Over a year ago I received an email out of the blue from a blog reader who had a small collection of 20s & 30s clothes that she thought I might like.
Would I ever! That lovely lady was Karen, and the day her box arrived was like all my birthdays coming at once (only without any additional wrinkles or grey hairs): silks and velvets and beading and lace.
The contents were a treasure trove of amazing pieces, in all my favourite colours and techniques. I photographed them right away, and have been meaning to share them with you ever since, but I’ve just been continually too busy this year.
I finally got all the photos sorted for one of my favourite items (who am I kidding, they are ALL my favourite items!) and was going to show it to you to coincide with the HSF Yellow challenge, and then internet in Vanuatu was too expensive to upload them.
So, a little late, but no less deliciously gorgeous, I present this 1930s/40s silk negligee in butter yellow.
(is negligee the right thing to call it? I mean, you can’t quite call something like this a nightgown, but I always think of a negligee as opening up the front)
The really interesting thing about this is that it is entirely hand-sewn, but it’s not homemade. It bears the label of ‘Leron / Fifth Ave. New York’
This (along with the silk) indicates that it would have been an extremely expensive and luxurious item in its time – practically couture (and true couture is still hugely handsewn). Once sewing machines became common, handsewing became a status symbol. L.M. Montgomery stories have a number of mentions of baby clothes or wedding trousseaus with ‘every stitch by hand.’
The stitching is beautifully done – fine, even and perfect. From the tiny piped bands that control the gathers of the bodice…
…And the perfectly even binding and minute gathers…
…To the pinstitching attaching the chiffon bodice to the skirt…
And finally, to the the tiny rolled hem…
…The sewing is clearly the work of a consummate needlewoman.
I suspect that the negligee may very well have belonged to a bride. There is something about the colours and cut that is very youthful and innocent. Other than her honeymoon or in a Disney fairytale where she’s bouncing out of bed to throw open the shutters and sing while birds perch on her outstretched hands, I can’t imagine when a girl would wear this!
Today you could easily wear this as an evening dress, or even a wedding dress, and with a slip underneath, few people would realise that it was originally little more than a slip itself!
And so turns fashion!
Thank you a million times to Karen for giving me this amazing piece to study and share. It brings me a little happiness and sunshine every time I think of it: the lovely yellow, and that long ago seamstress, making her living with perfect stitches.