It’s a delight to follow the evolution of hand sewing instruction from its earliest days up to more modern times – at least if you consider the 1930s modern!
Thanks to a friend who wanted to share her mother’s dress, I’ve had another chance to peek into a Domestic Economy class, this time in Brooklyn, New York, in 1934. The teacher was Miss Gimbel, and she must have been a wonderful sewing teacher – she was certainly very good at understanding what kind of project would please a girl of 13. Fluffy ruffles in dainty white, in a lesson she could wear to her graduation!
The dress needed a little TLC before it could show off. Although in excellent condition for its age, a bath was in order.
I’ve laundered a lot of cotton and linen over the years, and was hopeful that Anna’s dress could be restored. It was made of embroidered organdy and (of course) had been starched. Starch does not age well, in case you haven’t noticed! But a few days of soaking and a lot of water changes, and the frilly frock was refreshed.
Once again I was surprised to see how simple it could be to sew a garment by hand. I’m so accustomed to modern clothing with all the double-stitched and felled seams, finished inside and out, that anything else is startling. I’ve got sportswear so heavily reinforced that the stitches could stand alone if all the fabric were to melt away!
But not here. Anna used very simple basting, running, hemming, and gathering on plain and French seams. The ruffle edge was overcast.
You can see the neatly turned hem, and where she took greater pains with the collar binding than the much longer narrow hem, which I’ve folded up to show.
The armholes have a self-fabric binding, and the dress closes on one side with snaps. The basting thread is still present, perhaps serving to hold the placket in place.
Weekly sewing lessons from the first through the eighth grade were part of a public school education for Anna. Her work was neat and elegant, a skill to be proud of. I think she learned well and wore her reward for a very special occasion!
P.S. A special thank you to I.I.!
3 thoughts on “Anna’s Dress”
I am working on digitizing all of our family papers. I just came across a high school newspaper from 1941, where the girls were told their hems had to be 16″ from the floor for graduation, and they were complaining about “being sent back to 1920.” 🙂
Oh my goodness, that is too cute! I’ve come across a few old things referring to graduation decades ago, and it seems like it was a huge deal and very exciting to the graduates. I think my grandmother had special outfits for several different events related to it. But I don’t recall controversial dress codes!
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What a lovely dress— and a peek into a typical girl’s education ca. 90 yrs ago!
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