Here at Farmhouse Fabrics, we absolutely adore heirloom sewing. If you read our last post, you know that one of the reasons Farmhouse Fabrics even began is because Miss Sally fell in love with the Southern children’s heirloom dresses. But what exactly is an heirloom dress? The dictionary defines heirloom as “a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.” Now if that’s true, then how can you simply sew a new heirloom dress? “New heirloom” should be a contradiction! Well in sewing terms, heirloom refers to that style of work. It is called heirloom because each of these creations look as if they could have already belonged to a family for generations (and eventually most of them do!). Many of these incredible garments are passed down through families and become rich with memories and traditions.
We say that heirloom sewing is timeless and classic. But how timeless and classic is it really? Well, when a style can endure over 250 years then it really does earn the right to be called timeless. Let’s walk through heirloom sewing in the 1700s and beyond.
The Georgian Era (which includes the Regency Period) stretched from 1714 to 1830. This was the time of the American War for Independence, the Industrial Revolution, Jane Austen, and the well-known hymn “Amazing Grace”. Take a look at this portrait “The Sackville Children” by John Hoppner dated 1796. The children are all dressed beautifully and the little girls seem to be in matching dresses that look uncannily similar to our Miss Dot’s “Lace Clouds” dress!
The little Sackville girls are wearing white dresses out of a lovely lightweight material with what looks like ribbon insertion in the lower half of the skirt. Miss Dot created her own material for her dress by sewing together row upon row of some of our beautiful French insertions interspersed with our satin-centered organdy ribbon. The result is much the same as the Georgian dresses from 1796. Fabulous taste endures!
The Edwardian Era covered 1901-1910 and was the time of women’s suffrage in England, J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan”, and the first flight of the Wright brothers. Take a minute to sigh over the exquisite detail on these Edwardian dresses (photo found on Pinterest). The little white dress in the foreground seems absolutely identical to a pattern we carry!
The “Antique Toddler Dress” of Old Fashioned Baby by Jeannie Baumeister practically is that sweet little Edwardian dress-complete with round yoke and ruffles! Again, another example of enduring classics! (Side note: can you imagine if women still dressed like that! And we think it takes a long time to get out the door now!)
Post WWI, the Roaring Twenties Era brought about many changes in fashion. Clothing began to be designed for comfort and left behind the restrictive corsets that had even been worn by children in the bygone days. The “flapper” style definitely influenced children’s fashion. This sweet photo of a 1920s little girl (again found on Pinterest) reminds us of a lovely dress of embroidered Swiss voile made by one of our customers: Jane C (the dress on the right)!
The slightly dropped waistline of both the 20s version and the Farmhouse Fabrics version is an example of some of the “Jazz Age” fashion that is still around today!
Styles have come and gone through time. When we look at powdered wigs, whale bone corsets, hoop skirts, and other fashion fads we understand why they have faded away. But when we look at heirloom dresses, we can see immediately that this is a style that has endured and will continue to do so-even for another 250 years.