New Dress Finished

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

Wednesday, May 28, 1913:  My dress is finished and ready to wear whenever that time comes.

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Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)

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

Based on how quickly Grandma’s mother made the dress, she must have been an accomplished seamstress. On May 24, Grandma wrote:

Ma started to make my dress I got for a graduation present. I want it finished by May 30th.

Grandma’s mother made the dress in only 5 days! . . . and she beat the deadline her daughter imposed by 2 days!

Have Grandma’s plans changed?  On the 24th she seemed certain that she needed the dress by the 30th—now the dress is “ready to wear whenever that time comes.”

Can You Call the Cloth Used to Make a Dress, a “Dress”?

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

Saturday, May 24, 1913:  Ma started to make my dress I got for a graduation present. I want it finished by May 30th.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)

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

Sometimes Grandma worded things differently than I would.

If I had written the first sentence I would have said something like, “Ma started to make the cloth that I got for a graduation gift into a dress.” Instead it seems almost like Grandma was referring to both the cloth used to make the outfit and the finished product as a dress.

“Dress” can be used both as a noun and a verb–and has multiple meanings; but I think that the noun “dress”  had a broader meaning in 1913 than it does now.

This is the second time in the diary that Grandma referred to the materials used to make a dress as a “dress”. On March 29, 1913 she wrote:

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.

Then on March 31 Grandma wrote:

Took my dress up to get it made this morning.

Looked Pretty Seedy

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

Friday, April 25, 1913:  Had company a little while this afternoon. I am sure I looked pretty seedy.

Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (November, 1913)

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

Hmmm. . . Was Grandma wearing ragged, patched clothes? Was her hair a mess? Did she look any different from how she looked on other days? Why was she so self-conscience about her looks?

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.

Pictures of Several Hundred-Year-Old Waists Made From One Pattern

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

Tuesday, March 4, 1913: Today was quite an eventful day. Took my waist up this morning. We went up to practice this evening. I now think we are making some progress.

wils36346.d1This tailored waist is the foundation waist; the tucks in the front and back allowing ample material for the other waists illustrated.

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

When Grandma was young, blouses and shirts were called waists. What does “took up my waist mean?” Was she remodeling a waist or making a new one?

Maybe Grandma adapted a pattern that she’d previously used to make a new waist. Here are some drawings from a hundred year old issue of Ladies Home Journal that show several waists made from the same basic pattern.

Five Waists From One Pattern

To the woman who does her own sewing the advantage of a pattern from which several different styles of a particular garment can be made is obvious. It reduces materially the fitting problems and the need of studying the various parts of separate patterns. Once you have mastered the construction of the foundation pieces it is extremely easy to apply the various other pieces to make any of the five waists.

Ladies Home Journal (November, 1912)

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Practice referred to play practice. Grandma had the role of Chloe the servant.

Initiated New Gray Suit

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

Sunday, February 23, 1913:  Went to Sunday School this afternoon. Initiated my new suit by falling down. The wind blew my hat off and in racing after it, I fell when I went to pick it up.

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Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1913)

 

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

How embarrassing! Poor Grandma– I can almost picture a couple cute guys standing on a street corner in McEwensville laughing as Grandma chased after the hat and then fell.

The previous day Grandma wrote about buying the new gray suit in Milton.

1913 Shoe Styles

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

Saturday, February 22, 1913:  Mother and I went on a shopping expedition this morning. I doubted whether we’d ever get to Milton. The train was late, and it looked rainy. Ma got me a gray jacket suit, two waists, one is silk, and a pair of shoes which I think I will keep for graduation.

1913 shoe

All shoes from a Red Cross Shoe advertisements in Ladies Home Journal (April, 1913, October, 1913)

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

It sounds like a fun shopping expedition. The shoes must have been very special if Grandma planned to save them for graduation.

Grandma and her mother probably rode the Susquehanna, Bloomsburg, and Berwick train to Watsontown. There was a flag stop at the feed mill near their farm. They probably then took the trolley to Milton.  According to my father, Grandma used to call the train the Sweet, Bye, and Bye because you never could tell when it would come.

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