Hundred-Year-Old Tips for Making Skirts

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

Friday, June 7, 1912:  I’m trying to make a skirt, but the end thereof is rather dubious.

Source: The Dressmaker (1911)

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

On June 3 Grandma mentioned that she was trying to remodel skirt that had been her sister’s. I assume that she was still working on it—and that it wasn’t going well.

I wonder if she had any books or other resources to help her figure out how to alter the skirt.

A hundred-year-old book called The Dressmaker had lots of suggestions for making skirts. Here are a few tips:

  • Tucks and plaits must be evenly arranged and the space between them must be the same.
  • In skirts where few gores are employed, particular attention must be paid to the correct position of the lines, in order to keep the plaits perfectly even.
  • The skirt must be joined to the waistband and the material between the plaits properly disposed, so that the plaits themselves will have a uniform appearance.
  • Before stitching the waistband, the skirt should be tried on, and, if necessary, alterations made. It is then folded over the edge and hemmed down.
  • The hooks and eyes are sewed on securely;  the hooks on the right-hand end of the waistband and the upper fold of the placket, and the eyes on the corresponding position on the opposite side. The hooks should be one-eighth of an inch back from the edge, and the eye on the top touching the seam of the skirt. [Comment--Until I read this, I hadn't thought about the fact that zippers were not used a hundred years ago.]
  • A hem, two or three inches deep is the usual finish of the lower edge of skirts.

The Dressmaker (1911) by the Butterick Publishing Company

7 Responses

  1. I love that you have 100year old books like this one, Sheryl. Where did you get them? …

  2. Your grandmother has a wry way with words.

  3. I’m with Kristin~ very droll!

  4. I really do love Helena’s word usage — did she write when she was older?

    • I enjoy it, too. Except for writing letters, I don’t think that she wrote when she was older. I’ve seen a few letters written to Grandma in later years that referred to letters that she’d written to the sender; but don’t have any she wrote.

  5. [...] June 3, 1912, Grandma wrote: I am trying to remodel a skirt which was once the property of the benevolent [...]

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