From The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility By Emily Thornwell (Pages 221-226)
General facts and rules to be remembered.—Some few things are true about the making of all skirts, through every change of fashion, and whether the dress be of the coarsest stuff or the richest satin.
In cutting off the breadths, be careful to have them all of precisely equal length; also see that regard is paid to the figure running up or down, when the breadths are being basted, previous to running them. This is a matter that is frequently overlooked, even by experienced dressmakers. The breadths should be basted or pinned securely while running them, because a puckered' skirt will spoil the appearanceof the most elegant dress. Commence running each breadth at the bottom, first measuring off a length of silk sufficient to prevent the necessity of making any breaks of any sort in the seam. Not one back stitch can be permitted, as it will show distinctly on the right side, especially if the material be stiff silk.
The fastenings of the dress should be sewed on with great care, so that they may last as long as the dress itself. Whalebones should be smoothly pared on the edges and ends, to prevent them from slipping out after wearing holes in the waist-lining.
Obtaining the materials.—First the materials for the intended dress must be procured, and it is advisable, whenever practicable, to get them all at the same time. The necessary requisites are the mate: rial, the lining for the body and skirt, wadding, covering, hooks and eyes or buttons, whalebones, silk and thread. These are all required for a silk dress, and most of them for dresses of other fabrics.
Cutting the dress.—Having thus procured the required articles, proceed to cut out the dress, first measuring off the number of breadths of the proper length for the skirt. These must be immediately sewed over the edge to prevent their ravelling out. If tucks are intended, a proper calculation must be made as to their width, previous to cutting the breadths.
Next cut out the sleeves by the paper pattern which you have previously provided. Double the lining and cut it out according to your paper pattern. If you design the sleeves to be cross-way of the cloth, see to it that it is cut exactly cross-way, as also should be the outside, or they will draw when the dress is finished.
Measuring and fitting.—The skirt and sleeves being thus prepared, proceed to take the proper measures for the front and back of the body, by fitting a pattern to the shape of the person for whom it is intended. This pattern may be of thick paper, or what is better, thin white cloth. Pin the straight edge of the paper to the exact front of the body, letting it lie smoothly as possible over the bosom, and extending as far as the shoulder, where the paper may be secured by a pin, Lay three folds of equal breadth under the bosom, for biases. Pin these carefully, as much of the beauty of the waist depends upon them Then pare out the neck, and arm, and cut off the bottom of the waist to suit your taste, with either a long or short bodice. Fold over an inch on the straight side of another piece of paper, and pin it up and down the back. Cut it to fit, and meet the front piece at exactly the side of the body. You will then have an exact pattern of one half the waist.
Cut the lining of the waist by the pattern thns obtained, and exit the silk material by the lining. It is not generally advisable to cut out the half of the back all in one piece, as it fits better with pieces joined at the sides ; they are called side-bodies; and this method should always be adopted, unless the lady has a very flat back; in that case it is best . to cut the half all in one piece.
Running or seaming the breadths.—Be sure that the skirt is quite full, as narrow skirts are now completely exploded. Fasten the edges of the breadths to your knee, or to a pincushion screwed to the work-table, to hold them firmly. Run the lining together in a similar manner, and fasten each of the outside seams to a corresponding one in it, after which overcast the top and bottom edges. An opening must be left in one of the seams for the pocket-hole, which must not exceed one quarter of a yard in length.
Having thus completed the skirt, to which flounces may be added, or into which tucks may be introduced, if deemed advisable (they seldom are in silk dresses), you proceed to make the sleeves, and trim them before stitching them into the waist.
Baste securely the parts of the waist and try it on, for the purpose of perfecting it as to its fit. Then cord the neck, arms, and other parts. Plain sewing is now all that is required to finish the waist ready to be placed upon the skirt. Turn the skirt in at the top till it is of the proper length, both behind, before, and at the sides. Gather or plait the skirt, according to the prevailing style in this respect.
Capes to dresses are often very desirable, made of the same material. They are very convenient articles; and no great art, though a proper degree of attention, is required to make them neatly. The lining is to be tacked to the silk or stuff, and the cape cut out by a paper pattern the size and shape required. Before taking out the tacking thread, a cord should be run in at the edges, and these latter are to be turned, and the fining sewed down firmly upon them. You now take out the thread, and ornament or leave the cape plain, as you please.
In making flounces, be sure that they are cut precisely cross-wise of the material, otherwise they will hang ungracefully. Sometimes fashion dictates straight-way flounces; they are more easily made than those cut cross-way, but are not so elegant, except as fashion rules.
Tucks, with or without open-work between them, have an exceedingly neat appearance, and are seldom out of fashion. They are especially proper in white and black dresses.
It is sometimes good economy to make the sleeve of a dress in two separate parts, so that the lower portion can be taken off at pleasure. For an evening dress this is found very convenient, as when the under part is removed, a lace can be placed upon the short sleeve, thus giving a very dressy and tasteful appearance.
Silk and other heavy dresses should be lined, but muslins and calicoes look better when hemmed at the bottom of the skirt.
It is a good plan to set a worsted braid around the inside of the bottom of nice dresses, of the same color, and projecting one quarter of an inch below the material. Much wear is thus avoided, and the braid can easily be replaced.
We have been thus explicit with regard to the minutiae of dressmaking, hoping that we might add many to the present number of ladies whose interest and pleasure it is to be their own dressmakers.