Wednesday, 5 October 2016

19 February 1881 - 'Seasonable Dress and How to Make It'

A few seasons ago the backs of our dress bodices were ornamented, or, perhaps, rather disfigured, by either six or seven seams, two or even three side forms, and a back seam being the ordinary number. Now as we have once again reverted to the old style of one centre seam, as, although three joins are allowed, the best cut dresses show only the centre one, the other being brought so far under the arm as to be practically invisible. This change will be a great comfort to the amateur dressmaker, and will be an encouragement to those of "Our girls" who aspire to make their dresses at home. In fact, if the promised change should be brought about, of having no seams under the arms at all, the work of manufacturing a bodice will be quite reduced to half the usual amount. The spring models seem to portend a reduction in the seams of our sleeves as well, for some of them have no join on the outside, from the shoulder to the elbow, the top and under parts of the sleeve, so far, being cut in one piece. Of course, below the elbow the shape could not be retained if there were not a seam both at the back and the front. The sleeve is set as high into the bodice as ever, as everyone still appears to wish to look square-shouldered and narrow-backed. Of course, a certain amount of adherence to the prevailing fashions, so as to avoid attracting attention, is desirable, but we trust that all our young readers will avoid extremes in this, as in all other matters connected with dress. Of course, the natural place  for the seam is at the point of the shoulder, and there is no doubt that our dear Princess of Wales recognised this fact when she insisted on having her dress shoulder-seams cut like the Prince's coats; and banished all long and ill-fitting shoulders from her wardrobe.

The prettiest shape of the season for bonnets is, perhaps, the very sensible and moderate-sized "Granny bonnet," which has sometimes a round front, and at other times one bent down in the centre, after the fashion of the well-known "Marie Stuart Head-dress." We saw a perfectly plain velvet one, the other day, edged with a row of medium-sized black beads all round it, and no other trimming save two silk pompoms, and a cord of black chenille. This form is very suitable  for the mantles, as they are now worn, as they prevent the head from assuming that pin-head shape, so often found fault with when the very small Princess-shaped bonnet is worn with a large cloak. We think these "Granny bonnets" will probably be great favourites all through the summer, and they can be manufactured at home by a clever girl. They require to be seen, however, and the shape is easily obtained. They are all of one material - velvet, plush, or satin; or the crown may be lighter than the front. The sole trimmings often consist of the satin ribbon strings, which are placed along the joining of the crown to the front, where they are tied in drooping bows on the top.

A young lady's small-sized bonnet is shown on p.321, beginning from the left side in our monthly illustration. The bonnet itself is of brown straw, with brown velvet trimmings and strings, and a wreath of autumn leaves in brown, red and yellow. The dress is a brown Vicuna, made with a long over-jacket of the same, which is edged with a brown fur trimming; a small cape of the same completes the costume. The front of the tunic is pointed, and the back of it is seen on the next figure. The skirt is of silk, satin or other material, the small hemmed flounces being placed on a stout foundation of alpaca. We have before now pointed out the economical nature of these tiny flounces, and how easily an old dress may be made into an excellent skirt with their help, the foundations only being new.

Fig.2 wears one of the new jacket-mantles, which, having been so lately introduced, will be much in use for the early spring; they are a most useful form of out-door covering. The jacket has loose fronts with pockets, the back being plain at the top, and the plaited portion added on to it to bring it even in length with the front. The material is a black and white checked tweed; the round cape is similar in shape to those worn some years ago and called "Inverness." The hood is of tweed, lined with striped silk.

Fig.3 is a simple walking dress, of blue serge, or cloth. The skirt being kilted, with a shawl drapery as an over-skirt, the bodice is a woven "Jersey" of a colour to match the skirt; the cuffs and capes are of blue velveteen. This dress requires no trimming, and is easily made up at home.

Fig.4 is a pretty at-home evening dress. The skirt and pointed bodice are made of velveteen, the under bodice and pointed tunic of some thin material, such as striped grenadine, Indian silk, or plain white cashmere. The pointed cuffs are also of velveteen, and the neck is finished by a ruching of lace and a black velvet band. There are lace frillings at the wrist.

