Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The yoke dress

There are two basic kinds of little girls' dresses-- (actually scratch that.  There are two basic kinds of dresses!)  the yoke dress, which is by far the most common and what I call the tunic dress.  Today, I'll be talking about yoke dresses.  Weather they're empire, drop waist, or anything in between, these dresses feature a definite waistline, and a gathered or pleated skirt.  Variations on the yoke dress are numerous, but the principles and basic construction are all similar.  Later on this week or next, well cover a-line tunic dresses and talk about princess seams as a major variation.

Now, yoke dresses as they relate to vintage.  Adult fashion carries over into children's fashion.  The twenties saw straight, boxy dresses with buttoned waistbands.  The thirties were more into loose-fitting short dresses that were heavily influenced by Hollywood--specifically Shirley Temple.  (Twenties dresses were also longer, but the economy as it relates to the rising and falling of hemlines is another topic.)  Most twenties patterns I've come across--and the 1928 Singer Sewing for Children book I have--have more in the way of tunic dresses than yoke dresses.  The thirties and forties have a mix, and the fifties is almost all yoke dresses.  The sixties began to see a mix, but leaned more heavily towards tunic dresses than yoke dresses.  (This is all from examining patterns, BTW) The seventies saw a mix, with yoke dresses with ruffles at the bottom of the skirt becoming common in the late seventies and early eighties.  Late eighties and the nineties saw almost a resurgence of 50s-style yoke dresses.  The hems were tea-length, but they had the same full skirts and in the case of almost all of the Daisy Kingdom patterns, required pettiskirts to go underneath!  Nowadays, almost anything goes, though yoke dresses are still the most common.

This is an almost modern yoke dress.  Ignoring the oversized collar, (90s here!) it has a definite yoke, waist, and a skirt gathered into it.   Due to the pleating and the v waist, I wouldn't venture to call this a typical example, but the basics are all there. 

Simplicity 2430 is a modern example.  The whole dress can be broken down into three shapes--cylinders for the sleeves, a square for the bodice, and a triangle for the skirt.  The difference between this modern example and vintage examples are in darts.

Yes, you heard me right--darts in a toddler-sized dress!  Vintage examples of yoke dresses usually have waistline darts.  In toddlers and young children, who are, in essence, cylinders, they're really just for show.  The only time I've seen darts in a toddler dress make sense, they were on a back neckline to make the dress conform to the back and shoulders.

You've probably seen this particular vintage pattern over on Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing or on the Pattern Junkie.  The Pattern Junkie talked about the artwork, and how the littlest one obviously needs a bathroom yesterday.  ;)   For Gertie, it's a project she has to conquer to finish sewing Vogue's 1952 edition of "The New Book for Better Sewing".

Because this dress has been sewn millions of times, it would be possible to sew it without the pattern or even glancing at the instructions.  I've sewn fifties patterns before, and while the instructions are a little more detailed than the 30s pattern instructions, I probably wouldn't even bother.  :) In the next few days, I'll go over how to construct a basic collared yoke dress.  I'll be using a vintage pattern, so we'll even deal with darting! 

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