Civil War Era Fashion Chit Chat - April 1864 Godey's Lady's Book
Chitchat Upon New York and Philadelphia Fashions for April
Spring comes slowly on, but she betrays her presence even in March, with here and there a brighter color or a sweeter hue. As the month of violets opens, these indications increase until on some fine April morning Broadway bursts suddenly into a moving parterre of beauty.
The store windows now present to the passers by a choice assortment of piques percales, and brillantes in the soft creamy and pearl tints, besides every variety of green, cuir, lilac, and buff. Some are covered with strange looking geometrical figures, while others are powdered over with brilliant tiny plumes.
Most of the robe dresses are printed in lace-like designs; some having bands resembling an insertion, with an edge on each side; while others have barbe-like pieces arranged in fanciful designs. Another beautiful style has a deep band of a different color, with the upper edge scalloped, laid, or rather printed on the extreme edge of the skirt, and above this a very beautiful braiding design. The same design, in reduced size, is on the Zouave and sleeves.
For children, the goods are generally in white grounds covered with a delicate tracery of buds and leaves.
For promenade costume, there is nothing yet strikingly novel. We see many dresses mane en suite, that is, dress and mantle alike. The principal colors are the different shades of mahogany, the lovely soft grays, and the so long fashionable cuir color. The suits are generally trimmed with chenille fringes, flat trimmings, and bias bands of plaid material, also plaid ribbons arranged in a variety of ways.
Double and triple rows of fringe are worn on silk dresses, and lace insertions are still worn. Indeed, the richest dress we have lately seen was a black silk, with a wide thread lace insertion over a white silk band with pinked edges, laid round the skirt, and carried up the front in a fanciful design.
Lasy tear we spoke of dresses waved on the edge of the skirt, but this season they are cut in deep scallops, about the width of the hand, and bound with the same as a contrasting color.
A hint now to the economical. When your dress is soiled on the edge, cut it off and scallop it. Then underneath the scallops sew a piece of some material to make it the desired length, and cover this with one or two ruffles. The scallops must be allowed to fall partly over the ruffles, and the effect is exceedingly pretty. It is an excellent method of renovating an old dress, or a pretty style for a new one.
Some of the newest dresses have a chenille fringe, a box-plaited ruffle, or rows of black lace shells arranged on the skirt to resemble a tunic, being quite long behind and short in front.
Foulard is greatly in favor for entire suits including the parasol.
The Directoire body is one of the fashionable styles. It fits the figure closely at the waist, is open in front, with revers, like a gentleman's vest, and is fastened at the left side. The revers can be faced with either a plaid, or high-colored silk. The waist has a jockey at the back, and the whole is trimmed with long, hanging buttons.
A very elegant morning robe is cut like a casaque in front, and is fitted to the figure at the back by a large box-plait. A pretty trimming for this style of wrapper consists of straps of silk, which commence at the throat, narrow to the waist, and enlarge as they descend to the bottom of the skirt.
A very pretty suit for a little girl can be made of buff mohair, and trimmed as follows: The skirt should be cut in deep scallops and bound, then turned up on the right side like a hem, and a fancy button sewed on each scallop. A circular cape trimmed in the same manner completes a very simple and pretty promenade dress.
In plaid silks there is somewhat of a novelty. It consists of a small golden-colored dot in each square of the plaid, which gives it a rich and striking effect.
Jockeys assume a variety of forms. Sometimes they are in three pieces a la postillon, the centre one being the longer. Sometimes they are square and box-plaited in the centre, and fastened down with buttons. Others again have but one long point, while others are swallow-tailed.
Dresses are still made buttoned down the left shoulder to the arm, and from thence crossing to the right side of the waist.
Besides the numerous plaid wraps at Brodie's, we find an admirable assortment of plain cloths. They are of the Spanish cafe and the cafe au lait, in all the different shades, besides a great variety of grays, generally on the pink tinge. Many of the cloths have a bias stripe of two threads crossing them, which is quite pretty. The casaques and rotundes are trimmed with flat chenille trimmings, fringes, drop buttons, and bead gimps.
Water-proof cloaks seem now to be a necessary article in a lady's wardrobe. They are generally made with the quaker style of hood, which can be pulled over the bonnet. They are buttoned all the way down the front with large black buttons stamped with butterflies, snakes, birds, grasshoppers, and other devices. The newest water-proof we have seen had a long pointed hood, a regular capuchin, trimmed with a box-plaiting of the material and two long silk tassels.
In bonnets we see a great avriety of colored chips trimmed with ribbon to match or a good contrast. The fashionable flowers seem to be the elegant scarlet cactus, in bright, soft shades of velvet, which gives it a peculiar lustre, magnolias, water-lilies, and geraniums. Bright flowers, with brown grass and heather, have an excellent effect in the caps of bonnets which are trimmed with plaids.
