How to Give a Dress

Since the holidays are coming up, I thought this extract from Miss Leslie's Behavior Book would be helpful:

In presenting a dress to a friend whose circumstances are not so affluent as your own, and who you know will gladly receive it, select one of excellent quality, and of a colour that you think she will like. She will feel mortified if you give her one that is low-priced, flimsy, and of an unbecoming tint. Get an ample quantity, so as to allow a piece to be cut off and laid by for a new body and sleeves, when necessary. And to make the gift complete, buy linen for the body-lining; stiff, glazed muslin for the facings, buttons, sewing-silk, and whatever else may be wanted. This will save her the cost of these things.

If there are givers reading this blog solely to get ideas of what to give givees who are very interested in sewing, a length (four yards is safe) of a very nice fabric is always welcome. Choose a color you've seen your givee wear, and ask for in the store for advice about fabric if you're unsure — natural fibers are best. Or you could visit some of the advertisers there on the right and choose a fantastic vintage pattern or vintage accessory — always welcome!

Oh, more about the charity drive for this year: first, we're up to $860! Second, I was wrong about international donors — it only works for Non-USians if you use Paypal. If you can't use Paypal and want to donate to an equivalent prisoners' or literacy charity in your home country, you're still eligible, just forward me your receipt! Remember, one lucky donor will have a character in my forthcoming novel named after them (or after a person important to them) — go out and donate here. Thanks!

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0 thoughts on “How to Give a Dress

  1. Oh, I just love that “giving a dress” means giving a dress-length of fabric. Because the time and expertise to make the fabric up into something wearable are freely available to even the poorest recipient. Kind of like you can make bread if you have flour, because the other ingredients of yeast, salt and water are always there and don’t need mentioning. Or does it devalue a woman’s expertise to assume tat it’s necessarily present and available? Whatever, back to a time when “things” were more expensive than labour.

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  2. haha great minds think alike! I just posted a huge Sewing Gift Guide full of sewing-type presents for Christmas not 15 minutes before you posted this! 😀

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  3. This is for La Bella Donna – I can’t believe I ran into you at another blog! That really made my day. I found your body-typing post (‘Are you a Ruler or an Apple?) here a while ago.. it was the best body-typing info I’ve ever read. I am waiting with bated breath for you to get a cable show. You’d blow Tim Gunn out of the water.My body doesn’t seem to fit into any typing system I’ve seen and I sometimes am at a loss as to how to fit it. I have very broad, square and bony shoulders, a tiny waist, very small breasts, narrow but curved hips, and a round butt. I don’t carry any weight in my stomach or ‘saddlebag’ area. I have skinny lower arms and legs, but put on fat easily in my upper arms and the tops of my things.My measurements: almost 32″ bust (but the measurement is only that big because of how V shaped my ribcage is – I am a 30 or 32 A/AA), almost 27″ underbust, 23.5″ waist, 31″ high hip, 35″ low hip, 33″ around the tops of both thighs. From the front (and esp. clothed) my shoulders dwarf the rest of me, lol. Front hip is 12″ across, shoulders are 15″. But I took a picture from the back naked, and drew lines from my shoulders down to my hips.. they were only a slight V. I am average height and very thin, gaining weight right now. So far I have put it on all over my body, with everything remaining in the same proprortion it was 12 pounds ago. But my butt/upper thigh area has always been where I store my fat. Once I reach my goal (6-10 lbs more) my hips should be as wide as my shoulders.Anyway, what am I? A flat-chested V-shape? A top-heavy Pear, lol?Some of my problems with clothing: Pants: if they fit in the hip they gape/bag in the waist and thigh. Shirts: If they fit my bust and waist, they cut off circulation to my arms, lol. I have actually burst seams with my shoulders. Alternatively I can buy Medium shirts to fit my shoulders, but then they hang sacklike off my tiny torso. Dresses: Out of the question. Everything that might fit in the bust and waist (not much) is too small in the shoulders or hips.The only rule that seems very flattering to me is defining my waist. Otherwise I just look like a string bean. And obviously anything that adds any bulk at all to my shoulders is a bad idea! Empire waists and spaghetti straps are also terrible. Because I am skinny, I also don’t like to add bulk to my lower half.. I feel it looks awkward. I have a very teenage body still, with long gangling arms and legs..I guess really the answer to all my questions and complaints here is a really good tailor! But I am trying to learn how to sew myself, and develop my own sense of style and what is flattering on my body.Sorry that was so long!

