Tuesday, 6 September 2011

23 November, 1885 - 'Dress: In Season and in Reason' by a Lady Dressmaker

Best quote of this month's fashion column is "Aprons are coming in again, not but that they have always been 'in' with those who have work of any kind to do." Thanks.

To all appearances we are gradually coming back to the long plain skirts worn twenty or thirty years ago, before we ever heard of such a thing as an "overskirt". To some people - the short, stout and ungraceful - the change will be for the better, for the much bunched-up skirts did not well suit them, and took from their small amount o height. But with the long straight folds, the very tall and very thin people must beware, for they add to their maypole appearance by assuming too austere a style, and great regularity in vertical lines is sometimes a decided mistake.

Very little of the skirt is shown in some of the newest gowns, but I see that a deep shawl-like point in front, with regular upward folds, fastened into the side-breadths, are just as much used as they were last winter.  When much of the underskirt is seen, it seems to be always of velvet, plush or of some handsome striped material. Skirts, in whatever material they are made, are nearly always plain, and generally with a panel of richer material let in on one side, and if the collar, cuffs and waistcoat be of velvet, this is of velvet also. Tartan is used for the same purpose with many of the heather-coloured woollens.

In the fronts and sides of dresses there is decidedly more fulness, as is perhaps natural, for they must hang in fuller folds when they are more uncovered. The plain full "peasant" or "housemaid" skirts have been thoroughly adopted for mourning use, and are trimmed with deep crepe tucks. When the latter are taken off, woollen lace is now thought very appropriate to replace it, not the bright-faced mohair lace, but that of a dull black surface, and very well it looks. Besides, it seems such a pleasant change for mourning purposes also.

And now I must give a few lines to the consideration of bodices, in order to help my stay-at-home girls, and my industrious ones too, who aspire to making their own bodices. Slashed bodices are much used, the slashings being put down the back in a pointed form, round the arm-hole also, and on the edge of the basque. Thus they are most useful in addition to an old-fashioned or worn out bodice. Bodices are still short on the hips, and many made for the dark rough-looking woollen gowns are cut with a rounded point back and front, and a two-inch band of velvet laid round the entire basque. Lace is also used in the same manner on silk, satin, or even cashmere bodices, the points of the lace being turned upwards. This is also an excellent idea for renovating an old bodice. Some of the newest bodices have five points - one in front, one on each side and two at the back. Bodices with full loose fronts are also still worn, but more in the house than for walking dress. They're fastened in with a band, and sometimes a buckle in front; and the basque is cut very short at the back.

Polonaises are decidedly advancing in favour, and I fancy next spring will probably show their return to everyday use. The two polonaises seen at present are plain and untrimmed - one with a double breast, the other plain, buttoned down the front, and a short distance from the waist from whence it hangs open.

In my illustration of outdoor mantles I have shown the new capes, mantelettes, and large cloaks of the season. Those who have good and expensive fur capes, and desire to lengthen and enlarge them, will be able to do so by the addition of some fur tails, which are very moderate in price. These tails are used now to border mantles and dolmans, as well as jackets. Long cloaks are made much more plainly than they were, and are no longer draped at the back, but are made full enough by wide pleats. The newest cloaks are made on the lines of college gowns, with a small yoke - a fashion, perhaps, adopted because our Princess looked well in her gown on the occasion of her Irish visit. All cloaks have large sleeves, some of which turn backwards, and are known as the nun's sleeve. Many of these yoked cloaks seem to me a little extravagant and so I do not illustrate them, as they seem but a passing caprice.

This season more jackets are worn than ever by both married and unmarried people. They seem to have won the day really because they are more comfortable for walking in than the very large cloaks. However, there are many mantelette shapes that are most stylish, and I have been not a little rejoiced to hear that so many of my girl readers have set to make their own mantles and jackets this winter.

The jackets worn are all small, have nearly tight backs, and the fronts cut so as to fall quite straight. The sides of the fronts are turned back to show the lining. They have no seams in front and all have high neckbands and large buttons. Nothing could be more simple or easier to make. They hook down the centre with hooks that are invisible, and a material called "Boucle tweed" is very generally used for them. Some of them fasten on the slant across the front and some have a clasp on the shoulder, while another has one on the left side to fasten them. Velvet and brocade is not used to make them, as the feeling this winter is for everything rough and coarse-looking.

Mantelettes are made of many materials, plus, broche plush, satin or velvet frise, fine cloth, or rough woollens of various colours. Some of them have small hoods at the back, and most of them fit into the figure closely at the back, and are made rather full, but the fronts are always long. The "sling sleeve" is the most fashionable, but for winter use I fancy many people will prefer the closest-fitting sleeve they can obtain.

There are several great novelties in the way of trimmings. Amongst others woollen fringe, sometimes tipped with small wooden beads, with which chenille fringes is also tipped. Yak lace is also used as a trimming, and wooden beads are placed upon it. Then there is a new woollen lace, wool being darned on net, and amongst other dangling trimmings we have fir-cones. Of the rosary fringe I need hardly speak, as it is to be seen everywhere, and there is quite a furore for it as an edging to basques, jackets and as trimmings to bonnets.

