926 MId-1920’s Dresses.  She made her dress out of a sage green chiffon and it has a dusty rose satin slip.  She’s wearing vintage 1920’s mother of pearl and crystal jewelry and a beautiful cloche from Victorian Trading Company.  We borrowed our vintage purses from a friend of Alana’s who is a Model T enthusiast.

Alana and I

Alana and I

My dress is Vogue 2535, an original 1928 design caped dress and slip.  It is an out-of-print pattern from 2001 and one that I had to search high and low for online to get at a decent price.   That is, if you think $35 is decent…. This is why you should hoard vintage reproductions patterns when they come out…. lol :)

Vogue 2535

Vogue 2535

My dress is made of a poly chiffon in seafoam green with a light floral design.  I bought this fabric for a couple of bucks a yard many months ago from Fabric Mart in anticipation of making this dress.  I just love the cape and the pattern is pretty straightforward and was easy for me to put together.  The hem is a bit of a nightmare and after putting in a rolled hem, and sewing the skirt up (you hem the skirt pieces before sewing them together), I decided that I wanted a more dainty hem, so I cut that off (no, I wasn’t going to rip out a rolled hem!) and zig-zagged the edges.  I do prefer how it turned out for my tastes, plus, that would have been much easier in the first place!  I did a lot of hand sewing on this, plus it has a snap closure.

Vogue 2535, 1928 design in seafoam floral chiffon

Vogue 2535, 1928 design in seafoam floral chiffon

My slip is made out of a yellow crepe back satin that I bought at Joann’s.  The pattern suggests charmeuse, but I wanted to use a sturdier fabric.  I also wanted to match the slip to my dress, so I took a swatch of the chiffon with me to Joann’s and tested the overlay on fabrics there, which is something you can’t do online.  I chose the yellow and then used the same fabric to make my dress sash and the sash on the my hat.

Vogue 2535 1928 design slip in yellow crepe back satin

Vogue 2535 1928 design slip in yellow crepe back satin

I made fabric rosettes out of my dress material and attached them to my sash.  My rosettes are made using this tutorial that I posted on my wedding blog.  As far as my accouterments go:  I made my 1920s silk garden party hat, my shoes are character shoes I got off ebay, my paper parasol is vintage 1920s my mom gave me for my wedding, my necklace and bracelet are vintage from my grandma, I bought my faux pearl drop earrings off ebay, and my purse is borrowed.  I am also wearing (albeit hard to see) a bee brooch that my MIL gave me from the Victorian Trading Company.  I saw a photo of Lady Mary (Downton Abbey) in 1920s daywear with ribbons tied on her shoes, so I copycatted and tied some on mine, too.  I thought about using some yellow silk ribbon that I had but went with the poly satin instead.  Silk ribbon would have layed down better though, so I will probably use that in the future.  It’s a great way to decorate an otherwise plain shoe.

Vintage car and vintage dress

Vintage car and vintage dress

The only thing I don’t have period correct is gloves.  I looked for some on etsy and wasn’t sure about the sizes (or the prices!).  I tried making some out of lace with a Butterick “Making History” pattern and that was fruitless as the gloves were all for leather and I didn’t want to make grommets in lace….. That pattern does have a fingerless glove pattern for lace and mesh and I made those, but they do not look good with this outfit nor are they historically correct.  My MIL, who crochets, is going to try and make some, otherwise, I will continue looking!  If you know where to get crocheted gloves, let me know!  I don’t crochet and I don’t think I want to try making gloves again!  Oh, yes, and I don’t have on any pantyhose…. I could not stand wearing my seam backed hose as it was too hot and I took them off.  I definitely need to invest in some stockings as they are the way to go!

And then there is Brian’s outfit!

