An Historically Accurate “Loser”

When the UFDC National Convention was last in Chicago (I’m not sure of the year), I chose to enter a doll costume into competition. My entry did not even receive a “thanks, but no thanks” ribbon. Kind of like it didn’t exist to the judges.

I had entered dolls into the Antique category before and had weird, oogy feelings about being judged on and getting awards for something I bought. Yes, I know that the ribbons are just used as incentives to have collectors show their dolls, but you have to admit that many people get a kick out of saying “na na, my doll is better than your doll.”

So I bravely decided to be judged on something I made.

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The category was “1920’s flapper” and the doll didn’t have to be antique. I chose Robert Tonner’s Ellowyne Wilde and got her a short, bob wig.

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For inspiration I turned to an old, hardbound copy of The Delineator, that I had found at a used book store.

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The Delineator was published by the publishers of Butterick Patterns during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  My copy is from August 1923. Surely an appropriate time period to find flapper inspiration.

So why didn’t I win anything? I may never know. My sister travelled with me to the Chicago convention and we mulled it over and never really came up with an answer.

Many of the costumes displayed were for dressy, jazz-club type dresses with lots of glitz. So maybe mine was too plain.

However, the dress that won first prize was a simple blue chambray, dropped-waist dress with a small amount of seed bead adornment. Not glitzy at all.

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Maybe they didn’t like the way the skirt hiked up in front with the lace showing.


Like this orange number from the 1923 Delineator.

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Perhaps it was the weird dangling sleeves.


Like these blue ones or the orange ones above.

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Or was it the weird silk velvet belt with a huge medallion and beaded fringe.


Nope, that’s authentic, too.

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Or was it the shoes. What about the ones exactly like them on the model in blue above.

Was her Czech crystal necklace too short?  See the lady in orange again.

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What about the hat?


It sure looks like the one on the lady in the sexy robe-style coat.

Ellowyne’s dress was sewn from a fine silk print, with hand-dyed cotton lace and silk velvet. So it surely wasn’t the fabric.

The costume was machine sewn, which is perfectly appropriate for the 1920’s.

I wonder if the judges would have seen my costume differently if I had provided them with pictures from my source. But that would have been difficult on the required 3″ x 5″ card I had to use to describe it.

Flapper fashions during the 1920’s didn’t stay the same. As the decade (and decadence) progressed, dress waists dropped and shirt lengths got shorter. But all of the fashions from this period were considered “flapper”. And the blue ribbon dress was the same period as mine.

If I sound bitter, I’m sorry. I am not bitter. Baffled, but not bitter.


I worked on, but didn’t finish, this dress inspired by a 1902 Delineator pattern for the “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes” category. Maybe this one would have fared better had I entered it into competition.

I had so much fun creating a “new” costume from pieces of different inspirations, all from one authentic, 1920’s period source. Does it really matter what the judges saw?

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Ellowyne doesn’t care what they thought.

I don’t know if I’ll ever enter another sewing competition. It doesn’t really fit into my concept of success. I’m not in the habit of looking for validation outside myself. But I like to share what I’ve accomplished.

I write this blog to share my successes and failures and to pass along what I’ve learned from them.

Ellowyne lives on the shelf above my sewing machine and she reminds me of a lesson learned. And I’m proud of what I made.


An Historically Accurate “Loser” — 5 Comments

  1. Ellowyne’s dress was beautifully researched and fetching. I agree that the judges were probably swayed by glitz. Similiarly, I entered my 90 yr old Mother’s hand dyed, hand cut wool (from recycled wool garments,rug in a province wide competition at our local fair. Not even a mention (it was charming and had been shown, along with 4 other rugs she hand hooked in a San Antonio Art Gallery. The winning entrys were all made from machine cut wool and patterns. We laughed about it. I wonder how knowledgeable some of the judges are at these competitions. In your case, perhaps they have watched to many Hollywood movies about the 1920’s flappers.

  2. I think she’s beautiful! I’ve learned that people rarely associate early 1920s fashions with the 1920s. There seems to be a disconnect with these early fashions and how people think the 1920s looked. I’ve never had the nerve to enter anything into a contest, so I think you should be proud that you were brave enough to put something forward.