Fashions for Staying at Home, 1916 Style

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

Today was the first day of New Zealand’s lockdown. It will go on for at least 28 days. I work from home a lot, so other than Mr D being there, it wasn’t much different from many days: except I knew it was.

It’s night now, and I’m feeling a little melancholy. Mr D is out taking groceries to someone who can’t go out at all, and the stress of the last few weeks has gotten to me. I’ll get past it.

I know how incredibly privileged I am: we’re financially stable, we have a lovely warm house, a yard big enough to hang out it, and the lockdown rules allow us to go for walks in our neighbourhood. And it’s a pretty neighbourhood (pretty much all neighbourhoods in Wellington are pretty. It’s a very pretty city). But, like so many other people, I’m worried about family and friends, and grieving for those already lost.

For now, I’m going to keep doing what I do: working on ways to help practically, just working (because I’m still doing that – teaching costume history and pattern drafting over the internet for Toi Whakaari students, and working on Scroop Patterns, because I’m using the income from that to help friends & family out of work), and providing a space here to de-stress, and learn.

So, let’s do a little de-stressing, looking at some lingerie, negligée, and dresses for home wear from the April 1916 issue of Pictoral Review.

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

Dresses for home wear means that they were practical enough to do light housecleaning and chores in, and tidy enough to have informal friends over, maybe to pop over to a friends house or to the shops in a small town, but not nice enough to host a formal gathering, or to go into a larger town, in.

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com
Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

They were meant to be made up in practical fabrics. 6540 suggests black and white checked worsted wool for winter trimmed with satin and faille collar and cuffs, or gingham trimmed with blue & white linen collar and cuffs. 6530 is “adapted for serge and gabardine (both worsted wools) and wash materials (colour fast cottons that could be washed at home). 6629 is “equally good for home and street wear” in “serge or linen, dark blue gabardine, striped or figured percale (tightly woven cotton with stripes or patterns – geometric or floral), or plain chambray (cotton).

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

There’s also a maternity dress:

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

The dress uses elastic to gather in the waist and provide flexibility in sizing, and extra fabric at the top of the front skirt gorge, so that the skirt can be lengthened to go over an expanding bump.

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

Note that the fabric suggestions for the maternity dress are a little fancier: taffeta as well as serge, and trimmings in satin. With less patterns available for maternity wear they needed to be able to be made up as practical or formal options.

You might also enjoy some lingerie and negliée fashions, for your less formal home time. Plus, vacuum cleaner ads!

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

Check out these sweet corset covers and camisoles! And that cute nightdown with the lacing down the front.

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

You can see how the camisoles in 6662 would fit nicely under evening dresses with tiny sleeves. They could also be made as under bodices: the support structures that those dresses were built around.

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

There is also an apron dress (the forerunner of the hooverette), and a very fetching bathrobe. Note how the apron wraps around and fastens at the front left, so it could be slipped over another garment to protect it.

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

And finally, there are princess combinations, to fit under a slim fitting dress, and a kimono jacket to be made in “cotton crepe, flowered lawn, or Japanese silk”. I’d love to see the pattern piece for that – I suspect it’s very simple.

Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com
Pictoral Review, April 1916 thedreamstress.com

Hope you’re all well and safe in your own homes.


  1. nofixedstars says

    these appeal to me a lot more than slopping about in track suits or jeans, but i prefer dresses and skirts to trousers generally. also, my “work attire” is yoga pants, so when not teaching yoga i like to wear something flowy and pretty. i even teach some classes in salwar-kameez sets because i dislike athletic clothing so much. the little kimono over-jacket toward the end of this post is lovely.

    may we all stay well and contented in our homes. there is much to worry about and much to grieve, but as you observe, it is always a good practice to count one’s blessings. and to look at pretty frocks on the internet!

    • Elise says

      I concur. And you bring a lot of beauty and fun, and it’s always a pleasure to read posts. I do not sew, but I would happily sponsor a pattern for someone else so that you can help your friends.

      Nofixedstars….I agree utterly with you that I dislike dressing in athletic clothing. The Eileen Fisher Look” (Linen tunics over linen drawstring pants) is really compelling.

      And while there is so much that is scary, there is also so much love: Perfume companies and distilleries making hand sanitizer, High-end fashion houses making masks, musicians and artists performing on their balconies or via twitter for other people’s spirits. It is so neat to see.