Brian and a vintage truck

Brian and a vintage truck

I did many searches for 1920s men’s patterns and they sure are hard to find!  They are so hard to find that they are nearly extinct!  After reading about men’s clothing from that age, I found that men went to tailors, so there weren’t patterns made for the home sewer.  Pattern companies also don’t seem to want to issue many men’s vintage patterns either…. well, many men’s patterns AT ALL!  Thankfully, men’s suits haven’t changed that much in the last 100 years.  The rise goes up, the pants are loose, the pants are tight, the ties are thin, the ties are wide…. yadda yadda yadda…. you know how that goes!  I did find an OOP  Vogue “gangster” suit pattern but it was too expensive for me…. so I improvised.

Brian’s shirt is made using McCalls 2447 with collar stays and french cuffs.  The fabric is a Burberry blue striped herringbone shirting that I got from Fabric Mart months ago.  It is such a beautiful fabric with a slight sheen.  It’s very sumptuous and comfortable to wear with a fine weave.  The white shirting is just one I got from Joann’s and in constrast is like cardboard compared to the Burberry fabric.  I made a muslin of this shirt first and it fits Brian very well.  He even wore my grandpa’s vintage cuff links with it!  The iie is a vintage 1920s silk foulard tie with a geometric design that I bought off ebay.  Unfortunately, I forgot to pack it….. thus the reason why Brian isn’t wearing it at the Gatsby.  It was also really hot that afternoon, so I’m sure he’s glad that I forgot it! lol :)

McCalls 2447 in Burberry striped herringbone shirting

McCalls 2447 in Burberry striped herringbone shirting and a vintage 1920s silk foulard tie

The vest is a Vogue 8497, a pattern that I made for myself for an old west costume.  This pattern is from 1992 and is out-of-print.  I made his vest out of navy blue cotton poplin and lined it with cotton shirting.  the buttons are vintage metal buttons from my grandma’s button box.  That pattern also has a tie and ascot pattern with it.  I thought about making a tie for Brian and decided that vintage was the way to go on that.  Besides, where would I find vintage necktie silk like that????

1920s Hughes's en mannequinnes

1920s Hughes’s en mannequinnes

I also made Brian’s hat.  I used Vogue 8869 to make his golf cap, using some black (kind of a midnight blue) wool from my stash.  It was very easy to make and once again used up some buckram.  I showed Brian photos of different 1920s hats and this is the one he chose.  It only took me an afternoon to put it together and it’s all made out of scrap fabric in my stash, so much cheaper than buying one!



I also made Brian a quick boutonniere out of one of the yellow vintage flowers on my hat. :)

As you can see, there were many beautiful vintage cars at the Gatsby picnic, including the yellow Rolls Royce from the film “The Yellow Rolls Royce.”  If you haven’t seen that movie, you should!  It’s a fun, quirky movie with a lot of stars in it.

"The Yellow Rolls Royce"

“The Yellow Rolls Royce”

The Yellow Rolls Royce

The Yellow Rolls Royce

Even though it was very hot and Brian and I did not feel fabulous (he was just getting over being sick and allergies and wildfire smoke has been bothering me), we had a lot of fun.  We are already thinking of we want to do next year and I’m already planning out outfits.  I’d like to make Brian a seersucker suit, so if/when I find a suitable pattern I plan to start that sometime.  I also plan on making myself another dress with Vogue 2535 using cotton voile with a silk/cotton slip.  I’d like to play around with some contrasts as this pattern has a cape, bodice, yoke and skirt and the pattern photo shows some contrasts that make it look ombre.  I also plan on making a sunhat out of Vogue 7600.  I really like my 20’s garden party hat, but it is difficult to see out and really obstructs your vision.  I’m sure this one will, too, but maybe a little less!  Plus, I don’t want to look the same!  I think next year it’s going to be all about cotton. :)

tanya and brian closeup

sepia t and b gatsby

Happy Vintage Sewing!






