Monday, January 14, 2008

A Wrapper, But of What Year?

Sometime last fall I was lucky enough to purchase a vintage wrapper. From its shape and construction, I estimate to be anywhere from the 1890s to the early 1900s, but am not quite sure of the real date.

The garment is of a black and white soft cotton flannel, and appears, from construction details to have been sewn at home. The bodice trim is a soft ecru coarse ribbon or tape. It is sewn on the dress in nice curves, but when viewed up close, the stitching that holds it down wanders a great deal, as if done in a hurry.

The bodice opens way down the front and the neckline opens into a squared V. The upper portion of the placket opening is closed three black buttons reaching down to the waistline. The buttons are mounted to an overlap that is made of a separate band of fabric sewn to the left bodice front, and the underlap piece holding the buttonholes is also separate and sewn to the right bodice front.

At the waistline a self belt with ends cut to arrow points is attached at the side seams; I imagine that it ties in front. Otherwise the rest of the front placket would gap open. Part of that remaining opening is -- partially -- covered by a small rectangular band the width of the underlap, sewn with a line of the ecru trim down the middle, and tacked to the underlap. It is not nearly long enough to reach to the bottom of the placket opening and I can't see how it was ever effective. Is a piece missing? Was this a hasty fix to a faulty front opening?

The yoke section of the bodice is lined with coarse muslin that's now ecru in color; it might once have been white. The curved yoke seams are not seamed right sides together. Instead, the wrong side of the yoke curve is seamed to the right side of the bodice front. The seam edges are left unfinished and that ecru trim is just sewn up from the seam up to the edge of the allowance. If you look carefully underneath you can see that the edge of the fabric is very slightly frayed.

The collar is set on separately and trimmed with the same trim as elsewhere.

Towards the yoke bottom a very prettily arranged frill is sewn, the join seam covered by more ecru trim.

The sleeves are set right on the top of the shoulder and are gathered in enough to create a very small puff. Again, the gathering was done in a hurry: some gathers are sewn so the resulting pleat lays frontwards, others backwards, and the gathers vary greatly in position from one sleeve to the other. Note that the sleeves are shaped: each sleeve is cut in one piece, but curving in from the elbow, so that when worn the sleeve will sit nicely on the arm, without excess wrinkling. A small tear at the front sleeve seam shows where stress was likely applied to the garment by the person wearing it. I doubt that the garment would have torn there otherwise, but could be wrong.

The self cuffs are some two inches deep. They are constructed in four pieces, sewn right sides together and then turned to create a finished tube, and joined to the sleeve. The seam is covered with the ecru trim. The cuffs ensure less wear at the sleeve edge.

The back of the wrapper below the toke is in two pieces, seamed down the center. At the top, an inner and outer box pleat are set in a point at the yoke point.

The wrapper hem would just trail the ground, I believe. The bottom of the skirt is simply turned up rather than being faced. A narrow edge is turned to hide the raw edge, and then turned again in a wide hem. To help pull the skirts to the back of the body, the hem is some three inches wide in front, while it gradually widens to between four and five inches in back. Where necessary, small pleats are taken in the hem to account for the fact that there is more fabric in the hem length than in the length it is hemmed to.

All in all, the wrapper shows what I think are some nice design and construction elements: the pretty front bodice frill, the handsome yoke and flowing back pleat treatment, the graduated hem. At other points, however, the garment appears to have been constructed rather hastily, and not everything worked. That front opening just confuses me.

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