Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The 23rd Psalm, Sung

Some rainy, or stormy, or sad or suffering days, this is especially good to hear.

Whatever your beliefs, may the singing of "The Lord Is My Shepherd", Psalm 23, bring you a measure of peace, even if for a little while.

As sung at our church, not too very long ago, and posted by our organist, although there is no organ here, only human voices, lifted up.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

An Antique 1910s Dress from My Collection...With a Secret

Leimomi Oakes of The Dreamstress has been on a roll lately with posts about the 1910s. In her latest on the era, she invited us to peruse a 1915 catalog and to pick a favorite frock on offer. I thoroughly enjoyed playing along, and fell for a blue silk faille with a bolero.

Afterwards, I remembered that there's a teens dress in my collection of antique clothing. So thought to share it, because it's a duck of a dress, and would be a joy to kick up the heels in.

Here it is, in all its raw natural-color silk glory.

Don't know why, but it reminds me of the crabapple tree just in front of our house, which bloomed this past week into a mass of white, fluffy, bee-attracting, softly scented flowers.

Not that there is anything specifically delicate about this dress. The silk noil is very, very nubby and thick and durable, the threads robust and the weave tight, though it still drapes rather than stands crisply. The cotton lace, mostly Cluny, is what people of the day would have called coarse, because the threads are much thicker than the superfine threads commonly used in Valenciennes and other popular laces.

Neither is the pattern particularly feminine, if you ignore the lace. The applied belt with its sharply pointed end almost feels military, as does the bit of front gathering just above the belt, and of course the sailor collar is a direct reference to naval uniforms. The dress falls to about mid-shin or a little lower, so it's far easier to walk briskly about in than earlier gowns. When I bought it years ago, it fit -- just -- and I remembered the length pretty clearly.

The dress lacks any identification or label on it, and compared to some of the Edwardian and teens garments in my stash, is, shall we say, less carefully made than some. Lots of seams are left unfinished,  and while the sewing is fairly good, especially on the facings, a few of the seams wander a bit -- although sewing straight through that nubby silk would have been no picnic. There is some handwork in the dress: the trim is sewn on by hand, and the edging hand-whipped to the trim.

Bodice Front

Here are bodice details.

The buttons have discolored much more than the dress has, although if you look at the gathered portion of the bodice, you can see that a bit of the silk is quite a dirty brown, and there's a brown stain on the inside of the front placket. The dress was cleaned before I had it: it has none of the odor so many antique clothes acquire, of dust, of brittle fibers, or of mildew.

Here's a detail of one of the yummy buttons.

The front is missing at least two buttons. All of them are -- or were -- for show, for the dress used to close with hooks and eyes or with snaps. They are gone except for a hook near the bottom of the front opening, and a hook and two bars at the belt. If you look closely at the right side of the dress at the level of the left's side top button, you can see where a hook or snap used to reside. I have located other, less noticeable, threads down the front to the level of the lowest button that show where the bars or snaps used to be.

The closure is strengthened with a facing to each side. The facing is cut on the bias and started as multiple pieces: I found a seam and you can see it in the photo below near my finger.

The front closure does not go all the way to the dress hem, but stops around the thighs, so you must step into it. The photo below shows the placket base. Do notice that the opening becomes a seam all the way to the dress hem, and it incorporates a very wide vertical tuck that has been pressed firmly flat. The lower trim, near the hem of the dress, goes right over this tuck. Interesting...

Bodice Back and Sides

The back of the bodice is below.

Isn't that Cluny lace wonderful? Like the silk noil fabric, it's bold. The collar is carefully shaped. Do you see how it widens just a bit as it comes up to the shoulders? That thick border is integral to the lace, too. Neither was the collar assembled from lengths of Cluny, and made into a collar with mitered corners. Nope. That's one piece, except for the edging with bobbles. The edging is indeed made of a separate lace, and is whipped to the main piece. The bobble trim is itself rather delicate, and it has ripped in a few places.

Here below is a spot on one of the sleeves where the edging has come loose, so you can really see what it looks like alone.

The back of the bodice is designed with two almost vertical tucks running from neckline to waist that have been sewn down, as if felled. They draw the eye up and down and balance the horizontal lines of the collar, belt, and skirt trim.

The shoulder edges of the bodice are dominated by large vertical tucks, then called bretelles, that I recognize as common elements in late Edwardian and teens dress. You can find oodles of examples in Frances Grimble's The Edwardian Modiste. The tucks broaden the shoulder line, making the waist appear of course smaller. In this dress, it is only when the collar is lifted that you really see how broad the shoulders have been made to look; the collar tends to soften things.