Black crin, or horse-hair bonnets, are very much worn, and the new color Milan, which is between a salmon and a corn color, looks particularly well on them. Roses of this color, with scarlet berries and black ribbon, make a very stylish trimming.
Another new color is called flamme de punch, from its resembling the bright, flickering light from a punch bowl. This color is particularly pretty for a white straw or chip bonnet. Amethyst is also one of the new colors.
Black crins also look well trimmed with feathers having plaid tips. This is arranged by tipping each little feathery strand with a different color, which produces a plaid-like effect. Another style of trimming for a black bonnet is a green and blue ribbon or velvet, and peacock's tips; the last being very fashionable for children's hats, for head-dress, and for the trimming of ball dresses.
Tufts of feathers studded with jet, steel, and crystal, are much in vogue for bonnets and headdresses.
Travelling bonnets are made of silk to match the dress, or of colored straw. They are very much trimmed with chenille fringe, tipped with large beads falling over the face and crown.
Children are all wearing hats, and the newest trimming we have seen is a band of velvet or ribbon round the crown, with a falling bow at the back. This bow is not fastened on the hat, but depends from the ends, which are apart at the top and are joined below the brim. Many also are trimmed with straw ribbons ornamented with a narrow design in black, also straw ornaments, such as oats, lilies of the valley, fringes, buttons, and straw tassels. The prettiest flowers are poppies, daisies, hops, corn flowers, buttercups, and bright berries.
We notice that parasols are a shade longer than last year, and are trimmed with leather, lace insertions, and beads. The trimmings are all laid on the parasols, and not allowed to fall over. The handles are carved wood, either oak or walnut, or a light transparent ivory resembling tortoise shell.
Linen sets are now being relieved by an edging of Valenciennes, which renders them much more becoming. As yet no new shapes have appeared.
A very pretty and simple headdress for a young lady is formed of two bands of plaid velvet round the front of the head, and a large bow at the left side. One band only passes round the head, and in this is an elastic so that it may be arranged high or low to suit the coiffure. Thick gold cords are frequently entwined in the hair with good effect.
Young ladies are still wearing the front hair either in rools, double rolls, or crimped. The latter, though pretty, we would not advise as a permanent style, as we consider it very injurious to the hair. The back hair is arranged either in waterfall or Grecian style. The latter, we may say, is the rage. As all our fair friends are not endowed with curly locks, and curly papers are certainly neither graceful nor tidy, and pinching the hair is decidedly not a tonic, we would advise them to have a false Grecian. These are exceedingly pretty, and fastened on a comb so they can be arranged in the hair without any trouble.
In bows there are a very great variety of style. The white ones are quite small and ornamented with applications of bright-colored silk or velvet chain stitched on in points and other designs.
For young ladies we particularly admire the French muslins dotted in colors: these are very suitable for a party dress for a miss, and can be worn throughout the summer, always looking fresh and pretty and much more suitable than a trimmed dress.
A very elegant ball dress can be made of tufted illusion. It represents clouds of tulle fastened down on a thin skirt at equal and regular distances by small bows with ends. Either white or colored bows can be used, and the effect is perfectly charming. It is, however, an expensive dress, for unless the dress is exceedingly full, it loses its soft, cloud-like appearance. We are told it requires fifty yards of tulle and two hundred and twenty yards of ribbon for this style of dress, but we look upon this as an exaggeration.
In the present number we give some very excellent headdresses, not from the Maison Tilman, but of their stamp. Our readers will now see how the little oddities, such as snakes and the mother-of-pearl butterflies, are arranged, though the cuts, we admit, give but a faint idea of the elegant originals.
Mother-of-pearl, which we first saw introduced in the Tilman headdresses, and of which we spoke in our last chat, is rapidly gaining ground. The ever-varying colors it emits by gas light render it a valuable addition to an evening toilet. The pearly part of the shall is separated in strips as thin as paper, and with these lavers, trembling oats and wheat ears are admirably well imitated. These, mixed with other flowers and arranged on the head and over the dress, produce a glittering and beautiful effect.
We had an opportunity recently of witnessing at Mme. Demorest's a new and very efficient running-stitch sewing machine. It is quite unlike the former one both in appearance and operation. A common short sewing needle is used, which is very easily placed and nat at all liable to be broken. Mothers and dressmakers will find this little machine of infinite service in making up all kinds of clothing.
The Roman scarfs which we described last month are now exceedingly fashionable. Not only are they made of split zephyr, but they are also woven in bright-colored silks. The latest style for wearing them is to knot them at the back of the neck and allow the ends to hang down behind.