April 17th Thursday. Julia has been here to finish
my Foulard Silk it does very well now & looks
very well indeed after washing It has taken
her two days to cut & make the waist baste
the sleeves & sew on the skirt She is very
slow. Orinthia did not keep school yesterday
or to day on account of the storm It has been
a driving storm to day but not as bad as yesterday
The storm that took down Minot’s Light still raged today. Safely indoors, Evelina and Orinthia tended to sewing, joined by dressmaker Julia Mahoney, who finally finished the alterations on a silk dress for Evelina. Foulard silk was a popular, lightweight fabric – good for the coming warm weather – that typically featured a small print pattern. Used today for scarves, it could and can be hard to sew because it’s so thin.
Julia took longer to complete the outfit than Evelina thought she should, yet as Julia was probably paid by the piece and not by the hour, Evelina’s annoyance wasn’t based on monetary concerns. Perhaps her exasperation at the dressmaker’s deliberate pace stemmed from her own seasoned agility with needle and thread; perhaps she thought she could do the work faster. But Julia may still have been more skilled in the finer needlework required for high-end ladies’ dresses. Certainly the end result proved pleasing.
According to Godey’s Lady’s Magazine, “One might as well be out of the world as out of the fashion”. While North Easton, Massachusetts would never be in the running as a fashion center, some of its citizens cared about style and appearance. Evelina and her sisters-in-law did. They followed the fashions, via various periodicals and on trips into Boston, and dressed themselves as modishly as they could. As Evelina’s grandson Winthrop Ames later pointed out, “Every season there was a great remaking of old garments to bring them up to date.”
The remaking of garments didn’t preclude the production of entirely new dresses, either. But older clothes were made and remade to last as long as possible.