First Spring by Wonder Art


Friends I know this little pre-stamped dress doesn’t look like much, but I love it. It’s called ‘First Spring” and it was made in the USA by Wonder Art – probably in the 1940s or 50s. I bought it and its matching gertrude slip last year or early this year. The set came with another identical dress and gertrude set and both sets are in beautiful condition. The fabric appears to be a sheer Batiste type fabric.

The gertrude, like the dress, has both side seams completed – this was done by the manufacturer.  These are new, old stock. This means that they’re old/vintage but they’ve never been used. They would have been listed in a Wonder Art needlework catalogue or advertised in a women’s magazine and the purchaser would have sent away for them by mail.  The purchaser would have most likely been in a middle class family and the garments would probably not have been afforded by all socio-economic stratas.

These days mail order or more commonly, internet shopping is common place and accessible to most sections of society. Certainly, mass production of ‘knock offs’ and the current trend of  over consumption tells us that if one can’t afford ‘the real deal’ then a cheaply priced and cheaply produced ‘knock off’, is certainly within ones economic reach. Society wasn’t quite like that back when these garments were for sale. They weren’t mass produced by today’s standards, but were probably produced in an oppressive production-line type situation. Some economically challenged worker would have been paid a pittance to sew up the seams – some things haven’t changed much!


Here’s closer look at the front neck area of the gown.  The embroidery transfer is already stamped for the home embroiderer to complete. The hemstitch is commercially completed. It looks a lot like entrdeaux and acts as entrdeaux as well by allowing lace to be attached, not only around the neck but also under and around the floral embroidery on the yoke.


The hemstitch is also around the armholes so lace can be attached around the sleeve edge too.


The hemstitch goes all the way around the neck and extends down to the back placket.  I am assuming that the home sewist would cut down the centre of the hemstitch placket, attach a few buttons and a couple of hand crafted button loops on the opposite side to close the buttons.  The embroidery stamp is too close to the hemstitch placket for a slash placket to be attempted. Additionally, I don’t think that buttonholes would have been completed because the embroidery is equal distance from the centre placket. If a buttonhole was going to be attempted then one side of the fabric would have to cross over the other and on this garment and some of the embroidery would be obscured. This leads me to think that a small button would be sewn on one side and a button loop would be attached to the other side so that the garment closes, but doesn’t overlap.


 The gertrude neck and shoulder area isn’t cut out.


Here’s a better look that shows the shoulder cutting lines. The front shoulders are in two pieces. The front shoulder section is a blunt cut and the back shoulder pieces are rounded. Buttons are attached to the front shoulder section and button holes are worked on the rounded back section. When closed; the back section sits, overlapped on the front tabs. There are no facings or finished edges on the gertrude so I am assuming that the home sewist would either add their own facing or more likely, add bias tape or hem tape to close the edges so they don’t fray.


The fabric is so very sheer and I suspect once completed, and  with all the sizing/starch washed out, the garments would be very gentle on baby’s skin.

Since I have two identical sets of these ensembles I am so very temped to complete one. I am always conflicted about these new/old stock pre-stamped garments; on one hand I want to complete them and on the other I want to preserve them as they are, because believe it or not, they actually tell a story about a long past era.

Who would have thunk it…that garments held so many secrets!

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