1851 July 7th This morning being washing day had to do the
house work and see about the dinner My finger
is still very tender and I find it difficult to sew
but I have cut of the skirt of my borage Delaine
for Harriet to make and this afternoon have been
working the sleeves to it Expect Julia here tomorrow
It was Monday, so Jane McHanna washed and hung out the laundry while Evelina swept, dusted and cooked the midday dinner. Her finger may still have been sore – what had she done to it? – but she did her chores.
She did some sewing, too, or at least she prepared to sew with Julia Mahoney, the dressmaker who was expected the next day. She cut the cloth for the skirt of a new dress, no small task. The barege she used, as noted in a previous post, was an open weave wool, lightweight and popular at mid-century.
In 1851, dresses were styled with very full skirts, some with flounces, that required upwards of 25 yards of fabric. Knowing Evelina’s instinct for thrift, we may believe that she probably settled for fewer flounces and less material. Still, even the simpler dresses with all their parts – skirt, lining, bodice, sleeves, undersleeves, pocket, collar, and any decorative element such as piping, ribbon or fringe – consumed significant yardage. Cutting out all the pieces took expertise and room to maneuver. Imagine the project spread out across the dining room table.
How did she convince her sister-in-law Harriett to help sew the skirt?
* Fashion plate from Godey’s Ladys Magazine, July 1851