Antique Doll Dress Information
Antique Doll Dresses-- Standard Styles
Searching on the internet, on eBay and doll sites, even doll supply houses—it is clear that most people describing antique doll dresses-- that is, dresses specifially for antique dolls. don't really understand which style is which. For example, I just bought an antique doll on eBay, and in her description, it said she was "wearing a drop waist dress." This dress did not look like a drop. Not on the waist or anywhere else.
What she was wearing was "Dropped waist" style dress. Why is 'drop waist' wrong? Because the term is dropped-- meaning the waistline seam of the dress, where the skirt attaches to the bodice, is dropped lower than the natural waist line so the dress is accurately described as having a dropped waist. To call it "drop waist" makes no sense. Does the waist look like a drop? Here is a dropped waist style:
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There are "Waisted dresses." This means the bodice and skirt are separate pieces that have been sewn together to form a seam at the natural waist line.Here is a waisted style dress:
There are "Shirt-waist style" dresses. These dresses have a bodice that buttons down the front, that looks like a shirt—but the skirt is sewn on and attached so it looks like the bodice is "tucked into" the skirt, as a shirt or blouse would be. Here is an example of a shirtwaist style:
There are "A-line" style dresses. This means the dress body is cut in one piece from the shoulder to the hem line—straight lines with a little flair at the bottom, so viewed from front or back it is shaped like a capital A, the bottom of the legs on the A being the hem line of the dress. The A-line style dress does NOT have a separate skirt sewn on. Here is an example of an antique doll dress A-line style:
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There are "Princess style" antique doll dresses. These are similar to A-line, but are curved in at the waist to give a more natural figure shape. They are still cut in one length from shoulder to hem line, usually with several panels,but sometimes just darted, to give a better shape. Princess style dresses do not have a separate sewn on skirt. Here is an example:
There are "Empire Waisted" dresses—many people confuse a yoked dress with empire waisted. The empire waist is cut with bodice that goes over and stops just below the breast area. The skirt is attached just below where the breasts would be on an adult woman. The skirt can be gathered or straight, but is always a separate piece on the Empire waisted style dress. This is a popular style for antique doll dresses.Here is an example of one with a slightly gathered skirt:
There are "Yoked" dresses. In the yoked dress, the yoke is typically cut to rest just above the breasts. About half the armhole is cut into the yoke, the rest of it into the skirt. The skirt is gathered onto the yoke before the sleeves are set in. Here is an example of a yoked dress, also a very popular style for an antique doll dress:
There are "Straight" dresses. These dresses are usually cut with extra fullness in the front, and sometimes in the back, which is then gathered or tucked to form a normal size neck opening. The dress does not flare at the bottom like a Princess style or A-line dress.This style of antique doll dress was often seen on early antique composition dolls. The dress just hangs straight, like this example:
Sometimes yoked or straight dresses will have a belt or sash added at either the waist or below the natural waist line, to pull the dress in so it is more fitted. The belt or sash is not attached, just tied around the dress as a separate piece.The dress then may appear to be a "waisted" dress, or "dropped waist dress", depending where the belt or sash is put around it. It is neither of these—it is a " straight dress with a belt" or a "yoked dress with a belt." Below is an example of a straight dress that has been belted to give the appearance of a waisted dress, and a yoked dress that has a belt added to give the appearance of a dropped waist dress:
I will address sleeves in another article. I hope this is helpful to those who are making or planning to make, or selling or planning to sell, or simply writing descriptions about, antique doll dresses.