Recreating Lady Sybil’s Harem Pants or How Not to Make a 1920s Costume

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  1. When setting out to make a costume for an event, be sure to plan your entire design around a tiny piece a fabric that you found in your grandmother’s stash. Bonus points if it is falling apart and tremendously difficult to sew with.
  2. Don’t even think about using a ready-made pattern! Why make it easy on yourself?! If you want to make harem pants, it is logical to start with a pajama pant pattern. Don’t question it, just cut them out of your fashion fabric. No need to make a muslin!
  3. When you estimate yardage for the harem pants, use your best judgement. Then order half of what you think you need.
  4. Cut out all of your pieces and then let them sit there for a month. No need to treat the seam allowances in any way. The unraveling will give it character.
  5. Use a tried and true pattern for the bodice (Christine Haynes Emery), then randomly use the sleeves from another pattern that just happens to be for knits. You don’t need to move your arms, do you?!
  6. Buy 6 buttons for the project…when you need 12. That will work out really well! The store will never sell out of the only buttons that match.


Okay, in all seriousness folks, learn from my mistakes! Unless you have a lot of time on your hands and a dress form, stick to using a commercial pattern for tricky costumes. This project required far more time than it should’ve because I made countless stupid mistakes. But desperation is the mother of invention and everything eventually came together in the end.
If you’d like to recreate this exact look, I can’t recommend the Burgundy Chiffon and the Black Charmeuse Satin enough. I used the Burgundy Chiffon for the sleeves and outer part of the harem pants and it drapes beautifully! The Black Charmeuse Satin was used for the bodice lining and the inner part of the harem pants. In both places it provided much needed structure, while keeping things nice and fluid.

For something a little easier to work with, you could use this brocade instead of a vintage piece. It would go beautifully with this royal blue chiffon, layered over either a honey or champagne charmeuse satin.

Alexandra is a librarian and blogs about her sewing and reading adventures over
at The Library of Alexandra


Alexandra holds a Master’s in Library and Information Science from UNC Chapel Hill and is currently completing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Johns Hopkins University (expected graduation 2023). She is passionate about the science of learning and ensuring equity in education.

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