Wednesday, 24 February 2016

7 February 1880 - 'The Dress of the Month'

The return to favour of velveteen has placed great possibilities in the hands of our girls of pretty and stylish dress, which, without being expensive, is rich-looking, very warm, and suitable  for the day time and the evening. The new velveteens of the season are distinguished for their improved texture and their excellent colour. In black they are especially good, and many experienced people fail to discover that the velvet dress, which they have so much admired and the purchase of which they perhaps called extravagant, was only a good velveteen after all.

The "Louis" velveteen, which is one of the best kinds, varies in price from 1s 6 1/2d, to 2s 11 1/2d per yard, but the prices between these are quite good enough; that at nearly 3s will probably be thought too expensive for ordinary use, though it should be remembered that velveteen cleans, dyes and wears out at least three ordinary dresses; so that the purchase of a good one is really an economy in the end. Velveteen is, of course, a "best dress"; that is to say, it is suitable for church, visits, afternoon teas, luncheons, and quiet dinners - in fact, for all the occasions when a young girl must look her best and brightest - the festal days and seasons of her life.

There are many methods of making it. In many cases it will be found useful to have two bodices made at first for the skirt - a plain long-basqued one for the day, and the other rather more trimmed, and with elbow sleeves, or cut square, for dress occasions. Now, that short dresses are worn in the evening by everyone, we can take advantage of the fashion, and save our material. As a rule, coloured velveteens are not very good, and, although they are more expensive at first to purchase, they are less to be relied on for lasting wear, and they grow so remarkable that all your friends recognise them, and know them far too well before they are worn out. Our illustration this month shows a charming costume of velveteen, mixed with a camel-hair cloth, a serge, a diagonal, or indeed with any one of that numerous array of materials brought out each season by the best Welsh manufactures and sent by them to any part of England or even the Continent.

The dress of the figure on the chair shown in the picture has a short all-round skirt of velveteen, with a flounce laid on underneath its edge, which is deeper in front than at the back. The over-dress is a short draped polonaise, of cloth, diagonal, or serge, which buttons at the back, and has velvet sleeves. For out-of-door wear there is a jacket of the material, without sleeves, with revers and collar of velvet. It is tight-fitting and double-breasted, and,  for the sake of warmth, should be lined either with flannel, or wadded, and lined with alpaca. The hat or bonnet is of felt, of the colour of the dress, the feather being laid round it in cavalier fashion.

Of course this description may be much modified in every way, but, as represented, it is a costume of very moderate price. The cost would be increased by making it entirely of velveteen, but it would become at the same time more dressy. Plain velveteen would require a trimming, and black brocade is preferable to either fur or jet trimmings; fur bands being more used and more suitable to cloth and serge costumes. The brocade is not expensive, although it sounds so; I have seen it as low as 3s per yard at about 23 inches wide. This short polonaise above described may be worn over any kind of skirt this winter, for we have again returned to that useful and delightful fashion of wearing a different skirt with any bodice we may have.

For this costume, those girls who are not fortune enough to have furs may make muffs and capes to match for themselves. These are now quite as stylish and newer when made of velvet, satin or plush. The cape is quite a plain round one, in shape like the fur and cloth coachmen's capes which we have worn so long. It is generally wadded and lined, but this must be done most carefully, so as to avoid making it at all bunchy. It may be plainly corded with satin to match the colour, or have the edges turned up and the lining hemmed down over it. Of course the stitches must not be taken through to the right side. A small round collar may be placed at the neck. The muff is gathered in puffs underneath, on the wrong side; three gatherings inclusive of those at the edges being enough. The lining should be of silk, and those who have never before attempted to make one should study a fur one, and the method in which it is put together. The amount of silk and velvet needed is very small - half a yard of each being enough for those long skating muffs, which reach up at the wrists, like cuffs, and are larger in the centre, and is far too much  for the tiny muffs in vogue. The muff only requires an edging of black lace, if that be available, or else a yard of corded ribbon which is put through it, and tied in a large bow and ends up on the top.

