1912 Dresses That Could be Made for One Dollar

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, January 4, 1912: Such a time as we had this morning. Ma was going to Milton and oh she had to make her train. Thought I might possibly be late to school with all her flying around, but I got there in plenty of time. I must be one of these early birds that you don’t like to hear so much about. I thought maybe she’d get me a nice surprise, but she didn’t.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What was Grandma was hoping that her mother would bring her? Might it have been a dress pattern and fabric to make it?

A 1912 Ladies Home Journal article showed examples of dresses that could be made for one dollar. (Yes, you read that right! $1. Money was worth a lot more a hundred years ago.)

Well-chosen material, neat sewing, and the careful adjustment of a dress are more to be desired than expensive material badly made up and carelessly adjusted.

This is easily demonstrated in the simple dress of blue dimity above, and you can readily duplicate it for one dollar. Pattern No. 6624, which is ten cents, requires in size 16 years five yards of 36-inch material at fifteen cents a yard, and buttons at fifteen cents. The lawn bow at the neck is not included in the cost, as every girl usually has such an accessory or can make one from fine lawn or net or from scraps of lace or embroidery in her scrap-bag. . .

“Would You Believe These Cost Only One Dollar?” (Ladies Home Journal, February 1912)

9 Responses

  1. Gone are the days when I sewed my dresses and my daughters’ with all the cheaper imports. So many outfits which photos bring back to life! But a dress for $1…that’s amazing!

    • I think that a dollar is now worth about 28 times what it was worth in 1912. $28 to buy the things needed to make a dress probably is reasonable.

      • I spent $93 on six yards of a cotton print, plus thee yards of a contrasting print to trim it with, and a piece of cotton knit for undergarments, to make a complete outfit for spring and fall. No, sewing is not inexpensive, but at least you can exercise your sense of creativity and make outfits that are comfortable for you.

  2. I have pictures of my grandmother wearing dresses like that. I wonder if she made them for $1.

    • I’m so envious of the way our grandmother’s could sew. It’s a skill I never really learned. I have a sewing machine and can do mending. When I was young I sort of knew how to use patterns–but the clothes never seemed to turn out right.

      • I used to sew a lot. I even worked sewing for pay for awhile and the clothes looked fine on me. I seem to have lost the knack though. I’m thinking it may be my present figure more so then my sewing abilities though. ;-P

        • I didn’t have much patience when I was young–and didn’t always align the pattern and the fabric grain; tear out mistakes, etc. I think that I thought that little mistakes wouldn’t be noticeable–but of course that’s not the way it works and the final products weren’t very good.

  3. My grandmother was right, a dollar did go far.

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