Wednesday, September 19, 2018

18th Century Childrens Dresses

September is whirling by! The mornings are quite cool now and one day this week we woke up to the lawn littered with golden leaves. Rosie goes out to collect large bouquets of them and brings them in to put into a big ceramic mug as decoration. No matter that each day the leaves become brittle and dry - each morning there are more to collect! It is truly a wonderful time of year; the prettiest season of all!

Lately I have been outside with the two littlest as much as I can. Not much sewing has been done lately but I sure do have plans! Just need to find the time. . .😏 Before autumn gets too well underway I want to make coats for the babies using the Twig and Tale Animal Coat pattern, and yesterday I got some 10 oz indigo denim to make the Persephone Pants as my first attempt at anything like jeans.

But first, I really need to get some of my past projects blogged about. Last weekend I moved everything out of my sewing room so I could paint it, and after finding them folded up on my ironing board I realized I never did iron and put away the dresses I made for Benjamin and Anne to wear to the Battle of Blue Licks.

These dresses were fun to make, although, due to not having a lot of time to make them I wasn't able to hand sew them as I ought to have. I resorted to my long-used method of sewing everything visible by hand and using the machine to sew all the hidden seams. Normally this works out ok, but the construction just IS NOT the same, especially after what I learned making my own 18th century dress. But for little kids who don't hold still long enough to examine any element of their clothing very closely, these will be fine. Plus, I used cotton for both gowns, pulled from my stash, and since that isn't the most accurate fiber choice in the first place I felt less bad about sewing them in a not-very-period-correct manner.

It was a little difficult to find many examples of extant childrens dresses to go off of. There are two patterns that I know of for childrens and girls dresses; the Mills Farm Child & Girls 18th Century Gown and the Larkin & Smith 18th Century Girls Gown. I have neither pattern and did not have time to order one and wait for it to arrive before the event we went to. So I looked at some images of original dresses, like this one from the Met Museum: (circa 1740, so a little early for my target range)
I opted to leave off the leading strings on my gowns. 

You can see here that the point is not attached at the front but kinda floats over the skirt. 
There were also some extant examples of gowns made without a front point; constructed with a round waist. This one from the National Trust Collections is circa 1770, closer to my target range, and has tucks, back lacing, and a round, straight waist.

The children's section of the 18th Century Notebook was also very helpful to me as I looked at as many originals as I could. 

The bodices all appear to be very similar to women's bodices, fitted with the shaping in the side seams, narrow shoulder straps, and elbow length sleeves fitted to the arm and with minimal fullness at the head. Children's dresses differ from women's in that they lace up the back, rather than opening at the front. 

With that in mind, I had Anne stand for a draping session and though she complained and wiggled and shifted her shoulders and hopped on one foot constantly, at last we managed to eek out a decent enough pattern for a basic bodice. It came out a little big, but I was hoping it would since she grows like a weed and I want this dress to fit next spring when we will have more events to attend! We ended up with a 3 piece pattern: a front bodice, a back bodice and a shoulder strap. Later, I made a pattern for a basic sleeve based on her measurements, rather than draping. 

For her dress, I used a length of green-blue striped cotton that I got at a fabric sale earlier this spring. Actually, the sale I went to was giving away all wool and "homespun" cotton lengths, so this fabric was basically free! I used about 2.5 yards for this dress. Going off of the image of a childs open robe as illustrated in Costume in Detail, I decided to make Anne's dress as an open robe with a matching petticoat. 
The Fruit Barrow, 1779
For Benjamin's dress, I used a remnant of blue and white check cotton from my stash. To make his a little different from Annes dress I made the waist straight. His skirt had to be pieced to make the little bit of fabric I had work for the style, but it's not very noticeable in the finished garment. I used the same pattern that I had draped for Anne as they are nearly the same size in the torso, but I squared out the waist a bit instead of making it narrower at the waistline. It just barely fit him, but next spring I can make him "big boy" clothes since he will be 5, and Rosie will be big enough to wear this blue dress. I didn't take the pictures of his dress until just a few days ago, so there is a mend in the skirt where he stepped on it and tore it. It did NOT have the mend originally. . .but I kind of like how it looks! It adds to an authentic, this-really-is-worn-for-everyday-life sort of feel.

So there are the first proper 18th century childrens dresses I've made! If you don't count the Boone Frocks, but those are basically glorified shifts. 😝

I hope you all are enjoying this last bit of summer!


1 comment:

  1. The more 18th C post I see, the more I want to explore the clothing of the period. My biggest heaitTion is that there is no opportunity to show it off around where I live. There are plenty of opportunities for the civil war era of the 19th C because of how our state came to be, but no connection to the 18th C. I am glad you mended the blue checked dress and showed it. I think people need to see that more.

    Ma. B


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!