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  4. “In presenting a dress to a friend whose circumstances are not so affluent as your own, and who you know will gladly receive it, select one of excellent quality, and of a colour that you think she will like. She will feel mortified if you give her one that is low-priced, flimsy, and of an unbecoming tint.”I am not sure why this advice is applied primarily to “a friend whose circumstances are not so affluent as your own”. No one wants to give or receive a gift that is perceived as cheap, flimsy or unbecoming.

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  5. What a wonderful book. I was intrigued by Ms. Leslie’s spelling of recipe (“receipt”) on the title page, so I dived into the chapter on “Incorrect Words.” Whether castigating Americans or the English, she pulls no punches; I can’t wait to see what pearls are contained in the chapters on “Conduct in the Street” and “Offences.”

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  6. I’d like fabric in a color that looks good on me, but one that I normally wouldn’t buy because I’m conservative when it comes to money! How could i not sew up a fuschia blazer if I was gifted the fabric by a loved one!

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  7. I send my sister dresses I snatch up at thrift stores for cheap all the time! Half of them don’t fit or are too glam for her taste, and she gives them to friends or sells them at the consignment shop….but her husband turns out to LOVE the old slinky styles, so she pushes herself past her usual “outdoorsy” taste, and wears the ones that fit on date nights or to weddings (when you always seem to want something new). But she sometimes throws me for a loop. Right after I had resigned myself to the fact that she’s more “Boho” than “Old Hollywood”, she FLIPPED over a wrapped bodice, Rita Hayworth type satin lavender sheath with spaghetti straps, and wore it to a Valentine Ball. So, you never know…Ah, life!RE: the gift advice: before I realized it was for dress material and not a dress, I was wary of Get an ample quantity, so as to allow a piece to be cut off and laid by for a new body and sleeves, when necessary. Like getting someone a size 20 when they’re a 12 would make anyone feel GOOD?? But yes, if you’re giving fabric…load us up!! We can make a matching hat!

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  8. Bonnie: Hi! It’s really no surprise, is it, that great minds think alike? Tell me you don’t also go to crazyauntpurl.com for yarn and stories! I will print out and give you further details, but although you seem to have small breasts, your shoulders are wider than your hips, and what do we call that? Sing it, ladies! That is a V-Shaped Build. You’re confusing yourself a little bit with how much flesh is sitting on top of your bones; that does contribute to how things fit, and contributes very particularly in the case of the Apple, but remember: The skeleton is the structure on which body shape is built. You will learn to have a little more confidence in the information you gave me yourself: …Broad shoulders … narrow waist … narrow hips …, with all the trimmings taken off. And what does that spell? V! V! V! You said it yourself: UPSIDE DOWN PEAR. And what is a Pear? It is this shape:/. And you are this shape: /. Which is a V. So you really knew, after all. The fact that you put on weight easily in your UPPER BODY reinforces that. the fact that you put weight on in the tops of your thighs is mostly because you’re female – but I’d like to see where, exactly, especially since you are not prone to saddlebags. More to follow!~ Stage experience, available for TV Shows, photogenic. Make me an offer!

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  9. aaand now some adjusting, because I was trying to do too much, too fast. I can see some of the confusion, Bonnie: your measurements, as given, have a whopping 12.5″ difference between your waist and your lower hips, and a 7.5″ high hip/waist difference. Which is why it’s so important that you did what you did: measured the difference between your shoulder width and hip width. I believe I see before me (metaphorically) a V with a rockin’ round butt, which is where those misleading inches come in; you have a round butt, rather than wide hips – and a round butt does not an hourglass make, although it has its own benefits. More to follow!

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  10. Thanks so much! I was a definate V-shape before I gained weight, but now I guess I am just confused because I don’t put on weight in my upper body – in fact (except for my arms and a few muscles I’ve built up recently) it’s rather emaciated compared to my lower half. That’s why I want to continue to gain, to cover up my bones!I have put on the most weight on my hips: on the inside, front, and back of my thighs (but there’s still a bone poking through on the outside of the leg), and of course on my butt. There used to be a large gap between my thighs; now they are almost touching (even though they are still quite small- because my hips are narrow).So, I think I am structurally a V-shape; with a Pear-like weight distribution!