My outfit:

Dress:  Vogue 2535 (out of print) in seafoam green poly chiffon with yellow poly crepe back satin slip

Hat:  Butterick 4697 (out of print) in maize silk dupioni with vintage silk millinery flowers and yellow poly crepe back satin sash

Jewelry:  Vintage pearls and earrings found on ebay

PUrse:  Vintage 1920s beaded mesh purse borrowed

Shoes:  Bloch

Brian’s Outfit:

Shirt:  McCalls 2447 in blue herringbone striped Burberry shirting

Vest:  Vogue 8497 in navy cotton poplin with striped shirting lining

Trousers:  vintage

Shoes:  Cole Haan

Hat:  Vogue 8869 in black/midnight blue wool coating

26 responses to “The Gatsby Summer Afternoon

      • I kept following your links to see it all. It looked brilliant! Even the babies were dressed up! What a great experience …..and I never knew these events happened! I am sure the Californian weather helps! Your hat was amazing too! I am in awe! Well done.
        I bet it was great to see all the other outfits too, were you saying ” ooo I like that dress” , ” oh I like that one even more”!!!???
        Thanks for sharing!

        • Oh, there were so many beautiful ladies and dapper gents, that’s for sure!!!! So many great dresses that I didn’t enter the “best dressed” competition. That I was hot and tired…. lol! Next year I hope my husband and I will both partake in those competitions! It was our first Gatsby, so it’s a learning experience all around.

  1. Pingback: Going Gatsby for an Afternoon·

  2. Just discovered your blog 5 seconds ago on WeSewRetro. I had been at the Gatsby Picnic as well and had remarked to my companion that I loved your dress. Glad I got to (sort of) tell you in person!

    • How funny! Thank you so much! Sorry we did not meet! Both my husband and I were not feeling well, so we didn’t do much strolling or socializing. Next year!!!! :)

  3. Wow, what terrific outfits! Your dress is lovely… the adjective that keeps coming to mind is “floaty.” :) And I love the picnic shots… Looks like such fun!

  4. Hi! I just posted a comment on Wesewretro, but am feeling the need to do so again here. What a FABULOUS looking event! The house, the CARS! the picnicking, all so wonderful – lucky you!! Again, both your outfits look fantastic!

  5. We were at the Gatsby this year too. You are so right about the heat. I was wearing silk but even that was just too hot. Next year it is definitely all about cotton! I am so very, very, impressed that you made EVERYTHING even the hats. You are a sewing goddess! :)

    • Silk can be hot, too, can’t it? I hope next year is cooler! And thank you so much for your kind words. Millinery certainly is an art as I have found, but with a pattern, instructions, and the right materials it can definitely be tackled!

  6. For the first time in three years I DIDN’T go to the Gatsby picnic! Bummer, we could have met : ) If you’re seriously planning on going next year I’ll work it into my plans as well. We usually take a decent sized set=up, with table, chairs, umbrellas, the whole nine yards and then some. You could come lunch with us : )
    Your outfits are adorable, GREAT job!! And yes, cotton is totally the way to go. I did a couple years of silks and last year we did all cotton and red/white/blue themed for the election year. Mena, the wondrous soul who started Sew Weekly, picnic’d next to us and was crushed when we didn’t win best small picnic.
    I also have a bunch of vintage men’s ties that I’m going to sell. I don’t think I have any 20’s but I’ve got some pretty wonderful 30’s/40’s ties. If you’re interested email me, let me know what color(s) you’re looking for and I’ll take some photos. Again, great job on everything!

    • I’m so sorry that you didn’t go!!! But yes, we are definitely planning on going next year! My husband even loved dressing up! That would be fabulous to dine with you!!! :) And yes, I’d love to look at your ties! Brian seems to like dressing up now that we’ve gone to the Gatsby. There are PEERS events and the Preservation Ball and many other times some more vintage ties would come in handy. Thanks!

  7. I love all the outfits! I’ve never really looked much into vintage style but all the sewing bloggers who are sewing vintage are really inspiring :)

  8. Looks like SO much fun. You and your hubby looked great. And now I’m lusting after that $35 pattern!

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