Monday, September 25, 2017

How To Make a 1920s Miss Fisher Wardrobe


For Costume College 2016, one of the classes I taught was about making a "Miss Fisher" wardrobe, developing your style based on the popular Australian murder-mystery show set at the end of the 1920s.

I've talked about Miss Fisher here before, and I had all the good intentions of having an epic class at Costume College, but by the end of Sunday I was wall-eyed with fatigue, and I'm not sure I got across everything I meant to. So I'm going to share it here.


"Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" is set in 1929 and follows the adventures of amateur detective The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, who with pizzaz, chic, and little permission solves various interesting crimes and killings in Melbourne.


Watching the glamorous Miss Fisher for two seasons, you'll notice she wears a variation of the same outfit just about every episode, particularly in season 2. Phryne's "look" is made up of the same basic pieces:
  • Trousers (most often, but sometimes a skirt)
  • Blouse
  • Long Coat
  • Cloche Hat
Rinse, Repeat.


She wears the same three pieces over and over again, in a character-specific color palette, mixing it up with hats, scarves, and fanciful textiles. When you break it down in this way, the Miss Fisher "look" becomes incredibly accessible, easy to put together, and easy to wear on a daily basis.


Yes, we can all be as chic as Phryne and we can all do it every day and it will be comfortable AND beautiful.

With just a few pieces, your wardrobe begins:
Click for larger view
You may wish to make each item or buy them. When deciding on fabrics and pieces, first think of color palette. Do you have a warm skin tone or a cool one? To determine this, look at the veins on your wrists. If your veins are greenish, you have a warm skin tone; if they are blueish you have a cool skin tone. This will help you decide the most flattering colors for you in clothing as well as makeup, BUT these are guidelines rather than rules. Just because you have a cool skin tone does NOT mean you can't wear a warm hue!


Additionally, most colors have a warm and cool side to them - for instance, turquoise can be quite green or lean more towards blue; burgundy may have more orange to it or be closer to purple. If in doubt or terrified about using a stronger hue as your base color, go with black or white instead, which flatter both and are excellent neutrals.

Miss Fisher, with her pale skin and black hair, wears a palette of cool colors - navy, burgundy, white, black, and turquoise. I also have blue veins, so I'm following Phryne's color scheme in my own wardrobe too.

Next we look at fabrics. Fabric choice is important to the overall Miss Fisher look because we're trying to blend a very casual, loose and flowing silhouette with a more formal, nicer-than-sweatpants look. While it may feel like you're wearing pajamas, the looks is one that's appropriate for a business meeting.


Luckily there's plenty of crepe palazzo trousers and chiffon pussy-bow blouses to buy right now. The robe-coat is a little more challenging to find, but keep your eyes peeled, particularly on Asian fashion sites, for long jackets and lightweight coats.


As concerns the robe-coat, you can stick with your trouser/skirt fabric to get the matching suit look, or you can get wild with your outerwear. Miss Fisher does both!

Now on to prints and motifs. 1929 is the year, so here's what to look for in prints on blouses and scarves:


Lastly, to top is all off, let me convince you of the transformative powers of the cloche hat. The trousers, the blouse, the long robe-coat - this all looks like nice work wear until you put on that cloche hat and then the whole thing comes together. This is what, in our modern world, will really define your look, and it's an opportunity to be creative, flamboyant, and avoid a bad hair day.

Cloches can be easily made or altered. You can buy them online or even at Target, or buy a round head block instead and spend your weekends joyously reverting and reblocking thrift store straw and wool hoods. Hats can be draped or structured, brimmed or slim. Find the shape that works best for your face and go for it.

It takes "hattitude" to put on a killer cloche and strut your stuff in public, but while you may feel self-conscious at first, you get used to it over time. I've always only had positive reactions from muggles when I wear my cloche hats, and many a good conversation resulting.

So how to start? With vintage style more available today than ever, these brands are a good place to shop:


Want to make? Here's a big ole list of patterns I recommend for each piece of the wardrobe:


Now that you're armed with inspiration, info on the basic pieces and good colors for your skin tone, materials and prints/pattern choices, where to shop and sewing patterns to check out, and the knowledge of The Cloche Hat, you have all the tools necessary to make your very own Miss Fisher Wardrobe. The last step is to go out and rock it!

**This post originally appeared on the American Duchess blog in August 2016**
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