Very few grown people understand the hardship it is to little folks to wear outgrown or clumsy or ill-fitting garments. Boys are not supposed to have their feelings greatly harrowed at the sight of handsomer clothes than their own. but even they are quite alive to the mortification of wearing shabby or ill-cut and ill-made coats and trowsers. The trial falls most severely upon little girls, and to them it is a bitter one, and just as hard to be borne as the afflictions of grown people are. With a keen eye for beauty, and often a natural or cultivated taste, a poor child is sometimes condemned to wear garments of such a hideous character that she loathes the very thought of them, and actually suffers the most acute morti-fication.
There are mothers who devote too much thought and time to dressing their children, and who, by words and acts, lead them to feel that to be fashionably and elegantly dressed is the great good of life. This is a lamentable mistake to make, but it is also a mistake for a mother to attempt to imbue her child with an indifference to dress or check the love of it by depriving her of tasteful clothes. An ugly dress draws the thoughts of the wearer to itself far more than a pretty, becoming one will, and a forlorn, ill-dressed little girl will grow up with a longing for finery that neat and pretty dressing will not often develop.
There is a good deal of work about making a dress, even if it is a small one, but it is very little more trouble to make it tasteful and stylish, and it is a pleasanter task to create a pretty thing than an ugly one. Like all other arts of the home dressmaker, it takes experience to make a success of children's dresses. Amateurs are apt to take fright at the dressy, elaborate styles now in vogue, but really there is nothing appalling about them with a plate or pattern to follow, and the most complicated are frequently the most easy to copy in old material, because the elaboration helps to disguise many makeshifts in the way of piecing and eking out scanty trimmings.
A dainty little miss we know of wears a dress for her "Sunday best" that looks as if it might have been selected from one of the shop windows. No one would suspect its being home-made, much less made mostly of a fabric no longer new. The foundation was a plain princesse form, cut from a thin lining, which, by the by, was originally a light calico morning dress of one of the older sisters. Among the cast-off clothes of the family were small portions of two very old silk dresses, one a fine black-and-white check, the other a plain dark brown. There was not in either enough in quantity to do much with alone, but combined there was sufficient to make a very good result. The silk was poor and thin, but it was carefully cleaned and stiffened, and wherever used furnished with a thin, coarse Swiss muslin lining. Long folds of the two silks alternating were put upon the front breadth perpendicularly, reaching from the throat to the bottom of the dress in the center. Across the back were narrow gathered ruffles of check silk bound with the plain brown. The upper part of the dress was of white Angora gauze flannel skirting, which was but twenty cents a yard, and resembled a summer camel's hair. The fronts were made in sack form, meeting over the long center plaits at one point only, about equidistant between the throat and waist, and cut away abruptly above and below. The back was long and looped over the ruffles with very graceful effect. The cuffs were of check silk, with brown bias binding upon the edge, and the deep round collar (almost a cape) was in the same order. The upper part of the dress was covered with brown silk that was too old and poor to be fit for any other use: but, under the polonaise, the worn places did not appear, and the flannel was so thin that it required a continuous color beneath to prevent the ugly variegated appearance that some silk and bunting toilettes present. The polonaise was edged with three rows of machine chain-stitching, done with coarse brown silk, and was not a separate garment, being sewed in with the shoulder and side seams, and buttoned in the back with brown buttons.
Another dress of the same little lady's was made from a pair of old Turkey red curtains, of the dark color and heavy quality of former manufacture. The dress was made with a full skirt gathered round the waist, with five rows of shirring. The blouse-waist was gathered in the same way. The deep collar, cuffs, wide belt, and the binding to two ruffles on the bottom of the skirt, were of Madras gingham in indigo-blue shades. The combination made a very quaint and stylish dress, and was modeled from a recently imported one of much more expensive material.
Another lady who prides herself on her ingenuity made a very neat cloak for her girl from an old pair of pants. The fronts and backs were cut of narrow pieces (it could not have been otherwise), with seams extending to the shoulder. The pockets and cuffs were in very good style, but not of the same material, which was a brown basket pattern. The upper parts of the sleeves were very presentable, but the under halves were curious mosaics of patchwork, telling something of the difficulty with which they succeeded in being sleeves at all; but n'importe, nobody - not even a child - voluntarily offers the under part of a sleeve for inspection, so its secrets need never be revealed.
In making over children's clothes, or elders' clothes for children, there is a double advantage in combining more than one material. Fresher parts of both can be used, and harmonious arrangement of colors diverts the eye from the want of newness that might be apparent in a plainer dress. In making use of diverse fabrics, there is, however, one all-important thing to be kept in mind - there must be a certain harmony in color and method in arrangement observed, or the effect will be disastrous. There are people with artistic tastes to whom the knowledge of what is fitting and appropriate seems to come instinctively, and they need no advice; but there are many busy mothers living so far from our great cities and so off from the line of travel that they have but little opportunity for cultivating their tastes or of seeing what is fashionable, and often but little time to give the subject much thought.