Hundred-Year-Old Dresses: Front and Back Views

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

Thursday, May 16, 1912:Oh dear today was one raining day. My dress is finished, but such a time as Ma and I had to get it so. She made it and I did the bossing. If I could have a good pen my writing might look some better.

I noticed that there were small line drawings in the old Ladies Home Journal (June, 1911) magazine that showed the back of several of the dresses that I featured in previous posts, and thought you might enjoy seeing both the front and back of the dresses.

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

Yeah, the dress was  finished! Grandma mentioned the dress at least three times during May.

May 8: Did some sewing this afternoon. I have so many things to fix over and a dress I want to get made. . .

May 13: Ma got my dress on the go at last and I’ll keep at her until she gets it made.

May 15:  We had sort of a sewing bee. Ma worked on my dress . . .

What could  Grandma and her mother have disagreed about regarding the dress?

In other words, what stylish features did young people like a hundred years ago that their mothers  thought were inappropriate or didn’t think looked good? . . . tight bodices? . . . shorter dresses that exposed ankles?  . . . low necklines?  . . . ???

15 Responses

  1. Maybe she will tell us about the first time she wears her new dress…After fabric, notion choice, I would think the fit of the dress would be important to a young lady. The dresses of grandma’s day showed off a small waistline, that probably was important to grandma… My mother and I disagreed on length and fit.

  2. Oh so styllish! :) Your Grandmother must have been so happy to finally be finished with the dress. She was a busy one…school, exams, sewing, milking the cows…whew! And keeping a diary…comparable to writing a blog! I’m sure she wore it proudly!

    • Yes, I bet Grandma wore it proudly. She did seem please with how the dress turned out.

      I like the comparison of a diary to a blog.

  3. Poor mother! I hope your grandmother didn’t do too much bossing :-P

  4. Helena is such a typical teenager, isn’t she, the way she says she did the bossing! That sounds like something my daughter would say, and (try) to do!

    Thinking about what Helena and her mother could have disagreed on, I remember once having a dreadful row with my mum, over colours. I liked particular shades of blue and green together and she didn’t! Do you know if there was a variety of coloured fabric available back then? Or did they only offer the ‘safe’ basic colours?

    • There were a variety of colors back then. I’ve definitely seen advertisements for calico cloth in hundred-year-old magazines. And, (while it’s not cloth), I have a vague memory of an advertisement for RIT cloth dye.

  5. [...] previous day’s diary entry referred to a disagreement with her mother over a dress that her mother was making for her. My take [...]

  6. [...] we now know a little more about the new dress. It was [...]

  7. I’m no fashionista, but I do like these 1910+ dresses. Very elegant and stylish. Not that I’d have liked to wear them necessarily. I remember my mother was insistent that aqua and purple didn’t “go”….to this day I love that colour combo….all a bit feminist. Yeah!

  8. Well, it may be just that the fashion times were a-changin’ at this time. Just a few years before your grandmother’s dress was made, the skirts were wider, and the necklines were sometimes extremely high. If your grandmother had chosen something like the second dress shown above, there could have been a disagreement about her showing too much, even though by our standards now, we would consider these fashions very tame.

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