Antique 19th century children's clothing · Celebrations · Restoration and Conservation

Happy 198th Birthday Izannah Walker! – What to wear to the party?

You’ve just received an invitation to a birthday party!  What is the first thing that you think of???  “What am I going to wear?”

The dolls would like you to step back in time with them, as they show you what a little girl in the mid-1800’s would wear to a party. The dress they are showing off is one of my recent finds from the Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market.  It is the approximate equivalent of a modern girls size six.

Hannah and Isabeau carry the party dress out to the wash tub.
Hannah and Isabeau carry the party dress out to the wash tub.

First Things First

Before you can go to the party, you have to make sure that your best dress is clean.  Isabeau, Hannah, and Isane volunteered to do the laundry…

It was a hot day so the girls decided to do the wash in the shade of the apple tree.
It was a hot day so the girls decided to do the wash in the shade of the apple tree.
Zanna came along to pick up windfalls to make into pies.
Zanna came along to pick up windfall apples for pies.
“Hannah I think the water temperature is just right.”
“Go ahead and put the dress in.”
“Now we can let it soak, while we help Zanna pick up the rest of the apples.”
“What a perfect day!’ “I hope we have time to sit outside with our quilting later.” “Maybe if we hurry and get finished here we can find a little time to sew before dark.”

If you would like to know Isabeau’s method for washing antique textiles take a look back at this previous post (click here).

Time To Get Dressed

It’s almost time for the party to start, so you’d better get dressed. The girls have laid your clothes out on the bed for you.

Here is your freshly washed chemise and dress.
Here is your freshly washed chemise and dress.
Fancy scallops on the sleeves <3
Fancy scallops on the sleeves ❤
Every party dress needs lace!
Every party dress needs lace!
The dress fabric is a woven white on white cotton that has turned to a lovely pale ivory over time. All of the long seams are machine sewn, with the detail work, such as this tiny cartridge pleating done by hand.
The dress fabric is a woven white on white cotton that has turned to a lovely pale ivory over time. All of the long seams are machine sewn, with the detail work, such as this tiny cartridge pleating done by hand.
The back of the dress is fastened with large brass hooks and eyes.
The back of the dress is fastened with large brass hooks and eyes.
And what should little brother wear to the party? A blue linen jacket trimmed with black braid and brass buttons!
And what should little brother wear to the party? A blue linen jacket trimmed with black braid and brass buttons!
A close up look at the hand sewn c. 1850's boy's jacket. <3
A close up look at the hand sewn c. 1850’s boy’s jacket. ❤
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Inspiration

Last month, when I went to the Harwinton (CT) Antiques and Design weekend, I happened across this fantastic portrait.  At the time I had just spent several days painting scallop topped boots on what felt like an entire army of tiny feet and sewing yards and yards of gathered white ruffles and lace.  Finding this painting felt like the hand of fate.

Harwinton Antique Show Labor Day weekend 2011
Susan Wechsler at the South Road Antiques booth wrapping up the portrait for traveling.
Such a great find from a wonderful dealer. You can find Susan by visiting http://www.southroadantiques.com or write to her at southroadantiques@me.com .
This doll has been sold, but you may special order a similar doll of your very own.

We’ve hung the portrait in our parlor, so that she over looks the wing-back chair and Sheraton sewing table, where I sit in the evenings to do my hand sewing.  That way whenever my thread tangles, I have to rip out stitches, or just generally need a bit of encouragement, I can look up for inspiration.  This tiny girl is a gentle guide to the look and feel of long past childhood, that I strive to convey in all of my dolls.   I am so happy to have found her!

She looks as if she could have been a model for one of Izannah Walker's dolls.