In reading over the ordinary articles upon children's fashions, one is constantly struck with the similarity of the materials advised for their clothing, to those used for grown people. There seem to be no especial fabrics reserved for their use. This fact should be particularly comforting to those whose circumstances compel them to prepare their children's clothing from their stock on hand, which stock is generally understood to be the worn-out dresses of mother and sisters. When there was a marked difference between the styles of child and adult, the wearing cast-off dresses of their elders was a real and bitter trial to little girls; but there is no trouble about it now. Nearly every thing that is wearable can be stylishly used under the present laws which govern fashion. Plaids and large figures, which might be grotesque in whole dresses, make very nice vests and trimmings to light up dull-looking costumes.
Old brown or black woolen dresses that have grown rusty and faded, but have capabilities of usefulness, can be refreshed by steeping in a weak decoction of logwood. Other colors in all-wool can be re-dyed at home with the ordinary family dyes. It should be remembered that it is much easier to re-color goods the same shade than it is to make an entire change of hue. It is best to match the color that the material was originally, and saturate it in the preparation, following the usually accompanying printed directions about drying, pressing, etc. It is a pity to spend time and trouble in making up dresses which will look forlorn in spite of the pains lavished upon them, when a previous re-dyeing would have made such a wonderful 3hange in their appearance.
The present very universal fashion of shirring dresses and trimmings is admirably adapted to make over old materials into children's clothes. Worn-out ruffles can be closely gathered, or gauged, as the term is, and all the holes and thin places made invisible by the process. If, for instance, a prudent mother has laid aside the flounces from some old skirt she has long ago taken for a petticoat or other use, she will now reap the benefit of her carefulness, and find herself able to make her child a dress at little cost. Let her cut a cambric skirt of a proper size, and cover it with the flounces, shirred at each edge with two gatherings, and a similar row through the middle. The shirrings may run around the skirt, and the lapping of the ruffles may be concealed by a row of galloon or velvet, or the flounces may all be pieced together before the shirrs are made. The gathers should be distributed evenly, and sewed firmly down upon the cambric.
Another mode of using the ruffles is to set them on the skirt perpendicularly; in this case, the middle shirr may be omitted in each ruffle, unless they are over five inches wide. If that style does not meet with approval, a puff (made of the flounces) may alternate with a close strip of shirring of equal width with the shirring all the way around. Again, if it is desirable to piece out a scanty pattern, it will do to make the lower part of the skirt of the ruffles closely shirred, and cover the rest of it with the dress material. Both waists and sleeves, or either one alone, or deep yokes and cuffs, may be entirely made of fine shirring, which, it will readily be seen, affords a fine opportunity for using up irregular-shaped pieces of old material, as it is of very little consequence how many piecings are put into any thing that is so closely gathered up, always supposing that the industrious toiler has time and patience to do the piecing. Unlimited patience seems to be the attribute of nearly all mothers, but time, the economical ones seem, alas, to have in but a limited supply.
It is cruel to condemn little girls, with their naturally dainty tastes and love for pretty things, to wearing ugly, ill-fashioned clothes; but even made out of such materials as this article treats of, they can be as pretty, if not not so durable, as if new material were used.
The subject of boys' wear needs consideration, for there is no direction in which the amateur's failures are so distressingly palpable as in boys' clothes. The unfortunate little sons of poor, industrious mothers too often are condemned to wear garments that give them a hopelessly awkward appearance. Growing boys, at their best, are not miracles of grace, but well-made clothes do wonders for them; and it is worth while for those who have the work to do to study to acquire the tailors' style of finishing garments, without which they are certain to have an uncouth, homemade air that condems them at once. It is quite possible to learn this art by a little practice and close imitation of the finish that is found on coats and other articles of tailors' workmanship. The secret of style in men's clothes is in pressing - not such pressing as people ordinarily do with the gentle gliding of a warm smoothing-iron over the cloth - but a vigorous bearing on with a heavy iron that takes all the patience and strength of the worker. The iron should be, as the phrase goes, "red-hot," and. the danger of scorching the goods averted by keeping an old wet linen cloth between the garment and the iron. Later, a finishing smooth may be given with a cooler iron, through a thin dry cloth, to take out the wrinkles sometimes caused by the wetting.
