Tuesday, 24 September 2013

27 February, 1886 - 'Dress: In Season and in Reason' by A Lady Dressmaker

There seems but little to say about new styles or ideas in the month of February. It is too early to think of getting new things, and our winter dresses are not sufficiently worn to need repair, and yet, with the increasing light, they will show wear in March, so it is worth our while to try to be prepared in time for anything that may happen. I feel sure that, to be dressed with economy and taste, all women need much provision. The extravagant woman or girl is always unprepared.

Black seems more generally won than anything else just now for gowns both out and indoors, and black velvet or velveteen skirts with black silk over-dresses seem popular. Coloured velvet skirts are also worn with black silk, and there seems no doubt that this old and well tried friend has once more returned to favour. Dark blue and very dark shades of green are liked for walking gowns and yellow in all shades is liked for the evening, a mixture of yellow and black being used by married ladies, and yellow and white by young girls, white nun's cloth with yellow satin or sateen, or thin white silks and thin yellows mingled.

Woollen materials continue to be the most popular, without doubt, for daily use. Rough woollens are more in favour than serge and diagonal cloths, and they are known under the all-containing name of boucle, a kind of knotted weaving thrown up to the surface on all kinds of smooth woollens, such as vigognes. The newest cloths are rough also, and there seems no doubt that this style will be continued throughout the year. But, as I have already said, very stout people must beware how they indulge in it, as these rough coarse surfaces undoubtedly increase their apparent size. Some of the new cloths are in light shades of stone-colour, drab, and Swede, but I do not think them suitable for winter-wear, and I prefer infinitely the dull red of the hues called terracotta or tomato, and a pretty copper colour which in some shops is called chrysanthemum. These make war looking dresses, and wear better than the lighter shades. The weaving of these clothes is not what is generally understood by that name, for it is not smooth nor fine, but coarse and rough, and very like the consistency of horse-cloths.

In tailor-made gowns I see that all kinds of Scotch materials are in favour; tweeds, cheviots, and the coarse Orkney cloths and velvet skirts are often used with them. Some new woollens are woven with a mixture of silk, the latter appearing in the shape of large stripes. These will be popular in the spring, I feel sue. One of the most wonderful materials of the present winter is plush with lace stripes in it, which seems an unsuitable and foolish mixture.

And now I must devote a few words to the newest way of making up gowns, so that my industrious girls may have an idea how to proceed with any dresses they may desire to make up early in the spring; and for this purpose I shall also select one of the newest shapes of bodices for the pattern of this month. It may be braided or not, as desired, of course. This bodice can be cut also as a round basque by leaving the same length at the sides as at the back and front, in which case it may be finished with two rows of machine stitching at the edge. I hear it said that we are to return to very long basques again with the spring, so long as to allow of pockets being placed in the long straight flaps in front.

Very large mantles are not much used as they were, except for warps in bad weather. The short jacket and the short mantle with sling sleeves seems to be the prevailing fashions, and I see no change likely to be made during the spring, except perhapsto the lengthening of the ends of the mantles in front. There seems an increasing liking for a small mantle to match the woollen dresses, and this will probably be a feature of the spring fashions. The backs of all the small mantles are plain and simple, and are tied into the figures at the back, the edge being turned under, not trimmed. This new small mantle is called the "Bernhardt", and it will probably be selected as the pattern for next month. It is admirably suited for making mantles like the dress, is very easy to make and takes little material and a very small amount of trimming. A pretty clasp may be placed at the neck. The new way of putting the trimmings on mantles is to trim the fronts, neck and sleeves, and not round the edge. It seems as if everything would be worn. Paletots, ulsters, redingotes, and coats are all used indiscriminately - an excellent thing for those who are not well enough off to change their mantles very often.

The illustration depicting an out of door scene gives nearly all of the novelties that are to be seen at present. In long cloaks the sling sleeve is the most popular shape, and the illustration shows one made of a plaid tweed, and one of diagonal boucle cloth, the latter having bands of velvet placed on it as a trimming.

The short mantle on the front figure has the new square ends in front, and the figure with her back to us wears a cloth mantle trimmed with grey astrachan, and a toque of the same.

The indoor scene gives one of the new striped dresses, and a gown with full pleatings in the front. On the extreme left a pretty evening dress is shown, made of lace,velvet and "rosary" jet beads. This is suitable either for a new or the re-making of an old dress, and would be easy to manage at home. The figure at the back shows a gown trimmed after the new method, with bands of velvet, put very closely, so as to allow only a small bit of the original materials to be seen.

It will be noticed that there is little change in dressing the hair, the only thing I remember being that young girls seem to like the Cotogan plait, which is made by plaiting all the hair together at the back and turning it up, tying up the end with a ribbon at the nape of the neck.

There seems to be little change in the shape of bonnets. All are small, many of plain felt edged with fur, and all the crowns are very much cut up at the back to show all the back hair. With this style of course the coils of small braids look the best, and where nothing by the way of hair dressing is achieved, the effect is anything but lovely, and a girl who cares for her appearance had better wear a hat. The newest bonnets have the brim cleft in two over the forehead, and all the trimmings placed there, generally of feathers, or a large pompon of cock's plumes. Grey bonnets and hats are much worn with black dresses. Flowers are hardly seen as the trimmings to bonnets or hats, and ribbons seem the all-prevailing thing in millinery.

All the hats seen are high, and the trimming is put on as high as possible. These seem to be no new shapes at all, save one with a high crown, and the brim turned up to each side, like a "boat-shaped" of the old days.

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