I am always most desirous of helping those amongst our readers who are endeavouring to make their own dresses, as they deserve ever encouragement in their laudable efforts. The girl who has succeeded in making a dress for herself has a new feeling of independence, and a degree of pride in her own abilities which will probably lead her on to making fresh attempts in "self-help," that will both benefit herself and everyone about her. All costumes are still composed of draped skirts, and bodices, which may, or may not be of the same material. This skirt is called in Paris a jupe drape, and we hear that they are sold there ready-made, to be worn with any bodice; for the French ladies always managing and clever - have quickly noted their value in an economical point of view. This draped and trimmed skirt has quite taken the place of the ordinary skirt sold, which used to require a tunic or polonaise, as well as a bodice. They are to be obtained in Paris in silk, black and coloured, in Surah silk and satin, as well as in Corah, foulard, cambric, percale, gingham, cotton and sateen. A few polonaises are to be seen, some of them with the front turned up like a laveuse tunic, and the back draped - an excellent idea for anyone who wishes to remodel an old polonaise. But the fashionable revival of the polonaise fastens behind and has puffed sleeves, and is made in velvet or striped Pekin, of satin and silk, or satin and velvet, a style which will probably last through the autumn, as it is most becoming and pretty. Hoods look extremely well on handsome dresses made in this way, and are lined with bright colours, like the "Zingari stripes."
But to return to skirts. All walking skirts must be made as narrow as possible, and the effect of the whole skirt demands that great care should be exercised in the cutting-out of the foundation, which, if the dress be of silk or any good material, may be of twilled lining, or of alpaca, to match the colours of the dress. The front breadth alone is slightly gored, and the fullness of the back breadths is gathered in at the waist behind, while two darts make it sit well over the hips. The width of the skirt should not exceed two yards at the edge. Kilted skirts are still much worn, as well as those with quantities of small gathered flounces, some of them extending to the waist.
Princesse dresses have by no means disappeared, but are worn both for day costumes and evening toilettes, though the skirts are so much trimmed and overwhelmed with draperies that they have lost their distinctive appearances. The robe de chambre, or tea gown, alone is allowed to retain the Princesse character, and to fall with uninterrupted folds to the feet.
The old gathered bodices, plain at the shoulders and neck, and gathered into a band at the waist, are adopted by many young people, and are worn with a wide belt and a bow under the arm, but this style is only suited to certain figures, and is therefore not very largely adopted. Pointed bodices, with Henri IV bands and puffs, are much worn for full dinner and evening dress, as well as the Elizabethan standing ruff. A jabot of this description is one of the most effective of our recent evening toilettes, and may be made up without difficulty at home. It has been already illustrated in the June monthly number at p.317, and for the evening need only be carried a little lower down the front, with the jabot lengthened to the end of the basqued waist and made slightly narrower.
Vandykes, points, battlements, and tabs have all come back to us again for the decoration of dresses, and will be much used this autumn. Rows of them are all put on like flounces, with kiltings showing below them, or else the edges of the upper skirts. The tunics and aprons are cut out, and bound at the shaped edges, no trimming being used besides. Bouillonnes, or puffings, are also used to trim skirts in combination with flounces.
I have lately discovered "how to buy an umbrella," and the reason for the bad wearing qualities of most of the umbrellas sold at present. The first reason is that, the frames are no longer so good as they were, now that they are manufactured wholesale, and are the production of comparatively unskilled labour. So, pains should be taken to purchase only those umbrellas which have the maker's name upon the ribs, by which he has made himself in a measure responsible for their wear. With regard to the silk which covers them, it is frequently very poor in itself, and in many cases economy is pushed to such a pitch in the cover that hardly enough material is put in to give the ribs freedom to open properly. "Hence," says my informant, "there follows a continual struggle between the silk, which cannot stretch; and the ribs, which cannot yield; and the weaker gives way first, the earliest signs of wearing out being found in cracks in the silk near the tips or at the top. It is quite impossible for the best umbrella to wear well under these circumstances. A tight cover may always be recognised by the creaking it makes on being opened." This information seems to me so valuable that I have transcribed it verbatim, and hope that it may be of service to my readers. So many complaints of the want of wear in high priced umbrellas are now made that it is a comfort to know how to avoid some evils, and to form a judgment on what will really prove serviceable.
The small round capes which were so much favoured last summer, have found equal favour in the present one; their moderate price and graceful and pretty effect make their popularity no matter of surprise. It is hinted that next winter the fur coachman's capes will still be in fashion, and I hear that the best furriers are preparing them for that too fast approaching season. The favourite garment, however, for ordinary out-of-door wear seems to be the perfectly tight-fitting jacket, of medium length, with a hood. Sometimes these jackets match the dress, but are of a different material, to be worn with one of the trimmed skirts which I have before described. One of the stamped navy-blue velvet, having a hood lined with yellow and blue striped silk, was intended to be worn with a skirt of navy-blue silk. Another of plain satin in dark brown, the hood lined with pale grey, was intended to be worn with a skirt of pale grey beige. A large brown straw hat, trimmed with grey silk, completed the costume.
In the country the prettiest hats worn have been of Leghorn, wide in the brims, which are tied down with strings of black velvet passing over the crown, and tied under the chin. They have no other trimming, but certainly require a certain amount of beauty to make them effective. Covering the brims of hats with jet beads makes them very becoming, and gives a softening to the face. Some pretty little hats which I have lately noticed have the brims trimmed with deep waves, and are covered with rows of black lace, beginning at the top of the crown. They are in the simplest style possible, and I should fancy are generally made at home.
The illustrations given this month are intended to help our readers to simple and easily-made apparel. The girl playing piano has a walking costume of two materials, which may be of a washing character or otherwise. The method of making up is too apparent to need description. The pinafore and its pretty little toque will give our girl readers an idea of making up some old dress into an entirely new costume. The material for the pinafore is figured sateen, the trimming may be Madeira work, or lace.
Fig.2 is a simple style of trimming for a sleeve in two materials or colours, the edges of the cuffs being bound with the contrasting colour. The patterns of these can easily be cut out in paper, and fitted to the size of the cuff.