This wonderful circa 1900-1910s baby slip was a recent estate sale find- crammed in the bottom drawer of an antique “high boy” chest of drawers with other random odds and ends and antique linens. At first glance I thought “I don’t need yet another baby item.” My girl, after all, is over two years old. But then my eye zoomed in on the embroidery and I put it in my pile. Luckily I ended up paying somewhere around a dollar for it, so it’s a good little lesson in the beauties of antique construction.
Now you may be saying “Ho hum. Baby clothes. I don’t care. I don’t have kids/don’t want kids/have grown up kids.” Hang on there just a minute. These items are actually excellent study for construction of adult garments, too. These basically used the same techniques, but in miniature. Sometimes, in reality, the baby garments are even better constructed since teeny tiny stitches were of better scale for teeny tiny humans. And construction was durable since infant’s garments had to be washed over. And over. And over again.
Now, before you get to mad at me- YES, I did photograph this in my backyard. But it’s mine, and I paid $1 for it. And these things survive in ABUNDANCE. I just finished cleaning it, and it’s no the worse for wear after my photographs. Just sayin’.
Baby slips of this era where characterized by buttons at the shoulders (sometimes called Gertrude Slips), a short bodice, and a long skirt. These were worn by both boys and girls. Truly a “gender neutral” garment, like most baby garments of the first decades of the 20th century.
Close ups of the teeny tiny button (about 1/4″ big), and a view of the “facing”, which is actually on the outside of the garment, not on the inside. This was to support the button and prevent holes from pulling. I also want you to notice that little featherstitched embroidered tape that has mitered edges at the corners.
The strange thing to me is that there is no buttonhole for the button to attach to. This means either this was unfinished and never worn (which is totally possible, as some of the basting stitches remain), or there were originally thread loops for the buttons to attach to.
The main clue that the featherstitch accent was a tape trim instead of worked on the garment itself were the little tucks that were needed to ease around the curves. The tape is woven on the straight of grain and then the featherstitching is embroidered onto it by hand. The trim was then applied to the garment. It is likely that this trim was purchased already embroidered.
Here’s a side view so you can see the later of the trim applied on top of the garment.
The center back and both sides are French seamed. You can see next to the ruler the teeny tiny machine stitches- smaller than 1 cm in length.
You can see here that both the skirt with the pintucks AND the embroidered trim were French seamed after they were attached together. Skirt attached to trim, pintucked, then French seamed.
There is a facing about 1.25-1.5″ wide on the INSIDE of the bodice above where the skirt is gathered. In this picture you can see the teeny tiny machine stitches again, and please also noticed that the top stitching is not perfectly straight but a bit wobbly. Please also note the basting stitches are still visible from where the facing was sewn to the garment body.
This is an inside shot of the bodice facing, again with the basting still visible.
Back down to the bottom of the skirt and we can see the decorative trim and the lace flounce. The embroidered section with eyelet at the center is a hand embroidered trim with hand done eyelets. This was applied to the skirt, and then the skirt was pintucked. There are also pintucks below the embroidered trim section. I would like to point out that the pintucks are not perfect, but a bit wobbly. This makes me feel better about my sewing. Again, teeny tiny machine stitches.
A close up of the hand embroidered trim.
And a back view, where you can see the back of the embroidery but also that the seam allowances here were left somewhat raw. This does not fray as much as it would with modern fabric because the fabric has such a finer thread count than we have today.
An inside shot of the bottom flounce shows that the flounce was attached with seam allowances going toward the INSIDE, then a facing on the straight of grain was attached, turned upward, and machine sewn to place. I would also like to point out that the machine gathering stitches are still visible at the top of the ruffle. The original stitcher didn’t remove them after the garment was finished.
For the super nerds among us, here is the fabric through an 8x magnification loupe.
The embroidery through the same loupe. You can see here the difference in weight between the sewing thread used for the machine stitches and the thread used for the embroidery.
And the lace flounce at the bottom of the slip through the same loupe. I believed this was by machine, but under the loupe I’m a bit more uncertain. It certainly reads as machine embroidery when seen with the bare eye, but under the loupe it looks a but more like handwork. My gut tells me it’s still machine embroidery, though.
I hope you found this little journey through this garment informative! All of these methods can certainly be used in your Edwardian adult garments and your heirloom sewing pieces.
Please view my blog for more articles along the lines of this post. I have another series that examines a 1910s woman’s blouse.
JulianaMay 12, 2019 at 5:25 pm (4 years ago)
Thank you for the detailed close-ups. Construction info is incredibly helpful.