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  11. Bonnie, if you have a V on top, and / on bottom, what does that make? It makes an X, or what we usually call an Hourglass shape. And yes, it IS possible to change one’s shape, through weight gain or loss, through working with weights, or by illusion, through the way one dresses. The fact that you are putting weight on your THIGHS makes me curious as to what you are doing, and if you’re building a lot of muscle, you may have to make some very judicious choices in shopping for trousers and skirts. I have to say that by and large, it is NOT easy dressing female weightlifters; when I was working out more, even though I’m a variable hourglass (sometimes the sand shifts), finding bras was the very devil because of the muscle buildup in the back. HOW are you putting on weight? Eating differently, working out, magic pills? It sounds as if you are still describing a V-shaped woman, now with new! muscular! legs! That “HIPS ARE NARROW” is one of your clues; PEAR-SHAPED WOMEN HAVE BIG HIPS. NOT NARROW HIPS. Are your HIPS wider than your shoulders? No? But your thighs are bigger? Then you have: Bigger thighs. Not bigger hips. You may have to dress in a way which is similar, though, to some of the choices that a Pear might make, if you wind up with very big thighs; I know some women who have front thigh development which sticks out past their bellies. Those women do not wear (for instance) straight skirts. If you are eating healthily and working out sensibly (with weights, etc., and not to the point of anorexia athletica – not that I know about that personally. Ahem. Although I do.), then the weight you add will be healthy. Some types of weight lifting add bulkier muscle; some exercise systems, like yoga and pilates, will add long, flat muscles. Belly dancing encourages the development of different muscles. If you tell me what you’re doing, I’ll have a better idea of what to expect for your shape.

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  12. Thank you for going into such detail, La Bella Donna! I wish I could post a picture! I am definately still a V and not an Hourglass or Pear. Looking at me straight on, from front or back, my shoulders are clearly wider than my hips and thighs. I just thought where you carried your flesh, not just bone structure, influences your body type.. These are the basic rules I’ve come away with: Rulers || and Hourglasses X are evenly proportionated – both in regards to bone structure, and weight distribution, which they tend to put on evenly all over the body. A Pear / has narrow shoulder bones and wide hip bones and also tends to put on fat and muscle in the hips and thighs. A true V is wide-shouldered and narrow-hipped, and will bulk up in the bust, back and belly before they gain in their hips (and most have slender limbs). When I think V-shape I think of Angelina Jolie.To give you an idea of how my measurements have changed with my recent weight gain: I used to be 29.75-23-32.5, 31″ around the tops of both thighs, each 17.5″. Now I am 31.75-23.5-35, 33″ around top thighs, thighs 19.5″ each. I walk an hour every day, do around 5 hours of high-intensity yoga and pilates per week, and go running sporadically. I don’t lift weights or anything. I was not expecting to build the amount of muscle from these activites that I have! In fact I am a little disappointed, I would really like more subcutaneous fat for a softer, more feminine look, not to mention some boobs (mostly I am growing some impressively defined pecs, sigh). I eat a ‘healthy’ high-calorie diet with plenty of protein and lots of fat, with lots of cookies right before bed (that’s how the sumos do it)..OK: I am currently DEFINATELY a V, but quite close to being a (non-classic) Hourglass. I do have a very clearly X shaped figure, looking at pictures. But the bottom half of the X is smaller than the top half. My very low weight – it’s pretty much my skeleton we are working around at this point – is what makes this so confusing..

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  13. Maybe my hips aren’t so much ‘narrow’ as very small. They have a pronounced () curve to them, and a sharp taper up into my waist and down into my legs. I have friends with straight hips, and mine definately don’t look like theirs. But my legs aren’t set far apart like my wide-hipped Pear friends.If you aren’t tired of my questions yet: could you give an explaination of ‘high, average, and low’ hips? You touched on it in your last post on body typing here, but didn’t go into detail..Thank you!

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  14. Bonnie please listen – you are NOT a V. I read what you said and Bella Donna’s response and could see in one instant that you are hourglass shaped without the larger breasts. She is misleading you. There really is no mystery here: hourglasses have BROAD not narrow shoulders EQUAL bust and hips – it really is simple as that. The wait is always 10 inches plus smaller. ie. 36, 26, 36. You really do not need to explain any further – she is getting you.

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  15. Anonymous — I’d put more credence in your protestations if you weren’t, well, ANONYMOUS.Just saying “No it’s not!” with no explanation doesn’t really come across well.

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