It is a great mistake to suppose that when a boy's garment is made from the cast-off one of a man it is not worth while to take much trouble with it, for the cloth is generally of a better quality than that commonly purchased for boys, and the worn portions can all be cut away by care in disposing the pattern.
Before appropriating cast-off coats or pantaloons of the father's to replenish the boys' wardrobes, the garments should be brushed well and ripped up; then washed through two suds made with warm water and very strong soap. For reliable colors, a little lye can be added to the first water. Do not twist, but stretch and pull the cloth, and fold up each piece tightly, and squeeze out the water by pressure, or put it carefully through a wringing-machine. Rinse again through two waters, with a little soap in the first, and press out the water as before. After all has been squeezed out that can be, hang the cloth in the air over a line, and when perfects dry roll very tightly in a damp towel, and leave for several hours, or till the next day; then iron on the right side, through thin muslin, running the iron over till the cloth is entirely dry. If there are any prominent grease spots on the garment it is best, before washing, to remove them with turpentine, potter's clay, or benzine. Stains can be treated (though not always with success) with a mixture of ammonia, camphor, and water. For example - say that a jacket is to be cut from a sack coat; having washed the former as directed, select the simplest jacket pattern and lay each piece upon the cloth in a position to make the fronts out of the freshest parts. If the wrong side of the cloth is best worthy to be uppermost, that should have been pressed instead of the outside when it was washed. Sometimes the sleeves of gentlemen's coats are made in one piece, with but one seam, and that upon the outside. Such sleeves can often be used for the back of a jacket, while the original backs and parts of the skirt can be used for side pieces and sleeves of the jacket. In tailoring work it is necessary to maintain a rigid adherence to the pattern. Where two pieces are to be joined, and one is longer than the other, it will never do to snip off the extra length, as some careless people do, but the longest side must be held in in sewing till the extra fullness is taken up.
In putting the collar on the jacket, care must be observed not to stretch or pull it out of shape; it should also be held full enough to turn over easily, and the seam should be pressed in the manner mentioned above. If possible, a jacket that has been made by a tailor should be made the . model for imitation in making one at home, and, till experience has made the details familiar, it should be referred to in putting in pockets, setting in sleeves, and at every step of the way.
Small pantaloons are readily cut from larger ones, and even where the latter are seriously impaired, it is still possible to make good new ones out of them. If the back is in holes, the thin part can be replaced by long gore-shaped pieces, such as are seen in army pantaloons, and a pattern for boys, called sometimes called the "cadet pants," can be procured, if such a device is needful. In cutting the fronts, try not to have the exact spot come at the knee that came there before, but have it above or below, as it will not "only wear out faster, but bulge out in an unsightly fashion. If the cloth is thin and loosely woven, or has had already a great deal of wear, it will be well to line the little pantaloons throughout. The fly should be lined with strong drilling interlined with canvas to give sufficient support for the button-holes. Short knee-breeches are much easier to make than long ones, and take such a small quantity of material that two pairs can be cut from one pair of ordinary-sized men's pants; but of course, after a certain age, all the king's horses and all the king's men would be a force insufficient to compel a little boy to give up his inalienable right to have his trousers as long as his father's; and happy the mother whose young son does not insist on spring bottoms, for that is a touch very difficult of attainment to any but an expert. In ordering a pantaloon pattern, it is less important to give the age of the boy than the length of his leg (measured upon the outside seam), as height varies much in similar ages.
The Ulster is a form to be recommended for the overcoat, where new cloth is used, because it is so long and large that the material can be made into other garments when its original form is outgrown.