100-Year-Old “Everyday” Dress Pictures

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

Tuesday, August 6, 1912: Ma cut out a dress for me or rather a part of it. When it’s finished I suppose I’ll wear it to school.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1911)

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

Grandma was going to begin her senior year at the end of August. I bet that she wanted to look really nice for this special year.

Did Grandma think that the dress her mother was making for her was stylish? . . .or was it just going to be a run-of-the-mill everyday dress?  Did she select the pattern and fabric—or did her mother do it?

20 Responses

  1. Thanks for this post. It brings back memories of watching my Mom and later my sister cutting out patterns on the dining room table. We wore a lot of homemade shirts when we were young.

    • Your comments reminds me of how my mother-in-law used to make my son homemade shirts out of cloth remnants when he was small. At the time, it seemed old-fashioned to make the shirts–now I realize how much love she put into those shirts.

  2. She doesn’t sound too excited, but I know she has that droll, teenager way of expressing herself :) I love both these dresses, but I’d sure hate to make those button holes!

    • I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re absolutely right, it would have been a lot of work to make those button holes back then.

      • Actually they had buttonholers back then. I have a 1893 singer treadle that has an attachment for button holes. It is a neat little gaget. It is not hard to work at all.

        • Wow, I never would have guessed that button-holers have been around that long. Sometimes I’m amazed how technologically advanced some things were a hundred years ago.

  3. It doesn’t sound like she participated in any of the selection process. Maybe when it was finish, she enjoyed wearing the dress.

  4. Too bad photography was not like it is today, I would love to see her dressed in those beautiful dresses. Even the every day dresses were very elegant. While we are oohing and aahing over the idea of her dress, I am sure to her it was nothing too special. I can’t wait to read about her senior year. Blessings – Patty

    • I have very few photos of Grandma and her family when she was young. It’s kinds of amazing how we now can easily take so many photos that it’s hard to keep track of them–while a hundred years ago, photos were a rarity.

  5. I really fancy those nautical inspired frocks in 1911, especially the little ‘sailor-like’ collar on first view. That would absolutely go in my closet, all be it much shorter.

  6. My Keyes kin write about their mother looking at the magazines of the day, and then cutting out a pattern to match the dress in the pictures. I wonder if Helena and her mother made patterns that way, or did they buy patters– hmmm.

  7. I think the styles are rather delightful.

  8. I would like the dresses for today with a shorter length of course. I don’t think it’s too hard for an experienced sewer to make a dress like one seen in a magazine. I am an experienced knitter and I can make most of the things I see in magazines without a pattern :)

  9. Hi Sheryl. Great post – and comments! This brings back memories of my grandmother making clothes for us. Funny how some lengths are getting longer again, even if the clothes have much simpler lines!

  10. [...] Three days prior to this post, Grandma wrote that her mother was making her a dress for school, and I posted hundred-year-old drawings of dresses with lots of buttons. [...]

  11. Funny how it takes forever to scroll down to the feet of those drawings. Tall ladies were an ideal in the fashion industry even back then.

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