Sewing A Themed Wardrobe 1920s Fashion Part 4

Follow along as I show you how to make the perfect shoes for your 1920s outfit! This classic shoe design was introduced in the twenties and has been a classic for years to come!

The pattern that I am demonstrating is the Walking on Sunshine shoe pattern for 18" dolls. You can find it here:

You can also find the pre-cut shoe soles here:
This shoe pattern uses the Shape 1 size.


As we wrap up this topic we wanted to bring you a little of the history of the impact Mary Brooks Picken has made on the sewing and fashion industry. Here's an article written by Shari Fuller:

By 1920, Mary Brooks Picken had established herself as the leading authority on dress, fabric, design, and sewing. Born on a small farm in Arcadia, Kansas on
August 6, 1886, she was an unlikely candidate for a future fashion icon, but at a very young age she developed a love for sewing and design. Nothing thrilled her more than the feel of fabric and the satisfaction of a well-made garment and she wanted to share her passion for it with the whole world. When she was very young, she and her husband settled in Kansas City, where she began her career in
fashion, teaching sewing to local women at the YWCA and to the female inmates of the Leavenworth Penitentiary. A humble beginning, but that is where the best stories start.

In 1911, at the age of 25, Mary suddenly found herself a widow. In her grief, she moved back to her parents farm while she sorted out what she should do next. That same year, she was invited to become an instructor at the American College
of Dressmaking. The college taught dressmaking and pattern drafting by correspondence. The idea of being able to share her love of sewing with women that did not have the means or opportunity to attend a traditional school resonated deeply with her.

Mary hoped to make a “practical knowledge of the domestic arts and sciences available to every woman or girl, wherever she may live.” so, in 1915, she happily accepted an offer to help create and preside over a new dressmaking and
millinery correspondence school called The Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts & Sciences in Scranton, Pennsylvania. With Mary's expertise and eager spirit, the school was able to start accepting students by February that same year. Over the next 10 years, Mary made a name for herself, authoring dozens of coursework books, several booklets for her popular “One Hour Dress” series, many articles for fashion magazines, and her comprehensive fashion book “The Secrets of Distinctive Dress”. She took a personal interest in her students and always found time to answer correspondence personally.

In 1925, Mary left the Woman's Institute and accepted a position in New York City as the dress making editor for Pictorial Review Magazine and with them, she published another book called “The Mary Brooks Picken Method of Modern Dressmaking”. This same year, her longtime friend and colleague, G. Lynn Sumner, opened up an advertising firm. Sumner had been instrumental and the success of the Women's Institute with his brilliant story telling ad campaign idea that would later become a standard advertising method. The concept was to create a fictional story that demonstrated the success of the school that played on the emotions of the readers in a way that encouraged them to enroll. It worked so well that by the time Mary left the Woman's Institute she had over 300,000 students from all over the world. By 1927, she had authored four books for the Singer Sewing Library and on November 21, 1931 she married her longtime friend and colleague G. Lynn Sumner.

By the end of her career, Mary authored nearly 100 books and pamphlets. Her book “The Language of Fashion” was the first English dictionary to be published by a woman. With more than 10,000 terms, this book is still a must-have resource for seamstresses and costume designers and is still in print today under the title “A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion”. Among her many other accomplishments, she taught “The Economics of Fashion” at Columbia University, was 1 of 5 of the founding directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Costume Institute, sat on the Advisory Committee for the U.S. Army's women's uniform and was the first woman to be named trustee of the State University of New York's Fashion Institute of Technology in 1951. Mary Brooks Picken died on March 8, 1981, having accomplished all that she set out to do, teach the love of love of sewing and fashion design to women and girls around the world, and her legacy is still doing that today.

If you are interested in seeing more of her writings and work, we invite you to check out our Sewing With Gingham course featuring Amy Barickman. Amy has taken on the task of republishing many of the original works of Mary Brooks Picken to bring them back to the forefront. Her book Vintage Notions, available in our Pixie Packs section, features an in-depth look at Mary Brooks Picken and her many sewing projects from those early publications! In the first video fort hat course, I chat with Amy quite a bit about these books and why she took on this project!

1 Comment


January 31, 2023

Great video, thanks for the tips. I often struggle to get my shoes to be smooth. I’m ready to try again.

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