Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hitty's Dresses, By the Book

In Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, Dorothy Lathrop drew the delightful illustrations. Many of the illustrations depict Hitty in dresses that are described in the story written by Rachel Field. I have been reproducing those dresses as closely as I'm able. When I first wrote this posting, I was about half way through. I just finished the last of the dresses, and have added photos of them further down.

In the story, Hitty's first dress is sewn by Phoebe Preble. Phoebe's mother would not let poor Phoebe play with the doll until she was decently clothed:
Phoebe's mother had decided that I was not to be played with until properly clothed. Phoebe was not a child who took readily to sewing, but her mother was firm, so presently out came needles and thread, thimbles and piece-bag, and I was being measured for my first outfit. It was to be of buff calico strewn with small red flowers, and I thought it was very fine indeed.
The cover of the 1998 paperback edition of Hitty shows Dorothy Lathrop's illustration of the dress that Phoebe Preble made. I made an exact copy of the dress by first scanning in the cover illustration. I then cropped one of the little flower clusters, straightened the image, and then duplicated it in a diagonal pattern. The background color of the fabric was also taken from the cover illustration. I then printed the image on a fine batiste ironed onto freezer paper.

The Hitty in the photographs below is Hitty Faith, who is a DRC Hittykin resin doll, made by DeAnn Cole. Hitty Faith was my first Hitty, and I think she comes closest to looking like the first Hitty of all I've seen. Hitty's necklace is real coral beads, strung on elastic, so that it can be removed. The dress closes in back with loops and three 1/8" buttons.

In Hitty, Phoebe Preble also made her doll a pair of pantaloons and a chemise, with her name embroidered on it. Hitty describes how she came by her name:
At first, I was christened Mehitabel, but Phoebe was far too impatient to use so many syllables, and presently I had become Hitty to the whole household. Indeed, it was Mrs. Preble's suggestion that these five letters were worked carefully in little red cross-stitch characters upon my chemise.

"There, said Phoebe's mother when the last one was done, "now whatever happens to her she can always be sure of her name."
Hitty's chemise is shown in several illustrations, including one in which she is burrowing in her trunk. In trying to reproduce the chemise and pantaloons, I quickly noticed that there were no closures on the chemise, either in front or in back. There is a button at the waist, so presumably the petticoat was separate. I assume that the chemise depicted was pulled on over the head. That might have worked for an illustration doll, but it didn't work for a real doll. I found that a neckline big enough to go over Hitty's head also tended to slip off her shoulders. So my Hitty's chemise is buttoned up the back, and the petticoat is attached to the chemise. The fabric is cotton voile, and the lace is French cotton val.

After having been lost by Phoebe Preble on a sea voyage, Hitty was purchased as a birthday gift for 4-year-old Little Thankful. The dress that Phoebe had made was long gone, but Hitty still had her chemise, and Little Thankful's mother made Hitty a new dress:
Little Thankful's mother was better at hymns and Bible lessons than dressing dolls. However, I was so glad to feel decent cloth upon my back again that I was in no mood to insist upon the latest fashions. She made me a rather voluminous dress of cotton print, in a far from gaudy pattern. It nearly covered my painted feet, and the ruffle about my neck practically hid my coral beads. But these were small matters. I was clean and comfortable and I belonged to a little girl again.
There is no mention in the book of the colors in the print fabric that Little Thankful's mother used, so I made the solid stripes brown and the little flowers in shades of peach. This is another print that I generated using Adobe Photo Elements, and then printed on batiste. The brown color actually is quite a bit darker than it appears in the photos below.

I made the collar of cotton voile, with tiny loops of tatting for the edging. As there was no illustration of the dress front to limit me, I put the stripes on the bodice front on the diagonal.

Little Thankful was not very thankful to have Hitty when she saw the elegant china dolls that other girls had at a party. Thankful stuffed Hitty down behind the cushions of the horsehair sofa, where Hitty remained for several years. After being discovered, Hitty soon became the doll of Clarissa Pryce, a little Quaker girl. Clarissa herself made Hitty two dresses. Hitty's everyday dress was made of brown sprigs on buff calico. There is no illustration of this dress, so I did some research on the clothing that Quaker girls might have worn in the mid-1800's. I designed the print with brown sprigs on a buff background, and printed the design onto batiste. The dress is plain, with no embellishment, as befitting a Quaker girl. I made a Quaker pinafore to go with the dress, as well as a plain white cap.
The second dress that Clarissa made for Hitty was for Sunday best. It was "a pearl-gray silk, made in true Quaker fashion, with a fine white fichu crossed in front, lawn cap, and all, for First Day, as the Pryces called Sunday."

To make the dress, I dyed a piece of silk broadcloth with Pearl Gray Rit dye. Like the everyday dress, the gray silk dress was plain, with long straight sleeves and no embellishments. The white fichu is made of cotton voile, with a tiny ruffle as depicted in the illustration. In addition to a white cap made of voile, I constructed a straw bonnet for Hitty, made in the Quaker style.

Here's one more photograph of Hitty in her Quaker dress. She is wearing her white cap, the ruffle of which is peaking out from under her straw Quaker bonnet, which itself is tied with a large silk bow. At least, the bow is large on Hitty!