      • nofixedstars says

        yes! tunics and flowing pants for the win when trousers are called for… nice to know there are others out there who understand my aversion to stretchy stuff. 🙂

        and you are right about seeing the wonderful responses of good people in action. truly encouraging! our local indian restaurant just messaged me to spread the word that if anyone needs food and is out of money (as many of us are out of work, and even formerly financially sound households are already feeling a strain), they need only order the food and say they would like ‘prasad’ and no charge will be made when they pick up the food. (prasad is the term for food offered to another as a gift from the divine, such a beautiful concept.)

        love is stronger than anything else.

    • I must admit that I adore pants, but not so much the athletic yoga versions! Big flowey ones, and softer ones with elastic around the ankles. Partly it’s because I live in a cold climate, and skirts necessitate tights for 8 months of the year, and tights are really just the worst kind of pants…

      • nofixedstars says

        oooh, yes. i do exempt a really well-cut pair of wide leg, flowy trousers, and i am very fond of the classic harem pants. i’ve been known to layer silk harem pants under dresses in very cold weather.

        • Julia says

          Have you ever seen pictures of Vietnamese ao dai? I know it’s not exactly a dress but I always think that they prove loose pants under a dress can be gorgeous.

          • Elise says

            Yes! Yes I have!!!!! Thank you so much for giving me the name, because I have spent a literal decade wondering what they were called. You are the BEST.

        • Elise says

          How are you describing the exact thing that I am wearing right now! You stylish psychic, you! (martial arts is done in plain cotton, and maybe I should just show up to yoga class in my gi! I bet I’ll be the comfiest! I had to look up salwar-kameez, and now I want 100!)

          “Prasad” sounds lovely, and reminds me a little bit of the Muslim Eid (or the pracatice during Ramadan, to give away break-fast dinners to the poor) Truly, so many wonderful and helpful ways that people are sharing their various gifts both historically and creatively. Thank you so much for teaching all of us that concept.

          I was about to write about what our family has done, and is currently doing to help. But nothing has been as glorious as the opera singer performing out of her balcony in gratitude for NHS worker in Britain!

          The stories of giving and supporting are all so varied and uplifting. Most of all, it is such a funny thing to contemplate that sitting out at home is actually the kindest thing that we can do…and yet it is.

  2. Oooh I do love the simple shape of the maternity dress! I always love a softly gathered shoulder. I hope you and yours are well, and that this passes quickly. Canada is not in lockdown yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we get one soon. Due to this concern, I went and moved back in with my parents, bringing enough craft supplies to keep me busy for a few months.

    • It’s really pretty isn’t it? I’m always a sucker for a sash, and the standing collar is so fabulous!

      Happy crafting!

  3. PepperReed says

    We’re under a Shelter in Place order here in Michigan USA, and our #s have started to jump higher. :^( We’re sorrowing at the loss of life across the globe and in our own community — an extended cousin’s husband is sick — still doing okay, but not getting better, so we are worried.

    I’m thankful that we can work from home and have a warm, cozy house, with enough space to get outdoors — it’s early Spring here, and the birdwatching is very interesting and the garden planning and bicycle rides are keeping us from feeling shut in, while still keeping social distance.

    I *adore* this era of clothing; there’s so much detail and unique style and it always seems to be very comfortable looking. I’ve been thinking on my Spring/Summer wardrobe and a dress like this would we wonderful and cool!

    • We’re expecting NZ cases to keep jumping for a while under ‘Shelter in Place’ as people who are incubating it develop symptoms. Hopefully it will die down a bit soon. I’m shocked to hear some of the stories of what is considered an ‘essential business’ in parts of the US though 🙁

      It is such a lovely era isn’t it? Great details, and not too extreme.

      Side note: I wondered where you were located, because I have an Australian friend with a similar name to yours, and it’s so unusual it always confuses me!

  4. At this time seamstresses are as essential as always and are making masks because there’s such a dire shortage of them. There are tutorials on the internet. I understand that you are busy supporting yourself and your family, but perhaps you could suggest this to some of your fellow seamstresses who have the time? That is, of course, if you have not already done so. Thank you for all that you do, I’m glad you’re safe.

    • Not all countries are calling for masks, and some health boards are explicitly recommending against them. As I have an international audience, NZ is not asking for them, and the Covid-19 authority I’ve worked most closely with STRONGLY recommends against cloth masks, I will not be asking people to make them.