The fifth figure is intended to be a representation of one of the much talked of aesthetic dresses. Perhaps the more proper name for them would really be "pictorial," for they generally may be found to be adaptations from a famous portrait of some historic beauty of past centuries. Any endeavour to improve dress in this way is much to be desired, as such fashions are not changeable and foolish as many of the ephemeral styles of the present day, and may be worn always, without fear of the beholder's fault-finding. The skirt has three flounces. The polonaise is plainly cut and slightly draped; the sleeves have two puffs above the elbow, and the square cut neck has a gathered top inserted into it, and a stand-up, wired, velvet collar, with a lace frill inside it. The small velvet bag at the side has the wearer's initials on it, or an embroidered spray of flowers if preferred. The pattern would be easily cut out in paper, and the bag could be made by anyone, with little trouble. The "Queen Anne" table is illustrated in deference to the wishes of many of our correspondents who have made inquiries as to the method of making and covering them. The legs, as well as the table and shelf are all covered with plush, which is likely to sit best if sewn on with needle and thread. The fringe may be made at home, if there be any one who understands the netting of fringes.

Bodices entirely in longitudinal puffs are amongst the new spring introductions. They are very becoming to the slight figures of young girls, and hide their extreme thinness, which is very painful at times to themselves and those who see them. Some little care is needed to shape them well, but otherwise they can be made over the plain pattern usually worn, the material being first cut in a square piece, then gathered, and lastly tacked on the shaped lining, and cut to the form of it.

For serge, Vicuna, and cloth dresses the narrow silver and gold braids arranged in several rows, form a very pretty and simple trimming round the jacket and overskirt. They also are excellent to brighten up an old dress, in which category plaids must be also mentioned, and we have no doubt, as the spring proceeds, that many girls will be looking about anxiously for some simple and inexpensive way of making up their winter dresses again. The plaids are put on in flat bands, and the effect would be much heightened if they were edged by a cording of the brightest colour composing the bright lines in the pattern of the plaid. The material may be very inexpensive of which they are made, the effect being the same as if it had cost a great deal.

Much use is made of the inexpensive brightly coloured French merinos or cashmeres, which can be obtained as low in price as 1s 8d per yard, yard wide. We were shown a wonderful dress the other day made up by a young lady of very limited means, for house and evening wear at home. The short kilted skirt of black cashmere was made up from an old long dress, and the black "Jersey" had cost her 8s 9d. The ornamental additions consisted of two yards of deep red cashmere, at 1s 8d per yard, from which she had made a prettily draped scarf, placed round the top of the skirt, over the edge of the "Jersey," and also a collar and cuffs, which she had embroidered in black silk, with a pattern of ivy leaves. The small lace frill at the neck finished as pretty a little costume as could be desired, at very little expense. On account of their great usefulness, we think that "Jerseys" will continue to be worn by young girls for some time, but for older people they have very decidedly gone out of date. They were very trying to bad figures, and not generally graceful. Very pretty little necklaces of plush leaves, green or variegated, are now manufactured by young ladies for evening wear. They are made up on a wire foundation.

The next illustrations consist of a pretty cap and a fichu. The border of the cap consists of a closely-gathered lace, or net, with an embroidered edge, which is laid in a series of shells. We have lately given two illustrations of caps, as so many of our girls make those of their mothers; and we much desire to encourage them in their useful and kindly work and to induce others to follow their example also.

We likewise give designs for those most useful aids to economical dressing, fichus, as we notice that they are used more and more each month, and serve to turn a morning dress into a useful and becoming one for evening wear without much expense and with very little trouble. There are so many pretty laces just now, and though called imitation, they really should be properly named "machine," in contra-distinction to "hand-made" laces. We use so many things now that are manufactured by machine which used to be made by hand that it seems an injustice to call lace, over which the same change in its working has come, "imitation." The lace used for the neck is now laid in flat box-plaitings, or else side-plaitings, and two rows are preferable to one. The most lady-like hue is a deep cream colour, the very yellow and the very brown laces having both rather gone out of fashion, which was rather a pity, as they kept much cleaner in this island of damp and this smoke-curtained city, with its incalculable number of coal fires.

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