What is a Guimpe?

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

Friday, August 15, 1913:  Ma finished a lavender gingham dress for me. I’ve had it for some time. I wanted to make it myself, but Ma didn’t want me to.

Dress worn with guimpe (Source: Ladies Home Journal--May 1, 1911)
Dress worn with guimpe (Source: Ladies Home Journal–May 1, 1911)

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

Grandma—How annoying that Ma wouldn’t let you make the dress! !! You could have done an awesome job on it.

Here’s the description of a lavender dress pictured in the May 1, 1911 issue of Ladies Home Journal:

 The lilac and white plaid gingham on the right is trimmed with strips of plain lilac gingham. The waist is cut in one with the elbow sleeves and is made ready to wear with a guimpe. The skirt has four gores, is gathered at the top of the side gores, and lengthened by a plaited flounce.

A guimpe is a blouse worn under a jumper or pinafore.  It also can be a yoke insert on a low-cut dress.

11 thoughts on “What is a Guimpe?

  1. What a wonderful word; guimpe. I have worn many a guimpe in my time. If only I had known it, at the time; it would have made those blouses much more interesting. I have worn gingham too and made dresses out of it.

  2. So if this were a novel, she’d put on the lavender dress, go shoot some photographs and run into the romantic interest she’s not confessing she has. I wonder at the way she puts things. “I’ve had it for some time.” Did she have the gingham for a while and Mom just got around to finishing her dress? Or has she had the dress for a while and just hasn’t worn it. If she had the new dress for a while, why didn’t she wear it to the Sunday School picnic. And why did her mother not let her make it? Did she doubt Grandma’s sewing skills or were there style issues Mother wanted to control. Your grandmother was so up in the air at graduation, then has gotten caught in the doldrums of summer.

    I’m so enjoying your posts, but if it were a book I were reading, I think I’d have to take a peek at the end to be sure everything turned out OK before I read anymore.

  3. It is still hard for mothers to give up mothering even when their girls are become young women. I never heard the word guimpe either and I wonder how such words just disappear from our vocabulary.

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