      This is an international crisis, but managed in each place on a local level. Calling for actions and spreading information that is not universally supported is unhelpful, and I would feel it was actually irresponsible. Everyone needs to look to and follow the requests and guidance of their local authorities, not random influencers on the internet. The only things I will recommend and work to support on public scale is stuff that is universally supported and requested – like ‘Stay at home!’

    • Elise says

      theguardian.comIt certainly IS hard to give advice that will be helpful throughout our wonderful rainbow diverse world. If it would be helpful for you, the Guardian has a whole column on doing good, and there is regional variance. You seem like a neat person who has the energy and skills to help! What a wonderful audience has been built at The Dreamstress.


  5. Ooh, how lovely! I’m not keen on Edwardian fashions generally (it’s those S-bend corsets) but for a bit of elegant (corsetless) lolling about the house these look grand.

    Unfortunately there’s not much lolling going on in our bubble as we have all our usual work (we both work at home) plus all the extra work of building/strengthening contactless networks with family, neighbours, church etc. Like you, it’s life mostly as usual, except not.

    • This is late Edwardian! The S-bend is gone, gone, gone! It’s all upright slim line silhouettes. Maybe that’s why you like it more 😉

      The only one lolling in our bubble is Miss Fiss (who is currently sleeping on my feet). It’s full time work for Mr D & I – and rearranging our house to accomodate that. So work +

      Stay safe <3

      • Alas, upright slim-line silhouettes are built on very different lines to my figure, but they’re nice to look at all the same! Whereas the full-on S-bend just makes my back start sympathetic ouch.

        A nice warm foot-cat seems like just the thing on a chilly day like this. Both our cats seem to want to sit on my husband only, alas.

        Stay safe yourselves! and enjoy your catted haven!

  6. Sue says

    I love this period of fashion. The dresses look comfortable and feminine. What a relief it must have been to the women of that day to move away from hobble skirts and into something they could walk in! (Though I do really like the hobble skirt silhouette as well.)

    And, as a woman of a certain age whose – ahem – charms are rapidly heading South for the winter of life, the low bosom of the ‘teens also appeals to me. I’d love to see that become trendy again, because I’m already rocking that look.

    • I love this period of fashion too! I don’t find hobble skirts at all uncomfortable if you’re just being a lady of leisure, but they certainly weren’t practical for any chores. You cans see why they fell out of favour!

  7. Ever since this pandemic started (or at least since it became real for me), I been thinking that I need, need, need a late teens dress.
    Maybe it is the whole 1918 connection or something.
    But, the teens is something I know zilch about, fashion-wise.
    I’ve poked around a bit on Google, but searches always bring up fashion plates and starlets. And, I’m kind of like “Nope, not wearing that to work in the garden. Where are the real everyday clothes? (Insert frustrated sigh)”
    So, Thank you for posting these lovely and practical dresses. It helped me a lot, to visualize what real folks wore on a day to day.
    6540 is definitely my favorite.

  8. Christina Kinsey says

    The dresses look really smart, the kind of style you could wear today. I could see them as smart work dresses, black and white check with a satin collar would have looked good. In a previous job as a county court usher, l had to keep to a neutral dress code, so that would have been ideal with some comfy black ankle boots to cope with all the walking involved….Then again, once the fabric shop are open….

  9. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    That nightgown: 6658 is almost identical to a 1970s casual tunic pattern I have – laced opening, big 1970s open collar, very straight lines.

  10. Sue says

    I’m surprised how size inclusive some of these are – up to 50” busts in some cases. All lovely, thanks for putting together a gallery for us.

  11. Thank you for this post, lots of ideas to consider for the Timetravelling Garments HSM challenge!

  12. Cirina says

    Hmm, I like the dark pinstriped one.
    Our country went to “stay at home” mode two weeks ago, so home dress is what I really need.

  13. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    OH, I just noticed the small views!

    Nightgown 6371 would be easy … 4 triangles overlapping for the bodice with ribbon ties at the shoulders. Gather the skirt into a connecting waist band or the bottom of the triangles. And it’s DONE.

  14. Gillian Stapleton says

    Thank you Leimomi. Your posts are a delight to read and cheer so many peoples day. I live in the UK and we are on our second week of lockdown. Every Thursday night at 8pm, everyone comes out onto their doorstep, into their garden or yard or to their window and applauds the essential and health workers who are keeping the country running. Some bang pans together or let off fireworks! Tonight, the two babies opposite were clapping and waving to me as I applauded. Amid the fear and gloom, there is always hope and joy. xx

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