Thursday, 14 April 2016

15 May 1880 - 'The Dress of the Month' by Dora de Blacquiere


The new dresses produced  for the warmer weather have already enabled us to see that the dark hues, hitherto supposed to be suitable alone to the winter months, are to be worn quite as much now. A very comfortable conclusion for many of y readers who have not quite worn out their winter dresses, and that thus can make them available to bridge over the gap between winter and summer.

A really good costume of any colour will clean and do-up like new, and is always worth sending to a dyer's. Black can be washed at home with ox-gall or fig-leaves, and pressed careful on the wrong side. Black cords of various kinds - such as the Russell and James - are excellent, both for washing and waring and are the same on both sides, so that they can be turned when slightly worn. They require no more care in washing than ordinary dresses; a tepid lather, one rinsing water, and one strong blue water being used. The dress should then be rolled up when partly dry, and should then ironed on the wrong side when damp.

I have been thus particular in my chat about old black dresses, as I know how fond everyone has been of wearing the this last three or four years; and I also know that a shabby, greasy, black dress is a great puzzle to most girls. An old black kid glove, boiled in a pint of water till reduced to half a pint, and then used to rub on an old black dress, using the liquor, will often be found a wonderful reviver It is a very usual recipe with the negresses in the Southern States of America, who are amongst the most clever managers in the world. Black dresses are quite as fashionable as they were this spring; and so, perhaps, our elderly dress, well cleaned or washed, and trimmed with bands of Indian broche, spotted black and white foulard, or a jetted galloon, will appear as good as a new one.

The new colours in dresses and bonnets are so much brighter than anything we have had of late that it takes some time to get reconciled to them. Old gold in all shades and materials is used for bonnets and hats more than ever; in fact, every description of yellow, cowslip, primrose, lemon, orange, and an odd yellow called yeux de chat, are all most fashionable. The number of new shades of pink is also great, rose, rose cendre, blush-pink and also "shrimp" will be worn for hats, bonnets and dresses. Every possible shade of lilac, the deepest royal-purple to the old shade worn by our granddames under the name of "peach-bloom"; grey-blues and blues are also much in favour.

Nothing can exceed the brightness of the sunshades and parasols. Red, red and black, red and yellow, in stripes, patterns, and dots, black and white ones embroidered with flowers in their natural hues, and old gold trimmed with black lace. Satteen and cotton parasols, trimmed with white embroidery and torchon lace, are made to wear with costumes of those materials, and the same as regards foulard. Some very stylish-looking parasols have been brought out, trimmed round and round with black or white lace, in rows one above the other to the top of the parasol. This would be an excellent method of doing up an old parasol, either light or dark in colour, and as plenty of cheap lace may be had it would be also very economical.

Some very pretty and inexpensive jerseys, made of bead netting, have been brought out, which form a complete evening costume over a black silk skirt. They are of black beads, as well as every other hue, and are got up in cheap imitation of the bead-embroidered cuirasses which have been worn in Paris so long. Stockingette, or jersey-cloth, is made into jackets, which are worn with hoods of the same lined with gay Indian handkerchiefs. This material has the advantage of sitting closely to the figure when made up into an out-of-door garment. These hoods are made to take off, and are only buttoned on the neck of the jacket, so that they need not be worn always. They also accompany ulsters and costumes made with a  waistcoat front, and will form one of the out-of-door garments of the summer season, as they are being made in black and white lace, to be used either with or without satin or cashmere mantles. Small capes will be used again this year; however, they are longer than they were the last, and come quite to the elbow, in order to give the tightened-in appearance which is so desired. Capes with long pointed fronts are also still used, and have hoods. Quantities of black lace are used to trim all mantles, jackets and capes; and camels'-hair and cashmere are the favourite materials for them. Youthful-looking scarf mantelets are made of the figured material of the dresses, and are trimmed with bands of the plain stuff, a collar of the same being used at the neck. Jackets similar to the dress are also used, but they are quite tight-fitting, and are figured - never plain.

A new idea in both short and long costume is the narrow kilting of bright colour which is added to the edge of the skirt, below the hem, or just below the lower flounce. On plain grey, drab, brown or black costumes this little addition is very effective, and gives a piquant effect to an otherwise plain dress. It will be pretty  for the short, black dresses of young people. The same hue should be used  for the bow in the hat.

One of the fabrics of this season will be the undyed silks of India and China These yellow Indian and Chinese "Pongees," and the Indian "Corah," were much worn at one time, but of late years have been neglected. The first-named wash beautifully, and wear for ever as every-day dresses; while the same may be said of the Corah, which is white, for evening wear. All of them are inexpensive, and last so long that they are an excellent investment for those of moderate means. The Tussore silk is put up in pieces of 9 1/2 yards, and ranges from 21s to 45s the piece.

I have given an illustration of a pretty handkerchief embroidered in colour, the pattern being simple and easily drawn. These little additions to the toilette are not difficult to work, and the satin and stem-stitch in which they are done are very speedy work in the hands of a good worker. The summer or spring waistcoat, next illustrated may be made of any washing or unwashable material. The pattern used for it might be that of an old, long basque, or even of a petticoat-bodice. The material might be of pique and nainsook for a summer waistcoat; thin muslin  for the evening, and silk or brocade for day wear. Waistcoats appear quite as much in vogue at present as they were last year.

The ruff, jabot and cuffs are made of sprigged muslin or yet, the method of putting together being clearly shown. They are intended for afternoon or evening wear, with a high bodice; and may be made in lace, if it be preferred or considered more dressy. Black and white lace, mixed gold outlined and coloured lace may all be used, or painted and embroidered lace. This high ruff is quite one of the great fashions of the day, and many ladies who desire to keep it stiff and high use a tiny invisible wire to keep it up round the neck. Of course the hair must be coiled higher on the head, and, for this new fashion combs are very much used.

The Corah is in lengths of seven yards, is thirty-four inches wide, and costs from 17s 6d to 25s the piece. Three pieces should be sufficient to make two dresses, and the cheapest plan is to purchase them in this way, with a friend, if there be not two sisters to share the material, as it is not sold by the yard. For best summer dresses for young girls this pretty cream-coloured India silk is most useful, and it can be done up and retrimmed over and over again.


The illustrations of the month give a walking dress with a long walking jacket and waistcoat, to which a hood may be added of the figured material. The hat or bonnet is also made of it; the edges of both must be bound with satin or velvet.

The other illustration shows a simple method of making a young girl's evening or home costume in a manner which partakes somewhat of our fashionable "high art" proclivities. The materials used may be cashmere, Corah silk, or any soft stuff which flows in harmonious lines, and the effect is at once graceful and youthful - two qualities which should be aspired to by all young girls.

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