Hitty stayed with Clarissa until after the Civil War. When Clarissa went away to boarding school, Hitty 'went into camphor,' stored away in the attic with moth balls. The box in which Hitty was stored was sent to some New York cousins, where after a length of two years, Hitty was found by Miss Milly Pinch, the household seamstress. To prove her ability to sew fancy clothes, Miss Pinch made a wonderous wardrobe for Hitty. One of the dresses was a dancing dress made of silk. Hitty was soon appropriated by Isabella, an 8-year-old, who took Hitty with her to dance classes. Hitty tried to join in, but as her legs were pegged, they couldn't move independent of each other. As Hitty said "My spirit was willing, but my pegs were not."

I found that making the dancing dress from silk fabric was formidable. Silk drapes wonderfully, but when gathered, it doesn't fall into graceful Hitty-size folds. Instead, it tends to stand out like an umbrella. So I opted to make the dancing dress from sheer cotton voile. However, the ruching at the neckline and hemline is made from silk ribbon, as is the pink sash around her waist.

Another ensemble made by Miss Pinch is described in detail in the book:

How is it possible for my poor pen to do justice to my new attire--to the watered-silk dress with draped skirt, fitted waist, and innumerable bows? How can I describe the blue velvet pelisse embroidered with garlands no bigger than pinheads? How tell of the little feathered hat and the muff of white eiderdown?

Hitty is wearing this ensemble when she falls from Isabella's grasp and tumbles to the ground at the feet of Charles Dickens. Mr. Dickens rescues Hitty, a memorable event for Isabella.

This outfit was the most challenging of all to try to construct. Elsewhere in the book the dress is described as made of blue silk, so I dyed a piece of lightweight taffeta a very light shade of evening blue. The skirt is slightly fuller in the back than the front and has two rows of ecru braid at the hem. Above those are multitudes of ecru silk bows. Only the lower portion of the skirt is shown in the book's illustration, so I designed the bodice myself. It does have a fitted waist, as well as a square neckline and short sleeves. I did not embellish the bodice, as I didn't want extra bulk under the pelisse.

The pelisse is made of cotton velveteen, dyed a darker shade of evening blue. The sleeves and hem are edged with black cotton val lace, and all the edges of the pelisse are bordered with a loopy rayon braid. The garlands are composed of bullion-stitch pink roses and lazy-daisy green leaves. I had to make a few modifications to the sleeve and pocket, because of the nature of the materials I was working with. The little hat is made from the same silk as the dress and does indeed have a blue feather. The muff, rather than made of eiderdown, is made of a piece of faux fur. I had to shave the pile down considerably to make it Hitty scale.

The last dress that is illustrated in the book was made by Miss Pamela Worthington, who rescued Hitty from life as a pincushion doll and made her a dress of sprigged challis, such as Miss Pamela herself had worn as a child. Eventually, still wearing this dress, Hitty is bought at auction by the old gentleman, and goes to live in Miss Hunter's antique shop, where she writes her memoirs.

My 1930's hardcover edition of Hitty has a color illustration of this dress. I used the illustration to reconstruct the fabric in Photoshop, and then printed the fabric image onto cotton batiste. In addition to the color illustration, the book has two other illustrations showing this dress, and in each, the dress is drawn slightly differently. My version is an adaptation of all three.

These are all of the dresses in the illustrations of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, except for one, which is the glorious bride's dress that Hitty wears at the Cotton Exposition. I know that once I make that dress, I will never want to take it off of my little Hitty. So rather than make the bride's dress for Hitty Faith, who has a plentitude of dresses already, I bought a Hitty made by Susan Sirkis to dress especially as the bride. That dress still needs much planning and thought, but for now, the dresses for Hitty Faith, reconstructing the illustrations in the original version of Hitty, are done.


ashdoll said...

What a wonderful series of pictures of your Hitty in dresses from the book. You did a fabulous job. Not my Hittys will all be so jealous. Congratulations on a job well done!
Happy & the Capital City Hittys

Hitty For Me said...

Judith, I enjoyed your blog and the descriptions of the dresses and admire how you are able to copy the dresses. I'm trying to make a dress such as Hitty wore at Miss Pamela's while sitting in her yellow rocker for a display I am doing so I'm trying to find pictures of the fabric in hopes to get a print that resembles the color and print, a seamstress I am not so I don't expect it to be as wonderful as yours. But the information on your blog has been very helpful.

honeychild said...

Oh, Oh, Oh, what a wonderful job you have done making Hitty's dresses from her book. I've just fell in love with her and I'm enjoying finding things that go with her. I'm also planning on making some (or all) of her dresses from the book and I love how you have scaled things perfectly. Did you ever make her Bride dress? I bet it's wonderful. Thanks for sharing all you handiwork! Diane

Christie Jones Ray said...

I have never seen such an incredible talent as you have for reproducing the fabric and then making the most exact and most darling (true to the book) costumes ... I have been inspired to acquire the book and a Hitty doll kit. My adventures are just beginning!
Thank you for sharing your gift with us.
Warmest regards,
Christie Ray

Susan said...

I have a "13 doll exactly like the McGuffey Ana but I know for a fact my mother received her in a missionary barrel from the states in 1933 so I'm assuming she was made in late 20's. Is that possible? I am wanting to sell her in my mother's estate do you know what I'd start at and who may be interested in her?
Thank you! Susan

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

I am enchanted by your blog post and photos of Hitty's dresses. I am particularly impressed by your ingenuity in scanning and printing fabric. What a wonderful idea!