1913 Graduation Dresses

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

Monday, March 31, 1913: We had quite a time tonight as to having the play next Saturday night. Thought maybe it would end there and there would be no play at all. At last we came to a decision and the affair comes off on the fifth.

Took my dress up to get it made this morning.

1913 Graduation Dresses

Source: Ladies Home Journal (April, 1913)

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

A hundred years ago many girls apparently made (or had someone make for  them) their graduation dresses. The April 1913 issue of Ladies Home Journal had a feature article called “How Can I Make My Graduation Dress This Year?”

Two day’s previously Grandma wrote that she  got a graduation dress:

Ma and I went to Milton this morning. The chief object of which was the buying of me a graduation dress. It is a plain white batiste to be trimmed with lace insertion and edging

At that time it sounded like Grandma bought a ready-made dress, but apparently she bought cloth and a pattern—and then took the items to a seamstress who made the dress.

1913 graduation dresses

—-

It was less than a week until the class play. It sounds like the cast members (and maybe the director) were starting to get nervous. . . about lines not memorized, scenery not yet painted, costumes that still need to be sewed. . . or whatever.

16 Responses

  1. I love the way you interweave past and present, especially when adding news clips, magazine articles, or illustrations like you did here. It adds so much to the entries and gives us a window in your Grandmother’s world.

  2. It so much more personal that you have photos of what graduation dresses were like in that era – we know what Grandma’s dress was like!

  3. It so much more personal that you have illustrations of what graduation dresses would have looked like in that era! My, how times (and fashions) have changed!

  4. My Mom made some of our clothes when we were kids, and my sister also made some of her clothes when she got older. She won a lot of ribbons in 4H for clothing construction, including some at the State Fair.

    • Your comment reminds me of how much fun I had taking items to the local fair when I was a child–and how excited I was when I received ribbons. :)

  5. I can feel her excitement, both about the play and the graduation. The seamstress in town must have been very busy making these elaborately beautiful dresses.

  6. Ah, got it. Now I understand about the dress. Great image above–about making my graduation dress!!!

  7. OMGosh, don’t you wish you had the dress or the pattern? That must have been a bit of an investment and no doubt it would have had to be worn and worn to events that followed. I had a long dress at my Grad too, but that was ’79 yikes :D

  8. The graduation dresses are lovely. Can you imagine all the work that went into making a dress 100 years ago. I grew up learning to sew in 4-H and became proficient and sewed for many years – including wedding dresses, etc. I no longer sew – my career took over and it cost more to sew now than to buy ready made. It seems there’s something sad about that.

    • I agree that it’s sad how ridiculously expensive it has become to buy the cloth, pattern, and other items needed to sew an outfit.

  9. These are gorgeous frocks Sheryl…I’d have been happy to have one of these but I think the styles would have suited the slim woman the most. I agree with Seridegrom that it’s a shame the art of sewing has been lost and in my more socially-conscious moments I wonder at what cost to those who are forced to work for a pittance so we can have cheap clothes.

  10. They are super feminine dresses! Love that! Almost Victorian.

  11. [...] A seamstress in McEwenville was making the dress for her. In a previous diary entry, she described it a plain white batiste dress trimmed with lace insertion and edging. [...]

  12. It was unusual at that time for many to graduate. I suppose it had something to do with where they lived. I like the styles, definitely not one’s everyday dress.

  13. I love all the old articles you put up! The pictures are always so pretty, or interesting, at least.
    I can’t wait to see how the play turned out!

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