And now I must turn to bonnets; and I can congratulate my many home milliners that there is so much done to help them this season, and so little remains to be done at home. Every description of frame  can be pocured, and the outside trimming is very simple. All bonnets and hats this season are covered smoothly with stockinette, or else with plush, velvet or woollen canvas. No metal ornaments are to be seen and flowers, too, seem dismissed, while feathers have given place in Paris to ribbon trimming almost entirely. The other ornaments used are rosary beads, buckls of wood, or wooden and tortoise-shell slides. All the ribbons for both bonnets and hats have the small picot edge, which used to be used on all ribbons, especially what were known as "love ribbons" years and years ago. The new way of using ribbons now is to have them at least three inches wide, and to old them in half before making the loops to the bonnets, so that the ribbon is used double - one edge being double and the other with the little rows of picots. Two-coloured ribbons are generally used for hats, and for country and rough wear hats are trimmed with woollen scarves, and of canvas with plush or velvet strips.

Hats and bonnets are both high in the crown, but in both the top is lat and they are covered with stockinette, stretched all in one piece over them quite smoothly. Stone-coloured stockinette, and also a light yhellowish tone with darker trimmings, are both much liked, and as a rule no trimming is put round either the crowns of hats or bonnets. The bows of ribbon are thick and very full; but there is no need of any extreme, which good taste should always lead us to avoid. The strings are a little longer than they have been worn for some time,and the small brooches are still used in them.

And here I must put in a note of entreaty to my girl-readers not to avail themselves of any of the poor little dead birds which are now much worn. I was told by a lady the other day that she had seen a poor wee birdie on a bonnet in a shop that positively had a drop of blood on its beak! Could bad taste go further?

So far that colours are concerned, I think blues, reds, and browns, of various shades, are the favourites. Very few shades of prune are to be seen. The new way of trimming woollens is to put quite another shade of velvet with them. or instance, on red, the velvet or plush should be blue; dark blue should have ruby; brown of a yellowish hue is put on grey woollens; and on browns, green, blue and burgundy-colour are used. Dark-green woollen would have crimson velvet or plush collars, cuffs, waistcoats and panels. All these additions can be made at home, with the aid of a little buckram.

I have not quite concluded about hats. Woollen stockinette is used to cover frames as well as silk, and all the hat-crowns that I have seen are flat on top. There are two other varieties, i.e. the "regimental" and the "Spanish". The latter is a revival of the "pork pie" of yore, with a deeper brim, and rather a different trimming, so that it does not look quite the same thing. The "regimental" is a very pretty cap, and is generally becoming. It is made in astrachan, folds of cashmere, coloured and black; and in all kinds of furs. It resembles the cap worn by many of the volunteer corps, and has a flat top, the band of the head being deeper behind than in front. Rather thick woollen cords are looped across the front, and an aigrette stands up at the left side.

Aprons are coming in again, not but they have always been "in" with those who have work of any kind to do. But I mean the real old-ashioned apron of black silk; large, long and covering the front breadth of the gown entirely. The new-old arrivals are more trimmed than formerly, and have a black lace flounce and lace pockets. Very pretty and dressy aprons are made of plush, with cream-coloured woollen lace and also of black lace bordered with astrachan. Black lace over coloured satin, with ribbon bows of the same colour, are very pretty. The bibs are small, but the apron makes a very valuable addition to the toilette of those who cannot manage to afford a change of dress in the evening, or do not think a thinner dress is a safe change.

My illustrations of winter house-dresses does not require much explanation, as the gowns are very carefully drawn. The lady standing with her back to us wears a gown of rough boucle cloth, with bias bands of velvet. This is a simple style and one that could be easily manufactured at home.

The figure on the sofa wears one of the white waistcoats which are still in favour. Now the weather is cold the waistcoat is made of cricket flannel.

The "Zouave" jacket is illustrated in the figure at the fireplace. The lady entering the room wears a skirt and trimmings of striped boucle cloth.

Amongst the new ideas must be mentioned the return to favour of the old eider-down petticoats, which though they have been always patronised by some people, have not been generally used since the tied-back style of dress came in. They require an elastic band sewn strongly on each side, or else strings, to keep the petticoat from comoing too much to the front. Some ladies, I hear, have steels inserted into them. This I should not think a good plan; but at any rate the eider-downs are delightful in use, they are so light and yet so warm.

Many ladies are ornamenting the cheap black and white laces with coloured silks. The lace selected has a well marked design, and the stitch used in chain-stitch. The lace is worked in all colours and is used for dresses as well as for tea-cloths and antimacassars, and it is a very pleasant employment.

The hair is still dressed high, and combs are more worn this autumn than usual. They are used also for the coils of basket-plaits, and are placed either at one side of the head or in the centr4e of the front parting.

Muffs are very small and are often made of the material of the dress when the dress is one of the rough woollens. The bag muffs are one of the most liked, and some of them have long ribbons, by which they are intended to hang on the arm when not wanted.

Last summer I saw several times a very pretty dress worn on the Thames, which has been copied this winter for the country, and as it seems to me to be an excellent thing, I must describe it here. The skirt was made of black serge or flannel of the "housemaid" style, the front being plain The skirt was of coloured flannel, pink, blue, or striped; the waistband was very wide, and a white silk sash was lightly tied at the left side. The hats were generally sailor-shaped, of black straw. This winter this idea has been repeated with the "Zouave" jacket, with sleeves as an addition, to make it warm enough. The scarf is placed round the hips, tied in a large bow at the side. The "Zouave" jacket does not reach the waist by at least two inches. The jacket is usually edged with ball-fringe, or, perhaps, fur or astrachan may be preferred.

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