Monday, 20 February 2017

25 June 1881 - 'Seasonable Dress and How to Make It'

This month we learn that the Little Black Dress was as integral a part of a woman's wardrobe a century ago as it was today. 

Last month we mentioned the pretty old-fashioned ginghams had returned to fashion under the name of "Zephirs," and that they fully retained their former qualities of excellent wear and washing. Since then we have seen some charming dressed of pink, both plain, striped, and checked, which we must mention in the first instance. We always think how pleasant it is to be young, and to be able to wear a pink dress; they seem so becoming and suitable to the brightness of the fresh springtime of youth, that one feels glad when they are in fashion; and we like to clothe our human flowers with some of the lovely hues that our Maker uses for His "flowers of the field." Flowers and young girls should ever resemble innocence, purity and beauty.

These pretty dresses should be simply made. Both last month and this we have given suitable sketches for them – and the gatherings at the neck, sleeves, and front form a very pretty style. Nottingham lace is a good trimming for them, or Swiss embroidery; but they are quite as often made up with plaitings of the same, or bias bands turned up as a border, and sewn down on the outside with the sewing-machine. The bodices are made full, and gathered at the waist and neck, like the small figure in the June number.

The present seems to be an excellent time for purchasing black silks at moderate prices, and as a good black silk is unquestionably one of the best and most serviceable of dresses that any woman or girl can have, much care should be exercised in its selections. As far as we can see, about 5s per yard should purchase silk of good quality and wear, and there are several of the very best London drapers who both sell and recommend black silks at this price. We advise, when it is possible, that everyone who requires one should go to some well-known shop, and be guided by the advice there given in choosing. Very thick, ribbed, heavy silks should be avoided, and one of lighter texture be selected, as bright-looking on the surface as can be found. An old lady of our acquaintance used to choose black silk by holding it up to the light. If it looked of a greenish hue the silk was a good one, and she knew it would wear well. Another friend of ours takes up a fold of the silk between her finger and thumb, and, pressing it, makes a crease. If the crease should come out easily the silk is a good one; but if it remain, or should make a whitish mark, beware of purchasing it. We have ourselves found, however, that at a good draper's they will usually recommend a good article. Of course we make up our black and other silk dresses just now under great advantages, false or foundation skirts being used, generally made of alpaca, on which the silk may be suitable mounted as trimmings, kiltings, scarves and draperies; so we save the silk to the extent of four or five yards. Ten or twelve yards are nor generally sold for an ordinary short costume, so if we manage to make it at home, it will be seen that a black silk gown is within the reach of a very modest purse.

From an American source we glean a very clever and economical idea – i.e., that of having several plastrons or fronts to our "one black silk," which completely change its appearance, and give us walking, dinner, and evening dresses in one gown. The dress must, of course, be made en princesse in front, or the plastrons cannot be buttoned on. It forms the front of the bodice, and the apron or front breadth of the skirt, and is edged with button-holes if the buttons be on the dress, or hooks and eyes if preferred. One plastron may be of black velvet, edged with lace, or plain; high in the neck, and finished by a black lace frill. Another, for evening wear, might be of red, old gold, or violet satin, covered or trimmed with black or white lace, opening square or heart-shaped at the neck. A third might be of puffings or gathers, in damasse silk, brocade, or satin, to make it into a simple yet stylish walking-dress. A cuff or trimming  for the sleeves may also be arranged to match each plastron, such as a pair of long velvet cuffs to button on over the sleeves, with the black velvet one; or a pair of puffed sleeves to be sewn in with the coloured evening dress. The buttons may be of jet, and if they to be attached to the bodice and skirt they will do for every plastron.

Amongst the great boons to our clever readers, who are able to help themselves in trimming and altering dress, the fashionable Madras muslin must be named, a material which can be made useful in so many ways and over so many styles of dresses. The last time we saw an old black silk "done up," Madras muslin was the material used, and several of the pretty self-coloured sateens f last year have been remodelled this season with the aid of a few yards of this moderately-priced stuff. For an old half-worn coloured silk it is the very thing, and with a scarf tunic and draperies, gathered and puffed sleeves, and front, it becomes quite a new dress.

The fashion of coat bodices of different materials is a very useful and convenient one. They are made of velvet, velveteen, velvet broche, striped and chessboard velvet and satin. These last are all cheap now, as they are gone out of fashion, and the present stock is all reduced. Steel or silver buttons, or jet ones, are pretty, and no other trimming is requisite with them. We have recently seen some young ladies in the park in coat-bodices of red, or dull crimson cloth, with tiny gold buttons. These are worn with black silk, satin velveteen, or well-trimmed cashmere skirts. Also with cream-coloured and any fancy sateens which have red in the pattern. Perhaps this idea may be considered a happy one for a tennis club uniform, or a dress for the frequent lawn-tennis garden meetings, which constitute the chief amusement of the summer.

The Alsatian bows seem very great favourites with young girls, as well as older ones; and we have seen several very pretty turn-down hats decorated with one of these graceful bows on the top of the crown. They also form the great ornament of the favourite "Granny" and "Under the window" bonnets, which seem to be worn everywhere excepting in London.

Our illustration gives a lively party of girls enjoying themselves in a shrubbery. The dresses are all useful and pretty summer ones, which nearly any girl could arrange for herself. The figure standing by the table, with her hand upon it, wears a gingham, or zephyr costume, of pale blue, the trimmings being of Swiss embroidery. The bodice is gathered in front at the waist and on the shoulders; the sleeves are in rows of fine puffs all the way down; the over-skirt consists of two pointed shawl-shaped corners.

The second figure is made of cashmere and satin, the polonaise being of cashmere and the skirt of the same, trimmed with longitudinal plaitings of satin. The cape is of closely gathered satin, and is edged with a beaded fringe. The hat is a very small straw one with undulating wavy edges, and a spray of fern leaves, roses, and black velvet at the back.

The third figure wears a Mother Hubbard cloak of cashmere to match her dress, while the dress of number four is a brown beige, made up with a plaided or "shepherdess checked" beige of a darker colour. The hat is of white straw, trimmed with brown velvet, and brown ostrich tips shaded to yellow.

The young lady who holds a branch, and faces the reader, is the wearer of one of the pretty old-fashioned gowns which have been revived from the fashions of our grandmothers. Any light-washing material may be chosen for it. Each of the four flounces are headed by a puffing of the same, with a very small amount of fullness. The bodice is full, and has a band on the waist, while the pretty fichu is crossed over it, which fastens at the back. The small leather satchel which hangs at the side represents one of the newest and most fashionable shapes in which they are worn.  It is made of yellow leather, and has a leathern girdle, to hang round the waist.

In the second illustration, we find an old lady and a very little girl; both are intended as suggestions; for, in spite of ours being a girls' paper, there is no doubt but that our readers include many who are no longer girls, and a considerable number of mammas who are glad of a small bit of advice. The cloak of the elderly lady is of silk or cashmere, and that of the little girl a "Mother Hubbard" of grey beige, with trimming of blue. However foolish-looking we may think them as garments, there is no doubt that little girls do wear them, and look very well in them too, but they are only suited to the promenade and the park, and for very best Sunday habiliments.

The illustration given of a cloak is one suitable to any age, and which is worn by quite young girls. They sometimes match the dress material, or are of black cashmere and satin, or of satin only. A thin material like grenadine will probably be used as the summer advances, if it should prove pleasant and warm.

The shaded or ombre satins, and aerophane crapes are much used  for the tops of toque hats, and they are very pretty indeed, as well as becoming. The gathered edges of the hats are made of black velvet.

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