Hundred-Year-Old Fashions for Stout Women

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

Thursday, September 5, 1912: Ditto.

1912 Dress and Coat for Obese Women

Source: Ladies Home Journal (February, 1912)

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

Hmm—I guess that it was a slow week for Grandma. This is the third day in a row that she hasn’t written much. It seems odd. It’s the second week of the school year—and I’d have guessed that she would have been bubbling about the happenings.

In any case, I’m going to go off on a tangent . . .

Several days ago, a reader commented that in the old days that wealthy people were often overweight—or to use the term that was commonly used a hundred years ago, “stout.”

Her comment reminded me that the February, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal showed fashions for stout women:

Many distinctive features favorable for the woman who is included to stoutness of form are typified in the graceful, fringed wrap on the first figure in the group above. It is made of dull-finished black satin—for the stout woman will wisely pass by the more lustrous satins, which tend to accentuate plumpness.

A charming house dress for afternoon or for more informal evening occasions is pictured on the second figure in the group above. Here a soft old-rose satin is used for the foundation dress, brought into a subjection more becoming to the stout woman by the overdress of marquisette in the same shade.

1912 woman's suit

There is a pleasing fitness not only in the quiet colors used for the semi-dressy tailored suit, but also in the right placing of the lines of the coat and skirt for a figure inclined to overfullness.

Sweaters a Hundred Years Ago

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

Sunday, September 1, 1912:

What can be said of September,

Is very much I think,

But the thinking part is not with me now

Because my efforts so readily sink.

Went to Sunday School this morning. Took a slide on a bank coming out. Fortunately didn’t get myself very muddy. It’s raining now.

I have one cracker jack of a cold. Got the worst part of it yesterday going to the picnic without a coat. Hope it doesn’t last long.

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

Sounds like a miserable day with miserable weather—and a miserable cold.

Instead of wearing a coat during the cool fall season, I wonder if Grandma ever thought about getting one of the stylish sweaters shown in the September, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal:

The Autumn Sweaters

With the approach of autumn the new sweaters play a prominent part in the array of apparel for outdoor wear.

A very new idea for a coat sweater is the tailored model in ivory white (Number One), with cloth collar and cuffs embroidered in worsteds. This is very modish and is not intended for a general knockabout. The cap is of white cloth also, finished with an embroidered band.

The white sweater with the striped collar and cuffs (Number Two) suggests an appropriate style for outdoor sports.

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?

1912 Dresses That Were Worn with Gloves

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

Tuesday, July 10, 1912:  Went to Milton this morning to have my teeth filled, and was so fortunate as to only have three cavities. Also did some shopping besides. Got a pair of white silk gloves.

Dress, Ladies Home Journal, March 1912

Source of photos: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1912)

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

Why did Grandma need white silk gloves? She may have worn gloves to Sunday School, but it seems like a somewhat unusual purchase in the middle of the summer. Maybe there was an upcoming special event where she needed to wear gloves.

A Trip to the Dentist

Three cavities!—but Grandma seemed pleased to only have three. Grandma had gotten some teeth filled almost exactly a year prior to this date—on July 6, 1911 she wrote that she’d gotten several teeth filled. People must have had more cavities in the days before fluoride.

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?  . . . ???

Second Dress is Started

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

Sunday, May 13, 1912:  Ma got my dress on the go at last and I’ll keep at her until she gets it made.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (June, 1912)

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

Hmm . . This entry obviously is referring to the second dress that was mentioned in previous entries. (It’s not the Indian linen one that a seamstress finished).

Was the plan always for Grandma’s mother to make this second dress or had Grandma originally expected to make it herself?

On May 8, she’d written:

Did some sewing this afternoon. I have so many things to fix over and a dress I want to get made, but it is slow about getting there.

When I look at pictures of dresses from a hundred years ago they look like they would be complex to make. Maybe Grandma and her mother reached consensus that her mother could more skillfully do the sewing task.

More Summer Dresses from a Hundred Years Ago

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

Thursday, May 9, 1912: I brought my dress home today. It is an Indian linen trimmed with wide embroidery, edged on both sides. I think it is very nice. Of course, I intend to get a far grander one next spring.

Photo Source: Ladies Home Journal (June, 1911)

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

This dress must have been really special. Grandma mentioned buying it (or maybe buying cloth and a pattern to make it) in nearby Milton on April 27.  On April 30, she went “uptown” to get it made (or maybe altered)—and on May 7 she went back to get it fitted.

Did the linen really come from India? In the days before modern transportation, it seems like it would have been expensive (and unusual) to import cloth from Asia.

(It’s also interesting that Grandma wrote about wanting to make a dress in the previous day’s entry.  She was going to have lots of new clothes very soon. )

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