Tuesday, 19 November 2013

25 March 1899 - 'Frocks for Tomorrow' by the Lady Dressmaker

One of the special colours of the coming season is said to be yellow, but no exact shade is quoted, and so I had better warn my readers and tell them that there are yellows and yellows, and some of them are calculated to make one look – dreadful! I think a lemon yellow is, as a rule, the safest shade of all.

White gowns are in preparation, and, so far as I can see, will be quite as much worn as they were last year by everyone, and really they seem universally becoming.

Black skirts are no longer correct when worn with light coloured blouses. There should always be a repetition of the colour of the skirt in the blouse. For instance, the skirt being of blue cloth, the blouse should repeat the blue, mixed with any other hue you may select.

I do not see any sign of that disappearance of the blouse which has been so often threatened; but I see that the advent of the tight-fitting small coat may render them unnecessary, as the small coats are made in such a dressy style, with fronts of lace, and pretty decorations, so that they take the place of a bodice.

There is also a very decided advance in the popularity of the Princess dress. Indeed, so tight-fitting are the present styles, that we might really just as well adopt it, for we are wearing what is next akin. In evening gowns there is a great liking for it, and a desire to do away with the waist-band that has been worn so long; and as we must be slim and slight this year, if we are to be at all in the fashion, so we shall see that all styles will tend to help this one. What a sad thing for the extremely stout! But I think it is in reality a good thing that some women and men should never allow themselves to become so, for if we think the matter over seriously we shall soon arrive at the conclusion that it spoils our usefulness both to ourselves and to others, and makes our days a burden. So if Dame Fashion steps in to decree against it, we may hail her interposition as a blessing indeed.

The “tunic” drapery is the new note of all the spring skirts, and really so tight-fitting are all of them, that we wonder how we are going to sit down! In Paris this form of trimming has been most popular,  and there the blouse and skirt are arranged so as to look exactly like a polonaise.

The new toques are larger than those of last year, and much wider. They generally should match the colour of the gown with which they are worn. The trimmings are put on both in front and on the left side, and consist of ostrich tips, chou bows, or rosettes. It is said that gold ornaments are to take the place of paste ones in all the hats of next season; and I notice that steel buttons are more used than anything else for gowns and blouses.


The edges of so many of the new gowns are cut in scallops that this mode of decoration seems to be quite one of the fashions of the year, and a glance at the drawings for the month shows how extremely short the coats have become. That called “Four Spring Gowns” shows some of the prevailing modes with great accuracy. The figure on the extreme left wears a cloth Princess gown made up with tartan velvet yoke, sleeves, and panels. The colour of the cloth was blue, and the tartan was one of the blue and green ones, with a tiny red line. The front is decorated with embroidery. The next figure wears a velvet or cloth gown of black, with a coat scalloped and braided. The collar is of white silk embroidered with black; hat of velvet, with white silk and white feathers. The third figure wears a gown of sage green cloth, trimmed with a green silk check and bands of green velvet, front of chiffon and white silk. The seated figure wears a plain walking gown of grey cloth; the bodice is a tight-fitting one, with a very short basque; and the whole is edged with rows of machine stitching on the bodice and skirt.


There is a great liking this spring for shepherds’ plaid, and it seems likely to be used for gowns and blouses as well as capes. Our sketch shows a tailor-made gown, which is trimmed with black braid, and has one of the shaped flounces on the skirt. The collar is lined with white silk, and there is a front of tucked silk muslin, and a tie and bow of the same. The hat is of a white straw, and is trimmed with white plush, black velvet, and black and white feathers. Veil of white, with black dots.  The second figure for this illustration wears a charming costume of pale grey cloth which shows the manner in which braid is put on and mingled with embroidery. The braid in this case is of white silk; the edges of both coat and epaulettes are scalloped; and the braiding is arranged in a pointed shape on the skirt. The toque is a very pretty one of a grey shade to match the gown; and is of velvet, ornamented with a wreath of green leaves and an arrangement of white wings.


It is sometimes useful to know how to make a tea-gown for a young lady which will be useful and pretty and youthful enough in its style for the years of its wearer. The tea-gown illustrated is of black silk, and is cut very plainly. It opens over a skirt of white satin, with a vest of the same. This last is covered with white net with jet embroidery. There is a flounce of the silk on either side of the front, which is lined with white satin, and the high collar is lined with the same. The lady in out-of-door costume who stands beside her is dressed in a dark blue cashmere or cloth gown, scalloped and trimmed with white braid, a hat of fancy straw, with pink roses and quills.

I have no doubt that many people are wondering whether capes are going to be worn still, and how they will be made; so I must proceed to answer that question now. The new capes are much like the best winter ones have been, cut very round in front and scant as to fullness, rather longer too than they have been worn at the back, and with the same very wide and full flounce surrounding them. There are also some very short ones, but just now it is said to be too soon to speak of capes, or indeed is there much known about purely summer things, though I hear that thin materials will be worn over silk as much as they were last year, and some new materials which combine the thin and the thick together have been brought out; they are woven together making one material. But I do not know whether they will be popular, and most people like the silk undergown and its pleasant rustle. The effort to deprive us of them resulted in failure, and nun’s veiling and all soft linings were pronounced a failure.

Amongst other novelties, there is a new shape of Tam-o’-Shanter, which has a kind of peak added to it in front, rather after the manner of a jockey’s cap. This makes them far more becoming, as well as more serviceable in all weathers, and in every way they look more close fitting than of yore. This new Tam has been worn during the last winter at many of the country meets, accompanied by a long tight-fitting coat. A bright red, a light mauve, and a pretty stone colour have all been seen, and very well and suitable they looked. There has been a universal tendency to wear light-hued cloth this season, and nearly every shade of red and scarlet.

I suppose everyone has seen by the papers that the latest idea at weddings has been to have the wedding breakfast in the train which conveyed the bride and groom, as well as the whole wedding party, to London from the country town which had been the scene of the marriage. This fashion will of course be reserved for millionaires only, but as straws show how the wind blows, at several recent marriages the newly-wedded pair have made their escape from the door of the church and there has been no wedding reception of any kind. So perhaps even our very modified form of wedding entertainment will be reduced still further and end off at the church.

The going-away gown at all the recent smart weddings seems to have been invariably made of cloth: man-colour, petunia, light grey, turquoise blue, dark and light mauve, and heliotrope are all colours that have been seen at recent marriages in good society. The first-named was lined with a shot-blue glace silk and was made with a bodice which had a full vest of cream-coloured lace and revers of dark blue velvet. The dress of petunia cloth had a coat of petunia velvet, slashed with mauve; and as a rule gowns of pale grey are trimmed with grey velvet of a darker shade, with a hat to match. The turquoise blue was an embroidered gown with chenille and silk, and was relieved by cream-coloured lace and a collar. All of these gowns will be useful afterwards, and were none of them too grand for daily life. This is a point that many girls with a limited allowance have to think of, as the going-away gown often has to become the walking and visiting dress of the future days. So it must be chosen with deliberation and care.

I hear that in Paris the popular gown for the early spring for ordinary wear will be black serge; this is made as a coat or Directoire coat bodice, braided or not as is preferred, in fact maybe in any way that seems suitable to everyday use. The best gown as I have said is of some light-hued cloth, and for best summer wear the thin grenadines over silk are most fashi8onable as well as the most useful of dresses. So there is no doubt as to the gowns that will be wanted. The next thing to consider is what are the requirements of our own wardrobes, and what can we do without, alter or purchase for the coming season.

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