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Rate the Dress: Blue & Green should never be seen?

Last week’s Rate the Dress was an 1830s dress in red, and while it got a few mark downs simply for being from the 1830s (sigh) most of you thought the combination of the colour and trim was fabulous, so while a few very low scores dragged it down, it still managed an 8.3 out of 10.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done any children’s wear, and while that’s always a slightly risky proposition, ideals of how we dress and present children having changed a great deal over the centuries, I’m feeling daring this week.  Maybe last week’s red dress has rubbed off on me.

This mid 1880s ensemble for a young girl features a blue and white brocaded silk paired with a teal green taffeta, blithely ignoring the old saying about never pairing blue and green in dress.  The cut of the dress takes into account the young wearer: the simple silhouette would allow more ease of movement than one with a fitted waist, and would allow longer wear for a growing girl.  The details, however, are entirely in line with standard fashions of the time:  one could easily imagine an adult version of this dress, with a fitted waist, the double row of buttons framing an ever-so-tight bodice, and the long skirt basques cascading over a full bustle.

In addition to the standard view, LACMA has also styled it on a girl mannequin, though I must say that personally I don’t think it’s quite doing it justice.  She looks just a little short and small for the dress: like a little girl trying on her older sisters outfit.  There is something about the cut of the dress that makes me think of a girl just hitting the stage where she really stretches out, and gets quite tall and lanky for her width.

What do you think? Does the pairing of blue and green work in this case? And does the outfit do enough to take into account its young wearer (keeping in mind, of course, that this is clearly a formal outfit)?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

A sewing machine for 1916: meet my new (very old) Singer 27 series, VS-3

Among the many questions I’ve been asked about the Fortnight in 1916 project is ‘Are you going to be sewing like you would in 1916’?

Why yes, yes I am!

My goal is to make a blouse entirely as it would have been made at home in 1916, and to cut and start one of my outfits for Costume College (obviously, one that is 1916 themed!)

To do this, I need an era-correct sewing machine.  Meet my new, very old, hand-crank Singer Model 27:

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

She dates from 1893, and is version 3 of the 27 model.

Singer launched the 27 series in the mid 1880s, as the first of their machines to use the new vibrating shuttle technology.

A vibrating shuttle is a different kind of bobbin which swings back and forth inside the machine, instead of having the threads carried around the machine, like a modern bobbin.

So the inside of the machine looks like this:

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

That point silver bullet looking thing is the bobbin, and the arm that is carrying it swings back and forth in the undercarriage, making the whole thing vibrate as you sew – hence the name vibrating shuttle!

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

Because the bobbin case is long and skinny, the machine takes a totally different kind of bobbin, shaped like little tiny barbells, like so:

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

Obviously 1893 is a good 23 years before my experiment, but the 27 series was made and marketed as a lifetime investment, and they were still in production in 1916, so it’s very likely that many Wellington housewives of the 1910s had and used similar ones.

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

Mine may even have been used by a Wellington woman of 1916 – it’s certainly been well used and loved!

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

The 1893 date really appeals to me on a personal level too, because I’m pretty sure I got my first sewing machine in 1993.  I have and use one that is the same model as my first machine, so there is a nice symmetry to 1916 me and 2016 me and our machines.

As this machine is very well used, all its decals have worn off, but I can just see that it originally came with the Ottoman carnation decals – my favourite for this series!

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

In addition to being well-loved cosmetically, the machine needed a bit of mechanical TLC, so she’s currently in the shop getting tensions and bits adjusted, and I am holding my breath that all of that is going to make her sing (or, more accurately, whirrrr…whirrr..CAH-LUNK, which is the sound she should make) properly again.

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

I’ve got my fingers crossed that she’ll be fixed in time, because if not I’m going to have to get my 1903 Standard treadle dusted off, and honestly, that machine makes me want to throw things.  There is a reason old Singers are so valued as working machines while so many other older brands are not!  Ironically, it’s pretty much the opposite today, where modern Singers are pretty poorly made, rubbish machines.

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

Obviously, the big thing I still need to do with her is name her.  What do you think?  What’s a good name for an 1893 machine?

1893 Singer 27 series, VS-3, thedreamstress.com

UPDATE:  And she has a name!  Ladies (and occasional gentlemen), meet Harriet.

I started thinking about names as soon as I published the post – lying in bed turning over options in my head.

Like many of you, I noted the significance of the year 1893 as being the year New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the vote, so thought the name should tie into that.  While Kate Sheppard is the obvious choice, she’s been honoured with many things, and she was far from the only suffragette in NZ.  And how could I possibly go past Harriet Russell Morison, suffragette, tailoress, and vice president (and later secretary) of the Tailoresses Union, and general campaigner for the rights of women workers and the mentally ill?  Here she is in a photo from 1911.  May my machine be as awesome and hard-working as her namesake!

Friday night duckling party

I think we could all use some ducklings tonight.

Here are my parent’s latest batch of ducklings, two days old, playing in their water dish and having lunch:

Now that’s my kind of Friday night party!

(unless, of course, there is the chance to wear something spectacular, ridiculous and historical on offer.  Then the ducklings might be out of luck 😉 )