The Pompadour velveteens, as they are called, have dark blue, green or brown grounds, covered with floral patterns, such as little roses, little forget-me-nots, or the smallest of pinks, in their natural colours, with sprays of green foliage. In short, they are the same things in velveteen that were worn as chintzes last summer. The same idea has been carried out in flannels, and both are charmingly pretty, either for small children, or their older sisters. One thing must, however, be remembered about them, and that is that they are cheap, and represent at best an ephemeral fashion, so that next winter our best dress of this year would look particular, and be easily marked as a fashion of last year. This is, as I have said before, very undesirable, and must always be avoided by every girl who wishes to dress unobtrusively, as well as prettily. So these new introductions will be more wisely used as trimmings for last year's dresses, and in that capacity they will be most useful. They will make pretty new cuffs, bands for trimmings, and plastrons  for the front, and, as everybody's dresses always show wear first at the sleeves and in the front, their adaptation in this way will make an elegant and fashionable costume.

A very pretty new style of under-skirt has just been brought out, made of dark flannel  or serge, trimmed with fine kiltings of the same, while on the kiltings and above them in plain bands is sewn some of the dark imitation Indian cashmeres, or "Paisley shawlings" as they are sometimes called. This makes a dark, yet bright skirt, and it may easily be manufactured at home with the aid of the sewing machine.

Even though writing in February, it is useless to think of warmer days, with all the experience of the past before us, and March is certainly a more bitter month as regards winds than the present; so I have kept the winter steadily in view, in addition to which, nearly everything about which I write is so novel at present that, even next winter, it will not be demodee, or passee. The casaquin, or long cuirass bodice, of Paisley or Indian imitation material, is rather more spring-like perhaps. As illustrated in the other figure in our picture, it appears as a house costume, but in Paris last autumn it was constantly used in walking, and made in exactly the same shape as represented.  The same material is used for a gathered plastron down the front of the skirt, but this is not needful, as any skirt can be worn with it, short or long, so that it accords in its hue with the general colour of the casaquin. In the evening it is very popular, but then it is made of a rich and expensive Indian stuff, generally interwoven with gold thread, through its patterns of palm-leaves or scroll-work. But the imitation Paisleys are to be obtained at prices ranging from 2s to 4s per yard, and these are quite good enough, I think. It will easily be seen how an old black cashmere or silk skirt can be turned into a fashionable costume, with the addition of a novel casaquin bodice, such as the illustration represents. The other day I saw a small toque hat worn with one, edged with a gathered band of velvet, and the loose crown of it was made of the material of the casaquin. The whole costume was so pretty and simple that it is worth describing. The skirt was a kilted brown cashmere, with a brown velvet scarf; the casaquin was of a reddish brown, the pattern through it being "old gold" and the hat, as I Have said combined the two, and so did the small muff.

There is nothing that the home dressmaker has more trouble in doing than in trimming the sleeves when made. It is difficult to avoid giving a kind of home-made look in finishing them, which always ruins the effect. In reality, there is no great secret in the art, and any trouble arises from want of common care and neatness, and the lack of sufficient turnings, which soon causes the home-made trimmings to look untidy and even ugly. The two which are have illustrated are of the latest fashion and are both so simple that a little attention will enable anyone to comprehend them.

Fig.1 is a plain bias piece of the figured material, over which is laid, as a revers, a bias piece of the plain stuff, turning it towards the hand. On it is placed as a trimming a flat gallon or braid. The three straps at the other side are also of the plain stuff, and should be cut out and lined with tarlatan, or lining muslin, to hold them firmly. They should be all made before being sewn on.

Fig.2 is also cut on the bias, and is put on round the wrist. The plain part is confined to the top half of the sleeve, the wide part being joined into the seam of the sleeve when it is sewn up.

The small Henri III ruff, as it is called in Paris, is most fashionably worn at present, and is within the power of every girl to make for herself. It consists of two lengths of lace, gathered separately, and arranged in shell-shaped patterns on a band of muslin. The front is finished by a rose and ends of ribbon, which may be of pale blue, or of black velvet if the rose be a pink one. Six yards of lace will be sufficient if it be desired to have the ruffle very full, and the lace should be purchased of a sufficiently good quality to be washed and done up several times.

Fig.4 is an example of one of the new bows, which are called after Louis XIV. They are a very considerable size, some of them large enough to cover the front of the dress. The lace used is the kilted Breton, which can be procured of all widths ready kilted. The lace is sewn upon muslin, which can then be placed as shown in the sketch; a small, square, double foundation being first made by which to pin it to the dress. The ribbon is of some pretty colour to match, or contrast, with the rest of the dress.

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