This section is from the "The Ladies' Work-Table Book: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America" book, by Margaret Vincent. Also available from Amazon: The Ladies' Work Table: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America.
These are made of a great variety of materials, as silk, muslin, cambric, lawn, and net. The neck handkerchiefs are generally a half square, and are hemmed all round. It is a good plan to turn up the extreme corners, as it makes it more strong and durable. A tape is set on, which comes 'round the waist, and ties in front. Sometimes a broad muslin hem is put on the two straight sides, which looks extremely well. Some ladies work a border to their neck handkerchief, which gives to those made of net the appearance of lace. Pocket handkerchiefs are neatly hemmed, and sometimes have a worked border. Those used by gentlemen are of a larger size than those of ladies.
These are not only useful, but indispensable articles of dress. Fine flannel is the best, as it is most durable, and keeps its color best in washing. The length of the petticoat is regulated by the height of the person for whom it is intended; and the width ranges from three breadths to one and a-half. The bottom is hemmed with a broad hem ; and the top is gathered, and set on to a strong band of calico, or jean, leaving the front nearly plain. Sometimes a button hole is made, about two nails from the ends of the band, to which strings of tape are attached; these are passed through the opposite holes, and the parts thus brought over each other form a kind of bustle, which makes the garment sit more neatly to the figure. A slit of about four nails is left on the back which is hemmed round, or bound with a strong binding.
Petticoats are worn under the dress for the sake of warmth, and also to make the gown hang more gracefully upon the person. They should have three or three and a-half breadths of the material in the width, and the bottom is made with a broad hem three nails deep, or with tucks or worked muslin. The latter is extremely neat. They are to be set on to a strong band, or stock, and are to have a slit left at the back about four nails in length. The skirt may be gathered full all round, or only at the back and front, leaving the sides plain; sometimes all the fulness is thrown to the back. Having shoulder-straps to keep up the petticoat, is a great advantage ; but they are unnecessary if a waist, or body with or without sleeves, be set on the band. In this case the body should be made to fit as tight to the person as possible. The band is generally about one nail in breadth. The materials proper for petticoats are dimity, calico, cambric, jacconet muslin, calamanca, stuff, etc. What are called middle, or under petticoats, are made in the same manner. Those ladies who pursue the laudable practice of nursing their own infants, and who wear petticoats with bodies to them, have them open in front.
This is a useful article of dress, especially in large families. Holland is the best material. For an open one, one breadth is sufficient. Double the pinafore into four, and cut the arm holes to the required depth in the two side folds, so that half will form the front. The neck is to be hollowed out about a quarter of a nail in the middle, and the pinafore is to be set on to the neck band, which fastens by a button behind. Sleeve lappets are attached to the arm holes, being gathered near the edge, and set on before the arm hole is hemmed, so that when the edge is turned down no stitches will appear. The lappet is a second time to be gathered at the edge, and sewed down as fast as possible. Then hem the other edge, and conceal the stitches with silk braid that will wash. A small gusset put into the bottom of the slits is an advantage, as it makes it stronger. They are to be fastened round the waist with a band, or with a strap and buckle. The latter is most to be preferred. For a close pinafore, two breadths of Holland, or other material, will be required. It is seamed up at the sides, leaving slits for the arm holes, and has a collar and sleeves; as also a band to go round the middle of the wearer. Neck gussets may be introduced, but the much neater way is, to double the pinafore into four, and let in a piece at each shoulder, about a nail wide, and two nails in length, gathering each quarter from the arm holes, into the pieces so let in, and felling similar pieces on the inside of the shoulder. The two middle quarters are to be gathered into half the collar, and the hack in the same manner. The sleeves are made with gussets like a shirt, and are gathered into the arm holes. A slit is made at the hands, and the bottom is gathered into a wristband about an inch in breadth.
These are made of any kind of material you please. You take a piece of double, and cut it to the shape required. Stitch the two pieces neatly round, a little distance from the edge. Then turn it, and let the seam be well flattened, and back stitch with white silk a quarter of an inch from the edge; cut a slit down about four nails, which is to be either hemmed, or have a tape laid round it on the inside. Set on the strings, and the pocket is complete. Some ladies have pockets attached to the petticoat. In that case, it is only a square of calico, about ten nails long, and eight broad, set on to the inside of the petticoat, as plain as possible.