* A Note From Nancy *
I've been sewing since I was a little girl. It's in my blood. As such I like fashion, and I like to write about dressmaking...
|Made-to-order workroom in Stewart's|
|Bloomingdale's 1888 catalog|
|Note the inset flared skirts on the right|
But forget shirtwaists for the rich patronesses of the dress shops. They wanted custom designs that made them stand out from the masses of women wearing the simpler styles.
The dressmaking shops were often staffed by immigrants, first or second generation Americans. They created the intricate patterns for the dresses, cut the fabric (which was purchased in varying non-standardized widths. Now, we basically have 45”, 54”, and 60” widths to choose from), and sewed the garments on machines and by hand (I’ll be blogging about the evolution of the sewing machine next week.) The elite of society kept these shops busy with their need to showcase their family’s successes and wealth through their fashion. To walk the streets of New York City in elegant finery, to take a promenade through Central Park, to go to the opera or Delmonico’s, to attend a ball or dinner at the Astor’s or Vanderbilt’s, demanded fashion that wowed the viewer. Has much changed today? Don’t we also long to be thought of as fashionable?
Another reason the dressmaking shops kept busy was the summer season. Many of the members of the Four Hundred of New York society went to Newport, Rhode Island for six to eight weeks at the end of every summer. There, amid the cool ocean breezes, they created another version of society, with as many rules and standards as they had in the city. Each woman needed nearly thirty new outfits for this season.
That’s the starting point in An Unlikely Suitor. A mother and daughter enter Madame Moreau’s in need of an entirely new wardrobe…only the daughter suffers from an infirmity that causes her dresses to hang oddly. Enter the heroine, Lucy Scarpelli to find a sewing solution. And so a friendship between immigrant seamstress and wealthy heiress is born . . . and continues as Lucy gets a chance to join Rowena in Newport. It’s a classic premise of friendship between a poor girl and a rich girl, set amid the lavish opulence of Newport, with the breeze blowing off the Cliff Walk, and handsome young men with time on their hands . . . Trust me, the story is well . . . sewn.//Nancy