Tuesday, 2 October 2012

30 April, 1898 - 'Frocks For Tomorrow' by The Lady Dressmaker

In which the Lady Dressmaker expresses her opinion that Englishwomen aren't likely to take to the new fashion of smoking and reminds us that decorating hats with dead bird parts is ugly and cruel. Includes pictures.

On all sides I hear that there is to be a great revival of those fashions of the "forties" in which flounces and pelerines and mantles all flourished together; and I have no doubt that those who go in for extremes will find plenty of them. It seems likely, however, that we shall all have a choice, and that plain skirts will flourish beside those covered with flounces.

The tightness of the upper part of the skirts is something wonderful to see, but round the feet they run to four or even five yards round. And, after all, they are not ungraceful, and the flounces even may be arranged to make us look slight and tall, for they are not as those of old, gathered on the skirt and so rendered bunchy and ugly; they are in general cut so that they are of the same width, and so can be put on with no fullness at all. The number of trimmed and tucked skirts is very great, and the trimmings follow no special rule, but run vertically, horizontally, or across, just at their own sweet will, or rather that of the dressmaker who put them on. One of the new styles of trimming is seen in the rouleaux, which are either gathered, or plain, over cord. Folds of material and tucks are generally worn, and braiding of all kinds. Some of the tucks are quite astonishing; they are so very tiny, and so beautifully done, especially where the new blouses are concerned. The folds of material vary in width from half an inch to three or four inches.


The French circular flounces, about which I have spoken, require very exact putting on the foundation, and should be pinned at every quarter, and even half-quarter, so that they may not be stretched out of shape, but lie flatly on the under portion. It is best to have a pattern to cut by, and the seven-gored underskirt is thought to be the best to use for the foundation skirt. These flounces are put on in all ways, even in a sharply accentuated point at the front, the back being set in to the band of the gown, quite as full as the skirt itself.

One of these pointed skirts is illustrated; only in this case it is not a flounce, but a kind of small overskirt, while the flounce is below.

This gown is of fine summer ladies cloth, the bodice is made with a basque, and an under waistcoat of white satin, with cream coloured lace over it, and the usual large bow of lace and chiffon finishes it at the neck. The edges of the skirt and revers are trimmed with very narrow velvet bands. The figure at the back wears one of those dresses which are so popular at present, trimmed down the fronts in a straight line, the trimming being continued round the edge of the skirt. The bodice is also one of the season's novelties. It is cut down low over a yoke of white or a contrasting colour. In the present instance, the dress was made of one of the new crepons, and the trimmings were of blue silk, to match that in shade. This style of trimming is very dressy, and is used nearly always for the princess gowns with much advantage, as it takes off from their plain effect, which is generally most trying, save to those who rejoice in very good figures.

With regard to colours in dress, I think I am not mistaken in saying that one person in ten appears to me to wear a mauve or heliotrope gown. Next to it in favour comes green, which is generally trimmed with black, while much of the heliotrope is trimmed with white. I have also noticed an increase in the popularity of blue; the new blue being almost of a cornflower shade, which seems to go best with black as a trimming. For millinery, there is a lovely shade of vieux rose and also some young greens of the exact colour of the shoots on the trees. White hats will be much in favour, and I think, when the summer fashions are really here, we shall not find the hats so vivid in their colouring as they are just at present. The straw hats, especially, are a perfect feast of gay hues to the eye, alter the dullness of the winter. Green straw hats with black trimming and pale blue straws with mauve, and dark blue velvet are the prettiest combinations I have seen this year.

The effect of the new double skirt is seen in our illustration, which is made of striped taffetas, the silk which is to take the place of foulards. This gown has a saddle-shaped yoke of lace at the neck, which has lines of black velvet at the edges. It will be noticed that the sleeves where they fall over the hands are pointed, and at the top, below the puffs, are trimmed with bands of velvet.

There is not much change in the shape of skirts made of washing materials; and the white linen collars will be used as much as ever. The tie bows are much smaller however. There are quite as many blouses as ever, and some of the prettiest of them are made of lace, in the same style as the French one illustrated in a recent number. The only change is that, in some cases, while the blouse itself is made of lace, the sleeves may match the gown. A striped black and white silk was made in this manner, and the effect was excellent. This idea would be a very good one to apply to the remaking of one of last year's gowns, where the bodice was worn out.

If we any of us thought that capes were going out of fashion, we must have discovered our mistake before this; for they seem to be as much worn as ever. Our illustration gives two of the new ones; the first being of velvet with an applique of white and black passementerie. It is lined with white satin. The other cape is of drab cloth and forms a pretty spring wrap, which is light enough to be useful during the summer, when everyone needs a smart little one of the sort. Perhaps the prettiest thing just at present is the little blue cloth coat with rather a short basque, braided in black, with a Medici's collar, and rather wide lapels lined with white satin, and covered with guipure lace.  These little jackets are worn with any coloured skirt, and are made by the best West End tailors. Blue is a favourite colour, but they are worn in white, fawn and greys. There are plenty of black capes trimmed with chiffon frills and ruffles, and some of these are pointed at back and front, and have a double ruffle.

The hat of the most recent shape is rather like an umbrella in style, and droops like the old mushroom shape; but the toque seems to be quite the most popular thing, as it is so universally becoming to people of all ages. They are also very easy to make, and so are acceptable to those who manufacture their headgear at home. One is very sorry to see that the wings and feathers of the poor little birds are more used than ever they were, in spite of all appeals to the kindhearted to spare them. I have seen hats with at least half a dozen wings to decorate them and on some of the French hats entire birds are placed. The rosette bow and the full choux (or cabbage) as the French call it, are the two popular bows for hats; and the use of the silk chiffon seems to supersede flowers at present. I am told that the popular flower for this summer will be the rose, and that roses of every shade of pink and red will be worn on one hat. The newest hats on which violets are used, have them arranged in bunches and the leaves are placed regularly round just like the bunches sold in the streets. They seem rather formal, perhaps,but look very well, and form a pleasant change.

Very wide sashes are worn on many of the new dresses for day wear, as well as for the evening. The ends are often handsomely embroidered and ruffled; and there are some handsome wide lace ones on the more expensive gowns. Scarves of lace chiffon and silk are used, tied with a large bow in front, and we are promised a revival of the old-fashioned shoulder scarf as worn in the early Victorian times.

A great deal of jewellery is worn; chains of all kinds, with or without the everlasting heart. Bracelets with all sorts of things hanging from them. Charms, seals, coins, and lockets jingling together as the wearers move their hands are universally worn, and more things grace the fingers than I have seen for some years past.

I suppose my readers have heard much of the rather heated discussion which has been going on in the papers, about the prevalence of smoking among women and girls, and many good people have been much distressed by the idea of its being a universal fashion. But I have not found it so personally; and I do not feel obliged to put smoking into my chronicle of the latest fashions. I do not find that the best class of women smoke; and, indeed, I have only seen one or two do it; and those appeared much more in fun than earnest. I do not think that Englishwomen will adopt the habit at all, and I am sure that all fears of it are quite groundless. It is not a nice habit, to say the least of it; and most women consider it rather fast, and quite unfit for a gentlewoman to adopt.

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