American Smocking Gown

American Smocking Gown

Friends, this darling little gown was bought here in Australia, but I’m not convinced it’s an Australian gown in origin. There are some things about this gown that raises some questions for me. Firstly, although I bought it in Australia, it has North American smocking on the two front shoulders. English smocking is the norm in Australia…not so much American smocking. The difference being that English smocking is pleated and North American smocking, whilst can be pleated by drawing up the dots, is usually stitched on the dots drawing the fabric together to create a design.

I wonder if the gown was brought to Australia by an Australian War Bride from the USA?

The gown is a pre-stamped gown. There are visible ink stamp marks around the neckline – take a close look at the front neckline fold.

 American Smocking Gown front embroidery

And the smocking dots are visible too

 American Smocking Gown dots

The smocking dots could have been added with a smocking dots transfer sheet, but I don’t think that is the case because of the neckline stamp line. Both of these together, suggest to me that the gown outline for cutting and the embroidery design were completely stamped onto the fabric and it was perhaps sold as a kit with the sewing & embroidery instructions and possibly also the embroidery thread.

Sometimes the gowns were already constructed and the buyer would only have had to do the embroidery…but I don’t think that this gown is one of those because of the neckline  stamped ink-line and because the sewing isn’t of a really high standard. The back placket appears to have been folded and sewn without any pressing. Pressing during construction gives garments a more professional finish. This placket is lumpy and bumpy – definitely completed by a home sewer whom perhaps, was a beginner?

 American Smocking Gown back placket

I don’t think the creator was a beginner embroiderer though…

 American Smocking Gown top

The embroidery, whilst not of a high standard, certainly looks to be have been completed by a somewhat experienced embroiderer as it’s competent.

There are a couple of small marks/stains. They didn’t come out with a soaking in Marseille Soap so next I will do a spot rubbing with Marseille Soap to try and remove the stains. Even if I can’t get the stains out, I won’t be too disappointed as the marks are small and the dress is still fine for gentle use.

American Smocking Gown stains

There is also some small flea bite holes. Again, not too big. The fabric is very very sheer – a muslin perhaps?

 American Smocking Gown flea bite holes

I think this gown may be from  around the 1940s; there are three things that make me think this.  Firstly, the North American smocking wasn’t, and still isn’t, the type of smocking generally undertaken by Australian smockers. I’m guessing that it may have been done by an American  woman and the unconstructed garment/kit possibly came with her as an Australian War Bride during the 1940’s or perhaps an American relative sent it to her when her pregnancy was announced.  Secondly the style of the gown: there are no shoulder seams or separate sleeve pieces. The entire gown is cut from one piece of fabric which is folded over at the shoulder, with the neckline and back placket cut out and side seams run from the hem to the sleeve edge.  This style of gown was very popular during the 1940s even though it could still be found in latter sewing patterns.  Finally, the lace is cotton – by the time the 1960s came along, nylon lace had made an appearance; especially with mass produced garments. I don’t think this gown, fits into the beginning of the mass production era of the 1960s. The dress may be earlier than the 1940s but I’m not at all convinced that it is later than the 1940s.

Folks, even though this gown presents with more questions than answers, I’m not bothered; it’s still a beautiful little gown that I’m happy to have in the collection. What are your thoughts about it?

2 thoughts on “American Smocking Gown

  1. Fantastic Su!
    I’m so glad this piece found her way to you. While there may be unanswered questions, the fact that she now belongs to someone who understands & appreciates her & her beauty is just wonderful!

  2. I just love it Su. I think you are right with your ideas and history. I do, however, remember using dots here in Adelaide in the sixties. We had sewing as a subject at school and dots were used always until pleaters were brought in from ( I thought ) the States. That is something I would like to have more information about…….UK or USA. The gown is beautiful and I agree about the Post War embroidery… are spot on!

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