Below I have folded up the collar to reveal the bretelles from the side.

At first I thought that the bodice front was just two pieces, but it isn't: there is a side piece basically the width of the armscye underneath the Armscye. You don't notice it because of the bretelles.

The bodice is gathered, as in the front, into the belt, saving the areas where the tucks appear.

Look at how far back the shoulder seam is set!

A peep inside the front of the bodice, below. You can see the facing, with a final little fold on the inside to neaten the edge. The strong facing also, I think, makes sure that the opening is less likely to billow or gap than it might if not reinforced.

Around the tight neckline curve, small tucks were taken in the facing, as you can see below where I have turned the neckline partly inside out.

Another peep inside, below, shows us how the bodice and skirt were seamed together. As I have found in a few other garments of the Edwardian and teens period, the waist can be a mess. In this case they were sewn right sides together and the allowances left unfinished. Now you can really tell just how large the threads are that make up the silk noil fashion fabric.

The join is covered on the exterior by the belt. In other dresses I recall and have a record of (I have given away much of my collection), there is an interior belt of very strong cotton or linen tape, and the bodice and skirt are mounted to that rather than to each other, and the belt often has a fastener to set it closely to the body. Dressmaking manuals emphasize their use, too. That makes sense with the soft, thin silks and muslins of the Edwardian years, and the early teens, but this fabric doesn't need it, or for some other reason it wasn't used.


How about the sleeves? The armscye is set at the edge of the shoulder. The sleeve is made of two pieces, with the bottom seam under the arm and the top seam towards the back of the top of the arm. The insides of these seams are unfinished. The top seam includes a small vertical tuck, along which the sleeve buttons are arranged.

Here's one side.

The other, alas, is missing two of its buttons.

You can see how the sleeve top is gently eased into the armscye,  covered by the shoulder bretelle.

Poor lone button...

The inside of the armscye is -- for once -- neatly finished with binding.

Another sleeve glamour shot:


The skirt -- well, the skirt hides a secret.

The skirt is made of four panels, right and left front and right and left back, with seams at center front, center back and at the middle of each side.

The cut is dominated by a large horizontal tuck just below the top-level trim.

The front seam, below the placket opening, continues as a vertical tuck too, and it's rather wide.

If you look closely, you will see that the trim is +folded+ into that tuck with the rest of the fabric, not placed over it. If you're extra eagle-eyed, you'll see a bent pin hiding next to the tuck in amongst the trim. Its head is stuck beneath the trim, and it's good and stuck, too.

Now, if we peek once more inside the dress from the place opening, and look to the side seam, we see a wide seam allowance near the waist. Whee-oo!

There is no wide side seam allowance near the hem, though.

The hem itself? It's very wide. Here I've turned up the bottom of the skirt inside out and rested it on the dress' shoulder.

You've probably guessed the secret the dress is hiding: it used to be both fuller, including near the waist, and longer, too.

This dress was remade.

When do you suppose it was renovated to its present look? I am guessing around 1914...but, what do you think?

So What Did the Dress Look Like Before Its Remaking?

I rambled through a whole slew of images from around 1910 and decided that this dress most likely may have had the vee opening, but that a guimpe or chemisette was worn underneath it. It may have been high-necked, or it might not. There may have been more buttons down the front, but the sailor collar and trims were already on the dress, because the trim near the hem has been turned in with the tuck rather than laid over it, as it would have been if the trim had been added.

Here are two dresses, circa 1910-1912, that bear some similarities to our dress. There is the coarse lace, the bobble trim, the high waistline, the lack of a high neckline, and the above-the-elbow sleeves, although the line is narrower than our dress originally sported.

The photo, from the  Glamourdaze blog post titled "1910 – Paris Summer Fashions – amusing review" is identified as taken by Seeberger Freres.

No, the lady on the right is not wearing a face mask; she's hiding her face with her program. How living with the fear of coronavirus changes what our eyes first glimpse!

Now, from the McCall's Magazine, January 1910, a fashion plate, with the bretelle'd waists (bodices), and high necked chemisettes under dresses.

ABE Books, McCall's Magazine, January 1910, Jim Hodgson Books. 

Now I will carefully fold the dress and lay it back in its bin to await another day and another examination. I was rather hoping to take a pattern from it, but seeing that it's rather a Frankendress, well, I won't, unless someone asks me to at some point.

Hoping that you enjoyed the tour!