Sunday, 10 April 2016

24 April 1880 - 'The Dress of the Month' by Dora de Blaquiere


Great preparations are being made in view of a favourable season, and of a return to sunshine, summer, and all the pleasant things which are hoped for from the various prophecies of weatherwise and scientific people. There are, apparently, only a few changes in dress to speak of this spring, for short dresses, so much worn in the autumn and winter, are now quite the rule, even at very large evening parties. The changes in the mantles are also but few, and the same may be said of the bonnets, which are smaller than ever they were; while hats remain the same, and everyone wears what suits them best as to shape and size.

This lack of uniformity is exceedingly pleasant to everyone, especially to those who seek to make every shilling go its farthest, and every shilling's worth to look its very best, to the very end. It is a matter of no small wonder that girls who have but little to spend on their dress ever employ a dressmaker at all; for, instead of wasting money and time on fancy work for sale, they would save both by making their own dresses. The idea that lessons are needed in the art is quite an erroneous one, for if a girl be a good needlewoman to begin with, everything that is necessary can be learned from the dresses already made in the house. From an old bodice and skirt a well-fitting pattern might be procured, and if the old bodice lining be mounted on stiff brown paper, with some paste, the pattern will last for ever. It is, fortunately, much more the custom in England than it was to employ a dressmaker by the day at home, and if she be a clever woman much may be learned from her; but unless she can work a machine, or you can work it, with her preparation for sewing, it is not a cheap way of making dresses.

Last month we went carefully through the underclothing part of our wardrobes, and put everything in perfect order, so that this month we have time to think over and consider the new spring costume which we shall probably require, and the best material to purchase. If chosen aright, this costume should last us, and look pretty, throughout the summer and the early days of autumn. There is no prettier stuff than the ever-popular Beige, and fortunately this year it is produced in the most charming shades of colour. Over an old silk skirt it makes a very stylish, best-looking dress, and especially so when silk trimmings can be added to the bodice and sleeves. A very pretty way of making a Beige dress would be to kilt the short skirt entirely to the waist; have a scarf tunic edged with a band of silk folded round, and falling in a pointed end at one side. The bodice to be made with a gathered front and back, and the waist with a band. The sleeves with a puff at the top, and opened on the outside of the arm, with a lacing of cord, or buttons and button-holes. See also fig.1 for a pretty Spring dress.

The Jersey costumes will be much worn during the spring and summer. They can now be purchased at so moderate a price that any girl can have one if she fancy it; and as they are ready to wear, perhaps nothing more inexpensive could be obtained. Some of those with what is called a "cashmere finish" are very fine, and would answer for new bodices for elderly silk, or silk and cashmere skirts. There is no change in the method of making these, the kilted skirt and scarf over the end of the Jersey bodice being as much in favour as ever. The material for making these Jerseys may now be purchased in every dark and light colour, and ranges in price from 7s 6d to 10s per yard. It is used for shirts as well, and the new spring riding habits are made of it also. It is not suitable for deep mourning, and one of the leading London warehouses prefers not to make up Jerseys with crape at all.

Last month, the probability of the striped Galateas making their appearance again was mentioned and the last few days has brought some very pretty costumes of that material into notice, which are sold with enough sateen of the colour of the stripe to make them up. For instance, a dark brown and white striped Galatea will have a petticoat and trimmings of brown satin. There are also some revivals of the old-fashioned "polka" dots, which we have not seen for many years. The imitations of Indian shawls in palm-leaf patterns and colours have been introduced into prints, which are also used with plain materials. Later on we shall have brighter colours, such as the dull red of terra-cotta or the Kaga ware of Japan, peacock-blue, or the lovely old blue of Nankin porcelain. The first thing that the careful housewife will consider will be the washing of these prints, for although they may be dark, so to say, some day they will require washing, and great will be our disappointment to see that their lovely hues have taken wings and flown away out of the washtub.

So, in order to be beforehand, we will give instructions how this sad fate may be averted There is no doubt that great care is needed in the washing, and the colours must first be "set" as it is called. For blue, sugar of lead is used, alum for green, and salt for a varied combination of colours. The water should be tepid, not hot, and the wearers are advised to wash them before they be too much soiled .

Another novelty in these new prints is that they are manufactured without dressing or glaze, or any stiffening whatever, so the laundress must omit starch from her list of requisites, and must iron the dress on the wrong side to restore as nearly as possible to its original appearance.

It seems likely that the linen torchon lace will be a favourite trimming this year, as it is produced in such quantities, and it is very suitable for washing-dresses. It is so moderate in price, and so lasting in its wear, that it far surpasses Swiss or Madeira edgings in both of these qualifications, and has the advantage of being "real" lace. It is made on the pillow, chiefly in the common schools in Belgium, where instruction in its manufacture forms part of each child's education.

Black bugle trimmings will be one of the features of the spring costumes. Everything - bonnets, mantles, and dresses - are to glitter with the, and as they do not constitute a cheap form of decoration, we must remind our readers that lace, fringe, and silk galloons are very easily embroidered with beads, and that they may produce this effective trimming at very little cost - save of time and trouble - for themselves. Beaded lace is very pretty for making up the small fichus  for the neck which are so popular now, and a small addition of this kind makes any toilette both dressy and pretty.

There are so many people "doing up" old dresses just now that we must not forget to mention the "chine silks", foulards, velvets, and cottons which have just appeared in a variety of well-harmonised colours, and are most suitable for trimmings, and for reviving old materials by the addition of new collars, cuffs and revers. A good example of this is seen at fig.2, which might be an old dress revived. This favourite colour for the season seems to be that dull shade of violet-purple called heliotrope, after the dark shades of the flower of that name. The deepest of browns also called pain brule (burnt bread) is particularly preferred, and from all we hear these two, with old-gold, will be the prevailing hues of dresses  for the spring. The first is most becoming, and the two last are very useful, as the old-gold shades are said to wear well and keep very clean.

The illustration of a new method of putting on a flounce will also be welcomed by our readers as a pleasant change. There are two rows of kilting - the lower one being broad, and the upper one narrow. Then over the top of narrow kilting are placed tabs of the material, bound either with silk or the same stuff, and tacked on the top of the kilting. The edges are hidden by a flat hand, which may be stitched along the top with the machine, or run along on the wrong side, and turned up, and then stitched down. This trimming may be as wide or as narrow as required, and will answer for a petticoat or a dress,  for the cuffs of the sleeves, or  for the trimming of a mantle and, of course, may be made of two different materials, such as satin and cashmere, silk and cashmere, or velveteens.

The design given for a collar and cuffs shows how a plain linen set may be retrimmed and finished at home, with new points of linen, and a narrow edging of Madeira embroidery.

Fig.5 shows a linen collar and cuffs with lace edge, the tie of which is of Indian muslin.

The small illustration of a satin-stitch embroidery edging is intended for use on flannel or cashmere, for flannel petticoats, or jackets, or for bands of trimming on an under petticoat.

Jackets like the dress will, it is said, be worn, but the newest thing will be a deep cape to the waist, made so tight, that it quite holds in the elbows to the side. The pattern of a jacket that was given last month in the paper is extremely fashionable, with the addition of a small hood lined with a colour, at the back. The small round toque hats, made of the same material as the dress, are more worn than any other shape, by young girls.

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